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

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General
Daryl G. Kimball

Daryl Kimball Speaks Alongside Brent Scowcroft on New START

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On July 23, the Arms Control Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the Arms Control Association hosted former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for a discussion of the New START treaty, assessing how its ratification and implementation will serve the U.S. national interest.

Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided an introduction, followed by remarks from General Scowcroft. Morton Halperin of the Open Society Institute, Angela Stent of Georgetown University and Brookings and Senior Fellow Steven Pifer, director of the Arms Control Initiative at Brookings, joined the discussion. ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball moderated.

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On July 23, the Arms Control Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the Arms Control Association hosted former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for a discussion of the New START treaty, assessing how its ratification and implementation will serve the U.S. national interest.

Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided an introduction, followed by remarks from General Scowcroft. Morton Halperin of the Open Society Institute, Angela Stent of Georgetown University and Brookings and Senior Fellow Steven Pifer, director of the Arms Control Initiative at Brookings, will joined discussion. ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball moderated. Watch it here.

Daryl at Brookings

Subject Resources:

Is the NSG Up to the Task?

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards.

Although the NSG has provided an important check on proliferation, in recent years it has failed to agree to tighter restrictions on the transfer of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technology. To their great discredit, a few leading NSG states have reversed or ignored NSG guidelines for commercial profit and improved bilateral ties with nuclear trading partners.

In 2001, Russia sold uranium to India and agreed to build two additional reactors for India in violation of NSG guidelines barring nuclear trade with non-NPT countries. In 2008 the NSG agreed on an exemption for nuclear transfers to India over the protestations of the governments of Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand. The exemption, which was initiated by the George W. Bush administration and strongly backed by France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, reversed the long-standing NSG and NPT policies barring nuclear trade with states that have not accepted comprehensive international safeguards.

Now, China is reportedly planning to sell two nuclear power reactors to NPT holdout and serial proliferator Pakistan, which would violate current NSG rules.

The NSG must respond appropriately or risk irrelevance. Responsible NSG governments should actively oppose the Chinese-Pakistani deal as a violation of NSG guidelines, work to mitigate the damage caused by the India exemption, and agree to tougher rules against the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used to produce fissile material for weapons.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that it was entitled to build a second one on the grounds that the second reactor project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. At the time, however, there was no declaration of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chashma.

States at the recent NPT review conference, including China, reaffirmed that “new supply arrangements” for nuclear transfers should require that the recipient accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear trade with Pakistan or India would give those NPT nonmembers the rights and privileges reserved for NPT members that follow nonproliferation rules. Worse still, nuclear trade with either country would indirectly contribute to their weapons programs by freeing up domestic uranium reserves for the production of enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes.

Recognizing this danger, NPT parties expressed concern about the negative effects of civil nuclear trade with the two countries. The NPT conference’s final document “urges all States parties to ensure that their nuclear-related exports do not directly or indirectly assist the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devises.”

In response to the NSG’s 2008 India exemption, Israel and Pakistan, which are still subject to the NSG ban on nuclear trade, have sought similar exemptions—so far unsuccessfully. Also, Pakistan has accelerated its efforts to increase its capacity to produce enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons and has blocked the start of negotiations on a global treaty to ban the production of nuclear material for weapons purposes.

The NSG must hold firm and oppose nuclear trade with Israel, Pakistan, or any country that does not meet commonsense nonproliferation and disarmament standards.

Notwithstanding the 2008 NSG exemption for India, states such as Australia and Japan should resist commercial and political pressures for engaging in nuclear trade with India, at least until New Delhi complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1172, passed in June 1998, which calls on India and Pakistan to stop producing fissile material for weapons, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and undertake other nuclear risk reduction measures.

Those NSG governments that have decided to sell nuclear material and reactors to India should clarify that if India or any other state breaks its nonproliferation commitments and conducts a nuclear test explosion for any reason, they will immediately terminate nuclear trade with the offending state.

The NSG must address future proliferation risks as well. India and other states in regions of proliferation concern are seeking advanced enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology. In response, the United States and other NSG countries must overcome opposition from South Africa and Turkey and adopt tougher guidelines that would bar the transfer of such technology to those states that have not signed the NPT and do not have in place IAEA comprehensive safeguards and enhanced inspections under an additional protocol.

If the NSG is to remain effective and credible, member states must respect and uphold their own rules, avoid actions that feed the nuclear arms race, and strengthen their guidelines to prevent weapons-related nuclear technology from proliferating in the years ahead.

Dealing With Iran’s Uranium

Iran's renewed interest in an arrangement that would move 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey as part of a nuclear fuel exchange brokered by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey has been dubbed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “transparent ploy” designed to head off a new round of UN Security Council sanctions. That may be true, but the United States should still seriously pursue the deal as a means to help resolve the impasse over Tehran’s nuclear program. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

Iran's renewed interest in an arrangement that would move 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey as part of a nuclear fuel exchange brokered by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey has been dubbed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “transparent ploy” designed to head off a new round of UN Security Council sanctions. That may be true, but the United States should still seriously pursue the deal as a means to help resolve the impasse over Tehran’s nuclear program.

If accompanied by a halt to the further enrichment of uranium to 20 percent by Iran, the arrangement could seriously slow Iran’s ability to produce material that could be used to make a bomb. Also, it could build the confidence needed to open a broader dialogue that induces Iran to stop moving in the direction of nuclear weapons. If Iran fails to follow through on the deal or continues to enrich uranium to 20 percent, the Security Council can and should move forward with further sanctions in order to help change Iran’s strategic calculus.

A similar arrangement offered in October with the backing of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would have moved 1,200 kilograms of LEU out of Iran for further enrichment in Russia and fabrication by France into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor for medical isotope production. That proposal was intended to build trust between the P5+1—the Security Council’s five permanent members (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany—and open the way to broader negotiations to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Iran initially agreed, but backed out and declared it would use some of its LEU to produce uranium at a higher enrichment level—20 percent uranium-235—to fuel its research reactor.

