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Former IAEA Director-General

Senators Push Nonproliferation Budget

Kelsey Davenport

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

The signatories of the Aug. 13 letter, led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), urged Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to “seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.”

The letter noted that the administration “proposed cuts to these programs over the last several years.”

The Obama administration’s budget for fiscal year 2015 would cut the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs by $399 million from the fiscal year 2014 appropriation. Fiscal year 2014 ends Sept. 30.

It is “not the time to pull back on nonproliferation,” the letter said, noting that recent terrorist actions serve as a reminder of the importance of “ensuing that terrorist groups and rogue states” do not obtain nuclear weapons and materials.

The Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, chaired by Feinstein, increased funding for nonproliferation activities to nearly $2.0 billion, $423 million above the president’s request for fiscal year 2015. The subcommittee released its bill and draft report July 24, but no further action has been taken on the bill.

The increases include an additional $136 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and $50 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program.

The letter said the GTRI played an important role in eliminating nuclear materials from 13 countries since 2009 and that “significant work remains” to secure nuclear material at “hundreds of sites spread across 30 countries.”

The senators urged the administration to work with the Senate to “ensure that critical nuclear material security” programs have the necessary resources. The letter urged the administration, in next year’s budget request, to build on the funding levels that the appropriations subcommittee approved for fiscal year 2015.

In addition to Feinstein and Merkley, the signers of the letter included 20 Democrats, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and independents Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine).

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

Iran Provides Detonator Details to IAEA

Kelsey Davenport

Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information about the country’s past development of a detonator that could be used as a trigger in nuclear weapons, the agency said last month in a quarterly report.

The report also found that Iran is complying with the measures outlined in an interim agreement it reached Nov. 24 with six world powers that restricts its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The “technical exchange” with the IAEA on the issues related to possible nuclear weapons development was the first since 2008, the May 23 report said.

According to the report, Iran supplied information on its need for exploding bridge wire detonators and said that the tests were for civilian applications. Although the report did not specify the application, this type of detonator can be used in drilling for oil and gas.

In the report, the IAEA said its assessment of the information that Iran provided is ongoing. The agency will need to evaluate all of the issues related to possible weapons development together as a “system,” the report said. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Exploding bridge wire detonators were among the issues included in a November 2011 report to the IAEA Board of Governors in which the agency detailed its allegations of Iranian activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, December 2011.)

Providing information on the detonators was one of seven actions that Iran on Feb. 9 had agreed to take by May 15 to further the agency’s investigations into unresolved IAEA concerns about Iran’s current nuclear program and past actions.

The Feb. 9 announcement followed an agreement reached Nov. 11, in which Iran and the IAEA pledged to cooperate to “resolve all present and past issues.” (See ACT, December 2013.)

The other actions Iran agreed to take during the February talks include providing the IAEA with access to the Saghand uranium mine and to Iran’s uranium-concentration plant for refining uranium ore; information on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, which is under construction; and access to a center that was used in the past for laser uranium-enrichment experiments.

The May 23 IAEA report said that Iran completed these actions.

Man Charged for Violating Iran Sanctions

The U.S. Justice Department indicted a Chinese national April 28 for violating sanctions on Iran. The indictment’s seven counts include several for the sale of materials that could be used in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

The charges against Li Fangwei, also known as Karl Lee, include using the U.S. financial system to facilitate the illegal transactions.

The United States has imposed a wide range of sanctions that prohibit Iran from buying goods that could be used for its nuclear and missile programs. The sanctions are part of a broad effort by the United States and other countries, prompted in large part by concerns that Iran could choose to develop nuclear weapons. Additional sanctions are aimed at preventing any entity from using U.S. financial institutions for illicit business transactions with Iranian banks.

According to an April 29 Justice Department press release, Li’s companies have conducted business totaling $8.5 million with Iranian entities since 2006. The release said Li is a “principal contributor to Iran’s ballistic missile program” and is a supplier of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and Aerospace Industries Organization.

Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in the press release that the allegations showed that Li used “subterfuge and deceit to continue to evade U.S. sanctions.”

In 2009, Li was prohibited from doing business within the United States without a license from the Treasury Department after investigations concluded he was supplying Iran with banned items that could be used to develop weapons.

According to the press release, Li never applied for a license, and the 2009 restriction forced him “to operate much of his business covertly.” Li developed a network of “China-based front companies to conceal his continuing participation” in activities that violate U.S. sanctions, the release said.

The U.S. government has seized more than $6.8 billion from bank accounts attributed to Li’s front companies. In addition, the Treasury Department added eight of the companies to a list of entities that are blocked from doing business in the United States.

Li is currently a fugitive, and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

    New Measures

    Iran and the IAEA have agreed on five new actions that Iran is to take by Aug. 25, according to a May 21 joint statement by Tehran and the agency. In one of the actions, Iran has pledged to give the IAEA information dealing with allegations that Iran conducted experiments with certain kinds of high explosives that could be relevant to nuclear weapons. Iran also said it would provide information on studies “in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials,” another area with direct relevance to nuclear weapons development.

    Under the other measures, Iran is to give the IAEA information on and access to a centrifuge research and development center and centrifuges assembly workshops and to reach agreement with the agency on the “safeguards approach” for the heavy-water reactor at Arak.

    The IAEA and Iran met May 5 to discuss safeguards for the Arak reactor after Iran provided the agency with updated information on the reactor’s design.

    Iran has said it intends to use the Arak reactor for making medical isotopes, but the international community is concerned about the weapons-grade plutonium the reactor will produce in its spent fuel.

    The May 23 report found that Iran is complying with the terms of the Nov. 24 Joint Plan of Action, an initial agreement reached between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). These countries are currently negotiating a comprehensive deal during the six-month implementation of the initial agreement, which ends July 20.

    One of the key provisions of the initial agreement deals with Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent. Uranium refined to that level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade than if it begins as reactor-grade uranium, which is enriched to less than 5 percent.

    As part of the Nov. 24 deal, Iran agreed to dilute half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to an enrichment level of less than 5 percent. The May report confirmed that Iran had completed this dilution as required by April 20.

    The remaining half of the 20 percent-enriched uranium is to be converted to a powder form that can be used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

    The IAEA reported that Iran had converted about 67 kilograms as of May 19 and that about 38 kilograms remained to be converted before July 20.

    Talks Continue

    Iran and the P5+1 met again May 13-16 in Vienna to continue negotiations and begin drafting the comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

    In a press conference after the talks, Iran’s deputy chief negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, said that there was a good “atmosphere” during the talks but that progress is slow and there is “much difficulty.”

    This meeting was preceded by three rounds of talks in February, March, and April, during which both sides laid out their positions.

    A senior U.S. official said during a May 16 press briefing that the talks have entered the “drafting and negotiating phase,” which both sides knew would be difficult. The official said that there are “significant gaps” between the positions of the two sides.

    A European diplomat familiar with the talks said in a May 20 interview that the size of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program will be “one of the more difficult areas [on which] to find compromise” because the sides remain “very far apart in their assessments of Iran’s fuel needs.”

