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April 15, 2019
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

Toward a New Nuclear Posture: Challenges for the Bush Administration

Robert Kerrey and William D. Hartung

After almost a decade of gridlock on U.S. strategic policy, President George W. Bush's mid-February decision to undertake an immediate review of the U.S. arsenal with an eye toward making deep cuts in nuclear weapons was a welcome step in the right direction. More than five decades into the atomic age, a radical downsizing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is long overdue.

But overhauling the U.S. nuclear posture presents considerable challenges. To ensure that the current review does not simply end up ratifying a "Cold War lite" nuclear stance, as occurred when the Clinton administration undertook a similar review, Bush and his top national security advisers need to take charge of the review process by setting clear goals and challenging the shopworn, status quo assumptions of the nuclear bureaucracies at the Pentagon and the Department of Energy. Strong presidential leadership is a basic precondition for achieving substantial reductions in U.S. nuclear forces.

Furthermore, if President Bush is serious about his pledge to "discard Cold War relics and reduce our own nuclear forces to reflect today's needs," it will also be essential to incorporate the views of members of Congress, non-governmental analysts, and experts who have been involved in the development of U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear policy in past administrations. Without a well-informed national debate about what purpose, if any, nuclear weapons should serve in a revised U.S. national security strategy, the political consensus needed to support real changes in U.S. policy will not be achieved.

Perhaps the most basic challenge of all for the Bush administration will be deciding whether it wants to take a unilateralist approach to U.S. nuclear policy that relies on an ambitious missile defense program and the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons, or a more cooperative stance in which the United States takes the lead in promoting reductions in global nuclear stockpiles by updating and expanding upon existing arms control agreements. As part of the posture review, the Bush administration will have to think hard about the value of pursuing a complex, costly, and unproven missile program that could become an obstacle to U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions and a catalyst for a major buildup of Chinese nuclear forces.


A Decade of Delay

Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the risk of a nuclear attack is still the single greatest threat to our national survival. Yet since 1993, when President George Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed START II, further reductions in Washington's and Moscow's arsenals of nuclear overkill have been held hostage to political posturing, bureaucratic inertia, and short-term thinking.

On the U.S. side of the nuclear divide, both major political parties bear a share of the responsibility for what is now nearly a decade of missed opportunities for nuclear arms reductions. The Clinton administration was far too timid in its own reassessment of U.S. nuclear deterrence needs, and its "go slow" approach to nuclear reductions was exacerbated by the actions of Republicans on Capitol Hill, who joined together with a number of their Democratic colleagues to pass annual legislation that prevents the president from reducing U.S. strategic forces below START I levels of 6,000 warheads or from taking U.S. forces off high-alert status.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, harsh political battles between President Boris Yeltsin and opposition parties in the Duma repeatedly delayed Russian ratification of START II, which would reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 3,000-3,500. It was not until Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin as president that the arms control logjam in Moscow was pried loose. In March 2000, the Duma ratified both START II and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) just in time for the review conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The presentations at that conference served as a good illustration of the nuclear inertia that plagued the 1990s, especially on the U.S. side. While Russian representatives came to the NPT review conference with two freshly ratified arms control treaties in hand, the senior U.S. representative to the conference, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, had nothing to show in the way of new U.S. commitments to nuclear reductions since the previous review meeting in 1995. To make matters even worse, the negative international repercussions of the U.S. Senate's October 1999 vote against ratification of the CTBT still lingered.

In an effort to put the best possible face on this embarrassing situation, the State Department put up an impressive exhibit at UN headquarters in New York detailing the thousands of nuclear weapons that the United States had withdrawn from service and dismantled during the 1990s. But the well-crafted presentation left out one important point: all of the reductions implemented during the Clinton administration were carried out pursuant to arms reduction agreements that had been negotiated prior to its tenure, during the Reagan and Bush administrations. On the critical issue of achieving further reductions in the size of the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles, the Clinton administration had basically been treading water.

An important reason for the "decade of delay" in nuclear arms reductions was the Clinton administration's mishandling of the 1994 nuclear posture review. According to analyst Janne Nolan, what started out as a fundamental review of the U.S. nuclear posture in the first year of the new administration degenerated under the weight of "bureaucratic inertia and a lack of presidential leadership" into an extremely cautious set of recommendations suggesting "no significant changes in the nuclear posture of Clinton's predecessors."1

Clinton's first secretary of defense, Les Aspin, and the assistant secretary in charge of overseeing the review, Ashton Carter, initially conceived of it as an effort to seek a wide range of options for restructuring U.S. nuclear forces, including the possibility of making major changes, such as the complete elimination of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. When push came to shove, however, these new ideas were forcefully opposed by mid-level Pentagon officials, and Carter was not given sufficient support from senior levels of the administration—up to and including the president—to overcome this intense bureaucratic resistance.2

By contrast, when George Bush's administration conducted a similar review, the president, then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, and then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell were all closely involved in the process. That high-level focus allowed for significant changes in the size of the U.S. nuclear target list. As a result of its lack of firm leadership from the top, the Clinton administration missed an historic opportunity to promote deep cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and to parlay those cuts into political leverage over other nuclear-armed nations and aspiring nuclear powers.

This is not to suggest that the Clinton record on nuclear arms control was without accomplishment. Vice President Al Gore did important work in helping to broker the denuclearization of the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and the administration's consistent support for cooperative threat reduction programs provided important resources for the destruction of Soviet delivery vehicles and the control of bomb-grade fissile materials. Through the Agreed Framework, the administration was able to stop Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and in subsequent negotiations it made significant progress toward an agreement to cap North Korea's ballistic missile programs. But much more could have been accomplished if the president and his top advisers had made nuclear arms reductions a political priority.


A Fresh Perspective

On May 23, 2000, in the face of ongoing questions about whether he had sufficient foreign policy expertise to serve as president, then-presidential candidate George W. Bush made an appearance at the National Press Club to present his vision of a new U.S. nuclear policy. In an attempt to add gravitas to the proceedings, Bush was joined by a group of distinguished Republican foreign policy experts, but the event proved to be more than just another campaign photo opportunity. Bush used the speech to challenge the existing orthodoxy on U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

While a significant portion of the speech was devoted to reiterating Bush's controversial proposal for the deployment of an extensive national missile defense system, the most forward-looking elements of his statement were his endorsement of reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles to "the lowest possible number consistent with our national security" and his call for removing "as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status." In direct contradiction to the stance adopted by his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, who had been obstructing efforts to reduce deployed U.S. forces below START I levels of 6,000 warheads, Bush suggested that "it should be possible to reduce the number of American nuclear weapons significantly further than has already been agreed to under START II without compromising our security in any way." Early on in the speech, Bush struck a conciliatory tone toward Moscow, observing that since "Russia is no longer our enemy…[o]ur mutual security need no longer depend on a nuclear balance of terror." In perhaps the most memorable phrase of the speech, Bush argued that unnecessary weapons based on outmoded targeting scenarios are nothing more than "the expensive relics of dead conflicts."

His decision shortly after taking office to order a serious review of the U.S. nuclear posture suggests that Bush's speech was more than just an exercise in campaign rhetoric designed to demonstrate that he was "up to the job" of serving as commander-in-chief. The question is whether the elements of the president's nuclear policy can be fashioned into a coherent, constructive whole. As currently envisioned, the Bush policy has a fundamental contradiction: his administration's enthusiastic embrace of missile defenses, combined with its denigration of long-standing arms control arrangements, could spark a new arms race that would undercut the rationale for his commitment to constructive measures such as deep cuts and de-alerting.

It remains to be seen whether President Bush can find a way to harmonize the contradictory strands in his emerging nuclear doctrine. His choice of long-time missile defense advocate Donald Rumsfeld as his secretary of defense indicates a strong commitment to this element of his proposed nuclear policy. Since taking office, Rumsfeld has attempted to create an air of inevitability about U.S. deployment of long-range missile defenses by suggesting that the issue is no longer whether the United States will deploy such a system but when. He has alternated between harsh anti-arms control rhetoric—such as his comment during his confirmation hearings that the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty is "ancient history"—and more conciliatory statements, such as his reference in those same hearings to the need to "refashion the balance between defenses and deterrence."