A quantity of 1,200 kilograms of LEU is enough for one bomb's worth of highly enriched uranium (HEU) if that material were further processed. Iran now has an estimated 2,427 kilograms of LEU total and can produce about that much in a year. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan deserve credit for convincing Iran to agree to ship half of its LEU stock to Turkey while France fabricates fuel for the research reactor. Removing roughly half of Iran’s LEU from its territory would delay the time at which Iran would have a viable strategic reserve of material that could be used for nuclear weapons.

At the same time, it is critical that Iran agrees to suspend enrichment to higher levels to reduce suspicions about its nuclear intentions. Given that Iran is being offered the fuel it needs for the  research reactor, there is no plausible reason for Iran to enrich uranium to a 20 percent enrichment level other than to establish a latent capability to build nuclear weapons.

Even if the P5+1 accepts the proposed fuel swap and Iran halts enrichment to higher levels, it is essential that Iran takes further steps to build confidence that its program is not for weapons purposes. The ultimate goal is to bring Iran into compliance with its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, as well as Security Council resolutions demanding that Iran suspend uranium-enrichment and fully cooperate with the IAEA.

A top, near-term priority should be more extensive IAEA access to declared and undeclared Iranian nuclear and military sites. Although Iran’s existing stocks of LEU and its main enrichment facility at Natanz and another recently discovered facility at Qom are under IAEA scrutiny, there is a risk that Iran may seek to enrich uranium at other, secret sites. Iran has already declared that it is building additional enrichment facilities. To guard against that possibility, the IAEA needs more extensive access through an additional protocol to verify Iran’s compliance with its nonproliferation obligations.

For his part, President Barack Obama needs to reiterate that he continues to seek a comprehensive and unconditional dialogue with Iran and underscore that preventive military action by Israel is not an option that the United States supports. Iran’s nuclear program and actions are clearly troubling, but it remains years away from having a sufficient quantity of HEU for a viable nuclear arsenal. A military strike would lead to a wider war, push Iran to openly pursue nuclear weapons, and only set back Iran’s capability to produce the material for a bomb by a few years at most.

Congress should give the Obama administration as much leeway as it can to pursue a diplomatic solution and, if necessary, further multilateral sanctions. Legislation mandating unilateral sanctions on Iran’s gasoline sector would upset the delicate P5 consensus on further Security Council sanctions and do little to alter Iran’s current course.

The Obama administration’s strategy of pressure and engagement has prompted Iran to agree to the nuclear fuel swap with Brazil and Turkey, but the United States must now actively work with its allies and partners to transform this fleeting opportunity into a longer-lasting breakthrough.

Nuclear Weapons "Modernization" Myths and Realities

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Volume 1, Number 3

Eighteen years after the last U.S. nuclear test, it is abundantly clear that maintaining the reliability of existing U.S. nuclear warheads does not depend on a program of nuclear test explosions. Over the past decade the U.S. Life Extension Program has successfully refurbished major warhead types, and with sufficient resources can continue to do so indefinitely.

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Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 3, May 12, 2010

Eighteen years after the last U.S. nuclear test, it is abundantly clear that maintaining the reliability of existing U.S. nuclear warheads does not depend on a program of nuclear test explosions. Over the past decade the U.S. Life Extension Program has successfully refurbished major warhead types, and with sufficient resources can continue to do so indefinitely.

Moreover, the delivery systems for U.S. nuclear forces are also reliable, effective, and modern. The United States is already engaged in the process of upgrading all of its strategic nuclear delivery systems, the warheads they carry, and the production complex for the next 20-30 years or more.

With the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request, the Obama administration is clearly committed to making sure that a more than adequate budget is available to support the task.

In February, the administration proposed a 10 percent increase (to $7 billion) in FY 2011 funding for weapons activities in the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the U.S. nuclear stockpile and production complex. The administration plans to spend an additional $5 billion on NNSA nuclear weapons activities over the next five years.

Linton Brooks, who ran NNSA during the Bush administration, said April 7 that he "would have killed" for that budget when he was there and "I think it does put us on a very firm, firm basis."

Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee April 29 that "What we have is a step forward, a major step forward ... with regard to upgrading the nuclear weapons stockpile."

Outdated Thinking Persists

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a few Senators cling to the outdated notion that the United States is not "modernizing" its nuclear weapons production infrastructure and that new-design warheads should be pursued to maintain the reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told The PBS NewsHour April 9, "I think the Senate will find it very hard to support [New START] if there is not a robust modernization plan."

In reality, there is a robust modernization plan already underway. The United States is in the process of upgrading all of its strategic delivery systems, the warheads they carry, and the production complex for the next 20-30 years or more, including:

  • Enhancing Nuclear Warheads: The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads and bombs is certified annually to be safe and reliable and is continually enhanced through NNSA's Life Extension Program (LEP). For example, the W87 Minuteman warhead has already been refurbished to last past 2025, and NNSA is requesting $63 million for additional work on this warhead in FY 2011. The B61-7 and B61-11 bombs for the B-2 bomber were recently refurbished for an additional 20 years. In 2009, NNSA began delivery of refurbished W76 Trident warheads with service lives of an additional 30 years. NNSA is requesting almost $1 billion over the next five years for an LEP study on the W78 Minuteman warhead. This ongoing process can continue indefinitely.
  • Modernizing the Production Complex: The U.S. nuclear weapons production complex is being modernized, with new facilities planned. The FY 2011 NNSA budget request includes large increases for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M., which would see its budget jump from $97 million in FY 2010 to $225 million in FY 2011. The Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge, Tenn., would increase from $94 million to $115 million.
  • Maintaining Strategic Delivery Systems: U.S. nuclear delivery systems are undergoing continual overhaul, including complete rebuilds of the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and Trident II Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM). Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, recently said the Minuteman can serve until 2030, and the Trident is expected to last until 2042. The service lives of Trident Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are being extended, and a brand new submarine, the SSBN-X, is under development at an expected cost of $85 billion. The B-2 "stealth" bomber is being upgraded at a cost of $1 billion over the next 5 years. The Air Force is also planning to replace the Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).

