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– Amb. Thomas Hajnoczi
Chair, MTCR
May 19, 2021
January/February 2011
Edition Date: 
Monday, January 10, 2011
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Issues Develop as BWC Review Approaches

Kirk Bansak

Issues such as the search for ways to increase confidence in compliance and efforts to spur international cooperation on peaceful uses of biological agents are likely to feature prominently at the upcoming review conference for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), comments by delegates at a meeting in December indicate.

As part of a process of annual meetings with a narrow mandate, the Dec. 6-10 meeting, held at the UN Office at Geneva, did not have authority to make decisions pertaining to the substance and agenda of the review conference, which will take place at the end of this year. Nonetheless, the states-parties focused much of their attention on that conference, which will be the treaty’s seventh since its entry into force in 1975.

During statements at the December meeting, many delegations announced preliminary positions on major issues for the review. Some of the issues, such as implementation of the BWC’s provisions for peaceful scientific cooperation among the parties, could pit the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), a bloc representing about 100 developing countries, against Western countries.

The treaty’s peaceful-cooperation provisions, which are contained in Article X, are a perennial focal point, and debate over them could complicate consensus at the review conference, according to a nongovernmental BWC expert.

“Article X will be the real problem, particularly if NAM remains cohesive and insists or pushes very hard for an institutional mechanism for peaceful cooperation,” the expert said in a December e-mail exchange. “That might break the conference final declaration.”

The NAM has pushed consistently for increased international sharing of life sciences technology and expertise. In its opening statement at the December meeting on behalf of the NAM, Cuba promoted its 2009 paper on “the establishment of a mechanism for an effective implementation of Article X,” but did not reveal whether this will be one of the NAM’s objectives for the review conference.

The United States is anticipating the possibility that the NAM will pursue this formal mechanism, according to an official from the U.S. Department of State. “The problem is that the [Cuban paper’s] recommendations are very vague,” he said in a Dec. 17 interview. This vagueness has contributed to the paper’s popularity, he said. “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test. Everyone looks at it and sees something different. I’d like to see a more developed proposal,” he said.

During the 2006 review conference, the NAM proposed an Article X action plan “to provide a framework for the development of scientific cooperation and technological transfer in order to achieve the objectives of the Convention.” The parties did not reach agreement to adopt the plan at that time.

More broadly, Cuba’s statement at the December meeting called for “the promotion of international cooperation as provided for in Article X” to be addressed at this year’s review conference. Cuba also insisted on “removing the arbitrary and politically motivated denials.” This comment reflects the NAM countries’ discontent with export controls on dual-use items, particularly under the multilateral export control regime known as the Australia Group, according to the State Department official.

The Australia Group, which controls exports of biological and chemical dual-use materials, consists principally of Western countries. Dual-use items are those that can be used for both peaceful and military purposes, such as virulent pathogens and certain technologies.

BWC diplomacy has long been marked by the debate over what constitutes adequate implementation of Article X. Driving the debate are divergent views over the proper balance between sharing of technology and nonproliferation obligations, as well as ideological differences over the function of the BWC, according to the State Department official.

Verification and Compliance

Verification remains a hot-button issue and was addressed in several opening statements at the December meeting.

The United States reiterated its position that “a verification regime is no more feasible than it was in 2001,” referring to the U.S. withdrawal in 2001 from negotiations on a legally binding inspection regime aimed at verifying compliance with the treaty. However, the United States and other countries hinted at alternatives that could be more politically viable.

“A certain amount of energy is going into determining if there are alternatives to a traditional verification mechanism,” the State Department official said. The United States “is looking into a number of things,” which could include an enhancement to the currently existing confidence-building measures or a push to “rethink the issue from the ground up,” he said. The existing confidence-building measures are collections of data submitted by the parties on a voluntary basis.

In an opening statement on behalf of the European Union, Belgium declared that one of the EU’s main goals for the review conference was “to build confidence in compliance to the Convention,” but it did not specify how this could be accomplished. A joint statement by Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, and Switzerland echoed the importance of improving confidence in compliance and suggested this issue “be taken up both at the Review Conference and in the subsequent intersessional process,” referring to the program of official work and meetings that takes place between review conferences.

Meanwhile, in keeping with their long-standing position on the matter, the NAM countries, along with Russia, pressed the need for a legally binding verification protocol. On behalf of the NAM, Cuba urged the United States “to reconsider its policy towards this [issue] in light of the persistent request of other parties,” while Russia reiterated its belief that a legally binding verification mechanism remains “one of the key ways to improve the BWC.”

This persistence was not unexpected, and rhetoric on verification is likely to continue, according to the State Department official. “The question is not the rhetoric, but whether there will be follow-through based on it,” he said.

“We should have a pretty clear idea in advance of the review conference where the broad lines are drawn,” he predicted.

Confidence-Building Measures

Many countries have advocated using this year’s review conference to modernize and increase participation in the parties’ information exchange system, known as confidence-building measures. Switzerland noted that the measures “continue to be the only tool to establish some degree of transparency and confidence among the States party to the BWC.” However, this system has not been updated since 1991.

Possible improvements to the current system identified by governments and independent experts include revising the information queries to make submissions easier to analyze, broadening the scope of shared information to better reflect new scientific developments, and facilitating and streamlining the submission process, for example, through the creation of an online submission tool.

However, all parties are not convinced of the desirability of revising the current information exchange process. In its opening statement at the December meeting, Iran said that “modifying the existing forms would adversely affect” the goal of attaining submissions from all parties. Iran did not explain the reason for its concern.

Iran also linked confidence-building measures to the issue of peaceful cooperation, saying that “the interest of States Parties to voluntarily submit the [confidence-building measures] reports may diminish” if the process does not “lead to the promotion of the international cooperation in the field of peaceful biological activities.”

Although the number of submissions reached a record high in 2010, that number was only 70 out of 163 parties, as of Dec. 10.

Intersessional Process

An essential task awaiting the parties is determining the program of official work and meetings that will take place between the seventh and eighth review conferences.

Since 2003, this program, known as the intersessional process, has included two annual meetings that are convened to “discuss, and promote common understanding and effective action” on topics prescribed in the final reports of the previous two review conferences. Although the parties have generally viewed the meetings as successful in the context of their limited mandate, some countries have expressed a desire to broaden the scope of the intersessional process in terms of the topics addressed and the authority to make decisions, a power that the current mandate excludes.

In her opening statement at the December meeting, Laura Kennedy, head of the U.S. delegation, outlined a vision for the future intersessional process that includes “greater flexibility to address sets of related issues,” standing working groups “to deal with specific issues,” and “greater authority” for adopting decisions. The joint statement by Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, and Switzerland also voiced support for an appropriate decision-making mandate and the creation of standing working groups.

Meanwhile, Iran said that “any attempt to manipulate the current mandate of the intersessional meetings may lead to the complication of any decision on the continuation of this process.” It was not clear whether Iran itself is opposed to altering the intersessional process or senses opposition by another country.

“The weight of international focus is on how to improve the intersessional process, rather than whether or not we do,” the State Department official said.

Scientific and Technological Advances

Referring to the last two decades of BWC meetings, Germany said in its December opening statement that the parties have “failed to identify and assess the benefits and misuse potential of scientific and technological developments in the life sciences as well as their impact on the Convention.”

As agreed in the final document of the 2006 review conference, the parties will address the impact of scientific and technological advances on the operation of the BWC during this year’s conference.

The possibility of taking this issue beyond the review conference also has been endorsed. In an address at the December meeting delivered on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the director-general of the UN Geneva office, Sergey Ordzhonikidze, said, “With the pace of advances in biological science and technology growing ever quicker, there is a pressing need for a structured and regular means of monitoring developments and assessing their implications.”

“A lot of the thinking on how to deal with this issue is still fuzzy,” cautioned the State Department official. “This issue should be addressed in some way,” he said, but “whether that means doing so in a working group or through some other process is still an open question.” Germany proposed including the topic on the agenda of the next intersessional period.

Dissent and Optimism

One source of controversy at the December gathering was the draft of the meeting report.

During the plenary discussion of the draft report, a collection of NAM countries challenged part of the draft’s phraseology, arguing that it appeared to be making substantive decisions that exceeded the mandate of the meeting. However, several Western countries maintained that the disputed text was consistent with analogous documents in previous years, according to an account by the BioWeapons Prevention Project that was confirmed by a Western delegate.

Also during the December meeting, the states-parties officially accepted by consensus the nomination of Paul van den IJssel, the Netherlands’ ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, as chairman for the review conference.

In his acceptance speech to the parties, Van den IJssel declared that “ambitious realism will be my guiding principle in the coming year.” In an e-mail exchange after the meeting, Van den IJssel said that, in the course of his consultations with a wide range of delegations on the margins of the meeting, he observed that his principle was “broadly shared among States Parties.”

In his speech, Van den IJssel said, “Compromises will undoubtedly have to be made at the Review Conference, but we can keep them to a minimum by working together openly and constructively, avoiding surprises, and accommodating the interests of others wherever possible.”

The 2011 review conference of the BWC was officially scheduled for Dec. 5-22, with a meeting of a preparatory committee scheduled for April 13-15 to set the formal agenda of the review conference.


At the annual meeting of parties to the Biological Weapons Convention, delegates were staking out positions on issues that are likely to figure prominently at this year’s review conference.

Senate Approves New START

Tom Z. Collina

Capping an eight-month-long process and eight days of often intense floor debate, the U.S. Senate voted 71-26 on Dec. 22 to provide its advice and consent to ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). All 56 Democratic senators, the Senate’s two independents, and 13 Republicans voted to support the treaty, exceeding the two-thirds majority required.

The vote paves the way for Russian ratification and the treaty’s entry into force. The lower chamber of Russia’s parliament voted 350-58 in support of New START Dec. 24, but final approval is not expected until January or later. On-site inspections under the treaty could begin two months after that.

President Barack Obama, who fought a high-profile battle with Senate Republican leaders to hold a vote in the postelection session rather than wait until 2011, told reporters after the vote that the treaty will reduce superpower nuclear arsenals and “advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges, from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists.” Obama also said the treaty will enhance U.S. leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek a world without them.

New START would lower treaty limits on both sides’ deployed strategic warheads by about 30 percent and resume verification that lapsed when the original 1991 START expired in December 2009. The new treaty would supersede the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which is still in force and mandates reductions of deployed strategic warheads to no more than 2,200 by 2012, but provides no verification mechanism. New START caps each country’s deployed strategic warheads at 1,550 and deployed nuclear-capable delivery systems at 700 over the next decade. Under the treaty, both sides will have to take hundreds of nuclear warheads out of deployment within seven years of its entry into force.

Like previous bilateral arms control agreements, New START received broad support. Backers included U.S. military leaders and national security officials from preceding Republican administrations, including former President George H.W. Bush and six former secretaries of state: Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Lawrence Eagleburger, James A. Baker, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice.

New START was approved despite the active opposition of the Senate’s two top Republicans, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.). In addition, many potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Sen. John Thune (S.D.), came out against it.

The opposition was based on process as well as substance. As McConnell explained on the Senate floor Dec. 21, “[A] decision of this magnitude should not be decided under the pressure of a deadline.” Some Republican senators said the treaty should not be debated in a postelection session at all, and others wanted the Democrats to shelve plans for votes on more partisan issues such as the DREAM Act, which deals with immigration policy, and repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay and lesbian service members. On substance, McConnell said the treaty “does nothing to significantly reduce the Russian Federation’s stockpile of strategic arms, ignores the thousands of tactical weapons in the Russian arsenal, and contains an important concession linking missile defense to the strategic arms.” Opponents also said the treaty was unverifiable, questioned the administration’s commitment to modernization of the nuclear stockpile, and expressed concern that New START would be the first step on the road to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

As a result, the treaty did not pass by as wide a margin as previous agreements, such as President George W. Bush’s SORT, which was approved 95-0.

Predicting that the heightened partisanship in the Senate would not allow a large margin of victory for New START, Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) told reporters Dec. 21, “70 votes is yesterday’s 95.” He made the comment after a procedural vote that indicated the likely level of support.

Courting Kyl

The Dec. 22 ratification vote ended a high-stakes political battle pitting the Obama administration and its Senate allies against Senate Republican leaders. After months of debate, including more than 20 Senate hearings and briefings, the outcome was in doubt until just days before the vote.

The treaty, which Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed on April 8 in Prague, was formally submitted to the Senate May 13. The administration’s Senate strategy, led by Vice President Joe Biden, initially sought to avoid a partisan fight by courting the Republican leadership’s support for the treaty. Biden and his staff had numerous discussions with Kyl on the issue of funding for modernizing the nuclear weapons production complex. According to a Nov. 17 White House timeline, administration officials met or talked with Kyl or his staff about the treaty at least 30 times since August 2009.

Kyl made it clear early on that his position on New START would hinge on the administration’s ability to convince him that the budget for the nuclear weapons complex was adequate.

In a clear attempt to satisfy Kyl, the administration pledged in May to increase funding for the weapons complex by $10 billion over 10 years, leading many to expect that Kyl would ultimately support the treaty or at least not actively oppose it.

Before November, according to administration officials, it was unclear whether Kyl’s support for the treaty was a real possibility or if he actually was seeking to block ratification or delay a vote until 2011. Kyl led the successful campaign to block ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999. But in the Nov. 2 elections, Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and picked up six seats in the Senate.

Kyl announced on Nov. 16 that he “did not think” the treaty could be completed in the postelection session given the “complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization.” (See ACT, December 2010.) The announcement came just after senior administration officials had flown to Arizona Nov. 12 to meet with Kyl and his staff to pledge an additional $4.1 billion for weapons complex modernization. Based on that meeting, senior officials said they thought they had a deal to bring the treaty up for a vote.

Kyl’s Nov. 16 statement marked a critical turning point and showed that after the elections, “the price for New START just went up,” a Senate staffer told Arms Control Today. The Kyl announcement “was one of the lowest moments of our time in government,” a senior administration official told The Washington Post Dec 23.

“A Gutsy Choice”

The next 24 hours were pivotal to the ratification effort. Obama had to choose between waging a high-profile, uncertain campaign to win the treaty without Kyl’s support or delay the vote until the next Congress. The administration and its Senate allies said that delaying the vote could put off ratification of the treaty by six to 12 months or more.

In addition to facing more, potentially hostile Republican votes, the treaty would have had to be reapproved by the Foreign Relations Committee, whose new members could have requested new hearings. “Endless hearings, markup, back to trying to get some time on the floor…[i]t will be some time before the treaty is ever heard from again,” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee’s ranking member, told The Cable Nov. 17.

On the other hand, given Kyl’s presumed authority within his caucus, for the White House to win a ratification vote without Kyl’s support was seen at the time by observers inside and outside of the administration as a daunting and uncertain prospect. Treaty supporters needed at least nine Republican votes, in addition to the 56 Democrats and two independents, to reach the 67 required for Senate approval. The day after Kyl’s announcement, the administration decided to double down on its campaign to secure the votes it needed without Kyl’s help. “This is not a matter that can be delayed,” Obama told reporters Nov. 18 while flanked by a group of Republican former national security officials, including Baker, Kissinger, and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. “Every month that goes by without a treaty means that we are not able to verify what’s going on on the ground in Russia,” he said.

“The president made a gutsy choice,” Kerry told The Washington Post Dec. 23. “He decided he was prepared to lose the treaty, but he thought it was important to fight for,” Kerry said.

Floor Debate Begins

When it resumed work Nov. 29 after its Thanksgiving break, the Senate spent the next two weeks debating tax policy and other issues and did not begin debate on New START until mid-December. At that point, the only Republican senators who had announced support for the treaty were Lugar, Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Susan Collins (Maine).

