"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
WMD Terrorism

U.S. Announces It Uncovered 'Dirty Bomb' Plot

July/August 2002

By Alex Wagner

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced June 10 that the FBI had captured a man who aimed to construct and set off a radiological device, or “dirty bomb,” in the United States. However, later that day senior U.S. officials backed away from Ashcroft’s characterization of the plot, emphasizing that it had not progressed past the early planning stage.

At a press conference in Moscow, Ashcroft described how FBI officials had seized U.S. citizen Abullah al Muhajir, born Jose Padilla, on May 8 as he arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport from Pakistan. Ashcroft said that al Muhajir had previously met with senior al Qaeda officials and “was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device” in the United States. Ashcroft said al Muhajir’s apprehension “disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot.”

Hours after Ashcroft’s announcement, FBI Director Robert Mueller clarified that al Muhajir had not made much progress in implementing his scheme. “There were discussions about this possible plan…. And it had not gone, as far as we know, much past the discussion stage, but there were substantial discussions undertaken,” Mueller said.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz also downplayed the extent to which al Muhajir’s plans had developed. “I don’t think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk,” Wolfowitz told CBS during a June 11 interview. “It’s not as though this was a plan that was on the verge of being executed.”

A radiological weapon uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material. Such a device would not come close to causing the destruction of a nuclear weapon, which is triggered by a nuclear reaction, but it has the potential to cause widespread panic and wreak economic havoc. Areas infected by radioactive material would have to be decontaminated or perhaps abandoned for some time.

Based on interrogations of captured al Qaeda members and associates, U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that the al Qaeda terrorist network “may have made greater strides than previously thought toward obtaining plans or materials to make a crude radiological device,” The Washington Post reported last December.

The United States and the former Soviet Union researched the military utility of radiological weapons during the Cold War, but Iraq is believed to be the only state to have actually constructed and tested such a device. According to the United Nations, Iraq developed and reportedly tested a radiological bomb in late 1987, but it shelved the program the following year after the test produced “disappointing” results. (See ACT, June 2001.)

U.S. Announces It Uncovered 'Dirty Bomb' Plot

Australia Group Concludes New Chem-Bio Control Measures

July/August 2002

By Seth Brugger

Meeting June 3-6 in Paris, members of the Australia Group concluded a number of new measures that significantly expand the group’s controls on the export of chemical and biological weapons-related goods and technology.

The 33 members of the group meet annually to coordinate their export control policies on items that importers could use in chemical or biological weapons programs. Members are expected to deny export license requests for items included on “control lists” when there is a concern that the items would be used in such programs.

Some of the new measures have been in the works since last year’s meeting in October, while others have been pursued for even longer. The events of September 11 and the anthrax-laced letter attacks that followed gave impetus to finalize the regulations, according to Western officials. “There was a great deal of willingness to expand the AG’s controls and to bring the Australia Group into the 21st century,” one official said.

Prior to the June meeting, the group had controlled chemical precursors, chemicals that can be used in chemical weapons production; dual-use biological equipment, which can be used for either weapons or civilian purposes; dual-use chemical manufacturing facilities, equipment, and related technology; plant pathogens; animal pathogens; and biological agents. At its latest meeting, the group added controls on biotechnology that could be used to make biological weapons production equipment. This addition controls “the equipment that can make the equipment,” the official explained.

Previously, the group’s control lists had been geared toward preventing states from acquiring militarily useful material. The group is now trying to increase its focus on terrorists, the official said. For example, at its latest meeting the group expanded its list of controlled toxins from 11 to 19 and lowered the size of exportable fermenters, which can be used to produce biological weapons.

These modifications “take into account that a terrorist doesn’t need to get the worst of the worst,” the official said. “All you need is something pretty bad and you can cause a lot of harm and a lot of panic. So, the expansion of the list is, at least in large part, in response to the need to look at the terrorist angle.”

The group also concluded a set of guidelines that outlines criteria for evaluating export requests and includes a “no undercut” agreement. Under this provision, members pledged not to approve a particular export to a specific country that another member had previously denied without first consulting with that member.

The guidelines also include a “catch all” requirement. This provision requires members to be able to regulate any export, regardless of whether it appears on the group’s control lists, if an importer could use it in a chemical or biological weapons program. Also, exporters in member states must inform their governments if they are aware that an importer intends to use any import in a chemical or biological weapons program. In such a case, the government will decide whether to control the export.

Members must now also be able be control the spread of technology by “intangible” means. For instance, a company could be required to obtain government authorization before transmitting abroad, by telephone or fax, technology that could be used in a chemical or biological weapons program.

The United States and most other participants already have “catch all” and intangible control measures in place, but the new requirements will force new members to establish the same controls and will help set standards for the group, according to a U.S. official. The Australia Group is the first export control group to require its members to implement such controls.

The group also initiated a process to make the review of its control lists more intense and “high profile,” the U.S. official said.

Australia Group Concludes New Chem-Bio Control Measures

NATO, Russia Create New Joint Council

On May 28, NATO leaders, including President George W. Bush, joined with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Rome to create a new NATO-Russian body intended to enable greater cooperation between the 19-member alliance and Moscow.

The NATO-Russia Council will meet at least once a month at the ambassadorial level and twice per year at the level of defense and foreign ministers to discuss issues of common concern and, if possible, to take joint action. The 20 countries have agreed to conduct joint assessments of the current terrorism threat and the global spread of weapons of mass destruction. Other possible agenda items include crisis management, talks on theater missile defense cooperation, and pursuit of greater military-to-military contacts.

All decisions within the council are to be made by consensus. Yet Russia and NATO are free to act on their own, and Russia has no veto over any alliance decision or action. The White House explained May 28, “The NATO Allies retain the freedom to act, by consensus, on any issue at any time,” and they “will decide among themselves the issues” to be addressed by the council.

The NATO-Russia Council replaces the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC), which was established five years ago to mollify Russian opposition to NATO expansion by giving Russia a voice at NATO. The PJC failed by all accounts, and its breakdown was highlighted by Russia’s temporary suspension of its PJC participation to protest NATO’s 1999 military campaign against Yugoslavia.

Expectations are tempered about whether the new council will work better than its predecessor. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow cautioned in March that Russia needed to “overcome a legacy of mistrust and competition” with NATO and that the alliance needed to become “more open and more flexible in taking Russia’s views into account.”

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, who will serve as chairman of the council, told the 20 leaders gathered in Rome that “the success or failure of this council will not be determined by me, but by you.”

Washington Levies Sanctions for WMD-Related Transfers to Iran

June 2002

Alex Wagner

The Bush administration imposed sanctions on 12 Chinese, Moldavian, and Armenian firms and individuals May 9 for transferring items to Iran that could assist Tehran with missile development or the production of chemical or biological weapons.

The administration levied the sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, which mandates penalties for entities that transfer to Iran equipment and technology controlled under multilateral export control regimes. These informal arrangements include the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, which seek to coordinate member states’ policies on chemical and biological weapons-related and missile-related exports, respectively.

The sanctions, which are effective for two years, specifically bar the U.S. government from providing assistance to or engaging in business with any of the sanctioned entities, and they effectively prevent U.S. companies from doing so. Several of the entities are already under U.S. sanctions, but at a May 16 press conference State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that imposing further penalties served to extend the time the entities remain under sanctions.

Little information about the transfers that triggered the sanctions is publicly available. According to a U.S. official, the State Department is “not in a position to describe the transfers or the roles of the entities in them.”

However, according to intelligence officials cited in a May 20 Washington Times article, some of the transfers by Chinese entities involved glass-lined equipment, which could be used while developing chemical weapons. The report also cited officials claiming that other Chinese entities were sanctioned for selling cruise missile components to Iran.

Of the eight penalized Chinese entities, Liyang Chemical Equipment Company, China National Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company, and Chinese citizen Q. C. Chen were sanctioned in January for transfers controlled by the Australia Group. At that time, the State Department said Chen had provided assistance to Iran’s chemical weapons program. (See ACT, March 2002.)

The administration is also sanctioning Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant, most likely for chemical weapon-related transfers; Wha Cheong Tai Company; China Shipbuilding Trading Company; China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation; and China Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation, which was sanctioned in June 1991 for transferring M-11 short-range missiles to Pakistan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the U.S. sanctions as “unreasonable” and emphasized Beijing’s strict adherence to its international export control obligations.

Although Chinese entities have been extensively penalized in the past for transfers of weapons of mass destruction-related technology to the Middle East, the new measures mark the first time that Moldavian and Armenian entities have been sanctioned.

A May 9 Reuters report quoted a senior administration official suggesting that the Armenian and Moldavian companies were fronts for Russian entities. However, in an interview another administration official denied the connection, stating that there is “no evidence that these entities are acting as fronts for other entities or any government.”

Citing Moldavian government sources, BASA-press, a Moldavian news agency, reported on May 17 that one of the newly sanctioned companies, Cuanta, SA no longer exists. The report described Cuanta as a military research facility that was once a manufacturer of sophisticated telecommunications systems for guided missiles. The Bush administration also sanctioned Cuanta’s former manager, Mikhail Pavlovich Vladov.

Armenia’s Lizen Open Joint Stock Company and Armenian national Armen Sargsian were also penalized. At a May 18 press conference, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian confirmed that Lizen sold certain materials to Iran but said the company did not intend “to assist the weapons of mass destruction production or research in other countries.” Oskanian said the company was “probably told at some point that it could lead to problems for them, but, nevertheless, they apparently chose to go ahead with the sale, and they are now included in that list.”

Washington Levies Sanctions for WMD-Related Transfers to Iran

The Pressing Need for Tactical Nuclear Weapons Control

Alistair Millar

When Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin meet in Moscow at the end of May to formalize reductions in strategic nuclear weapons, the issue of tactical nuclear weapons control will not be on the agenda, halting a decade-long trend toward increasing constraints on such weapons. President George H. W. Bush and his counterparts in Moscow took steps in 1991 and 1992 to reduce substantially the Cold War deployments of tactical nuclear weapons. In 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed that tactical nuclear weapons would be addressed in the context of future START III negotiations.

In the post-September 11 world, however, where fears of nuclear terrorism ostensibly top his list of priorities, President Bush has inexplicably dropped the issue of tactical nuclear weapons. John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, has said that the administration is “willing to discuss tactical nukes” with Russia but that tactical nuclear weapons are not a top priority.1 Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith has admitted, “The issue of Russian tactical nuclear weapons…gets very little attention.”2

At the same time, Feith acknowledges that the Russians have “lots of tactical nuclear weapons” that are dangerous from a proliferation standpoint and that there have been news reports that terrorist organizations are actively attempting to procure nuclear weapons from Russia, which has notable problems securing its nuclear forces. President Bush has stated that al Qaeda is seeking nuclear weapons and ways to deliver them against U.S. and other Western targets.

Although further reductions in operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons is a laudable goal, transparency in tactical stockpiles and reductions of tactical nuclear weapons is a more urgent concern from a proliferation standpoint. The Bush administration needs to place tactical nuclear weapons control at the top of the U.S.-Russian agenda, and by ignoring the issue at the upcoming Moscow summit, it is missing an excellent opportunity to do so.

The Danger From Russian Weapons

The definition of “tactical,” or “substrategic,” nuclear weapons is somewhat tenuous and can include many criteria, such as range, yield, target, national ownership, delivery vehicle, and capability. For the most part, tactical nuclear weapons have smaller explosive power than strategic nuclear weapons and are generally intended for “battlefield” use against enemy forces, rather than against enemy cities or strategic nuclear forces. Tactical nuclear weapons include a broad array of devices, from so-called nuclear landmines and nuclear artillery shells to air-dropped or missile-launched nuclear warheads. Their yields can be relatively low (0.1 kiloton), equal to those of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (15-20 kilotons), or very large (1 megaton).3

Tactical nuclear weapons were identified as a separate category of weapon during the Cold War to allow U.S. and Soviet arms control negotiators to concentrate on the larger weapons that they considered more threatening to stability. (In a sense, then, the definition of tactical nuclear weapons can be expanded to include all weapons not covered by the SALT and START agreements.) But the failure of arms control to address tactical nuclear weapons in a treaty belies the threat they pose. Even a “moderately sized” tactical nuclear weapon could destroy a city, and the relative smallness of tactical nuclear weapons—and therefore their relative portability—increases their vulnerability to theft by terrorists. Even in the hands of state militaries, tactical nuclear weapons are more susceptible to unauthorized or accidental use than strategic weapons—they are often deployed near the front line; they are far more sensitive to communications problems under crisis conditions; and they can be fired by a soldier in the field without going through the stringent safety precautions that govern the launch of strategic nuclear weapons.

For these reasons, when the Soviet Union began to disintegrate in late 1991 following an aborted coup, the fate of its tactical nuclear arsenal was of great concern. To prevent these weapons from falling into the hands of rogue states or individuals in the Soviet republics, the elder President Bush announced the unilateral reduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and proposed that the Russians respond in kind. The Soviet Union under Gorbachev, and then Russia under Yeltsin, reciprocated by agreeing to reduce the Soviet/Russian tactical nuclear arsenal.