By any common-sense definition, these projects add up to a robust modernization plan.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in his preface to the April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), "These investments, and the NPR's strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

In a joint statement on the NPR from the directors of the three nuclear weapons laboratories issued April 9, Sandia's Tom Hunter, Los Alamos' Michael Anastasio, and Lawrence Livermore's George Miller said:

"We are reassured that a key component of the NPR is the recognition of the importance of supporting 'a modern physical infrastructure--comprised of the national security laboratories and a complex of supporting facilities--and a highly capable workforce with the specialized skills needed to sustain the nuclear deterrent.'"

New-Design Warheads Not Necessary, But Are Still An Option

The NPR also establishes that "The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities."

This is a prudent and technically sound approach. Given the success of the ongoing U.S. warhead Life Extension Program, there is currently no technical need for new-design warheads and renewed nuclear testing. A September 2009 report by the JASON independent technical review panel's report concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

To minimize the risks posed by changes to warhead components--particularly the nuclear components in warhead primaries and secondaries--the JASON group has recommended against unnecessary replacement of components not validated by nuclear test experience.

The directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons labs have strongly endorsed the NPR's approach. In their April 9 joint statement, they said:

"We believe that the approach outlined in the NPR, which excludes further nuclear testing and includes the consideration of the full range of life extension options (refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of nuclear components from different warheads and replacement of nuclear components based on previously tested designs), provides the necessary technical flexibility to manage the nuclear stockpile into the future with an acceptable level of risk."

Alarmism Unwarranted

Nonetheless, Senator Kyl--who has been an ardent opponent of the nuclear test ban treaty and who recently said in an April 9 profile in The Wall Street Journal that "I am not a scientist and I don't pretend to know all the science" --disagrees.

On April 20, Kyl told The National Journal: "What I find truly alarming about the Nuclear Posture Review is that it claims to support a 'safe, secure, and effective' nuclear arsenal, but at the same time it imposes unnecessarily strict tests in terms of extending the life of warheads that may need components replaced."

Such alarmism is unwarranted and unsubstantiated by the facts. The technical reality is that the United States does not need to resume nuclear test explosions, nor does it need to build new "replacement" warhead designs to maintain the reliability and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

If at some point in the future it becomes evident that the replacement of certain nuclear components is the most cost-effective way to improve warhead reliability, safety, or surety, that option remains available.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino made clear in an April 14 House Armed Services hearing that the NPR will allow the national nuclear weapons laboratories to "study all options for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear warheads, and we'll do so on a case-by-case basis."

Bottom Line

Lingering concerns that the United States does not have a plan to maintain and modernize its nuclear forces are based on myth, not reality. It would be tragic if Senators allowed such myths to prevent them from supporting New START and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would reduce the very real nuclear weapons threats posed by other nations. - TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

For the full ACA analysis on U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs, please go to http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/USNuclearModernization

 

Obama’s NPR: Transitional, Not Transformational

On April 5, 2009, in Prague, President Barack Obama embraced the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In pursuit of that objective, he called for “an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in [U.S.] national security strategy.”[1] One year later, his administration released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which fleshes out policies to meet those aspirations.

The new NPR narrows the circumstances under which the United States might use nuclear weapons and formally establishes some commonsense constraints on U.S. nuclear warhead modernization. It does so in ways that should help reduce the salience of nuclear weapons, help curb proliferation, and open the way for further nuclear arms cuts.

Daryl G. Kimball and Greg Thielmann

On April 5, 2009, in Prague, President Barack Obama embraced the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In pursuit of that objective, he called for “an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in [U.S.] national security strategy.”[1] One year later, his administration released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which fleshes out policies to meet those aspirations.

The new NPR narrows the circumstances under which the United States might use nuclear weapons and formally establishes some commonsense constraints on U.S. nuclear warhead modernization. It does so in ways that should help reduce the salience of nuclear weapons, help curb proliferation, and open the way for further nuclear arms cuts.

Unfortunately, the new U.S. nuclear policy review is not as different from the two previous reviews as it could or should be, particularly with respect to U.S. nuclear weapons declaratory policy and the size and structure of U.S. forces.

Still, the policies articulated in the unclassified 65-page document do represent a positive shift in U.S. nuclear thinking and practice. Unlike earlier post-Cold War reviews in 1994 and 2001,[2] the new NPR finally recognizes that deploying thousands of strategic nuclear weapons organized to perform a wide range of missions, including defending U.S. forces or allies against massive conventional, chemical, and biological attacks, is neither appropriate nor necessary for security and stability in the 21st century.

Instead, it correctly posits that, “[b]y working to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and moving step-by-step toward eliminating them, we can reverse the growing expectation that we are destined to live in a world with more nuclear-armed states, and decrease incentives for additional countries to hedge against an uncertain future by pursuing nuclear options of their own.”[3]

Obama’s NPR identifies preventing the use of nuclear weapons, preventing nuclear proliferation, and reducing the potential for nuclear terrorism as “our most urgent priorities”[4]—not defending against a large-scale attack from Russia, which, the new NPR notes, is no longer an adversary.

A major and important theme throughout the NPR is that “by reducing the role and numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons…we can put ourselves in a much better position to persuade our NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] partners to join with us in adopting the measures needed to reinvigorate the nonproliferation regime and secure nuclear materials worldwide.”[5]

The document forthrightly states, “It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever. As President Ronald Reagan declared, ‘A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’”[6]

Declaratory Policy

The new NPR emphasizes that the “fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack” on the United States and its allies and that the goal is to make deterring nuclear attack the “sole purpose of nuclear weapons.”[7] “Sole purpose” is thus identified as a goal rather than a reality of current U.S. nuclear force posture.

The NPR updates and strengthens U.S. pledges of nonuse toward non-nuclear-weapon states that are in good standing with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations, even in the unlikely event that one of those states attacks the United States or its allies with chemical or biological weapons.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained in an interview broadcast April 11 on CBS’s Face the Nation, “[T]he negative security assurance that we won’t use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, in conformity with or in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, is not a new thing. The new part of this is saying that we would not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state that attacked us with chemical and biological weapons.”