If Rumsfeld truly seeks a balance, rather than pursuing missile defenses regardless of the economic, diplomatic, and security costs, then the Bush agenda of security-enhancing nuclear reductions may be achievable. But a unilateral decision to deploy missile defenses regardless of the concerns expressed by Russian officials would almost inevitably provoke Moscow to modernize its nuclear missile forces and keep a significant proportion of them on high-alert status. Furthermore, a National Intelligence Estimate assessing the potential security impact of U.S. deployment of a missile defense system conducted last year reportedly indicated that an abrupt U.S. decision to deploy missile defenses would probably spark an increase in the nuclear and missile forces of China, Pakistan, and India.3

Under this turbulent scenario of nuclear arms buildups and the hawkish domestic political climate that would likely follow, it is hard to see how a policy of deep reductions in U.S. nuclear forces would be sustainable. And even if the Bush administration could make some cuts in our own arsenal in the face of Russian and Chinese nuclear expansion, the net result would hardly be a safer world. Pursuing missile defenses as a fallback against rearmament in an environment of deep cuts or elimination of current arsenals would be one thing, but pursuing them without serious regard for the likely response of other nuclear powers can only serve as an obstacle to what should be the overriding goal of U.S. policy: to safely eliminate as many nuclear weapons as possible, not only in the United States, but in all states with nuclear weapons.

Despite these contradictions, Bush seems serious about pursuing deep nuclear reductions, but there is a danger that the administration may pursue changes to the nuclear arsenal that are destabilizing and dangerous, rather than security enhancing. The administration's nuclear review will reportedly lean heavily on the findings of a January 2001 report by the National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP).4 The NIPP report was directed by Keith Payne, who was the co-author of an infamous 1980 essay on U.S. nuclear policy that ran in Foreign Policy magazine under the ominous title "Victory Is Possible." Among the participants in the study panel were Stephen Hadley and Robert Joseph, both of whom are now responsible for nuclear policy issues at the National Security Council.

The NIPP report sheds important light on the "unilateralist" strain in the thinking of key Bush advisers. The report's basic thrust is in an era of strategic uncertainty, when the United States is not even sure who its adversaries may be, it needs the flexibility to reduce or reconstitute its nuclear forces as circumstances require, ideally without the limits imposed by negotiated arms control agreements. Part of this new "flexibility," the report suggests, includes developing "future deterrent and wartime roles" for U.S. nuclear weapons that would include the following: using U.S. nuclear weapons to deter other nations from undertaking an attack on the United States using chemical or biological weapons; employing U.S. nuclear weapons to limit U.S. casualties in a major conventional conflict; and using U.S. nuclear weapons for "special targeting requirements," such as attacking hardened underground military and command facilities.5

If the thinking reflected in the NIPP report were to become the basis for the Bush nuclear policy, the security benefits derived from reducing U.S. nuclear forces could be canceled out by the new dangers inherent in a policy which legitimizes the use or even the threat of use of nuclear weapons in certain regional conflict scenarios. This would be a disastrous doctrine. It would likely spur nuclear proliferation and it would contradict the U.S. commitment under Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to take concrete steps toward eliminating its nuclear arsenal, a commitment that was reaffirmed at the 2000 NPT review conference.

Thankfully, it appears that the Bush administration is not of one mind on the issue of making "usable," low-yield nuclear weapons the centerpiece of a new U.S. nuclear doctrine. Secretary of State Colin Powell, for example, decided against using or threatening to use nuclear weapons in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In his best-selling memoir, Powell traces his own reservations about the wisdom of using nuclear weapons in a wartime role to a discussion he had during a 1986 war-gaming exercise that involved using battlefield nuclear weapons to blunt a Soviet conventional attack on West Germany: "No matter how small these nuclear payloads were, we would be crossing a threshold. Using nukes at this point would mark one of the most significant political and military decisions since Hiroshima…. At that point, I began rethinking the practicality of these small nuclear weapons."6

Hopefully, Powell's practical views on issues ranging from the CTBT, which he has supported in the past, to the need to continue the dialogue with North Korea about capping its ballistic missile programs, which has been put on hold by the president despite Powell's advice to the contrary, will ultimately prevail within the Bush administration. If the nuclear unilateralists prevail, President Bush's pledge to cut U.S. nuclear arsenals and reduce global nuclear dangers may never come to fruition.


Outlines of a New Policy

The most important contributing factor to the success of the Bush administration's proposal to reduce nuclear dangers will be its diplomatic approach. The president will have to demonstrate that the United States is serious about using its current position of unparalleled strength to exert genuine international leadership. The United States must be perceived as willing to use its unprecedented power for the common good of the international community, not just for its own self-interest, narrowly defined. The provocative, unilateralist tone that has colored recent remarks by Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, is liable to provoke a political and military backlash from allies and adversaries alike. The more moderate, cooperative stance struck by Powell is far more likely to yield positive results in reducing global nuclear dangers. The question is, which approach will President Bush adopt?

The key area in which the issue of unilateralism versus cooperative leadership will come into play is the question of national missile defense (NMD). If the goal of NMD is to reduce the threat of a ballistic missile attack on the United States, it makes eminent sense to vigorously pursue diplomatic preventive measures now, before nations of concern have developed the capability to reach U.S. soil with a nuclear-armed ballistic missile. If President Bush wants to supplement his program of nuclear reductions by developing a national missile defense system, he must do so in a realistic fashion that takes into account the limits of existing technologies, the costs of the proposed system, and the impacts on arms control and the behavior of potential adversaries.

Most experts agree that it will take at least five to 10 years to develop even a modest capability to knock down a handful of incoming warheads. In the time it will take to see if such a system is worth deploying, we can and should be making great strides toward reducing the nuclear threat using all the other tools we have at our disposal—diplomatic, legal, and economic. If we do our work well, in five years time the need to construct a missile defense system to overcome the nascent threats from North Korea, Iran, or Iraq may be rendered moot by changes in the local, regional, and international political landscapes. Whatever difficulties or obstacles may arise, it would be irresponsible not to pursue all reasonable channels for stemming the proliferation of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in tandem with any missile defense development effort.

Reducing nuclear weapons will also require enlightened leadership on the domestic front. As an integral part of the nuclear posture review, President Bush should immediately direct the secretary of defense to brief every member of Congress on the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), the Pentagon's top secret nuclear target list. Unless members of Congress understand the enormity of our current arsenal and the awesome destructive power of nuclear weapons at a gut level, they will not understand the urgent need for action, nor will they be willing to provide the resources required for safe reductions of global arsenals. When the principal author of this article served as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he repeatedly sought a briefing from the Pentagon on the SIOP but was never granted one. As of this writing, it is not clear whether any current member of Congress has had such a briefing. At a minimum, members of the intelligence, armed services, and defense appropriations committees of the House and Senate should receive such a briefing as a first step toward piercing the veil of secrecy and bureaucratic privilege that has contributed to keeping the U.S. nuclear arsenal at dangerously high levels.

As a major step toward reducing and eventually eliminating our own nuclear arsenal (as we have committed to doing under the NPT), the Bush review should consider moving toward a minimum deterrent posture involving hundreds, not thousands, of nuclear warheads. Just one of our Trident submarines can launch up to 192 independently targetable warheads, each with a yield approximately 30 times as powerful as the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. Two or three of these submarines should provide more than enough destructive power to deter any nation from contemplating a nuclear attack on the United States, its allies, or its forces. A minimum deterrent posture would also entail changing the purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons so that U.S. nuclear weapons would only be used to deter or retaliate against the use of nuclear weapons against U.S. territory or allies. U.S. conventional forces are sufficiently powerful and resilient to provide a deterrent or retaliatory capability against a state wielding chemical or biological weapons and perhaps even against a nation with a small nuclear arsenal.7

As for the question of reducing U.S. forces unilaterally, President Bush should consider the approach taken during his father's administration, in which reciprocal unilateral steps by Washington and Moscow were utilized as a way to speed the process of nuclear reductions, not as an alternative to arms control agreements. The firestorm of criticism from allies and potential adversaries alike over the Bush administration's suggestion that it might break out of the ABM Treaty gives a preliminary indication of how dangerous and unpredictable a world without nuclear arms control arrangements could be. Provoking an environment of nuclear anarchy is not in the interests of the United States or any other nation. As the world's pre-eminent military power, the United States actually has more to lose under an "every nation for itself" approach to nuclear weapons development and deployment than virtually any other state.

Along with any reductions it pursues in the U.S. arsenal, the Bush administration should also ease Russian nuclear cuts through a major expansion of the Nunn-Lugar threat reduction program, which has been providing several billion dollars per year to assist Russia in dismantling nuclear weapons and safely disposing of bomb-grade fissile materials. President Bush expressed support for the Nunn-Lugar concept during the campaign. It is now time to back up that commitment. Hopefully, the recent revelations regarding a review of U.S.-Russian programs in this area represent a good faith effort to fine tune the Nunn-Lugar program in ways that make it more effective, not the beginning of an attempt to reduce resources devoted to these activities, which have contributed to the deactivation of more than 5,200 Russian nuclear warheads and 400 long-range missiles.

Unfortunately, reports emerged at the end of March that the White House Budget Office is contemplating steep cuts in key cooperative threat reduction initiatives, including a sharp decrease in the program designed to help Moscow control and account for its bomb-grade nuclear materials. If implemented, these cuts would directly contradict the recommendations of a recent bipartisan panel co-chaired by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN), which recommended a $30 billion increase in Nunn-Lugar-style programs over the next decade to head off a situation in which Russia could become "a virtual 'Home Depot' for would-be proliferators."

