Monday, July 29, 2019
9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
Since taking office in January 2017, the Trump administration’s strategy to reduce nuclear weapons risks has been marked by significant controversy. The administration has withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, began high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, proposed to develop new low-yield nuclear capabilities and is pressing forward on a $1.7 trillion plan to maintain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal, announced its intent to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, and has yet to make a decision on whether to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
These actions have prompted numerous questions. Is the administration’s maximalist approach to nuclear negotiations with Iran, North Korea, and Russia practical or achievable? Are the administration’s costly plans to replace the U.S. nuclear arsenal necessary or sustainable? What is the administration’s strategy to prevent a new missile race in Europe in the absence of the INF Treaty? What would be the implications for U.S. security if the President decides to allow New START to expire in 2021 with nothing to replace it?
Speakers assessed the Trump administration’s policies on nuclear weapons spending, U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and nuclear diplomacy with North Korea—and offered recommendations for a more responsible and effective approach.
- Lt. Gen. (ret.) Frank Klotz, former administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration and former commander of Air Force Global Strike Command;
- Corey Hinderstein, vice president of international fuel cycle strategies at the Nuclear Threat Initiative;
- Kingston Reif, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association;
- Thomas Countryman, chairman of the board at the Arms Control Association; and
- Lara Seligman, Pentagon correspondent at Foreign Policy; will moderate.
The event is open to the public and the press and will be on-the-record.
Due to a technical problem with the audio recording equipment, only a partial recording was captured. The transcript reflected prepared notes and the available audio.
LARA SELIGMAN: First, I’d just like to set the table for our discussion today. Nuclear weapons have been in the news a lot more in the last two years since President Trump came into office. In fact, the Trump administration has been accused of kicking off a new arms race with calls for new missiles and warheads, and withdrawing from key arms control treaties - and this event is very timely because it looks like the US is going to formally pull out of the INF Treaty on Friday.
I’ve been watching the nuclear issue for years from the perspective of the US military, which is in the process of modernizing its entire nuclear triad. President Obama, in fact, kicked off the recapitalization effort – I was covering the Air Force for Defense News in October of 2015 when the Pentagon announced that Northrop Grumman had won the bomber competition. For four years, it was radio silence on that program. But just last week, the Air Force announced the B-21, as it is now called, will have its first flight in 2021. It kind of feels like we’ve come full circle.
Meanwhile, the contests for some of the other legs of the triad are heating up. Boeing just dropped out of the running to replace the land-based leg, the ground-based strategic deterrent, leaving Northrop the only contender and possibly heading toward a monopoly on the triad. Boeing’s withdrawal also raises questions about how the Pentagon is handling the procurement, which will be worth tens of billions of dollars over the next several decades.
While I was working in the trade media, I had a very narrow focus on the programmatics of the modernization effort. From this perspective, it makes sense that the US military would want to recapitalize since some of the existing weapons were built in the 1960s. Objectively, these weapons are aging, and cannot last forever. And yes, Russia is ahead of us in terms of their own nuclear modernization.
But now at Foreign Policy, I have to think about the bigger policy questions. Of course, if we could snap our fingers and get rid of all nuclear weapons, I think most people would say we should. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. If you ask me, If those who could threaten us and our allies have nuclear weapons, we need to ensure ours are the best they can be, in order to deter a nuclear conflict. This has been the guiding principle of U.S. nuclear policy since the Cold War.
But there has been a definite shift in tone since Trump took office. While Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review emphasized reducing nuclear stockpiles worldwide, Trump’s 2018 version focused on the need to deter and match Russia and China. And while the new guiding document reiterates that nuclear weapons should only be used in extreme circumstances, it seems to broaden the definition of extreme circumstances to include wide-scale, non-nuclear attacks on civilians, or attacks on our nuclear forces.
The most interesting and controversial piece to me is the introduction of two new low-yield or tactical nukes to the US arsenal. Opponents say this addition is unnecessary and increases the risk of nuclear war—a nuke is a nuke, after all. But the administration argues that tactical nukes will make nuclear war less likely, not more. They often point to Russia’s large arsenal of tactical nukes – the worry is they could use them in a more limited strike, and the US would not be able to proportionately respond. Personally, I think the devil will be in the details.
So what am I watching most closely over the next year? Of course, the B-21. Also, what happens with GBSD – will the Pentagon now have to start over from scratch, adding years and millions of dollars to the modernization effort? Or will it continue, knowing it has much less negotiating power to get a good deal with just one competitor?
More immediately, I’m watching the negotiations over the defense policy bill, particularly the fight over low-yield nukes, which will largely determine whether the Trump administration can pursue its agenda.
On the international front, I’ll be keeping an eye on whether we do in fact pull out of the INF Treaty on August 1, and whether that leads Europe to change its posture with new missiles or defenses. China, meanwhile, seems to be taking a different route – it certainly has nukes, but more concerning is its buildup of conventional missiles in the Pacific. Is there any hope of an arms deal between the world’s three superpowers that covers both nuclear and conventional missiles? That, I think, is the most interesting policy question going forward.
I’ll stop there because our panelists can go more into depth on what we are seeing from Russia, Iran, and North Korea. So let me now turn it over to Kingston.
KINGSTON REIF: Thank you, Lara, and thank you, everyone, for coming today.
In December 2016, then President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” and later told MSNBC that he would “outmatch” and “outlast” other potential competitors in a nuclear arms race. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), released in February 2018, comports with this objective by calling for a significant expansion of the role and capability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In addition to continuing full speed ahead with its predecessor’s plans to replace the nuclear triad and its associated warheads and supporting infrastructure on largely a like-for-like basis, the administration is proposing to develop two new sea-based, low-yield nuclear options, broaden the circumstances under which the United States would consider the first use of nuclear weapons, and lay the groundwork to grow the size of the arsenal.
At the same time, key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements are in now in serious doubt. The United States will leave the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on Friday and the Trump administration has shown little interest in extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The administration’s cold shoulder to arms control increases the risks – and could greatly increase the cost – of its approach to sustaining the arsenal.
President Trump has suggested that he wants some sort of grand, new arms control deal with Russia and China. But it remains to be seen whether this gambit is serious, or a poison pill designed to justify walking away from New START after having already walked away from the INF Treaty.
In short, the Trump administration is preparing to compete in a new nuclear arms race while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of a such a contest.
The projected cost of this approach is staggering and it is growing. The United States currently plans to spend nearly $500 billion dollars, after including the effects of inflation, to maintain and replace its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This is an increase of nearly $100 billion, or about 23 percent, above the already enormous projected cost as of the end of the Obama administration.
Taken together, the changes being pursued by the administration are unnecessary, set the stage for an even greater and more unsustainable rate of spending on nuclear weapons, and threaten to accelerate global nuclear competition.
Key leaders in Congress, particularly in the Democratic-led House, are increasingly concerned about the administration’s approach and have begun to heavily scrutinize the nuclear recapitalization programs, their rationale, their cost, and policy alternatives.
In April, with the generous support of the Charles Koch Institute, the Arms Control Association released a report detailing our assessment of the costs of, risks of, and alternatives to the administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans. You can find copies of the report outside. As part of the project, we have also built a new website, USNuclearExcess.org, highlighting several themes in the report and to illustrate the costs and compare them to spending on other priorities. We are launching that site today and you can get a look at the home page above.