This revised negative security assurance[8] expands the security benefits for non-nuclear-weapon states of good-faith membership in the NPT regime. In addition, it makes it easier for these states to agree to updating and strengthening the treaty, as Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller explained at an April 14 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee: “A number of states party to the nonproliferation treaty have made clear in previous review conferences that the United States posture…makes it more difficult for them to agree to the types of steps that the United States has proposed to strengthen the treaty, steps that would include having the additional protocol applied to all states that have nuclear energy capability.”

However, U.S. officials should be more careful not to imply, as Gates did when he cited Iran and North Korea in an April 6 press conference, that it is any more likely than before that the United States would use nuclear weapons against states not covered by the assurance. Gates said on that occasion, “If there is a message for Iran and North Korea here, it is: If you are going to play by the rules, then we will undertake certain obligations to you, and that is covered in the NPR.” He added, “But if you are not going to play by the rules, if you are going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table.”[9]

Such statements are misleading and counterproductive. The text of the 2010 NPR explains clearly that withholding the negative security assurance from some countries “does not mean that our willingness to use nuclear weapons against countries not covered by the new assurance has in any way increased.”[10]

Unfortunately, the NPR contains some unnecessary qualifications in describing the narrowed role of nuclear weapons, preventing the United States “at the present time” from adopting a policy that the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack. It says that, in the case of “states that possess nuclear weapons and states not in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations—there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW [chemical and biological weapons] attack.”[11]

This unhelpfully implies, for example, that there are circumstances in which the United States would use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against an Iran without nuclear weapons. It draws no distinction in its nuclear posture toward Iran, which is still in partial compliance with its NPT obligations, disavowing an intention to develop nuclear weapons and declaring them “un-Islamic,” and North Korea, which has completely withdrawn from the NPT, has detonated nuclear devices, and threatens to use nuclear weapons if it is attacked.

Among the “narrow range of contingencies” that presumably prevents the NPR authors from adopting a sole-purpose policy is the possibility of a North Korean attack on South Korea using conventional weapons. Pyongyang’s large standing army deployed close to Seoul has long given it the ability to attack with little warning. Such an attack would start with a massive artillery bombardment of Seoul and an invasion of the South by North Korea’s conventional forces, the first elements of which could be on the outskirts of Seoul very quickly. As a result, any U.S. nuclear counterattack against the invading forces, even with nuclear forces stationed nearby, would come too late to prevent this invasion. Moreover, a nuclear response would result in massive collateral damage, killing millions of civilians, and still would not necessarily end the war. An effective nuclear defense protecting South Korea from a North Korean conventional strike is not possible. Only an adequate conventional defense can do that effectively.[12]Keeping open the option of nuclear first-use against an invading North Korean conventional force complicates the broader goal of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons everywhere. So long as U.S. doctrine argues that nuclear weapons are needed to counter conventional imbalances, it will be difficult to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the nuclear doctrines of Israel, Pakistan, and Russia, which posit that nuclear weapons are needed to deal with nonnuclear threats. There is no way to get the world on the road to zero nuclear weapons without giving up this doctrine.

“Deterrence,” as Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command recently noted, “is a combination of capability and credibility.”[13] This should have led the NPR team and Obama to recognize that the enormous destructive effects of today’s nuclear weapons make them an inappropriate and noncredible response to anything but a nuclear attack. The United States should adopt a sole-purpose policy now rather than later. Reserving the option to use nuclear force in nonnuclear situations provides little or no deterrent value at a high cost. It undermines the credibility of conventional deterrence, complicates U.S. nonproliferation diplomacy, and can be used by other countries to justify their pursuit or improvement of nuclear weapons.

The NPR unambiguously seeks to shrink the role of nuclear weapons with regard to responding to chemical weapons. During his Face the Nation interview, Gates said, “[T]ry as we might, we could not find a credible scenario where a chemical weapon could have the kind of consequences that would warrant a nuclear response.” This moves the United States beyond the position expressed by three previous presidents. Yet, even this advance is hobbled by the NPR’s exception concerning the “narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring” an attack by conventional, chemical, or biological weapons.

The administration came close to removing biological weapons from the list of threats potentially justifying a nuclear response. Ultimately, however, the NPR hedged by stating, “Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat.”[14]

The message here undermines the political impact of the NPR in two ways. It implies a future retreat from the goal of establishing nuclear deterrence and defense against nuclear attack as the sole purpose of nuclear weapons. Also, it provides encouragement to those who might seek to translate biological weapons capability into political power by inaccurately equating the potential destructiveness of such weapons with that of nuclear weapons.

No “New” Nuclear Weapons

One of the most dramatic turnarounds from President George W. Bush’s 2001 NPR is the Obama NPR’s support of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratification and entry into force. Another is prohibiting new nuclear warhead development and forgoing the pursuit of new military missions or new military capabilities for the warheads.

The 2001 NPR sought to provide the president with a broader range of nuclear weapons employment options, reportedly calling for the development of new types of nuclear warheads that reduce collateral damage as well as possible modifications to existing weapons to provide additional yield flexibility. The 2001 review specifically cited the need to improve earth-penetrating weapons, designed to threaten hardened and deeply buried targets, such as command and control and weapons storage bunkers. Like its 1994 predecessor, the 2001 NPR endorsed pursuit of a modified version of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb. The Bush administration followed its NPR with a proposal for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which was eventually rejected by Congress as an unnecessary and provocative program.

In contrast, the 2010 NPR explicitly states, “The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs [LEPs] will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.”[15]

Although the NPR does not clearly define what a “new nuclear weapon” is,[16] the policy is the right one from a number of perspectives. There is no technical need for new-design warheads and renewed nuclear testing to maintain the reliability of the existing U.S. nuclear stockpile, given the success of ongoing U.S. warhead LEPs. The JASON independent technical review panel’s September 2009 report concluded that the “lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence.”[17] The JASON panel findings underscore the fact that new-design replacement warheads are not needed to maintain reliability for the foreseeable future, and they clearly influenced the outcome of the NPR on this point.