The reductions under the so-called presidential nuclear initiatives of 1991 and 1992 have been significant. An estimated 3,050 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons were to be eliminated under the 1991 and 1992 initiatives.4 Currently, the U.S. tactical nuclear arsenal contains approximately 1,670 warheads. Of these, about 180 are land-based, substrategic nuclear gravity bombs stored at 10 bases in seven European countries.5 Although exact figures are not available, it is believed that since 1992 Russia has reduced the number of tactical nuclear warheads it deploys by as many as 18,000—either by removing them from service and storing them in central facilities or by dismantling them.6 The reductions were defined by Yeltsin as the elimination of all army tactical nuclear weapons; one-third of naval tactical nuclear weapons; half of all air force tactical nuclear weapons; and half of all air defense tactical nuclear weapons. Other weapons removed from deployment were to be transferred and placed in central storage facilities, provided that the United States did the same.7

However, Moscow’s reductions have not been transparent, fueling concerns about the extent to which Russia actually fulfilled its pledges under the initiatives, how many tactical nuclear weapons remain, and how they are stored. There have been occasional, vague announcements from Russian officials about progress made, but Western experts and officials rightly see the lack of information on the location and safety of these weapons as a serious security problem. Without reliable data on the vast number of Soviet-era tactical weapons, no one can be sure if any have fallen, or are in danger of falling, into the wrong hands.

The “loose nuke” problem in Russia has, of course, been a source of concern for some time, but viewed through the prism of the September 11 attacks, Russia’s lax nuclear security is even more troubling. For example, Colonel General Yevgeniy P. Maslin, chief of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, which is responsible for nuclear munitions, claimed in 1996 that theft from Russian nuclear weapons facilities is “impossible.” But he qualified his statement by noting that during transport Russia’s nuclear weapons could be vulnerable to theft by criminals or terrorist groups. Maslin expressed concern about the potential theft of nuclear weapons by insiders, rhetorically asking, “What if such acts were to be undertaken by people who have worked with nuclear weapons in the past? For example, by people dismissed from our structures, social malcontents, embittered individuals?”8

As defense analyst Matthew Bunn has pointed out, Russia’s security problem stems partly from its communist past in which Russia had “a closed society; closed borders; pampered, well-cared-for nuclear workers; everyone under close surveillance by the KGB. Now, it’s largely the same security system having to face a world with an open society; open borders; rampant theft; crime; corruption; desperate, unpaid nuclear workers. It’s a totally different situation that the system was never designed to address.”9 In a February 2002 report, the CIA explained, “The [Russian nuclear weapons] security system was designed in the Soviet era to protect weapons primarily against a threat from outside the country and may not be sufficient to meet today’s challenge of a knowledgeable insider collaborating with a criminal or terrorist group.”10

These concerns about the security of Russian nuclear weapons are compounded for tactical nuclear weapons because of their size and because Moscow’s haste to move its tactical force from a variety of Soviet republics into Russia in the early 1990s led to poor accounting of the number and location of those weapons. It is possible that even the relevant high-level officials in Moscow have no idea how many tactical nuclear weapons there are on Russian territory.

As Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) stated in an October 1997 hearing, “No one in the West, and few in Russia, know for sure whether dozens of small nuclear weapons, ideal for terrorist use, are unaccounted for and perhaps in the wrong hands. The important point is that increases in crime, corruption, incompetence, and institutional decay are so advanced in Russia that the theft of nuclear weapons, unthinkable in the Soviet war machine of the Cold War, seems entirely plausible in the Russia of today. The mere possibility that terrorists or rogue states may have acquired some Russian nuclear weapons should be a matter of gravest concern to the governments of the West.”

Recent Efforts

Since the presidential nuclear initiatives, further efforts to control tactical nuclear weapons have been largely unsuccessful despite an apparent U.S. and NATO desire to address the problem. According to the Congressional Research Service, “Some in the United States would like further restrictions on Russian tactical nuclear weapons both because they believe these might pose a proliferation risk and because Russia has a far greater number of these weapons than does the United States.”11 NATO has openly expressed its concerns about the large number of Russian “tactical nuclear weapons of all types” and has called upon Russia “to bring to completion” the reductions in these forces that were announced in the 1991 and 1992 presidential nuclear initiatives.12

In fact, NATO proposed a set of transparency measures in a December 2000 report that was part of an internal review of NATO’s nuclear weapons policies. The NATO report had more to say on the issue of Russian substrategic nuclear weapons than any public document previously released by NATO. Noting “the extensive Russian nuclear arsenal,” the report called for “specific CSBM [confidence- and security-building measures] proposals to enhance mutual trust and to promote greater openness and transparency on nuclear weapons and safety issues,” including the “exchange [of] data on U.S. and Russian sub-strategic nuclear forces.”

More recently, the final communiqué from the NATO foreign ministers meeting in December 2001 noted that NATO and Russia are intensifying their cooperation on “non-proliferation, export control and arms control matters, arms transparency and confidence building measures.” At the defense ministers meeting later that month, NATO announced that it had reached agreement with Russia on the need for dialogue on nuclear weapons safety and security issues, noting that such an exchange would be a “constructive development toward improved transparency, predictability and growing mutual trust between NATO and Russia in this important field.”

These proposals and agreements, however, have not achieved many tangible results in large part because tactical nuclear forces continue to be viewed as essential security guarantees in both Europe and Russia.

Although the collapse of the Soviet Union and the core threat to NATO that it embodied enabled radical reductions in substrategic forces in Europe, the political significance attached to the remaining weapons has remained essentially the same as during the Cold War. Indeed, despite the seeming lack of a military rationale for these weapons given Russia’s current conventional weakness, the European-based U.S. tactical nuclear arsenal possesses a strong symbolic value for the European defense establishment that should not be underestimated.

NATO maintains that it depends heavily on widespread participation in nuclear roles by its European members. For example, the final communiqué of a NATO working group on nuclear weapons said that NATO will continue “widespread participation in nuclear roles and peacetime basing by Allies. Sub-strategic nuclear forces committed to NATO continue to provide the necessary political and military link to NATO’s strategic nuclear forces and an important demonstration of Alliance solidarity.”13 For the alliance, the presence of tactical nuclear weapons on European soil ensures that allies on both sides of the Atlantic are sharing the risk and the burden associated with NATO’s nuclear mission. Withdrawal of these forces would weaken the value of the alliance substantially because the European members want both a tactical and a strategic nuclear umbrella to be part of NATO’s defenses.

Russia’s reluctance to restrict further its tactical arsenal stems more from demonstrable military need. Russia’s economic straits have made the cost of maintaining conventional military hardware and supporting personnel unmanageable, and Russia’s military may be further stressed by future rounds of NATO expansion. Russia has sought to make up for the qualitative and quantitative deficiencies in its military forces by, in 1993, officially abandoning its pledge not to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict and, in 2000, placing increased emphasis on the combat role its tactical nuclear arsenal would play in a defense of Russia. Russian defense analysts have articulated a number of roles for tactical nuclear weapons, including compensating for weaknesses of conventional forces brought on by economic retraction, serving as placeholders of Russian status and prestige in the post-Cold War world, preventing regional conflicts, and serving as deterrents against strategic escalation.14

Progress between NATO and Russia on tactical nuclear weapons has thus been slow because each side considers its remaining weapons to have value. While NATO insists on maintaining some tactical nuclear forces in Europe, the Kremlin has repeatedly asserted that it will not consider negotiations to control its tactical nuclear arsenal if the United States will not remove its nuclear weapons from Europe. As NATO expands eastward toward the Russian border, Moscow is also anxious about the deployment of NATO nuclear weapons on the territory of new member states. In addition to demanding the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe, Russia has continually refused to enter into talks on tactical nuclear weapons until NATO formally agrees not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members.

Further difficulties stem from the recent U.S. push to redesign or develop new models of nuclear weapons. For example, Paul Robinson, director of Sandia National Laboratories, has argued that “nuclear weapons do have a place and a purpose today.” He suggested development of what he called a “To Whom It May Concern” force for use against nations or subnational entities.15 The Bush administration’s nuclear posture review calls for “greater flexibility” in nuclear forces and its 2003 budget requests $15.5 million for cost and feasibility studies of a “robust nuclear earth-penetrator” that could destroy deeply buried or hardened underground targets, such as bunkers and bomb shelters.

In Russia, although there have been debates about the military role of tactical nuclear weapons in recent years, no drive to modernize nonstrategic nuclear weapons has been publicized, and it is difficult to conclude that research is being conducted in this direction. However, there have been reports that Russian officials are mimicking the U.S. call for low-yield weapons to threaten underground targets,16 and U.S. efforts in this area will not serve to make Russia’s tactical arsenal less important to its military.

A Way Forward

Although there is no confirmed evidence that tactical nuclear weapons are missing or have been stolen by terrorists, poor data and lack of transparency concerning Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons makes the issue of tracking and preventing theft more complicated. It is imperative that the United States and NATO gain verifiable information about the quantity, security, and safety of these weapons to assess the threat accurately and take steps to prevent their proliferation.

Despite the Bush administration’s reticence to address tactical nuclear weapons and the less-than-outstanding success of NATO’s transparency initiatives, the improving relationship between Russia and the West provides an opportunity to make progress on tactical nuclear weapons. Statements by Putin in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks suggest a greater willingness to accept NATO expansion, and in late 2001 NATO and Russia announced that they had “decided to give new impetus and substance to our partnership, with the goal of creating a new council to bring together NATO member states and Russia to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20.” Building NATO-Russian relations and cultivating a common sense of purpose in the campaign against terrorism could generate a level of confidence between both parties necessary to tackle the issue of tactical nuclear weapons.

To gain Moscow’s acquiescence in its last round of expansion, NATO offered Russia the “Founding Act” and the Permanent Joint Council, which set up a consultative mechanism for “cooperation, joint decision-making and joint action” on security issues, including arms control and nuclear safety between NATO and Russia. In response to Russian concerns about the possible nuclear roles of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, NATO said it had “no intention, no plan and no reason” to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members of the alliance. Given Russian concerns about further enlargement, NATO could offer additional palliatives, including an adjustment to the symbolic reliance on NATO nuclear weapons and a more enhanced role for the Permanent Joint Council on nuclear issues.

Of course, even in such a cooperative atmosphere, difficult problems will have to be addressed. Past discussions on tactical nuclear weapons control have broken down over the U.S. deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe. The argument for maintaining these weapons in Europe is difficult to justify from a military standpoint, but some European governments attach exaggerated political importance to maintaining tactical nuclear weapons on their soil. A U.S. offer to withdraw these weapons could help to jump-start negotiations with Russia on accounting for and reducing its arsenal.

Other steps could be taken without getting bogged down on the question of withdrawing nuclear weapons from Europe. For example, NATO could offer to disclose to Russia the exact number and location of stored and deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as a voluntary transparency measure and could offer to provide technical and financial assistance to help Russia account for its tactical nuclear weapons. Such steps would provide the West with vital information about Russia’s weapons and allow the United States and NATO to prevent proliferation better. It would have the added advantage of enabling Russia and the United States to demonstrate progress toward their commitments to increase transparency under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

There are also near-term, bilateral opportunities for the United States and Russia to address control of tactical nuclear weapons. If Washington is serious about working with the Russians to prevent nuclear terrorism, it could put the issue of reducing tactical nuclear arsenals back on the table at the Moscow summit. Russia is concerned about the breakout potential of Washington’s newly proposed “responsive force” and is therefore seeking verifiable and irreversible reductions in strategic warheads. Given concerns about the lack of basic information about Russian tactical nuclear weapons, the United States should offer to destroy rather than store its downloaded weapons in exchange for a Russian agreement to provide transparency concerning excess nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

The United States and Russia have made progress in controlling these weapons under less favorable circumstances over the past decade. Sweeping an entire class of nuclear weapons under the rug perpetuates an unnecessary security risk and will not remove unwanted relics from a budding post-Cold War relationship. At the very least, the issue of tactical nuclear weapons should be put back on the agenda and discussed in an effort to build trust and confidence.

