"Reducing Global Weapons Dangers:
Bolstering the NPT and Building the New ATT Regime"
Monday, May 6, 2013
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Root Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
Daryl G. Kimball
ACA Executive Director
Presentation of the Finding of ACA's 2010-2013 Report Card on Nonproliferation and Disarmament
Understanding the Tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the Next Steps for Washington
Leon Sigal, Social Science Research Council,
Joel Wit, U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS
Fabrice Vareille, the European External Action Service (EEAS)
The New Arms Trade Treaty - Assessing Its Impact and Accelerating Its Implementation
Rachel Stohl, Stimson senior associate and ACA board member
Paul O'Brien, Oxfam America
Richard Tauwhare, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Tauwhare Prepared Remarks)
|Prague 2.0 - Next Steps for the Second Term
Ellen Tauscher, former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (Prepared Remarks)
ACA's Annual Meeting is made possible with support from the Heinrich Böll Foundation and other generous ACA donors and members.
Federal News Service
DARYL KIMBALL: All right. Good morning, everybody; I’m Daryl Kimball, I’m executive director of the Arms Control Association, and I wanted to welcome everyone here to this year’s 2013 Annual Meeting of the Arms Control Association on bolstering the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, dealing with North Korea and building the new Arms Trade Treaty regime. And before we get started, if I could just remind everybody to turn off your cellular devices so that we’re not interrupted, that would be great.
So with the support and assistance of you, our members, and our donors, who include the Ploughshares Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and others, including the cosponsor of today’s event, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, we brought together, I think, a very good program with some very distinguished guests from here in the United States and abroad. Our program today is going to focus on one of today’s most pressing nuclear proliferation challenges, North Korea, and the next steps for the new Arms Trade Treaty.
And to close out today’s events, we were honored to have former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security Ellen Tauscher, and she’s going to be outlining her views on the next steps for President Obama’s Prague nuclear risk agenda.
And so this event today is just one of the many things that the Arms Control Association does to provide information and ideas for reducing and eliminating the threats posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons: nuclear, biological, chemical and certain conventional weapons. And as many of you here know, one of our key products is Arms Control Today, and I just wanted to highlight the fact that the latest issue of Arms Control Today is on that cute little thumb drive that you all should have received when you came in on the lanyard. That is the digital version, as we call it. It’s not even back from the printer.
And that digital edition is available for all Arms Control Association members and subscribers, and one of the things I just wanted to take a moment to highlight is that if you’re a member or a subscriber and you want to get the digital edition the day it goes to press, you just have to log on your account on our homepage. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check in with Tim Farnsworth, a program associate or somebody at the table about how to do that so you can get to Arms Control Today as quickly as possible.
So in addition to Arms Control Today, we publish a large number of issue briefs, fact sheets and research reports on a wide range of topics. And to start us off today, we wanted to take a few minutes to highlight ACA’s most recent report – the 2011-2013 report card on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, which we released last week. And that is also available on that thumb drive – full PDF copy of the report is on that drive and on the website.
And to run through some of the top-line findings of that report, I wanted to invite ACA’s nonproliferation analyst, Kelsey Davenport and our Herbert Scoville Peace Fellow Marcus Taylor to run through, very briefly, some of the key findings of the report, and then we’ll turn to the first panel of the day.
So Kelsey, why don’t you come on up, please. And I should also add that at the table is a handout with some of the highlights of the report card.
KELSEY DAVENPORT: Before I start, I just wanted to thank Daryl and all of the rest of the ACA staff for their support on this project, which was invaluable. So, since the beginning of the nuclear age, there has been a debate about the obligations that states have as responsible members of the international community to reduce the nuclear threat, and the question of whether or not they’re doing enough.
Our 2011-2013 report updates a study that ACA originally published in 2010 that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament and nuclear security standards. By tracking this progress over time, or the lack of progress, we hope that this report will encourage policymakers to increase efforts to reduce the risk posed by these weapons and inform the general public about which countries are and which countries are not living up to their international obligations.
In sum, our 2013 report finds that the pace of progress on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament in the past two and a half years has been slow and is not equal to today’s urgent threats. The report reviews the actions of the nine nuclear-armed states, as well as Iran and Syria, which are under investigation for possible nuclear weapons-related activities. Now, the standards – the 11 standards that we chose that are identified in the report are derived from the obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty as well as multilateral agreements, U.N. Security Council resolutions, ad hoc coalitions and multilateral agreements, which, together, we believe provides a baseline for what constitutes responsible behavior for all states.
The report then grades these 11 states on an A through F letter scale, with the highest grade, of course, being an A, which we deem as full compliance with the international standard, and the lowest grade as an F, which means the state has taken steps that are inconsistent with or in rejection of that standard. The grades B, C, and D are awarded for partial compliance with criteria identified as necessary to meet the standard.
And to get a better idea of what the criteria are and what the standards are, I would encourage you to look at the methodology section of our report, which, as Daryl said, is available online or on your flash drives. It also has a summary of the overall and sort of country-by-country findings. And in addition, it compares each country to the grades to where they were in 2010. Overall, the study shows that while some states are taking important steps in key areas to reduce the dangers caused by nuclear weapons, overall progress remains quite limited, and key states of proliferation concern are continuing to engage in activities that severely undermine nonproliferation and disarmament norms.
So the bottom line is that all states must act with greater urgency to combat the threat posed by nuclear weapons. And now, my coauthor, Marcus Taylor, is going to share with you some specific highlights from the last 32 months.
MARCUS TAYLOR: All right. Thank you very much, Kelsey. So as we mentioned, some states have taken limited progress on nuclear disarmament. However, the pace and progress over the past two and a half years has not been equal to the threats posed by nuclear weapons. Several nuclear states have reduced the size of their nuclear arsenals; however, nearly all nuclear-armed states are investing enormous resources to develop and field new nuclear weapons systems, an action which reinforces the perceived necessity of a nuclear deterrent and calls into question their commitment to pursue complete disarmament.
The 2011 entry into force of New START by Russia and the United States was a step in the right direction. However, Russia in particular has taken a leadership role in nuclear disarmament by reducing its deployed strategic forces well below New START deployed numbers of 1,550 years before the treaty’s 2018 deadline.
Since the entry into force of New START, Washington has slowly reduced the size of its deployed strategic forces to 1,654 nuclear weapons – 100 weapons above the treaty’s limits. While significant progress was achieved during President Barack Obama’s first two years in office, the administration’s nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation effort has lost energy and focus. In particular, the United States’ grade on negative security assurances was lowered to a C as a result of both its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which stated that the United States may use nuclear weapons against a state that is not in compliance with its safeguards agreement, combined with its increasingly bellicose rhetoric towards Iran, with President Obama stating that he will take no options off the table.
This leaves open the possibility that Washington may use nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear state that is in violation of its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Like Iran, this brought down the overall grade of the United States to a B-. The United Kingdom once again received the highest grade of all 11 states measured in this report. London has also reduced its nuclear arsenal to the lowest level of any of the five original nuclear weapon states and continues to lower the size of its nuclear forces.
India and Pakistan continue to build up their nuclear arsenals and produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The nuclear rivalry in South Asia continues to escalate and is inhibiting progress on a fissile material cutoff treaty. North Korea once again received the lowest marks of all 11 states, earning an F on seven of the 10 standards. Pyongyang continues to flout the established international nonproliferation and disarmament norms, making it a serious nonproliferation concern.
Iran and Syria’s continued failure to comply with international nuclear safeguard commitments and basic export controls bring down their grades and increases the suspicion that they are engaged in illicit nuclear activities. In conclusion, this report indicates that further action must be taken by all 11 states if they are to live up to their international disarmament and nonproliferation responsibilities. President Obama’s vision of the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons can only be realized if the United States remains resolute in its commitment to sustain nuclear disarmament.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Marcus and Kelsey, for your hard work on this very extensive report, which we’re going to continue to update as the years go on so that we can track the trends. Let me invite the next set of panelists to come on up as I begin the introduction for our next panel, which is, strangely enough, about North Korea, which received that F in our report card.
(END) (Top of the Page)
DARYL KIMBALL: So to begin our first panel today on understanding the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the next steps for Washington and our allies in dealing with North Korea, we have a great set of speakers with deep experience. We’re meeting here today to discuss this issue as U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korea’s President Park meet here in Washington. This is an important opportunity for them and all of us to reassess the U.S. and allied policy of strategic patience, which is obviously not working adequately to freeze and reverse Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Marcus mentioned this just a second ago, but in recent weeks and months, we’ve seen North Korea conduct its third nuclear test explosion. It’s conducted a long-range rocket launch and may soon conduct a medium-range missile test. We’ve seen the rhetoric ratcheted up as the U.S. and the ROK conduct their annual military exercises.
So we thought it would be a good opportunity to explore what explains these rising tensions, to explore the risks of the North growing nuclear and missile capabilities and how Washington, Beijing and the international community as a whole can improve the results, with respect to freezing and reversing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
And so very pleased to have three gentlemen here with us today to look at these issues. We have beginning our panel, Joel Wit, who is a visiting scholar with the U.S. Korea Institute at SAIS. He was among other things, involved in the negotiation of the 1994 Agreed Framework.
We also have with us Lee Sigal, who is director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York. He has traveled to, studied and written about North Korea for many years.
And from Brussels, we have Fabrice Vareille, who is deputy head of the Division for Relations with Japan, the Koreas, Australia, New Zealand at the European External Action Service under EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. We’re very pleased that he is here in Washington to share perspectives from Europe on the Northeast Asia situation.
So after each of them speaks, we’ll take your questions and have a lively discussion, I’m sure. So Joel, if you could please begin, thank you very much.
JOEL WIT: Thanks, Daryl.
I’m really glad to be here today. I have a long association with the Arms Control Association that dates back to people like Pete Scoville and Bill Kincaid, Stan Resor and Spurgeon Keany, who were all very nice to me when I first got out of graduate school. So I’m happy to be here talking.
Second point – and this is sort of a disclaimer I always like to make, particularly in Washington – and that is that I am going to be critical of U.S. policy, but this does not mean that I sympathize with North Korea. (Laughter.) It means that I am dismayed at our inability to deal with this issue when I think we can be doing a better job. And as someone who played a lot of high school sports, I never liked being on a losing team.
So having said that, let me just make three points, since I have a limited amount of time. The first point, Daryl has alluded to the policy of strategic patience, which has been in place since the Obama administration took office. And I’m usually pretty critical about how I describe this publicly, so I was kind of shocked when recently, after I was done talking, a senior Republican came up to me and said I was being very gracious in my description of strategic patience. And he described it as we’re basically – we were waiting for Kim Jong Il to die so we could get better deals out of the North Koreans. And that’s not a bad description, but the point is it’s failed. The policy never made sense, whether we’re talking about stopping North Korea’s WMD programs, the non – the proliferation threat, building regional peace and security – and anyone who had dealt with North Korea before knew it wasn’t going to work. And indeed, the administration was told by these people that it wasn’t going to work. But that didn’t really matter.
Just to understand what’s driving the policy, it’s really not driven, I don’t think, by national interests. It’s driven by domestic politics and alliance politics. On the first score, that means basically, the administration wanted to keep North Korea off the front pages. In the second score, the administration was willing to follow a very conservative South Korean government that was essentially driven by ideology; I’m talking about the last government, not this government.
Second point I want to make is that I’m sure we’ve all noticed that there are no more front-page articles on North Korea and you know, we’re not being bombarded on CNN by stories every 10 seconds about this issue. So it’s obviously calmed down.
But I would say that it’s only going to get worse. And actually, General Dempsey alluded to this during his trip to China, when he said that this situation is going to keep coming back over and over again and we’re going to have a continuous problem here.
The North WMD program, I think, has been driven mainly by defensive needs. But I think now it’s starting to serve offensive requirements, one of which is to intimidate its neighbors. Of course, we have to be cautious about how we project where this program is going in the future, but we can’t dismiss it. A friend of mine recently said to me, it’s like North Korea’s Manhattan Project.
The danger here, though, is not just WMD – and I know that’s the focus of many people in this audience – but the danger here is, quite frankly, that there’s an increasing probability of a Second Korean War. And that may sound alarmist to some of you who don’t follow this issue, but crisis stability on the peninsula is taking a big hit, not only because of North Korea’s actions, but because of how South Korea is responding. And by that, I mean that South Korea is now moving towards a preventive strike doctrine and also is going to retaliate the next time North Korea launches a provocation. And I don’t think Pyongyang is just going to roll over and play dead at that point.
Lastly, I would say there may be a glimmer of hope, although I don’t hold out much hope, that the recent developments can help us adjust our policy. Quite honestly, many people in the administration think our policy is working, or that’s the way, at least, they portray it publicly; whether they privately believe that or not, I don’t know. So I’m not sure if they will adjust. But also, I think the situation has gotten worse and worse and worse over the past four years. And that leads me to question, or to at least think about, whether it’s too late to solve this problem. I’m not willing to concede that point yet.
So here are kind of ideas for what we should do: First, we need to jettison the myths we have about North Korea that dominate not just the press, but the way government officials think about North Korea. And there are so many of them, I can’t begin to describe all of them, but the bottom line is we’re not dealing here with a failing hermit kingdom led by a crazy dictator. That’s not what’s going on here. We are dealing with a country that is driven mainly by national interests and their leaders are maybe somewhat eccentric at times, but not crazy. They are realists, in the purest sense of the word.
There’s another myth here that I think impacts our ability to form a strategy. And that is – and you’ve seen this over and over and over again in the media – the idea that they threaten us, squeeze out benefits from us and then threaten us again. That’s not the case. And of course, the poster child for this myth is the Agreed Framework, which in my mind, was an enormous success. And it was an enormous success because North Korea was on the brink of building maybe a hundred nuclear weapons over the decade after the agreement and when the agreement collapsed, they only had enough material for five. So to me, that’s a big – that’s a big win for our side.
Second, we need to figure out how to turn the U.S. ocean liner onto a different course. The administration clearly, I think, still wants to sweep this policy under the rug. So one idea is that maybe somehow, there could be a policy review that would give the administration cover to kind of shift course. You know, whether that’s going to happen or not, I doubt it, but at least in the recent bill passed by the Senate, there was a provision requiring the administration to conduct such a review.
It’s funny; I was sitting in the office of a Senate staffer when he was getting comments from the State Department on that. And he got an email from the State Department saying, well, gee, we really don’t want to do a review; can we just come up there and give you a briefing on our policy? And my friend sent back an email saying to them, I wasn’t aware we had a passed legislation for you to give us briefings. So this is the mindset of where we are inside the administration.
Third, if I was king for a day, I would say that we need what I would call a policy of strong diplomacy, versus our policy of weak diplomacy that we’ve had for four years. By strong diplomacy, I don’t just mean, oh, if we would talk to them, everything would be better. That’s not what I mean, I mean we need to be doing all the things that aren’t diplomacy, like sanctions, military steps when they’re required, we need to do it seriously. But we also need to have a strong diplomatic track here. And we don’t have that.
And for those of you who follow Iran, I noticed there was a recent report written by some prominent American saying we need a stronger diplomatic track dealing with Iran. Well, if you feel you need a stronger diplomatic track dealing with Iran, you know, the diplomatic track dealing with North Korea is almost nonexistent at this point. So we need strong diplomacy – that means at senior levels, focused on core peace and security issues, not just trying to the North Koreans off with food assistance or economic assistance. Core security issues means ending the Korean War and denuclearization.
Fourth, we need to understand this is going to be a long and difficult process. If it actually happens, it’s not going to happen overnight. The trick is going to be to shift the political relationship with North Korea in a way where their building their own nuclear weapons seems less important to them.
Fifth, strong diplomacy means dislodging China from its support for North Korea. There are a number of ways to do that, some of which we aren’t doing. First of all, the North Koreans themselves can do stupid things that are going to make the Chinese unhappy. And we’ve seen that recently. Secondly, we do have to take tough steps in the context of our overall strategy to protect ourselves and our allies. Some of those steps, the Chinese aren’t going to like. And thirdly, the missing piece of this puzzle is the United States needs to work cooperatively with China on diplomatic initiatives.
Sixth, we need to work more closely with our allies. We have that opportunity now with Madam Park – or I should say President Park – visiting Washington. And working closely with our allies means more than just flexing military muscle; it means exercising leadership for peace.
And lastly – and I’ll wrap up right here – and I’m going to be very open and honest about this – for the past four years, this issue really has not gotten a lot of attention; certainly not in the Obama administration, but outside the administration, it has not gotten a lot of attention. In the NGO community, the discussion has been confined to a bunch of Korea experts, Northeast Asia experts. And I – to me, the most obvious manifestation of this was the recent conference, the big nuclear conference, held by the organization that owns this building. And there was no panel on North Korea. There was nothing except a South Korean politician who is seen in South Korea as being fairly right-wing who wants to withdraw from the NPT, build nuclear weapons, redeploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. That was it.
So I guess what I’m saying is as someone who has been involved with this community ever since I came to Washington, which is a long time now, I’m hoping that the recent problems we’ve had with the North will energize people to become much more engaged in this issue.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Joel. (Applause.)
And now, we’ll turn to Lee Sigal, for your perspectives on the situation and how to move ahead.
LEON SIGAL: Well, my perspective is I live in New York, not Washington. And that makes a lot of difference, because everybody in Washington talks to one another and convinces one another how they are geniuses about North Korea. I’m not so sure and I’m not so sure any of us are – including me, of course – are geniuses about North Korea’s – but that is preamble. Let me just go into some things.
The February 12th nuclear test, I think, has actually prompted to shift in the Obama administration’s stance from strategic patience to strategic impatience, but not yet to strategic rethinking. The strategic impatience has been manifested in a couple of main ways: First, after the nuclear test prompted renewed talk in Seoul and Tokyo about acquiring their own nuclear arms, Washington moved to reassure the allies by flexing its deterrent muscles, conducting practiced bombing runs by B-52 and B-2 bombers – that hasn’t been done in decades – dispatching F-22 stealth fighters and an attack submarine to Korea, expanding missile defenses and helping South Korea develop longer-range ballistic missiles to supplement the long-range cruise missiles it recently deployed.