Finally, as part of the nuclear posture review, the president should move swiftly to implement his campaign pledge to take as many U.S. nuclear weapons as possible off high-alert status. As long as the United States and Russia maintain such large nuclear arsenals, the prospect of an accidental launch is real, as we learned a few years back when President Yeltsin reportedly came close to ordering an attack on the United States after Russian radars mistook a Norwegian satellite launch for a U.S. missile attack. General Lee Butler, the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, has spoken of the "mind-numbing compression of decision-making under threat of a nuclear attack," in which the decision to launch a nuclear-armed missile must be made within a matter of minutes. It is in no one's interest—not in Washington, not in Moscow, not in Beijing, not anywhere—for the decisions on whether to use these devastating weapons to continue to be made on such short notice.

We should seize the occasion of the nuclear posture review to reinforce the most positive elements of President Bush's proposal: his calls for immediate, substantial reductions in the U.S. arsenal and de-alerting of as many U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons as possible. But to accomplish this worthwhile goal and break the nuclear gridlock that has paralyzed nuclear reduction efforts for nearly a decade, the president will need to curb the unilateralist impulses of a number of his key advisers and build upon this nation's bipartisan record of arms control and arms reduction initiatives.

In doing so, President Bush will have ample precedent in the record of Ronald Reagan, who began his time in office pursuing an across-the-board modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and an expansive missile defense shield but ended up putting missile defense on the back burner and agreeing to the elimination of theater nuclear forces in Europe and, in principle, to substantial reductions in long-range Soviet and U.S. nuclear forces. We can only hope that President Bush will be as creative in adapting to the circumstances and opportunities of our era as President Reagan was in the 1980s. If so, his vision of a safer world with far fewer nuclear weapons can and will be realized.



1. Janne E. Nolan, "Preparing for the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review," Arms Control Today, November 2000, p. 13.

2. For a thorough analysis of the 1993-1994 nuclear posture review, see Janne E. Nolan, An Elusive Consensus: Nuclear Weapons and American Security after the Cold War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1999), p. 35-62.

3. See, for example, Bob Drogin and Tyler Marshall, "Missile Shield Analysis Warns of Arms Buildup," The Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2000, p. A1.

4. Steven Lee Myers, "Bush Takes First Step to Shrink Arsenal of Nuclear Warheads," The New York Times, February 9, 2001, p. A1.

5. National Institute for Public Policy, Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control, Volume I, Executive Report, January 2001.

6. Colin Powell with Joseph E. Persico, My American Journey (New York: Ballantine Books, 1995), p. 313.

7. For more on this latter point, see the interview with General Lee Butler in Jonathan Schell, The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now (New York: Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books, 1998), p. 203-205.


Robert Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska, is president of New School University. William D. Hartung is president's fellow and director of the Arms Trade Resource Center at New School University's World Policy Institute.

Helms Asks Administration to Reject Arms Control Treaties

Philipp C. Bleek

Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has asked the Bush administration to formally reject a range of international agreements, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a 1997 package of agreements concerning the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines.

Helms' request was made in a March 12 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell and first reported March 29 by Knight Ridder. In the letter, Helms complains about the Clinton administration's neglect of the Senate in the treaty-making process and says that "the administration's sorely misguided arms control policies" must be "undone."

A Bush administration official declined comment but emphasized that the status of various agreements was under consideration in the context of ongoing reviews.

Noting the opposition of both the president and the secretary of defense to the test ban and Powell's January 17 pledge not to seek the treaty's approval during the 2001-2002 Congress, Helms called on the administration to "articulate a new policy on nuclear testing, to withdraw the U.S. signature from the CTBT, and to terminate funding to CTBT organizations." Although he does not support the test ban, President George W. Bush has pledged to maintain the testing moratorium initiated under his father's presidency.

Despite the Senate's October 1999 rejection of the test ban, the United States has continued to fund the CTBT Organization Preparatory Commission, which is currently assembling a network of sensors that will serve as the treaty's "eyes and ears" to verify compliance. While most experts think that the United States benefits from the verification resources the treaty provides even though it has not ratified the treaty, Helms argued at a March 29 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the resources do not benefit and may actually hamper the U.S. intelligence community's efforts to monitor other nations.

On the package of ABM Treaty agreements—which designate Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan as successor states to the Soviet Union for the purposes of the treaty and delineate boundaries between theater and strategic missile defenses—Helms said, "It is my hope that your administration will repudiate these agreements." Arguing that the agreements perpetuate a defunct Cold War treaty that unduly constrains U.S. missile defense efforts, Helms has long called for their submission to the Senate for advice and consent and has pledged to reject them at that time.

Urging that the Ottawa Convention be formally repudiated, Helms also called on the administration to "end all efforts to bring the U.S. into de facto compliance with that treaty" and to cease "de-mining activity on the margins of Convention conferences." The Clinton administration declined to sign the 1997 convention but pledged that the United States would do so by 2006 if "suitable alternatives" to landmines could be fielded by that time.

Helms called on the State Department to re-examine the adaptation agreement to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty—a 1999 update to a 1990 agreement that sets ceilings on conventional force deployments in Europe. He also wants the department to reassess an "additional safeguards" protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was signed in June 1998. Neither agreement has yet been submitted to the Senate.

In his letter, Helms argued that the U.S.-Russian agreements on plutonium disposition and early warning, which were signed by the Clinton administration, "must be submitted to the Senate if the U.S. is to pursue implementation." However, striking a different tone, he noted that Senate approval of the agreements is "likely" if "significant technical issues" are resolved. (See ACT, January/February 2001 and July/August 2000.)

Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has asked the Bush administration to formally reject a range of international agreements, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Ukraine Ratifies ABM Succession MOU

On January 30, Ukraine ratified a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that designates Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine as the successor states to the Soviet Union for the purposes of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The four former Soviet republics and the United States must approve the 1997 MOU before it and several related agreements signed at the same time can enter into force.

The related agreements include two statements that demarcate the technical boundaries between theater missile defenses, which are not banned by the ABM Treaty, and strategic missile defenses, which are limited by the treaty. The package also includes an agreement on confidence-building measures that calls for annual exchanges of information and notification of theater missile defense tests.

The Ukrainian parliament approved the agreement by a vote of 294-1 on January 11 and President Leonid Kuchma signed legislation ratifying it 19 days later, according to a U.S. official. Russia approved the MOU last spring, but Belarus and Kazakhstan have yet to do so, and prospects for U.S. ratification appear slim.

In the absence of the MOU's entry into force, the U.S. government has accepted Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union for the purposes of the treaty. Nevertheless, a number of senators maintain the ABM Treaty was invalidated with the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse.

Commission Warns U.S. Space Assets Vulnerable

Wade Boese

Tasked with reviewing the organization and management of U.S. national security-related space activities, a congressionally mandated commission issued a report January 11 faulting the government for neglecting U.S. space capabilities. The commission warned that U.S. space assets are vulnerable and recommended that Washington develop additional space capabilities for deterrence and defense—possibly including space-based weapons.

The 13-member "Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization," headed by Donald Rumsfeld until he was nominated to serve as defense secretary on December 28, noted that the United States is "more dependent on space than any other nation." This dependence, the commission reported, makes the United States an "attractive candidate for a 'Space Pearl Harbor.'" As evidence, the commission cited, among other examples, a Chinese news article that Beijing is exploring strategies to defeat the U.S. military in a high-tech and space-based war.

Because of U.S. dependence on space, the commission said Washington must remain engaged in shaping the rules and regulations for space use, cautioning that the United States should be leery of any agreement that could, even if unintentionally, restrict U.S. space activities. While the commission acknowledged the "sensitivity" surrounding weapons in space, it declared that ignoring the issue would be a "disservice." The commission further believed that conflict in space is a "virtual certainty" and that the United States should "vigorously pursue" capabilities to guarantee the option of deploying space weapons if necessary. China, Russia, and other countries are currently pressing for negotiations on preventing an arms race in outer space at the UN Conference on Disarmament, an effort Washington is opposing.

In addition, the report said the United States should review "existing arms control obligations in light of a growing need to extend deterrent capabilities to space." The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty proscribes the development, testing, and deployment of space-based systems or components for defending against strategic ballistic missile attacks.

The commission, comprised of several retired U.S. military officers who previously held space-related commands, spent six months assessing U.S. space activities. Much of the commission's report focused on critiquing U.S. government management of its space activities, concluding that current responsibility for space issues is spread too broadly, leading to insufficient attention, direction, and funding of U.S. space programs. As a remedy, the commission called on the president to make space a national priority and for the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community, as first steps, to better organize their space commands to improve "responsibility and accountability."