    Under the interim agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in November, Iran’s uranium-enrichment program has been frozen at its current levels for six months. The interim agreement says the program should be defined in the comprehensive agreement by Iran’s “practical needs.” (See ACT, December 2013.)

    Iranian officials define “practical needs” as including the projected needs of Iran’s current and future nuclear power plants, so they are pushing to increase Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium over the next decade.

    Iran currently has one nuclear power plant, Bushehr, for which Russia is supplying the fuel under an initial contract that runs until 2021. Tehran has said it plans to build as many as 20 additional power reactors over the coming years.

    Reuters reported May 15 that a senior Iranian official said Iran would need 100,000 IR-1 centrifuges to produce enough fuel for each plant. Under the interim deal, Iran is currently operating about 10,200 IR-1 centrifuges. The IR-1 centrifuge is Iran’s first-generation model. Tehran is testing more-advanced models.

    The P5+1 “will not accept a 100,000-centrifuge uranium-enrichment program in the earlier phases of the deal,” the European diplomat said.

    The P5+1 has not made any public statements regarding the ideal size of Iran’s centrifuge program under the comprehensive agreement, but independent experts say that the P5+1 is likely to ask for reductions in the current number of operating centrifuges.

    In contrast to the three previous rounds of talks, the two sides did not issue a joint statement after the May talks.

    The diplomat said that the lack of a statement should not be seen as a “negative indication.” Deciding on a joint text for a statement was “not a priority” during the discussions because all sides are committed to reaching a deal, he said.

    During the May 16 briefing, the senior U.S. official said that the parties are “concerned about the amount of time left” but that all parties believe an agreement can be reached by the July 20 expiration of the interim agreement. That accord can be extended for six months if all the parties agree.

    Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with details on a detonator that could be used as a trigger in nuclear weapons, the agency said in a report.

    European Missile Defense No Answer to Russia

    USS Monterey armed with SM-3 Block IA interceptors and the Aegis missile defense system. The SM-3 cannot intercept Russian long-range missiles. The just-passed House Armed Services Committee plan to accelerate U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland to counter Russian action in Ukraine is all bark and no bite. By Tom Z. Collina The United States has a strategic interest in establishing economic and political stability in Ukraine, reassuring nervous NATO allies, and warning Russia that further interference in Ukraine or elsewhere would be a serious mistake. Congress, however, should be...

    17 European Countries Ratify ATT

    Jefferson Morley

    Eighteen countries announced their ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in early April, bringing the global pact to regulate the transfer of small and conventional arms closer to entry into force. To date, 118 countries have signed the accord, and 31 have ratified it. Fifty states need to ratify the treaty for it to become international law.

    All but one of the countries that presented proof of ratification on April 2 are in Europe: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The only non-European country to ratify the treaty was El Salvador, which has experienced an influx of unregulated weapons and high levels of gun violence.

    Although Africa suffers from some of the deadliest conflicts fueled by small arms, only two African countries—Mali and Nigeria—have ratified the treaty so far.

    April 2 marked the one-year anniversary of the date the treaty was opened for signature.

    “By globally regulating the international trade in arms, nations demonstrate their common responsibility to save lives, reduce human suffering and make the world a safer place for all,” the 17 European states said in a joint statement.

    “With our joint deposit, we send a strong signal that we—countries that fought for the Treaty—will spare no efforts to achieve the Treaty’s early entry into force. We are confident that entry into force towards the end of this year 2014 is well within reach,” the statement said.

    The United States, which signed the treaty last September, endorsed that goal in a joint statement with the European Union after the EU-U.S. summit on March 26. The Obama administration has yet to set a date for submitting the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

    The next country to ratify the treaty could be Japan, where the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill on April 10 to ratify the pact. The Japanese constitution guarantees its passage during the current session of the Diet, which runs through late June.

    Eighteen countries announced their ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in early April, bringing the global pact to regulate the transfer of small and conventional arms closer to entry into force. To date, 118 countries have signed the accord, and 31 have ratified it. Fifty states need to ratify the treaty for it to become international law.

    Iran to Give IAEA Details on Detonators

    Kelsey Davenport

    Iran will provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information about its past development of a detonator that could be used to as a trigger in nuclear weapons, according to an agreement reached by the two sides last month.

    In a Feb. 9 joint statement, Iran and the IAEA described the two days of talks in Tehran as “constructive” and announced seven actions for Iran to take by May 15 to further the agency’s investigations into its unresolved concerns about Iran’s current nuclear program and past actions.

    One of the actions requires Tehran to provide the IAEA with information on exploding bridge wire detonators, which can be used to trigger nuclear weapons. They can also be used in civilian applications, including drilling for oil and gas, and for conventional military explosives.

    The Feb. 9 announcement follows an agreement reached last Nov. 11, in which Iran and the IAEA pledged to cooperate to “resolve all present and past issues.” (See ACT, December 2013.) The IAEA laid out these concerns, including allegations of activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons, in detail in its November 2011 report to the agency’s Board of Governors. (See ACT, December 2011.) In early 2012, the IAEA began negotiating an approach to its investigation with Iran, but did not make any progress until President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.

    The other actions Iran agreed to take during the February talks include providing the IAEA with access to the Saghand uranium mine and to Iran’s uranium-concentration plant for refining uranium ore, information on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and access to a center that was used in the past for laser uranium-enrichment experiments.

    In the Feb. 9 announcement, Iran and the IAEA also reported that the six initial actions that Iran agreed to take as part of the Nov. 11 agreement had been completed on schedule.

    IAEA Deputy Director-General Tero Varjoranta told reporters Feb. 10 that Iran took “all the initial pragmatic measures” and that “everything has gone as planned” since November. Varjoranta led the IAEA delegation to Tehran for the February talks.

    The initial six measures from the Nov. 11 agreement included a Dec. 8 IAEA visit to the Heavy Water Production Plant at the Arak site, which produces heavy water for a reactor under construction, and a Jan. 29 visit to the Gchine uranium mine. The agency has not been able to visit either site for years despite requests for access.

    Iran also provided the IAEA with information on its planned construction of nuclear power reactors, research reactors, and uranium-enrichment facilities.

    In its Feb. 20 quarterly report on Iran, the IAEA summarized the contents of two letters that Tehran sent to the agency Feb. 8 regarding its future activities. Iran wrote that it had identified 16 sites for nuclear power reactors and was planning to build a light-water reactor fueled by 20 percent enriched uranium for medical isotope production and nuclear research. The site selection process for the reactor is in its “preliminary stages,” according to a passage from the letter that appeared in the IAEA report.

    In a Jan. 18 letter to the agency also quoted in the IAEA report, Iran said it had begun the site selection for five of 10 planned uranium-enrichment sites but that there would be no progress on constructing these facilities during the following six months. Iran committed not to build any new enrichment facilities as part of a Nov. 24 agreement reached with six world powers (see).

    Although these initial actions provided the agency with information on Iran’s future nuclear plans and access to several facilities, they did not address the activities with potential nuclear weapons applications—“possible military dimensions,” in IAEA parlance.

    Past Cooperation

    Iran previously has provided the agency with some information on nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.