Now, U.S. muscle flexing triggered a barrage of verbal threats from Pyongyang. Unlike Washington and Seoul, which have far superior forces, Pyongyang for now has escalation dominance only in the domain of rhetoric. Its threats all seem to underscore its own deterrent posture and were explicitly predicated without exception on prior action by the United States or South Korea. As a senior U.S. military official in Seoul saw it on April 16, North Korea’s threats have, quote, “always been conditional.” So if the U.S. does this, then the North says, we’re going to do that.
In its second manifestation of strategic impatience, and this is really important to me, the administration keeps trying to pressure China to bring North Korea to its knees. As a senior U.S. official told The New York Times on March 15, planned deployments, missile defenses were meant to signal Beijing, quote, “we want to make it clear that there’s a price to be paid for letting the North Koreans stay on the current path.” It seems to me, picking a fight with Beijing will only deepen insecurity in Northeast Asia, not put more pressure on Pyongyang.
Pyongyang now says it plans to restart its reactor at Yongbyon to generate more plutonium and to enrich enough uranium for dozens of weapons. Construction of its new light water reactors nearing completion. It will need more nuclear and missile tests if it is to perfect a compact weapons design capable of delivering by missiles, but these threats are real, as opposed to the surreal rhetoric out of Pyongyang amplified by the news media. The news media only pays attention to rhetoric, as far as I can tell.
Strategic rethinking begins with the realization that negotiations to stop an unbounded weapons program that could stabilize Northeast Asia are needed. But the way to get there, it seems to me, is to reconcile with Pyongyang, that is to say, to take steps away from enmity, starting with North-South re-engagement and U.S. accommodation with China.
Holding up negotiations to get Pyongyang to reaffirm its commitment to complete denuclearization is a waste of time. In the midst of North Korea’s rhetorical volleys, a foreign ministry spokesman on March 16 reiterated its decade-long negotiating position: First, quote, “it will never reach out to anyone to get it recognized as a nuclear weapon state.” I don’t know where this recognition stuff came from. There are a lot of people in Washington who keep saying it; the North Koreans don’t say that. And it is important not to listen to people in Washington, but to listen to people in Pyongyang; after all, it’s them we have to persuade.
Second, the U.S. is seriously mistaken if it thinks the DPRK had access to nukes as a bargaining chip to barter them for what it called economic rewards.
Third, its weapons serve as all-powerful treasured sword for protecting the sovereignty and security of the country and are not negotiable” – and here it’s interesting – “at least as long as the U.S. nuclear threat and hostile policy persist,” close quotes.
Now, that wording suggests Pyongyang’s perception a nuclear threat could dissipate with an end to the hostile policy. That has long been their position. I’m not sure whether it still is. But, what we do know, if we know anything, is its nuclear diplomacy has never been about money. It’s about reconciliation, an end to enmity, as its foregoing food aid in the so-called Leap Day deal and its temporary shutdown of Kaesong is designed to underscore.
On March 31st, however, Pyongyang announced a new strategic line laid down by Kim Jong-un himself on, quote, “carrying out economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously” – and here’s the key phrase – “under the prevailing situation,” and said it would restart its shuttered reactor at Yongbyon to generate more plutonium as well as enriching weapons-grade uranium. It said that “the nuclear armed forces should be expanded and beefed up qualitatively and quantitatively until the denuclearization of the world is realized.”
That’s trouble, folks.
Now, does this spell an end to any negotiated limits on its nuclear programs? Notice I didn't say weapons; programs. Or was it just Kim Jong Un’s version of Eisenhower’s bigger bang for a buck, intended to justify reallocation of some military resources to civilian use? We don’t know yet.
On April 16, however, a foreign ministry spokesman hinted it was not the former; not any ban on negotiated limits. “The DPRK is not opposed the dialogue,” he said, “but has no idea of sitting at the humiliating negotiating table with the party brandishing a nuclear stick.” That’s a reference to the bombers flying practice runs.
It went on: “Genuine dialogue is possible only at the phase where the DPRK has acquired nuclear deterrent enough to diffuse the U.S. threat of nuclear war” – and here’s the key phrase – “unless the U.S.” – “unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy and nuclear threat and blackmail against us.”
Now, second, it seems to me strategic rethinking requires recognition – and, here, Joel has emphasized – has pointed that out – that the very steps each side in Korea takes to bolster deterrence increases the risk of deadly clashes. The instability on the peninsula. The White House decision to ratchet down tensions acknowledged as much, as a senior administration official said on April 2nd, and I quote: “The concern was that we were heightening the prospect of misperceptions on the part of North Koreans and that that could lead to miscalculations,” close quotes. That risk, by the way, was also evident in the sinking of the Cheonan in March 2010 in retaliation for a November 2009 shooting up of a North Korean naval vessel and a November 2010 artillery exchange in the contested waters off Korea’s west coast.
In short, deterrence alone will not assure morning calm in Korea. The way to reduce the risk of further clashes is a peace process in Korea parallel to any nuclear talks. As one route to reconciliation, Pyongyang has long said it wants a peace treaty ending the Korean War, probing whether it means what it says is in U.S. and allied security interests, especially now that North Korea’s nuclear-armed.
Third, strategic rethinking entails acknowledging that the military steps taken to reassure U.S. allies also antagonized China – all of them; not just the missile defense piece. No chorus of disclaimers from Washington will persuade Beijing that the U.S. military rebalancing to Asia is not aimed at containing it. Washington needs to accompany that military rebalancing with a political and diplomatic rebalancing toward China and encourage its allies to do the same. Cooperation has to be a two-way street. A sustained effort at rapprochement could include military – sustained military-to-military as well as diplomatic talks to address, among other things, the two states’ mutual vulnerability through mutual restraint in the domains of cyberspace, nuclear weaponry and space. That might include commitments to forego cyberattacks on each other’s critical infrastructure, acknowledgment of mutual deterrence by accepting China’s retaliatory capability as legitimate and a ban on attacking or interfering with one another’s satellites.
In conclusion, in my view, the only way to head off looming instability in Asia is to try to move toward peace in Korea and rapprochement with China. Sustained diplomacy and political rebalancing may not succeed. But unlike more stringent sanctions, more muscular deterrence, diplomatic disengagement and military rebalancing, they just might work. Thank you.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you, Lee. And now we’ll turn to Fabrice Vareille of the EU for a European perspective.
FABRICE VAREILLE: Thank you very much, and first of all, thank you very much to the Arms Control Association for inviting me to this forum, and also thank to the Heinrich Böll Foundation for making this possible.
I’m very glad to be – to be able to give you an EU perspective on the situation in the peninsula and what the EU can – what the EU’s role can be there. So, first, I will – I will maybe talk very quickly about how we see the current situation and then I will try to elaborate a little bit on what are the implications of the situation for the EU and what the EU can do to help address the issue are at stake on the peninsula.
In the past few months, we’ve seen tensions on the peninsula reaching a very, very high point, probably at a level we’ve not seen since 1994, when plans to strike a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon were being drawn up. Fortunately, tensions have been subsiding in the last few weeks, but we are still – the situation is still very serious and there is still room for an unprovoked incident or from – for some new and unexpected provocation by the DPRK, who has always been very adept at wrong-footing everyone. And we are now in a – in a – it seems, in a – in a cycle of engagement or we are moving toward a cycle of moderation. And this way of blowing hot and cold does resemble traditional DPRK behavior where a period of relative or moderation and negotiation succeeds periods of heightened tensions and aggressive acts and rhetoric.
Rather than trying to explain what could be the motives or the specific tactical considerations at play in Pyongyang to explain the recent cycle, I would like to underline maybe that behind this, what looks like maybe a usual pattern of behavior, we think that there are a number of factors that make the current situation a little bit different.
First, we have a new, young, inexperienced leader, untested leader in North Korea who needs to assert his control over the party and the army, and he’s still sort of an unknown quantity. It is reported that even the Chinese have encountered difficulties to reach out to him. So, he’s – he brings a factor of uncertainty into the equation.
Second, we have new governments in office in the further region. In Seoul and in Tokyo, we have new governments which have the political wield and technical means to react by beefing up their deterrence capability. And Mr. Wit has touched on that previously. We have also new leadership in China, which probably sees its strategic interest increasingly undermined by DPRK behavior and actions and is worried that the 6 party process might be in jeopardy.
Last but not least, and what maybe is a key change in the situation, is that there is a steady progress in the DPRK programs – nuclear and ballistic programs. Assessments diverge as regards the DPRK’s actual capability in terms of militarizing and weaponizing a nuclear device, but I think we can – we can argue with a degree of certainty that the DPRK is progressing step by step, and the willingness of countries whose security is affected, to acquiescing that situation is correspondingly less. So, all this create a new situation where the traditional freeze approach which was pressured in the past is perhaps not an option on the table anymore.
So, what are the implication of all of this – of the situation for the – for the EU? What is the EU role in the international efforts to resolve the North Korea problem? I would argue that even if the EU is not a direct actor, even if the EU doesn’t have strategic assets deployed in the region, even if the EU is not under direct threat from the DPRK, the question of a – of the implication of the EU should not surprise because the EU has a strategic interest at stake. It has an history of active involvement in the peninsula and it has some assets that other like-minded players do not contribute to addressing the situation.
Our strategic interests, I think they are very, very clear. On the one hand, we have a very significant economic and political presence in East Asia. The EU has strategic partnerships with China, with Japan, with South Korea. All three are very important economic and trade partners for the EU. And a risk of instability in the region or reaction to propaganda efforts by the DPRK can have an impact on business confidence and disturb capital flows, thereby affecting directly the EU interests and economy. So, that’s one aspect.
But we also have a stake in the security sphere. The EU – one of the main pillar of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy is the objective of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This is a policy on which there is a very strong and united EU position, and naturally North Korea’s actions, North Korea’s withdrawal of the NPT threaten that regime, and that’s an issue of very high concern for the – for the – for the EU.
In this context, also, the EU is concerned because of risks of proliferation from the DPRK towards its own neighborhood. There has been evidence in the past of proliferation of nuclear technology or nuclear materials towards Syria, and there is – there are suspicions of possible contact between the North Korean and the Iranian nuclear program, and this brings the North Korea issue much closer to us. So, because of a risk of interaction, the EU cannot be indifferent to the development of DPRK programs and to the responses by the international community.
These interests, which are real, explain why the EU has already been quite active on the – on the peninsula. In 1997, the EU was invited to join the KEDO project to build a light water reactor and commit 100 million euro for this project at that time. And I think this was a clear recognition that the EU cannot be left out of any major international initiative to achieve the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula both as a donor and as a leading force internationally for nonproliferation.
Back in the early 2000s, also, in the – against a background of improving inter-Korean dialogue, most EU member-states established diplomatic relations with the DPRK, and the EU stepped up its activities with – in the DPRK. In particular, there were high-level contacts and visits, including at the level of then-president of the European Council, Swedish Prime Minister Persson, but there was also – there were also – we stepped up our assistance activities at the time to include training activities of various kinds, like economic reform, human rights, governance, in addition to humanitarian-related activities.
So, this engagement of the peninsula and with the DPRK also reflects the fact that the EU has some specific assets that it can use to make a contribution to finding a solution. As I said, most EU member-states – member-states have diplomatic relations with the DPRK, and seven member-states have an embassy in Pyongyang, providing us with channels of communication with North Korean authorities that other players don’t have.
I already mentioned our long-standing, even if limited, assistance activities in the country in response to humanitarian needs and emergencies. We have several NGOs on the ground delivering our assistance, and this is another form of presence – of EU presence in the country and another link with North Korean authorities.
We have a long-standing policy of critical engagement with North Korea, which takes the form of regular political dialogue with the DPRK at senior official level. And given the volatility of Pyongyang’s relation with other players such as the U.S., Japan, South Korea, the EU is the only major democracy which has remained continuously engaged with North Korea over the past decade, including at times of heightened tensions. And this has been appreciated and supported by our like-minded partners as it keeps a channel of influence and communication which they themselves are not in a position to maintain. So, in the meantime, we have the advantage of being seen by the DPRK as a relatively neutral actor with no recent historical baggage in the region. So, that, I think, characterizes the EU stance vis-à-vis the situation.
So, what do we do with this? For it – I think the EU priority for the time being is to contribute to ensuring that the winding down of tensions continues and that an environment is created that – is created that facilitates substantive engagement by the DPRK. In our view, the diplomatic priority is to sustain and possibly to re-enforce the newly formed international consensus in condemnation of DPRK and persuade China and Russia to use their influence to induce change in the DPRK.
The ultimate aim is to show the DPRK that threats don’t work and that it must negotiate. And I think that in this regard, Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to China sent very positive signals regarding the joint resolve of China and the U.S. to work closely on this. So, in this context, the justification for EU engagement continues to be valid. Sanctions by themselves will probably not do the trick. And the need for EU political engagement is widely recognized, and this is what we hear from our partners when we are talking to them about the situation in the peninsula.
If talks about talks begin, as it seems is now the case, it will be timely – could be timely for us to resume the EU political dialogue that we have with the DPRK in order to encourage Pyongyang to re-engage on terms that offer a credible prospect for denuclearization. If that turned out positively, it could also be followed by a few low-key actions as a tangible sign of EU goodwill. For example, resuming periodic small-scale training visits by the DPRK diplomats to Brussels; focus on the EU and how it functions, and this is a way of exposing DPRK diplomats to the outside world – organizing activities on economic reform issues, which could be held either in Pyongyang or, as previously – or in neighboring countries. So that’s the sort of small thing that the EU can do to induce change in the country.
We could also look at scope for Track 2 activities. Over years, a number of member states have sponsored such events, even if the outcome of this initiative remain unclear.
And then there is the issue of what role for the EU if talks resume. Should there be an involvement of the EU in future talks? It’s a bit – it’s a bit difficult to say. When the six-party talk process was launched in the early 2000s, the EU was interested in joining, but for some – for different reasons. This finally did not materialize, and the EU has rather aimed at making a supporting contribution to the 6 party talks. And I think that in looking at the future, there would be no fundamental change. If 6 party talks were to resume or if new modalities for talks with the DPRK were designed, the EU would probably not play a leading role or look immediately for a seat at the table. But again, our channels of communication could – with Pyongyang could prove useful.
And I’ll stop there. Thank you.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you. (Applause.) All right, thank you.
Gentlemen, we have quite a number of ideas, thoughts, analysis on the table, hopefully thought-provoking. We have a couple of our staff members who are going to be available with microphones for your questions, so if you would like to ask a question, please raise your hand, as these folks are doing quite well, identify yourself, ask your questions. And why don’t we start right here, and then we’ll go to Ambassador Wulf after that.
Q: Mike Mosettig with PBS Online NewsHour. What should we be looking for in terms of statements, communiqués from the two presidents starting tomorrow to indicate either they are moving ahead or perhaps they’re not? And I say this partly in view that you’re hearing some talk in Washington that the administration is looking for President Park to be taking the lead on some of these negotiations. I don’t know whether that means she’s the canary in the coal mine or what, but – (laughter) – anyway, just some guidance on what we should be looking for in these talks the next two days.
MR. KIMBALL: Joel, you want to start us off?
MR. WIT: There are a couple of points here. Yes, there is this new idea – although it’s not so new; it keeps coming back over the past 20 years – that South Korea can kind of conduct this dialogue with North Korea, build confidence, and then maybe at some point the U.S. would sort of gradually get into the game. To some degree, it’s not a bad idea, but I can’t help but feel the motivation behind it is that the administration still doesn’t want to talk to North Korea, so it’s looking for other ways, other avenues of dealing with this.
And the bottom line here is that South Korea cannot deal with the core security issues that need to be addressed here. The United States has to be at the table for that discussion. If we’re not, then South Korea’s not going to go – get very far, and indeed, they may get nowhere with the North Koreans.
Second point on what can we look out out of the – for out of the communiqué, I don’t have any inside information, but if you see a communiqué that sort of trots out the usual suspects – you know, the strength of the alliance, the need for sanctions, the – you know, we don’t want to buy the same horse twice from North Korea, you know, other things in that context, then you’ll know that not much has really happened in terms of the North Korea issue.
MR. KIMBALL: Lee?
MR. SIGAL: I’d just add a couple of things. One is President Park has clearly indicated she wants to resume economic engagement with the North, starting in Kaesong. The question is whether she’s ready for a peace process. And here she has not come out. And that is critical to this because, as I say, North Korea – this is not about money. Kaesong is an opening move in the negotiation, but it’s got to go beyond that. So I think sounding out the North about a peace process – the South can contribute to that. I agree absolutely with Joel in the end, the U.S. has to be at that table, but not necessarily at the start. So the question is, is she prepared to go beyond attempts at resuming economic engagement to the political?
Secondly, I think she, ideally with the North, has to create a little distance – not real distance, but a little distance from Washington. It wouldn’t hurt if some administration officials criticized her for entering into talks with the North at this point. That wouldn’t hurt her. I’ll just leave it at that.
MR. KIMBALL: All right.
All right, why don’t we go to our other question, I think Norm Wulf – yes.
Q: Yes, an observation. I would remind that in 1996 and 1997 there were four-party talks: North, South Korea, China and the United States. And the agenda included a peace treaty, recognition, et cetera. So we’ve tried this. We’ve been down this road before. My own view is that the big threat North Korea presents is I think it’ll sell, at some point, if it hasn’t already, nuclear material or nuclear weapons to other countries or other actors. And I think the best position for the United States is that if we don’t buy it, someone else will. That means I’m sort of where Joel is, that we need to have a dialogue. And I would just sort of note that, yes, they will lie, cheat and steal, but no one thought the Soviets were clean when Jack Mendelsohn and others negotiated arms control treaties with them, and they did contribute to our national security. So what’s wrong with our doing the same now, sitting down, recognizing that the guy on the other side is not totally trustworthy but trying to enhance our national security?
MR. WIT: Yeah, you know, if I could say, I mentioned that the people who’ve been fixated with this issue, you know, are the Korea, Northeast Asia regional expert community. And so, you know, you hear this over and over again: Oh, they’re cheaters; they’re serial cheaters. You know, and it’s like, from people like me, who, you know, I kind of was very junior, but I participated in U.S.-Soviet negotiations, it’s like, yeah, OK, so what? You know, so were the Soviets, but you know, you get your verification measures in place, they give you some assurance that you know what’s going on, and you move forward because agreements can still serve your interest.