With a key procedural vote expected the next day, Kyl tried to delay debate on New START by arguing that it would force the Senate to work through Christmas. “It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out ... without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff,” he told reporters Dec. 14.

An exasperated Biden took issue with Kyl’s reluctance to work through Christmas. “Don’t tell me about Christmas. I understand Christmas. I was a senator for a long time, and I’ve been there many years where we go right up to Christmas,” Biden told MSNBC Dec. 15. “There’s 10 days between now and Christmas. I hope I don’t get in the way of your Christmas shopping, but this is the nation’s business. This is the national security at stake. Act.”

Other commentators said that if the U.S. military could work through the holidays, with troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, senators could spend more time in Washington.

To begin floor debate on New START, the Senate had to pass a “motion to proceed” by majority vote. This was the first real test of Republican support for the treaty, as well as the first test of how far opponents would go to block a vote. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told Fox News Dec. 15 that, to delay the process, he would demand that the entire treaty text be read aloud. “If they bring this up, they’re going to read it. And it’ll take them a day and a half or two to read this. Again, we’re trying to run out the clock,” DeMint said.

In response, the White House issued a press statement Dec. 15 that said, “It is the height of hypocrisy to complain that there is not enough time to consider this Treaty, while wasting so much time reading aloud a document that was submitted to the Senate months ago.”

In a victory for treaty proponents, the Senate voted 66-32 to begin debate on New START, with nine Republicans in support. Although the measure required only a simple majority to pass, the tally was important because it suggested that the treaty had the two-thirds majority needed for approval. Moreover, the Republican leadership decided not to ask for the treaty to be read aloud. Momentum was growing, but how senators voted on a procedural issue was not a guarantee of how they would vote on the treaty itself.

Debate on the treaty continued for two days before the first amendments to the treaty were filed. The Senate spent the next few days debating a series of Republican amendments dealing with missile defense, verification, and tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons. All of them were rejected, as treaty supporters successfully made the case that they were unnecessary and that any changes to the treaty text itself would kill the agreement because such changes would have to be approved by Russia.

The first amendment, offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would have removed a paragraph from the treaty’s preamble that recognized “the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms,” which some senators were concerned could limit U.S. missile defense options. The amendment was defeated 59-37 Dec. 18. Other amendments followed, from Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) on including tactical nuclear weapons in the treaty, from Thune on increasing the allowed number of delivery vehicles from 700 to 720, from James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on increasing the number of on-site inspections, and from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) defining rail-mobile missiles. All failed by margins similar to the one on McCain’s. There was never a real chance these amendments would pass, as only a simple majority was needed to defeat them.

The battle lines were drawn the week of the vote, when McConnell and Kyl declared their opposition to the treaty. Asked on Fox News Dec. 19 if he would oppose the treaty, Kyl said “Absolutely, yes. This treaty needs to be fixed. And we are not going to have the time to do that in the bifurcated way or trifurcated way that we’re dealing with it here, with other issues being parachuted in all the time.” McConnell said on the Senate floor Dec. 20, “Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician’s desire to declare a political victory and host a press conference before the first of the year.”

Just two days before the vote, the outcome was still uncertain, with only a handful of Republican senators, now including Scott Brown (Mass.), openly supporting the treaty.

On Dec. 20, Kerry released a letter from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen stating that New START is “vital to U.S. national security” and that “the sooner it is ratified, the better.” Supporters of the treaty highlighted the letter to make the point that, for Republicans to oppose New START, they would have to oppose the U.S. military as well.

The same day, Scowcroft told ABC News, “I just don’t understand the opposition” and that “to play politics with what is in the fundamental national interest is pretty scary stuff.”

“A Dismaying Rout”

After six days of debate on the treaty and with Christmas on the horizon, the tide began to shift Dec. 21. That morning, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates released a statement saying, “I strongly support the Senate voting to give its advice and consent to ratification of the New START Treaty this week.” Then, additional support began to emerge after Republican Conference Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) announced he would vote for the treaty. Alexander, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said New START “leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to Kingdom Come.”

Alexander’s endorsement was followed quickly by Republican Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), George Voinovich (Ohio), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), and Robert Bennett (Utah), providing more than enough Republican support to pass the treaty.

Corker, a key Republican swing vote, said on the Senate floor, “I firmly believe that…ratifying this treaty, and that all the things we have done over the course of time as a result of this treaty are in our country’s national interest, and I am here today to state my full support for this treaty.”

By late morning, the National Review, a conservative journal, declared that “Republican opposition to New START is collapsing” and predicted that the vote for ratification could go as high as 75. The Review said, “At least Jon Kyl was able to get more money for modernization and that letter from President Obama making assurances on missile defense. Otherwise, this is a dismaying rout.”

The article was referring to a Dec. 18 letter from Obama to McConnell in response to Republican concerns that, out of deference to Russia, Obama might not deploy all four phases of U.S. missile defense plans for NATO. Obama assured McConnell that the administration would deploy all four phases of the Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense in Europe. “I will take every action available to me to support the deployment of all four phases,” wrote Obama.

In a key step to ratification and a reflection of the growing bipartisan support, late on Dec. 21 the Senate voted 67-28, with the support of 11 Republicans, to invoke cloture, leading to the end of debate and a final vote on New START the next day. The cloture vote made it clear that New START would pass; the only real remaining question was how many Republicans would vote for it.

Nevertheless, Kyl continued to question the outcome. “I honestly don’t know what all of my colleagues are going to do,” Kyl said at a Dec. 21 press conference after the cloture vote. “We believe this process has not enabled us to consider this treaty in the serious way it should have been considered. I hope a lot of our colleagues would agree with that.”

Appearing with Kyl, DeMint, who opposed the treaty in the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “It’s clear with this treaty that [the administration is] trying to cram something down the throats of the American people under the cover of Christmas…. They’re not looking at politics right now, they’re celebrating their holy Christmas holiday, and the fact that we’re doing this under the cover of Christmas … is something to be outraged about.”

Final Vote

After the Dec. 21 cloture vote, the Senate had a maximum of 30 hours to consider any remaining amendments.

Unable to alter the treaty text, Republicans began to offer amendments to the resolution of advice and consent, which had passed the Foreign Relations Committee Sept. 16. (See ACT, October 2010.) Changes to the resolution would not alter the treaty itself and thus had a chance to pass. Four such amendments were ultimately accepted by voice vote, after being modified.

Two amendments by Kyl sought to accelerate funding for modernizing the weapons complex and ensure modernization of nuclear delivery systems. Another amendment, by Sens. McCain, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Corker sought assurances that Obama would deploy all four phases of the phased approach to missile defense in Europe. An amendment by Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) stated that prior to the entry into force of New START, the president must certify that he will seek negotiations with Russia within one year of entry into force “to secure and reduce tactical nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner.” The LeMieux amendment may prove particularly significant as it represents a Republican endorsement of tactical arms reduction talks with Russia.

There was speculation that if his amendment were accepted, McCain would vote for the treaty and bring another three or four Republican votes with him. Although his amendment was approved, McCain voted “no” on final passage. The treaty ultimately won the support of 56 Democrats, 13 Republicans, and the two independents.

Biden, in his role as president of the Senate, took the rare step of presiding personally over the vote, reflecting the treaty’s symbolic importance for Obama’s presidency. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton—like Biden, a former senator—was on the Senate floor as well.

After the vote, Kerry, who led the floor fight for the treaty, said the vote will reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe. “The winners are not defined by party or ideology,” he said. “The winners are the American people, who are safer with fewer Russian missiles aimed at them.”

Kyl denounced the Senate’s refusal to amend the treaty, even though it accepted some of his changes to the resolution. “The precedent here that we’re establishing is that the Senate really is a rubber stamp,” he said. “Whatever a president negotiates with the Russians or somebody else we dare not change because otherwise it will have to be renegotiated to some great detriment to humanity.”

But in the end, Kyl could convince only 26 of the 39 Republicans who voted on the treaty to vote with him. Corker told The New York Times Dec. 22, “There’s no question in my mind that this [treaty] is in our country’s national security interest.” The vote on New START “is not one of those votes where you wonder,” he said. “This is not even a close call.”

In addition to Corker, the Republican senators voting for the treaty Dec. 22 were Alexander, Bennett, Brown, Thad Cochran (Miss.), Collins, Judd Gregg (N.H.), Isakson, Mike Johanns (Neb.), Lugar, Murkowski, Snowe, and Voinovich.

Next Steps

Once the United States and Russia exchange instruments of ratification and the treaty formally enters into force, the two sides have 60 days to prepare for the first on-site inspections under New START. Within 45 days of entry into force, the two sides are to exchange data on the current status and deployment locations of strategic nuclear forces, consisting of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. Inspections could begin by April.

Referring to the LeMieux amendment on tactical weapons, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said in a conference call with reporters after the vote, “The Russians have a larger number than we do of these systems, and there has been some particular, I would say strong, urging from Capital Hill that we move out” and seek an agreement with Russia to reduce these forces. Gottemoeller noted that Obama has said that the next step after New START would be a treaty that would address tactical nuclear weapons, as well as strategic and nondeployed weapons.

The Obama administration intends to “carry out the requirements of the [U.S. ratification] resolution by seeking to initiate negotiations with Russia on tactical nukes within one year of New START’s entry into force,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said following the Senate’s vote.

In a Dec. 21 interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Gary Samore, White House coordinator for arms control and nonproliferation, said that multilateral negotiations to ban fissile material production for weapons and Senate ratification of the CTBT are on his agenda. The United States is “trying to reinstate negotiations [on the fissile material treaty] at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and will launch an initiative next year,” he said. On the CTBT, Samore said, “We will present our arguments next year, but we do not know if they will have the desired effect.”


Eight months after the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed, the Senate debated it and approved it by a vote of 71-26, paving the way for approval by the Russian State Duma and entry into force early this year.

The Road Ahead for Export Controls: Challenges for the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Fred McGoldrick

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has a vital role to play in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Each of its 46 members applies common guidelines to control exports of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology; the guidelines also cover items and know-how that are dual use.[1] The guidelines are essential to ensuring that civil nuclear trade is not diverted to nuclear weapons or terrorist use and that nuclear suppliers do not compete in the international market by minimizing nonproliferation controls.

In recent years, several developments have threatened the effectiveness and relevance of this multilateral arrangement. Nonmembers such as Pakistan and North Korea have transferred nuclear technology to countries aspiring to acquire nuclear weapons. An increasing number of non-NSG countries now have the capability to manufacture and export equipment and technology that can be useful to the nuclear weapons programs of proliferant states. Some NSG members—China, Russia, and the United States—have undermined the important nonproliferation norm of comprehensive safeguards, i.e., that non-nuclear-weapon states should benefit from peaceful nuclear cooperation only if they place all their nuclear activities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In addition, the NSG decision-making process has become clogged as members have been unable to agree on new criteria for transferring sensitive nuclear technology. They also have not reached agreement on requiring recipient states to adhere to an additional protocol to their IAEA safeguards agreements—a necessary tool to uncover illegal, clandestine nuclear activities. Decision-making is likely to be even more challenging if India becomes an NSG member as the United States and other NSG members are proposing.

The Past

Such challenges and disagreements are not new. Indeed, the NSG was founded in reaction to several shocks to the nonproliferation regime in the mid-1970s. In May 1974, India, a state that had refused to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), exploited ambiguous language in agreements with Canada and the United States to use items from those suppliers to manufacture and test its first nuclear device.[2] Major suppliers were on the verge of transferring sensitive nuclear technologies, notably technologies related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, to unstable areas of the world where the intended recipients had not made effective nonproliferation commitments or were trying to enhance their nuclear weapons capability. In the mid-1970s, France was proposing to provide reprocessing plants to Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan. West Germany concluded a contract to provide sensitive nuclear technology to Brazil. In addition, France, which was not an NPT party at the time, was supplying Spain, another NPT nonparty, with a nuclear power reactor without requiring IAEA safeguards. These events raised serious doubts about the adequacy of the NPT and the effectiveness of nuclear export controls applied by individual nuclear suppliers.

In response, seven major nuclear suppliers met in London in 1974 with the objective of establishing a common set of guidelines on nuclear exports, closing loopholes in nuclear export controls, and avoiding the use of weak nonproliferation conditions as a means of competing in the international nuclear market. Subsequently eight new members joined the original participants, and all 15 members agreed on guidelines that were published in 1978.[3] Although NSG members did not agree to a moratorium on transferring enrichment and reprocessing technology or requiring comprehensive safeguards as a condition of supply, they did adopt guidelines that obliged recipients to provide assurances of peaceful, nonexplosive use; accept appropriate IAEA inspections and conditions on retransfers to third countries; and implement international standards of physical protection. The guidelines also included special restraints on transferring sensitive nuclear technologies. The NSG thus went beyond the minimal export requirements of the NPT, which obliges parties only to require IAEA safeguards on exports of nuclear materials and equipment. To meet that requirement, some NPT parties in 1974 established the Zangger Committee to identify specified nuclear equipment and materials, the export of which would require application of IAEA safeguards.

The original NSG guidelines closed some loopholes in the nonproliferation regime, but disparities remained in the export policies of NSG members. A few, such as Canada and the United States, required comprehensive safeguards as a condition of supply, but most members did not. As a result, NPT nonparties such as Argentina and Brazil played one supplier against the other by giving lucrative contracts to the suppliers that did not require comprehensive safeguards. In addition, most NSG member states did not control dual-use exports. This lacuna enabled nuclear aspirants such as Iraq and Pakistan to obtain important items from European and other industrial states for their nuclear weapons programs. Thus, although the establishment of the NSG in the 1970s strengthened the nonproliferation regime in important ways, its guidelines were far from effective in halting the nuclear weapons programs of proliferators.

NSG members experienced an epiphany in 1991 and 1992 when IAEA inspections revealed that Iraq had obtained large quantities of materials, equipment, and technology for its nuclear weapons program from firms in Western countries. This scandal led the NSG to adopt new guidelines in 1992 to control exports of dual-use items and to require comprehensive safeguards as a condition of new nuclear supply. In subsequent years, the NSG took additional steps to strengthen export controls, including establishing a guideline that suppliers should satisfy themselves that their nuclear transfers do not contribute to proliferation of nuclear explosives or to acts of nuclear terrorism; a catchall control to govern transfers of items that are not on export control lists when such items “are or may be intended, in their entirety or in part, for use in connection with a ‘nuclear explosive activity’”; consultations among members of the group in the event a recipient state violates its nonproliferation commitments; and backup or fallback safeguards if the IAEA is not applying safeguards in a recipient country. Further, the NSG updated its control lists and increased its membership from a few advanced nuclear states to a more geographically and politically diversified group of 46 countries.

Current Challenges

Today the NSG faces new challenges. The group has three major items on its agenda: China’s proposed export of nuclear reactors to Pakistan; the adoption of new restraints on the transfers of enrichment and reprocessing; and making adoption of an additional protocol by recipient states a condition for nuclear exports.

Proposed Chinese exports to Pakistan. Recent decisions by certain NSG states have undermined the international standard for comprehensive safeguards as a condition of supply. In 2008, for its own strategic and commercial reasons, the United States persuaded the NSG to exempt India from the comprehensive safeguards standard. Yet, the U.S. action was not the first assault on this important nonproliferation norm, nor the most egregious. When the NSG adopted the guideline on comprehensive safeguards in 1992, it allowed for two exceptions that have proved to be significant loopholes. First, the requirement applies only to subsequent nuclear cooperation and does not cover supply commitments that existed at the time; this provision is known as the “grandfather clause.” Second, the guidelines permit nuclear exports to states without comprehensive safeguards in exceptional cases when such exports are “deemed essential for the safe operation of existing facilities and if safeguards are applied to those facilities.”