1. “Expounding Bush’s Approach to U.S. Nuclear Security: An Interview With John R. Bolton,” Arms Control Today, March 2002.
2. Douglas J. Feith, “Breakfast Meeting in Washington, D.C. With the Defense Writers Group,” February 20, 2002.
3. For an overview of world tactical nuclear weapons munitions and delivery systems, see “Appendix: Types, Delivery Systems and Locations of TNWs,” in William Potter et al., Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Options for Control (Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 2000).
4. Joshua Handler, “The September 1991 PNIs and the Elimination, Storing and Security Aspects of TNWs,” presentation for “Time to Control Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” hosted by UNIDIR et al., United Nations, September 24, 2001.
5. Handler, “The September 1991 PNIs”; Martin Butcher, Otfried Nassauer, and Stephen Young, “Nuclear Futures: Western European Options for Nuclear Risk Reduction,” BASIC/BITS Research Report, December 1998.
6. According to Alexei Arbatov, member of the Russian Duma, “Whereas in 1991 the USSR had about 22,000 tactical nuclear weapons, at present Russia retains around 3,800….” Alexei Arbatov, “Deep Cuts and De-alerting: A Russian Perspective,” in Harold Feiveson, ed., The Nuclear Turning Point: A Blueprint for Deep Cuts and De-Alerting of Nuclear Weapons (Washington, DC.: Brookings Institution, 1999), p. 320.
7. Handler, “The September 1991 PNIs.”
8. Graham H. Turbiville, “Russian Officer Admits Concerns Over Nuclear Theft,” Special Warfare, January 1996.
9. Tony Wesolowsky, “Russia: Nuclear Security Poses Challenges,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 8, 2001.
10. Central Intelligence Agency, Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces, February 2002.
11. Amy F. Woolf, “Nuclear Weapons in Russia: Safety, Security and Control Issues,” Congressional Research Service, December 5, 2001.
12. NATO Ministerial Meetings of the Defense Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group, Final Communiqué, June 12, 1997.
13. Final communiqué of a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group of the North Atlantic Alliance, October 17-18, 1991. www.nato.int/docu/comm/49-95/c911018a.htm.
14. Nikolai Sokov, “The Advantages and Pitfalls of Non-Negotiated Arms Reductions: The Case of Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” Disarmament Diplomacy, December 1997; David S. Yost, “Russia and Arms Control for Non-Strategic Nuclear Forces,” in Jeff Larsen and Kurt Klingenberger, eds., Controlling Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons: Obstacles and Opportunities, (Colorado Springs: U.S. Air Force Institute for National Security Studies, 2001).
15. C. Paul Robinson, “A White Paper: Pursuing a New Nuclear Weapons Policy for the 21st Century,” Sandia National Laboratories, March 2001.
16. Pavel Felgenhauer, “Bomb Makers’ Trade Union,” The Moscow Times, March 14, 2002, p. 9.

Alistair Millar is vice president of the Fourth Freedom Forum and director of its Washington office.


Assessing U.S. Proposals to Strengthen the Biological Weapons

Jonathan B. Tucker and Raymond A. Zilinskas

The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which bans the development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of biological and toxin weapons, has been hobbled since it took effect in 1975 by a lack of formal measures to monitor and enforce compliance. Sporadic efforts have been made over the years to correct these shortcomings, but to no avail.

Strengthening the BWC has become all the more essential since the fall of 2001, when mailed anthrax bacteria spores killed five Americans, sickened more than 20 others, and terrorized millions. Yet even as the threats of biological warfare and terrorism have become more acute, multilateral efforts to bolster the convention have faltered. More than six years of effort to negotiate a legally binding inspection protocol for the BWC collapsed in July 2001 when the United States rejected the draft protocol and walked away from the talks, leading to their suspension.

Last November, at a review conference of the BWC held in Geneva, the U.S. delegation proposed an alternative to the now-defunct protocol: a package of nine measures that member states could take to strengthen the convention and combat the threat of bioterrorism. All of these measures would involve passing domestic laws or adapting existing multilateral mechanisms. The U.S. ideas were generally viewed as constructive, although several delegations argued that they did not go far enough. Some of the U.S. measures were incorporated into a draft of the conference’s final declaration, a politically binding document. On the last day of the review conference, however, the United States caused an uproar by proposing to terminate the multilateral forum that had negotiated the BWC protocol. This proposal was unacceptable to many delegations and made it impossible to reach consensus on the final declaration. To prevent the conference from failing completely, the chairman suspended it for a year.

Between now and the resumption of the review conference in November 2002, BWC member states have time to evaluate the U.S. alternative measures and decide if they are worth pursuing formally. The following analysis suggests that some of the U.S. measures could be effective in addressing the problems of BWC noncompliance and bioterrorism, but only if they are broadened and converted into legally binding multilateral arrangements.

Evaluating the U.S. Package

The first set of measures proposed by the United States relates to a provision in the BWC requiring each state-party to adopt national legislation prohibiting and preventing anyone from carrying out activities banned by the convention on its territory or anywhere under its jurisdiction. To date, however, few BWC parties have passed domestic legislation imposing criminal penalties on individuals who engage in illicit biological weapons activities. Even the United States waited until 1989 to pass the Biological Weapons Antiterrorism Act, which imposes criminal penalties up to life imprisonment on a U.S. national who acquires a biological weapon or assists a foreign state or terrorist organization in obtaining one.

Under the new U.S. proposal, BWC member states that have not already done so would be urged to adopt domestic legislation criminalizing the acquisition, possession, and use of biological weapons. As a key element of such legislation, each state-party would improve its ability to extradite biological weapons fugitives to countries prepared to assume criminal jurisdiction. Yet the drawback of relying exclusively on domestic legislation to address the illicit use of microbiology is that national laws are not an effective means of creating uniform international standards. Legislation criminalizing the possession and use of biological weapons could vary considerably from country to country, creating loopholes or areas of lax enforcement exploitable by terrorists. Moreover, if history is a guide, many BWC members will not pass such legislation at all, and of those that do, some will neglect to enforce it. As an alternative approach, the nonprofit Harvard Sussex Program on CBW Armament and Arms Limitation has developed a draft convention criminalizing the possession and use of biological weapons. This draft could serve as a starting point for the negotiation of a multilateral treaty setting legal guidelines for the prosecution of those who acquire and use biological weapons.1

The U.S. package also calls on BWC member states to adopt and implement strict national regulations on access to particularly dangerous pathogens, along with guidelines for the physical security and protection of culture collections and laboratory stocks. Within the United States, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began in 1997 to regulate interstate transfers of 36 particularly hazardous human pathogens and toxins, permitting such exchanges only between registered facilities that have legitimate reasons for working with these agents and that possess the necessary biosafety systems. The Department of Agriculture established similar regulations on transfers of dangerous plant and animal pathogens. In the aftermath of September 11, Congress has moved to strengthen the statutory framework relating to biological weapons by including an explicit prohibition on the possession (as well as transfer) of biological agents and delivery systems for other than peaceful purposes.2

Even so, tighter national regulations on access to dangerous pathogens, although desirable, will not significantly reduce the global threat of bioterrorism unless such controls are implemented internationally. Thousands of academic, government, and industrial laboratories throughout the world work with dangerous pathogens, and more than 1,500 microbial culture collections sell or furnish microorganisms for research purposes.3 Yet restrictions on access vary from country to country and, indeed, from facility to facility. For this reason, the United States should propose that the UN General Assembly adopt a “Biosecurity Convention” requiring countries to follow uniform guidelines for who is given access to dangerous pathogens, as well as universal standards of physical security for those institutions authorized to work with them.

Other U.S.-proposed measures to strengthen national implementation include oversight of high-risk genetic engineering experiments and a professional code of conduct for scientists working with dangerous pathogens. These steps, although useful for maintaining national biosecurity, are unlikely to have much impact on states’ compliance with the BWC.

The second set of measures in the U.S. package aims to strengthen provisions of the BWC that deal with assisting victims of biological attacks and promoting scientific and technical cooperation among member states. Proposed steps in these areas would require BWC parties to adopt and implement strict biosafety procedures for handling dangerous pathogens, based on those developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or equivalent national guidelines; to enhance the WHO’s global disease surveillance and response capabilities; and to establish international rapid response teams that would provide emergency and investigative assistance, if required, in the event of a serious outbreak of infectious disease.

The primary purpose of establishing a global epidemiological surveillance and response system under WHO auspices would be to detect and respond to natural outbreaks of infectious disease around the world. Yet such a system could also help deter the covert use of biological weapons by increasing the probability that an outbreak arising from an intentional release of agent would be promptly investigated, recognized as non-natural in origin, and attributed to a state or terrorist organization; and by helping public health professionals to contain a deliberate epidemic at an early stage and thus reduce its military impact. Despite these potential benefits, it would be unwise to link WHO’s activities in the field of international health to the monitoring of state compliance with the BWC. The reason is that WHO epidemiologists can investigate disease outbreaks only at the invitation of host countries. Suspicion that the organization was serving as a front for BWC-related investigations would compromise WHO’s political neutrality and hence its ability to conduct field operations and studies. Thus, although the U.S. proposal to increase resources for global disease surveillance is welcome, such funds should be provided through a special contribution to the WHO budget.

The third set of U.S. proposals seeks to strengthen BWC provisions that address concerns over treaty compliance. One measure would establish a “voluntary cooperative mechanism” for clarifying and resolving compliance disputes by mutual consent, through exchanges of information, scientific visits, and other activities. Yet this mechanism would not be an improvement over the existing consultation procedure, in which BWC member states can meet to examine evidence presented by both sides in a compliance dispute and decide whether a breach of the treaty has occurred. The problem with relying on information provided by the contending parties is that the consultative process can easily become a propaganda circus. In 1997, for example, Cuba accused the United States of having deliberately released an insect pest, Thrips palmi, from an overflying aircraft to damage Cuban agriculture and requested a special consultative meeting to address the matter. Despite the Cuban allegation and the U.S. rebuttal, the lack of objective scientific and technical data made it impossible for the participating countries to come to a definitive judgment on the merits of the case. This experience suggests that a mechanism for addressing BWC compliance concerns can be effective only if it is implemented by an independent, objective, and competent third party.

UN Field Inspection Procedure

The most interesting measure in the U.S. package, and one of the few to address BWC compliance directly, is a proposal for conducting field investigations of the alleged use of biological weapons and suspicious outbreaks of infectious disease. To perform this mission, the United States proposes to adapt an existing but little-known procedure whereby the secretary-general of the United Nations can initiate investigations of alleged violations of the BWC, the 1925 Geneva Protocol (which bans the use of chemical and biological weapons in war), or “customary international law.” He can do so by assembling a group of experts from various countries and dispatching it to the site of a reported attack to conduct an objective scientific inquiry. In the late 1980s, the General Assembly and the Security Council empowered the UN secretary-general to launch such field investigations on his own authority, without first securing approval from a majority of member states. The main weakness of the current system, however, is that the accused or affected country is under no obligation to cooperate with the investigators. Accordingly, the United States proposes to strengthen and broaden the existing UN investigation procedure by authorizing the investigation of suspicious outbreaks of disease and by urging BWC member states to accept investigations on their territory without the right of refusal.

Because several UN field investigations have already taken place, the historical record offers some useful insights into the value of the U.S. proposal. Between April 1981 and July 1992, the secretary-general dispatched expert groups to investigate four cases of alleged chemical or toxin weapons use: by the Soviet Union and its allies in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, by Iraq and Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, by the Mozambican National Resistance in Mozambique, and by Armenian forces in Azerbaijan.

Although the four cases all dealt with alleged chemical or toxin weapons use, the proposed investigations of biological weapons use and suspicious outbreaks of disease would involve similar procedures.

This historical record (see box) demonstrates that UN field investigations can yield useful findings if they are carried out shortly after an alleged attack and if the investigating team is granted full access to the affected sites and people. Under these optimal conditions, small groups of three to five experts can carry out field investigations rapidly and cheaply. Thus, the U.S. proposal has a workable foundation.

Nevertheless, it is unrealistic to expect UN member states to accept international investigations on their territory in the absence of a treaty that provides legally binding rights and obligations. During the early 1980s, for example, Laos, Cambodia, and Afghanistan denied UN investigators access to the sites of alleged toxin attacks, with the result that the investigations could not be carried out properly and the findings were inconclusive. Further, when Iraq used chemical weapons against its Kurdish population in 1988, the Iraqi government denied the secretary-general’s request to launch an investigation. Because the accused countries were under no legal obligation to cooperate, the political consequences of their refusal were minimal. Thus, the historical record suggests that the existing UN field investigation mechanism could not be effective at enhancing BWC compliance unless member states negotiate a legally binding agreement requiring them to accept field investigations initiated by the secretary-general and to cooperate with the investigators.

One potential problem with negotiating such an agreement is that some of the more radical members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), such as China, India, Pakistan, and Iran, will attempt to link their acceptance of a strengthened UN field investigation regime with the demand that the industrialized countries grant the developing countries greater access to dual-use biotechnology equipment and materials. The radical NAM states also want to eliminate the Australia Group, an informal forum of 33 industrialized countries that coordinate their national export controls on chemical weapons precursors, microbial and toxin agents, and dual-use production equipment. Yet the United States and other Australia Group members are intent on preserving national export controls vis-à-vis countries assessed to have offensive biological warfare programs, including some BWC members. Recognizing this potential problem, the United States and other like-minded states should strive to keep the mandate of the proposed negotiation focused narrowly on strengthening the UN field investigation mechanism.

Another potential problem with the current UN procedure is the role of the secretary-general as the sole arbiter of whether to launch a field investigation. On the one hand, giving an authoritative individual the power to initiate a field investigation speeds up the deliberative process and makes it more likely that the investigation will be timely. On the other hand, it is possible that a future secretary-general could be influenced politically in a way that calls the integrity of the process into question. A secretary-general who is up for reappointment, for example, might decide whether to launch a field investigation based on the political support he would gain or lose. To address this problem, the Security Council should instruct the secretary-general to follow the criteria for launching an investigation that were developed by a UN expert group in 1989. In general, a field investigation should proceed if two questions can be answered in the affirmative: Did the alleged incident occur on the territory of a member state? If the alleged incident were to be confirmed, would it violate the BWC or the Geneva Protocol?