MR. SIGAL: I’d just add two things. One, anybody who looks closely at the history might be dismayed to find out that North Korea was the – was not the only one that reneged on agreements. That’s really centrally important here.
Second, just to remind people of what happened in the ’97 talks on peace, that was an attempt to get the North and South talking again, and the president of South Korea at that time did not want to engage in talks and had to be threatened with the denial of a presidential visit in order to compel him into those four-party talks, and the North Koreans knew it. So nobody thought that was going to move very far.
Furthermore, the North Korean position at that time was rather interesting, and it underscores a point that’s often lost in Washington. They asked, what the hell are the Chinese doing in these talks? For North Korea, for 25, 30 years, the name of the game is to beget – to get the United States, South Korea and, indeed, even Japan into the game so that they have a counterweight to China and alternative sources of aid and investment to China, so that they’re not dependent on China. That game has been lost on most people in Washington. That’s why I think they said what they did in ’97.
MR. KIMBALL: Before we go to the next question, I mean, to pick up on a couple of things that were just raised here – and Norm Wulf, you mentioned the earlier four-party effort – the six-party talks – if each of you could just briefly address whether that is the right formula, if a different formula is necessary or if it really doesn’t matter and what’s important is that the key parties are actually talking. I mean, we have had, over the years, a lot of debate, some of it maybe useful, not useful, about the shape of the table and how many seats are at the table. I mean, but as we think about, you know, the resumption of talks, which are clearly necessary, is that the right formulation? Your thoughts?
MR. WIT: You know, it’s always a tricky question. It’s a – it’s a question of balancing process with substance. And if you’re too – you emphasize process too much, it hurts substance. If you emphasize substance too much, it may hurt process.
So – but you know, where I come out is that I think we need just to kind of wipe the slate clean here. And what I would suggest – and I think this is something the Chinese are very interested in – is new talks that are four-party talks – I think I disagree with Lee – that are four-party talks, the United States, China, South Korea and North Korea, that focus on four agenda items: denuclearization, peace treaty, cross-normalization of relations and economic assistance. I think that kind of structure – if the North Koreans are interested in trying to move down the road towards denuclearization, which is maybe a big “if,” I think that kind of structure would serve our interests.
Now, of course, the downside is what do we do about Russia, what do we do about Japan, what do we do about the European Union. You know, we may be able to figure out a way where the six-party talks can sort of be some big umbrella and maybe bring in other countries, and somehow they would participate but not be at the core of the discussion.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, Lee, Fabrice, any other thoughts about that?
MR. SIGAL: Just – look, what’s critical here is what the United States is prepared to negotiate with North Korea about and what South Korea is prepared to negotiate with North Korea about. The modalities are, to me, secondary. I have no problem with China being at the table. The question is does North Korea have a problem – (chuckles) – with China being at the table? OK, let me just leave it at that. It’s about what we’re prepared to talk about. And we have, in the past, hinted at peace talks. It’s in the six-party September 2005 communique. But the serious effort at a peace process, I think, has not been looked at in this town or, I think, to some extent in Seoul either.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, I think we have a couple other questions. There’s one in the rear, and then we’re going to come back to Ambassador Culp. But why don’t we take the one in the rear first. Thank you.
Q: Good morning. Anne Charlotte Merrell Wetterwik from the Center for International Trade and Security. Thank you very much for a very good panel. I have a question for Mr. Vareille and the European Union, if you don’t mind. You mentioned the KEDO project that has a very long track record of at least being talked about as a way of getting the European Union as a – as an entry point to discussions with the DPRK. So I was just wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more about the results that you have seen so far under this project and if you see a future for this project being a trigger point of DPRK’s potential capricious pragmatism of seeing the EU and this particular project as a way out of the dead end.
MR. VAREILLE: Thank you. I referred to this project more as a way to show that the EU had been our – had been involved in the past already in dealing with our nuclear issue on the – on the peninsula that I don’t think the KEDO project is a success story, basically. It looks as if the project now is dead in the water. It didn’t achieve what it was intended to achieve, so this is not something on which we can build for the future.
I think that what the EU is ready do now is perhaps less to engaging to large-scale project of this kind, for which the conditions are not there anyway, but if circumstances allow, we are maybe better placed to do a small thing at small scale where we can engage with the North Koreans, with different groups in North Korea with assistance project or small-scale activities and training project that bring in, little by little, some changes in the way the economy functions in the DPRK and the way officials in the DPRK can be – can have contact with and experience with external actors. So this is more the sort of thing that we can do, and the KEDO project now is not something that can be resurrected in any way, I think.
MR. KIMBALL: Right. David Culp, in the middle, please, and then in front.
Q: We hear some members of Congress and other people here in Washington that say if the Chinese would just use their influence, they could bring North Korea to the negotiating table or get an agreement. Other people say, no, they don’t really have that much influence. So I’m curious what the panel members think. What’s the real state of the degree of influence that the Chinese have with North Korea?
MR. SIGAL: David, the heart of this is if we’re right – and we’ve heard it a number of times from the North Koreans – they want the U.S. as a counterweight to China, and therefore that gives us influence, potentially, if we engage. We tend to think of Chinese influence in terms of threatening North Korea. There are limits to what the Chinese are prepared to do. But most important, if you actually look at when the U.S. and China cooperate at the U.N., in – on Security Council resolutions three times – more than that, actually, but three very notable times after the nuclear test – the North Korean reaction is always the same, which is they really hyperventilate. They really up the threat scale because they have to drive the Americans and the Chinese apart, and what they know is the Chinese will come to try and calm them down, and the Americans will blame the Chinese for not bringing them to their knees. And it works every time
So the notion that the Chinese have independent influence – yes, they have some. But the negative influence that some people in this town hope for, that they’ll cut them off from aid and investment – most of the investment, by the way, is private – that’s something the Chinese are not going to do, and the North Koreans know it. So the limit of the pressure side of this – it’s limited. When you’re in a negotiation, when the Americans are actually negotiating, the Chinese, at the margin, have some influence, but at the margin. Again, this is mainly, it seems to me, has always been about the North Koreans looking for counterweights to China, and that gives us influence, a point that seems totally lost on this town.
MR. KIMBALL: Joel, Fabrice, any thoughts on this?
MR. VAREILLE: Just maybe very quickly, I think that we can, however, see some – I wouldn’t say a shift, but a change in the China position in the way it has allowed your recent UNSC resolution to be adopted. And we also detect willingness of China to implement more effectively the sanctions which are in – adopted in the context of this UNSC resolution. This willingness is – I mean, this is in a very measured way. But from what we see on the ground – so again, from reports that we receive from the organization that are working for us in implementing small project, we see that, for instance, cash transfers from China to the DPRK have become much more difficult. We see that some of the sanctions that are – have been decided are implemented more effectively than in the past.
MR. KIMBALL: OK, we’ve got a question up here. Jennifer. Thank you.
Q: Well, thank you very much for a great panel. And I was going to ask the question that David just asked about China and what it could do, but instead I will now ask about the more recent test that North Korea has just carried out. I mean, they’ve now had three tests, and each time it seems to get less attention. And I wonder what influence you think that might have on Iran in terms of red lines that we drew even for North Korea.
MR. KIMBALL: And maybe also – I mean, just to add to this question – I mean, Joel you run this very excellent 38 North website, and just keeping an eye on some of the actual facilities. I mean, could you give us a brief assessment of what you’re seeing, what we can expect in terms of the physical capabilities of the North on its fissile and missile programs?
MR. WIT: You know, I’m really – I don’t know how Iran views these red lines or red lines in Syria or any other make-believe red lines we lay down, so I really don’t know the answer to that. I’m sorry, Jennifer – others may. But on this – on what’s going on at their facilities, you know, it’s very interesting how much satellite photography – commercial satellite photography can help websites like ours analyze what’s going on, particularly since there’s a large pool of retired photo analysts out there. And so what we’ve been seeing at the missile facilities – not any signs of missile tests at the moment, but it’s been pretty clear for a while now that they are building facilities that are able to handle much larger space launch vehicles than the one they fired off, for example, in December – much larger. Those won’t be done, probably, till the middle of this decade.
Secondly, on the nuclear test site, there have been some recent pictures there, and we’re working on some analysis of that. You know, it’s really – it’s really squishy. You can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen, and I mean, all we can see is a lot of activity at different parts of the site. But beyond that, you know, it doesn’t indicate whether a test is going to happen tomorrow or next month or the month after that. But clearly, you know, this is a place that is active and will continue to be active. And there are probably a number of additional tunnels there that can be used for future tests.
MR. KIMBALL: Yeah, one thing about Iran that’s clear is that Iran doesn’t want to be thought of like people think of North Korea. So to some extent, that’s a good thing. But at – recently at the NPT prepcom, the agenda was organized in such a way that North Korea and Iran were in the same session, and that really bothered the ambassador of Iran in Geneva.
All right. I think we had another question up front here, please, and maybe a couple of others. Thanks.
Q: My name’s Li Yan (ph). I appreciate the panelists’ discussion. My major concern always is the people’s interests. You know, you have all the talk from the bureaucracy and upper officials or their representative – they are basically sort of propaganda by some interest group. So I was just wondering if, when they have a peace talk or negotiation do they really enforce it – inject the public interest and to tell just how they damage the people or their nation – the resources that this or the people or how the people lost their home and everything that the nuclear arm or anything of the sort that is really basically try to destroy people and their communities. So when they have a peace talk, do they bring all this issue up?
MR. WIT: I’m happy to try to answer you, but when you say “public interests,” whose – are you talking about the North Korean people or – in North Korea?
Q: Every country – (off mic) – North Korea – (off mic) – the upper level – (off mic) – negotiate with American officials. So after the peace talk – (off mic) –
MR. WIT: Well, I – that’s a tough question to answer. I mean, I’m assuming that the United States and South Korean governments are negotiating or having policies that they believe are in the public interest. In terms of North Korea, well, you know, I don’t know how to answer that. But there is a – you know, and your bringing up public interest is useful, because there’s another agenda here. It’s not just the WMD agenda here or the peace agenda. I mean, those are the main agendas, I think. But there is the agenda that is not spoken of a lot, is, how do you encourage change in a system like North Korea, which everyone knows is horrendous? How do you encourage peaceful change inside North Korea?
There are a number of different ways of doing it. You can try to make them collapse, and that’ll result in big change, or you can try to do it slowly through a strategy that involves interaction – increasing interactions with North Korea, at the center of which are the security issues. But there are other issues, and our EU colleague here has sort of alluded to them. So, you know, that’s another piece of this puzzle, and I guess it’s one that is mainly aimed at the South Korean – I mean, the North Korean public interest. I don’t know how to deal with the rest of, you know, your – what your question is. Maybe others on the panel –
MR. SIGAL: Joel’s just done something very important, which is reminded us that there are actually people in North Korea besides bureaucrats. But part of the American strategy, even under the Obama administration, is to go beyond sanctions approved by the Security Council, which are focused on weapons-related transactions to try to impede any financial transactions by any North Korean entities, including those engaged in legitimate trade. That is something the Chinese rightly won’t go along with, because the Chinese understand that the most important political and economic change that has taken place in North Korea was that – partly as a consequence of the famine, there was this spontaneous development of markets, and those markets would not function were it not for Chinese goods flowing privately, by and large, into those markets. That reduces ordinary North Koreans’ dependence on the state, and that, in that system, is a profound change.
Yes, it’s not the change we all seek, but it is something very important, and it is absolutely perverse for us to cut off – try to cut off or impede legitimate trade with North Korea. That makes no sense, and Treasury is about it, continuing to do so.
Q: Jim Leonard. I had an involvement in Korea from ’68 through the late ‘90s, and to the best of my memory, the only really meaningful interaction with the Korean government during that time was agreed framework talks – the famous visit of President Carter. My question is whether there is the opportunity – the possibility for diplomats in Pyongyang or for high-level visitors to Pyongyang to really interact on a give-and-take, informal, what do you think about this, what do you think about that basis with real policymakers, not simply the people who were sent to talk to the barbarians, as the Chinese used to put it.
MR. SIGAL: I think the key here is to get the secretary of state or somebody at that level to talk. We have the experience that, when Albright went, she talked to Kim Jong Il and he put the missile program on the negotiating table, OK?
So I do think that’s important. And I think the diplomats are constrained in their system, and so there is a point at which you want to go high. I don’t think we’re there right now, but I do think that’s critical. We don’t know much of what we need to know about North Korea. We don’t know the state of their programs with any high degree of accuracy, but we learn a lot by talking to North Koreans. Not always the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth – this is negotiations, you know, 1A, but not talking to them denies us the possibility of seeing what’s doable. Talking to the diplomats helps, but it’s not ultimately the only way to do things. We’ve gotten a lot further when we go high up, and to have a basketball player be the only one to meet Kim Jong Un is bizarre in my view – bizarre.
MR. KIMBALL: I was wondering if we’d get through this session without mentioning Dennis, but I guess we couldn’t.
MR. WIT: Yeah, we actually – a colleague and I wrote an article for ForeignPolicy.com about how Dennis Rodman’s trip was actually very useful and helpful, which, of course, wasn’t the view of most people. But just to reinforce what Lee said, you know, the agreed framework process – certainly, there was substantive back and forth on that, and the guy involved negotiating it for the North Koreans was, you know, one of Kim Jong Il’s right-hand men. The process of substantive back-and-forth continued throughout the 1990s, and it wasn’t just at higher levels, although it got to higher levels by 2000 when Madeleine Albright visited North Korea after a very senior North Korean met with Bill Clinton.
But the lower-level processes during the 1990s, which I was very much involved with in terms of the government-to-government, were very useful and very straightforward. And that’s because there was a political anchor in place on the bilateral relationship. There were developed patterns of discussion, there were things we were working on together.
Whether we can get back there again, I don’t know. You know, I – the situation has changed a lot since the 1990s. It’s gotten a lot worse. The problem is, people have kind of convinced themselves that since it’s gotten a lot worse, we really shouldn’t try anymore. And, you know, I just am not willing to walk off the ball field like that. You know, I want to give it a shot.
MR. KIMBALL: We’ve got a couple more questions before we wrap up; in the middle, thank you.
Q: This is a question about China. Sort of – I sense there’s – two points have been made. One, that when the U.S. responds to turmoil on the peninsula, the Chinese read it as actually aimed at them, and the other point was that North Korea would very much like to use the West or the United States as a counterweight to China, which leads me to the following question. What – can you speculate – what, from the Chinese point of view, would be a good outcome to the turmoil on the peninsula? It’s a little unclear to me where their interests lie on this.
MR. SIGAL: Well, look, the Chinese are well aware of the North Korean desire to have the Americans come in. And the Chinese have actually encouraged that. They have not been afraid of it; they know it won’t come – it won’t eliminate their role in Korea. Where the Chinese literally don’t have an interest – I mean, they’re watching the United States strengthen its alliances and calling on China to throw North Korea overboard.
That makes no sense from Chinese national interest, OK. So the Chinese can live with a lot of alternative possibilities. What they can’t live with is an – you know, what makes them unhappy is a North Korea that keeps on using the nuclear – you know, building up their nuclear and missile capacity. That is dangerous for China, but they know that in the end, they can’t do it. The Americans might be able to. Less likely now, as Joel has said, but we don’t know until we try. So that’s where we are.
Do we know what the Chinese deep view is? Probably not, but my guess is – I’m just giving you my hunch as where they are – they don’t have a problem with the Americans developing a relationship with North Korea if it produces stability on the peninsula. What they worry about is instability on the peninsula, and we’re heading down that road.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. I see a hand in the rear.
If you could just identify yourself and maybe stand up so the speakers can see you, thanks.
Q: Stanley Coburn (sp). Last week, the North Koreans sent an American visiting their country to 15 years of hard labor. They have now said they’re not interested in negotiating his release. I’m looking at a story here – Foreign Ministry spokesman told the officials news agency, quote, “The DPRK has no plan to invite anyone of the U.S., unquote, to negotiate for this guy’s release.” So this raises the question of what kind of negotiations we can have they’re interested. Why did they sentence this guy to 15 years’ hard labor? Why are they saying, we’re not interested in having anyone visit?
MR. SIGAL: Notice that there is a difference between having a – someone important visit and the possibility that this guy might be released. The North Korean statement did not say the latter, despite all the misreporting by the wire services and everybody else. All they said was, you know, we didn’t sentence this guy to have Bill Richardson come or somebody like him. What has happened in the past – and we don’t know if it’ll happen in the future – notice that the original charges against this guy were reduced. That’s important. Secondly, nothing happens until there’s a judgment in North Korea, a sentencing. And then the possibility of his release at least is a possibility, and the North Koreans, so far, have not ruled that out. They just said, we’re not – we didn’t do this in order to get some high-level visitor to come.
Again, the fundamental issue seems to be, from the North Korean vantage point, what’s going to happen after the exercises? Are things going to calm down? Are we going to move away from what they call a hostile policy? In that context, my guess is it’s possible this guy will come home. And it might not, we hope, take that long.
MR. KIMBALL: OK. I want – go ahead, Joel.
MR. WIT: I – you know, I’m hesitating to say something about this, but – you know, I don’t know the details of this guy’s case. I don’t know what exactly he did as opposed to what he’s accused of doing. I don’t know any of this. And it’s, of course, kind of makes me hesitate to say something.
But I – you know, to me, whether they sentence this guy to prison, whether they don’t, they’re not trying to bargain with him – it’s important, and – certainly for this gentleman and his family, but to leap from that to the conclusion, therefore, that we can’t negotiate on WMD with them, I just don’t – I don’t quite understand that. And to me, there’s a national interest here. That’s the first priority. Dealing with this gentleman and his situation certainly should be part of what we’re about, but how are we going to do that if we’re not even talking to them? We’re not going to be able to do it.
And so, you know, I can see the North Koreans kind of sitting there reading the press saying, oh, North Koreans sentenced this gentlemen to jail because they want a senior American to come to North Korea. If I was a North Korean, I’d find that very insulting. And I would say, you know, I have my laws and, you know, this is the way it is.