Russia has exploited both these loopholes to justify nuclear sales to India. Moscow justified its nuclear exports to India in the late 1990s by claiming that they were grandfathered by the Russian-Indian agreement of 1988. However, that agreement was a general legal framework for cooperation and contained no commitments to supply. The United States and other NSG members raised questions about this cooperation to no avail. In 2001, Russia exported low-enriched uranium to India for fueling the Tarapur reactors, citing the safety exception. The United States and others regarded this export as a violation of Russia’s commitment to the comprehensive safeguards guideline. Russia signed another reactor deal with India in 2007 and delivered nuclear fuel to India even before the NSG in 2008 exempted India from its comprehensive safeguards requirement.

China now is citing the grandfather clause as justification for its planned assistance to Pakistan’s civil nuclear reactors. In a formal “declaration of existing projects” made at the time it joined the NSG in 2004, Beijing informed the NSG of its 1991 cooperation agreement with Pakistan under which it had supplied a 300-megawatt reactor at Chashma and had just undertaken to supply an additional 325-megawatt reactor at the same location. The Chinese claimed that the supply of these reactors did not constitute a “new” supply commitment and therefore was grandfathered under the NSG comprehensive safeguards guideline. This was a dubious claim at the time because the 1991 Chinese-Pakistani pact was a general framework agreement and reportedly did not contain an actual commitment to supply reactors at Chashma. In any event, Beijing’s 2004 explanations to the NSG did not mention grandfathering any more reactors under the 1991 agreement. Thus, the proposed supply of additional nuclear plants at the Chashma site would not be covered by the 1991 agreement, would not be grandfathered under the NSG guidelines, and clearly would violate the commitments China made when joining the NSG in 2004—a position that the United States has adopted.

Although hailed at the time as a significant accomplishment, the NSG’s adoption in the early 1990s of the comprehensive safeguards requirement as a condition of supply has proved subsequently to be a somewhat hollow triumph. NPT parties have good reason to complain because the actions of NSG members have made a mockery of Article IV of the NPT by giving non-NPT parties India and Pakistan the same benefits as NPT parties but without the accompanying obligations.[4] Russia and the United States have undermined the norm that only states with comprehensive nonproliferation commitments should benefit from international nuclear cooperation. Now, China’s plan to supply Pakistan with three new reactors threatens to render that norm meaningless.

Unfortunately, if China persists in citing the grandfather clause as justification for these reactors, there may be little that the NSG members can do. Calls for expelling China from the NSG unless it cancels the deal with Pakistan are ill advised.[5] The NSG is a voluntary multinational arrangement and has no mechanism for resolving disputes about differing interpretations of the guidelines or for sanctioning or expelling members who violate its guidelines. Those are the facts; they are not going to change. Moreover, it took China decades to decide to become a full member of the global nonproliferation regime, and even if it were possible, expelling Beijing from the NSG would serve no useful purpose. Nevertheless, China’s flouting of its NSG commitments threatens the integrity of this multinational arrangement and the NSG’s ability to ensure that member states implement their export control obligations honestly and effectively. NSG members should unanimously press China to seek an NSG exemption for its proposed reactor sales to Pakistan. Given Pakistan’s appalling nonproliferation record, the NSG should reject such a request. Also, the United States needs to reject Pakistani pressures for such an exemption and for a U.S.-Pakistani civil nuclear deal along the same lines as the U.S.-Indian nuclear pact. The United States will gain nothing from a deal with a country that has done such damage to the nonproliferation regime. Fortunately, Washington has been able to resist such temptation so far.

Enrichment and reprocessing transfers. Another challenge facing NSG members is to reach agreement on new criteria on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology. In his speech on February 11, 2004, President George W. Bush proposed that NSG members refuse to sell such technology to any state that does not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants. Bush’s 2004 proposal was made in reaction to the clandestine supply operations of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist, who had sold enrichment technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. However, the Bush proposal did not really address such illegal and clandestine supply networks. Rather, it was directed at the NSG, which already had a guideline on exercising restraint in transferring such technologies. No NSG members have transferred enrichment or technology since the 1970s to states that did not already possess such plants.[6] Moreover, with the exception of South Korea’s interest in reprocessing and enrichment, no state that does not have such technology already is actively seeking it. Bush’s proposal thus had little relevance to the problem of clandestine trade in enrichment and reprocessing technology by non-NSG states. Yet, by trying to formalize and make more specific a moratorium that NSG members had followed in practice for several decades, it exposed sharp commercial and ideological differences about what it means to “exercise restraint”—the current language in the NSG guidelines—in transferring these technologies. Some NSG states saw the Bush administration’s proposal as threatening their economic options, while others saw it as an attempt to widen the divide between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states that would jeopardize the latter’s rights under Article IV of the NPT.

Thus, the U.S. proposal was not relevant to the problem of clandestine transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology by non-NSG members, was not directed at halting any anticipated NSG transfers of such technology, and provoked a sharp debate within and beyond the NSG about rights to peaceful nuclear technology.

Nevertheless, after four years of spirited debate and only after the United States showed some willingness to compromise on its original proposals, the NSG succeeded in producing a draft document called the “clean text” in November 2008. According to this draft, NSG members would not authorize transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology unless the intended recipient met certain “objective” criteria. Among other things, the recipient would have to be party to the NPT and in full compliance with the treaty, which would make India ineligible; have a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol in effect; be in compliance with its safeguards commitments; implement effective export controls as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1540;[7] have an agreement with the supplier state that includes assurances regarding nonexplosive use and effective safeguards in perpetuity; apply standards of physical protection based on current international guidelines; and adhere to international safety standards.

The clean text also contains a controversial “black box” criterion that would require recipients to accept transfers of enrichment equipment and technology under conditions that do not permit or enable replication of the enrichment facilities. In addition, the clean text provides that NSG members “should exercise vigilance in ensuring that enrichment and reprocessing facilities are intended for peaceful purposes.” As part of that vigilance in making export decisions, the members should consider so-called subjective factors such as whether the recipient has a “credible and coherent rationale” for pursuing an enrichment or reprocessing capability in support of civil nuclear programs, “[w]hether the transfer would have a negative impact on the stability and security of the recipient state,” and “[g]eneral conditions of stability and security.”

Most NSG members are prepared to go along with the clean text, which includes a compromise formula on the black-box criterion. A few members strongly oppose the subjective criteria that suppliers would have to take into account in transferring enrichment and reprocessing technology to recipient countries, particularly the idea that a supplier would have to consider whether the transfer of such technology would have a negative impact on the stability and security of the recipient state and general conditions of stability and security. Others take the position that the only condition of supply for the transfer of sensitive technology should be adherence to the NPT.

Getting the ball over the goal line is still a worthwhile objective, but it may not be the most important or urgent one. The Group of Eight (G-8) agreed at its July 2009 meeting to continue to abide by the clean text for the coming year and renewed that pledge in 2010. This means that the main enrichment technology holders—France, Russia, and the United States and the members of the URENCO consortium (Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom)—will apply the criteria contained in the clean text for transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology until the G-8 holds its 2011 meeting.[8] It is unclear how long the G-8 will continue to abide by the clean text if the impasse in the NSG continues. Thus, some resolution of this issue among NSG members may be necessary to fashion a stable and common approach to enrichment and reprocessing transfers. This may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear powers. In the final analysis, however, the precise wording of the guidelines is less important than the continuation by each member of the 30-year practice of exercising responsibility in transferring sensitive technology. Finally, it is appropriate to ask whether the new NSG guideline that emphasizes restraint and denial will be the most effective way of discouraging the spread of these technologies. NSG-supported fuel assurance proposals or offers by NSG technology holders for multinational participation in those countries’ enrichment plants, under black-box conditions, as the Russians have done, may offer better prospects for encouraging states not to build their own facilities. If one or more suppliers could muster the political will to offer “cradle-to-grave” fuel supply services, i.e., to provide a customer with fresh fuel and accept responsibility for managing the resulting spent fuel, that is likely to be a far more successful and less contentious way to discourage new nuclear states from acquiring these technologies.

Additional protocol. A more important and more pressing issue on the NSG agenda is reaching agreement on a new guideline on making a recipient’s adherence to an additional protocol a condition of new nuclear supply. Supporters of this new guideline suffered a setback at the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May when the members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) opposed a consensus statement that the 1997 Model Additional Protocol should be the IAEA safeguards standard. The NSG could help to improve the IAEA safeguards system significantly by adopting a new guideline requiring recipient states to ratify and put into effect an additional protocol as a condition of new nuclear commitments. That step not only should help spur universal adoption of the protocol, but also should improve the effectiveness of the IAEA safeguards system significantly by giving the agency critical, additional authorities to detect clandestine nuclear activities. It is understandable why proposals to restrain transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology might touch some raw political and economic nerves, but the requirement for an additional protocol as a condition of nuclear supply benefits all states and should not be controversial. Convincing the few holdouts may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear suppliers.

Issues for the Future

Beyond these agenda items, the NSG faces challenges both within and without.

National export controls. Each NSG member needs to ensure its own export control house is in order. Nuclear proliferants such as Iran continue to employ ingenious techniques such as false end-use statements, dummy companies, and exploitation of other countries’ weak export controls on dual-use goods to procure nuclear-related equipment and technology in support of their efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. To thwart such efforts, members of the NSG will have to devote sufficient resources to their own export control, law enforcement, and customs organizations; establish tough criminal penalties for violations of export control laws; and give law enforcement officials the authority to investigate and prosecute illegal procurement. NSG states will need to improve intelligence collection and sharing among themselves and with nonmembers on important export cases and clandestine procurement attempts. The member states should be willing to provide information to the IAEA on exports of dual-use goods, procurement practices of nuclear-weapon aspirants, and denials of exports in order to help the agency obtain a complete assessment of a country’s program or resolve safeguards inconsistencies.

Decision-making. The NSG membership has evolved from a narrow collection of Western industrialized countries to a much more diverse group. Decisions in the NSG are made by consensus. This will not change. A broad-based membership with divergent interests will likely make it more difficult to forge decisions on needed upgrades to export standards. This may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear powers to forge needed decisions on such matters as the requirement for an additional protocol. That also means picking priorities for expending political capital.

Control lists. As it has done periodically in the past, the NSG is presently engaged in a process of clarifying and reviewing the nuclear and dual-use items on its control lists in order to keep abreast of technical developments. The NSG should engage in this kind of an exercise on a regular basis.

Image problem. The NSG has an image problem. Some nonmembers continue to regard the NSG as a cartel of supplier states that is trying to deny them their right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Recent U.S. efforts to restrict the export of enrichment and reprocessing states to those already possessing such facilities have only exacerbated this problem. The NSG has made efforts in the past to combat this image by various outreach activities and transparency measures. The group needs to continue to rebut charges of discrimination and denial of rights and to work to make its guidelines an accepted international norm for nuclear export controls.

Proposed membership for India. The United States, France, and Germany have recently indicated their intention to support Indian membership in the NSG. This step is clearly designed to give further recognition to India’s nuclear status, but it is questionable whether New Delhi’s membership in the NSG would strengthen the international nonproliferation regime. For one thing, India already adheres to the NSG guidelines as a nonmember; admitting India as a member therefore would not strengthen international export controls. Although adding another leading member of the NAM to the NSG would enhance the legitimacy of the suppliers group, it would complicate the NSG’s decision-making on issues such as strengthening NSG guidelines. Among other things, India’s accession to the NSG would make agreement impossible on the clean text because that document proposes to bar transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology to non-NPT parties. It will be important for the NSG members to retain the ban on enrichment and reprocessing technologies to non-NPT states before they agree to admit India to the group.

Nonmember suppliers. Many states outside the NSG have the capability to provide significant assistance to nuclear weapons programs but do not have the legal or regulatory regimes, the resources, or, in some cases, the will to implement effective nuclear export controls. The NSG should find ways to persuade nonmembers either to join the NSG or abide by its guidelines, as India and Israel have done. Some NSG nonmembers may find the Zangger Committee more palatable than the NSG; NPT parties, particularly developing countries, may find this group less exclusivist than the NSG. The NSG also should make a more active and coordinated effort to assist nonmembers to meet the obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540. The NSG has had outreach programs to urge nonmembers to put in place effective legislation and regulations for their nuclear and dual-use exports. Individual NSG states have offered assistance to nonmembers in establishing and implementing such controls. However, these efforts do not appear to be well coordinated. The NSG should play a more active role in the efforts of the committee that has been charged by the UN Security Council with helping countries meet their export control obligations under Resolution 1540.

Some suppliers outside the NSG also threaten the effectiveness of international controls. Beginning in the 1990s and continuing into the present decade, NSG nonmember Pakistan aided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with enrichment technology and nuclear weapons designs. More recently, North Korea appears to have provided a plutonium-production reactor to Syria, and there have been controversial reports about North Korean assistance to possible nuclear weapons efforts by Myanmar (Burma). Unfortunately, the NSG can do little as a multilateral institution to prevent the irresponsible supply policies of nonmembers such as Pakistan or North Korea from undermining the effectiveness of international nuclear export controls and of the nonproliferation regime. This type of behavior has to be addressed through such means as vigorous diplomacy; sanctions; interdiction measures, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative; or perhaps, in extremis, pre-emptive military actions.


The NSG has taken steps over the years to bolster its effectiveness, albeit not always in a timely fashion. It did not stop Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, or South Africa from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability or sensitive nuclear technology; these countries were successful in clandestinely obtaining from NSG members many items that contributed to their nuclear weapons programs. However, it is fair to conclude that NSG controls increased the costs and risks of the procurement efforts of these states and delayed their weapons programs. The group has given progressively more specific definition to the nuclear and dual-use equipment and related technology on its control lists and increased the number of controlled items significantly. Each member state has strengthened its national export control system. In addition, the NSG has established an international norm for national export control systems. As a result of these various improvements, the NSG now is much better equipped to block the procurement efforts of proliferant states. The group’s abandonment of the comprehensive safeguards norm has been a clear setback, but it does not need to be fatal, nor does it render the NSG irrelevant. Continued agreement among the group’s members on common rules of the game remains essential to prevent the major nuclear suppliers from competing in the international marketplace by minimizing the nonproliferation conditions on their nuclear exports. However, to maintain the role of the NSG as an effective multilateral barrier to proliferation, its members need to press forward to reach agreement on requiring an additional protocol, to strengthen their own national export control systems, and to help nonmembers to implement effective export control systems.

Fred McGoldrick is a consultant in nonproliferation and international nuclear cooperation. He served for 30 years in the U.S. government in a variety of positions, including director of the Office of Nonproliferation and Export Policy in the Department of State.


1. The term “dual use” refers to the transfer of certain equipment, materials, software, and related technology that could make a major contribution to a “nuclear explosive activity,” an “unsafeguarded nuclear fuel-cycle activity,” or acts of nuclear terrorism.

2. In 1974, India used plutonium produced in a research reactor supplied by Canada that used heavy water from the United States to detonate what New Delhi called a peaceful nuclear device. India had given Canada and the United States assurances that such equipment and material would be used only for peaceful purposes. Canada and the United States regarded this assurance as prohibiting the use of nuclear explosive devices. The Indian government took the position that there is a difference between a nuclear weapon and a so-called peaceful nuclear explosive.

3. IAEA, “Communication Received From Certain Member States Regarding Guidelines for the Export of Nuclear Material, Equipment or Technology,” INFCIRC/254, February 1978, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc254.shtml. For the current version of the guidelines, see IAEA, “Communication Received From the Permanent Mission of Brazil Regarding Certain Member States’ Guidelines for the Export of Nuclear Material, Equipment and Technology,” INFCIRC/254/Rev.9/Part 1, November 7, 2007, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2007/infcirc254r9p1.pdf.

4. NPT Article IV states:

1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.

2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.