    These prior discussions included exchanges between Tehran and the IAEA on information regarding bridge wire detonators in 2008, which the IAEA summarized in its November 2011 report.

    During the 2008 exchanges, Iran said that it was developing them for “civil and conventional military applications.” The IAEA, however, maintained in the report that given their “limited civilian and conventional military applications,” Iran’s work on developing the detonators is a “matter of concern.”

    The IAEA also said in the November 2011 report it had information that Iran conducted practical tests of the bridge wire detonators to see if they would “perform satisfactorily over long distances between a firing point and a test device located down a deep shaft.” This information would be useful if Iran were to carry out a nuclear test, the agency stated in the report.

    Even after the information on the detonator development is given to the IAEA, the agency has other unresolved concerns about alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons development. In a list of topics requiring further investigation that the agency presented to Iran in February 2012, the IAEA included neutron initiation, tests of warhead integration with missiles, hydrodynamic experiments, and the possibility of past explosive testing at the Parchin military facility.

    At his Feb. 10 press conference, Varjoranta said “a lot of work” remains to be done on the possible military dimensions. He said that there will be “new steps” after May 15.

    Iran has maintained that the IAEA allegations of activities with possible military dimensions are baseless. On Feb. 7, the day before the meeting began, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Iran is ready to “answer all the questions” about its “peaceful nuclear activities.”

    Laser Enrichment

    As part of the Nov. 11 agreement, Iran provided the IAEA with information on its experiments with laser-based uranium-enrichment technology and an explanation for Tehran’s February 2010 statement that it possessed this technology.

    According to a second Jan. 18 letter quoted in the Feb. 20 IAEA report, Iran said that these experiments ended in 2003 and the February 2010 statement referenced that earlier work. Since 2003, “there had not been any especially designed or prepared systems, equipment and components for use in laser-based enrichment plants in Iran,” the letter was quoted as saying.

    As a follow-up action, Iran agreed Feb. 9 to allow the IAEA to visit its Lashkar Ab’ad laser center where the enrichment experiments are known to have taken place prior to 2003.

    Varjoranta said the IAEA has a plan for proceeding with the issue of laser-based uranium enrichment and that he felt confident that the IAEA will “find out” what it needs to know about Iran’s work in this area.

    Iran agreed to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information on its past development of a detonator that can be used for nuclear weapons.

    Week Ahead Feb. 24-March 2: Castle Bravo Test Anniversary; Pentagon Budget; NATO Ministers & G8 Partnership Meetings

    In the coming days, the staff and editors at the Arms Control Association will be keeping an eye on the following arms control-related developments. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. More information and timely analysis is available from www.armscontrol.org. - the Editors at Arms Control Today March 1: 60th Anniversary of the"Castle Bravo" Nuclear Test in the Pacific Ceremonies held this week in Little Rock, Arkansas and...

    Trapped: NATO, Russia, and the Problem of Tactical Nuclear Weapons

    Oliver Meier and Simon Lunn

    Strenuous efforts are currently being made to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to reduce existing stockpiles of such weapons. New talks on Iran’s nuclear program have resulted in an interim agreement that could lead to a comprehensive solution of the conflict over how to better control Tehran’s nuclear efforts.

    The United States and Russia are cooperating in the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, despite competing geopolitical interests in the region. Some hope this cooperation could be the long-awaited “game changer” in relations with Russia, opening the way to progress on the broader agenda of nuclear arms control and other issues.

    This surge of optimism stands in sharp contrast to the pace of progress on tackling the problem of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. NATO and Russia have entrapped themselves, with each of them linking progress on nuclear arms control to steps by the other side while lacking the political will to take the process forward. The December 3-4 meeting of NATO foreign ministers and deliberations in the NATO-Russia Council did not even have nuclear arms control in Europe on its agenda, although a few member states raised the issue.

    NATO does not confirm numbers, but it is believed that the United States deploys 150 to 200 gravity bombs under nuclear sharing arrangements in Europe. The alliance has declared its intention to engage Russia in a process of confidence building on tactical nuclear weapons in order to pave the way for future reductions. The allies, however, will contemplate changes to the nuclear posture only on the basis of Russian reciprocity.

    Russia probably deploys around 2,000 operational tactical nuclear weapons and may have many more in reserve. Moscow insists that a dialogue on tactical nuclear weapons must be part of a broader settlement of differences over NATO’s missile defense plans and the asymmetries in conventional capabilities between Russia and NATO. Recently, Russia reportedly has raised the stakes by moving short-range Iskander missiles, which could carry nuclear warheads, toward NATO member countries. On December 19, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied press reports that the missiles have been deployed on the territory of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which is situated between NATO members Lithuania and Poland.[1]

    In combination, NATO’s conditionality and Russian intransigence have created an impasse over how to deal with the nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. Almost 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the contribution of these weapons to nuclear deterrence and the core function of preventing conventional war in Europe has vanished. Nevertheless, both sides have been unwilling to take meaningful steps toward the elimination of Europe’s nuclear legacy.

    In the long run, NATO’s nuclear posture is not sustainable. The hardware supporting nuclear sharing arrangements is aging. U.S. plans to modernize the B61 gravity bombs deployed in host countries Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey could potentially trigger public opposition to NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements.

    The alliance, therefore, must re-evaluate the linkages involved in its nuclear weapons policy toward Russia, clarify its goals in arms control and force posture, and, more broadly, reassess the usefulness of nuclear forces associated with its deterrence posture.

    At the same time, Russia would be well advised to take up NATO’s offer of discussing transparency and confidence-building measures. Russia’s rigid stance has resulted in a more united alliance. Those allies that have argued for a policy of engagement toward Russia find themselves increasingly isolated and with fewer good arguments to support their case for dialogue and cooperation. Thus, Moscow’s tough policy on tactical nuclear weapons is pushing NATO into a confrontational mode that cannot be in Moscow’s interest.

    This article focuses on the state of play in NATO’s internal deliberations on the alliance’s future nuclear posture and its current efforts to engage Russia in a process of transparency and confidence-building measures in that area. Ultimately, a reciprocal agreement on reducing the number of tactical nuclear weapons and eventually eliminating them is the best way to deal with the Cold War’s dangerous and expensive legacy. In the meantime, each side can take many steps of intrinsic value to break the current political deadlock.

    NATO’s Internal Debate

    The promise in 2009 by Germany’s previous government to “advocate within the Alliance and with our American allies the removal of the remaining nuclear weapons from Germany”[2] triggered a debate within NATO on the role of nuclear weapons and the related issue of arms control.[3] The adoption in November 2010 of a new Strategic Concept and a subsequent May 2012 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review report managed to reconcile but not resolve the alliance’s deep-seated differences.[4]

    As a result, the question of NATO’s tactical nuclear weapons and their relationship to Russia’s own weapons remains unresolved. In the 2012 posture review report, the allies confirm that NATO’s nuclear forces currently meet the criteria for an effective deterrence and defense posture.[5] Yet, the report contains several references to the possibility of further reductions in tactical nuclear weapons. Thus, the allies seek to ensure the broadest possible participation in nuclear sharing arrangements in case NATO were to decide to reduce its reliance on tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe.[6] These references not only leave open the door to further reductions, but also are testimony to the continuing pressure from some allies for such movement. The posture review report also clearly states that the alliance is prepared to reduce “its requirement” for tactical nuclear weapons only “in the context of reciprocal steps by Russia.”[7] As a result of the review, work is now under way in these areas.