MR. KIMBALL: I want to ask a final wrap-up question before we close out this panel, which is to kind of flip the question around about what happens if we don’t re-engage with North Korea in a – in serious talks on freezing and reversing their programs on a peace process, as you’ve all been saying. I mean, each of you have in different ways said it’s important to get those talks going again. Some of you have said very strongly that it’s important for the United States to reassess its current approach. What happens if we don’t do that in the next one or two years? Where do you see things winding up maybe five years from now, both in terms of North Korea’s nuclear missile programs and the overall security situation? So if you could look into that dark crystal ball for a second to close us out, that would be helpful.
MR. WIT: I’ll just go quickly. I’ve been – I’ve actually been giving a briefing on this starting from last fall. And, you know, there are various scenarios, of course, and it’s hard to predict exactly where things will go.
So there’s one scenario that is based on some work by David Albright that’s based on, you know, looking at the satellite photos of their space launch facilities. And that scenario goes that by 2016, they might have as 50 nuclear weapons, they’ll certainly have the regional capability to deliver them, and they’ll be working on the long-range capability. I don’t – I don’t think they’re going to have an ICBM by then, but it’s going to get steadily worse because there’s a lot of momentum behind this program now. It’s built up over the years, and it’s gaining speed.
And secondly, on the other front, the – you know, the issue of crisis stability, I don’t know what to say except that the North Koreans, whether they’re right or wrong, view their growing nuclear capability as giving them more free rein to be aggressive in terms of provocations and other activities like that. That’s a very dangerous situation. And so you can see the possibility of more provocations, more tensions. And I don’t know where they’re going to lead.
MR. KIMBALL: Lee?
MR. SIGAL: That’s sort of my scenario too, I’m afraid. We know certain things. We know the third test worked. We don’t know how much fissile material was used. If they didn’t use very much, then it was a very efficient device. They probably need another test or two. Again, we don’t know for sure. We don’t know why they didn’t test the so-called Musudan. Is it because it doesn’t really exist yet, or is it because they chose not to? But I wouldn’t bet on the long-term possibilities that that thing and some other things they have won’t come along.
The ICBM is further away. The third stage is not ready for prime time – as far as we know. Again, what we don’t know dwarfs what we do know here. On the other hand, the trajectory is very clear. It’s clear with respect to fissile material, it’s clear with respect to the development of a weapon, it is clear with respect to the development of missiles. And one should not assume that the North Koreans can’t master what they’re trying to do and can’t acquire the technical – the technology and the materiel they need to get there. Sanctions have not stopped them a bit from getting what they needed.
MR. KIMBALL: Fabrice?
MR. VAREILLE: At every stage of our reaction towards recent events in North Korea, the missile launch via nuclear tests, when we adopted sanctions, when we have implemented the U.N. sanctions and opted additional EU sanctions, we’ve always made a point to underline the fact that the door for dialogue was open and that we were urging the DPRK to re-engage with international community, so there is no doubt for us that there is no other option than engaging enough – the DPRK that we have to – and the main players in this issue have to create the circumstances that allow this engagement to take place. Even when they were talks with the DPRK about the nuclearization, the DPRK was, in fact, developing its nuclear capability, so there is no doubt that if we are stuck in a – in a situation of antagonism, they will continue to develop their program. And as I’ve already outlined, they are making incremental progress in developing these programs. And it means that East Asia will become a more dangerous place, and this is not something which we want to see. There are other security issues in East Asia, and this could create a cocktail of tensions and risks that would be very dangerous, so I think that for all these reasons, the only way to go is to find ways of engaging with Pyongyang.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. Thank you all. Please join me in thanking our panelists this morning. (Applause.) In about two minutes we’re going to turn to our next panel. I want to invite our three panelists to come up to the stage as we shift. Everyone else, you have about two minutes to take a brief break. Just want to let you know that we’re not going to wait that long to begin the next session.
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DARYL KIMBALL: All right, welcome back, everyone.
Now we’re going to shift from one of the most confounding nuclear proliferation problems to discussing one of the most promising developments in the field of conventional arms control in many years, the new Arms Trade Treaty.
As many people here know, armed violence, much of it fueled by the illicit and irresponsible trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, kills hundreds of thousands of civilians each year and contributes to human right abuses and facilitates war crimes and atrocities against civilians from places like Syria to the Congo to Central America and beyond.
And in response to these challenges, on April 2nd the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the first global Arms Trade Treaty with the support of the United States, other arms suppliers including the U.K., and many of the affected countries around the world.
And so to explain what this treaty does, why it’s important, why it’s an important historic first step for human rights and civilian protection, and to discuss what needs to be done in the coming weeks and months and years to bring it into force and ensure its effective implementation, we’ve brought to you three of the world’s top experts on the subject.
To open our panel discussion on the Arms Trade Treaty, we have with us Rachel Stohl, who is a Stimson Center senior associate and a member of the Arms Control Association board of directors as of last year. For the past several years she’s served as a consultant to the president of the ATT talks, and was an important behind-the-scenes player in making sure that we have a strong treaty.
Also with us here today is Paul O’Brien, who is the vice president for policy and campaigns with Oxfam America, which has worked hard for the ATT for many years. Armed Control Association was pleased to have worked with Oxfam, Amnesty USA, Control Arms and other NGOs over the past couple of years to help push the Obama administration to support a stronger treaty. And we will continue working with them in the weeks ahead to encourage the United States to sign the treaty on June 3rd in New York when it opens for signature.
We’re also very honored to have with us from London Mr. Richard Tauwhare, who is the head of the Arms Export Policy Department for the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We appreciate the leadership of Richard and his U.K. colleagues, who have been, also for many years, among the leading government champions of the Arms Trade Treaty.
So with that introduction, I want to invite Rachel to come up here and speak, if you’d like. No, you want to sit there? OK, they’re all going to sit here and –
MS. STOHL: Thanks, Daryl. And thanks to the Arms Control Association for this important panel, because I think in Washington we don’t get a lot of victories, and I think not only do we have one here to talk to you about today, but we should take the time to savor and celebrate this before we get back to the hard work of seeing this treaty actually come to fruition. So I’m delighted that ACA has taken the time to recognize this important achievement today.
What I want to do in my remarks is to really talk about what the Arms Trade Treaty is, and perhaps – to some – more importantly, what it isn’t, and how it can potentially make a difference to regulating. I would say “regulating” is the word I would use instead of “controls.” This isn’t an arms control or disarmament treaty, but really in terms of regulating what until now has been a very unregulated conventional arms trade.
So the reason that we’re here today is the Arms Trade Treaty is actually the first legally binding international treaty that regulates the cross-border trade in conventional arms. And this ranges from everything from the fighter aircraft you think about to warships and small arms and light weapons. So it’s a huge category of weapons. As Daryl mentioned, these are the weapons that are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and conflict and violence around the world. So this is really kind of the meat of the weapons systems that are causing such devastating casualties around the world.
As I said, this is not a disarmament or arms control treaty, and it is not a treaty that covers the domestic trade of weapons. It doesn’t look at what happens within a country, the internal transfer of weapons. And this is really important, particularly in the United States. This treaty has nothing to do with the domestic gun control debate in the United States. We are really talking about the cross-border governmental authorized transfers of conventional arms. And I think I could say it 20 times and people will still leave with the false impression, that that’s really an important distinction of what this treaty does.
In a nutshell, this treaty does three very important things. One, it establishes common international standards for the trade in arms that countries have to incorporate into their national systems, or develop national systems to do those things. Two, the treaty provides for oversight of the global arms trade by enhancing the transparency of what traditionally has been very murky and opaque. And three, the treaty creates an environment of accountability where states are responsible for ensuring that their arms sales meet those global standards and norms that have been created.
This treaty is long overdue. The absence of such standards has negatively impacted national security, foreign policy, threatening the lives of not only countless civilians but of service men and women around the world. It has fueled foreign conflicts, armed violence and crime. It allowed human rights abusers, terrorist organizations and criminals to be armed with impunity. Really, the time for this was very overdue. And it’s a landmark treaty. It really is, for the first time, an international recognition that there are some arms transfers that just should not be authorized. And I think we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
Why do we need an arms trade treaty? This didn’t just come out of nowhere. This wasn’t like, oh, the United Nations thought, well, we probably need some success; let’s find something to do. This is a process that’s been going on for several decades. It took the United Nations itself more than seven years to negotiate this treaty. So I don’t want it to be seen like this was a victory, and we all just went to the U.N. one day and had it negotiated quickly. This was a long effort, and I’m sure Richard will talk about the importance of key governments in making sure that it happened.
But I also want to recognize the role of civil society in this effort. Firsthand, the civil society organizations see the consequences of these weapons. They push governments for action. Also importantly, countries that are affected by conflict and by crime and by the violence caused by these weapons gave a credible voice to the need for this treaty, and that was really important.
And perhaps – I don’t know if it was most importantly, but it was certainly what was the tipping point was – the exporters, the major exporters of these weapons, including the United States, the United Kingdom and other members of the Security Council said, you know what? In order to ensure the legitimacy of the legal arms trade, we probably should look at something that will make sure that all states abide by certain rules of the game. And that will not only level the playing field for our defense industries but it also gives us some credibility in terms of the transfers that we make.
And so having that commitment not only from the exporting states and the importing states, and then the push from civil society, it was really an important combination of events.
So what does this treaty say? What does it do? I would argue – although there are some critics of the text – that this is probably the best compromise text that could have come out of the United Nations. If it is implemented, it would be potentially effective in stopping the irresponsible and illegal arms trade. I believe it’s strong, I believe it’s balanced, and I think that it impacts those countries that have sophisticated export control systems as well as those who have centered on existent systems equally, and I think that’s important.
So there are many articles of the treaty, and I’m not going to go through all of them, but I have it with me if anyone is interested – (laughter) – because as you know – as some of you know, I could talk about every article and why every word is the way it is. But I do want to highlight a few key points.
One is the scope of this treaty and what it applies to. As I said from the beginning, it applies to the full range of conventional weapons. And I think that’s important to note, that it’s not just fighter jets, it’s not just warships and other weapons that are identified in the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms, but also small arms and light weapons.
In some ways it also covers parts and components for those weapons as well as the ammunition for those weapons, and ammunition for not only small arms and light weapons but also the munitions that are responsible for more heavy conventional and more sophisticated weaponry. And I think that’s really important, that we’re looking at an entire class, an entire category of weapons that hasn’t really been treated equally before.
There is an article that lays out what the minimum obligations for each state will be in terms of their national system. So it does – every state doesn’t need to have a system that looks like the United States’ export control system. In fact, I would encourage them not to have a full system that looks like the U.S. system.
But there are minimum standards that states need to make sure that they can incorporate because every state is somehow involved in the international arms trade as an importer, as an exporter, as a brokering state, a transit or trans-shipment state. There’s some way that every state is involved, and I think that’s important. It also requires states to have a designated national point of contact so that we know who to go to when questions about the treaty or its implementation arise.
What some might consider the meat of the treaty – the prohibitions and the export assessments that are required by the treaty – are incredibly important, because as I said, for the first time we actually have rules that say if these conditions are met, a state shall not transfer conventional weapons. And those are things that, again, seem very obvious, very commonsense, but up until now were not enunciated clearly.
One is that if a transfer would violate a U.N. arms embargo, a state shall not transfer. While that was true for international, that wasn’t necessarily required to be in states’ national laws. So that’s important.
Violations of obligations of relevant international agreements to which it’s a party – again, seems obvious – those that would be used for the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breeches of the Geneva Conventions, attacks directed at civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it’s a party, very important to say: If those conditions occur, you shall not transfer.
The second part of the export assessment kind of enunciates the way that states should make decisions. I think it’s very clear that states must go through a process to determine whether or not to make a transfer. Does the transfer potentially assist your national security or foreign policy objectives? But could it also undermine peace and security at the same time? What does that look like? What does that process look like?
And this treaty lays out a very clear progression of steps that states must take when they consider an arms transfer. And if, when they consider all of those factors, the bad stuff overrides the good stuff, you don’t get to make the transfer.
And I think, again, putting that in writing, making it very clear, the process that states have to follow, is a really important step. The arms trade is, by its nature, legitimate. There are reasons why states want to acquire conventional arms and small arms and light weapons. And so allowing them to still do that within a framework that makes sense to the international community and establishes norms and standards is very important.
I won’t go into all of the requirements for states that import weapons that are transit or transshipment states, how brokering will occur or should be regulated, but all of those things are also contained within the text of the treaty.
And a new article that didn’t appear, or hadn’t been discussed at length before, was the issue of diversion. How do you prevent transfers that are in the legal market that are going to a legitimate end user – how do you prevent those from entering the illicit trade, because that’s a huge problem with the legal trade in conventional arms. And so there’s also an article that says: Here are steps that states can take to prevent that diversion.
There are also standards for record-keeping and for reporting. Again, enhancing the transparency of this trade was incredibly important in terms of the objectives. And so in terms of reporting, there are two main reports that every state party will have to – there are others, but two big ones that every state will have to submit. One looks at the measure that it’s taken to implement the treaty. How has it fulfilled the obligations, which is helpful for states to understand what the national processes of a particular state might be.
And the second is a report that looks at the authorizations or actual exports of – or exports and imports of conventional arms that are covered under the scope of the treaty. And the intent here was to give us a broad view of what the conventional arms trade looks like. We have some voluntary transparency mechanisms. We have countries like the United States, which are incredibly transparent about its arms trade, but you also have states that refuse to participate in any voluntary mechanism, and so having this be a requirement really allows us to get a wider view of what this trade looks like.
Another key aspect of the arms trade treaty is that it provides for international cooperation and assistance to help those states that don’t have well-developed export control systems. Countries like the United States, which already has incredibly sophisticated programs through its export control and border security program, or even through programs through weapons removal and abatement and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, that help states better create better conditions for border controls and stockpile management. Those will all assist in preventing that diversion that I talked about a few minutes ago. So that’s an incredibly important aspect of this treaty, to kind of match those that have the resources and those that require the resources to implement the treaty.
So I think I’ve made the case that this treaty was much needed and that it’s a really important step, but I do want to caution you that this is not the end-all, be-all of conventional arms regulations. It’s not a panacea. It’s one tool in a very big foreign policy and national security toolbox, and it’s one way that we can try to mitigate the consequences of the poorly and unregulated trade in conventional arms.
And we’re not going to see results tomorrow or six months from now, or I would dare to say even two or three years from now. I think it’s going to be over the next five to 10 years that we’ll be able to see that this treaty has made a difference in stopping this – in stopping this trade.
We can talk about certainly the role for the United States and what it means for the United States. I would just say that the shadow of the United States as the world’s largest exporter is very large, and this treaty gives the United States another way to have influence over the arms trade in terms of using this treaty as a tool to encourage other states to act more responsibly. There is nothing in this Arms Trade Treaty that the United States doesn’t already do as part of its export control system. There are no impediments for the United States to fully not only decide and ratify but also to just fully implement this treaty today.
We were very careful in terms of the drafting of this treaty to make sure it was very consistent with U.S. law. And it makes sense for U.S. policy, for a variety of ways. It’s based on the values of the United States in terms of its national security and foreign policy objectives, but also in terms of the values of helping those who are suffering, and trying to provide assistance to those that need it. It also of course could provide a very – a safer environment not only for U.S. service men and women but for eight agencies and companies that are working aboard to operate in areas where they don’t have to be in fear of the conventional arms trade.
So what happens next? The treaty gets to be opened for signature on June 3rd at the United Nations. Countries are currently going through their own domestic processes. What does signature mean? And once the treaty is signed on June 3rd, it will enter into force 90 days following the 50th instrument of ratification. So best guesstimates based on other treaties and what needs to be done would probably be within the next two to three years we would see the Arms Trade Treaty enter into force.
Certainly it would be a very strong and symbolic statement if the world’s largest exporters as a group were able to sign on June 3rd. And I think in terms of the long-term legitimacy and credibility of the Arms Trade Treaty, you need to have the large exporters on board. So having that initially will encourage others to join in.
And lastly, I just want to make one point, because I think as we’re seeing what’s happening in Syria and in other places around the world, there’s a lot of criticism of the United Nations. And I want to point out that I think this treaty was actually very important for the credibility and legitimacy of the United Nations as well. It highlights that the U.N. can be a body, if states want it to be, that can make important decisions and deliver outcomes that are important to international peace and security.
We could have had an arms trade treaty 20 years ago, negotiated outside of the U.N. system, probably stronger than what we have now. I don’t think anyone would deny that. But I don’t think it would have had every single country in the world having an equal voice at that negotiating table where you have exporters and importers having to talk to each other, or you have countries that are affected making pleas for stronger language, and where countries can really, over the last seven years, hear each other’s points of view. I think that’s really important.
And I think I’ll leave it there and let Paul take it from here.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, thank you.
I’m going to turn it over to Paul, but before I do, I just wanted to say a word about what a pleasure it’s been for the Arms Control Association, beginning with the work that our former deputy director, Jeff Abramson, led three years ago when we started working on the ATT, to work with some of our colleagues at Oxfam, at Amnesty USA, the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Congress of Catholic Bishops on this campaign.
It really has been an energizing and inspiring effort. And in my 20-plus years of work in the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation field, I mean, I haven’t seen an NGO campaign put together quite so well, so creatively as I’ve seen with the ATT. So I want to congratulate my colleagues. And I want to welcome Paul O’Brien from Oxfam America to address the topic.
MR. O’BRIEN: Thanks, Daryl, and same back to you for your leadership in this effort over the years.
And to Amnesty – I see Adoty (ph) there – this has been an almost uniquely, coherent effort over a long period of time. And for those of you who know, NGOs are like cats, and herding us is not easy, and somehow we managed it.
So, Rachel, thanks for the great setup, because I get to talk now a little bit about politics and you’ve been talking about policy. And I want to say why I think the politics of this is so fascinating. And it’s great – I know some of you in the room – to have such an august group to talk about this with.
So why would a development and humanitarian organization like Oxfam be so excited to talk about politics? We survived for years in difficult places by saying we have none, and now we have come around. We’ve changed as a group. And let me say a little bit about what makes us a little different and how this hits the sweet spot for us, and why I want to talk to you so much about politics.
So what makes us a little different from the think tanks that do such great work in this town is not just that, you know, there are prestigious and thoughtful individuals that will want to work for institutions like Carnegie and Brookings, but really what we bring to the table, because we’re not trying to compete at that level, is that we work in 90 countries and we try, on our good days, to listen to where people are at.