5. For an example of a call to expel China, see Selig Harrison, “U.S. Fuels Dangerous Deal in Pakistan,” The Boston Globe, June 29, 2010.

6. In the mid-1990s, Russia planned to provide some enrichment assistance to Iran, but this effort was thwarted by U.S. intervention.

7. The resolution addresses items relating to weapons of mass destruction, calling on all states to put in place “appropriate effective measures to account for and secure” such items in production, use, storage, or transport and to “maintain appropriate effective physical protection measures” of these items.

8. Of the six enrichment technology holders, all except the Netherlands are members of the G-8.


Is Washington Prepared to Lead at the BWC Review Conference?

Jonathan B. Tucker

Roughly every five years since the entry into force in 1975 of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the member states have gathered in Geneva to review the implementation of the treaty, which bans the development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of infectious disease agents and natural poisons for hostile purposes. The purpose of the review process is to ensure that the goals of the BWC are being met, to examine the implications of scientific and technological advances, and to suggest improvements to the regime.

Although BWC review conferences tend to be low-profile events, British diplomat John Freeman has noted that “we ignore at our peril the role, importance, and potential of the review conference process for effective, ongoing treaty stewardship.”[1] Indeed, the seventh BWC review conference, scheduled for December 5-22, provides a timely opportunity to strengthen the convention and raise its political salience.

The BWC is one of the cornerstones of the nonproliferation regime, but for historical reasons, the treaty has a number of serious flaws: it lacks a secretariat or implementing body and provides no mechanisms for the systematic monitoring of implementation or compliance or for investigating alleged violations. Because of these weaknesses, the BWC failed to prevent the Soviet Union, apartheid-era South Africa, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from pursuing clandestine biological weapons programs and thus lost a good deal of credibility. Suspicions about noncompliance with the BWC persist today. In July 2010, the U.S. Department of State released an unclassified report to Congress noting that China and Russia have been less than forthcoming about their past biological weapons programs and alleging the possible existence of offensive biological activities in BWC states-parties Iran, North Korea, and Russia, and also in Syria, which has signed but not ratified the treaty.[2] Another shortcoming of the BWC is its lack of universality; it has only 163 member states, compared to 189 for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and 188 for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Maintaining the normative power of the BWC requires adaptation to the changing nature of the biological weapons threat. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent mailing of letters contaminated with anthrax bacterial spores, there has been a growing concern over bioterrorism. Although experts differ in assessing the likelihood that a terrorist group could carry out a mass-casualty biological attack, the relevant technologies are becoming increasingly accessible to those with malign intent. The BWC, however, covers nonstate actors only indirectly through national implementing measures such as penal legislation, which many member states have yet to adopt. Another worrisome possibility is that outlaw states, sophisticated terrorist groups, and malicious “biohackers” could exploit recent advances in the life sciences, such as the ability to synthesize lethal viruses from scratch, to wreak havoc on a large scale.[3] Unfortunately, awareness of dual-use risks on the part of the scientific community and efforts to manage such risks through regulation and other forms of governance lag far behind the pace of technological development.

For all of these reasons, this year’s BWC review conference comes at a critical time in the life of the 35-year-old regime. Over the next several months before the conference convenes in Geneva, informal consultations will take place in a number of forums. Preliminary discussions began on the margins of BWC-related meetings in Geneva in August and December 2010, and a preparatory committee will convene April 13-15 to finalize the conference agenda. The presidency of the review conference rotates among the regional groups, and it is now the turn of the Western Group, which has chosen Paul van den IJssel, the Dutch ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), for the post. He has characterized his approach to the BWC review process as “ambitious realism” and urged member states to suggest ideas in a timely manner, noting that “proposals have less chance of attracting consensus if their first international exposure is at the review conference itself.”[4] The White House has named Laura Kennedy, the U.S. permanent representative to the CD, as special representative for BWC issues, responsible for multilateral diplomacy related to the convention.[5]

Unlike the last BWC review conference in 2006, when the survival of the regime hung in the balance because of deep divisions among member states at the previous conference, the atmosphere surrounding the treaty has become less politicized and more cooperative. Even so, there are a number of complex, interrelated issues on which it will be difficult to forge a consensus. To a considerable extent, the success of the 2011 review conference will depend on constructive leadership from the United States after several years of paralysis and drift. Although the early indications are not encouraging that Washington will offer a bold and compelling package of initiatives to strengthen the BWC, there is still time to turn the situation around.

History of the BWC Review Process

Given the dynamic nature of the biological weapons threat, a key function of the five-year BWC review process is to keep the treaty relevant and updated, much as the U.S. Supreme Court interprets the Constitution so that it remains a living document. Past BWC review conferences have played an important role in clarifying ambiguities and gaps in the treaty text by adopting politically binding “common understandings” that clarify or extend the provisions of the convention without the need for formal amendments. At the 1996 review conference, for example, the member states agreed that the BWC implicitly prohibits the use of biological weapons even though the treaty text explicitly bans only their development, production, stockpiling, and transfer. Other understandings have clarified that the BWC covers all biological agents and toxins regardless of their method of production, including by chemical synthesis.

Past BWC review conferences also have reached agreement on politically binding measures to reinforce the goals of the treaty. The conferences in 1986 and 1991 created a confidence-building-measure mechanism that enables member states to exchange information relevant to the BWC on an annual basis, including data on unusual outbreaks of infectious disease, national biodefense programs, maximum-containment laboratories for research with the most deadly and incurable viruses, and human vaccine production facilities, which can be diverted easily to the production of biological warfare agents.[6] Because the BWC lacks formal verification measures, the 1991 review conference established a group of scientific and technical experts called VEREX to examine various approaches to monitoring compliance. The group’s final report in 1993 concluded that although no single measure was likely to detect the clandestine development or production of biological weapons, certain combinations of measures could increase confidence in compliance and help to deter violations.

In early 1995, in response to the VEREX report, the BWC member states launched the negotiation of a legally binding protocol to bolster the convention through the mandatory declaration and on-site inspection of relevant facilities. After six-and-a-half years of multilateral talks, the chairman circulated a compromise text of the BWC protocol in June 2001, but the new administration of U.S. President George W. Bush rejected the draft treaty on the grounds that it would do little to increase confidence in compliance and would be overly burdensome for U.S. biodefense efforts and the biotechnology industry. The United States then withdrew from the protocol negotiations, leading to their collapse.

At the 2001 BWC Review Conference, which convened a few months later, the Bush administration tried to dissolve the negotiating forum for the protocol, but a majority of member states demurred. In an effort to break the deadlock, the conference chairman, Hungarian diplomat Tibor Tóth, put the proceedings on hold for a year and engaged in informal negotiations with key countries. When the review conference resumed in late 2002, Tóth had worked out a compromise formula acceptable to all. It called for holding a series of annual meetings of experts and states-parties during the four-year period before the next review conference to “promote common understanding and effective action” on a variety of topics related to national implementation of the BWC and the prevention of bioterrorism. Although expectations for the intersessional process were low, it turned out to be surprisingly useful. The sharing of best practices among member states improved BWC implementation at the national level, while the annual meetings of experts raised the awareness of biosecurity issues in the scientific and medical communities.

After the vicissitudes of the BWC regime in 2001-2002, the next review conference in 2006 was a modest success. Under the skilled chairmanship of Ambassador Masood Khan, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN organizations in Geneva, the member states conducted an article-by-article review of the treaty, assessed relevant developments in science and technology, and agreed on a final document. The 2006 conference also renewed the intersessional work program for another four years and established a small Implementation Support Unit (ISU) for the BWC consisting of three full-time staff members at the UN Office at Geneva. The functions of the ISU are to provide administrative support, encourage additional countries to join the convention, serve as a clearinghouse for receiving and distributing the annual confidence-building data declarations, and facilitate contacts among member states, international organizations, and scientific and academic institutions. Although the mandate of the ISU is time limited and must be renewed in 2011, its creation was a small but significant step forward in strengthening the BWC. That success demonstrated that the level of cooperation among member states had improved since the acrimonious debates of 2001. Nevertheless, the 2006 review conference was able to reach consensus on a final document only by dropping contentious topics such as verification from the agenda.

Since 2001, partly in response to the failure of the BWC protocol negotiations, several international bodies and civil society organizations have established measures to strengthen biosecurity outside the treaty framework. Examples of such ad hoc initiatives include UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all UN member states to adopt national legislation to prevent bioterrorism; the guidelines for laboratory biological risk management developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Committee for Standardization, and other agencies; the law enforcement training programs coordinated by Interpol’s Bioterrorism Prevention Program; and the efforts by professional societies and the U.S. government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to raise the awareness of life scientists about the potential misuse of their research for hostile purposes. Each of these initiatives is useful, yet the diversity of measures and sponsors has tended to fragment the biological disarmament regime. Although the BWC provides the normative framework for all efforts to prevent the misuse of biology, the treaty itself requires strengthening to ensure that the member states remain committed to its goals and comply with its obligations.

Change and Continuity in U.S. Policy

The inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009 elicited a wave of optimism among arms control and disarmament advocates because he had called for greater multilateral engagement by the United States and had embraced the visionary goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Over the past two years, the president has made progress on his nuclear arms control agenda, including the negotiation and Senate approval of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the convening of the nuclear security summit in 2010. At the same time, the administration has assigned a lower priority to biological and chemical disarmament, as reflected by the long delay in naming a U.S. ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. This lack of attention has resulted from the ambitious nuclear agenda and the fact that the senior arms control officials in the Obama administration are all nuclear experts with little knowledge of biological and chemical weapons issues.

To date, the sole U.S. initiative in the field of biological arms control has been the development of the “National Strategy to Counter Biological Threats,” which was released in December 2009.[7] This strategy document sets out a broad road map for administration policy and is likely to provide the basis for U.S. positions at the 2011 review conference. Unfortunately, the measures the document proposes to strengthen the biological disarmament regime are conceptually flawed or too weak to make much of a difference.[8]

The main thrust of the U.S. strategy document is that biological risks comprise a spectrum of hazards including natural outbreaks of infectious disease, accidental releases of dangerous pathogens from research laboratories, and the deliberate use of biological agents as a military or terrorist weapon. Because these various risks are interrelated, it makes sense to combat them in an integrated manner through systems for infectious disease surveillance and response. Traditionally, the WHO has covered natural disease outbreaks and laboratory accidents, while the BWC process has focused on deliberate releases by states or terrorist groups. The Obama administration, however, has proposed integrating public health and national security across the spectrum of biological risks by using the BWC framework to help implement the revised International Health Regulations (IHR), a set of binding rules that was adopted in 2005 by the 193 member states of the WHO and entered into force in 2007.

The 2005 revision of the IHR requires countries to detect and report a “public health emergency of international concern,” such as an epidemic with the potential to spread beyond national borders. To satisfy this requirement, each WHO member state must strengthen its national capabilities for infectious disease surveillance, reporting, and response. Although the WHO has the lead role in implementing the health regulations, the United States has called for using the resources of national security agencies to support capacity building in this area. The departments of State and Defense, for example, have incorporated assistance for disease surveillance into their biological threat reduction programs. At the December 2010 intersessional meeting of BWC states-parties, Kennedy defended this approach. “The U.S. believes…that biological weapons attacks are not always readily identified as attacks, and that effective detection and response to an attack are only possible if there is an effective public health response,” she said. “We should not seek to replace the WHO or the World Organization for Animal Health, but we do need to ensure that their efforts are supported, and that they are integrated seamlessly into a larger response framework that includes the scientific, law enforcement, and national security communities.”[9]

Because the WHO is doing a creditable job of leading efforts to implement the revised IHR with the assistance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, what is the benefit of pursuing parallel efforts under the aegis of the BWC? The chief rationale for reframing natural outbreaks from a humanitarian concern to a national security threat is that it will generate more financial assistance for disease surveillance efforts. Although additional funding would be desirable if there were no strings attached, that outcome cannot be guaranteed. Indeed, treating public health as an instrument of national security could end up giving greater priority to infectious diseases that the developed world considers threatening because of their potential for rapid spread or suitability for use in bioterrorist attacks, at the expense of combating endemic diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria that impose a major health burden on developing countries but are not amenable to weaponization. Conversely, making disease surveillance the centerpiece of efforts to strengthen the BWC would distract attention from the main challenge facing the treaty regime, namely ensuring that the member states comply with their obligations not to acquire or proliferate biological weapons. For these reasons, the Obama administration’s focus on IHR implementation as a vehicle to promote the goals of the BWC could prove counterproductive for the treaty and for international health.

Another challenge facing the 2011 review conference is that the issue of monitoring compliance with the BWC remains highly divisive. A deep split persists between countries that wish to pursue some sort of legally binding verification regime and those opposed to this approach. The U.S. strategy document takes a clear stand against formal verification measures by endorsing the decision of the Bush administration in 2001 to reject the draft BWC protocol and withdraw from the negotiations. In December 2009, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher told a meeting of BWC member states that “a legally binding protocol would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security.”[10] In defending this position, she argued that biological verification is “extraordinarily difficult” because of the dual-use nature of biotechnology equipment and materials and the ease with which offensive development and production can be concealed under the cover of legitimate activities. Moreover, Tauscher said, a treaty-based regime “would not be able to keep pace with the rapidly changing nature of the biological weapons threat.”

Continued U.S. opposition to a formal verification regime for the BWC is expected at the 2011 review conference. According to a State Department official, “We don’t think the approach embodied in the BWC protocol would have worked, and we have yet to see a model for an international agreement that would, particularly now that nonstate actors are an important part of the threat matrix.”[11] The U.S. official also claimed that most BWC member states have accepted the fact that reviving the protocol negotiations is unrealistic and are prepared to move forward with practical, voluntary measures to increase transparency and promote confidence in compliance. This assessment underestimates the continued support for verification provisions on the part of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) group of countries, Russia, and the European Union. At the BWC experts meeting in August 2010, Belgium, speaking on behalf of the EU, reiterated its commitment to “identifying effective mechanisms to strengthen and verify compliance with the Convention.” Although the EU countries do not intend to cause a schism within the Western Group by pushing for an immediate return to the negotiating table, they will not abandon their principled support of a verification system for the BWC. The only way for the United States to persuade them otherwise is to propose an ambitious package of alternative measures that can achieve the same objective.

Instead of setting out such a proposal, the U.S. strategy document offers fairly thin gruel. It stresses the normative value of the BWC as a “uniquely important venue” for international outreach and engagement in countering the full range of biological threats, and emphasizes oversight mechanisms to manage the risks of dual-use materials, equipment, and know-how, with the aim of making the life sciences enterprise more proliferation resistant. The document also calls for voluntary transparency measures to build confidence that member states are meeting their BWC obligations, along with greater use of bilateral diplomacy to address compliance concerns—for example, under Article V of the convention, which empowers member states to engage in consultations to clarify ambiguities and resolve suspected violations.

Despite the emphasis on transparency in the U.S. strategy document, Washington has taken only baby steps to increase the openness of its own vast biodefense program, such as posting most of its 2010 confidence-building declaration on the public part of the ISU Web site. (Due to bioterrorism concerns, several pages of sensitive information, such as the specific agents under study at various U.S. biodefense laboratories, were released to BWC member states but deleted from the public version of the declaration.) At the same time, the United States has shown no inclination to pursue more-ambitious transparency measures that would set a compelling example for other countries, such as minimizing classified “biological threat characterization” research at the National Biodefense Analysis and CountermeasuresCenter at FortDetrick in Maryland. The secrecy surrounding the center and other U.S. biodefense laboratories has provoked unfounded suspicions of illicit offensive activities and spurred other countries to expand their own biodefense programs, further undermining mutual confidence.[12] Another way for Washington to demonstrate its good intentions would be to hold “open houses” for foreign delegations and the international press corps at major biodefense research centers, such as the National Inter-Agency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

The emphasis in the U.S. strategy document on secret bilateral diplomacy to address BWC compliance concerns also is inconsistent with Washington’s call for greater transparency and with the multilateral nature of the treaty. To the extent that bilateral consultations can help to resolve ambiguities about compliance, procedures should be developed to notify all member states about the results. Also missing from the strategy document is any mention of the multilateral dimension of Article V, namely the option to request a formal consultative meeting of states-parties to address a specific compliance concern. This mechanism, which was developed over a series of BWC review conferences, has been used only once. In 1997 the government of Cuba requested a formal consultative meeting to address its allegation that on October 21, 1996, a U.S. government crop-dusting aircraft that overflew the island en route to a coca-eradication program in Colombia had released a devastating insect pest called Thrips palmi over Cuba in a scheme to cripple its agricultural economy.