    Despite three years of discussions in various settings, the allies have not been able to resolve their competing views on reciprocity—what the term means or what consequences reciprocal actions by Russia may have for NATO policy. Some insist that Russia must match NATO moves directly; others say that NATO should take actions that encourage Russian reciprocity. Simply put, the alliance has not established a road map of where it wants to go and how it plans to get there.

    Several structural hurdles impede agreement on a unified and practical arms control approach by the alliance and account for the slow progress in completing the tasks that the posture review assigned. NATO has been trying to increase its arms control profile and be more coherent by agreeing in May 2012 to set up the Special Advisory and Consultation Committee on Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (see box). Developing policy with regard to possible reductions and reciprocal action by Russia on tactical nuclear weapons has been the committee’s main task until now.

    Yet, arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation remain the prerogatives of individual members; attitudes within NATO vary considerably, depending on the issue at stake. There is a broad consensus among the 28 alliance members on NATO’s role in constraining WMD proliferation, but views on arms control and disarmament are mixed. Some members are seeking a higher profile for NATO in disarmament policy, while others believe that this is not an appropriate subject for an alliance committed to collective defense. France is generally skeptical of strengthening NATO’s role in arms control. Some central and eastern European nations also are skeptical of the potential benefits of engaging Russia on arms control.[8]

    NATO and member state officials insist that the low level of ambition is the price of sustaining the intra-alliance consensus on NATO’s nuclear posture. It is unlikely that the necessary consensus to change NATO’s nuclear posture will be reached any time soon. Thus, maintaining the status quo is the default option.[9]

    Confidence-Building Package

    Against this difficult background, NATO began developing a package of transparency and confidence-building measures on tactical nuclear weapons for discussion with Russia, after the mandate of the new arms control committee had been adopted in February 2013.[10] After many delays, it was hoped that NATO foreign ministers at the North Atlantic Council meeting on December 3 would adopt a set of measures for subsequent discussion in the NATO-Russia Council, which met on December 4, also at the level of foreign ministers.

    The new NATO committee initially considered more than a dozen specific measures. Many of these were the outcome of deliberations in its predecessor committee, which was charged under the posture review with elaborating NATO’s role in arms control.[11] Member states “scrubbed” these measures to ensure that they took full account of their concerns and interests. According to diplomatic sources, after last summer, the earlier committee’s list had been narrowed to five measures, each of which was developed in further detail in national papers from the United States or the Netherlands.

    According to several sources, that short list included topics such as joint seminars, joint declarations on nuclear policy, information exchanges, joint visits at former deployment sites of tactical nuclear weapons, and cooperation to deal with the consequences of nuclear accidents and incidents. This list was far less ambitious than, for example, the nonpaper that Norway, Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands submitted in April 2011 on increasing transparency and confidence with regard to tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. That document, which had also the support of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, and Slovenia, suggested information exchanges about U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons, including numbers, locations, operational status, command arrangements, and level of warhead storage security. The paper also proposed voluntary notifications of movement of tactical nuclear weapons and exchange visits by military officials.[12]

    The focus and purpose of some potential discussion topics on the 2013 list, such as joint seminars and joint declarations on nuclear policy, were vague, and it remained unclear what they would add to discussions on similar topics already taking place. For example, there already have been four meetings with Russia on nuclear doctrines and strategies in the NATO-Russia Council. Most recently, Russian Foreign Ministry officials actively participated in a seminar on such issues held June 26-28 in The Hague.[13] There also have been four rounds of discussion on nuclear policy among the five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), resulting in joint statements.[14]

    NATO’s New Arms Control Committee

    During the last four decades, NATO has set up a number of different bodies to discuss arms control matters. The most recent of these is the Special Advisory and Consultation Committee on Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, whose mandate was approved in February 2013. The committee, which has been meeting primarily at the level of first secretaries of NATO missions, has a dual mandate as an advisory body on forming positions regarding NATO-Russian transparency on tactical nuclear weapons and a forum in which the United States can consult with its allies on the full range of U.S.-Russian strategic stability topics. This latter category includes bilateral negotiations with Russia on nuclear strategic forces. This role is similar to that played by the Special Consultative Group in the 1980s during the negotiations on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

    The new committee is assisted in its work by the High Level Group, the senior NATO body with competence in nuclear affairs, thus assuring at least in theory a link between NATO arms control policies and its force posture. The High Level Group comprises representatives from national capitals, is chaired by the United States, and reports directly to ministers. It was created in 1977 to ensure high-level attention to nuclear issues and was responsible for developing the 1979 “dual track” decision, which approved the deployment of new intermediate-range nuclear weapons by NATO while offering the Soviet Union talks about an agreement on the elimination of such weapons from all of Europe.

    The North Atlantic Council also anticipated that the committee meetings would provide allies an opportunity to exchange information and national views on issues related to arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation. The dual role of the new committee and its relationship to the High Level Group are particularly important in view of the sensitive nature of nuclear policy and the unique role of NATO nuclear-weapon states in nuclear decision-making. France, which operates its nuclear forces independent of NATO, does not participate in any of the alliance bodies concerned with nuclear weapons posture, but is a member of the new arms control committee.


    1. Martin A. Smith, “Reviving the Special Consultative Group: Past Experiences and Future Prospects,” NATO Watch Briefing Paper, No. 11 (July 5, 2010), http://www.natowatch.org/sites/default/files/NATO_Watch_Briefing_Paper_No.11_0.pdf.

    2. See Oliver Meier, “NATO Agrees on New Arms Control Body,” Arms Control Now, February 26, 2013, http://armscontrolnow.org/2013/02/26/nato-agrees-on-new-arms-control-body.

      More-specific proposals, such as information exchanges on nuclear holdings or joint visits to former nuclear sites, proved to be too difficult to implement and controversial among NATO members. As it turned out, in some cases NATO itself is not ready to exercise the kind of transparency on tactical nuclear weapons it is demanding from Moscow. Nuclear declassification rules apparently have not been changed since the Cold War. Thus, everything related to current or past nuclear activities remains classified. Defense ministries in several NATO member states continue to oppose any changes to such policies. Even if an individual NATO member were to decide to be more open about its past or current involvement in nuclear sharing, releasing such information would need the consent of all other members of the Nuclear Planning Group.[15]

      Most experts and officials concede that the United States could easily adopt a more relaxed approach to these rules.[16] Nevertheless, partly because of these problems with transparency, the proposals on information exchange and joint visits were dropped from the list of topics to be offered to Russia ahead of the December 3 foreign ministers meeting.