So when somebody tells a colleague of mine in the DRC a few weeks back that their child got kidnapped by a local group – because kidnapping is on the rise, just like it’s on the rise in Syria and elsewhere. It’s a very good way to make money in a money-flush environment. And their son gets returned to them mutilated, and this was because one of the 25 groups operating in that area had more guns than they knew what to do with, we try to hear that and do something about it.
I lived in Afghanistan for five years working on policy and spent a lot of time wandering around the country, and I couldn’t go anywhere where I didn’t come across a 15-year-old boy who knew more about an AK-47 than I ever will. And that country has to recover from that ground. I worked in Northern Uganda. Everybody knows what that’s like.
I was in Sudan three months ago where folks there are trying to recover in Darfur, but they just discovered oil. Well, guess what? The guy whose land on which the oil sat, which should have been a great source of revenue, was confronted by another local leader and 50 of his armed men. He got killed. Then there was a set of revenge killings by the original owner. And so far there have been 600 deaths. And whether the revenues will actually do anything for the people of Sudan is – you know, is an optimistic thought.
So that’s why we come to this equation because we’re trying to witness what we’re hearing and seeing in the field. But what does make us different as an organization to say a CARE or a Mercy Corps or an IRC – because they too are in these countries; they too are trying to witness this – that we put a lot of effort into trying to take those stories and do something about it in the policy space.
So 70 people sitting here in Washington trying to help shape policy. And as you said, Rachel, it’s really hard to shape policy in this town, not just because we’re many concentric circles away from the center of power, but because any policy change in Washington is difficult not just now when it’s particularly difficult, but it always is. And many of you have read the data and the studies.
What we’ve come to realize is that if we’re going to actually validate our existence, we have to be able to explain what we do in something other than the major policy win, like an arms trade treaty which comes every 10 years. So what we talk about – that’s optimistic – what we talk about is political wins: How can you create the kind of momentum politically so when it comes time for that moment of policy win, something good actually might happen? There’s enough momentum there.
And I think the political wins around the ATT, Arms Trade Treaty, may be as important for those of us who care about contributing to a safer world with less arbitrary use of small arms and big arms and so on – and just to be – I assume we’re largely among – hopefully completely among friends here. Let’s be honest about some of the political dimensions of what we were able to get with the Arms Trade Treaty. It is, as Rachel said, the strongest compromise we could have gotten under the circumstances.
But as Rachel said, we already have good laws on arms trade in the United States. We hope that it will be ratified and become part of law in the United States, but we’re not dependent on that. It may not be ratified by the United States, and yet we still think that it’s politically relevant.
There were compromises made in the language. For those of us who care profoundly about the strongest forms of enforcement, we would have liked to have seen more. We have some good standards, but it is everything we wanted? No. So we ended up with a treaty that has a lot of potential to be relevant politically, but it’s not certainly going to be so. And so what I want to advocate to you is that what happens now between now and June 3 and in the immediate weeks afterwards is profoundly important from a political perspective.
And just at the risk of belaboring the history, this has always been the case with the arms trade journey. It started 100 years ago, immediately after the First World War when we tried to build potential for an agreement with the small League of Nations. That failed. Twenty years ago Nobel Peace Prize winners came together and tried to get it passed. That failed.
And then 10 years ago this group of actors and three small countries – Costa Rica, Cambodia and Mali – came together and said, we need one. And this time, miraculously, it succeeded, and the United States played an incredibly important role in driving the political will towards the moment that we got on April 2nd.
So we had a big day on April 2nd, perhaps a uniquely big day. Well, hopefully not, but it was a moment when, despite everything – despite the NRA arguing that this was going to undermine 2nd Amendment rights; despite a whole set of constituencies, including the United States, that were worried about misinterpretation, we ended up where the only folks who were against it were Syria, Iran, North Korea and the NRA. I think Steve Colbert called that “the axis of freedom” – (laughter) – which was an important moment politically.
So that’s where we are. So why am I doing this big setup in saying we have an important moment between now and June 3? So just a little bit more on the technical details around what “entry into force” means.
To get a treaty to go into force in the U.N. system, you have a number of different mechanisms available to you. This mechanism is very inclusive. It allows the treaty to enter into force not just with ratification but basically with signature. So it doesn’t have to be acceded to, it doesn’t have to be ratified; it just has to be approved or signed. And so as Rachel said, once we get those 50 signatures we have another great political moment to build momentum around the inevitability of better regulating small arms.
I worked many, many – just to give you a sense that that is actually important in itself – worked years ago as a human rights lawyer to try and push on the United States to ratify the central human rights – one of the central human rights documents, the International Covenant for Economic – economic, civil – sorry – Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The other one is Civil and Political Rights.
It was approved by the U.N. in December 1966, the height of the Cold War. We all know how difficult that was. It entered into force in 1976, 10 years later. And yesterday – yesterday it finally got an enforcement mechanism so that you could bring complaints against it, because 10 nations under the new U.N. law had ratified it, not the United States.
So that’s quite a journey. And what we are trying to do now, because we have a global crisis around the free-for-all flood of arms into markets where increasingly civilians are the vast proportion of victims of those arms, is we are trying to build political momentum for a serious global discussion around how to regulate that. And we have a moment on June 3 that could help bring global attention to that crisis. That’s when it’s opened for signature.
So what do we want? What is the political win that will continue to generate momentum? Three things. One, we want high-level representation. This is how we’ll know if it’s a win: If Secretary of State Kerry shows up and says, we want this to happen, that’s a huge win. If Ambassador Rice is able to get everything done between now and then and sign the treaty and be a champion for others signing the treaty, that’s a pretty huge win.
If she goes there and says, we’re not quite ready to sign it because there’s still some issues that need to get resolved but I strongly encourage others to do so, it will depend on how she – how much political capital she puts into it and the United States put into it to create that moment that will determine for organizations like ours whether that should be characterized as a huge win that continues the momentum or should be treated with more caution.
We are hoping for a big win on June 3. The administration has done so many things right on this. We would love to see them close the deal by giving the highest level of representation possible and asking other countries to do so too. We’re going to be looking at whether other heads of state come or send their foreign ministers or send their U.N. ambassadors. That matters.
What would it be like if we had a lot of heads of state saying the time for the unregulated use of arms is coming to an end, and this moment today is part of that journey? That’s a very different political moment globally than if we have a quite non-news-breaking set of U.N. ambassadors say, yep, let’s start getting to 50.
The second thing is they have a moment on June 3 to use interpretive language around what this treaty means and what it doesn’t mean. And that matters because there actually aren’t enforcement mechanisms in the treaty to say, if you violate the Prohibitions Clause, this is what happens to you. This is about setting in place a set of global norms that make it very difficult politically for a country to violate what is becoming – I won’t say common international law, but common shared norms across all these countries.
So the interpretive language that these heads of state or ambassadors or foreign ministers use around what this treaty means to them is going to be fundamental to how much political relevance this treaty has.
And finally – and this is the question for many of us – will the public engage? Will Americans care? Will other publics care? And will publics care in the countries that are most in danger around this? If this is not – if it’s not politically costly for the countries that have signed – that have pushed for its approval in the UNGA to sign it, we as campaigners are going to be worried that we will get the kind of political momentum.
So we want to both reward and champion and honor the good work that this administration and others have done, but also challenge them to do what’s right by creating public debate around that. And the question is, is how do we create the kind of urgency that’s going to get the attention of both this administration and others? So you will be seeing from us and others an attempt to try and ask the Obama administration to exercise political leadership as well as policy leadership in this effort towards the end.
So my core point for today is, you know, we’ve got the policy as right as we could get it, and now the real challenge will be to get the politics as right as we can get them. And that is still in play. Thank you.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Paul.
All right, we’re going to turn to our third panelist. Richard, thank you for being here all the way from London. Welcome to Washington.
RICHARD TAUWHARE: Thank you very much indeed.
MR. KIMBALL: The floor is yours.
MR. TAUWHARE: Thank you very much indeed, Daryl, and thank you for your kind invitation and the opportunity to join this distinguished panel.
And I’ve been asked to look at three particular issues, and first the U.K.’s approach to the treaty; secondly, why we consider that it’s important; and thirdly, what are the next steps? I’ll try not to repeat too much of what Rachel and Paul have already said, but you may find some common themes coming though.
And that’s not a coincidence. It’s a reflection of the fact that we are all part of what we’ve been talking about, this global coalition, if you like, of interests that have been working together over such a long period to reach the result of an agreed Arms Trade Treaty.
So first, what’s the U.K.’s approach to the Arms Trade Treaty? This is my moment to put traditional modesty aside for a moment and point out that the U.K. has played a leading role over the last seven years or so to secure this treaty. It’s the first arms control treaty to be adopted by the U.N. since the CTBT back in 1996.
From its conception we’ve worked jointly with the U.K. defense industry, with civil society in designing the process, building global support, and bringing home the vote in the General Assembly on the 2nd of April. So the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty is truly an historic achievement, and it’s one that we believe we can rightly feel proud of.
Now, there’s long been a clear need for responsible standards in legal trade and conventional weapons, as well as for expanded international cooperation to combat the illicit trade in conventional weapons. And our approach to those standards has been based on five main principles.
First, the treaty should be legally binding but nationally enforced. And this would ensure that there was global consistency to ensure that the treaty was effective, but it maintains state parties’ right to take their own decisions on their own arms transfers.
Secondly, the treaty should do two things. It should both regulate the international arms trade to ensure it’s responsible, but it should also address illegal arms flows. And for us those are two sides of the same coin.
Thirdly, to have maximum impact on the ground, the treaty should include the major current and future arms producers. That’s why we went to great lengths to work for consensus. As Rachel said, we could have had an arms trade treaty years ago. If we’d just got the like-minded together in a room, we could have agreed on very easily. But we’ve gone to great lengths to try to ensure that we built support from the ground up.
Now, very regrettably, Iran, Syria, North Korea, as you know, cynically insisted in blocking consensus despite all efforts to dissuade them. Nonetheless, the 154 votes in favor of the treaty in the General Assembly on the 2nd of April clearly demonstrate the overwhelming level of support for it.
The fourth principle was that clearly states legitimately used conventional weapons for their internal security, for self-defense, and for peacekeeping operations. So the trade for legitimate purposes had to be protected.
And fifth, the treaty should set a floor for the standards which govern the global arms trade, not a ceiling, and they should allow states to operate higher standards than those prescribed by the treaty. We didn’t want to have a treaty which in any way legitimized low standards or in any way compromised on our fundamental values. And we made that clear all the way through the negotiations, that we were not prepared to compromise on a number of issues.
We consider that the outcome of the negotiations is a strong treaty. As has been said, no delegation secured everything that they wanted, and the same goes for ours. But we all achieve much more than many thought would be possible. And if what has been agreed is adopted and implemented broadly, it will have a real impact.
And that brings me onto my second set of issues, which is why is the treaty important for the U.K.? Or to put it another way, what difference will it make? For us, we think there will be five main impacts – or there’s those two sets of five here, but the first of these five impacts will be saving lives. You may have heard the figures, that a man, woman or child dies every minute from armed violence. That’s over 740,000 a year.
Two-thirds die in countries not officially in conflict. Poorly regulated or illegal flows of weapons destabilize societies, states and regions. Paul has already made the point. I won’t belabor it. The treaty will help stop arms from reaching vulnerable regions. It will promote stability and it will reduce ungoverned spaces.
Secondly, the treaty will promote development. Violence fueled by unregulated or illegal weapons diverts resources from schools, health care, critical infrastructure. It undermines sustainable development and it erodes stability. One example: Conflict in Africa is estimated to cost $18 billion a year, which is roughly exactly the same as it receives in development assistance.
Thirdly, the treaty will help combat terrorism and crime. When terrorists benefit from unfettered proliferation of weapons, they threaten the security not only of the countries where they base themselves, but also of course their neighbors and the rest of the world.
Fourth, the treaty will reduce human suffering. Up to three-quarters of grave human rights abuse involve misuse of weapons. The treaty will require governments not to authorize arms exports if there’s unacceptable risk that they could be used to violate human rights or international humanitarian law. It comes back to the fundamental values that I mentioned at the outset.
And fifth, the treaty will protect the legitimate arms trade. It will allow states to access and acquire weaponry for their legitimate self-defense, whilst at the same time helping to ensure that this legitimate process is not circumvented or abused or exploited by unscrupulous arms traders. International industrial collaboration in arms reduction will be promoted through the introduction of common standards.
I might add, the U.K. industry – and we had a meeting with them again last week. We’ve met with them pretty much monthly over the last seven years – they say it is helping to level the playing field. They operate under very strict export controls. The treaty will extend at least some of those controls to their competitors, operating out of jurisdictions with currently less robust controls. So the U.K. defense industry has been very supportive of this treaty and has worked closely with us all along.
The ATT will not solve all the problems caused by unregulated and illicit arms, but it does offer the prospect of a better future to millions who live in the shadow of conflict, at the same time as protecting a legitimate and responsible arms trade.
Thirdly, what should be the next steps? Only when exporters and importers implement the treaty’s provisions fully and with vigor will it start to deliver on these promises of safety, security and prosperity. We now need a sustained and concerted campaign to persuade, and where necessary to assist, governments around the globe, particularly the major current and future arms exporters, to sign and to ratify the treaty, and to secure, as soon as possible, the 50 ratifications that are required to bring it into force.
Like the negotiations on the treaty itself, this is bound to take time and require considerable effort and persistence, again, of that broad coalition of treaty supporters, parliamentarians, civil society and industry. Universal adherence to the Arms Trade Treaty is clearly our ultimate goal.
Now, while the likes of Syria, Iran and North Korea seem unlikely to join the treaty in the foreseeable future, the vote in the General Assembly does demonstrate the very high level of political support which is behind the treaty, and gives us good reason to expect that with the necessary assistance, a large majority of states should be both willing to sign and able to ratify it within a few years.
In the United Kingdom, we expect the treaty will not require new primary legislation, and it will need only minor amendments to our regulations and processes. We therefore aim to sign the treaty when it opens for signature on the 3rd of June. We will have a minister there, and we will ratify it as soon as possible. I’m not sure exactly how long that will take, but we hope by the end of this year.
We hope this will similarly be the case for those other governments which already have well-established export control systems where the arms treaty will not impose significant or, in fact, in most cases, any new legal or regulatory burdens.
Just as an aside, it’s a striking feature of the treaty that in return for the very extensive gains it can deliver – those five points that I mentioned – the corresponding costs in terms of the changes that we need to make to our own systems, are extraordinarily modest.
But we also recognize that before many governments are able to ratify the treaty, they may need to introduce or raise the standards of their own national systems to regulate international weapons transfers to at least the minimum laid down by the treaty, though we will be encouraging them to go further than what is laid down in the treaty.
We’re proud of our rigorous national and EU standards and we will be offering support and advice to others on how to put similar measures in place for themselves. We aim to coordinate our efforts with other donors to ensure this is done in a coherent manner. We will also work with industry and others to ensure that where the U.K. is a world leader in the field of export control, that that form of best practice becomes the accepted norm under the Arms Trade Treaty.
Our immediate focus is on identifying priorities for action in order to deliver early ratification, entry into force and implementation. So the questions we’re asking ourselves for right now are, where should our assistance be targeted in terms of which countries, on what issues – for example, on export controls, on brokering, transit and transshipment rules, and in what form? Do they need help with drafting legislation and regulations, or establishing effective border controls, or in simply building government capacity?
We want to explore what needs to be done to ensure the Arms Trade Treaty achieves its object and purpose and makes a genuine difference on the ground. As I said, we recognize these changes will take some time, but we will be encouraging states to make this a priority. The world has already waited too long for this process, and we should not lose the momentum that’s been gained. Thank you.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you.
All right, thanks to each of you for some great presentations. We now have time for some discussion, some questions. And I would invite those of you with questions to raise your hand to one of our staffers. Why don’t we start here in the middle? We’ll bring you the microphone. Just identify yourself, tell us who you’re directing your question to, please. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you. Susan Burk, formerly with the State Department. And I have never worked on conventional issues, but I applaud the effort. I think this is a very exciting time.
But for the NGO representatives, you know, we’re faced with a situation where the facts – you’ve got legislators that are not constrained by the facts. (Laughter.) The facts of this treaty clearly you’ve laid out – anybody who wants to read it, but it’s going to be too long for most people to wade through it. And there’s a large constituency that won’t have the intellectual curiosity to look at this.
What are your plans for building a constituency in this country – where I think, you know, our focus would be – that would get the facts? The Carol Giacomo article that was outside says it’s inconceivable that any senator could justify agreeing with Iran, North Korea and Syria on this issue. I’m not so sure I agree.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. Paul, do you want to take the first whack at that?
MR. O'BRIEN: We love the question. It is a head-scratcher to us that we’ve had such difficulty. If you look at where the American public is on arms control generally and you look at where the Senate came out on recent domestic issues, this may amount to us having – as campaigners but also the administration having, as deciders – more political space than they have otherwise had to should courage on international arms, and to push back.
There is a theory that is out there right now that the NRA spent too much capital on domestic arms control and is not willing to expend any more on international arms control, even though they are on record as having said – frankly, we’ve put ads out on it so I can be a little hostile about this – a lie that this treaty would undermine 2nd Amendment rights.
But we’re not going to capitalize on the moment or space that that offers if we don’t make a robust argument and the administration does not make a robust argument to the American people that the U.S. has a leadership role to play in the proper regulation of global arms transfers. And we think that moment exists, which is why we think it’s as important a political moment as a policy moment.
MS. STOHL: No, I agree with Paul. I mean, I think there is a lack of understanding and education on the Hill about this. I don’t think that more education and more information would necessarily help. You don’t even have to read very far. It’s in the 13th paragraph, bearing in mind that – sorry, I just lost it – “mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership and use of certain conventional weapons for recreational, cultural, historical and sporting activities where such trade, ownership and use are protected by law.”
It’s very obvious – it says over and over, international – it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the words say. I think at this point if the administration decided that this was an important priority and an opportunity to demonstrate leadership – no one wants to see “Made in the U.S.A.” on pictures on the television of innocent civilians being slaughtered. I mean, it’s just not something that’s good for U.S. industry; it’s not something good for U.S. public relations and for our policy. It just doesn’t make sense.