During the formal consultative meeting, Cuba presented evidence to support its claim of a U.S. biological attack, while the United States countered that the Thrips infestation had spread naturally from nearby countries. Of the BWC member states that submitted written observations on the Cuban allegation and the U.S. rebuttal, eight countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, and New Zealand) saw no causal link between the U.S. overflight of Cuba and the Thrips infestation; China and Vietnam found the available evidence insufficient to make a determination; and only North Korea believed that the United States was culpable. Although the formal consultative meeting failed to reach a consensus judgment, it involved a useful process of fact-finding and deliberation that effectively debunked the Cuban allegations.

Since 1997 no effort has been made to update the multilateral consultative mechanism under Article V or to use it to address BWC compliance concerns, such as those mentioned in the recent State Department report to Congress. At the 2011 review conference, the member states should discuss the lessons learned from the Thrips palmi incident and refine the multilateral consultative process so that it can be used more effectively in the future. In sum, if Washington wishes to forestall efforts to revive the BWC protocol negotiations, it will need to offer more compelling alternatives for promoting compliance than it has so far.

Other Topics for the Conference

Article XII of the BWC specifies only two requirements for the review conference: it must review the operation of the convention over the previous five years and assess the implications for the regime of recent advances in science and technology. Although the agenda of the 2011 review conference has not been agreed, the following additional topics are likely to be addressed.

Future of the ISU. The 2011 review conference has been tasked with evaluating the performance of the ISU and deciding whether to renew its mandate. Because the work of the three-person unit is widely respected, its continued existence is not in doubt. (Thanks to assistance and encouragement from the ISU, 70 countries submitted confidence-building data declarations in 2010, the highest number of returns in any single year.) The main issues for debate are whether the ISU should be made permanent or its mandate merely extended for another fixed period, and whether its staff, budget, and responsibilities should be increased. Although the Obama administration is more open than its predecessor to a modest expansion of the ISU, it is not yet clear what level of growth will win consensus support.

Renewal of the intersessional process. The review conference will decide whether to extend the intersessional work program and, if so, what its composition should be. Over the past eight years, the annual meetings of experts and states-parties have repeatedly addressed the same set of topics, dealing mainly with national implementation of the BWC and voluntary measures to prevent bioterrorism. Now that these topics have been exhausted, the intersessional process as currently structured has reached the end of its useful life, and the format and content of the annual meetings will have to be rethought.

With respect to format, instead of separate one-week meetings each year of scientific experts and states-parties, it would make sense for the two groups to meet together for two weeks so that the diplomats can gain a better understanding of the technical challenges facing the BWC. In addition, the current rules limit the annual meetings to exchanges of information, a constraint that many countries consider overly restrictive. Possible changes to the intersessional process include allowing the discussion of key topics to continue from one year to the next, creating standing working groups to deal with specific issues, and giving the annual meetings the authority to make collective decisions and adopt common understandings that clarify aspects of the BWC.

With respect to the content of the intersessional process, the United Kingdom has proposed that the next work program include efforts to review and discuss the confidence-building declarations submitted by member states. Another option is to focus some of the annual meetings on advances in science and technology, which are moving so fast that they warrant consideration more frequently than at five-year intervals. One example of a technological development with important implications for the BWC is the convergence of biological and chemical production methods, including the automated chemical synthesis of DNA and proteins.[13] In addition to the implications of scientific advances for the biological threat, the intersessional work program could examine ways in which emerging biotechnologies might be applied in the future to help monitor compliance with the BWC. The emerging field of microbial forensics, for example, has potential applications in this area.[14]

Confidence-building-measure declarations. A topic likely to be raised at the 2011 review conference is how to revise the annual confidence-building declaration formats, which have not been updated since 1991, to make them more informative and easier to submit in electronic form. Because the annual exchange of information is politically but not legally binding, fewer than one-half of the BWC states parties currently participate on a regular basis. In 2010, for example, 70 member states (43 percent) submitted confidence-building declarations that were released to the other states-parties,[15] and 12 posted their returns on the open portion of the ISU Web site, making them available to the public as well.[16] An improved set of electronic declaration formats, simplified and designed for easy use, would encourage greater participation and provide a useful point of departure for consultations under Article V to address gaps or ambiguities in the submitted data. In addition, Canada has proposed that the returns be translated into the six official UN languages to make them more accessible.

Article X on cooperation and assistance. A highly divisive issue that will be difficult to resolve at the 2011 review conference is the implementation of Article X of the BWC, which calls for international cooperation in the use of biotechnology for peaceful purposes, including transfers of relevant equipment, materials, and know-how. Some NAM members, such as Cuba, Iran, and Pakistan, have long called for dismantling the export controls on dual-use biotechnologies coordinated by an informal forum of 41 like-minded countries called the Australia Group, on the grounds that restricting trade with certain BWC member states is discriminatory. In 2009, Cuba called for the establishment of a formal mechanism to implement Article X, such as a “cooperation committee” that would review and adjudicate technology-transfer requests.[17] The United States and other members of the Australia Group strongly oppose this idea because of the risk that transferred equipment and materials could be diverted for prohibited purposes; instead the Australia Group countries want to restrict international cooperation under Article X to less sensitive areas, such as capacity-building for disease surveillance and response. At present, it is unclear if a broadly acceptable approach to implementing Article X can be worked out—perhaps along the lines of the “comprehensive action plan,” combining elements of proposed action plans on national implementation and Article X implementation, that was discussed but ultimately not adopted at the 2006 review conference.

UN secretary-general’s investigation mechanism. Pursuant to a series of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions during the 1980s, any UN member state may request that the secretary-general launch a field investigation of an alleged use of chemical, biological, or toxin weapons or a suspicious outbreak of disease. Between 1980 and 1992, UN expert teams investigated incidents of alleged chemical or toxin weapons use in Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Mozambique, and some of these missions yielded clear-cut positive or negative findings.[18] Because the CWC includes a mechanism for investigating the alleged use of chemical arms, the secretary-general’s mechanism would be activated only in cases involving biological weapons. Recently, a debate has emerged over the relationship between the secretary-general’s mechanism and the BWC. China contends any investigation of alleged biological weapons use should be conducted under the auspices of the Security Council, as provided for in Article VI of the BWC, rather than through the secretary-general’s mechanism. Yet, because any of the five permanent members of the Security Council (including China) can veto an investigation under Article VI, many other states oppose the Chinese position.Universality. Another topic likely to be raised at the review conference is how to achieve greater adherence to the BWC, which, with only 163 states-parties, lags far behind the CWC and the NPT. Under the European Union Joint Action in Support of the Biological Weapons Convention, the EU states have issued démarches (formal diplomatic messages) to countries that remain outside the BWC, urging them to ratify or accede to the convention. Although this effort has persuaded eight additional countries to join since the end of 2006, it has yielded diminishing returns, with no new member states in 2010. To enhance the political weight and credibility of the démarches, non-Western countries will need to participate.


The forthcoming BWC review conference provides an important opportunity to consolidate the political gains made at the previous conference in 2006 and the subsequent four years of intersessional meetings. Nevertheless, if Washington wants to play a leadership role in revitalizing the biological disarmament regime, it will need to offer bolder, more ambitious measures to increase transparency and build confidence in compliance than those set out in its 2009 strategy document. Such a package might contain the following elements:

• Develop a plan to expand and strengthen the ISU so that it can play a more effective coordination and support role in the implementation of the BWC.

• Propose far-reaching transparency measures to build confidence in BWC compliance, such as “open houses” for foreign delegations and the international press corps at major U.S. biodefense facilities, and the minimization of classified biological threat characterization research.

• Make efforts to regularize and strengthen the bilateral and multilateral consultative mechanisms under Article V of the BWC, including the use of confidence-building declarations and open-source information to clarify ambiguities and resolve compliance concerns.

• Renew the intersessional work program with a new set of topics and formats, including an assessment of how advanced biotechnologies could contribute to a future mechanism for monitoring BWC compliance.

The 2011 review conference provides a rare opportunity to strengthen the BWC at a time when rapid scientific and technological advances threaten to undermine the regime. Given the dramatic improvement since 2001 in the level of cooperation among member states, the time is ripe for a thorough review and revitalization of the convention. This opportunity could easily be lost, however, unless the United States is prepared to play a leadership role by proposing an innovative package of strengthening measures and working hard to build an international consensus behind them.

Jonathan B. Tucker is the Georg Zundel Professor of Science and Technology for Peace and Security at Darmstadt University of Technology near Frankfurt, Germany, and a member of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association. In 2008 he served on the professional staff of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.


1. John Freeman, “The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Process: What More Can It Contribute?” CBW Conventions Bulletin, Nos. 69-70 (September-December 2005), p. 4.

2. U.S. Department of State, “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” July 2010, pp. 10-26.

3. Jonathan B. Tucker and Raymond A. Zilinskas, “The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology,” The New Atlantis, No. 12 (Spring 2006), pp. 25-45, www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/12/tuckerzilinskas.htm.

4. Richard Guthrie, “The Second Day: Review Conference Preparations,” MSP Report, No. 3 (December 8, 2010), available on the BioWeapons Prevention Project Web site at http://www.bwpp.org.

5. U.S. Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, “Ambassador Laura Kennedy Named U.S. Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) Issues,” December 3, 2010.

6. The annual confidence-building measure data declaration forms cover the following topics: (A-1) maximum-containment laboratories that work with the most deadly and incurable pathogens; (A-2) national biodefense research and development programs; (B) unusual outbreaks of infectious disease and similar occurrences caused by toxins; (C) publication of research on dangerous pathogens; (D) active promotion of contacts between scientists; (E) legislation, regulations, and other measures taken to implement the BWC; (F) declaration of past offensive and defensive activities related to biological and toxin weapons since 1946; and (G) production facilities for human vaccines.

7. National Security Council, “National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats,” November 2009.

8. Jonathan B. Tucker, “Seeking Biosecurity Without Verification: The New U.S. Strategy on Biothreats,” Arms Control Today, Vol. 40, No. 1 (January/February 2010), pp. 8-14.

9. Laura Kennedy, “U.S. Statement at the Annual Meeting of States Parties of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention,” Geneva, December 6, 2010, p. 1.

10. Ellen O. Tauscher, “Address to the Annual Meeting of the States Parties to the Biological Convention,” Geneva, December 9, 2009, p. 4.

11. U.S. State Department official, e-mail communication with author, October 22, 2010.

12. Joby Warrick, “The Secretive Fight Against Bioterror,” The Washington Post, July 30, 2006, p. A1.

13. Jonathan B. Tucker, “The Convergence of Biology and Chemistry: Implications for Arms Control Verification,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 66, No. 6 (November/December 2010), pp. 56-66.

14. Jonathan B. Tucker and Gregory D. Koblentz, “The Four Faces of Microbial Forensics,” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, Vol. 7, No. 4 (December 2009), pp. 389-397.

15. The 70 BWC member states that submitted confidence-building data declarations in 2010 are listed at www.unog.ch/__80256ee600585943.nsf/%28httpPages%29/fa4da37a55c7966c12575780055d9e8?OpenDocument&ExpandSection=24#_Section24.

16. The 12 countries that published their confidence-building declarations on the public part of the ISU Web site in 2010 were Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

17. Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bateriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, “The Establishment of a Mechanism for the Full Implementation of Article X of the Convention,” BWC/MSP/2009/MX/WP.24, August 25, 2009 (submitted by Cuba on behalf of NAM and other states-parties).

18. Jonathan B. Tucker, “Multilateral Approaches to the Investigation and Attribution of Biological and Toxin Weapons Use,” in Terrorism, War, or Disease? Unraveling the Use of Biological Weapons, ed. Anne L. Clunan, Peter R. Lavoy, and Susan B. Martin (Stanford, CA: StanfordUniversity Press, 2008), pp. 269-292.


Adapting to the Times: The Evolution of U.S. Threat Reduction Programs

Bonnie Jenkins

U.S. threat reduction efforts, which originated in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union, have aimed to prevent the spread of Soviet-era weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their associated material and know-how through a variety of efforts, including weapons dismantlement, fissile material control, and scientist redirection. Historically, these efforts have rested heavily on building personal relationships with scientists and institutional leaders.

In the future, however, efforts should focus increasingly on engaging countries as global partners in security dialogues that may be different from those in the past while building on the many lessons learned. Many countries around the world are facing unique challenges and are at the nexus of transnational terrorist threats, biosciences capacity building, infectious disease epidemics, and WMD-usable materials and expertise.

The evolving Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs need to be nimble, culturally sensitive, able to respond quickly, and capable of engaging with countries that are at the front lines of this new threat landscape. As the tools employed to combat new global threats mature, the United States and its partners must continually assess and evaluate the strategies that will lead to a stable, sustainable international CTR framework. The continued success of threat reduction programs hinges on their ability to adapt to emerging threats beyond Russia and the other former Soviet states.

In general, there should be an increase in outreach to countries across the globe—for example in Africa, where the United States is increasingly interested in being engaged and has begun initial activities. This article addresses some of the particular challenges and opportunities for future CTR activity there and elsewhere. It also describes the potential new partnerships, engagements, and relationship building that may be developed through joint efforts to address today’s threats to global security.

As the original CTR programs approach the end of their second decade of work, there is a growing recognition that today’s threats are more global. Yet, these threats are decentralized at times, and they do not emanate from states alone. Threat reduction programs increasingly must acknowledge that WMD terrorism and proliferation can occur anywhere.

An example of the global scope of programs today is the important effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material and to do so in a manner that engages the entire international community. This effort was the focus of the nuclear security summit in Washington in April 2010.[1]

As CTR programs move into other parts of the world, they must be built on approaches that address the more dispersed nature of the threat. The unique situation of potential partners, including recognition of the cultural diversity of those partners, must inform the threat reduction strategy used in particular countries and regions. This situation also requires an understanding of the different perceptions of threats held by citizens, including government officials, in other regions of the world and of how the United States can work with them on addressing their threat perception as well as its own.

Combating Nuclear Terrorism

One initiative that is engaging Africa is the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). The threat of nuclear terrorism, as highlighted during the nuclear security summit, is a global threat. Recognizing all states’ shared responsibility for preventing acts of nuclear terrorism, the United States and Russia launched the GICNT in order to build international collaboration to address all facets of the nuclear terrorism threat. The initiative strengthens international security through building the capacity of nations to combat the threat in all regions of the world, including Africa. It is an international partnership of 82 countries and four official observers committed to achieving a broad set of nuclear security objectives, including improving nuclear detection, strengthening nuclear forensics, and denying safe haven and financing to terrorists that may seek to acquire nuclear or radiological materials. Since it was launched in 2006, the GICNT has conducted more than 40 multilateral activities and exercises as well as six senior-level meetings, resulting in strengthened policies, greater information-sharing techniques, and greater transparency and collaboration on security issues among the partner nations.