Pledging 'No First Strike': A Step Toward Real WMD Cooperation

Jan Lodal

The strategic arms control process that for decades has regulated nuclear stability is gridlocked. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union negotiated arms control agreements that led to the prohibition of national missile defenses (NMD), a ceiling on deployed strategic weapons, and the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear forces. At the end of the Cold War, strategic arms control yielded START I, which cut U.S. and Soviet forces in half, and START II, which would essentially cut those forces in half again.

But the significant political and military changes that have taken place in the past decade now challenge the paradigm that allowed for these important agreements. Both sides clearly want to reduce their deployed strategic forces further, but the stalled START process has become an impediment rather than a help, and START's detailed numeric controls have become largely irrelevant to addressing current threats from weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Similarly, deterrence should remain the foundation of U.S. nuclear doctrine and force structure, but the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which codified deterrence as the basis of strategic stability throughout the Cold War, has become a barrier to the limited national defenses that can help meet new threats without upsetting strategic stability.

Challenges to the Cold War arms control paradigm have been crystallized by U.S. plans to deploy an NMD system. As Russia's nuclear arsenal continues to shrink with age, a significant NMD could give the United States, for the first time in the nuclear age, a true "first-strike" capability—the ability to launch a pre-emptive attack destroying enough of Russia's nuclear force to permit the NMD to intercept any residual retaliation. A nuclear first-strike capability would be the ultimate military advantage, giving the United States enough force to threaten the survival of any rival.

Launching a pre-emptive nuclear attack for any reason short of stopping an inevitable WMD attack against the United States would be contrary to all American traditions and values. But just as the United States has always insisted on evaluating any potential adversary's capabilities rather than only its intentions, other nations will evaluate U.S. capabilities in deciding how to respond to the United States. Even if other nations accept the near certainty that the United States would not launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack, they will worry about the diplomatic, economic, and even cultural power such a capability could afford. It is thus not surprising that Russia has held progress in arms control, and therefore greater cooperation in stopping emerging WMD threats, hostage to obtaining America's commitment to the continued prohibition of national missile defenses as codified by the ABM Treaty.

To achieve its goals in stopping new WMD threats, the United States should begin with a reassessment of its own nuclear doctrine and force structure. Both remain locked in the Cold War paradigm. The nuclear doctrines of damage limitation and extended deterrence in Europe were responses to a Soviet threat that no longer exists. Yet these doctrines continue to require nuclear forces and war plans that would give the United States a first-strike capability if an NMD were deployed. A U.S. pledge of "no first strike" is a necessary first step in establishing a new nuclear offense-defense relationship that maintains deterrence while motivating the cooperation necessary to stop the growing threats of WMD from terrorists and rogue states.


Nuclear Doctrine and Force Structure

Nuclear holocaust during the Cold War was averted by the painstaking creation of a regime of nuclear deterrence. Rather than use nuclear weapons as offensive weapons of war, it has been the bedrock principle of nuclear strategy to maintain them to deter an adversary's use of its nuclear weapons by maintaining the capability to absorb a nuclear attack, retaliate, and cause unacceptable damage to the attacker. Ensuring this capability has been the focus of U.S. nuclear weapons programs since the Soviet Union developed the capability to threaten the U.S. homeland directly.

While the U.S. deterrent rested on its capability to "ride out" a first strike and still be able to inflict massive harm on its attacker, the United States also maintained several first-use missions for its arsenal. Starting in the late 1950s, the United States deployed thousands of tactical nuclear weapons to permit a so-called flexible response to a Soviet invasion of Europe. Given that many of the tactical weapons deployed were more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a tactical nuclear war would have killed millions. But the United States and other NATO members saw tactical nuclear weapons as the best way to offset Soviet conventional superiority in Europe and deter a Soviet invasion. America's threat to use nuclear weapons first to respond to non-nuclear threats against U.S. forces or allies has been a key element in providing "extended deterrence."

But the largest and most significant first-use mission for U.S. nuclear forces was a "counterforce" attack designed to limit damage to the United States should deterrence fail and nuclear war occur. The idea of damage limitation is to attack and destroy enemy forces before they can be used. Since many enemy forces are dispersed or hardened, to destroy them with any degree of certainty requires that multiple nuclear weapons be used against each target. If there is any chance that a target might contain an unused weapon or accommodate a reload, the war planners will target multiple warheads against it. The result is to generate a "requirement" for thousands of weapons.

The main damage-limiting attack in the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) is designed as a "prompt retaliatory" attack, not as an attack that would be undertaken hours or days after a nuclear war began. Prompt retaliation is considered important to destroy as many enemy weapons as possible before they can be used and to use as many U.S. weapons as possible before they are destroyed on the ground. As a result, such an attack would have to be launched in the 15-20 minutes available after an incoming attack was unambiguously detected or launched pre-emptively. Although launch under attack is a theoretical possibility, it is not a practical reality because the command-and-control challenges involved in having the president decide to undertake such an action are substantial. U.S. forces are designed to withstand a surprise attack precisely to avoid the necessity of hasty decisions. In practice, then, if a "prompt retaliatory" attack were used at all, it would be used pre-emptively.

Russia still maintains more than 5,000 deployed strategic nuclear weapons and plans to maintain at least 1,500 even if its preferred arms control outcome is achieved. While the Cold War has meant the end of hostility between Russia and the United States, with a Russian force of this size, it would be highly imprudent to rely on political goodwill alone as protection against the possibility of nuclear attack. Deterring a Russian attack, therefore, should remain the primary mission of U.S. nuclear forces.

But the United States can and should drop its damage-limiting and extended deterrence missions. With the end of the Cold War, Russia has lost its capability to invade Western Europe with conventional forces. These forces are in shambles, unable to deal with the Chechnya challenge, and there are no longer Warsaw Pact allies to absorb initial NATO attacks or to provide a substantial portion of an attack force. Even if the Russians were to mount a massive effort to rebuild a conventional threat to Europe, which is an almost inconceivable political step, it would take them decades to do so, during which time the United State and its NATO allies could enhance their conventional forces.

President George Bush realized this when he unilaterally deactivated and began to dismantle almost all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in September 1991. Only a few hundred aircraft-delivered nuclear bombs remain in Europe to support flexible response, along with a comparable number of British and French warheads. Nevertheless, flexible response remains the official policy of NATO, the United States, Britain, and France. Nuclear forces are still maintained with a mission to repel a land invasion of Europe. But the threat that once justified nuclear forces designed to strike first against the Russian army is simply no longer present.

The other first-use mission against Russia is the damage-limiting mission. Russia continues to maintain a large nuclear force, and, in principle, the damage-limitation mission remains valid. But since the mid-1960s, the reality has been that Soviet (now Russian) forces are so large and survivable that effective damage limitation is impossible. An all-out war would essentially destroy all major U.S. cities and military facilities, no matter how many offensive weapons were devoted to the damage-limitation task.

The first-use missions of extended deterrence and damage limitation have done more to determine U.S. nuclear policy and force structure than has the mission of deterring attack by maintaining an assured second-strike capability. Most of the nuclear force structure has been dedicated to first-use missions in the SIOP and theater nuclear war plans; only a few hundred survivable second-strike weapons have been thought necessary to deter a sudden nuclear attack on the United States. Since these first-use missions no longer have any rationale, there is no longer any justification to maintain the war plans and the forces to support them.

Dropping the damaging-limiting and extended deterrence missions would allow the United States to dramatically change its force structure. In 1997 the Clinton administration conducted a nuclear review, which determined that the United States could reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 2,500 if Russia did the same. The result was the agreement, reached that year between Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in Helsinki, that called for a START III agreement to reduce the number of warheads to 2,000-2,500. Some have argued that the present U.S. criteria for planning nuclear strikes do not permit further reductions below 2,500 because that is the minimum number necessary to develop war plans consistent with present policy (and even then only if the Russians also reduce to 2,500). But the weakness of this argument is that the scenario driving the number of weapons needed for nuclear war plans—a pre-emptive or prompt retaliatory, damage-limiting strike—no longer makes sense, not only because there is no longer a Soviet threat, but also because Russian forces are survivable.

If the prompt retaliatory option and its associated first-strike capabilities against Russia were eliminated from U.S. strategic war plans, the remaining mission of deterrence through assured retaliation could be carried out with fewer than 1,000 survivable weapons. The planned START III force structure of 2,500 weapons actually incorporates only about 1,000 survivable weapons in total because significant portions of U.S. nuclear weapons (e.g., submarine forces in port and B-2 bombers on the ground) could be destroyed in a Russian surprise attack. Retaliatory attacks of that size would destroy Russia's economy, major cities, and leadership. Since military and civilian defense planners have pronounced 2,500 total weapons adequate to deter a Russian attack, they have implicitly agreed that a surviving retaliatory force of 1,000 is adequate.