And so this really is an opportunity to say, you know what, we’ve had enough of the lies and the misrepresentation of the truth and we’re going to stand up to it. There’s no cost to the U.S. government to do this. It doesn’t require any changes in U.S. law. These interpretive statements can provide the protection that the U.S. government needs in terms of making sure that the treaty does what it needs to do for the United States’ system. It’s just really, you know, only a win as far as I’m concerned.
MR. KIMBALL: Just to add a small bit on this. I mean, looking at this from an NGO campaigning standpoint, it has been very difficult over the past three years to get the message out about what this treaty is about, in part because there hasn’t been enough high-level statements, descriptions from the U.S. government on this issue. And so the press has not paid too much attention, which has allowed the lies and misconceptions to enter – to fill the vacuum.
But we’re at the point now where, as Paul and Rachel just said, the Obama administration has helped lead the way to where we are today. They were part of the consensus on April 2nd. And now it’s important for the United States to continue the momentum by sending a high-level representative to sign on June 3rd.
The issue of Senate education for an eventual ratification debate is a long way off, and there will be plenty of things to do between now and then to get us to that point. But the immediate opportunity is signature, and that doesn’t really require Senate education, to be quite frank.
Other questions? Let’s see; we have so many people here. Why don’t we go right here with this gentleman with the handsome bowtie? Then we’ll head back towards the back.
Q: Thank you, Daryl.
I wish you were all – you know, I wish this treaty was going to be a great success, but I’m a little skeptical, especially because it does seem to me that all these things, countries could do without the treaty if they wanted to. And so I’m really wondering what additional results could come from the treaty that wasn’t there before.
I mean, if countries did – you know, if importing countries didn’t want, you know, a wash of small arms and light weapons in the country, they could or could not stop them, but I’m not sure that, you know, having a treaty really makes that much difference. And the same thing with exporters. So I’m wondering how you would answer that question.
MR. O'BRIEN: I have one answer. Well, briefly, Syria. Before this treaty was agreed, when Russia was asked, why are you selling arms to a regime that is, in a demonstrated way, causing huge numbers of civilian casualties, it said, well, from a legal perspective there is no arms embargo, there is no legal censure at all, and we are engaging in legitimate international commerce.
Having approved a treaty now – while you’re right at a core level that the enforcement mechanisms are weak, there is now something to point to, to say the countries that went to the UNGA on April 2nd agreed that this area of commerce needs better regulation, and it creates, in our view – aside from the policy implementation and enforcement, it creates a much higher political bar to justify it in international arenas.
MR. KIMBALL: Rachel or Richard, do you want to take that?
MS. STOHL: No, I mean, I think that having this level of accountability, naming and shaming, is powerful, whether it’s at the United Nations or otherwise. States don’t like to be called out for their misdeeds. And so having a tool that you could use as both a carrot and a stick to encourage either a change in behavior or the creation of standards that didn’t exist before I think is important.
And I also think that many of these states, particularly some of the developing states that you mentioned, that perhaps don’t want arms to just come into their countries, now have a tool to say, can somebody help us develop the systems that we need, whether it’s training our border security, whether it’s helping us develop an import control system so that customs officials know what’s coming in and out – I mean, very basic things that we take for granted in some countries just didn’t exist.
And whether it was lack of capacity or resources or political will, there is now a mechanism that can be used as a lever to encourage that change. So I think there are – political will is huge. I mean, it’s no better than the piece of paper if nobody takes it seriously. But we now at least have that piece of paper that people can draw on. I think that’s important.
MR. KIMBALL: Richard?
MR. TAUWHARE: Yeah, I’d agree with all of that. I think the only one thing I’d add is that we see this as the start of a process. We’ve been talking about, you know, trying to negotiate the treaty and getting this far. Now we have this process of getting ratification and entry into force.
Once we’ve got entry into force, we’ll have a conference on state parties, we’ll have reporting mechanisms. As Rachel said, there’s a whole series of mechanisms worked into the treaty that will establish a framework through which we can begin to build up and establish common standards across the global community, put political pressure on those who are outside to come in, put political pressure on those who are inside to stick to the rules, and put political pressure on all of ourselves to continue to improve on those rules.
And we’re very pleased that one of the things that came out of the negotiations in March was the possibility to amend the treaty. So we will be looking to update it, to keep it future-proofed so that as new weapons are invented, they get covered, and as new ways around the current rules are invented, they get blocked off, so that we’ve established a framework now that we’ll continue to build on.
So it’s not going to be perfect from the start but it will be something that will bring the world community together and give us, if you like, a basis and a form in which we can work to improve the standards that we’ve got.
MR. KIMBALL: Just one other small point, to put an emphasis on what you just said, Richard. I mean, Al (ph), there’s a lot of the countries that could theoretically put in place export controls today. They don’t have the laws on the books, the vast majorities of these countries. So the treaty mandates that their political authorities put those in place.
And so what, over time, we will see is we will see countries that currently don’t have export control laws, laws on transshipment, laws on brokering have to put those laws in place, and that’s going to provide an opportunity for accountability, for government cooperation in enforcing those laws that we simply do not have today that would not otherwise be there if this international instrument had not been created.
All right, we have several other hands. We’ll just go to this gentleman here, with Paul Walker, and then the gentleman to his left. And then we’ll head back that way.
Q: Thank you all. I’m Paul Walker with Green Cross, International. I want to thank all of you. We all know you have worked very hard on this, and Daryl too. And I also want to congratulate the Arms Control Association for actually raising this issue at the annual meeting that – as someone who has worked off and on on arms trade for the last 30-odd years, going way back to my graduate school days, I’m very pleased and proud to see that an arms trade treaty was finished finally, after a lot of work.
I want to ask just a couple of practical questions on implementation. I heard that we needed 50 ratifications, or that we needed 50 signatures. And I wondered –
MR. O'BRIEN: Signatures.
MS. STOHL: It’s 50 instruments of ratification – acceptance, accession or approval. So –
MR. O'BRIEN: And our signature would be one of those.
MS. STOHL: No. It depends on your national system and the way – in some countries, like in the United States we have this dual system where the president or an appropriate appointed person signs and then it goes to the Senate for ratifications. Other countries have different processes. So under normal treaty law you don’t have to say, you know, it has to be ratified by the Senate, because that doesn’t make sense, but it’s appropriate to that political system.
But there is an instrument. When they sign on June 3rd, there’s one additional step, which is they have to take whatever their instrument is and actually deposit that with the secretary general of the United Nations. So for some countries it may just be the signature. In the United States it is not. It just depends on the political system.
Q: OK, so if the United States signs, which I assume it will –
MS. STOHL: Well, I would assume it would too, but I hope perhaps some of our colleagues here might provide some clarification.
Q: But I just think a lot of us would have questions about if we can get – if we can’t get the Law of the Sea Treaty passed through the Senate, or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, whether we could ever get, at least at this stage, the ATT passed through the U.S. Senate.
And the second question – they’re related. What’s actually established? Is there an organization established, the headquarters, the secretariat, or is this simply an annual reporting declaration mechanism to the United Nations? Thank you.
MR. KIMBALL: What is created, Rachel?
MS. STOHL: So between now and the entry into force, the treaty provides for a provisional secretariat. That is still being ironed out, where that is. It will most likely provisionally be in the United Nations’ system, just because the depositary right now is the secretary general.
However, once the treaty enters into force, there is this conference of states parties that will create an independent secretariat, which there’s no rules about it but it most likely will not be within the U.N. system. It will be small and independent.
It’s not just a depository for the reports, but it also will help organize future meetings of Conference of States Parties, but also kind of – I like to think of it as a matchmaker so that if someone has assistance to provide for a country that requires assistance, there is that resource/need matchmaking service.
It will also serve as kind of the public voice in terms of what’s happening, and make those reports public that states are depositing. So it’s clearly – it’s laid out but in very vague details in the treaty because it’s really going to be up to the Conference on States Parties to determine the process.
In terms of your first question on ratification, I would like to say I would see this treaty ratified in my lifetime, but I’m not holding my breath. But it doesn’t matter, to be honest with you. The signature of the United States matters in the sense that that demonstrates this political buy-in by the United States.
As I mentioned in the outset, everything in this treaty the United States already does. And so as long as the United States has the political will to not only implement the treaty nationally but to help other states fulfill their obligations, that to me is almost more important than the actual ratification, because the ratification doesn’t change U.S. practice. It doesn’t have to.
But the political will behind it – I think the signature, on the other hand, is an important symbol that the United States stands by the words that it stated not only at the conclusion on March 28th when it was not accepted by consensus, but also in the statement that Secretary Kerry made once the General Assembly vote occurred, the importance of this treaty. So in that sense I think there is that political buy-in that’s important.
MR. O'BRIEN: And I believe – just one quick addendum. The one – and, Rachel, correct me if this is wrong, but our understanding is once it’s been signed there is an obligation on the United States even prior to ratification to – not to obstruct the underlying purpose and object of the treaty. And more progressive elements interpret that as you cannot do anything that is fundamentally opposed to the core principles of the treaty, which for U.S. purposes is a lot.
MR. KIMBALL: Right. Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on treaties obligates the United States not to take any action or purpose that is contrary to the – contrary to the purpose of the treaty.
So signature does matter. And I think your point still holds that the entry into force mechanism of this treaty of 50 ratifications is a relatively low bar. It should be achieved relatively quickly in historic treaty terms, which is in contrast to things like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which require a specific set of states to ratify. So there is a big difference – big difference there.
We’ve got a question over here.
Q: I’m Steve Colecchi with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I have one comment from the Conference of Bishops and one personal comment.
The first comment is that first of all I just want to thank Oxfam and all the other NGOs that work very closely in supporting this whole process. That was, I think, really critical. I know the Holy See took the lead for the Catholic community, and we were very proud of their efforts in that regard.
Now for my personal comment. It’s about the NRA. As long as the NRA is going to use the ATT as a fundraising technique, and as long as they’re going to be making major contributions in various campaigns, we’re going to need a much stronger response, particularly on technical questions like the – you know, allegation that the control lists somehow require us to sign up everybody in the United States who buys a gun, and that kind of thing, which is absurd because we’re talking about international trade.
So I know that the signature is important, but I think truth is important also. And just from a moral perspective, I think it’s really, really important that we tell the truth and tell it repeatedly so perhaps at some point this won’t be a fundraising mechanism; it will be an embarrassment for the NRA.
MR. KIMBALL: Thanks, Steve. That is important. I mean, we do have a responsibility to continue to describe what the treaty does and what it doesn’t do. And, I mean, many of us continue to plan to talk to people on the Hill about this, to explain this, to talk to the media. I would recommend to everybody Rachel’s great op-ed in the New York Times, which is aptly called “Tell the Truth about the Arms Trade Treaty.”
Paul, did you have a thought about this?
MR. O'BRIEN: I love the question, but just a quick little anecdote around how this may be playing. We work closely with faith communities on this because we believe that there is a constituency out there that does want to engage in a more truthful dialogue that the NRA deeply cares about.
So at Oxfam we are very reluctant to take on direct hostile campaigns against particular individuals. We prefer to go after institutions or patterns of behavior and let our adversaries come to us.
But for weeks we thought about this and we said, we just cannot not call out the NRA on these lies. So we published, in every newspaper we could find in Washington, on videos, on ads, “The NRA is lying to you.” And we had a whole team of people ready for the blowback. This is an organization that spent $5 million in one day in order to get the Senate to do what it needed on domestic arms control.
So frankly, we’re scared of what was coming and whether we could actually manage it. They said almost nothing. Now, there’s two – one, we didn’t get their attention. That’s something that we’re concerned about, honestly. (Laughter.)
But secondly, they made a thoughtful decision in terms of their overall priorities that it did not behoove them to continue if faith communities and others were saying, well, what actually is the truth here? Because actually their membership is filled with people who are deeply, deeply responsible and sympathetic on the ideas of not letting people die from arbitrary – I mean, that’s what their whole organization, the genesis of it, was, was to get more responsibility around the use of arms.
So our feeling is they made a calculated decision that this just wasn’t a win for them, and that was partly to do with the faith communities and others joining, and the politics around this. And we hope it stays that way.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. I think we’ve got time for maybe one more question on this topic. Why don’t we go right here, please?
Q: Good morning. I’m Nick Wundra (ph), a student at SAIS Johns Hopkins. I’m very impressed with this treaty. It seems like a good effort to regulate the unregulatable. And the American domestic issues have really been beaten to death in this discussion, but what about counterpart countries that don’t necessarily have the will or, more importantly, in conflict areas, the capacity to enforce the terms of this treaty?
You mentioned a provisional secretariat. When arms arrive at a conflict zone and there’s no capacity or will to enforce the terms of the treaty at the port of entry, what happens then and where do we go from here. Assuming we get ratification or signatures or whatever instrument we need to make this treaty come into force, what’s the next step in terms of international regulation?
MR. KIMBALL: All right, good question. If I could just put a finer point on this for the panelists too, I mean, there were three big countries that abstained on April 2nd. There was China. There was Russia and India, which is now the world’s largest arms buyer, if not to the world’s largest.
So what can we do to make sure that other key countries are part of this? And as the gentleman just said, you know, what can we do to make sure that the treaty is enforced over time as best as possible?
MS. STOHL: I should have probably said from the outset that this treaty is not – we did not create some international behemoth that’s observing every arms transfer and, you know, coming up with a verdict if it’s good or bad.
MR. KIMBALL: Why not, Rachel?
MS. STOHL: Because this treaty – there’s this pesky thing called sovereignty, and this treaty really creates the impetus for national implementation. So not only are arms transfer decisions authorized by national governments, but implementation in terms of what is allowed to come in and out of your country is also up to national governments. And I think that’s important that, yes, there are those that would prefer that certain arms did not enter their countries, but there are also those that are very complicit in the international arms trade moving from the legal market to the illicit market.
So the idea that suddenly countries are going to be saying, help me, help me; there’s illicit arms coming into our country, is perhaps not more likely from this treaty, but the treaty will provide resources for those that are saying, help us, help us; there’s things coming in that we don’t prefer.
MR. O'BRIEN: One short addendum on that. That’s right, but, you know, the big political question is whether you think the tide of history is with global regulation and constraints on sovereignty, the U.N. system and so on, are against it.
And if you read the treaty, the Arms Trade Treaty, what it does is it basically attempts to fill a serious hole, which is countries are obligated under the U.N. system, under a whole range of treaties, not to do things like genocide and gross violations of human rights and so on.
And what this treaty says is, OK, if we are going to make sure that arms trade isn’t used to contribute to these existing international obligations, then you have to adhere to this when it comes to transferring arms into a country.
So a country that may have weak systems is already obligated not to commit gross violations of human rights and so on and so forth. Now what we’re placing is a burden on the trading country not to facilitate that by putting arms into that country when it knows it will be used to violate existing treaty obligations.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, Richard, you have the last word on this question.
MR. TAUWHARE: Thanks. I’ll come back to the point you raised about, you know, the big exporters. How are we going to ensure that they’re on board this treaty? And that is where, in a way, we started because, as we said, we could have had this treaty ages ago if we had just gone with the likeminded, but we wanted to create a framework that would bring them on board and put political pressure on them to get them on board.
That’s why we’ve so regretted that we didn’t get consensus on the 28th of March. But it was interesting that in that debate on the final day of the negotiations, no big country was ready to break consensus. And if it hadn’t been for Iran, DPRK and Syria, we would have got consensus. So we would have had a consensus agreement, including all those major exporters. They weren’t prepared to stand aside.
Now, it’s regrettable that we had to go to a vote, and that gave them the opportunity to abstain, but this is where we’re going to come down to the sort of political arguments that we’ve be making here this morning about particularly getting U.S. signature, getting all – if you like, all the good guys in the international community out there signing on the first day and then joining a concerted effort, not just from the West, but from the Southeast, the North, where every country, every region has been engaged and involved in this exercise.
And we want to ensure that we’ve got a global coalition that continues and strengthens what we have in the work on the negotiations, to put the pressure on all of the major exporters to sign up to and ratify this treaty as soon as possible. And we remain, as I say, hopeful. And the more countries we get on board, the more the momentum will build and the more pressure will be on those major exporters to come on board.
And one final point is that, you know, we’re now at the cusp now where we’re getting a lot of emerging powers coming out whose current arms production may be relatively modest, though are currently rather large arms importers, but it won’t be long before they’re large – they have their own substantial arms manufacturing industry, mainly maybe for their domestic purposes but it won’t be long before they start getting to exporting as well.
So it’s important that we establish rules now and get them on board for those rules before those new weapons factories come on stream and begin to start to export into the international market.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. Well, I want to thank the three of you for your excellent presentations, and more importantly for your hard work on the treaty – Rachel Stohl, for your work with the president, and more on the negotiations; and, Paul and Oxfam America, for your advocacy work; and to the U.K. government for its stalwart leadership on this. This is one of the few highlights in the last few years, and we’re going to keep talking about this.
For those who want to learn more about this, there is a special report in the current issue of Arms Control Today, which I’m sure you’re going to put in your computer when you get back to the office, which will tell you more about it. But that’s all the time we have for this session, so please join me in applause for our three panelists. (Applause.)
We’re going to take about 15-20 minutes to allow you all to fortify yourselves with the lunch that’s outside. Let me just note that there are two buffet lines. There’s one buffet table but two lines. So if the line looks long, start the second line. So bring your lunches back in and we will be restarting at about 12:20, 12:25 with our keynote luncheon speaker, Ellen Tauscher. Thanks.
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DARYL KIMBALL: All right, welcome back, everyone. Daryl Kimball from the Arms Control Association once again. I hope you’re enjoying your lunch. Don’t forget the dessert just outside, and the coffee.
As everyone finds their seats again, I want to thank all of you once again for being here, for this great turnout today. I want to thank in particular our members and our Arms Control Today subscribers. Without you, we would not be here. It’s always energizing for me and the rest of the staff to see many of you again after weeks, in some cases, since our last events. And we very much appreciate your support.
And I would just like to remind everybody that our membership is relatively small, but you all are very generous people, those of you here and outside of Washington. Individual members of the Arms Control Association and subscribers to Arms Control Today make up about 13 percent of our annual budget, which remains at about or just over $1 million a year, and we make the most of every contribution.