In Africa, the GICNT has worked with countries to highlight the dangers of nuclear terrorism for all states. The United States welcomes the involvement of Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, the Seychelles, and Zambia in the GICNT, but seeks the involvement of other African nations as well. Morocco is hosting a GICNT exercise on countering radiological threats in March, but unfortunately, Africa remains relatively underrepresented in the GICNT.

One of the reasons cited by some African states for nonparticipation is that they do not perceive nuclear terrorism as a direct threat to their interests. The United States hopes this view will change in the aftermath of last year’s nuclear security summit and other related international efforts. Regardless of whether African countries possess fissile material, terrorists can exploit them as transit points for trafficking of illicit nuclear material, rely on brokers and intermediaries in Africa for resources or information, or use nuclear or radiological devices in Africa. Moreover, individuals seeking financing for nuclear terrorism are not confined by any geographical boundaries.

Participation in the GICNT can help develop African countries’ capacities that will bolster their efforts in areas beyond countering nuclear terrorism. For example, lessons learned from GICNT exercises could enhance customs and border controls. Through participation in the GICNT, African governments can increase capacity building and networking. More of these expanded opportunities also are available through participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

Border Security a Priority

Another program that the United States is increasingly pursuing in regions around the world is the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program. The EXBS program is the U.S. government’s premier initiative to assist other countries in improving their border and strategic trade control systems, which are crucial in efforts to counter trade of illicit goods and secure all loose nuclear materials.

Through the EXBS program, the United States seeks to prevent WMD proliferation and irresponsible transfers of advanced conventional weapons by helping build effective national control systems over the export, import, transit, and transshipment of strategic items in countries that possess, produce, or supply such items. It will continue to expand its partnerships, including in Africa where the transit of weapons of mass destruction and fissile materials is of concern. As these efforts expand into new regions, including Africa, they must be modified to leverage U.S. national security assistance funds to meet regional needs. For example, in addition to building capacity to prevent trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, the EXBS program can help African partner governments more effectively prevent and respond to the trafficking of drugs, humans, and small arms—issues of central importance to many African countries.

Although the EXBS program originally focused on the former Soviet Union, it is now active in more than 60 countries worldwide with 21 full-time advisers assigned to posts to supply on-the-ground coordination. The program provides approximately 300 training sessions each year and has donated nearly $170 million in inspection and detection equipment since 1998. EXBS officers assess countries’ capacities and provide extensive training on export control legislation, licensing, enforcement, government-industry outreach, and interagency cooperation to parliamentarians, senior government officials, the judiciary, and frontline licensing and enforcement personnel.

In Africa, for example, the EXBS program hopes to partner with one of the countries with more-advanced strategic trade controls in encouraging and supporting the country’s role in mentoring like-minded African states. Given that many of the countries in Africa are at similar stages with respect to strategic trade controls and share concerns about development and competitiveness, the EXBS program plans to conduct more regional activities to help build productive relationships among neighboring countries. Such relationships would leverage limited resources and promote multilateral progress toward international standards and best practices that recognize common interests and responsibilities.

The EXBS program recently completed a study that found that the implementation of a strategic trade control system helps a country’s export growth—a notable finding that contradicts a widely held perception. The establishment of strategic trade control systems also is linked explicitly to high-tech development within a country.

Partnerships in Africa

The PSI is another relatively new global initiative to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, WMD-related components, and their means of delivery. Begun in 2003 with 11 like-minded countries, the PSI has grown to include 98 partner nations. It is structured as a collaborative effort to halt WMD trafficking by states and nonstate actors of proliferation concern and uses an innovative and proactive approach to preventing proliferation. It relies on voluntary actions that are consistent with states’ national legal authorities and relevant international law and frameworks. PSI partners meet regularly in the context of exercises, expert meetings, and plenary sessions designed to share, develop, and test cooperative procedures that significantly enhance participants’ interdiction capabilities.

To date, only Angola, Djibouti, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia are PSI partners from Africa, but the contribution of PSI partners in Africa should not be overlooked. For example, in 2008, Djibouti co-hosted with France a major maritime and port interdiction exercise involving Red Sea and Maghreb countries. Liberia oversees a significant ship registry, and in 2004 the United States and Liberia entered into a bilateral ship-boarding agreement. This agreement provides the modalities for the United States and Liberia to cooperate on preventing shipments of items of proliferation concern aboard Liberian-flagged vessels.

The United States will continue to engage key states in Africa to endorse the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles. Participation in the PSI by African states not only can prevent the exploitation of strategic shipping lanes by proliferators, but also can help African nations develop greater capacity to prevent the illicit trafficking of items of proliferation concern and related items.

The Group of Eight (G-8) Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction is another initiative that should continue to consider greater participation of additional partners, including on the African continent. The Global Partnership is a 10-year, $20 billion initiative launched at the G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Canada, in 2002 with the aim of preventing terrorists and states from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction. There are currently 23 partners in the Global Partnership, including the European Union. They collectively have allocated more than $18 billion since 2002, and the effort is expected to exceed the original $20 billion by 2012. Future efforts to be counted under the Global Partnership financial commitments by its members would include biosecurity, nuclear and radiological security, scientist engagement, and capacity-building measures, such as export controls and those captured in UN Security Council Resolution 1540. The Global Partnership is a successful initiative, and the United States is promoting its extension beyond 2012.

Currently the partnership has no partner nations in Africa, Latin America, or the Middle East. Because it is a mechanism that can provide an understanding of the funding countries are putting toward threat reduction efforts, countries that fund this type of work but are not within the Global Partnership today should be included. Regardless of how much funding a country puts toward these efforts, the provision of technical expertise to help develop capacity in partner countries also could go a long way in advancing nonproliferation objectives. Regional perspectives can help enrich donor country planning and coordination. The Global Partnership provides an excellent means for coordination of global threat reduction activities, which can be extended to regions not yet represented.

In terms of global multilateral backing for threat reduction activities, perhaps the most recent, widely recognized, and potentially impactful CTR-related efforts are those that are mandated through UN Security Council resolutions, whose obligations apply to all UN members.

In April 2004, the UN Security Council adopted its most far-reaching resolution to date on WMD nonproliferation. Resolution 1540 established binding obligations on all UN member states under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to take and enforce effective measures against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and related materials. If fully implemented, the resolution can help ensure that no state or nonstate actor is a source or beneficiary of WMD proliferation.[2]

In an effort to increase attention to Resolution 1540 in Africa, in 2010 the United States partnered with the United Nations and the Kenyan government to bring together 20 states and national science academies for a workshop on implementing Resolution 1540 to protect Africa from bio-threats. The workshop focused on national pathogen security measures, national and regional integrated infectious-disease surveillance and response systems, and efficient laboratory practices for accounting, securing, and protecting biological materials as required by the resolution. Participants discussed concepts of biosecurity and biosafety in detail, as well as means to improve their implementation in the context of fulfilling their national obligations under the resolution.

Similar types of workshops and meetings have taken place in other regions, such as in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Also, there have been Resolution 1540 outreach activities in other forums, such as the G-8, and one is planned for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Fighting Smuggling

The State Department’s Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative (NSOI) is partnering with key governments to enhance their capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond effectively to nuclear smuggling attempts. It is developing bilateral joint action plans with the governments, specifying priority steps to be taken to improve those capabilities, and working with the international community of donors to provide and coordinate assistance to these countries to support implementation of the plans.

In Africa, the NSOI has engaged the government of Congo. To date, this engagement has been fruitful. Representatives of Congo have been open in exchanging views on their capabilities and needs, and they have been enthusiastic about collaborating with the NSOI and its international partners to address those needs. Through a series of meetings, the NSOI and Congo have developed and approved a joint action plan, which was signed on December 21, 2010, as well as a list of assistance projects to help Congo implement that plan. Implementation of similar joint action plans in other countries has produced tangible improvements in the physical protection of nuclear and highly radioactive materials; in nuclear regulatory systems and export controls; in security at airports, seaports, and land border crossings; in laws to combat nuclear smuggling; in national plans and capabilities to respond to smuggling incidents; and in other key capabilities. The United States anticipates that its partnership with Congo will produce similar benefits.

Because of the sensitive nature of nuclear security, many countries, including some in Africa, are reluctant to discuss their capabilities and needs in this area. Nevertheless, through its engagement process, the NSOI has been able to allay many of those concerns and develop strong relationships with its partner countries. Looking to the future, the NSOI hopes to use its successful track record in Congo and elsewhere to persuade other countries in Africa to join its set of partnerships to combat nuclear smuggling.[3]

The State Department’s Partnership for Nuclear Security (PNS) program provides technical and financial assistance to engage nuclear scientists, engineers, and technicians to improve nuclear security best practices and support the development of a security culture. The PNS currently is engaged with nuclear technical experts from the Middle East and North Africa through regional and bilateral activities. The PNS recently conducted a workshop on developing a civil nuclear power workforce in Egypt, which discussed human capacity development and the steps necessary to build a nuclear workforce consistent with the highest standards of nuclear security, safety, and related nonproliferation objectives. Additionally, the PNS supports collaborative research projects, including one on nuclear analytical techniques and another on medical isotope production in Morocco. It also provides opportunities for professional training and travel grants for experts to attend international meetings.

The U.S. effort goes beyond nuclear scientists. The State Department’s Chemical Security Program seeks to reduce the global threat of chemical terrorism by preventing access to weapons, their precursors, and dual-use infrastructure and expertise. It has partnered with the National Research Council and an international panel of chemical industry, academic, and pedagogy experts to create a chemical safety and security teaching manual and tool kit to be used by chemists worldwide. These tools are available in four languages and form the backbone of a global Chemical Safety and Security Officer Train-the-Trainer program. The program currently is working with 15 countries, recently expanded to include North Africa, and is examining ways to engage sub-Saharan Africa effectively.

The Energy Department in Africa

The Department of Energy is continuing its current CTR efforts and its activities beyond Russia and the former Soviet Union. Given its unique assets, including the world-class scientists resident at its national laboratories and their years of experience on the front lines in implementing CTR programs, the Energy Department helps lead the way in implementing CTR on a global basis. The department expends a great deal of funding in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, for example and is critical to U.S. border security, Second Line of Defense (SLD), and scientist engagement efforts.[4]

Specifically, in coordination with the EXBS program, the Energy Department’s International Nonproliferation Export Control Program (INECP) collaborates globally to strengthen efforts to prevent illicit transfers of materials, equipment, and technology related to weapons of mass destruction. The INECP establishes long-term partnerships with national experts and on-the-ground practitioners who support national export control licensing, industry compliance, and inspections-based enforcement practices. The INECP’s current capacity-building efforts in Africa primarily focus on the enforcement arena, aiming to improve capacity to interdict illicit proliferation-sensitive transfers. Additionally, the INECP’s Counter-Trafficking System Development (CTSD) program works with countries seeking to improve border security systems, imparting the tools needed to identify and integrate viable border security system improvements and establishing a foundation for other U.S. government programs to provide more technically difficult WMD-related detection assistance. In Africa, the CTSD program is focusing initial outreach in the East and West African subregions.

In addition, the Energy Department’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which is currently active in 90 countries, helps reduce the threat posed by the proliferation of sensitive nuclear materials and high-risk radiological materials through cooperation with international partners to identify, protect, or remove the material. Other work includes converting research reactors or other civilian facilities that use highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU). The program seeks to eliminate HEU as a terrorist target.

In Africa, nuclear material and high-activity radioactive sources are used for a variety of purposes in agriculture (e.g., irradiators to preserve the shelf life of seeds) and in research reactors for training, assaying minerals, producing medical isotopes, and conducting basic science. South Africa, arguably the most advanced country in Africa in the use of nuclear energy and technology, finished converting its Safari I reactor to LEU fuel several years ago and has begun conversion of its molybdenum-99 medical-isotope production process to use LEU targets. On December 6, 2010, the first commercial shipment of all-LEU-produced molybdenum-99 arrived in the United States from South Africa.

The GTRI continues to work cooperatively with a number of countries to protect or remove other nuclear and radioactive material of concern. Currently, the Energy Department is working on radiological protection and recovery in 100 commercial and industrial facilities in Africa. This includes work in 17 African countries, and work is expected in 26 additional countries.[5] Particular challenges of the region include some cases of insufficient infrastructure to maintain security systems at peak performance.

Nevertheless, the GTRI is able to offer certain technological incentives and, in most cases, fully covers the costs of security upgrades and material shipments, as well as state-of-the art equipment for such efforts. The Energy Department also is cooperating with several African nations on the SLD program’s Megaports Initiative. That initiative aims to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in special nuclear and other radioactive materials transiting the global maritime shipping system. Under the initiative, the Energy Department provides radiation detection equipment, training, and technical support to key international seaports to scan cargo containers for nuclear and other radioactive materials. The goal of the initiative is to scan as many containers as possible, including imports, exports, and transshipments, regardless of destination and with minimal impact on port operations.

Overall, the Megaports Initiative has installed equipment at 34 ports around the world. In Africa alone, the initiative is close to completing installations in Kenya and Djibouti and will begin implementation in Cameroon soon. In addition, outreach is underway in several other countries in the region. Through the initiative, the Energy Department promotes capacity building, enhances global supply chain security, fosters a culture of radiation safety and protection, and strengthens nuclear security. Thus, increased emphasis in Africa will be a priority for the program in the coming year.

Health and Human Security

Nowhere in the world is the nexus between health needs and human security more complex than in Africa. African countries contend not only with a host of highly virulent and debilitating diseases that affect their livestock and citizens, but also with a variety of governance, infrastructure, and security challenges. Many of the materials, technologies, and expertise widely available to animal and public health services could be misused to produce a biological weapon. Expanding bioscience capacity has multiplied the risk, as more scientists work with pathogens in low-resource health networks. Increasing numbers of often-unsecured pathogen collections, the proliferation of laboratories, and the lack of expertise in bio-risk management best practices add to the potential for intentional misuse or accidental release of biological agents.[6] Essential program elements in this region include ensuring that the African Biological Safety Association serves as a centralized regional resource for laboratory biosafety and biosecurity, improving data sharing between human- and animal-health professionals, enhancing laboratory diagnostic support for early detection and response to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, and raising awareness regarding laboratory biosafety and biosecurity best practices, including the generation of standard operating procedures.

In December 2009, the United States released the “National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats,” which is the guiding principle of the U.S. approach to combating bioterrorism. In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama highlighted this “new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease.”[7]

The State Department’s Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP) promotes the national strategy by enhancing bio-risk management and infectious disease surveillance globally and has deepened its engagement in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and South Africa. It also has launched new efforts in areas where the terrorist threat and emerging infectious-disease burden are highest, including West Africa and the CongoBasin.

The BEP has worked closely with the Department of Defense’s CTR program, which has expanded the scope of its programming beyond the former Soviet Union into Pakistan and Afghanistan and will soon begin activities in East Africa. To plan for new CTR activities in Africa, the expanded partnership between the BEP and Defense Department CTR program has included several joint scoping trips to Kenya and Uganda, which have allowed the BEP and Defense Department CTR program to develop complementary and harmonized efforts that are closely aligned with host nation priorities. The focus of CTR efforts in East Africa is enhancing pathogen security, expanding infectious disease surveillance in compliance with World Health Organization and World Organization for Animal Health statutes and guidelines, and supporting joint scientific research that is safe, secure, and sustainable. The Defense Department’s CTR efforts in East Africa are coordinated closely with the State Department, both in Washington and at U.S. embassies in Africa, as well as with U.S. government agencies and departments, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Agriculture, and nongovernmental partners and stakeholders also involved in health security activities. Sustainability is an important element that is incorporated into all African bio-engagement activities by both BEP and Defense Department CTR.