The NPR contains elements of continuity with long-standing U.S. nuclear policy, many of which would have likely featured in a review conducted by a Hilary Clinton administration and deserve support.
These include an emphasis on reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use, maintaining the moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, continuing to pursue the political and security conditions to enable further nuclear reductions, overcoming the technical challenges of verifying nuclear reductions, strengthening alliances, and upgrading U.S. nuclear command, control, communications, and early-warning capabilities.
But there are several significant proposed changes to U.S. policy in the review and its subsequent implementation.
According to Trump NPR, the world is a far more dangerous place than it was at the time the Obama administration conducted its NPR in 2010.
It is true that the international security environment is less favorable than it was a decade ago. Technology is advancing in new and unpredictable ways. And the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal – much of which was originally built during the Cold War-era and refurbished since – is aging.
But the NPR does not provide any conclusive or compelling evidence that these challenges will be addressed or overcome by the review’s strategy.
For example, there are several problems with the NPR’s rationale for developing a third and fourth low-yield nuclear option. These additional options are the near-term deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and, in the longer term, development of a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM).
The NPR claims that a low-yield SLBM option would provide the United States with a proportional, prompt, and assured response option that it currently lacks. But the United States already possesses hundreds of low-yield warheads as part of the air-leg of the triad and plans to invest over $150 billion in then-year dollars in the coming decades to ensure these warheads can penetrate the most advanced air defenses. If these new systems can’t reliably reach their targets, it’s reasonable to ask why taxpayers are being asked to invest so heavily in them.
In addition, the belief that a nuclear conflict could be controlled is dangerous thinking. The fog of war is thick; the fog of nuclear war would be even thicker. A low-yield SLBM warhead could increase the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. Given that U.S. strategic submarines currently carry SLBMs armed with higher-yield warheads, how would Russia be able to tell whether an incoming missile was carrying low- or high-yield warheads? Even if it could, how would it know that such limited use would not be the leading edge of a massive attack? In fact, Russia would not know.
A low-yield SLBM also is not necessary to promptly strike time-perishable targets. If military action has already started in the European theater and Russia uses a low-yield nuclear weapon to seek to end a conflict it believes NATO would win conventionally, it is likely that the United States would have had sufficient time to forward deploy forces, including conventional and nuclear fighters and bombers, to provide a prompt response. Regardless, it’s far from clear why the United States would need or want to respond to Russian limited nuclear use in minutes, rather than hours or even days.
Meanwhile, the claim that a new SLCM is necessary to provide an assured theater strike option and serve as a hedge against Russian or Chinese advances in antisubmarine warfare capabilities is unconvincing. The United States is already planning to invest scores of billions of dollars in existing weapons to address the air defense challenge. ICBMs and bombers exist in part to guard against a major, unforeseen breakthrough in anti-submarine warfare capabilities. In addition, the Navy is unlikely to be pleased with the additional operational and financial burdens that would come with re-nuclearizing the surface or attack submarine fleet. Arming attack submarines with nuclear SLCMs would also reduce the number of conventional Tomahawk SLCMs each submarine could carry. In other words, a new SLCM would be a costly hedge on a hedge.
Arguably the most consequential part of the NPR that has received the least attention is the proposal to lay the groundwork to significantly expand the number of U.S. nuclear warheads. One measure of the scale of this plan is to produce at least 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030.
But a recent report by the Institute for Defense Analyses concluded that none of the options analyzed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) can be expected to provide 80 pits per year by 2030.
Furthermore, the need to drastically expand plutonium pit production is highly questionable. The capability to build even 30 pits by 2030 would be an enormous achievement. Once NNSA demonstrates the capability to manufacture 30 pits per year, it can reevaluate the need for additional pits based on the anticipated aging of existing pits, the size of total warhead stockpile at that time, and the international security environment.
Now, the Trump NPR's proposals to develop new nuclear capabilities and infrastructure will pose significant affordability and execution challenges. The possible demise of New START could make the problem even worse. A reckoning is coming, the result of a massive disconnect at the Pentagon and NNSA between budgetary expectations and fiscal reality.
The Pentagon has reoriented its thinking toward long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, thereby elevating the relevance of conventional modernization. The nuclear recapitalization projects cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending, which are unlikely to be forthcoming, or cuts to other military priorities.
Of course, pressure on the defense budget can't be relieved solely by reducing nuclear weapons spending. A significant portion of the overall cost of nuclear weapons is fixed. That said, changes to the nuclear replacement program could make it easier to execute and ease some of the hard choices facing the overall defense enterprise while still leaving a force more than capable of deterring nuclear attacks against the United States or its alliance partners.
It is not too late to pursue a different path. As our report describes, the United States could save nearly 150 billion alone in fiscal year 2017 dollars over the next 30 years while still retaining a triad and deploying a New START limit of 1550 deployed strategic warheads. What could such savings buy? Well, one thing would be nearly the entire additional acquisition cost over the next 30 years to grow the Navy to 355 ships by the late 2030s.
Among the triad modernization projects that should be scaled back is the Air Force's plan to replace the Minuteman III ICBM with a new fleet of missiles. The Air Force has yet to demonstrate that sustaining the Minuteman III, in my view, beyond the missiles expected at retirement in the 2020-2030 timeframe is not a viable or more cost-effective near-term option.
The news last week, as Lara mentioned, that Boeing does not plan to submit a proposal for the GBSD program engineering and manufacturing development contract is a large red flag and reinforces the rationale, in my view, for deferring GBSD. Now, you may hear a different view on this question from Gen. Klotz. You will.
Let me end with the role of Congress. Over the past several years, Congress has largely backed both the Obama and Trump administration's proposals to replace the arsenal, though not without controversy. Now, the majority in the House following the 2018 mid-term elections, Democrats have conducted more aggressive oversight of the administration's nuclear policy and spending proposals.
The recently passed House versions of the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA and the Defense and Energy and Water Appropriations bills would, among other changes, prohibit the deployment of the low yield SLBM warhead, express support for extending New START, reduce funding to build a new fleet of ICBMs and expand the production of plutonium pits, and mandate a study of options to scale back planned nuclear modernization programs.
Whether any of these changes will be adopted remains to be seen given the opposition to them in the Republican-controlled Senate. But it is clear that this - that there is significant unease in Congress about the administration's approach. As the costs continue to rise, the trade-offs become starker and the administration's disdain for negotiated arms control non-proliferation agreements claims other victims, that unease is likely to grow. Thank you.
FRANK KLOTZ: Well, thank you, Lara, for that very kind introduction and for volunteering to moderate this panel. Thanks also to the Arms Control Association for arranging this morning's event and for Carnegie Endowment for hosting it in their facilities.
As Tom mentioned, I think it's vitally important for our nation and for our future that we have an informed, robust, civil, and ongoing national discourse on nuclear weapons and nuclear arms control policy. As Tom pointed out, some of us remember the days when these topics were widely studied and debated. That all changed with the Cold War ending. Unfortunately, many in academia, many in the press, many in the policy community, and even many in the military stopped thinking about nuclear matters, especially as our nation's attention was increasingly drawn to countering the threats posed by terrorism. So, kudos to both organizations for the important work they do to inform the public on key nuclear policy issues.