And let me just mention a couple other quick things regarding our financial status. Just want to note, as many of you heard, with a major bequest from our late board member Jonathan Tucker, ACA’s board of directors agreed last fall to establish an endowment for the organization that will be guided by a new investment policy and investment advisory committee, and combined with our 2010 MacArthur Award for creative and effective institutions, that means that we’re going to be in an even better position to put member contributions and grants from other foundations to maximum work and effectiveness.
For the rest of our program work, we depend on the ongoing support of several foundations for our core education research and policy advocacy work, among them the Ploughshares Fund – we’ve got Joel Rubin from the Ploughshares Fund here, perhaps others – the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as I mentioned; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Hewlett Foundation; the Prospect Hill Foundation in New York; and others.
And today we’re particularly grateful for the support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which has supplied us with a grant for the last, I think, four years now to help support our annual meeting and to bring into the conversation European views and perspectives on today’s weapons-related security challenges. And I just wanted to ask Sebastian Gräfe from the Boell Foundation’s Washington office to say a few words about the foundation’s work before we move forward with our luncheon speaker.
SEBASTIAN GRÄFE: Daryl, thank you very much. While you are enjoying your lunch – and don’t forget the cake outside – (laughter) – as Daryl mentioned already – looks very delicious – while you are enjoying your lunch, a few words from the Heinrich Boell Foundation. We are headquartered in Berlin, of course, as a German political foundation, but we have an office also here in Washington, D.C., and 29 other offices around the globe.
As Daryl mentioned, this is the – I think, the third annual conference of the Arms Control Association, where we try to – as a European organization, try to include a European perspective. And I’m happy that it worked out this time again. I think both panels showed that even though a lot of European countries are right now in a difficult economic situation that Europe still remains your most important foreign policy ally, but I think also the second panel especially showed that arms control is no longer a purely intergovernmental affair; it’s also – it requires also the involvement of nongovernmental organizations to achieve its objectives.
This year Arms Control Association and the Heinrich Boell foundation decided to take our cooperation even further, beyond the annual meeting. We are happy to provide young upcoming experts – policy experts in the arms control community – we will provide travel stipends for them to go to Europe and to research there on common foreign policy approaches with regard to nonproliferation and arms control. So I’m looking forward to working with you on this.
And last but not least, I just want to thank again Daryl Kimball, Tom Collina and Tim Farnsworth for their efforts to put this conference together. And now we are looking forward to Ellen Tauscher’s remarks.
Back to Daryl.
MR. KIMBALL: All right, thank you very much, Sebastian. (Applause.)
And just one thing you said reminded me of the importance to which we attach training the next generation of specialists in this field, and the support that you’re providing us is going to help us do that. That’s part of our long tradition. And as I was listening to the speakers this morning, it reminded me that we have several people who were on the stage today that were here because of the Herbert Scoville Peace Fellowship program, named after the former president of the Arms Control Association. I was a former Scoville Peace Fellow in 1989, such a long, lovely time ago, but also Kelsey Davenport was a Scoville Fellow with ACA, also Marcus Taylor is our current Scoville Fellow here at ACA, and Rachel Stohl was a Herbert Scoville Peace Fellow. So you have quite a few people here today as a result of the efforts of various people to bring in the next generation of people here to Washington to work on these issues.
So as Sebastian said, we’re now going to turn to our keynote luncheon speaker, Ellen Tauscher. And Ellen, my introduction is not too long, so I would like to invite you to come on up. For nearly seven – or seven decades – seven terms she was a member of Congress – (laughter) – seven terms a member of Congress, which means that over the last two decades she has been a leader on arms control and international security issues. She was, from 2009 to 2011, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
Many of us in the field have looked to her for advice and for leadership to help shape sensible policies on issues ranging from stockpile stewardship, nuclear testing policy and the CTBT, the conventional arms trade. We worked with the State Department and Ellen three years ago on one of the first policy statements by the Obama administration on the Arms Trade Treaty, back in 2010, I think it was. We’ve worked with her and looked to her for advice on missile defense, nuclear arms reductions and other issues. And so I’m really pleased that she remains involved and engaged in these issues, and we’re looking forward to working with her in the weeks and months ahead.
And we’ve asked her, with the benefit I think she’s had of being outside of government for just over a year now, to share with us her assessment of what the Obama administration accomplished in its first term, what things might be possible in the second term on the president’s so-called Prague Nuclear Risk Agenda.
So Ellen, thank you for being here. (Applause.)
ELLEN TAUSCHER: Thank you. Thank you, Daryl. Thank you. Thanks very much. Hello, everyone. It’s good to see so many old friends. It certainly is nice to be here as someone who’s out of government. (Laughter.) Let’s see. Thank you very much, Daryl, for having me, and thank you, Tom, for all your help. And it’s always wonderful to be with my friends at the Arms Control Association and all of the groups and people that support it.
Fifty years ago next month, on June 10th, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a game-changing speech at American University, addressing threats posed by nuclear weapons. He said that America, and I quote, “would do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just.” He also said that “confident, not afraid, we labor on, not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.”
Today the Obama administration and all of us labor on, for as much progress as we have seen over the last four years to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons – and there has been a lot of work – our work is not done. Now is the time to renew the effort and to complete key elements of the agenda that the president laid out so eloquently four years ago in his Prague speech.
As we see in Iran and North Korea, nuclear dangers will not wait, and they will not go away. We must address them head-on. And to those who say the politics are too hard, that just means we need to redouble our efforts. Anything worth doing will not come easily.
Case in point, the New START treaty, one of my proudest achievements, was a very heavy lift. But we got it done because the administration and all of you rolled up our collective sleeves and did not waver on the long march toward our goal. And if President Obama sets his mind to it, we can win victories like this again.
New START, of course, has been in force since 2011 and is bringing United States and Russian nuclear forces down to the lowest levels since the 1950s. Under President Obama’s leadership, we also completed the Nuclear Posture Review, which will, when implemented, further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons. We launched Nuclear Security Summits, working with world leaders to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, and we strengthened the Non-Proliferation Treaty – thank you, Susan Burk, if she’s still here – by contributing to a successful 2010 review conference and a final document that points us in the right direction for the future.
So what should that future hold? How can we best, as President Kennedy put it 50 years ago, labor on toward a strategy of peace? There are three things that I believe this administration can and must accomplish in its second and last term. First, we need to complete another round of significant nuclear reductions with Russia. Second, we need to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And three, we need to make the nonproliferation regime even stronger.
Let’s talk for a moment about Russian-U.S. reductions, round two. The Pentagon’s March decision to restructure Phase 4 of its plans for missile defense in Europe has, we hope, opened the door for missile defense cooperation with Russia that has the potential to transform the strategic relationship between Washington and Moscow. This is a bipartisan goal. Both President Reagan and President Bush supported cooperation on missile defense with Russia.
The cancellation on Phase 4, which actually was done by the United States Senate when they took the money out of the bill last year, also removes one of the major reasons that Russia has been, so they say, resisting another round of nuclear arms reductions. As President Obama has been saying since 2010, he wants another round that includes strategic and nonstrategic tactical warheads, both deployed and in storage – the hedge weapons; we call them nondeployed. As the president said in March of 2012 in South Korea, even under New START, the president said, we have more nuclear weapons than we need.
Additional reductions would mean fewer Russian weapons potentially aimed at us and fewer U.S. weapons, which could translate into billions of dollars in savings on maintenance and modernization of the U.S. nuclear triad. We could also get a better handle on Russia’s tactical weapons, which the senators on both sides of the aisle say they are eager to do. Also, further reductions would help our overall nonproliferation efforts by bolstering the NPT and encouraging cooperation from other nations.
Unfortunately, some senators – Senator Inhofe, Senator Corker – are of the view that the administration has not kept nuclear modernization promises it made during New START ratification and thus are not willing to even consider a new treaty. But this view misrepresents what the administration said it would do on modernization during the course of the 2010 debate of New START.
The Obama administration has more than demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to maintaining a safe, reliable and effective nuclear stockpile and to reinvesting in nuclear weapons production infrastructure. Back in 2010, the White House made budget projections as to what it thought the task would require and what the nation could afford. It did not promise specific dollar figures no matter what, but made clear they were subject to change. And in fact, change they did. The Budget Control Act came along in 2011, and the sequester this past March. The administration requested full funding in 2012, but the Republican-controlled House cut the budget by $400 million. But even though the initial budget projections had not been realized, funding for the NNSA has still gone up significantly at a time when other budgets are tanking. The weapons activity budget of the NNSA has gone up by $1.2 billion, almost 20 percent, from 2009 to 2013. Find me a program manager who wouldn’t want to welcome that.
Moreover, all senators should be open to finding more efficient ways to achieve the mission. For example, the NNSA originally said we needed a $6 billion plutonium facility in New Mexico to help make new warhead parts called pits. But then the national laboratories found that pits can last decades longer than expected, and they can reuse them over and over again. So now when the NNSA extends life of a warhead, they don’t need to make a new pit; they can just reuse an existing one. This approach meets the mission requirement and can save billions of dollars.
So my plea to certain senators is this: Let’s not focus on specific budget numbers, but the job at hand. There is bipartisan agreement that the infrastructure needs to be modernized and the arsenal maintained. There should also be bipartisan agreement that if we can find more efficient ways to do that, we should take the opportunity to save money for the American taxpayer.
But most importantly, we should not let this misunderstanding get in the way of an agreement that could make the United States safer and more financially secure. How can we move forward with additional reductions in Russian and U.S. stockpiles? Well, there are at least three options, and none of them are mutually exclusive. First, and ideally, as President Obama has said he would like to do for some time, Presidents Putin and Obama can direct their negotiators to begin work on a follow-on New START treaty that addresses not just deployed, but nondeployed warheads, and not just strategic weapons, but also nonstrategic or tactical weapons. Russia’s concern about a more capable SM-3 interceptor should fade away with Secretary Hagel’s recent announcement that for budgetary and technical reasons, the Phase Four of the European Phased Adaptive Approach on missile defense will be indefinitely postponed.
But as the Secretary of State’s International Security Adviser Board noted in its November 27, 2012, report, called Options on Implementing Additional Nuclear Force Reductions, this new negotiation will be far more complicated than New START. It will involve resolving issues concerning counting and monitoring of nondeployed warheads and substrategic nuclear warheads, which never have been part of a formal treaty as of yet. Even if President Obama and President Putin can agree to begin such a process soon, after their meeting next month, this would likely mean that the talks would take longer to complete, much longer than New START. And as the ISAB report noted the New START verification tools are already in place, further reciprocal U.S. nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty.
To accelerate progress, President Obama can and should follow through on his 2009 pledge to end Cold War thinking and signal that he will further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons. To do so, the White House must finally implement a saner, nuclear-deterrence-only strategy outlined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. The NPR implementation has the potential to eliminate outdated targeting assumptions and remove a significant number of deployed U.S. weapons from prompt launch status.
The president also announced that he’s prepared to accelerate reductions under New START and, along with Russia, move below the treaty ceiling’s 1,550 deployed warheads. Russia is already below this level, and the United States is approaching it. Mutual reductions to about a thousand deployed strategic warheads are possible and prudent, and they can be achieved promptly.
In my view, there is no reason why U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces should remain at arbitrarily higher levels. While the United States and Russia are uneasy partners and still have a number of disagreements, we can and should move away from the current condition of mutually assured destruction and closer to what I call mutually assured stability. This would help reduce the enormous costs of planned strategic force modernization by both countries in the coming years. Such actions would put pressure on China to halt its slow increase in nuclear forces and open the door for serious multilateral disarmament discussions with other nuclear-armed states, a process that the Obama administration has already started to pursue with consultations with the P-5 group.
At the same time, the United States, in consultation with NATO, could engage in parallel talks aimed at accounting for the remaining tactical nuclear weapon stockpiles held by Russia and the United States, including the forward-deployed U.S. weapons in Europe, with the aim of providing clarity about the numbers, consolidating the warheads at a smaller number of secure sites, and moving them further away from the border between Russia and our European allies.
Now let me turn to banning nuclear tests, an idea first introduced by President Eisenhower in the late 1950s and continued by President Kennedy. In his 1963 speech, President Kennedy announced that high-level discussions would begin with Moscow on comprehensive test ban treaty. The president said: Our hope must be tempered with the caution of history, but with our hopes go the hopes of all mankind.
President Kennedy achieved a limited test ban treaty, ratified by the Senate in September of 1963 by an unbelievable vote of 80 to 19, but aspired to do more. Fifty years later, the process started by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy is still not over. President Obama vowed to pursue ratification of the CTBT in his speech in Prague. In doing so, the United States is once again taking a leading role in supporting a test ban treaty. But this being Washington, everything is seen through a political lens. So before discussing the merits of the treaty, let me talk about this in a political sense for a moment, because after all, I am a recovering politician.
The New START debate in many ways opened the door for CTBT. Months of hearings and debate and nine long days of floor deliberations gave to the Senate, especially its newer members, an extended seminar on the composition of our nuclear arsenal, the health of our stockpile, and the relationship between nuclear weapons and national security.
When the Senate voted for the New START treaty, it inherently affirmed that our stockpile is safe, secure and effective and can be kept so without nuclear testing. More importantly, the New START debate helped cultivate emerging new arms control champions. Before the debate, there was not a whole lot of muscle memory on treaties, especially nuclear treaties, in the United States Senate, and now there is. So we are in a strong position to make the case for the CTBT on its merits. We have had two elections subsequently, in 2010 and 2012, so we have about 15, 20 new senators, and they need to be educated too, and we need to bring them along. And to maintain and enhance that momentum that we had in 2010 with the New START ratification, the Obama administration has been engaging the Senate and the public on an education campaign focusing on three primary arguments.
First, the United States no longer needs to conduct nuclear explosive tests, plain and simple. Second, a comprehensive test ban treaty that has entered into force will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests. And third, we now have a greater ability to catch those who cheat. Let me take these points one by one.
From 1945 to 1992, the United States conducted more than a thousand nuclear explosive tests, more than all other nations combined. The cumulative data gathered from these tests have provided an impressive foundation for knowledge for us to base the continuing effectiveness of our arsenal. But the historical data alone is insufficient. Well over a decade ago, we launched an extensive and rigorous stockpile stewardship program that has enabled our national weapons laboratories to carry on essential surveillance and warhead life extension programs to ensure the credibility of our deterrent.
Every year for the past 15 years, the secretaries of defense and energy from Democratic and Republican administrations and the directors of the nuclear weapons laboratories have certified in letters to the president that our arsenal is safe, secure and effective. And each year we have affirmed that we do not need to conduct explosive nuclear tests. The lab directors tell us that stockpile stewardship has provided a deeper understanding of our arsenal than they ever thought of while testing was commonplace.
Think about that for a moment. Our current efforts go a step beyond explosive testing by enabling the labs to anticipate problems in advance and reduce their potential impact on our arsenal, something that nuclear testing could not do. I for one would not trade our successful approach, based on world class science and technology, for a return to explosive testing. So when it comes to the CTBT, the United States is in a curious position. We abide by the core prohibition of the treaty because we don’t need to test nuclear weapons. We also have an executive order and a law that says that we can’t. And we have contributed to the development of the international monitoring system.
But the principal benefit of ratifying the treaty, constraining other states from testing, still eludes us. So, effectively we live under the constraints of the treaty but get none of the benefits. That doesn’t make sense to me, and it shouldn’t make any sense to the members of the United States Senate. I do not believe that even the most vocal critics of the CTBT want to resume explosive nuclear testing. What they have chosen instead is a status quo where the United States refrains from testing without using the fact to lock in a binding global ban that would significantly benefit the United States’ national security.
Secondly, a CTBT that has entered into force would hinder other states from advancing their nuclear weapons capabilities. Were the CTBT to enter into force, states interested in pursuing or advancing a nuclear weapons program would risk either deploying weapons that might not work or incur international condemnation and sanctions for testing. While states can build crude first-generation nuclear weapons without conducting nuclear explosive tests, they would have trouble going further, and they probably wouldn’t even know for certain the yield of the weapon they built. More-established nuclear weapon states could not with any confidence deploy advanced nuclear weapons capabilities that deviated significantly from previously test designs without explosive testing.
Nowhere could these constraints be more relevant than in Asia, where you see states building up and modernizing their forces. A legally binding prohibition on all nuclear explosive testing would help reduce the chances of a potential regional arms race in the years and the decades to come.
Finally, we have become very good at detecting potential cheaters. If you test, there is a high risk of getting caught. Upon the treaty’s entry into force, the United States would use the international monitoring system to complement our own state-of-the-art national technical means to verify the treaty. In 1999, not a single certified IMS station or facility existed. We understand why, back then, some senators had some doubts about its future capabilities, but today there should be no question and doubt. The IMS is more than 80 percent complete; 275 of the planned 337 monitoring stations are in place and functioning. The IMS detected all three of North Korea’s announced nuclear tests. The IMS detected trace radioactive isotopes from the 2006 and 2013 tests. In all three cases there was significant evidence to support an onsite inspection, but onsite inspections are only permissible once the treaty enters into force. While the IMS continues to improve its value, our national technical means remain second to none and we continue to improve on them.
Senators can judge our overall capabilities for themselves by consulting the National Intelligence Estimate. Taken together, these verification tools would make it difficult for any state to conduct nuclear tests that could escape detection. In other words, a robust verification regime carries an important deterrent value in and of itself. Could we imagine a far-fetched scenario where a country might conduct a test so low that it would not be detected? Perhaps. But would a country be willing to risk being caught cheating? That’s doubtful because there are significant costs to pay for those countries that test.
The National Academy of Sciences, a trusted and unbiased voice on scientific issues, released an unclassified report in 2012 examining the treaty from a technical perspective. The report looked at how the United States’s ratification would impact our ability to maintain our nuclear arsenal and our ability to detect and verify explosive nuclear tests. The NAS report concluded that without nuclear tests – and I quote from the report – “the United States is now better able to maintain a safe and effective nuclear stockpile and to monitor clandestine nuclear explosive testing than at any time in the past.”