A further issue with strengthening the UN mechanism is that the financial resources of the UN secretariat are currently too limited to support extensive field investigations. Although in the past the secretariat was able to fund investigations with the help of cooperating governments, these efforts were small-scale and short-term. For investigations in Mozambique and Azerbaijan, the governments that voluntarily provided experts also paid their salaries. The United Nations covered the expenses of UN staff members who assisted the expert groups, and the secretary-general’s office (which has a small discretionary fund for unforeseen activities) paid for the experts’ travel and accommodation. In addition, the Swiss government provided a small Lear jet to transport the investigation team to and from Baku, Azerbaijan.

If, however, the occasion arose for the investigation of a major BW program on a scale of that of the Soviet Union or Iraq, or if a suspicious disease outbreak demanded an in-depth epidemiological analysis, it is unlikely that the UN secretariat would have the resources for the task. The sole branch of the secretariat possessing relevant expertise, the Department of Disarmament Affairs (DDA), has an annual budget of only about $7 million—less than what the UN pays for cleaning services at its New York headquarters—and has no discretionary funds for carrying out field investigations. Although DDA staff could approach UN member states and request special contributions to fund field investigations, it is far from certain that enough money would be forthcoming. Thus, if a country were to lodge a complaint that another state was violating the BWC, the secretary-general could probably not launch a field investigation unless the complainant nation was prepared to cover the costs.

To address this problem, sufficient funds should be assessed from member states to establish a small foundation within the UN to pay for field investigations initiated by the secretary-general. As a first step, the secretariat should prepare a rough estimate of how much it would cost to carry out five small investigations and two large ones. (A small investigation would involve an expert group of no more than five scientists working in the field for less than a week; a large investigation would involve an expert group of up to 10 persons working in the field for several weeks or months.) The funds required for this purpose would be deposited in the new UN foundation. If no field investigations were requested over the next few years, there would be no need for further contributions. If some investigations take place, however, their actual cost would become known and additional funds could be assessed to replenish the foundation’s assets.

Finally, although the existence of a mechanism to investigate allegations of use could help to deter BWC member states from employing biological weapons, it would do little to prevent violators from acquiring such weapons in the first place. Thus, it would be preferable not to have to wait until biological weapons have actually been used before the secretary-general can launch an investigation. The more ambitious goal of preventing acquisition as well as use would require granting the secretary-general the authority to investigate facilities suspected of developing, producing, and testing such weapons, an option that the U.S. proposal does not include.


Relying exclusively on domestic legislation and existing multilateral arrangements, as proposed by the United States, would not be sufficient to reinforce the international ban on acquisition and use of biological weapons or to address BWC compliance concerns. To put real teeth in some of the U.S. measures, such as restrictions on access to dangerous pathogens and an enhanced UN field investigation procedure, these steps should be made legally binding and broader in scope, and a workable funding vehicle established to pay for them. Only if these criteria are met will the U.S. measures offer an effective means of strengthening the global prohibition on biological weapons, at a time when it is increasingly under siege.

UN Field Investigations: The Historical Record

In the late 1970s, the United States claimed that Soviet-allied governments in Laos, Cambodia, and Afghanistan were employing chemical weapons against native resistance forces in these countries, including the H’mong tribesmen in Laos who had fought on the American side during the Vietnam War. Responding to U.S. political pressure, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 1980 asking the secretary-general to investigate the alleged incidents of chemical warfare in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. The secretary-general agreed and dispatched a group of experts from Egypt, Kenya, Peru, and the Philippines, who conducted field investigations between April and November 1981 in both areas. The UN expert group’s findings were inconclusive, however, for three reasons: the long delay between the alleged attacks and the investigations, the refusal by the accused governments to cooperate with the United Nations by granting the investigators access to the alleged attack sites, and the unreliable and contradictory testimony of purported eyewitnesses. Dissatisfied with this outcome, the General Assembly asked the secretary-general to launch a follow-on investigation.

By this time, the United States had begun alleging that Soviet allies in Laos and Cambodia were using a mixture of fungal toxins (mycotoxins) known as “yellow rain” as a warfare agent against local resistance forces. In Afghanistan, the United States claimed that Soviet military forces were using both standard chemical weapons and mycotoxins against mujaheddin rebels. Taking note of the U.S. allegations, the secretary-general dispatched a second expert group to both regions in early 1982, including experts from Austria, Ecuador, Egypt, France, the Philippines, and the United States. Like the first expert group, the second group was denied access to alleged attack sites in Laos, Cambodia, and Afghanistan and had to rely on indirect evidence, such as interviews with alleged victims housed in refugee camps in Thailand and Pakistan. Accordingly, the findings of the second investigation were again inconclusive. In its final report, the second expert group wrote that, although it “could not state that the allegations had been proven, nevertheless it could not disregard the circumstantial evidence suggestive of the possible use of some sort of toxic chemical substance in some instances.”

The failure to determine whether chemical and toxin weapons had been used in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan demonstrated the need to launch an investigation shortly after an alleged attack, when the forensic evidence was still fresh, and to gain full access to the affected sites and attack victims. Accordingly, the General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 1982 requesting the secretary-general to investigate promptly all allegations brought by member states. This resolution also called on the secretary-general to compile and maintain lists of qualified experts and reference laboratories capable of analyzing environmental and biomedical samples and to develop detailed investigation procedures. In response, the secretary-general appointed an expert group to perform these tasks. The experts also developed criteria to guide the secretary-general when deciding whether to mount a field investigation. Two key criteria were that a complaint should be lodged soon enough after an alleged attack for an investigation to obtain “evidence of value” and that the complaint should include compelling evidence of the hostile use of a chemical or biological agent.

A second set of UN field investigations took place during the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988. In response to a complaint lodged by the Iranian government in November 1983, the Security Council (not the General Assembly) asked the secretary-general to investigate whether Iran’s forces had been subjected to Iraqi chemical attacks. In March 1984, the secretary-general duly dispatched to Iran a group of experts from Australia, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States. Iran granted the team full access to the alleged attack sites and victims. In April 1985, the secretary-general asked UN expert Manuel Dominguez of Spain to examine Iranian soldiers who had survived alleged chemical attacks and were hospitalized in Belgium, England, and West Germany. Later, in response to further Iranian allegations of Iraqi chemical weapons use, the secretary-general dispatched additional expert groups to Iran in February and April of 1986 and May and August of 1988. All of the investigations found that Iranian troops had been attacked at various times with aerial bombs or artillery shells containing mustard gas, nerve agents (tabun and sarin), and unknown pulmonary irritants.

In 1986, Iraq alleged that Iran was using chemical weapons against its troops and asked the secretary-general to initiate a field investigation. A UN expert group visited Iraq in April 1986 and concluded that Iraqi soldiers had been exposed to mustard gas and an unknown lung irritant. Two subsequent Iraqi allegations resulted in additional UN investigations, the last in July 1988. In all of these cases, the Iraqi government cooperated fully with the UN investigators. The international community, however, did not respond to the repeated violations of the 1925 Geneva Protocol by Iraq and Iran, and both sides continued to employ chemical weapons until the end of the war.1 This experience points out the need for the international community to respond to the positive findings of a UN investigation with strong political action, such as the imposition of economic sanctions.

Iraq’s cooperation with the UN ended abruptly in August 1988, when Iraqi forces began using mustard gas and nerve agents against dozens of Kurdish villages in the northern part of the country. At the request of 10 states, the UN secretary-general wrote a letter to the Iraqi government requesting permission to launch a field investigation of the alleged chemical attacks. But Iraq denied the request on the grounds that its treatment of the Kurds was an internal affair, and the UN did not pursue the matter further.2

In 1992, chemical weapons were allegedly used in conflicts in Mozambique and Azerbaijan. This time, the secretary-general, empowered by General Assembly and Security Council resolutions adopted in 1987 and 1988, acted on his own authority to launch field investigations. In January 1992, the government of Mozambique sent a letter to the secretary-general alleging that guerillas of the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo), a rebel organization established with the help of the Rhodesian intelligence service and supported by the apartheid government of South Africa, had attacked Mozambican government forces with chemical weapons. Mozambique requested an investigation of the incident, and on March 18, the secretary-general appointed three experts from Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, supported by two UN officers. This group visited Mozambique on March 23-27. In addition to conducting interviews with alleged victims, the experts visited the alleged attack site and collected biomedical and environmental samples for analysis. The team finished its work, including a written report, by March 28.

The UN experts concluded that the Mozambican victims’ signs and symptoms were “consistent with the use of an atropine-like chemical” but could also have been caused by severe heat stress. Moreover, analyses of environmental samples were negative for 20 common chemical warfare agents, although the extended lapse of time between the alleged attack and the sampling made it possible that chemical agents could have degraded to the point that they were no longer detectable. Still, the findings were sufficiently compelling to lay to rest most concerns about the alleged use of chemical weapons in that conflict.

Later in 1992, the secretary-general launched a second investigation of chemical warfare, this time in Azerbaijan. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia became embroiled in conflict over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave within Azerbaijan populated mainly by Armenians. In April and May 1992, Armenian irregular forces attacked the Azerbaijan army, and Azerbaijan sent a letter to the president of the Security Council charging that the Armenians had used chemical weapons. Armenia rejected the allegation and requested a UN investigation to clear its name.

On June 19, 1992, the secretary-general appointed three experts from Belgium, Sweden, and Switzerland, assisted by two members of the UN secretariat. The team arrived in Azerbaijan on July 4 and conducted its investigation on July 5-8, including visits to two alleged attack sites, interviews with purported attack victims, and consultations with Azerbaijani and Armenian officials. No samples were collected. In its final report, the expert group concluded that it had obtained “no evidence of use of chemical weapons” and that the contaminants that the Azerbaijanis claimed were indicative of chemical warfare, such as cyanide, were probably by-products of conventional weapons. These negative findings were sufficiently convincing to halt further allegations against Armenia. An interesting aspect of this case was that the country requesting the investigation was the accused party rather than the accusing one. This “role reversal” showed that disproving an allegation of use could have substantial political benefits.

The cases of Mozambique and Azerbaijan demonstrate that, under optimal conditions, UN field investigations of alleged use can be carried out rapidly and cheaply, yet provide meaningful results. Nevertheless, the failure of the UN investigations in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan in 1981-82, and the refusal of Iraq to accept an investigation of its chemical attacks against the Kurds in 1988, indicate that the existing mechanism can yield meaningful results if, and only if, the host government cooperates fully.

1. Iran acceded to the 1925 Geneva Protocol on November 5, 1929, and Iraq acceded on September 8, 1931. Iraq ratified the protocol with the reservation that it would not be bound by the prohibitions toward any state that used chemical or biological weapons first. Iran did not attach any condition to its accession, but because the reservations made by other countries have effectively transformed the Geneva Protocol into a no-first-use treaty under customary international law, and because the protocol is in the form of a contract among the parties, Iran may have considered itself freed of its treaty obligations toward Iraq because it was attacked first.
2. James Bruce and Tony Banks, “Growing Concern Over Iraqi Use of CW,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, September 24, 1988, p. 715.

The authors are grateful to Derek Boothby for useful comments and Erika Holey for research support.
1. Harvard Sussex Program on CBW Armament and Arms Limitation, “A Draft Convention to Prohibit Biological and Chemical Weapons Under International Criminal Law,” The CBW Conventions Bulletin, December 1998, p. 1-5.
2. Diana Jean Schemo, “Bill Would Require Laboratories to Adopt Strict Security,” The New York Times, January 25, 2002, p. 11.
3. William J. Broad, “World’s Largest Germ-Bank Union Acts to Keep Terrorists From Stealing Deadly Stocks,” The New York Times, October 23, 2001, p. B9.

Jonathan B. Tucker is director and Raymond A. Zilinskas is deputy director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.


UN Talks With Iraq Fail to Yield Progress on Weapons Inspections

Alex Wagner

Marking his first high-level discussions with Baghdad since May 2001, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Iraqi representatives March 7 in New York but was unable to persuade them to permit the return of international weapons inspectors.

Although the talks produced no progress on Iraq’s refusal to readmit inspectors, in violation of Security Council resolutions and the terms of the 1991 Persian Gulf War cease-fire, Annan remained positive, calling the talks “a good start.” Speaking after briefing the Security Council March 8, Annan said he had continued to demand no conditions on inspections and unimpeded access to suspected Iraqi weapons sites.

After the March 7 meeting, Annan’s spokesman, Fred Ekhart, described the dialogue as “frank and useful.” According to another UN official, the “cordial” atmosphere of the talks was decidedly different than previous discussions, due largely to the personal style of Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, who led the Iraqi delegation. The official said that, although Sabri did not accept the terms of UN Resolution 1284, he did not reject them either.

Resolution 1284, passed in December 1999, created the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and charged it with completing Iraq’s disarmament. UNMOVIC succeeded the now-defunct UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), which was withdrawn from Iraq in late 1998 prior to U.S.-led air strikes.

Although apparently willing to allow some sort of inspections to resume, Iraq has reportedly demanded prenotification of inspection times and sites, as well as a predetermined timetable for how long inspections can continue—conditions that the United States considers unacceptable.