      The proposal to offer a tabletop exercise and information exchanges on nuclear safety and security suffered the same fate, which was somewhat surprising. Relatively recently, both sides were involved in practical cooperation on reducing the risks from unintended or unauthorized nuclear weapons use, and despite the general cooling of NATO-Russian relations, that cooperation is generally viewed as having been mutually beneficial. From 2004 to 2007, all NATO-Russia Council members had been invited to observe four exercises, one in each of the council’s nuclear-weapon states, to practice responses to incidents and accidents involving nuclear weapons.[17]

      Offering such openness today appears unacceptable to some NATO members. These critics argue that the alliance should not endlessly pursue cooperation with Moscow, given Russia’s consistent lack of willingness to engage in a dialogue on tactical nuclear weapons. Their case was strengthened when, according to several diplomats, Russia, ahead of the December meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, declared that it was not interested in any discussion of nuclear confidence building. Whether this objection is specific to the issue of transparency on tactical nuclear weapons or reflects a more general objection to discussing such matters with non-nuclear-weapon states remains unclear.

      In any case, the 2014 work plan of the council omits all topics related to nuclear weapons policy. Meetings of nuclear experts under the auspices of the council have been put on hold.[18] Discussions could be revived, however, should both sides agree to do so, according to diplomatic sources.[19]

      As a result, the arms control committee, during a December 6 meeting, endorsed only two potential transparency and confidence-building measures to be pursued in a possible future dialogue with Moscow on tactical nuclear weapons. These would comprise unilateral and joint statements on nuclear policy and the possibility of a dialogue and reciprocal briefings on U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Once these topics have been adopted by the North Atlantic Council, allies will begin a discussion on the timing and tactics of how to take these issues forward with Russia. More-ambitious proposals remain under discussion among NATO allies. Allies also have yet to agree on what role arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation might play at NATO’s 65th anniversary summit, which is to take place September 4-5 in Newport in the United Kingdom.

      What Lies Ahead?

      Over the last few years, efforts to revive the nuclear arms control dialogue between NATO and Russia have ground to a halt. The combination of Russia’s unwillingness to engage in a dialogue on tactical nuclear weapons and the refusal of some NATO members to decouple changes in the alliance’s nuclear posture from Russian actions have resulted in complete deadlock. Vested interests in maintaining the status quo and arcane classification rules on each side further solidify the situation.

      At the same time, alliance members that were major arms control proponents have scaled back their ambitions. As always in NATO, everything depends on where the United States stands. President Barack Obama repeatedly has emphasized the importance of reducing tactical nuclear weapons and including these weapons in the next round of nuclear arms control with Russia. Speaking in Berlin last June 19, Obama promised “to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.”[20] Yet, these words so far have not been translated into action, and U.S. leadership on the issue has been sorely lacking. It is an indication of the degree of political resistance to changes in NATO’s nuclear posture, accentuated by innate institutional conservatism, that even the meaning of “bold” has become a contentious issue among the various actors in Washington and Brussels.

      Germany remains committed to pushing for a stronger NATO role in arms control. Outgoing Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, speaking to the press on December 4 after the NATO-Russia Council meeting, called arms control and disarmament an element of NATO’s “core business.” Westerwelle said, “We set our hopes on Russia having an interest in transparency and cooperation in the area of substrategic weapons.”[21]

      The program of Germany’s new government, which does not include Westerwelle’s Free Democratic Party, encourages negotiations between the United States and Russia on the verifiable elimination of tactical nuclear weapons and promises that Berlin will “forcefully support corresponding steps by both partners.” Yet, in contrast to the previous government, which had no clear position on reciprocity, the new coalition agreement makes successful disarmament talks “the precondition for a withdrawal of the tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Germany and in Europe.”[22]

      Meanwhile, the public and parliaments in many of the countries that host nuclear weapons remain wary of the financial and security implications of maintaining and updating NATO’s current nuclear posture. The United States wants to begin deploying the B61-12 in Europe after 2020. Compared to the weapon currently deployed in Europe, this modernized version of the B61 will have not only enhanced safety and security features, but also improved targeting capabilities.[23]

      Critics ask how such a program fits with NATO’s declared intention to seek a reduction of tactical nuclear weapons. U.S. officials, however, argue that “even if the NATO Alliance struck an agreement with Russia to mutually reduce tactical nuclear weapons, [the United States] would still need to complete the B61-12 [Life Extension Program] on the current timeline,” meaning that more-precise nuclear weapons would be deployed in Europe.[24]

      In addition, if host countries want to stay involved in the operational aspects of nuclear sharing, they would have to replace or modernize dual-capable aircraft, which can deploy either conventional or nuclear weapons, over the next 10 to 15 years, and it is not clear that they are ready to do so. The Dutch parliament on November 6 passed a resolution saying that the Joint Strike Fighter, which the Netherlands is going to purchase from the United States to replace its nuclear-capable F-16, shall not be nuclear capable.[25] In practice, such resolutions are rarely binding, but the measure puts the Dutch government in a predicament and is a clear indication of the fragility of political support among several allies for NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements.

      As long as Russia refuses even to talk about steps that could help to create a better climate for including tactical nuclear weapons in arms control, it is unlikely that NATO will undertake meaningful steps to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons or change its nuclear posture in Europe. Yet, several things might be useful to help prepare the ground and initiate a dialogue on transparency and confidence-building measures on tactical nuclear weapons.

      • If NATO wants to engage Russia seriously in this type of dialogue, the allies need to create among themselves the preconditions. Unless nuclear declassification rules are made consistent with post-Cold War security requirements, calls for increased transparency by Russia will sound hollow.
      • Painful as it may be, the allies should continue their own political dialogue on the role of nuclear weapons in the alliance’s deterrence and defense posture. The posture review report fell far short of the comprehensive review for which many had hoped in terms of establishing the requirements for NATO’s future nuclear posture and the linkages among the alliance’s nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities. It continued to paper over internal differences concerning the roles of tactical nuclear weapons and arms control. Consensus was achieved only by including the condition that changes to NATO’s nuclear weapons posture would not take place unless Russia reciprocated, but without any apparent sense of what that means or what its significance is for NATO’s own requirements. As a result, the questions and doubts concerning tactical nuclear weapons that surfaced in 2009 remain to be answered, and the political debate on a sustainable deterrence and defense posture should be restarted. By bringing in additional stakeholders, including from parliaments and nongovernmental organizations, the alliance could increase the legitimacy of the outcome of such deliberations.
      • NATO should signal to Russia that it views tactical nuclear weapons as a legacy issue by indicating that these weapons no longer play a role in military planning. Current plans to modernize nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles undermine the credibility of any offer to include tactical nuclear weapons in future arms control agreements. If the alliance is serious in its goal of reducing the role of these weapons, it should declare its willingness to freeze current modernization plans, namely, the deployment of the B61-12 and certification of new aircraft for nuclear missions, in return for the opening of a dialogue on tactical nuclear weapons. Such conditional reciprocity will be open to the criticism of naïveté, but it might induce Russia to open serious discussions. One thing is clear: under current conditions, NATO’s preferred approach of direct reciprocity offers little prospect of success.
      • The alliance should kick-start a confidence-building process by offering transparency measures in which Russia might be interested. This could include an offer to open up former nuclear storage and deployment sites in new NATO member states to demonstrate that NATO is sticking to its 1997 promise not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of such states.[26]
      • NATO could offer Russia increased cooperation in ensuring the security and safety of tactical nuclear weapons. Such an offer would make clear that these weapons are no longer usable assets, but rather a redundant security legacy. It could provide a framework for regular interaction at the expert level. In any case, working together in averting the danger of nuclear accidents and incidents would be a symbol of NATO-Russian partnership, regardless of overall relations. Not least, both sides could learn from each other how to reduce the risks associated with tactical nuclear weapons.