Moving forward on the CTBT will be tough, I have no doubt. I recognize that a Senate debate over ratification will be spirited, vigorous, contentious and definitely partisan. The debate in 1999, unfortunately, was too short and too politicized. The treaty was brought to the floor without the benefit of extensive committee hearings or significant input from administration officials and outside experts. We will not repeat those mistakes. Just as we did in New START, the Obama administration can and should make a more forceful case when it is certain the facts have been carefully examined and reviewed in a thoughtful process. I know that Rose Gottemoeller is committed to taking a bipartisan and fact-based approach with the Senate.
For my Republican friends who voted against the treaty in 1999 and might feel bound by that vote, I have one message: Don’t be. The times have changed. As my good friend and fellow Californian George Shultz says, and has repeated even this year, those who opposed the treaty in 1999 can say they were right, but they would be more right to vote for the treaty today. So we have a lot of work to do to build the political will to ratify the CTBT.
Nuclear testing is not a front-burner issue for most Americans, in part because we have not tested in over 20 years. To understand the gap in public awareness, just think of the fact that in 1961, some 10,000 women walked off their jobs as mothers and housewives to protest the arms race and nuclear testing. Mother’s Day is Sunday. Maybe we should find another 10,000 if we can.
Now, that strike did not have the same impact as the nonviolent marches and protests to further the cause of civil rights, but the actions of mothers taking a symbolic and dramatic step to recognize global nuclear dangers show that the issue has resonance beyond the Beltway, beyond the think-tank world and beyond the ivory tower. That level of concern is there today, and we need your energy and your organizational skill and your creativity to tap into it.
In 1963, President Kennedy also said, and I quote: I see the possibility of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have nuclear weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard. The possibility was avoided in large part by the NPT, which was concluded 45 years ago this summer. Today the NPT has nearly 190 members and requires states without nuclear weapons to refrain from getting them and states with them to seek to move to eliminate their stockpiles. We must polish both sides of the coin to keep it shiny.
Additional U.S.-Russian arsenal reductions and U.S. ratification of the CTBT would not only strengthen U.S. security in its own right but they will facilitate greater international cooperation on other elements of the president’s nonproliferation agenda. U.S. and Russian leadership on disarmament will strengthen our leverage with the international community to pressure defiant regimes like those in Iran and North Korea as they engage in illicit nuclear activities. We will have greater credibility while encouraging other states to pursue nonproliferation objectives, including universality of the additional protocol.
In short, progress on disarmament is essential to preventing proliferation. Specifically, the 2010 action plan underlines the importance of resolving all cases of noncompliance with IAEA safeguards. Noncompliance by Iran, North Korea and Syria are a serious threat to the nonproliferation regime. NPT states must demand they return to full compliance with the NPT. States must be held accountable for treaty violations and abuses of the withdrawal provision.
I must also highlight the important role of nuclear security in preventing nuclear terrorism. Through the Nuclear Security Summit process, we need to expand partnerships, accelerate cooperation and create long-lasting institutions to continue this critical work. The IAEA Conference on Nuclear Security in July will be an important opportunity to advance this urgent priority.
Finally, the action plan called for a conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The United States supports this goal, although the conference could not be held in 2012, and I hope that states in the region can agree to hold it soon.
To ensure that the Middle East zone meeting involves all states, including Israel, it is important that all states in the region meet for consultations on the agenda, and the agenda needs to be comprehensive, addressing steps that states can take on nuclear nonproliferation, as well as chemical weapons elimination, biological weapons and ballistic missiles.
The bottom line is that to remain effective the nuclear nonproliferation system must be updated. New commitments must be implemented, and progress on disarmament must be accelerated. The next opportunity to measure success will be in two years, in the 2015 NPT Review Conference.
Even with the NPT, political and military tensions continue to drive nonproliferation behavior in regional hotspots. If U.S.-led talks with Iran and North Korea fail to persuade them to curb sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities and meet their nonproliferation obligations, the risks of arms races and conflicts will continue to grow. To paraphrase what President Kennedy said five decades ago, we must work faster and harder to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us.
Doing nothing is not an option. It is time for the president, working with the Congress and with the support of Russia and other major global partners, to take the next steps to reduce and eliminate nuclear risks. That effort will require that the Arms Control Association is able to carry on with its vital research and public education work, and that we all do our part.
I want to thank you very much for your attention today. I look forward to working with all of you on these issues in the weeks and months and years ahead. And I would very happy to entertain any easy questions. (Laughter, applause.)
MR. KIMBALL: All right. Are there any easy questions out there? And I think we just need to get the microphones from my colleagues here.
Q: Thank you, Secretary Tauscher, for your presentation. You had noted that the most preferable way by which to go about U.S.-Russia nuclear reductions would be through a treaty process, which would generate a legally binding agreement, verification regime and agreed-upon transparency measures. If that is not possible and some politically binding way were to be regarded as a sort of second-best option, how would the U.S. and Russian Federation go about that to ensure a stabilizing agreement would include verification measures or perhaps some transparency measures as well? Thank you.
MR. KIMBALL: If you could just also identify yourself –
Q: Yes. I’m sorry. Justin Anderson, SAIC. Thanks.
MS. TAUSCHER: Well, as you know, both of our governments, the United States and Russia, are bound to ratify treaties, but there are things that we can do that we do independently, either unilaterally, on our own, or actually in what we call sequenced unilateralism, which is basically we both agree to do things that are in our self-interest. We both take down our arsenal to a number that we both choose. It could actually be symmetrical. We’ve done it before. We did it before with President Bush, the father, and we certainly could do that again.
It’s going to be important to see what the conversations between President Obama and President Putin are in June. I’m glad to see that they’re meeting next month. They originally weren’t going to meet until September.
As most people know, they’ve had at least a couple of conversations subsequent to the tragedy in Boston, and I was just recently over there on some Track II talks on missile defense. So I think that everyone is weary of the relationship deterioration that we’ve had since Libya, and of course exacerbated by Syria. The elections didn’t help, that we haven’t had any return to the kind of very cooperative relationship we had prior to the Russian election a year ago.
So I think it’s important that we understand that there are two pieces to this. One is the policy side. You know, I think Paul O’Brien and I – I’m an O’Kane, so maybe we’re related back in Ireland – but everything is about politics and policy, and in this case, we need to have enough of a political groundswell, a base, for the president, so that he doesn’t use what is his diminishing political capital in his second term on some of these very tough and transient issues, when he has a big agenda that’s already out there. So now it is incumbent upon us to not only think about the policy; it’s also important for us to think about the political will and package it.
When we were doing the New START debate in the very unlikely time of the lame duck, at the end of 2010, we did a very aggressive public campaign. Even though I was in treatment for cancer and couldn’t be seen publicly, I was on the phone talking to, you know, literally scores of newspaper editorial boards around the country in red, blue and purple states. We asked them to do one of two things: Either agree with us and write a very favorable editorial or disagree with us and not write anything. (Laughter.)
Unbelievably, they did exactly what we wanted. We didn’t really get any bad editorials, and we got them in some very crucial states because we needed people like Senator Corker and Senator Isakson to vote with us.
So we did some polling before the debate started in the Senate. We actually had 73 percent of the American people with us to ratify the New START agreement, and we got 71 votes. So it shows that there’s a real correlation between public opinion, the ability to call your senator and the ability for us to get those votes.
But I think that it’s a mistake for us to assume that even though in this president we have someone who has been more agitated, more animated and more aggressive about these issues than we’ve had for many, many years, that with all of these big domestic agenda items out there, whether it’s immigration reform or obviously our tough budgetary issues, or the gun bills, many of – all of which I’m for, we need to create some political will for the president.
So all of the organizations that you represent and all of the people that we can tap into need to be able to go out and help us make that case. And once again we’re going to have to do the same thing and get a very strong political sense that this can be ratified, the CTBT actually can be ratified, so that the White House will be able to take it out.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. Thank you.
A couple other questions. Why don’t we take one over here with this gentleman on the right and the second one we’ll take right afterwards in the rear. Yeah. Yup.
Q: Thank you, Undersecretary Tauscher. I’m Nic Wondra from Johns Hopkins SAIS, and I want to ask about these budgetary constraints that you mentioned. I spoke with some friends of mine at NNSA over the weekend, and they’re saying that their programs, such as the Nonproliferation Graduate Fellowship Program, are being rolled back. So many personnel decisions are now beholden to the executive offices and the Office of Personnel Management. And so given budgetary constraints, where does that leave us for our domestic verification capabilities and also our international obligations? If the IAEA can’t pick up with the slack, with their limited resources, and our resources are diminishing, something has to give. So what do you think is going to be the first to give?
MR. KIMBALL: Before you answer, why don’t we take the second question.
Q: Bruce MacDonald with the U.S. Institute of Peace and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Undersecretary, thanks for your comments and your years of public service as a politician and a public servant. I hope that your recovery’s going well.
MS. TAUSCHER: It is. Thanks.
Q: But I noticed that you may have fallen off the wagon recently, and I see that Minority Leader Pelosi has selected you for the new – let’s see what they – it’s a big name – the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, which is supposed to get cranked up and operating soon. Could you give us a little bit of your sense of what the – your view of the problems that the nuclear security enterprise is facing and what you might hope to accomplish in your service on that panel?
MS. TAUSCHER: Sure. Thank you very much, Bruce.
To the graduate student, to your comments, let me just say that it has worried me since I left the Congress in 2009 that – I was chairman of Strategic Forces on the House Armed Services Committee, which has about a $55 billion package that includes missile defense, national tactical means and all of the nuclear weapons complex, and I represented the only congressional district with two national nuclear labs in it, Sandia, California, and Lawrence Livermore. And so no good deed goes unpunished, and so I actually represented my constituents on the committee of jurisdiction for the largest employer in my district. For the first time in American history, somebody did that from that district.
That meant that I got to know a little bit more than other people did about this tough issue, and what’s disappointing is that there aren’t a lot of people that are out there understanding these issues. You know, Sam Nunn left well over 10 years ago. Dick Lugar has left. And while we have everybody running at the speed of sound, not everybody is paying attention to these issues.
And as these weapons have gotten more and more into the political category, where we have a sense that, God forbid – they’ll, you know, never be used, less and less attention by the Congress as to what exactly they are and what they’re doing.
And so I worry that we don’t have enough expertise in the Congress of people that really pay attention. I will tell you that Senator Feinstein, my senator, from California, chairs Energy and Water, and she really pays attention. She’s also chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so she also has an understanding of the national strategic importance and also of various intelligence issues. Eric Swalwell, who just won in my district – he’s got about 40 percent of my district and represents Livermore – he’s on the Homeland Security Committee – he’s taken an interest.
But it’s a handful of people that really care about these issues, and that is not good for our ability to project into the Congress, get the attention, get the kind of funding that we need, the attention that we need, and to make sure that the ship is going in the right direction.
When it comes to the ship going in the right direction, as Bruce notes, I was called one of the mothers or the mother of the NNSA, which is kind of dubious, especially since there were two fathers – (laughter) – Mac Thornberry and Pete Domenici. And like any child that has two fathers and one mother, it’s an ugly baby – (laughter) – very ugly baby.
And while I think that there is a lot of good, smart, well-intentioned people in the NNSA, we never quite got the mission description right, and we have a lot of criticism of the NNSA from everybody.
And so when Nancy Pelosi calls me and asks me to do anything, I say yes, for many reasons. She’s not only my neighbor in California, but she was the speaker of the House. Some of you may remember that when we were in the majority, I presided more than anybody else. So I’m used to saying yes to her.
But I also wanted to be sure that there was somebody on the panel that had my perspective.
So to answer Bruce’s question, I don’t have any fixed ideas, because I’m trying to keep an open mind. But what is clear is that we need an NNSA that is an advocate for the complex and one that is able to get the attention and the acquiescence of the Congress and the administration. And it does that because it’s credible. And I don’t think anybody believes that the NNSA right now has a lot of credibility.
So you know, how do you fix the NNSA? I’m sure that there will be people with a lot of ideas on how to do that. I’m sure the new secretary, Ernie Moniz, who we hope will be confirmed sometime soon, has a lot of ideas.
But you know, this is a panel made up of 12 people who have pretty good experience on this, people like Admiral Mies, who was head of the reactor program, and Frank Miller – six Democrats, six Republicans. I think that we have a chance.
But there have been at least five other panels over the last 10 years, and all of their body of work is gathering dust someplace. My first recommendation is that we read those previous panels, and I’d bet you 80 percent of the ideas of what we should do are in them.
But I think that the whole responsibility for the nuclear weapons stockpile and for maintaining its credibility as a deterrent is a national responsibility, so all the levers of power in government have some responsibility to it. Certainly the executive branch does. Certainly the Congress does. And we’ve got to make sure that we have a very clear mission and set of goals, that these weapons get funded in a way that is efficient and responsible, that we’re not spending money we don’t need to do and that we’re not keeping too many weapons just because it’s convenient.
And so, you know, I’m for taking down the hedge weapons. I’m for doing the things that are going to be responsible. I singularly killed RRW, because it needed to get killed. But at the same time, as long as other people and other countries have weapons, we have to have to a safe and efficient stockpile. And we need a responsive agency, whatever it is – NNSA or whatever it’s going to be – that is going to be able to manage it and be accountable.
But we also need a Congress that is going to have oversight, and what worries me is that we don’t have enough people in Congress that know enough to know how to do that right, and I’m not sure we have the right agency right now. So I will advocate that if there are any reforms to NNSA, that we have comparable reforms in the Congress, so that we find ourselves with a balance between the responsibilities and the oversight, so that we come out on the other end not having to do this again.
Q: Thanks for your comments. I’m going to ask you to step back a little bit and talk about U.S.-Russian relations. And I often think about, over the last 20 years, how different things have turned out between Russian relations and the Chinese. If you go into any store today, they’re filled with Chinese goods. We have Chinese students in our graduate schools.
I was thinking I cannot remember buying a Russian product for years. You don’t see Russian businessmen. You don’t see Russian students –
MS. TAUSCHER: Vodka?
Q: Vodka, maybe.
MR. KIMBALL: Oil.
Q: And 20 years ago at the end of the Cold War, we had all these hopes of establishing a much more normal relationship with Russians. That didn’t happen. But we’ve been able to establish relatively normal relations with China.
So is there something that we could, should be doing, or are we just going to stumble along – I think you used the term “uneasy partners” – or does it really matter for arms control if we have a more normal relationship with Russia?
MS. TAUSCHER: No, I think that’s great. When I was undersecretary and we got New START done, the Russians made it very clear that they had no appetite to rush back to the negotiating table for virtually anything. And – but you know, we had missile defense, which was this 25-year irritant, and obviously we had a lot of need to look at the nonstrategic weapons, especially the tactical weapons in Europe, and figure out how to manage that.
We don’t have equanimity in NATO as to how to manage that, by the way. The further east you go from France, the more willing some of these countries are to raise their hands and say, I’ll take them. As those countries further west say, I don’t want them, countries further east say, I’ll take them, especially those closer to the former Soviet Union.
So I think that there’s a lot of things that we’ve done.
The Russians have an extraction economy, which is based on fossil fuels and other things. President Putin’s got a lot of problems. He’s got demographic problems, the aging of the population, a younger mortality rate than we have. And you know, it’s basically two groups of people , 55 and above that can still have their nationalistic heartstrings pulled by someone that starts to talk about yearning for a past of domination and world power, and 55 and below that have both cellphones and the Internet, that want to leave. And he needs $117-a-barrel oil to make his numbers work. So it’s a tough situation.
But having said that, we have to do everything we can to get ourselves in a place where we can have a predictable relationship, and that’s why I took the talks away from specific talks in 2011 about arms reduction to what we call mutually assured destruction to mutually assured stability. And we created a baker’s dozen issues – everything from arms control to cyber to many other different issues in the national security realm, including missile defense, that we could talk to each other about, that kept the conversation going and didn’t cause us to break one day or another because of something somebody else did or said, because it’s an enormously complicated relationship.
In the P-5 environment, we also need the Russians because it’s very difficult to get the Chinese to do anything, because they are so completely obsessed domestically. And so when you kind of call them up and say, OK, we’ve got something to do in the P-5, they go, uh, uh, and they really don’t respond.
So what we do is, the United States, France and England, we quickly agree; we go get the Russians – that takes a little longer – and then with the help of the Russians, we go get the Chinese. And that’s how the P-5 has worked for the last five or six years.
And so it’s important that we understand the different cultures. The Chinese economy is a replicating economy, and it basically sees this glass, and it will make it in two weeks for half the cost and, you know, no environmental considerations. You know, it’s probably going to have a little lead in it. You know, those are the kinds of things that you have – that you deal with.
They don’t have that situation in Russia, but they’ve got to be able to get themselves into a much more of a world economy situation. That’s why it was so important for us to get them into the WTO – not only because we need to have them start to be an emerging economy; we need to have them in an adjudicated setting, so that we weren’t having fights about this and that that would cause us to have, you know, irritants in the relationship.
So I agree with you; this is a very, very big relationship. I would say it’s an indispensable relationship, one that we have to work every day to get ourselves to a sense of predictability and sustainability and normalcy. That’s why I think recharacterizing our relationship – because the Cold War’s been over for so long, but we didn’t recharacterize what the new relationship is. Mutual assured destruction is still the nomenclature, and I don’t think that that’s a healthy place for us to be.
So I suggested we move from mutually assured destruction to mutually assured stability. Let’s find those things that we agree on, where we either think that there is an economic or a national security reason for us to cooperate. Let’s build on that cooperation. Let’s create a bigger base from which we can have more sustainability and more predictability in the relationship and kind of weather things like Libya and Syria and Iran and other things, so that we can go to work every day and get each other – get each other’s help when we need it and get each other’s help in a predictable way.
MR. KIMBALL: All right. Thank you very much, Undersecretary Tauscher. We’re out of time. I want to thank you for your in-depth and comprehensive remarks. And I think, as you say, there’s much more to be done. A lot has been achieved, but there’s much more to be done, and we appreciate all your contributions.
MS. TAUSCHER: Well, thank you for everything that the Arms Control Association and all its affiliated friends and relatives do, because it’s indispensable in our getting this agenda done in the next few years. Thanks, Daryl.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you. (Applause.)
All right. And we’re happy to have gotten the family back together, all of our relatives – (laughter) – for this gathering. We have now come to the conclusion of our program. I want to thank everybody for your time and attention, and appreciate your work going ahead. Thank you very much. Until we see one another next time, at our next ACA event, take care. Bye-bye.
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