The NPR does, however, contain a potential loophole because it could allow for the replacement of certain nuclear components at some point in the future to improve reliability, safety, or surety, if they are based on previously tested designs and are expressly approved by the president. As noted by Thomas D’Agostino, the head of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), at the April 14 House Armed Services Committee hearing, the NPR will allow the national nuclear weapons laboratories to “study all options for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear warheads, and we’ll do so on a case-by-case basis.”

Nonetheless, Obama’s no-new-nuclear-weapons policy is a step forward, and it should be emulated by other nuclear-armed states to further reduce nuclear competition.

The NPR calls for the implementation of “well-funded stockpile management and infrastructure investment plans that can sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal at significantly reduced stockpile levels without nuclear testing or the development of new nuclear warheads.”[18] In February, the Obama administration proposed a fiscal year 2011 budget of just more than $7 billion, 10 percent more than the current year’s level, for NNSA weapons activities.

The NPR should put to rest any lingering concerns about the “aging” U.S. nuclear arsenal and the quaint but dangerous notion that the United States might need to resume nuclear testing. As Gates wrote in his preface to the NPR, “These investments, and the NPR’s strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation’s deterrent.”[19] Now, with more than enough resources available for stockpile management, the administration should move the Senate to reconsider and approve the CTBT.

Further Reductions?

Prior to the release of the NPR, Obama stated on numerous occasions that it would “open the way for further nuclear weapons reductions,” presumably below the ceilings established by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)—1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. One of the NPR’s stated goals is to “pursue high-level, bilateral dialogues on strategic stability with both Russia and China, which are aimed at fostering more stable, resilient, and transparent strategic relationships.”[20]

Coupled with Obama’s April 8 call for continued discussions between Moscow and Washington on further reductions involving all warheads, including deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic, it is clear the United States wants to pursue deeper and broader bilateral nuclear limits with Russia in the years ahead and move beyond to engage other nuclear states as well.

Although the NPR acknowledges that the United States and Russia “each still retains more nuclear weapons than necessary for stable deterrence,”[21] the NPR unfortunately does not spell out how much further the Obama administration is prepared to reduce the U.S. arsenal. Instead, it calls for a “follow-on analysis of the goals for future arms reductions below the levels expected in New START,” noting that “Russia’s nuclear forces will remain a significant factor in determining how much and how fast we are prepared to reduce U.S. forces.” The failure to state a desired range of reductions represents a missed opportunity to challenge other nuclear-weapon states and to demonstrate further the seriousness of U.S. intentions to carry out the obligations of the NPT’s Article VI.

Given that the “fundamental role” of U.S. (and Russian) nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others and that China has no more than 300 nuclear weapons, Washington and Moscow could and should reduce their arsenals to 500 or fewer deployed warheads each, so long as other nuclear-armed states do not increase their arsenals.

To make further progress in nuclear disarmament, the United States and Russia must make good on their professed goal of cooperating on regional missile defense and avoiding strategic missile defense deployments that could affect offensive strategic capabilities and hamper progress on nuclear disarmament.

A positive feature is the NPR’s call for the long-overdue retirement of nuclear-equipped, sea-launched cruise missiles (Tomahawk Land Attack Missile-Nuclear [TLAM-N]). The NPR notes that the United States will retain options for forward deployment of bombers with bombs or cruise missiles, as well as forward deployment of dual-capable fighters, and that U.S. intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles “are capable of striking any potential adversary.” The NPR says, “The deterrence and assurance roles of TLAM-N can be adequately substituted by these other means.”[22]

On the other hand, the NPR is neutral on whether the United States should continue to station the residual arsenal of 200 forward-deployed nuclear gravity bombs at six bases in five European NATO countries. Those weapons are a subject of the ongoing Strategic Concept review by the alliance that is due in November. The NPR repeats the stale NATO refrain that “the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons…contribute[s] to Alliance cohesion and provide[s] reassurance to allies and partners who feel exposed to regional threats.”[23]

Yet, two successive German governments have made clear that Berlin favors the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Germany. One NATO ally that sometimes expresses concerns about regional threats is Poland, but Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski wrote in February, “We still face security challenges in the Europe of today and tomorrow, but from whichever angle you look, there is no role for the use of nuclear weapons in resolving these challenges.”[24] Maxime Verhagen, foreign minister of the Netherlands, another NATO member hosting U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, suggests there are other means for constructively maintaining alliance cohesion: “A more modest option would be for NATO to retain a nuclear task without U.S. nuclear weapons being stationed in Europe.”[25]

These weapons clearly can and should be retired because they serve no practical military role in the defense of NATO, are a greater security liability in the age of terrorism, and are an impediment to opening talks with Russia on accounting for and reducing the larger Russian stockpile of tactical nuclear bombs. For the same reasons that the NPR calls for retirement of forward-deployed sea-launched cruise missiles, the Obama administration should urge its NATO partners to support the withdrawal of obsolete tactical nuclear bombs from Europe.

Conclusion

Obama’s new nuclear policy narrows the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy and moves the United States and Russia toward a more stable strategic relationship at lower levels of nuclear arms. The policy is framed to support action for the immediate next steps toward a world without nuclear weapons that were outlined by Obama in his Prague speech one year ago: conclusion of a new strategic arms treaty, accelerated action to secure nuclear weapons-usable material, entry into force of the CTBT, and the strengthening of the NPT.

Obama’s Prague speech aimed for the mountaintop, but the NPR leaves U.S. nuclear policy in the foothills. Cautious rather than bold, the policy has won strong backing from the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the military, but at a cost. The 2010 NPR ends up being a transitional, rather than transformational, document. In order to realize fully the promise of a world without nuclear weapons, Obama and his team must do more to change outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons that are more of a liability than a useful military asset in the 21st century.


Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the Arms Control Association (ACA). Greg Thielmann is a senior fellow at the ACA, where he directs the Realistic Threat Assessments and Responses Project. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the ACA’s directors or members.


ENDNOTES

1. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama, Hradčany Square, Prague, Czech Republic,” April 5, 2009.

2. The 2001 NPR reportedly argued that U.S. nuclear weapons “provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and large-scale conventional military force.” The review also said that “nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities).” See Philip Bleek, “Nuclear Posture Review Leaks, Outlines Targets, Contingencies,” Arms Control Today, April 2002, www.armscontrol.org/act/2002_04/nprapril02.

3. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf, p. vi (hereinafter NPR).

4. Ibid., p. v.

5. Ibid., p. vi.

6. Ibid., p. 16.

7. Ibid., p. viii.

8. The 2010 NPR eliminates the so-called Warsaw Pact caveat from the previous U.S. negative security assurance and removes ambiguity about the potential use of nuclear weapons in response to the threat of chemical or biological attack from non-nuclear-weapon states. On February 22, 2002, Department of State spokesman Richard Boucher reiterated the 1995 version of a U.S. negative security pledge first outlined in 1978. He stated, “The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon state parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an invasion or any other 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.” Boucher subsequently qualified the pledge, saying, “We will do whatever is necessary to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its allies, and its interests. If a weapon of mass destruction is used against the United States or its allies, we will not rule out any specific type of military response.”

9. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), U.S. Department of Defense, “DOD News Briefing With Secretary Gates, Navy Adm. Mullen, Secretary Clinton, and Secretary Chu From the Pentagon,” April 6, 2010, www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4599.

10. NPR, p. 16.

11. Ibid.

12. During the Korean War, when the United States had a massive nuclear advantage over North Korea’s Soviet ally and China had no nuclear weapons, neither President Harry Truman nor President Dwight Eisenhower seriously countenanced such an attack, even when China intervened on the side of North Korea.

13. Kevin P. Chilton, Statement before the House Armed Services Committee, April 14, 2010.

14. NPR, p. 16.

15. NPR, p. 39.

16. In Section 3143 of the fiscal year 2003 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress defined a “new nuclear weapon” as one that “contains a pit or canned subassembly” not already in the active or inactive stockpile or in production. A pit is the plutonium component in a warhead’s primary stage, and a canned subassembly is the uranium and lithium-deuteride component in the secondary stage. Together, these parts are known as the warhead’s nuclear explosive package.

17. JASON Program Office, “Lifetime Extension Program (LEP) Executive Summary,” JSR-09-334E, September 9, 2009.

18. NPR, p. 46.

19. Ibid., p. i.

20. Ibid., p. 46.

21. Ibid., p. 5.

22. NPR, p. 28.

23. NPR, p. 32.

24. Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski, “Next, the Tactical Nukes,” The New York Times, February 1, 2010.

25. “Nederlands initiatief voor kernontwapening,” Nieuwsbericht, February 26, 2010 (translation provided by the Netherlands Foreign Ministry).

 

Strengthen the Nonproliferation Bargain

Once again the nuclear nonproliferation system is facing a crisis of confidence. New measures to update and strengthen the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) are needed. The May 2010 treaty review conference provides an important opportunity for the pact’s 189 members to adopt a balanced action plan to improve nuclear safeguards, guard against treaty withdrawal, accelerate progress on disarmament, and address regional proliferation challenges. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

Once again the nuclear nonproliferation system is facing a crisis of confidence. New measures to update and strengthen the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) are needed. The May 2010 treaty review conference provides an important opportunity for the pact’s 189 members to adopt a balanced action plan to improve nuclear safeguards, guard against treaty withdrawal, accelerate progress on disarmament, and address regional proliferation challenges.

There is widespread support for commonsense initiatives that would advance treaty implementation and compliance. But friction over Iran's nuclear program and pending UN Security Council sanctions and the lack of progress toward a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone could impede efforts to bolster the treaty. To succeed, responsible states must work together in six key areas.

Supporting Tougher Nuclear Safeguards. Although the vast majority of NPT states-parties have implemented traditional International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, many have not adopted an additional protocol, which would give the IAEA enhanced authority to detect undeclared nuclear activities. States-parties can and should recognize the Model Additional Protocol as the new international standard and call for universal accession by 2015.

Increasing the Costs of Treaty Withdrawal. North Korea’s declared but unrecognized withdrawal from the NPT in 2003 highlights that countries can acquire technologies that bring them to the very brink of nuclear weapons capability without violating the treaty and can leave the treaty without automatic penalties. In the years ahead, others such as Iran may be tempted to follow. NPT members have a common interest in ensuring that noncompliance comes with consequences. States should agree to convene an emergency session to develop a collective response to any case of withdrawal and affirm that a state remains responsible for violations of the treaty committed prior to withdrawal.

Recognizing Nuclear Rights and Responsibilities. To avoid being isolated at the conference, Iran will seek to justify its pursuit of sensitive fuel-cycle activities in defiance of Security Council resolutions with the NPT’s Article IV peaceful nuclear use guarantee. It is crucial that non-nuclear-weapon states do not play into Iran’s strategy. They should urge Iran to respond fully to the outstanding questions about its nuclear activities, suspend its sensitive fuel-cycle activities as a confidence-building measure, and agree to tougher IAEA inspections.

Accelerating Progress on Nuclear Disarmament. The continued possession of nuclear weapons by a few states, reinforced by lackluster progress on NPT Article VI disarmament commitments, has eroded the willingness of the non-nuclear-weapon-state majority to agree to strengthen the nonproliferation end of the NPT bargain.

Washington and Moscow have a better story to tell than they did five years ago. But there is clearly more to be done, and the NPT conference should outline the immediate next steps. To begin, the conference should recognize the value of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and call for deeper verifiable and irreversible reductions of all types of nuclear warheads, including NATO’s forward-deployed tactical nuclear bombs, and urge all nuclear-armed states to refrain from increasing the size or military capabilities of their nuclear forces.

The conference should also call on all NPT members to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty no later than 2015. Nuclear testing is a dangerous vestige of the 20th century, yet the United States, China, and Iran are still among the nine CTBT holdout states that must ratify before the treaty enters into force.

Supporting Progress Toward a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East. As part of the package of proposals leading to the extension of the treaty in 1995, states agreed to support “practical steps toward the establishment of an effectively verifiable” zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Egypt and other states are understandably frustrated about the lack of progress toward this goal and are prepared to press their case. Visible and early support for tangible steps toward a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone, such as appointing a special envoy and organizing an international conference on the matter, would strengthen the nonproliferation cause.