I'm especially delighted to share this rostrum and to be in the same room with so many good friends and former colleagues. Let me say right up front, as will become apparent in the course of remarks, I strongly support a good deal of what Kingston just said, specifically his views on the wisdom and urgency of extending the New START agreement.
On the other hand, I strongly disagree with some of what he said, specifically his comments on the nuclear modernization program. A modernization program, by the way, that was begun and accelerated in the Obama administration and is being continued by the Trump administration. More particularly, contrary to what the report argues, I believe it's vitally important to replace the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system now as well as to restore our nation's ability to manufacture plutonium pits.
Thus, when the House-Senate conferees meet in late August, if I were advising them as they take up the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, I would personally urge them to adopt the House language on New START, but adopt the Senate language on the ground-based strategic deterrent and plutonium pit production. Now, some may think that these two views, support for a comprehensive nuclear modernization program and support for nuclear arms control, are incompatible, or at least work at cross purposes.
Let me explain why I believe this is not the case. As President Reagan famously said, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. What's often left out is the next sentence to that statement where he added, "The only value in possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used."
Now, the policy of the United States for achieving this objective, followed by both Democrat and Republican presidential administrations, followed by both Democrat and Republican-controlled Congresses, has been to maintain a safe, secure, survivable, and effective nuclear force to deter nuclear attack against the United States and its allies and to reduce the likelihood of large-scale conventional warfare between nuclear-armed states.
At the same time, the United States has also negotiated arms control agreements with Russia to limit the number, types, and in some cases even the capabilities of nuclear weapon systems deployed by both sides. And it has pursued agreements with the broader international community to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to prevent special nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Now, as a career but now-retired Air Force officer and as a former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, it's probably no surprise–it's certainly not a surprise to Tom or to Kingston–that I fully subscribe to this longstanding dual-track approach and believe it is absolutely essential to ensuring our safety and security for the foreseeable future. So, since this is about the present and the near future, what specific steps should the current and future presidential administrations–as well as the Congress–take now to implement this approach?
First, as I indicated at the outset, it's essential to maintain and modernize all three legs of the so-called nuclear triad. The delivery systems, the warheads, the command and control systems associated with the current triad continue to constitute a powerful and effective deterrent force, but they are well past their designed service lives and will eventually age out.
For example, the youngest B-52 bomber in the Air Force inventory is now 56 years old. It will still be flying for at least another 30 years, so it needs new engines and updated electronics to remain an effective long-range strike platform for both conventional and nuclear operations. The air-launched cruise missile first entered service in 1982. We've had an air-launched cruise missile that long and it also needs to be replaced.
The LRSO (Long Range Strike) program–and W80-4 Life Extension Program are the programs of record to do just that. And the Minuteman III missile. It was first deployed in the late 1970s into silos that were constructed in the 1960s. I can attest from long, personal, and recent experience that every element of the Minuteman III system, from the missile to the guidance set, to the tools, handling gear, test equipment used by maintenance technicians, are showing serious signs of aging, signs that cannot be remedied by the Band-Aid fix of yet another life extension program. We've already been through one, yet another will not do it. And I'd welcome the opportunity to say more about that particular point in the Q&A session.
The second thing that ought to be done. Current and future administrations should continue to update our nation's nuclear weapons infrastructure including the National Nuclear Security Administration's national laboratories, production facilities, and test sites. Many of these facilities were constructed during the early days of the Cold War. Some were even constructed during the Manhattan Project of the Second World War.
During my nearly four years at NNSA, we routinely had to contend with collapsing roofs, corroded pipes, and other age-related problems that posed safety risks to our workers and, in some cases, shut down certain operations for weeks. In addition, our capability to manufacture and certify the basic materials, as well as the thousands of pieces and parts that make up a nuclear weapon, has atrophied and must be restored, including the ability to manufacture plutonium pits.
Finally, the ability to annually certify to the president and to the Congress that the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable without conducting nuclear explosive tests depends upon the continuous improvement of sophisticated scientific instruments and high-performance computing platforms to better understand the impact of weapons aging and the effectiveness of life extension programs.
The nuclear modernization program begun in the Obama administration and continued under the current administration addresses all of these issues. Moreover, it's worth recalling that, for over a decade, it has been supported by a broad consensus at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, on both sides of Capitol Hill, and on both sides of the aisle.
The third step the Trump administration should take to ensure the long-term effectiveness of nuclear deterrence capabilities is to resume arms control dialogue with Russia, the dialogue that was a central feature of our nuclear policy even during the darkest days of the Cold War. It's been said the landmark INF Treaty will be formally relegated to the history books in less than a week. Its demise leaves only one bilateral arms control agreement that mutually constrains the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or New START.
That treaty is due to expire in February 2021, 10 years after it entered into force and only 3 years after the U.S. and Russia reduced their forces to the central limits mandated by the treaty. New START can, however, be extended for up to five years by agreement of the American and the Russian presidents. Importantly, this action does not have to be ratified by the legislative bodies of either country. The current administration has been very non-committal, at least publicly, about its intentions with respect to New START. And quite frankly, recent statements attributed to some senior administration officials have been troubling.
On the other hand, past and current senior military leaders have been, and I think continue to be, very supportive of New START, because of the military benefits that it confers. What are some of these? Well, first, it caps Russia's baseline strategic nuclear force at known and predictable levels. I would suggest that one of the reasons for the enormous buildup of nuclear weaponry during the Cold War stemmed from a concern and uncertainty about what adversaries might be doing both now and in the future. So, to the extent that you reduce that uncertainty, you reduce part of the incentive for large-scale buildups of nuclear capabilities.
Secondly, through its verification provisions, including data exchanges, routine notifications, and onsite inspections, the treaty offers important insights, allows us to gain important insights into the size and capabilities and disposition of Russia's nuclear forces beyond that provided by more traditional intelligence collection and assessment methods.
Third, by reducing uncertainty and enhancing predictability, it affords us greater confidence in the plans for the size and structure of our own nuclear deterrent force including the current US. nuclear modernization program.
Now, as I said, New START is currently due to expire in February 2021. A year and a half or so may seem like a long time to deal with the matter, but no one - no one should underestimate how long it would take to broker an extension, much less any other type of agreement that attempted to break new ground such as adding new parties to the treaty like China or broadening the scope of the types of forces that are captured by the treaty like non-strategic nuclear forces or Russia's so-called novel or exotic systems as some have recently suggested.
Broadening the participants and scope of nuclear arms control is certainly a worthy goal, one which I have personally and will continue to support, but it will take careful thought and detailed planning, close consultation and coordination with our allies and painstaking negotiation to achieve any meaningful outcome. So I can only conclude that the wisest and most prudent course of action at this point would be to take proactive steps now to extend New START before it expires in 2021, and thereby gain the time needed to carefully consider the options for a successor agreement or a series of agreements.
That, in my opinion, will be essential to ensuring the sufficiency of our current modernization programs and sustaining the political consensus and support necessary to keep them on track. I see that my time is up. There's certainly a lot more I could say and would like to say about New START and nuclear arms control and would welcome the opportunity to do so but will leave it to you all to bring it up in the Q&A session.