The United States can restructure its forces so that a total force of 1,000 weapons is nearly completely survivable. One such approach would be to deploy most weapons at sea, where they are essentially completely invulnerable. A few weapons should be deployed on B-2 aircraft to provide a flexible response nuclear force that can be used in extremis to destroy targets not easily covered by submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and to carry out certain very limited first-use missions. A reasonable split of forces would be 840 warheads on SLBMs and 160 carried on 20 B-2s.

To be 100 percent survivable, all 840 sea-based weapons should be kept permanently at sea. This can be achieved by transferring missiles from submarines as they return to port for necessary rotations. The present force of 14 active submarines could then accommodate 840 at sea, loading 5 warheads on each of the 24 D-5 missiles carried on each at-sea boat. The result would be 7 submarines at sea (following current rotation policies of being in port 50 percent of the time) equipped with 120 warheads each, for a total of 840 invulnerable warheads at sea. The B-2s would be kept on a high level of alert to assure their survivability.

The United States also maintains the capability to deploy up to 500 nuclear bombs in Europe to carry out NATO's flexible response strategy, which was intended to deter and stop a Soviet conventional attack. This strategy no longer has any meaning since Russia has no capability to mount the attack that this tactical nuclear force is meant to deter. But these weapons also serve the additional purpose of coupling the U.S. nuclear arsenal with NATO and the defense of Europe, adding substance to the assertions that the U.S. nuclear umbrella continues to cover Europe. A force of about 200 weapons should be adequate to preserve this and to dissuade any European countries, like Germany, from developing their own nuclear weapons. These forces would support the flexible response mission of the 160 weapons carried on the B-2 bombers.

There are advantages to obtaining Russian agreement to join the United States in reducing forces to 1,200 weapons each, but even if an agreed limit is not possible, the United States should reduce its forces to these levels. Explicitly eliminating prompt retaliatory war plans and the de facto first-strike capability they engender would make it easier to achieve the international consensus necessary to deploy a limited national missile defense and would strengthen U.S. diplomatic leverage in nuclear non-proliferation.

These changes to U.S. nuclear doctrine and force structure do not mean, however, that the United States should adopt a no-first-use pledge. Removing prompt retaliatory attack options from war plans and announcing that no such plans will be maintained as a matter of policy would be another step toward a no-first-use policy. But taking the final step of making an explicit no-first-use pledge would be a mistake. Four limited but valid first-use missions remain for nuclear forces:


  • To destroy deep underground WMD facilities, several of which have been constructed by rogue states. Only nuclear weapons are capable of destroying many such facilities.
  • To pre-empt a WMD attack by a rogue state or terrorist group.
  • To retaliate against a non-nuclear WMD attack on the United States, its forces, or its allies when conventional retaliation cannot bring the WMD attacks to an immediate halt.
  • If a major war were to break out, a nuclear attack seemed imminent, and the destruction of enemy nuclear forces with conventional forces was not feasible, to pre-empt the ability of nuclear powers other than Russia or China to launch nuclear attacks against the United States or its allies.
  • These missions are purely military in the sense that they could be accomplished by conventional military forces if the technology were available. Even today, no American president would authorize the use of nuclear weapons in even these extreme circumstances until all non-nuclear military options had been exhausted. But until conventional forces are capable of carrying out these missions, it would be wrong to deny that the possibility of using nuclear weapons to accomplish them confers a significant military advantage. A no-first-use pledge could motivate a hostile and irrational government to conclude that war threatening its vital interests could be fought without risk of a U.S. nuclear response.


    Ballistic Missile Defenses

    The necessity for a change in the way the United States approaches nuclear security and arms control is due in part to the evolving threat from the proliferation of long-range ballistic missiles. The United States needs a new strategic concept for dealing with ballistic missile defenses, not just a quick fix to deal with possible threats from states like North Korea. This policy must deal with the technological, strategic, and diplomatic challenges that missile defenses pose, while acknowledging their potential contribution to the security of the United States and its allies.

    This new strategy should begin with the understanding that a Strategic Defense Initiative-like shield is impossible. It is probably impossible to perfect the technology necessary to stop today's generation of ballistic missiles anytime in the foreseeable future. Even if it were possible, the program would motivate a response from adversaries that would inevitably offset the defense. More sophisticated penetration aids, larger numbers of MIRVs, attacks on the defense itself, cruise missiles, more bombers, and anti-satellite weapons are all technologies that could offset a nationwide defense against a sophisticated enemy.

    But the impossibility of a shield against all attacks does not mean that ballistic missile defense should be abandoned. There are five important missions for limited defenses:


  • Theater missile defense (TMD) is needed to protect U.S. troops in the field and the cities of U.S. friends and allies against both conventional and WMD attack.
  • While the chance of accidental launch is low, a direct defense would provide insurance against such an occurrence.
  • If deterrence fails against a state such as North Korea or Iran, a direct defense can protect the United States.
  • A defense might help deter the development by rogue states of an ICBM capability by making clear the limited utility of a small attack.
  • Finally, a limited national defense, even if it can intercept only a few warheads, can enhance deterrence in a crisis by making it necessary for an adversary to launch a relatively large nuclear attack to overcome the defense. Intimidation by threatening one or two nuclear missiles is eliminated, making it less likely that a crisis would escalate to war in the first place.
  • This last strategic mission is perhaps the most important. An attack that grows out of a diplomatic crisis is the most likely threat to the U.S. homeland—greater than the risk of an accidental or surprise attack. In the midst of such a crisis, when each step the United States takes runs the risk of leading to a WMD attack, a national missile defense would have the significant benefit of increasing the U.S. freedom of action. Because any attack large enough to get through the defense would ensure massive retaliation, an NMD system raises the stakes for a potential attacker, thereby enhancing deterrence and giving the United States greater leeway.

    Providing this freedom of action is also important in facing threats from a rogue state, a terrorist group, or a rogue officer in a nuclear state who gains control of even a single missile. Simply making it clear that the United States retains freedom of action would deter most rogue states, terrorist groups, and individuals from attempting either blackmail or an attack. In fact, some potential proliferators might decide to abandon their WMD programs altogether in the face of a U.S. NMD.

    At present, the necessary technology is not available to carry out these missions—the United States cannot even provide effective theater missile defenses to protect U.S. troops in the field. The first true TMD, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3, which is a modification of a 30-year-old design, is not scheduled for deployment until 2002. The first new-generation system, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is scheduled for 2007. The Navy Theater Wide system is a decade away. The Medium Extended Air Defense System and the Airborne Laser are not even programmed for deployment.

    Developing a workable set of systems to accomplish the above missions will therefore take quite a bit of time, and that time should be used in a concerted effort to pursue the best technology. Present designs for a limited NMD system are based on "traditional" ABM architecture, consisting of ground-based radars to detect and track incoming warheads and ground-based interceptor missiles to destroy the warheads by impacting them. This is still the most feasible architecture for intercepting warheads launched from Russian ICBM bases against the United States. But for emerging rogue state threats, boost-phase technology, in which a missile is destroyed during the powered portion of its ascent before it leaves the atmosphere, may offer significant technical and diplomatic advantages.

    A boost-phase system would have a larger, hotter, and slower target to hit and would be able to intercept a target before it had deployed MIRVs or decoys. It would be equally effective against theater ballistic missiles and ICBMs. Diplomatically, boost-phase systems offer the advantage of not threatening the strategic forces of Russia and China because those countries could place their missiles far inland, out of reach of U.S. air- or sea-based boost-phase systems. (Russia also has a significant SLBM force that would not be affected.)

    The main disadvantage of boost-phase systems is that the interceptors must be deployed near the enemy launch sites. Theoretically, boost-phase interceptors could be based in space. But for the foreseeable future, they must be deployed on land, in aircraft or drones, or on ships. Each of these platforms presents some challenges and vulnerabilities. Aircraft and drones are obviously vulnerable to air defense systems, and ships (Aegis-guided missile ships) presently do not have the necessary equipment, in addition to being extraordinarily expensive assets to leave on station indefinitely. Land-based deployment requires access to nearby bases from third countries that may not grant it.

    It is a considerable challenge to design and develop a workable boost-phase approach. Operational systems are probably a decade away at a minimum. But boost-phase systems could eventually add to U.S. TMD capabilities, and they could handle most rogue state ICBM deployments. Insuring against accidental launches and enhancing deterrence of Russia or China in a crisis would still require a limited direct defense of the United States. This capability could be provided using the 100 interceptors provided by the ABM Treaty. It would be important to deploy a worldwide space-based warning and tracking system to enhance the other NMD technologies included in such a system, and the interceptors would have to be deployed at multiple sites to protect the entire United States.