Holding Non-NPT Members Accountable to NPT Standards. The India-specific exemption from nuclear trade rules adopted in 2008 is a body blow to the treaty because it extends to a non-NPT state the peaceful nuclear use benefits that have been reserved so far only for states that meet their nonproliferation obligations. It has led Pakistan to seek a similar deal and block negotiations on a treaty to stop fissile production for weapons.

To mitigate the damage, the United States and other nuclear supplier states should make clear there will be no further exemptions and that any nuclear test explosion would lead to the termination of nuclear trade with the offending country.

U.S. leadership is necessary but not sufficient to strengthen the NPT regime. All states have a responsibility to fulfill their part of the NPT bargain and ensure that the treaty continues to underpin collective security for another 40 years.

NATO Clings to Its Cold War Nuclear Relics

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Volume 1, Number 1

Hillary Clinton recently met with the foreign ministers of various NATO allies in Tallinn, Estonia. They discussed the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. NATO no longer needs these weapons, and the U.S. decision to link their removal to Russian actions is disappointing.

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Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 1, April 27, 2010

At a dinner with fellow NATO Foreign Ministers in Tallinn, Estonia, April 22, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that as NATO debates the role of nuclear weapons and arms control in the context of its new Strategic Concept, the discussion should be guided by five principles:

  • As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance;
  • As a nuclear alliance, widely sharing nuclear risks and responsibilities is fundamental;
  • The broader goal of the alliance must be to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons and recognize that NATO has already dramatically reduced its reliance on nuclear weapons;
  • The alliance must broaden deterrence against 21st century threats, including missile defense, strengthen Article V training and exercises, and draft additional contingency plans to counter new threats.
  • In any future reductions "our aim should be to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, relocate these weapons away from the territory of NATO members, and include non-strategic nuclear weapons in the next round of U.S.-Russian arms control discussions alongside strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons."

Secretary Clinton also argued that the threat from ballistic missiles is increasing and said that the United States will seek communique language in Lisbon establishing missile defense as a NATO mission.

Analysis

The United States response to the effort by several NATO Foreign Ministers to engage the alliance is this long-overdue discussion on NATO nuclear-sharing is disappointing.

While the Obama administration deserves credit for making it clear that the next round of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms talks should address tactical as well as strategic nuclear weapons, the United States should not make the mistake of linking the withdrawal of U.S. forward deployed nuclear weapons to action by Russia on its far larger tactical nuclear arsenal.

Clinton's principles fail to recognize the fact that the remaining 200 U.S. tactical bombs stored on five NATO bases in Europe have no military role in the defense of the alliance and they are an obstacle, not a bargaining chip, toward the goal of consolidating and eliminating Russian and U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. Linking NATO action on its residual tactical nuclear stockpile to Russian action on tactical nuclear weapons is a recipe for delay and inaction.

As Vice-Chairman of the JCS Gen. Cartwright said at an April 8 briefing in Washington, NATO nukes don't serve a military function not already addressed by other U.S. military assets. See: http://www.cfr.org/publication/21861/nuclear_posture_review.html

The immediate withdrawal of NATO's nuclear relics would advance President Obama's goal of reducing the number and role of nuclear weapons and would bolster global nonproliferation efforts.

NATO must also recognize that in the 21st century, these smaller and more potable nuclear bombs are a security liability, not an asset. They are a target for terrorists, they blur the line between conventional and nuclear conflict, and are a drag on global nonproliferation efforts.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is not providing leadership or helping to advance the discussion, but is simply repeating stale talking points from the NATO of yesteryear. Rasmussen told journalists Monday that: "My personal view is: the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe is an essential part of a credible nuclear deterrent. In a world where nuclear weapons actually exist, NATO needs a credible, effective and safely managed deterrent."

Rasmussen fails to understand that tactical nuclear weapons are not a "credible" weapon. Their destructive effects are too massive to justify their use against nonnuclear threats and other NATO conventional and U.S. nuclear forces can deal with all else.

NATO must recognize that the Cold War conflict that gave rise to thousands of tactical bombs is over. NATO is a strong and dynamic alliance that simply does not need to cling to obsolete U.S. weapons of mass destruction to sustain transatlantic unity.  - DARYL G. KIMBALL

Daryl Kimball Discusses the NPT on Bloggingheads TV

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In April 2010, Daryl Kimball appeard on Bloggingheads TV alongside Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch.  They discussed the future of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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In April 2010, Daryl Kimball appeard on Bloggingheads TV alongside Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch.  They discussed the future of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

 

Pakistan Presses Case for U.S. Nuclear Deal

As part of a wide-ranging, high-level dialogue between Pakistani and U.S. leaders held in Washington last month, Pakistan reportedly proposed a civilian nuclear trade arrangement similar to the one granted to India, but received a noncommittal response from senior U.S. officials.

Since India and the United States announced plans in 2005 to lift U.S. and international restrictions on nuclear trade with New Delhi, Pakistani officials have argued for such an arrangement.

Daryl G. Kimball

As part of a wide-ranging, high-level dialogue between Pakistani and U.S. leaders held in Washington last month, Pakistan reportedly proposed a civilian nuclear trade arrangement similar to the one granted to India, but received a noncommittal response from senior U.S. officials.

Since India and the United States announced plans in 2005 to lift U.S. and international restrictions on nuclear trade with New Delhi, Pakistani officials have argued for such an arrangement.

Ahead of the March 24-25 talks involving Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that were focused primarily on strategic cooperation on security and energy issues and the war in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials once again raised the possibility of civil nuclear cooperation and recognition of Pakistan’s status as a state possessing nuclear weapons.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters following a March 16 meeting in Islamabad with U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair that U.S. assistance with “[c]ivilian nuclear technology will help Pakistan meet its growing energy demand.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles-based newspaper Pakistan Link published on March 19, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson was quoted as saying the United States is “beginning to have a discussion” with the Pakistani government on the country’s desire to tap nuclear energy. “We are going to have working-level talks” on the issue in Washington, she said.