COREY HINDERSTEIN: Okay. Well, it's my job to be the last speaker here on the panel and hopefully, I will raise the same kinds of interesting points worthy of follow-up as my previous speakers. Let me start by thanking Kingston and the Arms Control Association for putting the panel together and Lara and Gen. Klotz for sharing the broad podium with me today. My job is pretty simple. It's to talk about Iran and North Korea in approximately 12 minutes. And I'm going to start my timer now so I know where I am.
I'm actually going to make my job even harder than that with permission because I'm going to talk about Iran and North Korea and then I want to talk about a couple of other points that are kind of floating out there because I think too often we speak about Iran and North Korea in isolation. We also–to the extent we link them, we actually link them together, just the two issues and I think it's valuable to think about how our approaches right now to each of these problem sets are actually the same or different from or have some similarities kind of constitutionally with the–some of the other challenges that we're facing.
So let me start with Iran and I'm going to start with a–maybe what's a controversial statement for folks in the non-proliferation community right now by saying, I think reasonable people can disagree on whether the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA, was the right deal to be made when it was made in 2015. I have heard arguments about, in particular, looking at whether doing a nuclear-only deal at that time was the right approach.
Now, I say reasonable people can disagree, but I'm clearly on the side that it was the right deal to be made. And in fact, it was the only deal to be made at the time. And I don't say that because it was such a hard negotiating environment, which it was, or that we got everything we could get as far as concessions from the Iranians, which I believe we did. But I say it because I think it demonstrated that when we're dealing with a complex non-proliferation or in this case, proliferation problem, sometimes the way to get at an appropriate set of actions is to focus on the biggest problem with the nearest term consequences.
And I don't want to minimize Iran's activities regionally, which I will get to in a moment, but not only–certainly were concerning then and in some ways are even more concerning now. Their activity with ballistic missiles, their activity in support for terrorism, those are all things that Iran did and continues to do, but–and this is–has become a cliché, but I think it's a cliché worth repeating. The reason that the nuclear deal was so important is because every single one of those problems becomes more complicated if you layer nuclear weapons on top of it.
And so, I really do believe that that was the right deal to be made at the time and it was never made in–with the idea that it would be the end of the conversation with Iran. And that's another point I'll get back to. So, I stipulate that Iran did pose serious nuclear risk before the JCPOA and they continue to pose some risk today. I would also argue that one of the greatest risks is actually back to a point that General Klotz made about the value of New START is that it introduced predictability and reduced uncertainty.
And I think that's an undervalued characteristic of the JCPOA. In the years leading up to that agreement, we were dealing with a rapidly changing situation with rapidly changing timelines to the kind of–the–our worst-case scenario. And even if you argue that the JCPOA didn't take all that risk off the table, which is true, what it did was introduce some predictability and reduced uncertainty.
And it did that by setting particular timelines and limits and by introducing on the ground verification of the sort that has never existed anywhere else in the world and continues to this day in a way that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world.
So right now, what I see troubling is that we seem to have backed out of the JCPOA without having a better path to follow. Iran is now, as a result, and in direct response to the position that the United States has taken by removing itself from the Iran Nuclear Deal, it's exceeding some of its limits. It's doing so in ways that are certainly reversible and certainly only slowly change that broader timeline dynamic, you know, the often-quoted breakout timeline or the time for that first bomb's worth of material to be produced if Iran were to decide to go full bore towards it.
We're hearing mixed information about other actions and plans, and we certainly need clarification. Just in the last 24 hours, we've heard some mixed information about what they intend to do with the–their research reactor which had been designed to produce a lot of really nice plutonium and is being in the process–is in the process of being redesigned so that it can't produce that quantity or that type of plutonium.
We also heard some interesting numbers about how much enriched uranium they've produced since they had–have stepped back from their JCPOA-mandated limits. Now, neither of these pieces of information are very well characterized, and they've come secondhand by somebody within the Iranian Parliament who is reporting what they heard from somebody with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. So, I don't want to jump to major conclusions, but the fact is, we're on the wrong trajectory when it comes to understanding what Iran is doing and what they're doing in response to our actions.
The good thing is that these steps are reversible and they're reversible relatively quickly. And I think there are some other things Iran could do that still fall in that line. Unfortunately, if this pattern keeps coming–keeps going further, we're going to get to actions that not only would cut into that breakout timeline more significantly, but that would be harder and take longer to reverse.
The Joint Commission meeting yesterday when the Joint Commission is the kind of management body of the Iran Nuclear Deal, where all of the parties to the deal meet approximately quarterly with that and they meet at ministerial level periodically. They met yesterday in Vienna. All the parties were there. And I think it showed something really important. It showed that there is still something to preserve when it comes to the JCPOA.
The official chair's statement coming out of the European Union who chairs the meeting indicated that it was a productive dialogue with no kind of concrete outcomes and the Iranians said the same thing in nearly the same words when they ended. So there–in the face of many obstacles and with options narrowing, I think we do still see that the members of the deal are committed to preserving its value and I feel like the United States should now be in a position to really think about whether our actions are narrowing their options, because the statement from the administration so far has been that even without us in the deal, we want Iran to comply.
Now it takes a lot of guts to say something like that, but in the end, I think it is true. We do still want Iran to comply because the limits that were invoked by the deal are limits that make the region safer. So, we also are hearing thoughts about whether there is an opening for a renewal of diplomatic dialogue. Obviously, if this is a door that's open, we should walk through it. I would say that there's been a lot of discussion about whether the right approach is a more-for-more approach or a less-for-less approach. And do we open the aperture of what we should be discussing, or do we narrow it back down?
And I am very concerned that some of the statements indicate that we might be on a more-for-less pathway. And I certainly don't want to get less than we got for the JCPOA and have the world making even more concessions, or even frankly the same concessions for less commitment.
I would finally say that this deal never got its sea legs, and I think that's really to me one of the saddest outcomes, which is, it may not have succeeded. Iran may have violated in the future. They may have pursued some sort of breakout timeline or at the very least tried to break down the coalition that was holding very firm in light of constant and sometimes daily pushback from Iran as to how they were going to choose to interpret the words of the deal and how they were going to implement.
We, on a constant basis, when I was at the Department of Energy and partially responsible for implementing the nuclear-related commitments, we were constantly saying, you know, at some point we are going to get into the everyday new normal of implementation of the deal. And we never quite got there, and that's for lots of reasons. And the sad part is we still haven't got there.
You know, I joked for a while, I can't wait for the day where I literally don't carry the deal around in my purse every day, but I am not there yet. And so, I do think, we don't know if it would have succeeded. I can't say, give any guarantee that it would have. But I think it had a really good chance to succeed and it only would have succeeded if it was allowed to create its new normal. And since that didn't happen, I think it's one of the, an interesting kind of points that we'll all be sitting around these tables and debating in the future.
I will say there are a couple of positives out of the current administration approach. Given the big negative, which is I don't think we should have left the deal, what are a couple of the positives?
One is that, so far, the administration has maintained the constraints on the most technically significant proliferation activities. Now you might say, what does that mean?