    Perfecting TMD systems, designing and developing workable boost-phase systems, and building a 100-interceptor limited ground-based NMD will take considerable time. If the United States announces a new strategy for ballistic missile defenses that is not a threat to non-hostile powers and makes clear that this strategy will be pursued consistently, it should be possible to develop a cooperative approach that would be accepted by Russia, China, and U.S. allies and friends.

    The first step would be dropping the prompt retaliatory strikes from the SIOP and reducing the nuclear force to 1,200 weapons so that, unless the United States deployed a very large ABM system, defenses would not give it a first-strike capability. Sharing ABM technology—for example, by giving all friendly nations the ability to use a common space-based ballistic missile detection and tracking system—would be another important aid to U.S. diplomacy. Finally, a new policy on missile defenses must be integrated with alliance relations and foreign policy objectives. The concerns of NATO, Asian friends and allies, Russia, and China must be directly addressed.

    The end of the Cold War has eliminated any chance that a reasonable ABM deployment will trigger a pre-emptive nuclear war or an offensive nuclear arms race between Russia and the United States. Yet these are the main scenarios that the ABM Treaty and its prohibition of national missile defenses were intended to deal with. It should be possible to negotiate a cooperative regime with Russia permitting the United States to adopt a new strategy that includes limited ballistic missile defenses.

    Satisfying China that the United States is not a threat will be more difficult because even a 100-interceptor system could negate its small deterrent force. Strategic modernization is now underway in China, and China will probably expand its force in any event from the 25 warheads currently capable of reaching the United States. An increase to a level of 100-200 warheads would not change the current strategic balance and would be large enough to ensure penetration of a limited U.S. NMD. The United States should tolerate such a modest increase to open the possibility of much stronger Chinese cooperation on WMD non-proliferation.

    Likewise, China might expand and improve its force of short-range ballistic missiles from today's level of about 300 to 500. Such an expansion will be unwelcome, but to make it a casus belli would be a mistake. The U.S. ability to deter a Chinese attack against Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan would not be affected by increases of this size, and a limited direct defense is worth the result of moderately expanded Chinese forces.


    The Role for Arms Control

    After announcing changes in its nuclear posture and force structure, the United States should enter into negotiations with Russia with the goal of replacing both START and the ABM Treaty with new arms control agreements that reflect its new strategy and force structure while maintaining the stable deterrence relationship that was the goal of the past agreements. The following principles should guide these negotiations:


  • While neither allies nor partners, the United States and Russia are no longer enemies, and new arms control agreements should reflect the end of the Cold War ideological confrontation.
  • The next round of nuclear arms control should focus less on mandating reduction in the number of weapons, since both sides want reduction with or without arms control, and more on strategic transparency, safety, and stability (STRANSS).
  • Transparency: The many data and test notifications and on-site inspection rights included in SALT, START, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the institutions that exercise these rights, should be consolidated and strengthened. There should be more reciprocal visits, permission to "look inside" even more systems, more thorough data declarations, and the disclosure of future force plans.

    Safety: Keeping nuclear weapons and nuclear materials out of the hands of unauthorized individuals, rogue states, and terrorist organizations is fundamental. Making this a treaty commitment will eliminate excuses for unsafe conditions, such as inadequate budgets or bureaucratic resistance. If Russia is willing to make such a commitment, the United States should respond by increasing significantly the amount of technical and financial aid it provides through cooperative nuclear security programs, like the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

    Stability: The new agreement should ban first-strike war plans and deploying first-strike capabilities. It should encourage the deployment by each side of invulnerable weapons, so as not to tempt a first strike. It should acknowledge that a limited NMD can add to strategic stability.


  • A STRANSS treaty should leave each side the flexibility to structure its nuclear forces. There should be complete "freedom to mix" various weapons types. Any numeric limits should be warhead aggregates, including all deployed strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, regardless of their range or delivery mechanisms. START II's prohibition of MIRVed ICBMs was an attempt to reduce instabilities in the balance of forces—MIRVed ICBMs constitute attractive targets for a first strike—but if Russia wants to keep some in order to save money, there is little reason to trade off more valuable aspects of the agreement to save the ban.
  • A STRANSS treaty should establish a new strategic offense-defense relationship and replace the ABM Treaty as well as START. It should preserve the prohibition against large national missile defense, but permit a light national missile defense against new threats and small attacks. The current ABM Treaty limit of 100 ground-based launchers should be retained, while dropping constraints on the number of deployment sites, radars, and space-based sensors; and non-space-based boost phase systems should be permitted.
  • Conclusion

    The challenge posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction cannot be met without U.S. leadership, but recent American actions appear to other nations to presage America's withdrawal from this effort—the Senate's October 1999 refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty being the most dramatic example. When the United States does decide to take action, it often appears to be unilateral and arrogant. One explanation for what seems to many to be America's growing isolation is the dominance of conservative Republicans, particularly Senator Jesse Helms (NC), in U.S. foreign policy leadership.

    This view is vastly oversimplified. Senator Helms has fought many initiatives that would have furthered the arms control policies not only of the Clinton administration but also of the Reagan and Bush administrations. He could not have succeeded in his efforts if there were not significant support for his position in both the Senate and the country at large. This support is largely a result of the failure of recent administrations to make a compelling case for arms control policies. Similarly, growing international opposition to U.S. non-proliferation efforts is not a problem that can be solved without addressing America's failure to articulate and pursue consistent policies that can achieve widespread consensus.

    The United States asserts that its nuclear policy is entirely defensive in nature and that nuclear weapons are kept strictly for deterrence. As explained above, however, the reality is otherwise, and change is necessary if international consensus supporting U.S. non-proliferation goals is to be obtained.

    During the Cold War, U.S. nuclear policy did not motivate worries about U.S. hegemony. Combined with the forces of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union was a comparable (some would say superior) conventional military power, and the ABM Treaty outlawed national missile defenses, preventing either side from developing a first-strike capability.

    But today, Moscow's conventional and nuclear forces are considerably smaller. The United States has also eliminated weapons but proposes to maintain a deployed force of 2,500 accurate strategic nuclear warheads—1,000 to 1,500 more than Russia is likely to be able to support. At the same time, the United States is pursuing a limited national missile defense, which could be capable of intercepting the enemy warheads remaining after a U.S. first strike. Under current U.S. strategy and planning guidance, "prompt retaliatory" war plans will over time become de facto first-strike war plans.

    The principles of nuclear stability were formulated and consistently advocated by the United States throughout the Cold War. They have now been learned and accepted in Russia and, to a lesser extent, in China. According these principles, America's nuclear strategy and programs constitute a major threat to Russia and China. The threat is not that the United States will launch a "bolt out of the blue" nuclear strike. There is no conceivable motive for such a strike, and even if there were, no national missile defense could protect American cities entirely from nuclear retaliation. Rather, the threat is that a plausible first-strike capability would give the United States true military dominance over any conceivable coalition of nations.

    As they have throughout history, nations worry that such dominance can embolden a state to force its economic, cultural, and political systems on others. Threat assessments will be influenced principally by military capabilities rather than by articulated intentions. As a result, nations will oppose America's current nuclear strategy and any significant unilaterally deployed national missile defense. They will attempt to offset U.S. military power, whether they be small and weak, like North Korea and Iran, or large and strong, like China, France, and Russia. Weapons of mass destruction will often be seen as the only way to balance U.S. military power and influence.

    A U.S. strategy of strong deterrence, including limited threats of nuclear first use, can nonetheless achieve wide acceptance as non-threatening if U.S. forces and war plans are changed as recommended. A reduction in America's total nuclear arsenal to 1,200 weapons and an explicit no-first-strike pledge should eventually ameliorate concern about a limited U.S. national missile defense.

    These changes should enable the United States to gain stronger international support for its non-proliferation goals. It should be possible to greatly enhance the acceptance and enforcement of the three treaties that prohibit the proliferation of WMD—the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological Weapons Convention. The role of law enforcement, both domestic and multinational, will have to supersede that of multilateral verification organizations such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The dismal experience of UNSCOM in disarming Saddam Hussein's Iraq demonstrates that there are severe limits to the effectiveness of UN-based enforcement organizations.

    In the end, the traditional tools of diplomacy, sanctions, and military force will have to be used to enforce non-proliferation. These tools can be used effectively only if the United States is able to organize strong broad coalitions to carry out the necessary actions.

    The world will not remain static while the only remaining superpower cements its military superiority, deploys a national missile defense while maintaining a de facto first-strike force, and abandons arms control agreements once thought to be the cornerstone of strategic stability. Unless the United States adopts policies that take into account the inevitability of other nations coalescing to oppose its military dominance—no matter how benign they may see its current motives—the dangers from WMD proliferation will accelerate. The Bush administration should organize its WMD policy around a new strategic vision of strong deterrence coupled with open international cooperation. Such an approach will achieve wide support at home and abroad as the United States demonstrates its will to lead, not a will to dominate.