Patterson said in the interview that U.S. “non-proliferation concerns were quite severe,” but she added, “I think we are beginning to pass those and this is a scenario that we are going to explore.”

Her comments quickly prompted speculation in Pakistan and India and in Washington that the United States might be prepared to reverse existing U.S. policy and law barring civil nuclear trade with Pakistan, which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has tested nuclear weapons, and does not accept comprehensive international safeguards for its extensive nuclear infrastructure.

The same is true of India, but the United States created an exception for New Delhi through a process that involved congressional approval for an exemption from the requirements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, the negotiation of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement subject to congressional review and approval, and the consensus approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). A nuclear deal with Pakistan would have to go through a similar process.

Clinton Cautious

In an interview with Pakistan’s Express TV March 22, Clinton was more circumspect than Patterson about the prospects for nuclear trade. “I’m sure that that’s going to be raised, and we’re going to be considering it, but I can’t prejudge or pre-empt what the outcome of our discussions will be,” Clinton said, adding that the civil nuclear cooperation deal with India “was the result of many, many years of strategic dialogue.”

In September 2008, the NSG, which has more than 40 members, made an India-specific exemption to long-standing guidelines barring civil nuclear trade with states that do not have a comprehensive nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (See ACT, October 2008.) The NSG is a voluntary group that coordinates its nuclear export policies in order to prevent the spread of materials and technologies that could aid nuclear weapons programs. In 1992 the group adopted a rule significantly restricting nuclear trade with any non-nuclear-weapon state that does not open all its nuclear facilities and activities to the IAEA. India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are classified as non-nuclear-weapon states under the NPT.

Since the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation initiative was first announced in July 2005, the United States and other key NSG states have rejected repeated suggestions from Pakistan and an overture to the NSG from Israel that they too should be eligible for civil nuclear trade. In March 2007, Israel circulated a “non-paper” to NSG members outlining a criteria-based approach for nuclear supply eligibility that would allow nuclear trade with Israel.

According to a report published in The Wall Street Journal March 22, Pakistan sent a 56-page document to U.S. officials ahead of the strategic talks in Washington. The document reportedly focused on proposals for expanded military and economic aid, but according to the Journal, it also reiterated its request for U.S. support for Pakistan’s civilian nuclear program.

“We want the U.S. to recognize Pakistan’s nuclear status and give us assurances not to undermine the (weapons) program,” a senior Pakistani military officer who serves as an aide to the head of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, told the Journal. “Energy security is crucial, and we need U.S. help,” he said.

On March 23, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that “we have not been talking to Pakistan about a civilian nuclear deal. If Pakistan brings it up during the course of the meetings the next two days, we’ll be happy to listen.”

A “Complicated” Issue

In response to a question about the U.S. response to the Pakistani request for civil nuclear cooperation at a joint news conference ahead of the formal talks March 24, Clinton demurred, calling the matter “complicated.”

Qureshi responded by saying that “the most important thing is recognizing that there is a need to fulfill the energy gap, that our indigenous resources that can be exploited, and we also have the option of civilian nuclear technology.”

Following the conclusion of his formal talks with Clinton, Qureshi told Reuters March 25, “I am quite satisfied with the discussions we had” about the nuclear cooperation issue, but declined to elaborate.

The joint communiqué issued March 25 does not reference nuclear energy cooperation specifically, but rather says that “[t]he United States recognized the importance of assisting Pakistan to overcome its energy deficit and committed to further intensify and expand comprehensive cooperation in the energy sector.”

Two senior U.S. lawmakers who met with the Pakistani delegation to Washington called the idea of civil nuclear trade with Pakistan “premature.” In a March 25 interview with The Cable, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, “I don’t think it’s on the table right now considering all the other issues we have to confront.”

“There are countless things that they would have to do in order to achieve it. If they’re willing to do all those things, we’ll see,” Kerry said. “There are a lot of things that come first before that. It’s really premature,” he added. “It’s appropriate as something for them to aspire to and have as a goal out there, but I don’t think it’s realistic in the near term.”

In the same article, The Cable also quoted Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee’s ranking member, as saying talks on civil nuclear trade with Pakistan would be “premature.”

Khan Concerns

One likely reason for the lawmakers’ reluctance to consider the issue is the unresolved questions surrounding Pakistan’s disgraced former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Just days ahead of the high-level U.S.-Pakistani talks in Washington, Pakistani government lawyers sought court permission to investigate new reports concerning Khan’s illicit transfers of nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran and other states.

The petition was filed in the Lahore High Court on March 22 after The Washington Post published an article about alleged notes written by Khan in which he claims that he provided assistance with the knowledge of the Pakistani government to Iran and Iraq to develop nuclear weapons. Since then, Khan has disputed the media account. The Pakistani government has asserted since 2004 that Khan acted without official government knowledge.

In a March 29 decision, the court turned down the government’s request. Reuters quoted Soofi Amar Bilal, a government lawyer, as saying the judge had ruled that “it’s up [to] the government” to decide whether to pursue the investigation.

Khan has been under house arrest since he publicly apologized for his role in a black market nuclear trade network that was finally disrupted but not fully dismantled in 2004. Khan has been barred from meeting with foreigners or traveling abroad. He has been appealing to the public and Pakistan’s courts for relief from the restrictions. In another March 29 decision, the court left the restrictions largely intact, Reuters reported.

A U.S. military and development aid package for Pakistan approved by Congress last September requires that some of the aid shall be withheld until President Barack Obama certifies that Islamabad has provided “relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals” involved in past nuclear commerce. The Pakistani government has so far refused to allow U.S. officials to interview Khan about his role in the nuclear trade network and insists that the matter is “closed.”

 

Daryl Kimball Discusses NPT at the Carnegie Endowment

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On March 31, ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball spoke on a panel at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace alongside Ambassador Susan Burk and Deepti Choubey.  They discussed the upcoming NPT Review Conference.

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On March 31, ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball spoke on a panel at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace alongside Ambassador Susan Burk and Deepti Choubey.  The panel "Towards a Succssful NPT Review Conference" discussed the U.S. goals for the upcoming NPT Review Conference, critical issues, and measures of success.

 

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