Perhaps most noteworthy about the dialogue was the willingness of the Iraqi delegation, which included Baghdad’s international weapons inspection liaison, Major General Hussan Amin, to meet for the first time with UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix. In his March 8 remarks, Annan termed the presence of Blix and Amin “significant,” calling it “an indication” that Iraq is “taking this issue seriously.”

James Cunningham, U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, was more pessimistic about the meeting, telling reporters that the secretary-general “did not get a positive response from the Iraqis.” Cunningham, however, commended Annan for keeping the focus “where it should be, properly,” that is, on implementation of Security Council resolutions as opposed to Iraq’s grievances with the 11-year sanctions regime.

Annan will meet again with Sabri in New York on April 18 and 19.

U.S. Intentions

The UN meeting came as Vice President Richard Cheney traveled to Middle East capitals in a quest to gauge support for U.S. military intervention against Iraq, but in a March 11 interview on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice stressed that Cheney was not seeking to warn U.S. friends and allies in the region about an impending attack.

Some analysts have suggested that the U.S. push for inspections, which it believes Iraq will reject, is being carried out simply to force a showdown that would facilitate military action. Washington, in making its case for regime change, has repeatedly emphasized the threat that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses to the world and to his own people. At a March 13 press conference, President George W. Bush said that “all options are on the table” regarding action in Iraq, calling Hussein “a problem” his administration was “going to deal with.”

Although he acknowledged that the Bush administration has “made very clear” that “the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad,” Cunningham disputed suggestions that the United States considered the UN dialogue with Iraq merely “a sideshow.”

Russia has taken issue with the “personalization” of the U.S. approach to Iraq. In a March 17 interview on Meet the Press, Russian Defense Minister Sergi Ivanov said that “the problem is not with Saddam Hussein…[but] with weapons of mass destruction.” When asked if Moscow would support a military operation to change the Iraqi regime, Ivanov said only that he hoped the United States would inform Russia if it made such a decision.

Nuclear Terrorism and Warhead Control in Russia

Tom Z. Collina and Jon B. Wolfsthal

Since September 11, there has been unprecedented concern that the next terrorist attack against the United States could involve a nuclear weapon or radiological bomb. To respond to these threats, the Bush administration has placed radiation sensors at U.S. borders and put elite Delta Force commandos on high alert to seize control of nuclear materials. According to The Washington Post, after an October briefing on al Qaeda’s nuclear ambitions by CIA Director George Tenet, President George W. Bush “ordered his national security team to give nuclear terrorism priority over every other threat to the United States.”1

The most likely source from which terrorists might acquire nuclear material or a complete warhead is Russia, which possesses a vast nuclear complex containing hundreds of tons of fissile material (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) protected by inadequate or nonexistent security. In January 2001, a bipartisan commission chaired by Howard Baker, former Senate Republican majority leader, and Lloyd Cutler, former Clinton White House counsel, found that “[t]he most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today is the danger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usable material in Russia could be stolen and sold to terrorists or hostile nation states and used against American troops abroad and citizens at home.”2

More recently, in February 2002 the U.S. intelligence community confirmed to Congress that “weapons-grade and weapons-usable nuclear materials have been stolen from some Russian institutes. We assess that undetected smuggling has occurred, although we do not know the extent or magnitude of such thefts.”3 According to Viktor Yerastov, who heads the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy’s Nuclear Materials Accounting and Control Department, “quite sufficient material to produce an atomic bomb” was stolen from the Chelyabinsk region in 1998.4 Commenting on that theft to The Washington Post, a U.S. official said that, “given the known and suspected capabilities of the Russian mafia, it’s perfectly plausible that al Qaeda would have access to such material.”5

Bush administration officials are fond of saying that, because the United States and Russia are no longer enemies, the size of the Russian nuclear arsenal no longer matters to U.S. security. But that sentiment—even if accepted at face value—completely ignores that the main risk posed by Russia is not from a deliberate nuclear attack but from the possible leakage of its nuclear weapons or material to would-be nuclear states or terrorist groups.

To address this highest priority threat properly, one would expect that U.S. policy toward Russia would place concerns about securing Russian nuclear weapons and materials above all others. But recent information about U.S. nuclear policy indicates that this is not the case. In fact, the Bush administration’s nuclear posture review exacerbates the threat of nuclear proliferation by encouraging Russia to maintain a large reserve of nuclear warheads and an artificially large nuclear complex. Given the weak security provided to Russia’s nuclear infrastructure—and the fact that terrorists are known to be targeting it—U.S. policy should instead aim to place Russian nuclear warheads and materials under adequate multilateral control and on the fast track to secure storage and elimination.

To do so, the Bush administration will need to abandon the idea of storing, for potential future use, the thousands of warheads to be removed from strategic launchers over the next decade. There is no compelling justification for a reserve of this size. Instead, Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin should agree at their May summit to eliminate excess nuclear warheads under strict verification and task their governments to negotiate by 2003 a binding agreement to that effect.

The Shell Game

Last November, President Bush announced that the United States would reduce its strategic operational nuclear forces from roughly 6,000 warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012. At the time, President Putin indicated that Russia would try to “respond in kind,” and he later said that Russia would reduce its nuclear forces to between 1,500 and 2,200 deployed strategic warheads. Although neither START I nor START II had called for the destruction of warheads, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin had agreed in 1997 that a future strategic reduction agreement would address warhead dismantlement. It was therefore hoped that the Bush administration would pursue that goal with the aim of making the cuts as difficult to reverse as possible.

But the Bush administration wants the option to keep the roughly 4,000 warheads to be removed from land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers, as well as the delivery vehicles themselves (START I and II called for the dismantling of delivery vehicles). The Pentagon wants to store most of these warheads, including a “responsive force” of roughly 2,400 that it would be able to redeploy within weeks, months, or years. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 14, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith said that the United States “must retain these weapons to give [it] a responsive capability to adjust the number of operationally deployed nuclear weapons, should the international security environment change and warrant such action.”

This stance has raised major objections from Russian officials, especially within the Ministry of Defense. The U.S. flexibility preserved by the responsive force, they argue, provides no long-term confidence in the permanence of the arms reduction process and could undercut international nonproliferation efforts, which are predicated on the nuclear-weapon states’ commitment to an “unequivocal undertaking…to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”6 Igor Sergeyev, Putin’s military adviser, said February 19 that “real and irreversible liquidation of nuclear weapons will show the world community how reliable and serious the course for nuclear disarmament is.”7

The difference between the U.S. and Russian positions is that Moscow sees ongoing nuclear reductions as part of a binding process that provides confidence in the other side’s current and future capabilities. Washington, however, sees the new process of strategic reductions as the antithesis of traditional arms control—above all else, constraints are to be avoided and flexibility preserved. Speaking in Geneva March 22, John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said that the administration hoped to include a provision in any strategic agreement with Russian that would allow it to exceed the pact’s numerical limits without withdrawing if “international geostrategic circumstances” changed. The administration’s plan is, essentially, to move warheads from one place to another, with no guarantee that they will not be moved back.

The catch is that, if the United States keeps thousands of warheads in storage, Russia is likely to do the same, and Russia does not have security stringent enough to adequately control stored nuclear warheads and fissile material. The proliferation risk to the United States could thus increase because of its intention to maintain a responsive force. As Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in the February 14 hearing, “By failing to destroy nuclear warheads, the [Bush administration] would increase the threat of proliferation at the very time when the al Qaeda terrorist network is known to be pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Russian Complex Less Than Secure

The number of strategic nuclear weapons that Russia deploys will dramatically decline over the course of this decade regardless of whether an agreement is reached with the United States. Most of Russia’s missiles and submarines will reach the end of their service lives by 2007. Projections show that Russia could deploy as few as 300 missiles and perhaps 20 strategic bombers by the end of the decade, with no more than 1,350 strategic nuclear warheads.8 This means that about 3,500 warheads in Russia, containing roughly 84 metric tons of fissile material, will be removed from deployment over the next decade.9 The question from a nonproliferation standpoint is, what will happen to Russia’s warheads and fissile material?

Russia’s nuclear reductions to date have been supported by U.S.-funded cooperative threat reduction programs designed to secure warheads and fissile materials, as well as to downsize Russia’s nuclear complex and thereby reduce its ability to reconstitute its nuclear arsenal. These programs are needed because, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been unable to fully account for or physically protect its nuclear material, creating an enormous proliferation risk.

Overall, these programs have made significant progress in securing Russian nuclear materials and establishing a set of incentives and facilities to ensure that Russian warheads are securely stored and dismantled and their nuclear materials eliminated. Despite these improvements, significant risks remain—risks that could be dramatically magnified if the United States chooses to store its warheads. Russia could respond with a decision to store rather than dismantle its warheads, maintain rather than dispose of its fissile material, and continue to operate rather than shut down its warhead-remanufacture plants.


The risk of a complete nuclear device falling into the hands of terrorists or a would-be nuclear-weapon state is a nightmare scenario, but because of gaps in Russian warhead security, it is a possibility. According to the U.S. intelligence community, the Russian warhead-security system “was designed in the Soviet era to protect weapons primarily against a threat from outside the country and may not be sufficient to meet today’s challenge of a knowledgeable insider collaborating with a criminal or terrorist group.”10

Colonel-General Igor Valynkin, head of the military organization responsible for warhead storage in Russia, announced in October 2001 that security had been heightened earlier in the year after “Russian authorities had twice thwarted terrorist efforts to reconnoiter nuclear weapons storage sites,” according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council.11 Although the terrorists did not succeed in entering the storage sites, according to Valynkin, the fact that they tried is cause for alarm.

Moreover, according to U.S. intelligence, Russia’s warhead-security forces have suffered from wage arrears and shortages of food and housing. In 1997, one nuclear weapons storage site was closed due to hunger strikes by the workers. Although wages are now paid regularly, they rarely exceed $70 per month and it is difficult for spouses to earn second incomes because storage sites are usually isolated from cities. Acknowledging the potential vulnerability of its nuclear security personnel, Valynkin has said that “the greatest problem is the person who works with nuclear warheads. He knows the secrets, he has the access, he knows the security system.”12

The United States has been helping secure Russian warhead transportation and storage sites, as well as develop a modern accounting and warhead-tracking system. Fences, alarm systems, and response kits have been provided for 123 nuclear weapon storage sites, and cooperation with the Russian navy to secure warheads is ongoing. These efforts, however, are still in process and have not yet resulted in a secure system for storing Russian nuclear warheads. More than half of Russian warhead storage facilities may still lack basic modern security features, and the accounting and tracking systems are still in the early stages of deployment.

Fissile Material

Russia has produced the world’s largest stockpile of weapons-usable plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU), and security is worse for loose fissile material than it is for warheads. U.S. intelligence reports that “Russian facilities housing weapons-usable nuclear material…typically receive low funding, lack trained security personnel, and do not have sufficient equipment for securely storing such material.”13

These direct-use nuclear materials are stored in hundreds of buildings at dozens of facilities across the country, and as noted above, Russian institutes have lost weapons-grade nuclear materials in thefts. The United States has been engaged in efforts to provide quick security upgrades at all 53 facilities known to contain nuclear material, but the Energy Department estimates that even the most basic security upgrades will not be in place until 2006. Even when completed, these improvements will not meet the highest international standards for physical protection and accounting.

This bad situation will only be made worse as Russian warheads are retired and dismantled unless the system of security improves more rapidly and room is made within secure storage sites. The Bush administration, to its credit, is working to accelerate security upgrades and has proposed funding levels for 2003 well above its initial budget requests. However, it must be recognized that the only viable long-term solution to the risks presented by the Russian complex is the permanent disposal of excess nuclear materials.

For example, the United States and Russia are nearing completion of the Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility. The facility—due to open this year—was built to store nuclear materials from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons and required substantial political and financial investments from the United States. Up to 66 metric tons or 25,000 containers of nuclear material can be stored on-site, and a second, equally large facility is under consideration. To ensure that the materials will not be reused in weapons, however, the facility is not permitted to accept materials unless they are slated for elimination and placed under international inspection. If Russia wants to maintain fissile material for future weapons production, it cannot be stored at Mayak and will have to be kept in a far less secure location.

Warhead Remanufacture

Russia’s warhead maintenance poses other challenges for its security complex. Russian warheads were designed to be routinely remanufactured, and unlike the United States, Russia cannot store its active warheads indefinitely. Instead, the plutonium must be removed from these weapons and shipped to purification sites for later reuse. Thus, if Russia responds to U.S. policies by maintaining a large number of warheads in reserve, the result will be a greater amount of nuclear material in various stages of processing and in transport—the two most vulnerable points of the weapons complex to theft and diversion.

Furthermore, Moscow currently plans to close two of its four warhead production sites—Sarov, Seversk, Trekgornyy, and Zarechnyy—but concerns over the reversibility of U.S. reductions may lead Russia to keep these facilities open longer than currently planned. The warhead production facilities, which possess tens of tons of weapons-usable fissile material, remain one of the least secure elements of Russia’s nuclear complex because Russia has been hesitant to allow U.S. security upgrades at such secret facilities. Progress is being made, but it will take years before security at these sites meets even the most basic standards.