The Defense Department CTR program successfully collaborated with other U.S. agencies on “bio-engagement” programs before the latter formally launched activities in East Africa. In December 2010, the BEP and Defense Department CTR program partnered to provide support to more than 20 public health and infectious disease experts from Africa so that they could attend the sixth Training Program in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network Global Scientific Conference, co-hosted in Cape Town by the CDC, South Africa’s Field Epidemiology and Training Program, and the African Epidemiology Network. In September 2010, the United States and South Africa signed an agreement to extend cooperation on Project Phidisa, a groundbreaking clinical research collaboration among the South African Department of Defence and Military Veterans, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As CTR programs expand to address today’s threats and extend into new regions, the number of U.S. agencies and departments involved will increase. In this respect, the BEP will seek to build on existing support, including leveraging key program partners including the CDC’s GlobalDiseaseDetectionCenter in Kenya, the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service, the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Defense Department’s Naval Medical Research Unit 3, and Sandia National Laboratories, as well as other local program partners. BEP and technical experts continue to visit countries to support programmatic efforts and develop long-term strategies for sustainable regional bio-engagement.

Future CTR efforts must employ a whole-of-government approach, whereby strategies are based on all programs relevant to the U.S. government in a particular region. For future BEP and Defense Department CTR bio-engagement efforts that employ such an approach in Africa and other parts of the world, it is essential that U.S. programs work together to communicate similarly themed messages in a way that acknowledges and respects the autonomy and dignity of partner institutions and governments. Although U.S. government priorities may be focused on achieving nonproliferation objectives, priorities of partner institutions and governments may lie more with laboratory and public health capacity building. Overly focusing on the underlying nonproliferation agenda may draw unwanted attention to prospective partners by highlighting security deficiencies that could potentially be exploited by terrorists or undermining their regional reputations. Clearly recognizing the unique perspectives from which the U.S. and partner governments approach these issues is critical to the overall success of global efforts.

Considerations for the Future

Although much good work on threat reduction has already been done and continues to evolve, the United States recognizes that there is more to do. The ability to adapt and respond to a shifting threat landscape is critical. When it comes to preventing WMD terrorism, the goal can never be less than 100 percent.

Existing international forums, such as the GICNT, Global Partnership, and PSI, must continue to grow in partnership nations and bring into discussion the concerns and issues of new partners around the globe. These forums must continue to build capacity within countries so the global community can combat WMD terrorism. Threat reduction activities must be increasingly global to address a global threat. Continued engagement also means continued funding.

The United States recognizes that the global financial landscape has changed since 1992. Many nations do not have the funds they might have had years ago to fund this work. With funding tighter, it is imperative to continue to use the available funds for projects that achieve results. This calls for increased cooperation and coordination among nations that are funding threat reduction activities. Transparency regarding the activities of countries and multilateral organizations will minimize duplication and ensure that gaps are filled.

In this respect, it is important to work with agencies and departments that have been working for many years in the regions to which the U.S. threat reduction effort is now reaching out. For example, the CDC and USAID have already been working for years in many parts of the world in which threat reduction programs will be engaged. These organizations have knowledge of the region and its culture, perspectives that must be integrated into any outreach approach.

As threat reduction efforts continue to move into other regions, there will be new challenges, but also opportunities for partners, old and new, to work together to address global problems. Together, the United States and its partners around the world are encouraging many countries to join in building lasting strength and durability into shared global threat reduction programs and moving everyone toward a safer, more secure world. The work so far achieved in Africa and in other regions of the world is helping program managers in the United States and other countries promote threat reduction and partnerships in the most productive and inclusive manner possible.

Bonnie Jenkins is coordinator for Cooperative Threat Reduction programs in the Department of State. She previously served as program officer for U.S. foreign and security policy at the Ford Foundation and as counsel on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, more commonly known as the 9/11 Commission.


1. The 47 countries and three international organizations that attended the nuclear security summit achieved crucial consensus in three key areas: that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to the world’s collective security; that terrorist networks such as al Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it; and that the use of such weapons would be catastrophic, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow to global peace and stability.

2. It is important to note that all states have several important obligations under Resolution 1540. They must prohibit support to nonstate actors seeking WMD-related items and adopt and enforce effective laws prohibiting the proliferation of such items to nonstate actors. This prohibition extends to assisting or financing such proliferation. States must take and enforce effective measures to control these items in order to prevent their proliferation, as well as to control the provision of funds and services that contribute to proliferation. If implemented successfully, each state’s actions will significantly strengthen the international standards relating to the export of sensitive items and ensure that nonstate actors, including terrorist and black-market networks, do not gain access to chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, their means of delivery, or related materials.

3. Related to the NSOI is the work of the Nuclear Trafficking Response Group, which also seeks to include countries from Africa and other regions. The United States provides real-time support to governments responding to nuclear smuggling incidents. The Nuclear Trafficking Response Group works with national authorities to help them secure smuggled nuclear material, prosecute traffickers, and identify the source of diversion through, for example, forensic analysis. Nuclear forensics is an important aspect of security because it can determine the origin of illicitly trafficked material.

4. The SLD program works around the world to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials across international borders and through the global maritime shipping system. The goal is to reduce the probability of these materials being fashioned into a weapon of mass destruction or a radiological dispersal device (“dirty bomb”) to be used against the United States or its key allies and international partners. See http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/factsheets/nnsassecondlineofdefenseprogram.

5. In Asia, the Energy Department is doing this work in more than 600 commercial and industrial sites in numerous countries with future work expected to expand.

6. This nexus of health and security is relevant to U.S. interests because of the United States’ ongoing work to improve local disease surveillance, prevention, and treatment capabilities for foreign animal and zoonotic disease threats. (A zoonotic disease is one that is communicable from animals to humans under natural conditions.) The control of animal diseases in Africa is especially critical to this strategy as 60 percent of human pathogens and 75 percent of new and emerging diseases are the result of zoonotic infections.

7. National Security Council, “National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats,” November 2009.

Cooperative Threat Reduction: A Historical Perspective

Bonnie Jenkins

A 2009 National Academy of Sciences report[1] and the 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review Report”[2] both recommend a robust Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program as a key element in the strategy to counter the global spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the material and knowledge to produce them.

In the 20 years that have passed since the fall of the Soviet Union, the landscape in which the United States implements CTR activities has shifted. As a result, U.S. CTR programs have been adapting accordingly. What was once a clearly defined challenge—that of securing or dismantling abandoned Soviet WMD material, weapons, and infrastructure—has changed. New threat reduction activities and initiatives are global in nature and no longer focus solely on Russia and the other former Soviet states. A major focus now is countries elsewhere and nonstate actors. The programs boast a larger number of participating member nations. These robust CTR efforts include a wide range of new types of partner organizations, including various U.S. government departments and agencies, international and regional agencies and organizations, academia, industry, and domestic and international nongovernmental organizations.

There are several reasons this is happening. For one thing, there are more, and more diverse, threats and actors, including global criminal organizations, terrorist networks, and violent extremists. Globalization, with its associated advancements in technology and freedom of movement of nonstate actors with intent to do harm, is another challenging factor to achieving a safer, more secure world. To better understand the current state of this critical effort, a historical perspective is helpful.

In the early 1990s, the Soviet Union’s collapse meant that the world faced the challenge of securing a large amount of dangerous nuclear material, including weapons, delivery systems, facilities, and former Soviet scientists with the knowledge to build weapons of mass destruction. Two principal concerns were identified.

First, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine had inherited nuclear weapons and material from the Soviet Union. No longer secured by the Soviets, these highly destructive weapons were vulnerable to pilferage and outright theft by criminal networks and terrorist organizations. Securing known stockpiles of weapons and sensitive nuclear facilities became more urgent than ever.

Second, former Soviet scientists and technicians were unemployed and had no apparent means to support themselves or their families. The level of sensitive information, scientific expertise, and technical knowledge they had was frighteningly high and possibly available to the highest bidder. In response, the U.S. Congress took swift action and approved the CTR program, sponsored by Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), in 1991.

The original purpose of the CTR program was to facilitate on a priority basis the transportation, storage, safeguarding, and destruction of nuclear and other weapons in the Soviet Union, its republics, and any successor states and to assist in the prevention of weapons proliferation.[3]

Success in the early days of the CTR program was clearly attainable, in part because several easily recognizable and urgent proliferation dangers commanded the U.S. government’s attention and effort.

The CTR program provided funding and expertise for the destruction of nuclear and other weapons. Nuclear warheads throughout the former Soviet Union were removed from the missiles designed to carry them and decommissioned or stockpiled at designated sites in Russia. The Nunn-Lugar legislation also funded programs to secure whatever nuclear material was left at facilities.

To redirect scientists from the former Soviet Union away from WMD production into peaceful activities, the International Science and TechnologyCenter in Russia and the Science and TechnologyCenter in Ukraine were established. The goal of the centers was to focus these scientists’ contributions on solving national and international science and technology problems, reinforce the transition to market economies, and support basic research.


1. Committee on Strengthening and Expanding the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, Global Security Engagement: A New Model for Cooperative Threat Reduction (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2009), www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12583.

2. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf.

3. Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991, Public Law 228, 102d Cong., 1st sess. (Dec. 12, 1991), Title II (Soviet Weapons Destruction).


Universal Transparency: A Goal for the U.S. at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit

Bill Richardson with Gay Dillingham, Charles Streeper, and Arjun Makhijani

Global quantitative transparency of nuclear arsenals and fissile materials (universal transparency)[1] is an indispensable complement to arms reduction treaties. It is a necessary element in creating a path to disarmament that can be traveled by all nuclear-weapon states.

For the purposes of this article, that category includes the five countries that have nuclear weapons and are parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—as well as four states that are outside the NPT framework and have or are widely presumed to have nuclear weapons: India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea. The first three have never been part of the NPT. North Korea joined the NPT, but has declared its withdrawal.

Universal transparency is important for numerous reasons, but its primary aim should be a meaningful demonstration of a commitment to global security by removing the unnecessary secrecy surrounding nuclear weapons programs while preserving truly necessary secrecy, such as weapons designs. Undoubtedly, for some states, universal transparency will be a difficult pill to swallow, and some concessions will have to be made to take account of their particular geopolitical and threat environments. Also, transparency declarations ultimately will have to be confirmed by verification measures. Nevertheless, transparency should be seen as an essential tool to demonstrate a state’s tangible commitment to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and unsecured weapons-usable fissile materials worldwide. By being open about their stockpiles of weapons and materials, states remove the justification for excessive hedging by their nuclear-armed rivals. Similarly, such transparency could help undermine the rationale for maintaining or pursuing a nuclear weapons capability by countries beyond the current nuclear powers, although transparency is very unlikely to be sufficient for that purpose unless it is combined with other substantive measures.

In April 2010, President Barack Obama hosted a nuclear security summit; of the nine states in question, only North Korea was absent. Transparency underlies nearly every commitment made during the summit and in its communiqué. A follow-on summit will be held in South Korea in 2012. To prepare for that meeting and to ensure the summit becomes a biennial fixture in the nonproliferation regime, the United States must lead by example and press for an agenda consisting of the following topics:

• Develop a concrete path and time frame for complete declarations of nuclear arsenals and fissile material stocks by all states possessing nuclear weapons and significant stockpiles of fissile materials.

• Discuss and define acceptable technical and procedural measures that will demonstrate confidence in the accuracy and credibility of state declarations of nuclear arsenals and fissile materials.

• Outline a timeline, agenda, and potential forum for inclusion of the accounting and verification of fissile material in waste within the process of universal transparency.

The 2012 summit has the potential for enormous success if it can accomplish most or all of the above suggestions on the eventual universal transparency of nuclear warheads and fissile materials. In addition, the international community must come forward with tangible support of the numerous commitments that the Obama administration and several U.S. allies have made toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The stage has already been set.

The Importance of Disclosure

In 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first politician to disclose the arsenal of a nuclear-weapon state, 300 active nuclear warheads that would be reduced to about 290.[2] In 2010 the United States announced it had 5,113 active and inactive warheads,[3] marking the first time a nuclear-weapon state had specified the total number of warheads in its arsenal. After the U.S. declaration, British Foreign Secretary William Hague declared in the House of Commons that the United Kingdom would limit the number of its warheads to 225 with no more than 160 being operationally available, leaving 65 warheads in inactive status. This number was subsequently revised in the Strategic Defence and Security Review to not more than 180 deployed and nondeployed nuclear weapons, no more than 120 operationally available warheads, and a maximum of 40 warheads on each submarine.[4] The unilateral actions by France, the United States, and the United Kingdom toward greater transparency regarding their nuclear arsenals are significant initial steps consistent with the eventual goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. The U.S. declaration of its nuclear arsenal should be seen in light of earlier, equally important unilateral declarations of stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU).[5] Transparency on the part of three of the NPT nuclear-weapon states sets an example, but it will not provide a foundation for further progress until Russia and China also have made complete declarations of their nuclear arsenals and stocks of fissile materials.

China already has gone some of the way toward providing information on the size of its nuclear arsenal and its future intentions. Specifically, the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared in 2004 that China had the smallest nuclear arsenal of all the NPT nuclear-weapon states. This statement by China provided an indirect indicaton that China had fewer than 200 deployed nuclear warheads.[6] The United States must build support within the global community by incentivizing a fuller and more current declaration by China. Yet, residual ambiguity by China on the size of its arsenal is likely to persist as a deterrence measure[7] and in the absence of a declaration of the size of Russia’s much larger arsenal. If Russia were to reciprocate U.S. actions so far with declarations that are equally complete, the resulting bilateral declarations would cover roughly 96 percent of total global military fissile materials stockpiles and more than 90 percent of nuclear warheads worldwide. Therefore, it is critical that Russia make some form of declaration soon.

The equally important unilateral declarations of stockpiles of plutonium and HEU that the United States already has made are in themselves a symbol of commitment to disarmament. They clarify to the international community the size and characteristics of the inventory that ultimately will need to be verified and not reconstituted into the arsenal.

The British, French, and U.S. declarations have placed pressure on Russia to become more transparent about the number of its strategic nuclear weapons. In fact, very soon after the U.S. and British declarations, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Nesterenko, suggested the possibility of reciprocal declarations on deployed strategic delivery vehicles and warheads on the condition that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) be ratified.[8] This is a welcome development, but the omission of nondeployed warheads and nonstrategic weapons is a vast, undesirable gap. To make a positive global impact, a Russian declaration must be thorough, official, and public. If it is not, it may not provide anything that was not covered by the bilateral information sharing requirements of New START. Nonstrategic nuclear weapons are slated to play an integral role in U.S. plans for follow-up negotiations to New START. The United States should make an eventual Russian declaration of all deployed and nondeployed warheads and, at a minimum, all military fissile materials an integral part of its diplomatic strategy.

Open-source reporting on the U.S. nuclear arsenal proved to be quite accurate. The margin of error will likely be much larger for Russia. Therefore, an official declaration by Russia is all the more important. Strategically, Russia has little to lose from transparency in the matter of warheads and fissile materials, in part because its stocks are so enormous; there is simply no conceivable advantage that any third party might gain from confirmation of this already well-known fact. Moreover, the United States has made declarations of the size of its arsenal and its military fissile material stockpile. A complete declaration by Russia will probably bring to light inaccuracies, at least some of which are likely to come from the difficulties of accounting fully for fissile materials, for instance in processing plants.[9] Despite the potential embarrassment, it is important for Russian and global security to bring these material errors to light. Moreover, Russia would have company in this regard.

Discrepancies in inventory already have been a significant issue during the declarations of fissile materials by the United States and the United Kingdom.[10] The sooner a state discloses its fissile material inventory, the less problematic it will be for that government to account accurately for the material and to bring to the fore the question of how residual uncertainties will be handled in the disarmament process. The United States should try to overcome this obstacle by encouraging Russia, as a first step, to make a declaration of its current military stockpiles. (All five NPT nuclear-weapon states provide annual declarations of their civilian plutonium stocks to the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA].)