      Arms control cannot resolve political conflicts between NATO and Russia. It can, however, help to establish patterns of cooperation, increase transparency, and reduce mistrust by verifiably eliminating redundant and potentially insecure weapons. It is in the mutual interest of NATO member states and Russia to begin a serious dialogue about these weapons, their control, and their eventual elimination. Transparency measures are small, pragmatic steps toward that goal.



      Oliver Meier is an associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, or SWP) in Berlin. Simon Lunn, a former secretary-general of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, is a Brussels-based senior fellow with the European Leadership Network and a consultant to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.



      1. ‘Don’t Provoke Anyone’: Putin Says Iskander Missiles Not Yet Deployed Near NATO Borders,” RT, December 19, 2013, http://rt.com/news/putin-iskander-abm-deployment-489/.

      2. “Growth. Education. Unity. The Coalition Agreement Between the CDU, CSU and FDP,” October 26, 2009. http://www.cdu.de/sites/default/files/media/dokumente/091215-koalitionsvertrag-2009-2013-englisch_0.pdf.

      3. See Oliver Meier, “German Nuclear Stance Stirs Debate,” Arms Control Today, December 2009.

      4. Oliver Meier, “NATO Sticks With Nuclear Policy,” Arms Control Today, June 2012.

      5. NATO, “Deterrence and Defence Posture Review,” May 2012, para. 8, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-1D41DDB0-B87E01C8/natolive/official_texts_87597.htm.

      6. Ibid., para. 12.

      7. Ibid., para. 26.

      8. Oliver Meier, “News Analysis: NATO, Arms Control and Nonproliferation: An Alliance Divided?” Arms Control Today, April 2009.

      9. Ted Seay, “Escalation by Default? The Future of NATO Nuclear Weapons in Europe,” NATO Policy Brief, No. 2 (May 2012), http://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/medialibrary/2012/05/10/e074ba2d/ELN%20NATO%20Policy%20Brief%202%20-%20Escalation%20by%20Default.pdf.

      10. Oliver Meier, “NATO Agrees on New Arms Control Body,” Arms Control Now, February 26, 2013, http://armscontrolnow.org/2013/02/26/nato-agrees-on-new-arms-control-body.

      11. Oliver Meier, “NATO Deterrence Review Gets Under Way,” Arms Control Today, October 2011.

      12. “Non-Paper Submitted by Poland, Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands on Increasing Transparency and Confidence With Regard to Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe,” April 14, 2011, http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/nato-nonpaper041411.pdf.

      13. NATO-Russia Council, “Ambassador Grushko Speaks About NRC Nuclear Seminar,” July 10, 2013, http://www.nato-russia-council.info/en/articles/20130710-nrc-nuclear-grushko-interview.

      14. Tom Z. Collina, “Nuclear Powers Urge Progress on FMCT,” Arms Control Today, May 2013.

      15. The Nuclear Planning Group is NATO’s senior body on nuclear matters. It normally meets in the context of the regular meetings of defense ministers. France is not a member of the group and does not discuss its nuclear posture in the alliance, although it does participate in consultations on NATO’s nuclear arms control policies.

      16. When the United States in 1991-1992 declared dramatic changes to NATO’s nuclear posture and promised more openness, it informed allies of the new policy, but did not consult them. See Susan J. Koch, “The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991-1992,” Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction Case Study Series, No. 5 (September 2012), p. 9.

      17. NATO-Russia Council, “NRC Nuclear Safety Exercises: 10 Years 10 Stories,” November 8, 2012, http://www.nato-russia-council.info/en/articles/20121108-nrc-10-years-nuclear.

      18. The work plan is classified. For a summary, see NATO, “NATO-Russia Council Approves Ambitious Cooperation Plan for 2014,” December 4, 2013, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_105502.htm.

      19. The NATO-Russia Council has a mixed record of discussions on nuclear issues. Russia has resisted efforts to discuss tactical nuclear weapons, but nuclear weapons experts have been meeting in the context of the Defence Transparency, Strategy and Reform Working Group. Russia apparently has suspended these meetings. On the role of the NATO-Russia Council, see Simon Lunn, “The NATO-Russia Council: Its Role and Prospects,” European Leadership Network Policy Brief, November 2013, www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/medialibrary/2013/11/29/11e0c7b3/The%20NATO%20Russia%20Council%20Its%20Role%20and%20Prospects_Simon%20Lunn_November%202013.pdf.

      20. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate—Berlin, Germany,” June 19, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obama-brandenburg-gate-berlin-germany.

      21. Transcript of press conference by Guido Westerwelle, Brussels, December 4, 2013 (in German) (translation by author) (copy on file with author).

      22. “Deutschlands Zukunft gestalten. Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und SPD. 18. Legislaturperiode [Shaping Germany’s future. Coalition agreement between the CDU, CSU and SPD for the 18th legislative period],” p. 170 (translation by author) (copy on file with author).

      23. See Hans M. Kristensen, “B61 LEP: Increasing NATO Nuclear Capability and Precision Low-Yield Strikes,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, June 15, 2011, http://blogs.fas.org/security/2011/06/b61-12/.

      24. Madelyn R. Creedon, Statement before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, October 29, 2013, p. 5, http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS29/20131029/101355/HHRG-113-AS29-Wstate-CreedonM-20131029.pdf.

      25. “33 763 Toekomst van de krijgsmacht Nr. 14 [33 763 Future of the armed forces, Nr. 14],” The Hague, November 6, 2013 (resolution tabled by member Jasper van Dijk during debate).

      26. In the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, NATO states reiterated “that they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy—and do not foresee any future need to do so.” NATO, “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation,” May 27, 1997, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_25468.htm.

      NATO could pull itself and Russia out of their impasse over tactical nuclear weapons by taking steps such as indicating to Russia that these weapons play no role in the alliance’s military planning.

      Senators' Exhortations Complicate Iran Solution



      Volume 4, Issue 9, August 8, 2013

      By mid-September, P5+1 diplomats (from the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany) will likely resume talks aimed at resolving concerns about Iran's nuclear program with President Hassan Rouhani's new negotiating team. The talks represent an important opportunity to finally reach a deal that limits Iran's most worrisome uranium enrichment activities, obtains more extensive inspections to guard against a secret weapons program, and shows Iran a path toward phasing out international sanctions.

      Unfortunately, in their attempt to encourage President Obama "to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the process," a group of 76 Senators led by Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has sent a letter on August 2 to Obama that could undermine efforts to resolve the long-running dispute. The letter's prescriptions may prompt the same kind of counterproductive impact by Iran, which Paul Pillar predicted in The National Interest in response to House passage of H.R. 850, the "Nuclear Iran Prevention Act."