The cooperative threat reduction assistance provided by the United States was never intended to create permanent solutions—only to mitigate the risks of nuclear assets being stolen while the nuclear dismantlement process went forward. Nevertheless, the current strains on Russia’s nuclear weapons and material-storage complex are enormous, and glaring gaps in security remain. To avoid exacerbating an already dangerous situation, the coming glut of nuclear weapons and materials from retired Russian weapons systems must be moved quickly and securely through the dismantlement and disposition process. Prolonged storage of either warheads or fissile materials is simply not an acceptable long-term outcome.

Reserve Overkill

The United States has to make a choice between maintaining nuclear flexibility and ensuring the secure storage and elimination of Russian warheads. This should be an easy decision because, in addition to exacerbating proliferation dangers, a large nuclear reserve force provides no benefits for U.S. security.
The Bush administration plans to retain up to 2,200 deployed operational strategic warheads by 2012. This is more than the nuclear arsenals of China, France, the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan combined. It is more than enough to deter any conceivable adversary. China’s nuclear force will pale in comparison to America’s, even if Beijing eventually deploys 100 warheads on long-range missiles, as projected by U.S. intelligence. The so-called axis of evil (North Korea, Iran, Iraq) could acquire at most a handful of nuclear weapons over the next decade, if any.14 Even Russia would be deterred by 2,200 warheads, but according to the Bush administration the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal is no longer driving the U.S. force posture.

In his February 14 Senate testimony, Feith said a large reserve force would hedge against unforeseen threats and could, if necessary, make up for an imbalance in U.S. and Russian warhead production capacity. According to Feith, Russia can dismantle its warheads with little risk because it can quickly produce large numbers of new warheads if needed. But, says Feith, “the United States today is the only nuclear weapon state that cannot remanufacture replacements or produce new nuclear weapons,” and until it can, the United States must depend on stored weapons.

Aside from the fact that this rationale contradicts the Bush administration’s position that the U.S. arsenal is no longer sized to counter the Russian threat, Feith’s statements about U.S. capabilities are misleading. It is true that since 1989 the United States has not operated large-scale facilities that can produce new nuclear weapon cores, known as plutonium “pits.” But other warhead parts can still be produced at other sites in the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex. Moreover, U.S. plutonium pits can last significantly longer than those in Russia—perhaps 50 years or more.15 Thus, if the oldest warheads in the U.S. arsenal are now approaching 25 years in age (such as the W76 warhead on the Trident missile, the W78 warhead on the Minuteman III missile, and the B61 bomb), their pits should last at least another 25 years.

Furthermore, according to John Gordon, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Energy still maintains the capacity to build 20 pits per year, with a surge capacity of 50 per year, and plans to produce new pits for the arsenal in about seven years. In addition, the Energy Department should have a modern pit plant built in about 15 years. Thus, the United States could produce new pits well before there is a “pit crisis.” The $5 billion stockpile stewardship program to certify the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons without testing is in place to detect any potential problems. And in the event that new pits are needed in an emergency, there are thousands of pits already in storage that could be reused.

A case can be made for keeping a limited number of warheads in reserve for reliability testing and to replace parts that are found to be defective. No reasonable justification, however, exists for keeping a reserve as large as that envisioned by the Pentagon. Moreover, there is no need to have any of these warheads in the “responsive force” (i.e., ready for rapid redeployment).

It is true that Russia continues to produce warheads, but it currently does so to replace older warheads, not to increase its stockpile. Moreover, the size of Russia’s offensive force is constrained because most of its missiles are nearing retirement. But if the Bush administration is truly worried about Russia’s warhead production capability, then it should work to reduce the size of Russia’s production complex and negotiate a cap on the number of warheads that Russia could produce in a year or agree to limit strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. However, because the administration claims that it is not sizing the U.S. arsenal to the Russian force and that Russia is our friend, it is not clear why this should be an issue.

A Better Way

The declining number of strategic weapons Russia deploys means that its nuclear complex is going to be further stressed in the coming years regardless of the U.S. decision to store its warheads, but a requirement to store and maintain—as opposed to dismantle and dispose of—its nuclear weapons would multiply this stress and increase the risk of proliferation. If, however, the United States were to give up its requirement for a massive reserve, it would allow Russia to do the same and free both sides to place a high priority on securely storing and eliminating Russian nuclear warheads and fissile material.

The answer to the warhead security problem is not, as some have suggested, to leave Russia’s warheads on its missiles. Although Moscow does appear to have better control over its deployed arsenal, it is clearly to the benefit of U.S. national security to have fewer warheads aimed at the United States and its allies. This is especially true given Russia’s deteriorating early-warning system and the danger that a false attack warning could lead to an erroneous Russian “retaliation.” The fewer warheads aimed at U.S. soil and the lower the alert status of these weapons, the better.

Nevertheless, we must be mindful of where these warheads go, lest they create new dangers. Instead of heaping additional security burdens on a Russian complex not up to its current task, the United States and Russia should expand cooperation to include a process to track the retired warheads and fissile material carefully from cradle to grave, while continuing to improve the immediate security situation. The fact that warheads must pass through various processes on the path to elimination does increase the near-term risk that fissile material could be diverted. U.S. security assistance and joint monitoring will reduce this risk, but verified nuclear warhead and material elimination is the only long-term solution to the problem of fissile material theft.

Much cooperative research has been conducted between U.S. and Russian experts on ways to monitor warhead elimination without revealing classified information. At the 1997 U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed that START III would include “[m]easures relating to the transparency of strategic nuclear warhead inventories and the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads and any other jointly agreed technical and organizational measures, to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Presidents Bush and Putin should commit both countries to a binding agreement to eliminate warheads removed from deployment under an effective “chain of custody” from deployment to disposal.

This process would start with both sides formally declaring that the warheads will be removed and promising that they will not be returned to military service, thus starting a one-way trip to disposal. These warheads would ideally be placed directly into containers that would be “tagged” with unique seals at the deployment site as warheads are removed from missiles and bombers under joint monitoring. These tagged warheads could then be checked periodically during transit to secure storage sites in both countries. Warheads could be stored in existing or new facilities under joint or international monitoring.

Next, Russian warheads would be sent to one of Russia’s dismantlement plants which could be retooled to allow for greater transparency, while protecting warhead design secrets. Once a warhead is disassembled, the plutonium and HEU parts would need to be changed into unclassified shapes. The recast plutonium would be sent to the Mayak facility to await disposition. The HEU could be stored either at Mayak or at warhead dismantlement sites under monitoring. Nuclear components would be periodically checked during these transitions.

Finally, the fissile material must be disposed of or otherwise made unusable in weapons. For example, the United States is already purchasing 500 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium for use as civilian power-reactor fuel, and this amount should be increased as more material is released from warheads. Russia and the United States have also agreed to each eliminate 34 metric tons of excess plutonium by irradiation or immobilization. This agreement could also be expanded to accept the future addition of excess materials as arms reductions continue.

The key benefit to this chain-of-custody approach is that international inspectors, in addition to national monitors, could be involved every step of the way. In theory, the United States could have as much access over the process as it is willing to give the Russians over its elimination process.


For Russia to give the United States such access to its retired warheads, Moscow will want a reciprocal role in the U.S. system. This means that the Bush administration would have to agree to eliminate its non-deployed warheads under effective monitoring. When one compares the probability of nuclear warhead and material theft in Russia to the probability that the United States will need to double the size of its arsenal in the future, the choice is easy.

The Bush administration has made nuclear proliferation a top rhetorical priority. It now needs to ensure that this priority permeates all aspects of its efforts to improve U.S. national security. The improving nature of the U.S.-Russian relationship should expand to include effective, transparent, and reciprocal steps to ensure the safety and security of nuclear weapons as they wind their way toward eventual and permanent elimination.

1. Barton Gellman, “Fears Prompt U.S. to Beef Up Nuclear Terror Detection,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2002, p. 1.
2. U.S. Department of Energy, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, A Report Card on the Department of Energy’s Non-Proliferation Programs with Russia, January 10, 2001.
3. National Intelligence Council, Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces, February 2002, p. 2.
4. Ibid.
5. Gellman, “Fears Prompt U.S. to Beef Up Nuclear Terror Detection,” p. 1.
6. Final document of the 2000 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference.
7. Sharon LaFraniere, “U.S., Russia Divided Over Iran After Talks,” The Washington Post, February 20, 2002, p. 12.
8. This projection assumes 200 SS-27s with three warheads each, seven Delta IV submarines with 112 SS-N-23 missiles with four warheads each, and 10 Bear and 10 Blackjack bombers with eight warheads apiece. See Jon Brook Wolfsthal, et al., Nuclear Status Report: Nuclear Weapons, Fissile Material, and Export Control in the Former Soviet Union, (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2001), p. 35.
9. 3,500 x (4 kilograms plutonium + 20 kilograms highly enriched uranium) = 84 metric tons
10. National Intelligence Council, Annual Report to Congress, p. 2.
11. Ibid., p. 6.
12. Ibid., p. 7.
13. Ibid., p. 2.
14. Central Intelligence Agency, Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015: Unclassified Summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, January 2002.
15. For example, the W89 warhead for the SRAM-II missile (cancelled by President George H. W. Bush in 1991) was designed to use pits from retired W68 Poseidon warheads. These pits were then at least 18 years old. Assuming the W89 was expected to have an average lifetime, the pits can be estimated to last about 50 years.

Tom Z. Collina is director of the Global Security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Jon B. Wolfsthal is an associate at the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


The Impact of September 11 On Multilateral Arms Control

On January 22, Jayantha Dhanapala, the United Nations undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, delivered the keynote address at the Arms Control Association’s annual luncheon. In his speech, Dhanapala discussed the span of multilateral initiatives to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and addressed how the importance and the viability of those efforts have changed since the terrorist attacks of September 11.

A career diplomat with extensive arms control experience, Dhanapala was a member of the Sri Lankan foreign service from 1965 to 1997. He served as ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador to the United States, and additional foreign secretary. In 1995, he chaired the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review and extension conference, which resulted in unanimous support for indefinite extension of the treaty. He has held his current post since 1998.

The following is the text of Dhanapala’s remarks and an edited version of the question-and-answer session that followed.


I would like to begin by thanking the Arms Control Association for honoring me as the speaker at your annual luncheon—my first chance to address the Association since my remarks at your annual dinner in 1996. I predicted then that the prospects for nuclear disarmament—despite the success of the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] review and extension conference and the imminent conclusion of the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty]—were “not good.” Looking around at the debris of multilateral disarmament endeavors, I am surprised to be invited again! But I must congratulate Daryl Kimball upon his assumption of the position of executive director of this highly respected institution and do predict confidently that the prospects today for the Association are good. I also pay tribute to the many years of service rendered by Spurgeon Keeny, who helped lay a solid foundation.

Daryl noted in his introduction that the world will soon mark the 56th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of its very first resolution, which aimed at the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. Yet, two other anniversaries also deserve some note on this occasion. Today, 63 years ago, a cyclotron at Columbia University split a uranium atom, heralding the world’s first fission experiment. And a week from today will mark the 38th anniversary of the world premiere of the classic film “Dr. Strangelove,” a film some of you here today might recognize more by its subtitle—“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” All these events illustrate the issues on which ACA and its supporters have worked over the years—issues that remain with us and have acquired even greater urgency after September 11, 2001.

The Historical Significance of September 11

The historical significance of September 11, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, will be debated for years to come. Was it the end of history? Was it our entry into the 21st century through a “gate of fire,” as my secretary-general has put it? That it brought the issue of terrorism into the forefront of the global agenda—far from being a purely national or regional concern—is indisputable.

And yet, the rest of the global agenda before September 11 remains with us. That includes the problems posed by weapons of mass destruction [WMD] to international peace and security. The United Nations “Millennium Declaration” pledged to eliminate the dangers posed by such weapons. These dangers are accentuated by the efforts reportedly made by al Qaeda to acquire WMD. Yet, there are also other extremist groups in all regions who, in their blinkered vision, can only see civilizations clashing, not coexisting, and who are prepared to use unthinkable methods to bring about the crash of civilization in its entirety.

In the backlash to the events of September 11, my distinguished colleague, Mary Robinson, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, along with other human rights bodies, has warned that human rights should not be sacrificed as we deal with terrorists. Secretary-General Kofi Annan put it unambiguously when he said, “There is no trade-off between effective action against terrorism and the protection of human rights.”

Seeing the escalation of global military expenditure, I must myself warn against the sacrifice of disarmament and arms control norms in the battle against terrorism. While some prefer paperless disarmament, that is surely no reason to jettison the treaties and conventions that do act as a legal barrier to the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of their delivery systems. Our need to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining WMD material and technology demands the strengthening of existing norms and greater efforts to implement them.

Multilateral Efforts Against WMD

Prior to September 11, it was already evident that global military expenditure—after its decade-long decline following the end of the Cold War—had begun to rise ominously. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has recently reported that world military expenditure in 2000 was about $798 billion in current dollars and that the largest volume increases were in Russia and the United States. The regions showing the steepest increases in military spending were Africa with 37 percent, and South Asia was not far behind with a 23 percent increase.