Well, I choose those words rather than to say that they are maintaining waivers because I think these non-proliferation waivers as they have been discussed, it's an easy thing to say, and I think it puts the weight on the wrong thing. We are not waiving anything. What we are doing is we are allowing China and Russia to continue with the technical conversion projects that are ongoing on the ground, that would make some of the most proliferation-significant activities irreversible. And so, I think as long as we continue to support those proliferating restraints going forward, that's a good step.
It also continues to keep the cost high on Iran if they would choose to step back from those activities. One of the actions that they may choose to do, for example, is to resume some uranium enrichment in their hardened site at Fordo. Part of what the waivers or these proliferation constraints are allowing is the conversion of activities there, and that makes it not only harder and, in some cases, irreversible, because once you introduce certain gas into those centrifuges, you can't put uranium gas in it later.
But it also increases the cost for Iran to have to back out of and in some cases kick out their Russian and Chinese partners on some of these activities. And I think that's a cost we want to continue to have invoked if they would make those sorts of decisions.
The other thing is that, so far, the IAEA, the International Verification Mission is being strongly supported and this is really important because the best thing we can do is know what's happening on the ground. And the way we do that is by having the international inspections there. And so far the provision of resources, including backstopping since so much of the International Atomic Energy Agency Inspection Group has had to go work on Iran, the United States has been able to backfill that by saying, OK, we'll help provide people and resources to do the everyday job of the agency. And by providing the technical expertise that backstops here at home.
And that comes to a point on the national labs which I will get back to, Frank.
So, let me turn to North Korea briefly and say this is an area where I think that there’s a slightly better report card, but I will say it's still an incomplete.
If we can say that the Iran approach was one that was working, was continuing to work, the North Korea approach was not working. And so, it did need a big change. And I think that, in this case, we had seen a steady increase of nuclear and missile capability in North Korea. And we weren't on a path towards diverting that path.
In North Korea, very different from Iran, the top-down approach is the absolute only way that you will get anything done, so I commend the administration for having decided, in the face of a lot of kind of political pushback including from a lot of the North Korea watchers, saying, you know, saying we shouldn't reward North Korea with a presidential contact.
Yes, in a perfect world I agree with that, but in this case, I do think something new was needed and it had to come top-down. So, I think that the only approach, in this case, was a Hail Mary.
Now as with any Hail Mary pass in American football, sometimes it drops to the ground. And you don't complete it and you don't win the game. But if you are running behind as far as we were, I think it might have been one of the only chances.
Now there is a really important risk you have to manage with that. This is not easier a risk strategy. And one is that if you are going to create a process, you need to have a counterpart on that process. And right now, it doesn't feel like we have a willing counterpart.
The United States has stocked up. It’s done its homework and it's been bringing these teams of experts for a negotiation and they just don't have counterparts to negotiate with. So, when we have our national lab experts, we don't see them on the other side. When we have our military experts, we don't see them on the other side. So, I do think we need to make sure that we are negotiating in the right environment.
I also think we have to capitalize on our current environment of decreased tension, which I believe is real, to actually make some progress, to prepare. And if anybody is a chef, or at least watches chef shows on television, you know, you talk about your mise en place, you know, get everything lined up and in small bowls so you are ready to put it together. We can't use this time for nothing and then get to the point where we might have the possibility for a strong negotiation and then have to start thinking about things then. And I do believe that that's happening on our side. I don't know if it's happening on theirs.
And finally, I think we need to be realistic. We can't delude ourselves to think that some sort of magical progress is happening in the background. I've seen some headlines—North Korea is continuing its missile program, it's continuing its nuclear program, it's producing more nuclear material, it's building a new submarine.
We have seen these. And unfortunately, none of that runs counter to anything that they've actually committed to us so far. So, we can't hold North Korea to a commitment that doesn't exist, and I think that, in this case, we need to be realistic about what constraints are on them. But I support that progress.
And similarly too, the point I made on the International Atomic Energy Agency I support the administration continuing to provide resources for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization and their nuclear test monitoring capability because this is one of the best ways that we know what has happened in North Korea over time.
So, I will end with those comments on North Korea and Iran, and just say a couple of things about some other things that are happening that I think are connected and important. One is in the non-proliferation space, the initiative to create the environment for nuclear disarmament that's being led out of the State Department in support of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Now some have viewed this initiative cynically. That this is a way for the United States and in particular the Trump administration to try to say it's doing something when really it's not doing anything that will practically help the situation.
And my response to that is I don't know. I believe that there are people who, for a very good reason, want the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review process to go in a positive direction. But I believe the best way to react to something that may or may not be cynical is to treat it un-cynically and dare it to work.
So, I wish this initiative every success, because if we can actually do something where we create a much more unified international community working on elements that can help the implementation of the NPT, we will all be better off. And some of the partisanship that we have seen explode in the United States has actually been happening in the international community along its partisan lines, you know, possessor states, nuclear possessor states, nuclear non-possessor states, north, south, east, west. So, let's bring people together and give it a shot.
One element that is related to the CEND is the International Partnership on Nuclear Disarmament Verification. And here I am completely biased because we at NTI are a partner with the State Department on this project and I want to be straightforward on that. But it's a project that started back in 2014 and has continued. And it's a group of more than 25 countries who get together three times a year, have an intersessional technical engagement and are making actual progress on developing and defining verification approaches for the next rounds of arms control and for disarmament.
And it's substantive and it's practical. And I think it's a really good example of how we can continue to work together.
So, what are some common themes here? I think the U.S. is most effective when we work with our allies and partners and work collectively. In Iran, we are destroying that community that worked together and created the success of the agreement. And it's going to be very hard to rebuild it.
On North Korea, we are trying hard to keep a regional coalition together. And on the NPT issues, we are trying to rebuild it. So, I do think that these are areas where we can do better.
And finally, I think we do have to invest in and support both the international institutions and the domestic infrastructure that allows this work to be successful. And here I would just back up entirely. I think our national laboratories and, in particular, the NNSA laboratories are the nation's best dual-use asset.
There's a reason they are so good at non-proliferation, nuclear security, reactor conversion, disarmament verification and it's because they had this history. And we can't lose that history because we'll lose a great resource in helping to solve our problems in the future.
I will end there. Thank you.
SELIGMAN: Well, thank you all so much. Wow, that was a lot of information to take in. We really covered the world. So, I do want to get to Q&A, but I had a couple of follow-up questions.
First of all, for Corey, there's been some question about whether the Iranian regime really wants a nuclear weapon, or whether it's really in their interest to acquire a nuclear weapon. So, I am wondering if you could maybe address that point. And, sort of related: if they do acquire a nuclear weapon, what happens then? Is there concern that it proliferates? is there concern that the situation in the Middle East kind of, explodes, I guess?
So, yes, if you could us an insight?
HINDERSTEIN:Sure. I think the short answer is we don't know what Iran really wants. We know that in the past they did have the intention to at least build a nuclear weapons capability. And there has been some discussion over the "archive material." This is the material that Israeli Special Forces seized from Iran and had the paper history of their nuclear program.
We can get into what more of that means, but I will say that it doesn't change what our understanding was in 2014 because all of the information that has come out publicly about that archive, all of that stops in the early to mid-2000s. So, we know that at one point in the past they had the interest in getting a nuclear weapons capability.