    Jan Lodal has served as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy and as deputy for program analysis at the National Security Council. He is currently chairman of Lodal and Company and of CoManage, Inc. This article is adapted from his recent book, The Price of Dominance: The New Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Challenge to American Leadership, published in February by the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

    Bush Administration Stresses Commitment to Missile Defense

    Wade Boese

    During their first weeks in office, President George W. Bush and his top national security officials emphasized repeatedly their commitment to building ballistic missile defenses, though they offered no schedule or details on what type of defense they would pursue, admitting those decisions have yet to be made.

    In his campaign, Bush declared the United States "must build effective missile defenses…at the earliest possible date." Such defenses, according to Bush, should be designed to protect all 50 states, deployed U.S. forces, and U.S. allies and would not necessarily be limited to land-based interceptors, like the proposed Clinton system, but could employ other technologies as well, such as lasers. Speaking at the January 26 swearing-in ceremony of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush listed defending the United States from missile threats, among other growing threats, as one of his top three defense policy goals.

    Both Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was also sworn in January 26, have portrayed missile defenses as nothing short of an obligation to the American people. Making his first official trip abroad, Rumsfeld on February 3 told other high-level defense officials attending the 37th Munich Conference on Security Policy that building a missile defense was "not so much a technical question as a matter of the president's constitutional responsibility" and that it was "in many respects…a moral issue."

    Likewise, Powell remarked to reporters on February 9 that "it would be irresponsible of us not to move forward with technologies" for stopping ballistic missiles. Powell repeated this assertion two days later in an interview on CBS, saying the United States should not shelve the defense because of criticism that it is too difficult or controversial.

    Yet both secretaries have acknowledged that no plans are yet on the drawing board. Deflecting questions about a timetable, Powell stated February 9 that an assessment must still be made of the "various technologies that are out there," and then the administration needs to "come up with a concept." Powell added, "I can't tell you how long that will take," saying it was in Rumsfeld's hands.

    On his flight to Germany, Rumsfeld told reporters that the administration was "not in a position to talk specifics." Three weeks earlier, at his January 11 confirmation hearing, Rumsfeld said, "I know a lot about the threat…but I've spent much less time on the ways of dealing with it, and that is something I've simply got to wrap my head around."

    A White House-ordered review of strategic defensive and offensive programs, which was signed by Bush in the third week of February, will help guide the Pentagon in developing its missile defense options, according to an administration official interviewed February 23. The official said the review could be completed by mid-summer.

    Powell implied that the administration was not going to rush finalizing its missile defense plans, explaining that it would act in a "deliberate way, examining technology to make sure it works, understanding the cost implications of what we are doing, and understanding the arms control and diplomatic considerations." There would be "more than adequate time" to consult with other countries about U.S. missile defense plans, Powell declared, though he added that "we are not going to get knocked off the track of moving in this direction as long as the technology points us in that direction."

    Interviewed on Fox News on February 11, Rumsfeld, who has said a missile defense "need not be perfect," similarly suggested there would be no hurried push for deployment, saying the technologies behind a defense would need to "evolve in a way that we can be reasonably confident [that it will work]." He also stated that deployment should happen when it "makes the most sense for us and for our friends and allies."

    Deployment of a national missile defense would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which proscribed national defenses against strategic ballistic missiles and outlaws the development and testing of sea-, air-, space-, or mobile land-based components for such a defense. Negotiated by President Richard Nixon, the treaty sought to prevent an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union by barring defenses that could spur an offensive build up by either side.

    As a presidential candidate, Bush said he would try to amend the treaty to accommodate a future U.S. defense through negotiations with Russia, but Moscow staunchly rejected similar entreaties from the Clinton administration. If Russia refuses to amend the treaty, Bush has declared he would withdraw the United States from the accord.

    Rumsfeld, who described the treaty as "ancient history" in his confirmation hearing, has said the United States should not continue to remain "vulnerable" by not deploying a defense. On February 2, Rumsfeld said he had "little doubt" that the most cost-effective and technologically advanced defense was not one that could be designed within the limitations of the ABM Treaty.

    In a February 4 interview aired on ABC, Powell acknowledged that at some point in developing a defense "we will bump up against the [treaty] limits." When that happens, Powell said the United States will try to negotiate with Russia, but he cautioned that the United States would need to "hold out the possibility that it may be necessary to leave that treaty if it is no longer serving our purposes, or if it is not something that we can accommodate our programs within." But Powell conceded that this scenario is "not something that's going to happen tomorrow" and that there would first be "full consultation" with U.S. European allies, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and China.

    Bush Assembles Pro-Missile Defense National Security Team

    January/February 2001

    By Wade Boese

    Assembling his Cabinet and White House staff in December after a protracted election process, President-elect George W. Bush put together a national security team that is expected to support building a robust U.S. national missile defense. Bush nominated Colin Powell to serve as secretary of state and Donald Rumsfeld to serve as secretary of defense, and he appointed Condoleezza Rice to be his national security adviser.

    During his campaign, Bush called for building "effective" missile defenses "at the earliest possible date" to protect all 50 U.S. states, U.S. allies, and deployed U.S. forces abroad from accidental launches or "rogue state" ballistic missile attacks. He suggested his administration would pursue not only land-based defenses, as the Clinton administration has, but also would explore all available technologies and options, such as sea-based and laser defenses. Rice, who served as the Bush campaign's chief foreign policy adviser, told The Washington Post in September that Bush had yet to decide on the specific details for a missile defense.

    Nominated December 16, Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was Bush's first Cabinet appointment. At the press conference announcing his nomination, Powell said a missile defense is "an essential part of our overall strategic force posture" and that "we're going to go forward." Powell was one of several former high-level officials that flanked Bush in May when he first outlined his case for a national missile defense in a speech to the National Press Club. (See ACT, June 2000.)

    Powell cautioned, however, that the United States would "spend time discussing" its defense plans with U.S. allies, many of whom worry that U.S. deployment of a missile defense could spark a renewed arms race and spur proliferation. He also implied that Washington would hold talks with Moscow and Beijing, both of which object to U.S. plans. While noting that the talks would be "tough," Powell said other countries "will have to come to the understanding that we feel [a national missile defense] is in the best interest of the American people."

    Bush named Rice his national security adviser the following day. Rice has spoken and written of the need for a missile defense and has termed the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which proscribes national defenses against strategic ballistic missiles, a "relic." Bush has stated that, if Moscow refuses to modify the treaty to permit a U.S. defense, he would withdraw from the accord.

    In nominating Rumsfeld to head the Pentagon on December 28, Bush underscored that Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense for President Gerald Ford, chaired the congressionally mandated "Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States." The commission publicly released a report in July 1998 warning that long-range ballistic missile threats against the United States were "more mature and evolving more rapidly" than U.S. intelligence had estimated. Such missiles might be deployed with "little or no warning," according to the commission. Missile defense advocates seized on the report to increase pressure on the Clinton administration to deploy a missile defense.

    Speaking December 28, Rumsfeld described the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems as "extensive across the world," and he said "a number of nations" are helping others in "bypassing the normal period of years it would take to develop these capabilities." He said this, among other threats, would "need to be addressed." In announcing the nomination, Bush tasked Rumsfeld with ensuring that missile defense "receives the priority we think it must receive in future Pentagon budgets."


    Russia Reacts to Bush Win

    In its congratulations to Bush on his election victory on December 14, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs referenced a statement President Vladimir Putin made in November calling for deep strategic arms reductions and the "preservation and strengthening" of the ABM Treaty. Putin subsequently won Canada's endorsement of the same language on December 18 when he and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien signed a joint statement calling for "far-reaching reductions in strategic offensive weapons while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty."

    At a joint press conference in Ottawa that same day, Putin warned that U.S. deployment of a national missile defense "will do considerable harm to the established system of national security." However, he said he believed that Russia could continue "positive" talks with the Bush administration on the issue. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told the Russian press December 29 that Moscow intended to immediately start a "serious dialogue with the new U.S. administration on the entire range of disarmament problems," including "preservation" of the ABM Treaty.

    Over the past several months, Russian officials have also proposed addressing U.S. concerns about missile proliferation by cooperating on theater missile defenses, which are not prohibited by the ABM Treaty. But Rice wrote in The Chicago Tribune on December 31, "It would be foolish in the extreme to share defenses with Moscow if it either leaks or deliberately transfers weapons technologies to the very states against which America is defending." An unclassified CIA report released in August identified Russia as a key supplier in 1999 of "ballistic missile-related goods and technical know-how" to Iran, India, and Libya.

    Spencer Abraham Nominated for Energy Secretary

    On January 2, President-elect George W. Bush announced the nomination of former Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) for the post of energy secretary. Abraham, who lost his bid for re-election in November, has twice co-sponsored legislation to abolish the Energy Department, but the Bush transition team has given assurances that its nominee no longer espouses that goal.