Transparency among nuclear-weapon states is essential as a benchmark for disarmament and provides tangible evidence of a commitment to disarmament. The United States also must engage non-nuclear-weapon states to encourage and facilitate a graduated process of universal transparency on the part of NPT and non-NPT nuclear-weapon states. After all, the responsibility for disarmament under Article VI of the NPT does not lie solely with the nuclear-weapon states.[11]

Transparency and the Non-NPT States

One way to see the critical importance of transparency as a symbol of disarmament in relation to the three non-NPT nuclear-weapon states that were present at the 2010 nuclear security summit is to consider their stance on the NPT. Because the NPT would require them to become parties as non-nuclear-weapon states, they have rejected the treaty and are unlikely to change their position in the foreseeable future. Transparency among the NPT nuclear-weapon states is one step that could foster more trust and bring the non-NPT nuclear-weapon states further into the nonproliferation regime.

In that context, the recent nuclear security summit represented a significant development with regard to the three non-NPT nuclear-weapon states. They were at the summit and approved the communiqué, as did a number of Middle Eastern states. Although observers have noted the relatively weak content of the communiqué, there has been little attention to the historic first that three non-NPT nuclear-weapon states agreed to a near-global consensus document on securing all fissile materials in a very short time. The international community has not seized on the strategic significance of this action in the context of disarmament. The NPT nuclear-weapon states now have a novel diplomatic pathway to begin bringing non-NPT nuclear-weapon states into the transparency process at an early stage of disarmament.

Delineating steps toward fissile material declarations, in the context of the 2012 nuclear summit, would not constrain the non-NPT nuclear-weapon states in the same way that declaring their nuclear arsenals would, but it likely still will be a significant challenge. For example, Israel is reluctant to declare that it has nuclear weapons, much less provide numbers. Israel also has not been supportive of discussing its fissile material stockpiles within the context of potential negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). Similar concerns would surround the unsafeguarded nuclear programs of India and Pakistan.

Also important is some of the transparency language that appeared in the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Among several other statements in support of increased nuclear-weapon-state transparency, the most notable is in paragraph 94: “The Conference notes the increased transparency of some nuclear-weapon States with respect to the number of nuclear weapons in their national inventories and encourages all nuclear-weapon States to provide additional transparency in this regard.”[12] Action 16 in the document includes language supporting declarations to the IAEA by nuclear-weapon states of all fissile materials designated excess to military purposes. There are also references in the final document to adhering to the 13 “practical steps” that were agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, with step 9 calling for “increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to the[ir] nuclear weapons capabilities.” One other venue where universal transparency will be essential is in the development of an FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament.

Tracking Fissile Materials

Uncertainties in fissile material quantities arising from measurement errors, holdup in production equipment, and discards to waste can be much larger than amounts needed to produce a single nuclear bomb. The problem is well known in the civilian sector. For instance, it took two years to resolve an accounting discrepancy of 70 kilograms of plutonium—enough for several bombs—in Japan’s civilian plutonium-fuel fabrication facility; fortunately it ultimately was discovered that most of it was held up as dust in plant equipment.[13] Similar problems exist in the military sector. Addressing uncertainties on fissile material in waste will become an increasingly important issue, especially during the advanced stages of disarmament of each state’s nuclear arsenal. The inability at least to attempt to account for this material fully will be a concern with regard to any state that has a nuclear breakout capability.[14]

The importance of this issue came to public notice as part of the openness initiative of Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary in the mid-1990s. Compilation of plutonium-production records leading up to the publication of the 1996 Department of Energy report “Plutonium: The First 50 Years” revealed two types of accounts for plutonium in waste. The first set of numbers is in an Energy Department safeguards account, known as the Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System (NMMSS); the second set is reported by the waste and environmental management operations of Energy Department sites.[15] The amounts of waste in the two accounts did not match. Even though the data had the appearance of accuracy, reporting each waste number to the nearest 0.01 kilogram, the cumulative discrepancy between the two accounts was multiple orders of magnitude greater than that amount. There was some confusion as to whether they were tracking the same thing. The Energy Department expressed confidence in the plutonium-inventory declaration, saying that even small inventory differences were “always carefully investigated.”[16]

Yet, the mere exercise of compiling the military plutonium inventory did not bear out this confidence. The problem was deemed serious enough that O’Leary formed a working group “to resolve differences from these [materials accounting] methods, and to make recommendations on the appropriateness of making changes to how [the Energy Department] tracks its plutonium inventories.”[17] No public information is available on the outcome of the working group’s investigation, if there was one. It remains unclear which of the two numbers was correct or, indeed, if both were inaccurate and to what degree.

The critical importance of transparency is made eminently clear here. The very exercise of compiling data for public release in the United States brought to light discrepancies far larger than believed possible. A more thorough approach to nonproliferation and disarmament would necessarily include addressing this issue as well.

Fissile material accounting in production processes, including discards to waste, in other states possessing nuclear weapons is unlikely to be better. Whether or not it is, attempting to account for the significant amounts of fissile materials in waste, at least in Russia and the United States, would ensure that materials tracking and safeguards against diversion have been implemented as fully as possible; it would help define methods for such accounting as part of the disarmament process.

Other states possessing nuclear weapons or producing unsafeguarded nuclear materials in much smaller quantities might have an advantage of not having to account for such large legacy or current amounts of fissile material. To ensure that they do not create a legacy issue with these materials as well, such states should attempt to adopt accurate and, when possible, more transparent accounting methods from the start.

Fissile material in waste is a sensitive area of transparency that cannot be ignored. All states involved in the 2012 summit should address it as part of topics covering fissile materials.


Transparency has been an imperative for Obama since he took office. This priority has been demonstrated by his administration’s numerous commitments to nonproliferation and disarmament that involve transparency in some form. In order to meet these commitments, the United States must continue to lead and encourage other countries to adopt the goal of universal transparency as a reciprocal and vital step toward building a foundation for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Bill Richardson was governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2010. Prior to that, he was a U.S. secretary of energy and U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations during the Clinton administration and a U.S. representative from New Mexico. Gay Dillingham, an entrepreneur and business owner, is a former member of the board of directors of the Center for Defense Information/World Security Institute. She served as energy adviser on the unofficial delegation led by Richardson to North Korea in December 2010. Charles Streeper is a nonproliferation analyst and researcher. He received his M.A. in international policy studies and certificate in nonproliferation studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He has worked on radioactive waste, nuclear nonproliferation, and nuclear disarmament issues since the 1980s. He has a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in nuclear fusion.


1. Universal transparency of nuclear arsenals and fissile materials is a flexible concept in that a state may consider declaring only deployed nuclear warheads or only excess military fissile materials. The recommendation of this article is for consideration of all forms of nuclear warheads, both active and reserve, and all fissile material inventories, including those in waste. Such a definition provides a more thorough and meaningful interpretation of quantitative transparency (transparency with regard to numbers and quantities, rather than characteristics such as whether a weapons system has been upgraded). In this article, the term “universal transparency” refers to the more expansive definition.

2. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “French Nuclear Forces, 2008,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 64, No. 4 (September/October 2008), pp. 52-54, http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/k01h5q0wg50353k5/fulltext.pdf.

3. The Department of Defense’s definition of active and inactive is the following: “Active warheads include strategic and nonstrategic weapons maintained in an operational, ready-for-use configuration, warheads that must be ready for possible deployment within a short timeframe, and logistics spares. They have tritium bottles and other Limited Life Components installed. Inactive warheads are maintained at a depot in a non-operational status, and have their tritium bottles removed.” See www.defense.gov/npr/docs/10-05-03_fact_sheet_us_nuclear_transparency__final_w_date.pdf 10/14/2010.

4. “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review,” Cm 7948, October 2010, p. 38, www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_191634.pdf.

5. Global civilian fissile material stockpiles of about 250 metric tons of plutonium and 70 metric tons of HEU (only 1.3 metric tons of HEU are under voluntary-offer agreements in NPT nuclear-weapon states) are essentially all declared and under IAEA safeguards. In the case of the five NPT nuclear-weapon states, the IAEA arrangements are “voluntary” because these states are not required to have inspections even for civil nuclear materials under the NPT. Civilian fissile materials in France and the United Kingdom, however, are subject to EURATOM inspections.

6. International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), “Global Fissile Material Report 2009: Fourth Annual Report of the International Panel on Fissile Materials,” 2009, p. 32. See Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Fact Sheet: China: Nuclear Disarmament and Reduction of,” April 27, 2004, www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zzjg/jks/cjjk/2622/t93539.htm.

7. Nicholas Zarimpas, ed., SIPRI Yearbook 2003: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 2003), p. 55.

8. Guy Faulconbridge, “Russia Says May Lift Veil on Nuclear Arsenal,” Reuters, May 12, 2010, www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64B2U920100512.

9. Examples of difficult materials-accounting problems include estimating plutonium and HEU in defense radioactive wastes or in various other nonrecoverable forms, such as holdup in pipes and ventilation systems.

10. IPFM, “Global Fissile Material Report 2009,” p. 34. The discrepancy for the United States was 2.8 tons of plutonium and 3.2 tons of HEU.

11. Article VI states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

12. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010.

13. Union of Concerned Scientists, “Reprocessing and Nuclear Terrorism,” n.d., www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/nuclear_proliferation_and_terrorism/reprocessing-and-nuclear.html.

14. Chad T. Olinger et al. “Measurement Approaches to Support Future Arms Control Transparency,” paper submitted to the 39th annual meeting of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, LA-UR 98-3115, 1998.

15. The first, from the NMMSS, is reported from within the safeguarded areas and maintained as the master account of nuclear materials. The second is related to waste storage and disposal practices and impact assessments. It has not had any particular security status, despite the large amounts of fissile materials involved.

16. U.S. Department of Energy, “Plutonium: The First 50 Years: United States Plutonium Production, Acquisition, and Utilization From 1944 to 1994,” February 1996, p. 52. www.doeal.gov/SWEIS/DOEDocuments/004%20DOE-DP-0137%20Plutonium%2050%20Years.pdf.

17. Richard J. Guimond and Everet H. Beckner, “Plutonium in Waste Inventories,” U.S. Department of Energy memorandum, January 30, 1996, www.ieer.org/offdocs/Guimond1996Memo.pdf (Attachment B).

The Potential for Transparency: North Korea

Bill Richardson

The potential for transparency to provide an opening in tough situations was illustrated in December 2010 during an unofficial visit by a U.S. delegation I led to North Korea at the invitation of Kim Kye Gwan, the former nuclear envoy and now first vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The goal of our delegation, which arrived in the midst of high tension and the possibility of war, was to help reduce the tension on the Korean peninsula.

We discussed the nuclear issue in some detail. The North Korean leadership stated that they have enough nuclear weapons and that they want a centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant for energy purposes. Moreover, they said that denuclearization was the last wish of their “Great Leader,” Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. They said they are ready for dialogue or confrontation and that denuclearization depends on U.S. attitudes toward these matters. In my view, those proceedings showed that fissile material accounting, monitoring, and declarations could be among the most important steps not only to the resumption of negotiations on denuclearization, but also to integrating North Korea into a larger process of disarmament that would include long-range ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction, and perhaps conventional arms.

North Korea’s willingness to sell 12,000 fresh fuel rods to South Korea and to allow International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring teams back into its nuclear facilities was encouraging, as is the potential resumption of negotiations. Although the universe of North Korean nuclear materials is significantly larger, the North Korean offer indicates one nuclear component of what might be a fruitful path to a reduction of tensions. Transparency of nuclear materials is the key.

Establishing a process through which North Korea could attend the nuclear security summit in Seoul in 2012 would be complex and maybe impossible, but a successful effort would bring all the essential nuclear players around the table for the first time on the issue of transparency. That is the issue on which North Korea seems to be most ready for talks and possibly action.



After New START, What Next?

Daryl G. Kimball

After just two years in office, the administration of President Barack Obama has put the United States back in the role of global nuclear risk-reduction leader. In April 2009, Obama recommitted the United States to the goal of a “world without nuclear weapons,” beginning with overdue reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles, steps to strengthen the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), reconsideration of the long-delayed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and action toward a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

By last summer, Obama and his team had guided the 2010 NPT Review Conference to a successful conclusion, negotiated and signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and hosted a historic nuclear security summit.

The nuclear risk reduction effort got another big boost last month when 13 Republicans joined 58 Democrats and independents to approve ratification of New START, which will verifiably cut deployed arsenals to 1,550 warheads each. The strong vote for the treaty is remarkable in this time of hyper-partisanship in Washington. As Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry (D-Mass.) noted, “[I]n today’s Senate, 70 votes is yesterday’s 95.”

Kerry and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), along with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, pursued a smart, patient plan to consult with Republican senators and take their concerns into account. They turned back treaty-killing amendments from a small group of obstinate treaty critics led by Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that would have required renegotiation with Russia.

In the end, New START won the Senate’s support because it makes sense and had strong support from the U.S. military and national security establishment. Passage of New START will boost U.S.-Russian cooperation to contain Iran’s nuclear program and secure vulnerable nuclear material, and open the way for further Russian and U.S. nuclear arms reductions.

The next steps will not be easy, but they must be pursued. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, it is in the best interests of Russia and the United States to reduce their huge strategic nuclear stockpiles further, phase out their Cold War-style targeting plans, restrict the role of nuclear weapons solely to deterring nuclear attack by others, account for and reduce tactical nuclear bombs, and, as Obama has promised, engage the other nuclear-armed states in a dialogue on nuclear disarmament.

Further U.S.-Russian reductions should cover all types of nuclear weapons and, ideally, be secured through a follow-on treaty. In the interim, the two governments should consider unilateral reciprocal actions that accelerate the reductions mandated by New START and go further—by cutting their deployed strategic stockpiles to 1,000 or fewer warheads before the 2017 New START implementation deadline.

Not only must the United States and Russia further reduce their arsenals, they must work harder to prevent other states from building up and improving their nuclear arsenals. To succeed, the United States needs to revive efforts for a global ban on fissile material production for weapons and solidify the global moratorium on nuclear test explosions by ratifying the CTBT.

In 2009, Obama pledged to “lead a global effort” to negotiate a verifiable FMCT, but talks at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) remain blocked due to opposition from Pakistan, which is locked in an arms race with India.

If talks at the CD do not begin soon, the Obama administration should pursue parallel, open-ended talks involving the eight states with fissile material production facilities that are not legally required to be under international safeguards. Even if talks do begin, they will likely drag on for years. To hasten progress, all states with facilities not subject to safeguards should agree voluntarily to suspend fissile material production.

The New START vote suggests it is possible for the Senate to reconsider and come together around the CTBT, which cannot enter into force without U.S. ratification. The case for the test ban treaty is even stronger than it was when the Senate considered it in 1999. Nearly two decades after the last U.S. nuclear test explosion, it is clear that the United States no longer needs or wants nuclear testing and further testing by other states could help improve their nuclear capabilities.

The Obama administration’s robust, $85 billion, 10-year plan for upgrading the nuclear weapons complex should give skeptical senators greater confidence that nuclear testing is no longer needed to maintain the effectiveness of the U.S. arsenal.

The New START vote shows that controversial treaties can be approved without the support of top Republicans when the White House, backed by the military and the national laboratory directors, pursues a sustained, high-profile campaign. It is time for Obama to launch such a campaign to explain how the CTBT strengthens U.S. security.

The American people expect their leaders to take action to reduce the nuclear weapons threat. Doing nothing or delaying action on pragmatic nuclear risk-reduction steps is not an option.

After just two years in office, the administration of President Barack Obama has put the United States back in the role of global nuclear risk-reduction leader. In April 2009, Obama recommitted the United States to the goal of a “world without nuclear weapons,” beginning with overdue reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles, steps to strengthen the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), reconsideration of the long-delayed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and action toward a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).


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