We also know that in various points later than that, they have identified getting that nuclear weapons capability as a strategic disadvantage for them, because the international pressure had become so great. And so, it was an economic and a strategic disadvantage. And so, they've clearly shown the ability to change their intention with regard to a nuclear weapon over time.
Where do they sit right now in July of 2019? I don't know. All I know is we don't have to worry about intent if they don't have capability. And so, the important thing about the JCPOA is it takes capability off the table.
You can want, I want to ride a rainbow-colored unicorn, but if one doesn't exist, I am never going to reach my dream. And so, I think that's really important.
And then the final thing is, why is it important that we keep that capability off the table? And I think it's exactly your final point because there are a lot of different ways that we could see it negatively impacting globally and regionally. Certainly, whether it would make them more bullet-proof in some of their regional provocations, it's possible.
One of the things, I've never been a nuclear domino player. I don't believe that states just automatically go nuclear because somebody else did. And I think that East Asia is a perfect example of that. But I think each state evaluates their own strategic objectives when deciding whether they would pursue a nuclear weapons program or capability. But in this case, I believe that Saudi Arabia would be a very dangerous domino. And I think that if you allow, not automatically, but I think if you follow their line of thinking and some of their rhetoric that supports it, that you would put Saudi Arabia in a very dangerous situation. And if you had that dynamic in the region, that's not one I think that we could easily manage.
SELIGMAN:Thanks. And there's many ways we could take that conversation, but I also wanted to ask General Klotz a follow-up question as well on negotiations with Russia.
Can you perhaps draw a contrast between the INF Treaty on the one hand and New START? So, I think there's a much stronger case to be made that the INF Treaty is a bad deal and we should withdraw from it, but New START perhaps not so much. So, what is Russia's thinking in complying with one and not complying with the other? And what is the Trump Administration thinking in response?
KLOTZ:No. I think that a very important question, Lara. On the INF Treaty, the United States had, at least since 2013, raised concerns with Russia about compliance with the central provisions of the treaty. And despite repeated demarches and conversations, it was clear that the Russians had no intention of addressing the issue, specific issue, which the United States was concerned about. So that left the U.S. government with deliberations that started in the last administration and carried over into this administration - what do you do with a party that has entered into an agreement and is violating its obligations under that? Do you continue to stay in the treaty or do you, while one side is not following or abiding by it, or do you withdraw from the treaty?
So, this was, ultimately it led to a DOS decision to suspend its obligations and ultimately withdraw from the treaty.
The significant difference between the INF Treaty and the New START Treaty is there are still very active measures that are taken by both Russia and the United States in the area of verification, exchanges of data, notification of movements of delivery systems from depots and from production facilities to operational bases and back. In fact, I think the latest number of something like 18,000 notifications have gone back and forth between the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center in the State Department and the Nuclear Reduction Center that is located in the Ministry of Defense in the Arbatskaya, which provides unprecedented insight into what the other side is doing.
And then, you know, each side gets to perform 18 on-site inspections every year in the other country, boots on the ground, looking around. I was a wing commander at Minot Air Force Base when the Russians came for a reentry vehicle onsite inspection under a previous treaty, but I will tell you they were very, very, very thorough investigations or inspections.
So, as a result of all of that, the U.S. government in compliance with the resolutions of ratification of New START has certified every year that Russia is in compliance with the New START Treaty. So that's a fundamentally different issue than we had with INF in which the onsite inspection and the other verification aspect of that had lapsed due to time.
SELIGMAN:Great. Well, let's open it up to some Q and A. A hand over there.
THIELMANN: Greg Thielmann, board member of the Arms Control Association. Both Russia and China have cited U.S. strategic ballistic missile defenses as a reason for their refusal to enter into deep discussions of further arms control cuts.
And we have seen—at least if I can believe Arms Control Today—that the U.S. Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense Program is having serious technological problems. So, my question is why is the U.S. Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense Program not a part of this discussion? Is it because we don't believe Russia and China, even though Putin has said very explicitly that all of these exotic new nuclear weapons that he has paraded out are a result of the U.S. leaving the ABM Treaty in 2002, or is it because $7 billion or $8 billion a year is pocket change on this subject, or is it because we are expecting Trump to transfer the funds from ballistic missile defense to the border wall on Mexico?
REIF:I can take a stab at that one to start, right, and be interested in General Klotz's take on this as well.
I mean as you noted the Russians have made it pretty clear, and, at least in my view, that going beyond New START extension in terms of further negotiated arms control between the United States and Russia is not going to make very much progress unless ballistic missile defense is on the table.
As you noted, the Russians have long expressed concerns about our missile defenses. And I would say the United States rightly has some concerns about the trajectory that Russia's missile defense program is headed as well. But obviously, the big concern has been Russia's concerns about U.S. missile defense programs.
And so, one of the big questions I think about this broader, more comprehensive arms control proposal that the White House has been pursuing is what is the United States willing to put on the table in return for limits on Russian tactical nuclear weapons, in return for China's participation in some kind of trilateral agreement? And the administration has been noticeably silent on that score.
I mean, if we are interested in the Russians limiting non-strategic weapons in some way, is the United States and NATO going to be willing to address U.S. forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Europe? I think the answer should be yes but is the administration willing to do that?
And then on the missile defense issue, is the administration going to be willing to entertain capturing missile defense in some way. I think some interesting ideas have been put forward for how you might do that, for example, adaptive limits. So, if you can imagine an agreement that further limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, how do you deal with missile defense?
Well, one way to deal would be that for every additional missile defense interceptor of a certain burn-out velocity or capability that each side wants to deploy, the other side would be allowed to deploy, say, two, three, four, five, or maybe even larger times as many offensive interceptors.
So, I think there's a conversation that can be had and should be had about missile defense if we are actually interested in further limiting Russian strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces, which I think we should be. Obviously, the political environment to do that is difficult in this country, but if we want to make further progress, I think it's got to be on the table.
And finally, I think there are unilateral steps that the United States ought to take or not to take when it comes to missile defense that would put further strain on strategic stability and make further arms measures even more difficult. So, one of those is we are not putting missile defense interceptors in space. That's just -- and we can seek to try and get Russia's agreement not to do the same. I think that would be worthwhile, but the United States as just an independent matter should not put interceptors in space, kinetic or non-kinetic.
And then, I think the other step we should not take is to test the most advanced SM-3 interceptor, the SM-3 IIA against an ICBM-class target which—at least until the House marked up the NDA and defense appropriations bills—was the Missile Defense Agency's plan to do actually some time in fiscal year 2020, given the number of interceptors (several hundred) that we're planning to field if those are demonstrated to be ICBM-capable, that's going to further raise concerns in both Moscow and Beijing about the open-ended and unlimited nature of the U.S. missile defense program.
So, that's another step I think that ought to be taken–well, in this case, not taken—to preserve the options for future arms reductions and arms control with Russia and, hopefully down the road, China.
KLOTZ:Well, I'll just add three thoughts. The first thought is I'm glad Kingston mentioned it. The Russians are investing very heavily—and they've said this publicly or they certainly said it in publications by non-governmental organizations and in track two dialogues—are investing very heavily in air defenses and missile defenses and this has been part of the Russian military culture since at least the end of the Second World War.