    If confirmed, Abraham would become responsible for a broad range of contentious issues, ranging from nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship to the management of U.S. oil and gas reserves. Abraham, who does not appear to have substantial experience on nuclear weapons-related issues, would also be responsible (along with the defense secretary) for annually certifying the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile.

    Like most of his former Republican colleagues in the Senate, Abraham voted to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in October 1999. Abraham was cited the day before the Senate's vote arguing that "the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty does nothing to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons and could diminish America's national security." Bush has said he does not support ratification of the treaty, but he has pledged to maintain the testing moratorium instituted in 1992 by his father, former President George Bush. P.C.B.

    Bush Assembles Pro-Missile Defense National Security Team

    Campaign Promises vs. Real World Responsibilities

    Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

    President-elect George W. Bush's public record indicates arms control is in for a very rough time during his tenure. He has stated that he will withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty unless Russia agrees to amend it to accommodate his vision of a robust national missile defense with international capabilities and that he opposes ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). He has even questioned the value of negotiated treaties to reduce the world's nuclear arsenals. He and his advisers, however, will soon discover that, while espousal of a world unfettered by arms control in the heat of an election campaign was easy, implementation of this vision in the cold dawn of responsibility for overall U.S. security will prove exceedingly difficult.

    Bush's ambitious, if inchoate, vision of a robust layered national missile defense (NMD) is a clear and present danger to the arms control regime developed on a bipartisan basis over the past four decades. His proposal to defend effectively not only the 50 states but also U.S. friends and allies against accidental Russian launches as well as attacks by "rogue states" is diametrically opposed to President Nixon's ABM Treaty, which is still generally regarded as the "foundation of strategic stability." Russia firmly rejected previous U.S. proposals to amend the ABM Treaty to accommodate the Clinton administration's much more limited NMD deployment because it was seen as a slippery slope to the type of system Bush envisages. Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated that U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty would cause Russia to withdraw from START II and reconsider its commitments to START III and possibly START I and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty as well.

    The Bush team appears even to welcome a collapse of the existing treaty regime which would remove all constraints on U.S. actions. Rather than promoting promised unilateral reductions, this would probably result in U.S. strategic planning based on worst-case estimates of future Russian capabilities as opposed to agreed verifiable future levels. U.S. fears would certainly be stimulated by the likely Russian deployment of MIRVed warheads on its new generation of mobile ICBMs and the extension of the service life of the powerful SS-18 10-warhead missiles—actions banned by START II. More generally, the confrontational termination of the existing agreements on strategic deployments would have a profound negative impact on U.S.-Russian relations.

    Bush's NMD vision would have an equally adverse impact on U.S.-Chinese relations. China, which believes Clinton's limited NMD was really directed at its minimum deterrent, will conclude that Bush's more robust plan confirms its worst fears and will move to increase its strategic capabilities and strengthen its ties with Russia.

    Bush's security team will soon discover the intensity of NATO's concern about NMD deployment. Some fear a rebirth of U.S. isolationism; others fear perceived U.S. hegemonic ambitions stimulated by a protective shield; all share a common concern about the consequences of a deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations. A U.S. decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, coupled with Bush's rejection of the CTBT—two treaties widely seen as the litmus test of the seriousness of U.S. intentions to honor its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—would seriously undercut U.S. leadership in efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, a long-standing bipartisan objective.

    When Bush's national security team tries to translate its NMD vision into reality, it will find that there is nothing to deploy. The Clinton system, which the Bush team correctly faults as inherently flawed, is still at least two years from a responsible deployment decision. It will take at least a year for Bush to define the architecture of the more robust system he envisages. As considerable development and testing would be required, a responsible deployment decision could not be made for several years, with an initial operating capability at least a decade in the future.

    Bush's team will also find that the system it envisages will cost a few hundred billion dollars and will, even in theory, provide no protection against the more likely mode of attack by a rogue state—aircraft, cruise missiles, ships, or all manner of conveyances across unprotected U.S. borders. One would hope Bush's advisers, with their much-touted business acumen, will carefully re-examine the likelihood of an ICBM attack, given the existence of overwhelming U.S. deterrent forces. They should consider whether diplomatic efforts, which would probably cost less than 1 percent of the prospective NMD system, to eliminate specific threats, such as North Korea, would not be a far better way to go.

    If Bush insists on a hard-headed reality check of his NMD proposal, he will find that the solution to the proliferation threat will not come from pursuit of will-o'-the-wisps of technological fixes of missile defenses or nuclear testing. He could demonstrate true leadership by calling for focused diplomatic efforts against specific threats and for Senate approval of the CTBT while quietly returning NMD to long-term research and development status.

    United Nations Passes Arms Control Resolutions

    The United Nations General Assembly adopted 48 resolutions and one decision November 20 on what the UN termed "a broad range of disarmament measures." The resolutions, all recommended by the assembly's First Committee, which is tasked with disarmament and international security issues, dealt with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, nuclear disarmament, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and a number of related non-proliferation and arms control objectives.

    The assembly adopted a resolution calling for continued compliance with the ABM Treaty, as well as for efforts to strengthen the agreement, "so that it remains a cornerstone in maintaining global strategic stability." Eighty-eight nations voted in favor of the resolution, while five (Albania, Micronesia, Honduras, Israel, and the United States) opposed it, and 66 abstained. The resolution was strongly supported by Russia and is nearly identical to a resolution the General Assembly adopted in December 1999.

    Other adopted resolutions included calls for early signature and ratification of the CTBT, a redoubling of non-proliferation efforts, unilateral reductions of non-strategic nuclear weapons, and the engagement of all nuclear-weapon states in a process leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. In almost all cases, vote tallies were overwhelmingly in favor of the pro-arms control resolutions, although many nations chose to abstain on what were presumably more controversial votes, such as the ABM Treaty resolution.

    United Nations Passes Arms Control Resolutions

    Putin Calls for More Nuclear Cuts, Maintenance of ABM Treaty

    December 2000

    By Philipp C. Bleek

    Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on November 13 his country's continuing interest in deeper nuclear reductions and preservation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. In a statement released by the presidential press service, Putin repeated Russia's longstanding call for reducing U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals to 1,500 deployed warheads each by 2008, and he called for consideration of subsequent cuts below that level. Putin emphasized that such reductions should be accompanied by "retention and strengthening" of the ABM Treaty. (See p. 30.)

    President Bill Clinton responded positively to Putin's remarks during a November 19 interview with CNN, declaring that while he is unwilling to "compromise [his] successor's options," he supports future reductions of both strategic delivery vehicles and warheads. A senior administration official said that Putin's statement "does not contain many new elements" but noted that "there are a few new twists that require further study…at the expert level."

    Clinton also indicated his support for deployment of a national missile defense but said that "it's very hard to justify wrecking the existing treaty system" before the required technology has been adequately developed. Clinton emphasized the desirability of cooperation on missile defense with Russia and China as well as "any other country that might want to participate."

    Putin's interest in deeper nuclear reductions relates to an ongoing effort to restructure Russia's military forces. Russia's faltering economy has crippled its conventional forces and has slowed the acquisition of new missiles to replace aging strategic weapons. Following an acrimonious public debate among top-level Russian officials, the Kremlin announced in August that Russia would gradually reduce its nuclear forces to 1,500 deployed strategic warheads and cut conventional forces. (See ACT, September 2000.) On November 10, Russia announced that the main uniformed defense forces would be reduced by 365,000 to about 850,000 and that 235,000 civilian and military workers in 11 other branches of the military would be laid off.

    Putin issued his statement just prior to a November 15 meeting with Clinton in Brunei, at which a "full range of security and non-security issues" were discussed, according to a senior administration official. Characterized by the official as a "working lunch," the meeting was the presidents' fourth in the past year and is expected to be their last before Clinton leaves office in January.


    Yakovlev Makes a Suggestion

    Vladimir Yakovlev, head of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, added a twist on November 13 to the ongoing discussion of the ABM Treaty, suggesting that, should treaty modification be necessary, missile defense interceptor missiles could be considered alongside offensive delivery vehicles in future arms control negotiations. Under such an arrangement, a treaty party wishing to increase the size of its missile defenses would have to reduce its offensive weapons commensurately.

    Yakovlev's remarks were repudiated the next day by Yuri Kapralov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department for Security and Disarmament. During a news conference, Kapralov told reporters that, while Yakovlev is entitled to his personal views, only Putin's statement should be considered the government's "official position" and that Moscow's opposition to ABM Treaty modification remains firm. Kapralov also emphasized that Moscow is continuing dialogue "at all levels" with the incumbent administration as well as with "the teams of the contenders for presidency of the United States."

    Putin Calls for More Nuclear Cuts, Maintenance of ABM Treaty


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