Since September 11, we have seen that both the United States and Russia have announced increases in their military budgets. Many other countries have cited terrorism as a reason to increase military budgets, although there is no correlation between such investments and counterterrorism. One U.S. commentator pointed out that the United States spends $20 billion annually on preparing to fight a large-scale nuclear war with Russia while spending less than $2 billion annually on homeland defense. News reports also show that the bombing in Afghanistan cost $1 billion per day. Yesterday, participants at an international meeting in Tokyo identified $15 billion in immediate needs for the rebuilding of Afghanistan over the next five years. That is equivalent to 15 days of bombing—surely an insurance premium for never having to bomb that country again and surely a better investment in preventing Afghanistan from becoming an incubator of deadly terrorism ever again.

The events of September 11 should be moving the international community toward a culture of prevention instead of toward a culture of reaction. The secretary-general’s report on the prevention of conflict, issued three months before that tragic date, identified disarmament as one of the key tools in achieving this new culture of prevention.

The United Nations and other multilateral organizations working on disarmament and nonproliferation goals are doing all they can to contribute to this goal, and they are doing so through concrete deeds, not just words. All of the UN’s efforts in this field should be considered within the context of the dozen international conventions that have been negotiated over the years to strengthen international cooperation against the scourge of terrorism. These treaties, combined with the treaty regimes for the elimination and nonproliferation of all WMD, offer the basic architecture for the world’s coordinated, global response to the gravest threats to international peace and security in the new century ahead.

The United Nations is no stranger to the issue of terrorism. Its various resolutions and declarations extend back several decades. The key to the fate of these efforts remains, as it always has, with the resources and the political will of its member states. The UN response to the attacks of September 11 was swift and is continuing to unfold in several important ways. Consider for a moment the following recent activities.

The UN General Assembly and the Security Council adopted resolutions denouncing the attacks the day after they took place. On September 28, the Security Council then adopted Resolution 1373, which aimed at targeting terrorists and those who harbor, aid, or support them. Through this resolution, the Security Council also established a new subsidiary organ called the Counter-Terrorism Committee [CTC], which is working with international, regional, and subregional organizations to find ways of expanding assistance to states on a host of financial, regulatory, and legislative issues. The resolution calls upon all UN member states to report to the CTC on the specific steps they are taking to implement Resolution 1373.

From October 1 to 5, the General Assembly held a special debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, when addressing the General Assembly on October 1, called for developing a broad, comprehensive, and sustained strategy to combat terrorism. He specifically stressed the need to strengthen the global norm against the use or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He emphasized, for example, the need to redouble efforts to ensure universality, verification, and full implementation of key treaties; to promote cooperation among international organizations dealing with these weapons; and to tighten national legislation over exports of technologies needed to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

From October 15 to 26, a United Nations working group on measures to eliminate international terrorism met to continue the elaboration of an overarching draft convention on international terrorism. Efforts are continuing to reach consensus on such a convention as well as on a separate convention on nuclear terrorism.

Also, in October the secretary-general established a policy working group on the UN and terrorism to identify longer-term implications and broad policy steps the UN system might make in the collective international effort against terrorism. This group, composed of many offices and departments inside the UN system, will produce a report by next June containing its recommendations on specific contributions the United Nations can make in addressing this global threat.

On November 29, the General Assembly re-emphasized the importance of multilateral responses to terrorism, disarmament, and proliferation challenges by adopting without a vote Resolution 56/54T, which reaffirmed multilateralism as a “core principle” in disarmament and nonproliferation negotiations. The resolution emphasized that “progress is urgently needed” in the area of disarmament and nonproliferation in order to help maintain international peace and security and to contribute to global efforts against terrorism, and it called upon all member states “to renew and fulfil” their commitments to multilateral cooperation in these areas.

On January 18, the Security Council had an open meeting on terrorism. The secretary-general called on the CTC to develop a long-term strategy that would enable all states to undertake the steps needed to defeat terrorism. The chairman of the committee, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, stated that the council’s aim was to improve the average performance level of governments against terrorism across the globe by upgrading the capacity of each nation’s legislation and executive machinery to fight terrorism. Speakers also called for more attention to be given to issues that fueled terrorism, including poverty, intolerance, regional conflicts, denial of human rights, environmental degradation, lack of access to justice and equal protection under the law, as well the lack of sustainable development.

This collective effort treats terrorism as a multidimensional subject, requiring diverse, synergistic contributions throughout the UN system. There are very strong reasons indeed for one to believe that the events of September 11, while not directly involving what are classically termed “weapons of mass destruction,” will lead to the strengthening of global disarmament norms. Multilateral efforts are already underway to create, maintain, implement, and extend such norms in a variety of global arenas.

With respect to nuclear weapons, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] called the September 11 events a “wake-up call” for new efforts to enhance controls over security of nuclear materials. After having been handicapped by a zero-growth budget for many years, the IAEA is finally starting to get some of the additional funds it needs to confront new safeguards and physical security threats seriously.

In an effort to rekindle international efforts to enhance the physical security of fissile nuclear materials and other radioactive substances, the General Conference of the IAEA adopted a resolution on September 21 requesting the director-general to review the agency’s activities to strengthen its work relevant to acts of terrorism that involve such materials.

In late October, the IAEA organized an international symposium on nuclear verification and security of material, involving the participation of more than 500 national and international experts in the fields of nuclear safeguards, nonproliferation, security, and safety. The agency is looking closely at the adequacy of controls under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material to see what more can be done to enhance these controls. Specifically, the director-general has decided to convene a group of legal and technical experts to draft an amendment aimed at strengthening the convention. The IAEA is also working hard to strengthen nuclear safeguards through its efforts to promote international acceptance of the Additional Protocol. The success of the IAEA’s multilateral efforts in all these fields will be not only laudable but also absolutely essential if there is any hope whatsoever for progress in eliminating the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Multilateral efforts against the possession or proliferation of chemical weapons are another intense focus of ongoing multilateral efforts. In response to two UN Security Council anti-terrorism resolutions last September, the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] specifically addressed the issue of chemical terrorism in its autumn session. The council has stressed the need to focus on achieving universal adherence to the convention, enacting national implementing legislation, and ensuring the OPCW’s ability to respond to a request for assistance and protection in the event of the use or the threat of use of chemical weapons. The council also established a working group to develop recommendations for OPCW’s contribution to the global anti-terrorism effort. The working group will propose specific measures to the next session of the council, which will be held from March 19 to 22 this year.

Worldwide, 70,000 tons of chemical agents have been declared to the OPCW. These stockpiles have been completely inventoried, inspected, and reinspected. Furthermore, all the declared chemical weapons production facilities have been deactivated. The global chemical industry is subject to inspection by the OPCW. Dual-use chemicals, which could be misused as precursors of chemical weapons, are carefully monitored, and the trade in the most dangerous chemicals is limited to member states.

With respect to biological weapons, despite the inability of the states party to the BWC [Biological Weapons Convention] to reach a consensus on a verification protocol after many years of effort, efforts will continue at the treaty’s resumed review conference later this year to reach agreement on a common multilateral approach to reinforce the global ban on biological weapons. I hope that the growing public awareness of the threats associated with such weapons will inspire greater progress in this area, notwithstanding the absence of an organization to implement this norm.

For its part, the World Health Organization has compiled a final draft of international guidelines on responding to terrorist attacks using biological and chemical weapons. The draft emphasizes international cooperation, including through the OPCW, to prepare for possible terrorist attacks.

Historically speaking, the United States has played key roles in fostering multilateral approaches to alleviate these threats, particularly those arising from the global spread of weapons of mass destruction. With respect to nuclear threats, the United States recognized even before the end of the Second World War that efforts to address such threats would require extensive international cooperation. This led to the Baruch Plan, the Atoms for Peace program, the creation of the IAEA and its system of nuclear safeguards, and numerous other initiatives and agreements. Together, these led to the accretion of a body of international law founded both on numerous multilateral treaties and on the customary practices of states. In many cases, these multilateral control efforts originated in unilateral proposals by leaders of countries, and it is surely fair to say that the leadership of the United States has often been crucial in the success of these efforts. This leadership will continue to be vitally important in contributing to the success of multilateral organizations like the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the IAEA, whose efforts will also substantially reduce the risks of possible use of chemical or nuclear weapons not just by states, but also by terrorists.

Similarly, the successful conclusion of an international convention against nuclear terrorism—a goal that has eluded an international consensus for too long—would help significantly in confronting this enormous challenge. There is also a compelling need to upgrade physical security at facilities that produce, store, or use a wide variety of controlled radioactive substances—especially those of the fissile variety—and to re-examine internationally the adequacy of controls currently prescribed by the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Strong U.S. leadership on behalf of these two important conventions would undoubtedly serve the interests of international peace and security.

The problem of nuclear terrorism was anticipated long ago. On April 25, 1945, a mere fortnight after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote a memorandum to the new president warning that “the future may see a time when such a weapon may be constructed in secret and used suddenly and effectively with devastating power by a willful nation or group against an unsuspecting nation or group of much greater size and material power.” Yet, most of the early postwar efforts to address the global nuclear threat focused exclusively on nation-states as their primary subjects. Nuclear terrorism became a popular topic in the professional arms control literature in the mid- to late-1970s, though the urgency and global scope of this threat has only recently started to receive the attention it so richly deserves.

This important leadership role for the United States is not limited to initiatives of its government. Since its founding in 1971, the Arms Control Association has pursued the fundamental goal of promoting public understanding of effective policies and programs in arms control, a role it has fulfilled well over the years. The United Nations also appreciates the importance of such activities by numerous other academic and other nongovernmental groups in civil society around the world. In response to a General Assembly resolution, the United Nations itself has underway an experts study on disarmament and nonproliferation education. The group has already met twice and plans to submit its report later this year to the 57th session of the United Nations General Assembly. With public understanding and support as a foundation and strong multilateral norms and institutions to advance such norms, the world will have every reason to expect a significant reduction in both the threats posed by all weapons of mass destruction, including terrorist threats.

The terrorist acts of September 11 have shaken the world out of a dangerous complacency. The public, concerned groups, and legislators are now starting to take much more seriously not only the threat of terrorism but also the danger that WMD may actually be used against military or civilian targets. In this sense, the sarin nerve gas attack in Japan in 1995 and the anthrax incidents in the United States and elsewhere in recent months have encouraged leaders everywhere to reconsider old assumptions, reassess old policies, and explore new collaborative international ways and means of alleviating genuine common threats.

Longer-Term Implications of September 11 for Disarmament

It is, of course, premature to predict the specific, long-term impacts of the events of September 11 upon the prospects for nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, disarmament, and their common denominator—international peace and security. One can safely say, however, that the tragedy is already leading to calls for a profound reassessment of the doctrine of nuclear deterrence and for an entirely new approach to the whole notion of weapons-based approaches to defense.

It is regrettable, but surely indisputable, that the states that possess nuclear weapons remain quite unprepared to give them up anytime soon despite repeated formal and informal commitments, most recently their unequivocal undertaking at the May 2000 review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. There certainly has been some progress to note in recent years, including efforts by some nuclear-weapon states to declare publicly their holdings of fissile nuclear materials, to declare limitations or reductions in the size of their arsenals, to halt the production of new fissile materials, and in some cases to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We hear of a reduced dependency on nuclear weapons but of a continuing need for a strategic “triad” that includes nonnuclear means of deterrence—recognizing that a country’s vast superiority in highly capable conventional weapons can conceivably inspire other states to seek WMD as an asymmetrical response. We hear reaffirmations of the doctrine of the first use of nuclear weapons and, from some nuclear-weapon states, words on behalf of the continuing value of tactical nuclear weapons. We hear of reductions in deployed, operational weapons but also of transfers of operational weapons to various reserve categories rather than to facilities for their verified physical destruction. We also hear that these reductions will occur unilaterally, outside of any binding treaty framework, and hence will be reversible and free from any bilateral or international verification. One senior U.S. official recently stated that “we are currently projecting to keep the nuclear forces that we have to 2020 and beyond—and longer and beyond.”

The NPT’s strengthened review process, however, will play an important role in holding all the treaty’s nuclear-weapon states accountable for their past commitments to eliminate their nuclear stockpiles. The first preparatory committee meeting of the states party to the treaty will get underway in April, and there will be two additional sessions before the 2005 NPT review conference. The fate of this ongoing process will provide some solid indicators of the future of both nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation.

Another area for potential progress in the years ahead lies in the field of controlling the dangers inherent in long-range ballistic missiles, though global multilateral disarmament efforts in this field are unfortunately still nonexistent. In April 1999, the secretary-general issued a statement noting with concern the lack of multilateral norms with respect to both missiles and missile defenses. A year later, the General Assembly asked the secretary-general to establish an experts group to examine the question of missiles in all its aspects. I hope that the events of September 11 will lend some new urgency to efforts to establish such norms, though I do not underestimate the difficulties ahead in achieving such a goal.

There are solid technical and economic grounds for doubting that terrorist groups will themselves acquire ICBMs anytime soon. In terms of nonstate actors, the missile “genie” is still inside its bottle. With sufficient political will, strengthened by the heightened public sensitivity to international threats, it is possible that the states that possess such weapons may in the years ahead be willing to conclude some new multilateral agreements to reduce substantially the dangers of such missiles. The MTCR’s [Missile Technology Control Regime] draft “code of conduct” and the Russian Federation’s Global Control System are examples of such proposals that are now under consideration. Multilateral progress in this area can build upon unilateral actions or agreements among specific countries.