So,—and other countries are investing in missile defenses—so, clearly, there are military and strategic rationales for continuing to invest in missile defense. That's the first point.
The second point is missile defense is a political talisman. And at least since the Reagan administration, it is going to be extraordinarily difficult to place constraints and limits on the U.S. missile defense program politically. So then that leads to the third point, what is the…what sort of measures could be potentially negotiated with another nation—Russia, China, whoever the case may be—on the issues of missile defense from a technical verification, confidence-building approach to alleviate undue concerns over a potential destabilizing or alleged destabilizing nature of missile defense.
They're out there, but I would just circle back to the point I made earlier. They're very technically complex. They're going to take a long time to negotiate. They will be part of, I think, a Russian ask, a Chinese ask for any substantive change to the basic outlines of -- and central limits of -- a New START Treaty or a successor to a New START treaty which just argues again for the importance of , while we work through those possibilities, those potential approaches to a mutual agreement, that we extend this particular treaty. So, we have five years to do that.
GARD: Robert Gard. Critics of the Iran Nuclear Agreement tell me that, despite the verification regime, Iran has refused to allow inspections of facilities that we have asked them to look at. Is this correct?
HINDERSTEIN:So, the short answer I would say is no. The longer answer is, as always, more nuanced, right? So, the first point is that the IAEA has not just the right but the obligation to resolve any issues related to whether there are activities conducted that are counter to the deal.
That may or may not always result in an onsite inspection for a location that is not specifically called out as having onsite inspection obligations, which primarily in terms of the nuclear deal, is any facility that could produce any nuclear material. So, there certainly… any question could be raised by any member state to say, "Hey, there is something suspicious going on" and the IAEA has an obligation to first figure out if that information is credible and if there is something to follow up, they can follow up with the Iranians.
And if they are not satisfied with that follow up through exchange of letters, personal official conversations, et cetera, they can ask for an onsite inspection. So, I don't know if there has been any site that any member state -- because you use the word "we" and I don't know who the "we" is in that case—any member state has said, "Hey, we want you to go there." I can't say for sure that the IAEA has gone to any site because that's not their job.
But I can say that there have been sites that have been raised either through their own work in Iran where they've had a question that's been raised or through something that's been brought to them by a member state that is not part of the traditional regular onsite inspection process, that they have asked for special access and they've received it.
So, that is how the process is supposed to work and I would say that in this case, the IAEA has had access to every site that they have determined that they needed access to.
SELIGMAN:A couple of questions, so, let's take a couple at a time. Let's do here and back there first.
RADOVIC: Katarina Radovic from VOA, and I would like to thank the panel for about this very informative discussion. My question pertains to the… why the ramifications of departure from the Iranian deal. Lieutenant General Klotz mentioned earlier that it is very important to coordinate and consult with the allies. But, the U.S. had a proposal for maritime patrols in the Gulf that its European allies declined to join. On the other hand, there were recent Australian and British initiatives that exclude U.S., namely Australia establishing expeditionary training force and U.K. wants to create multinational force to ensure freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.
Does this mean that American friends are choosing to disassociate themselves from Washington and its strength because they are strenuously disagree with Washington on Iran deal? And what does this all mean and what does it all do to American power and moral leadership?
SELIGMAN:And if you can hand the mic back just so we can -- this gentleman can ask another question. Thanks.
WIER: Hi, Anthony Wier, with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. General Klotz, this question is for you. I assume your time in government, right, you had to make decisions about the U.S. and allied nuclear arsenals and strategic posture based on assessment of the Russian nuclear weapons arsenal, both those weapons that were covered by delivery systems covered under START or New START treaties like that, of course, also those nuclear weapons delivered on systems not cover by this (we often refer to those as tactical). I'm going to make an assumption that the United States government had lower confidence in its assessment of the Russian arsenal on the non-covered tactical side of the ledger, that it was harder to develop precision and confidence in that assessment of what actually Russia has.
I'm wondering from your perspective, especially from kind of the military vantage point, do you think Russia perceives a certain advantage in having their adversary have a lower level of confidence in their understanding and assessment of their arsenal, that is the lack of clarity on the tactical side. And then, it would seem to me, if that's so, if you were to lose the New START treaty, you would be effectively taking this large number of the Russian nuclear arsenal and moving it over to the less clear side of the ledger.
And so, from that perspective, would you see an advantage or some in Russia might perceive an advantage of gaining, in a sense, lack of clarity on the part of the American side over what assets they have to bring to bear to affect their strategic aims.
HINDERSTEIN:Sure. I'm going to answer the first question by not really answering —classic Washington approach—only because I'm just by far not an expert in all the Gulf and in particular, the navigational issues, freedom of navigation, protection of shipping lanes, et cetera, so, I don't want to speak to whether the U.S. approach that has not gained allied support or the allied approaches that have not gained U.S. support are indicative of a larger problem or consistent with how these countries have historically viewed managing issues of freedom of navigation. I just don't know.
What I will say though is we are seeing a much harder dynamic with the allies when it comes to Iran because the United States actions have put them in a very hard position. Our decision about our own compliance has made more difficult other countries to adhere to their own obligations and that's a really hard position to put an ally in.
It's one thing for the United States to say, "We don't think this is the right thing to do for us and we're stepping back," but the role of secondary sanctions has basically meant that some of our friends and allies as well as our not-so-friendly not-allies have had their options quite narrowed. And one of the things I really I think is too bad is that we did use to have through the joint commission of the JCPOA a really good channel to counterparts on all sorts of levels—sanctions, procurement, nuclear experts, all sorts of issues— that we might want to consult amongst ourselves before we addressed back to Iran. And the United States not being in that room anymore means that we have a harder time.
So, even if any of these proposals were credible from either side, and I just don't know the answer to that, we've lost at least one channel to not just kind of litigate that, but also to connect it to our overall strategic and tactical objectives with regard to Iran.
SELIGMAN:And if I could actually just add to that because I've written a lot about these coalition proposals that have been taking form. I do think that that European-led proposal was a bit of a rebuke to the Trump administration because the administration had put forward separately a U.S.-led coalition, and then the U.K. government went ahead and said, "Actually, let's do our own European thing." So, I don't think that can be read without a little bit of perhaps that's a rebuke to the Trump administration.
However, I do think there's a lot going on here because Britain is dealing with its own issues. They just turned over their new government. They're dealing with Brexit and I think they feel a little bit like they have to stick up for themselves and manage their own problems. So, I think this proposal was on the one hand, a rebuke of the Trump administration, on the other hand, as you mentioned, reflective of the allies and the U.K. not wanting to be part of the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign, but then also it was the U.K. sort of stepping out and saying, "We're going to take the lead on this problem in a part of the world that is very close to us."
KLOTZ:Well, on Anthony's question about strategic nuclear weapons and nonstrategic nuclear weapons and the challenges of verifying either, obviously, it's much easier to verify strategic nuclear weapons, numbers, disposition, because they're large—submarines, holes in the ground if they're silos, operational bases—than it is to count weapons that may be stored in a bunker at some place in a very large area.