      The Menendez-Graham letter emphasizes toughening sanctions and making military threats more credible, just as Iran installs a president elected on a platform of renewing diplomatic engagement and putting an end to international isolation. The senator's approach represents a serious misunderstanding of political realities in Iran and the nature of upcoming nuclear negotiations.

      The June 2013 election results show that Iranians are dissatisfied by outgoing President Ahmadinejad's handling of the economy and the international isolation that has resulted from his confrontational policies. Newly-elected President Rouhani has signaled a willingness to accept greater transparency in Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for acceptance of Iran's rights to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. This is the basic framework within which a negotiated resolution to the Iran nuclear crisis is possible.

      With the tough economic sanctions now in place, and a broad political consensus holding among the six powers negotiating with Iran, the international community has the leverage it needs to achieve an acceptable agreement. However, the Senators' letter argues that more sanctions and more credible military threats will persuade Tehran to make a deal.

      Sanctions have certainly affected Iran's economy and the government's risk/benefit calculations, but they will not by themselves halt Iran's nuclear program. It is fantasy to believe otherwise. The implementation of still tougher sanctions at the outset of renewed talks would harden Iran's resolve, fracture the P5+1 coalition, and dim the prospects for persuading Tehran to compromise.

      Overt threats of military attack would be even more likely to undermine P5+1 solidarity and reduce the likelihood of Iran foregoing the nuclear weapons option. In any case, military action--short of a permanent occupation--cannot prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. In fact, military and intelligence experts agree that striking Iran's nuclear facilities would only delay Iran's program by two to three years and trigger an Iranian decision to openly build nuclear weapons.

      Advances in Iran's enrichment capabilities and the start up of a new heavy water reactor next year make it important to reach a deal that limits Iran's bomb-making potential as soon as possible.

      But the Senators' implication that "the time for diplomacy is nearing its end" is naïve and unhelpful. Given the deep distrust on both sides of the negotiating table, negotiations will not likely produce immediate results. Furthermore, security experts assess that if Iran chooses to actually build nuclear weapons, it would take at least a year and probably two or more years to produce enough fissile material, manufacture the warheads, and integrate them on ballistic missiles to field a credible arsenal.

      The Senators' letter also calls for demanding Iran "move quickly toward compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend enrichment." U.S. policymakers must recognize that, although total and permanent suspension of enrichment would be an ideal way to facilitate achievement of an ultimate agreement, it is no longer feasible. Realists know that the negotiating issue at stake is not whether to allow enrichment, but rather the circumstances under which enrichment can occur.

      Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already testified to Congress in March 2011 that Iran had a right to enrich under "very strict conditions." Today, the P5+1 is insisting on sufficient transparency for nuclear activities inside Iran so that the International Atomic Energy Agency can be confident Tehran is not developing nuclear weapons and on placing sufficient limitations on enrichment that Tehran has no quick break-out options.

      The Senators also argue that the goal of U.S. policy should be that "we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability." This assertion ignores the fact that Iran already has the capability to develop nuclear weapons, according to the 2007 and subsequent assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community, but that the Tehran government has not made a decision to do so. It is reasonable to assume that Tehran wants to have an ability to build nuclear weapons quickly, but does not necessarily intend to leave the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Opinion polls in Iran indicate strong public support for Iran's "right" to enrich uranium, but only a minority of Iranians favor the building of nuclear weapons.

      President Rouhani told reporters on August 6 that "Iran has a serious political will to solve the nuclear problem while protecting the rights of the Iranian people at the same time as it seeks to remove concerns of the other party." He also said a "win-win" outcome is possible. Yet Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, clearly suspects that the real U.S. goal in negotiations over the nuclear program is to achieve regime change in Tehran.

      Khamenei may ultimately insist on keeping more nuclear options open to Iran than any deal the P5+1 could tolerate. But if the Iranian negotiators can strike a compromise acceptable to the six powers, Rouhani will need to convince the Supreme Leader and other regime elements that Iran's honor has been preserved and its national interests protected.

      The Menendez-Graham letter may be well intentioned, but its emphasis on threats and demands is misplaced and ill-timed. As President Obama argued in March 2009, "[the diplomatic] process will not be advanced by threats." The president was right then and the advice resonates now more than ever.

      The United States would be wise to seize the opportunity presented by Iran's new president, reinvigorating diplomatic efforts to secure a verifiable agreement-on the basis of realistic and achievable goals. In this way, Washington can ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and the United States does not again go to war. --GREG THIELMANN

      [An earlier version of this article appeared in The National Interest, August 6, 2013]


      The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today


      By mid-September, P5+1 diplomats (from the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany) will likely resume talks aimed at resolving concerns about Iran's nuclear program with President Hassan Rouhani's new negotiating team. The talks represent an important opportunity to finally reach a deal that limits Iran's most worrisome uranium enrichment activities, obtains more extensive inspections to guard against a secret weapons program, and shows Iran a path toward phasing out international sanctions.

      Country Resources:

      Key Senator Questions Plans for B61 Bomb

      Marcus Taylor and Tom Z. Collina

      A key senator is challenging the scope and cost of the Obama administration’s plan to extend the life of B61 nuclear bombs as the administration is seeking a significant increase for the program for fiscal year 2014.

      At an April 24 hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she had been briefed on a plan to upgrade the B61 that would cost $1.5 billion. By contrast, the Obama administration’s current approach to the B61 life extension program (LEP) may cost up to $10 billion, she said. The program has been delayed until March 2020, and costs have increased by $200 million due to the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, she said.

      Feinstein said that the $1.5 billion plan, one of a number of alternatives considered and rejected by the administration, would be cheaper because it would replace just three parts of each bomb. “The current scope is now much more ambitious, replacing hundreds of components,” she said.

      Feinstein made the comments during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, which she chairs. That subcommittee funds the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is responsible for nuclear weapons maintenance.

      Under the administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget request, funding for the B61 LEP would rise from $369 million in fiscal year 2013 to $537 million in 2014, an increase of 45 percent. Currently, the United States deploys about 180 nonstrategic B61s in Europe as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement. Strategic versions of the bomb are stored in the United States for use on long-range bombers.

      At the hearing, Donald Cook, NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs, responded to Feinstein by saying that the cheaper plan she mentioned was rejected because it would cost more in the long run. Although it would delay the need for an LEP by 10 years, “we would then need a life extension program that would be more expensive,” he said. The current plan is “the lowest-cost life extension program that meets the military needs,” Cook said.

      The B61 LEP has attracted attention because its costs are increasing and a number of NATO members, such as Germany, are calling for the bombs to be removed from Europe. In addition, President Barack Obama is seeking a new agreement with Russia to limit the number of tactical, or short-range, weapons such as the B61s on the territory of NATO member countries. Some in Congress have raised the concern that, by the time the B61 LEP is complete a decade from now, the bombs may no longer be deployed in Europe. (See ACT, December 2012.)