Global missile and WMD threats can also be reduced via greater multilateral cooperation in export controls to ensure that the most sensitive components and technologies, as well as related dual-use goods, do not end up creating new risks to international peace and security. Such an effort, however, must be global and nondiscriminatory or it will have little chance of long-term success. The global goal, however distant it may now appear, of eliminating long-range missile delivery systems has some profound advantages over halfway measures that focus exclusively on nonproliferation, missile defenses, deterrence, or simply enhancing confidence in existing missile stockpiles. These advantages relate specifically to the basic fairness and equity of a nondiscriminatory disarmament goal and the practical advantages in verifying compliance with a global ICBM ban rather than arrangements that simply aim at regulating the development, stockpiling, and use of missiles.

It is vital, therefore, that these incremental steps in the field of missiles occur not just to stabilize the global missile status quo but also to serve a longer-term purpose—namely, the ultimate elimination of such missiles. The preamble of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty envisages the goal of the elimination from national stockpiles of all delivery vehicles for weapons of mass destruction, and I believe that incremental steps in this direction would undoubtedly serve the interests of international peace and security.

Toward a New Multilateral Approach to Security

What is perhaps most striking about many responses to the threats posed by both terrorism and weapons of mass destruction is the extent to which these responses rely upon weapons. What is missing from this weapons-based approach to security is an emphasis on the need for deeper multilateral cooperation rooted in binding legal norms that are implemented with the assistance of global international organizations.

The late Paul Warnke once referred to the nuclear arms race as a process much akin to “apes on a treadmill.” It is perhaps more apparent today than ever that real change, when it comes to thinking about nuclear weapons, is slow in coming and slower yet in implementation. Extensive international cooperation and public participation from civil society is needed to ensure that counterterrorism efforts will escape this familiar syndrome.

Effective measures against WMD terrorism and on the behalf of WMD disarmament simply cannot be accomplished by any single country acting alone. No one country controls all global exports, monitors all transfers of technology, and enforces all legal obligations. Certain dangerous weapons materials like plutonium, highly enriched uranium, and many strains of deadly bacteria and toxins are hazardous to whomever possesses them, given at the very least the risks of accidents, thefts, and sabotage. These materials are born dangerous. They are dangerous to produce, store, transport, or use even for ostensibly peaceful purposes. They are not dangerous simply when located inside so-called rogue states. They are dangerous everywhere and always.

For this reason, multilateral treaty regimes like the BWC, CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention], and NPT serve a triple security purpose: they serve to prevent the proliferation of such weapons to states; they make it much more difficult for terrorists to acquire significant WMD capabilities; and they promote an equitable, fair, and global public good called disarmament. While subject to improvement, they also serve these ends better than any single state, acting alone, can hope to achieve, and they surely serve these ends better than competitive arms races undertaken in the name of achieving or preserving military supremacy.

The United States, with all its material and intellectual resources, is destined to play a leadership role in world affairs. Of this, there can be no doubt. Whether this leadership will inspire the global elimination of WMD returns to the issue of political will, the same issue that inspired the creation of this Association over three decades ago. As the Arms Control Association, located in the most powerful country on Earth, you have a heavy burden to ensure that this leadership moves the world in the right direction.

In his Nobel lecture of December 10 last year, Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke of three priorities of the United Nations in the century ahead: eradicating poverty, preventing conflict, and promoting democracy. This is the “triad” that will genuinely serve the interests of international peace and security. And in the realm of preventing conflict, the goals of disarmament, arms control, and the peaceful settlement of disputes must remain the triad within the triad. Let the United States put an end to the debate whether arms cause conflicts or vice versa and recognize that each continues to affect the other, as they have from time immemorial. Let the United States dedicate our triads to productive, not destructive, uses.

You have my very best wishes and my full support in all your efforts to bring the United States closer to a world free of all weapons of mass destruction—a world able to grow and prosper in peace, with security for all.

Questions and Answers

Question: What are the consequences of not having a legally binding verification mechanism for the BWC in place, and can the alternatives that the United States put forward serve as a viable alternative?

Dhanapala: I don’t think it was ever advocated by the strongest proponents of a BWC verification system that we could have a perfect verification system. However, the protocol would have strengthened the treaty with greater transparency, with greater cooperation, and with a greater ability of the states party to this convention to be able to have assurances that the BWC is, in fact, being implemented.

Now, we do not, at this point in time, have any process leading toward the protocol because the process was, as you know, abruptly ended in July of last year. And the review conference, at which many agreed on some intermediary measures, has also been adjourned. I hope that states party to the convention will spend the time between now and the convening of the review conference in November of this year developing arrangements that could help bring a greater sense of confidence that the convention is, in fact, being implemented.

We also need to universalize the convention. We only have something like 144 parties to the treaty. So, we need to have many more parties sign up and, of course, thereafter make the treaty as implementable as possible.

Question: You spoke at some length about all the agreements covering weapons of mass destruction. I didn’t hear you say much about the small arms and light weapons conference last summer, which was the pinnacle of several years’ worth of organizing by governments and nongovernmental organizations and just barely pulled out a statement of agreement. What are the next steps that are possible in that arena, given that the next review conference is many years in the future?

Dhanapala: Well, I confined myself deliberately to the weapons that fall within the classical definition of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, and their delivery systems. It is true that small arms have been recently referred to as having the impact of weapons of mass destruction because of the colossal number of deaths they have caused, particularly since the end of the Cold War, and because they are widely used. We have an estimated 500 million of these small arms and light weapons in circulation.

The UN has been a pioneer in bringing this issue onto the global agenda. There were two very important, groundbreaking expert studies in 1997 and 1999 that were issued. And amongst them was a recommendation that we should convene an international conference on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. That conference was held in July of last year in New York, and after a great deal of negotiations that went on until the small hours of the morning, we were able to come out with a consensus document—a program of action.

This program of action sets out a series of measures at the national level, the regional level, and the global level; and we are in the process of implementing those measures. We have convened a number of workshops. This is a program of action whose implementation does not rest on the shoulders of the UN alone. A number of regional organizations like the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], the African Union in Africa, the OAS [Organization of American States] in Latin America, and several other subregional organizations are organizing efforts to try to bring these measures into action.

The 2001 program of action also calls for us to conduct a feasibility study, which will begin next year, on trying to have some kind of a global norm on marking and tracing weapons. This was an initiative by France and Switzerland, and we are in the process of identifying a group of experts that will undertake this feasibility study.

Question: What is the prospect of a UN forum more conducive to exploring ideas than the present, very large forum in Geneva being developed?

Dhanapala: Well, we have two groups of fora in the UN, and they owe their existence essentially to the 1978 Special Session on Disarmament. There are the deliberative fora, as you know: the First Committee and the Disarmament Commission. There is no dearth of ideas there. These ideas are discussed regularly—in the case of the Disarmament Commission, in a much more focused way. There are two agenda items that are discussed over a cycle of three years.

In the 66-member Conference on Disarmament, which is the negotiating forum to which you referred, they have not adopted a program of work for four years. Here again, it is not for want of ideas, but because those delegations represent the political will of governments. They have not been able to even agree on an agenda because there is no agreement on, for example, the establishment of an ad hoc committee to discuss the ban on a production of fissile material because others want, at the same time, two other committees established, on nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

I know that the committee is resuming today for its new session. But I see no prospect of any work being done on the negotiation of fresh agreements.

Question: You mentioned the importance of establishing legal norms on disarmament. Morton Halperin responded to a question this morning about undertakings taken by the states party to the Nonproliferation Treaty in 2000 on meeting their Article VI commitments. His statement was, to paraphrase, that the leaders of the United States—the Clinton administration and the Bush administration—may not have taken those undertakings seriously. Could you share with us your perspective, based on where you sit and your experience, about how other states perceive their NPT Article VI commitments on disarmament and how the Bush administration’s current approach might affect other states’ views about the value of the NPT itself?

Dhanapala: Well, certainly it was a disappointing statement to hear this morning, but I have heard it from other diplomats as well, both from the United States and from other nuclear-weapon states, so it was not a total surprise. But it will stand in the way of our asking other member states of the United Nations who are party to treaties to honor their legal commitments if nuclear-weapon states consider commitments made in declarations to be ones that they can walk away from. So, we need to reassess the way in which treaties are implemented.

I myself presided over the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s review and extension conference in 1995. The only reason that we were able to have an indefinite extension of that treaty without a vote was because there was a clear prospect of a CTBT being achieved in the near term and because we had a set of decisions that strengthened the review process; a resolution on the Middle East; and a series of benchmarks against which the accountability of nuclear-weapon states could be measured at future review conferences.

Unfortunately, the experience of the treaty’s parties after 1995 has not given them the confidence that those commitments have been implemented. I fear that there may come a time in which we reach a threshold of tolerance on the part of treaty parties, and, with the kind of problems that we see developing in various regions, there may be strong pressures for countries to move away from their commitments to the NPT. This is a situation I think we should never reach. We should try very hard to implement the treaty in all its aspects, not merely Articles I and II.

Question: I wonder if you would carry that theme a little bit further. The commitments made in the final document in 2000 were political commitments. The commitments made in the Statement of Principles at the 1995 review conference were also political commitments, but they were linked to the legal decision to indefinitely extend the Nonproliferation Treaty. Would you talk a little further about the effect on the NPT’s status if the political commitments set forth in the Statement of Principles are not observed by relevant states, principally the nuclear-weapon states?

Dhanapala: You are quite right in making a distinction between the political commitments of the 2000 final declaration and the package of decisions that were adopted in 1995. However, I think a lot of countries will look upon the interplay of the political commitments and the legally binding aspects of the treaty as being very, very closely linked.

When, as you know, the 1995 conference took place, there was a very vocal minority of states who disagreed with the indefinite extension decision, but went along with the “no vote” formula that we were able to design. I fear that—depending of course on international circumstances and the evolution of global politics, in particular in regions where we know conflicts prevail—there may be pressures for neutralizing the advantage nuclear-weapon states have. There may be dissatisfaction with the way in which there has been an imbalanced implementation of the NPT.

I don’t want to be a predictor of bad events, but we have to be very, very conscious of the fact that various countries may not tolerate what they see as double standards, and this is not only a situation in the area of disarmament, but also in other areas as well. And this is why the UN has approached the whole issue of terrorism as a multidisciplinary issue. We need to ensure that we have strong norms in all countries that are linked to the legal treaties that we have, particularly on WMD, and this will enable those countries who are parties to the treaties to abide by the obligations, preventing WMD material or technology from falling into the hands of terrorists as well.

U.S. May Request Chemical Weapons Convention Inspections

Seth Brugger

The United States is considering calling for challenge inspections under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) but is concerned about the management of the treaty’s implementing body, according to a U.S. official.

During a February 11 interview with Arms Control Today, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said that Washington is “thinking about the possibility of asking for challenge inspections.” (See interview.) In a separate interview, another administration official said that the United States is “actively considering” the issue and has identified “some candidates” for inspection.

To resolve concerns about another member state’s compliance with the CWC, which bans chemical arms, a state-party can request the convention’s implementing body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to investigate a suspect facility or activity. However, to date, no state has ever requested a challenge inspection.

Asked why the United States has not yet called for a challenge inspection, Bolton said that the OPCW “is a very troubled organization for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its management. There are a whole host of issues raised by challenge inspections that require our attention and require also an effectively operating OPCW.”

The undersecretary added that the United States is currently focusing on the OPCW’s management “because, if those questions are not resolved, the organization itself will not be able to function effectively, and the whole CWC will not be able to function effectively…. [U]ntil we resolve these management issues, I think it would be risky to put a big burden on the OPCW.”

Bolton’s remarks follow a January 24 speech he gave to the UN Conference on Disarmament, in which he said that challenge inspections are a “flexible and indispensable tool that, if viewed realistically and used judiciously, can be instrumental in achieving the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
The undersecretary also cautioned countries the United States believes are violating the convention, saying, “You should not be smug in the assumption that your chemical warfare program will never be uncovered and exposed to the international community.”

Bolton also said that the United States has made “effective use” of provisions in the CWC that allow states to consult privately with one another to address compliance concerns, noting that the United States has conducted “several visits” at the invitation of other states to resolve compliance questions. However, he said that such consultations “are not a prerequisite for launching a challenge inspection.”

The United States has recently publicly named states it believes are violating their international commitments on biological and nuclear weapons, and Washington may next publicly name countries it thinks are violating the CWC, according to a U.S. official. U.S. agencies and officials have traditionally restricted such comments to reports or congressional testimony.

Iran is likely one country on which the United States is focusing. In past reports, Washington has said that Iran, a CWC member state, possesses weaponized stockpiles of chemical agents and is seeking to improve its chemical arms capabilities. Furthermore, in his January 29 State of the Union speech President George W. Bush identified Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq—neither of which have joined the CWC regime—as a country that is pursuing weapons of mass destruction.


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