Having said that, while we have—both sides I assume—have very exquisite, so-called, national technical means to verify things like strategic arms agreements like New START, as I mentioned earlier, the number of data exchanges, notifications, and onsite inspections certainly add to that. I wonder as a country if we have become very dependent upon that in terms of assessing what the Russians are doing and what kind of adjustments we would have to make in monitoring Russian capabilities over the longer term if we didn't have that information coming in. So, again I think that's another argument for maintaining those types of agreements.
Nonstrategic nuclear weapons or weapons held in reserve presents a much greater challenge for the reason I just pointed out. It has bedeviled administrations ever since the so-called Presidential Nuclear Initiatives in which President H. W. Bush in 1991 unilaterally decided to significantly reduce and in some cases eliminate altogether nonstrategic weapons. There is debate about what the Russians at the time may have committed to do either publicly or privately, but, the fact is there's a large disparity in the number of nonstrategic nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia, and the Obama administration tried very hard—in part to the respond to the Senate's resolution of ratification, which clearly you know a lot about—to open negotiations on that. They didn't get anywhere, largely because, as Kingston's pointed out, there is a Russian ask that has to do with missile defense with at the time concerns about prompt global strike on the U.S. side and then of course subsequently the relationship continued to worsen with things like the invasion of Crimea and its occupation, et cetera, et cetera.
So, however, this is clearly something the United States—at least for those administration officials who have talked either privately or publicly about the next arms control series of negotiations—that the U.S. would like to circle back and deal with the Russians on. It's going to be a far more challenging issue associated with verification and transparency than is the case with strategic systems.
And within Russia itself, I suspect that depending on which organ of state you go to, to ask what their views are on that, you're going to get different views in terms of the merits of being more open, or the costs and risks of being more open about the disposition and numbers of nonstrategic nuclear weapons.
SELIGMAN:I think we're running out of time, but let's try to get at least one more from this side over here, with the laptop.
GOLD: Thank you. My name is Shabtai Gold. I just wanted to circle back to the INF for a second. What would you actually expect would be the security aspects of the deployments in the European theater or elsewhere as the result of the INF actually coming to an end this week as expected?
And secondly, China's rise, how did that really in your opinion affect the INF and how would that really affect the New START negotiations going at it. I know the Chinese have said that they're not really interested in trilateral, but the President's brought that into it. So, how is China playing into both the INF and the New START? Thanks.
SELIGMAN:OK, sure, one more question.
(UNKNOWN): Replacing the nuclear arsenal, can we adequately test a new arsenal?
REIF:So, let me start with INF and I wanted to quickly respond to a question that Lara raised earlier to General Klotz.
So, was Russia's violation of the INF treaty unacceptable and does it require a serious response? Yes.
Was withdrawal justifiable in some way? Yes. Was actually withdrawing from the treaty particularly in the way that the administration went about it smart? Absolutely not.
I mean, for starters, it was announced on the sidelines of a campaign rally last October. The administration is yet to articulate a viable strategy for preventing Russia from fielding additional types of illegal missiles that it's already deployed as well as new types of INF Treaty-range missiles. There really wasn't a real diplomatic effort made by the Trump administration nor Russia for that matter to try and save the treaty.
Yes, we should not allow Russia to gain a military advantage by its deployment of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile. But in my view, there are plenty of even military options available to us that are compliant with the treaty and less risky than pursuing research and development, testing, and ultimately trying to field ground-launched missiles with a range prohibited by the treaty at least for the next few days.
So, I think we lost a lot of leverage by withdrawing from the treaty. It was an incredibly powerful cudgel with which to criticize and put pressure on Russia for violating the agreement. And in a few short days, all of the Russian missiles that for, at least the last five years have been illegal, will be legal.
Back to your question about the security implications particularly in Europe of INF going away, I mean, our big concern is that the end of the treaty could reignite a new Euro missile race. Now, the Pentagon is engaging in research and development on, as I mentioned, INF-range missile systems—conventional only INF-range missile systems—requested in the 2020 budget request about $100 million for this effort. It was a subject of significant debate in the House over the last few months, and ultimately the House cut funding and prohibited funding, conditioned funding at several conditions for those missile systems.
So, I think Russia given NATO's expansion eastward, those missiles would likely to be deployed in eastern Europe. Obviously, Russia is going to be concerned about that. It's likely to respond to that in negative ways including by fielding additional 9M729s and perhaps additional types of new INF-range missiles.
And a big question and one that raises, I think… well, the big question is where you're going to put these systems as well. I mean, no European member of NATO is exactly rushing forward to host these missiles. They can't be deployed in the United States to have any meaningful military impact. At least in the European theater, they need to be deployed in Europe. And several NATO allies including Poland have said that any decision to field these systems has to be the result of a NATO-wide decision, a consensus among alliance members. I think at this point, it's hard to imagine that such a consensus would exist, given how controversial even placing conventional missiles would be in Europe.
And then, on your question with respect to China, yes, I think it's playing a big role in how the administration is thinking about arms control. It no doubt played a role in the decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty even if it wasn't the primary role, and lots of concerns have been raised about the fact that China has hundreds, if not, thousands of INF-range missiles. China is not a party to the INF treaty. Why would the United States not want to develop its own systems in Asia Pacific given especially the fact that the distances there are much larger? So, that certainly played a role in the administration's thinking.
And then, on New START strategic arms control, yes, as we've discussed, the administration appears to be saying that China needs to participate in a future arms control arrangement and that is in effect the condition for New START extension, wants to see how it plays out, but that appears to be what the position is at this stage.
KLOTZ:Very quickly because I know, the answer to your question is yes, we can carry out the modernization program as laid out by the Obama and now the Trump administration without explosive nuclear testing.
First of all, a great part of the modernization program is replacing the delivery systems. There's no limit on testing the launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, of bombers, or of sea-launched ballistic missiles, or of submarines.
On the warheads and weapons that are associated with those modernized legs of the triad, we're not building… we're not creating new nuclear weapons. What we're doing is extending the life and updating existing weapons.
Since the United States voluntarily entered into an explosive nuclear test moratorium—I believe in 1992 in the Clinton administration and it has been observing ever since—we have developed an entire suite of tools known as the scientific stockpile stewardship program where through doing tests of individual components, comparing data with the nuclear tests we did conduct when we were conducting explosive nuclear testing and running through those through very high-performance computers to understand the effects of aging and to understand the effects of any adjustments that are made to extend the life of a weapon, the National Laboratory Directors are able to certify every year that we're satisfied with the safety, security, reliability of the nuclear weapon stockpile including those changes that are being made in the life extension program.
So, again, no, I don't think it requires—I'm quite confident that it does not require—nuclear explosive testing to continue with the modernization program.
SELIGMAN:Well, thank you so much to all of our panelists. This is a great discussion and obviously, we could talk about this for many, many more hours. Thanks so much.
THOMAS COUNTRYMAN: OK. And let me also thank General Klotz and Ms. Hinderstein and Mr. Reif, and thank Ms. Seligman for the moderation today.
There's much more information available at the website, armscontrol.org. I urge you not only to inform yourself but to participate in the decisions that your Congress, your government will be making on these issues. So, thank you. Have a beautiful Monday.