      Congress is looking for ways to trim costs because the funding levels that the administration requested are significantly above the targets set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, under which sequestration came into effect March 1. If Congress does not modify the sequestration law, cuts will have to be made to the administration’s budget request before the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

      Higher Weapons Funding Sought

      The total funding for LEPs, which extend the operable life of nuclear bombs and warheads, would increase by 79 percent over the fiscal year 2013 appropriation under the administration’s fiscal year 2014 request, submitted to Congress on April 10.

      Program funding for the B61, the W76 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warhead, and a common replacement for the W78 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and W88 SLBM warheads would rise from $567 million in the 2013 appropriation to $1.0 billion in fiscal year 2014. The requested funding jump is a result of increased requests for the B61 and W76 LEPs, combined with the start of the W78/88 LEP.

      Overall, the semiautonomous NNSA is slated to receive $7.9 billion to maintain the U.S. nuclear warhead stockpile, an increase of 4 percent over the $7.6 billion that Congress appropriated for that portion of the NNSA’s work in fiscal year 2013. This amount would have to be cut by about $780 million under sequestration. Funding for NNSA weapons activities is projected to rise to $9.3 billion by fiscal year 2018, according to future-year projections in the fiscal year 2014 budget documents. The NNSA also manages nuclear nonproliferation efforts (see).

      The budget request includes funding for the Uranium Processing Facility, which would receive $326 million in fiscal year 2014, 4 percent less than in 2013. The facility, to be built at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, is to produce uranium components known as “secondaries,” a key part of modern thermonuclear warheads. The Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility, which had been planned for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to conduct plutonium research, was delayed last year by at least five years.

      Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense, testified before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee on April 17 that the administration’s current approach to meeting the need for plutonium “pits”—the key nuclear component of the first, or primary, stage of nuclear warheads—“includes a resourced plan to utilize pit reuse in ongoing LEPs” while increasing U.S. manufacturing capacity to 10 pits per year by 2019, 20 pits per year by 2020, and 30 pits per year by 2021. “Pit reuse” means using the same pit again rather than manufacturing a new one during the LEP process.

      Weber is the staff director for the Nuclear Weapons Council, through which the Defense and Energy departments coordinate management of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

      Delivery Systems

      The Pentagon’s budget request for nuclear weapons delivery systems also received a boost in funding. Overall, the Defense Department’s request for fiscal year 2014 is $527 billion, $900 million less than the 2013 appropriation, and exceeds the sequestration spending caps by about $52 billion.

      The Pentagon is planning to replace the sea-based and air-based legs of the nuclear triad of delivery systems and is exploring whether to replace land-based missiles as well. In the budget request, research and development for the Long-Range Strike Bomber would receive a boost of 30 percent from the fiscal year 2013 appropriation to $379 million. The Pentagon plans to spend $8.8 billion on this program from fiscal years 2014 to 2018, according to the future-year projections. The bomber, which the Air Force began developing last year, is expected to enter into service in the mid-2020s.

      The budget also requests $1.1 billion to develop a new ballistic missile submarine, the SSBN(X), to replace the current Ohio-class submarine. This is an increase of $515 million, or 91 percent, over the 2013 appropriation, which had been reduced when the Navy announced a two-year delay in the program. The current Ohio-class submarines are expected to remain in service until the late 2030s, with the SSBN(X) entering into service around 2030.

      The Pentagon’s budget request also calls for $9.4 million to fund research on the next-generation ICBM, known as Ground Based Strategic Deterrence. At the April 17 hearing, Air Force Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said that an analysis of alternatives would be completed and submitted to Congress in fiscal year 2014.

      Missile Defense Reduction

      In contrast to nuclear delivery systems and nuclear warheads, funding for missile defense programs would decrease from the fiscal year 2013 appropriation. Under the fiscal year 2014 request, overall funding for those programs would drop by 5 percent, from $9.7 billion to $9.2 billion. The cut is in part a result of a reordering of the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) priorities, which make up $7.7 billion of the funds requested for missile defense.

      On March 15, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the cancellation of the fourth phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, including development of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIB interceptor. (See ACT, April 2013.) The budget request includes no funding for the SM-3 IIB program.

      Hagel also announced plans to deploy 14 additional ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska. The fiscal year 2014 budget includes a $130 million increase for the system, which is located at Fort Greely and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

      In addition to the cancellation of the SM-3 IIB program, the administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget would ax the Precision Tracking Space System, a network of space-based sensors intended to detect ballistic missiles; the Medium Extended Air Defense System, a joint project with Italy and Germany; and research on directed-energy weapons. The budget also would cut funding for the Sea-Based X-Band Radar, a mobile, floating radar station designed to detect ballistic missiles, by 74 percent from the fiscal year 2013 appropriation to $45 million.

      The Obama administration is seeking funding increases for its plan to extend the life of B61 bombs, as well as other nuclear force modernization projects, but a key senator is raising questions.

      NATO Agrees on New Arms Control Body

      Oliver Meier

      After nine months of negotiations, NATO on Feb. 8 agreed on the mandate of a new arms control body and assigned it the task of preparing a dialogue with Russia on confidence-building and transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons.

      Russia, which possesses more tactical nuclear weapons than the United States, has made any discussion of the issue contingent on a withdrawal of the remaining 180 U.S. nuclear weapons believed to still be deployed in five European countries under NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements. Moscow also is insisting on a compromise on NATO’s missile defense plans.

      Against this background, the allies are currently considering how best to engage Russia in a process of confidence building on tactical nuclear weapons. This could include declarations of weapons holdings and locations, joint visits to storage sites, or agreements to relocate weapons away from Russian borders, diplomats said. At its first meeting, on Feb. 12, the arms control committee discussed such confidence-building measures and agreed that it would build on the work done on the issue under its predecessor, the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Disarmament Committee, the diplomats said.

      According to the diplomats, one contentious issue within the alliance is the level of Russian reciprocity NATO will require before it changes its nuclear posture. Some allies prefer a strictly symmetrical approach, while others argue that NATO should be more flexible.

      Another topic to be decided is whether NATO should present Russia with a comprehensive package of transparency and confidence-building measures or whether a step-by-step approach would be more promising. Those preferring the latter approach are worried that an elaborate proposal could be “dead on arrival,” leaving NATO with few options for follow-on steps, one of the diplomats said.

      Another possibility for the new body is a role in addressing other arms control issues, including a dialogue between Russia and the United States on further nuclear weapons reductions. The committee has been assigned to provide a venue for consultations on the U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear arms cuts. That issue is scheduled to be on the agenda of the committee’s second meeting, on March 5.

      The committee has its origins in NATO’s Deterrence and Defense Posture Review report, which the allies endorsed at their May 2012 summit in Chicago. A potential role for the committee is to continue unfinished debates from the posture review, but this remains a contentious issue, and the terms of reference are vague on this point, the diplomats said.

      NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Dirk Brengelmann chairs the new committee. The United States, however, will assume the chair when U.S.-Russian arms control issues are on the agenda.

      After nine months of negotiations, NATO on Feb. 8 agreed on the mandate of a new arms control body and assigned it the task of preparing a dialogue with Russia on confidence-building and transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons.


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