"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Nuclear Nonproliferation

Searching For Ways to Roll Back Nuclear Proliferation

An interview with State Department Policy Planning Director Mitchell Reiss

Miles A. Pomper

Nearly a decade ago, Mitchell Reiss wrote an acclaimed book, Bridled Ambition, which sought to explain why some countries had chosen to abandon their nuclear weapons programs.

“Just as all cancers are not terminal, nuclear status is not immutable,” Reiss wrote. “With the proper treatment (and a dose of good luck), a serious illness can go into remission. Sometimes it can even be reversed.”

Now a top aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Reiss is trying to turn some of his academic prescriptions, which included “dollar diplomacy,” U.S. leadership, and preservation of the global nonproliferation regime, into diplomatic reality.

Reiss was named the Department of State’s director of policy planning in August, putting him in charge of its in-house think tank. The appointment came just as Powell and other administration officials were grappling with both short- and long-term challenges to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT, which has been endorsed by all but a handful of nations, seeks to block the further spread of nuclear weapons and encourage their elimination.

On Reiss’s “to do” list has been seeking a way to end North Korea’s nuclear program and similar suspected efforts by Iran. He is also looking at longer-term proliferation problems, from technological changes that could make it increasingly difficult to uncover covert weapons programs to a growing market for civilian nuclear reactors in Asia.

In an April 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Reiss offered his views on all of these subjects. Shunning diplomatic boilerplate for verbal jousting, he demonstrated that he has not abandoned his academic roots altogether. He cracked jokes, battled over ideas, and eagerly poked holes in what he viewed as false preconceptions about the Bush administration’s approach to arms control concerns.

“Part of what I want to do in this interview is just start conversations,” Reiss told ACT.

Drawing an analogy to manufacturing and distribution techniques that were pioneered commercially by Japanese manufacturers and are now used worldwide, Reiss said he is concerned that nuclear proliferators could soon follow suit. Such “just-in-time” proliferation he said, would mean that materials for nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons materials would no longer be stockpiled but only brought together when they need to be used.

“The concept works beautifully in the private sector, and there’s no reason why it can’t work for the bad guys,” Reiss said. “But this will create enormous challenges for the [International Atomic Energy Agency], for the Nuclear Suppliers Group [an export control clearinghouse for most of the major countries with civilian nuclear industries], for all the countries of the world, in order to prevent continued nuclear proliferation.”

In particular, Reiss said this strategy might pose particular problems for on-site inspections—a key tool of international nonproliferation regimes.

“I think on-site inspections certainly are important—essential in some cases,” Reiss said. ”Still, there is a concern that you can inspect a place one day and there will be nothing there, and you come back the next week and everything will be there.”

One of Reiss’s few public speeches since assuming his new post tackled the subject of ending North Korea’s nuclear program (See ACT, April 2004.) In his 1995 book, he pointed to a 1994 agreement that the Clinton Administration made to freeze Pyongyang’s proliferation program as an arms control success story, although he warned that it might well unravel.

Today, he contends that the kind of limited agreement struck by the previous administration is no longer useful, arguing that, like Libya, Pyongyang has to make a “strategic determination” to disarm. “I don’t know [if] North Korea will follow Libya’s lead,” Reiss acknowledged, but said that Tripoli’s recent disarmament does provide an appropriate model.

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il faces a choice,” Reiss said. “He can continue to depend on the kindness of strangers, overseeing a devastated economy with an isolated population, or he can join the 21st century. He also has the historic opportunity to do what his father never did, which is to create a stable, peaceful relationship with all his neighbors.”

In making this argument, Reiss draws on his academic research. Officials in the nine countries he surveyed, he said in his book, witnessed the demise of the Soviet Union and “realized that nuclear arsenals and their boundless expansion were unnecessary, even counterproductive, to larger economic and political objectives.”

Reiss also dismissed criticism that the Bush administration’s preference for a multilateral format had needlessly delayed a resolution of the nearly two-year-old crisis. Instead, he said that the six-party talks had succeeded in forging a “united front” among the five other participants in the talks—the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan—leaving Pyongyang little diplomatic wiggle room.

“There’s utility in forcing them to be a little bit franker, a little bit more open and honest, than they were when they could play one off the other,” Reiss said, adding, “I think they realize that the other five countries are lined up against them because all five are opposed to North Korea having nuclear weapons.”

For a complete transcript of the interview click here







Nearly a decade ago, Mitchell Reiss wrote an acclaimed book, Bridled Ambition, which sought to explain why some countries had chosen to abandon their nuclear weapons programs...

IAEA Advancing Code on Research Reactors

At its General Conference this September, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will consider adoption of an international legal agreement addressing research reactor security, dubbed the Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors.

The move follows March approval of the code by the IAEA’s Board of Governors and is tied to concerns by the international agency and the United States about the potential proliferation risk posed by many of these aging reactors.

The code is a voluntary set of guidelines for the licensing, construction, and safe operation of civilian research reactors. It originated in 2000 because of increasing international concerns about the safety of many research reactors coming to the end of their useful lifetimes. Unlike other civilian nuclear plants, these reactors were not covered by the Convention on Nuclear Safety, drawn up in the early 1990s.

Much of the diplomatic impetus for a code of conduct stems from concerns over highly enriched uranium (HEU), which has historically been used to fuel research reactors. According to an April 14 IAEA staff report regarding the code, “[J]ust less than half of the world’s 272 research reactors still operate using highly enriched uranium—a key ingredient for a nuclear bomb.” Of particular concern is the use of HEU in non-nuclear-weapons states that have not yet concluded safeguards agreements with the IAEA. Such agreements are intended to ensure that states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty do not divert civilian nuclear reactors to military purposes.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei would like to see all research facilities using HEU to begin irreversibly converting to low-enrichment processes. In his introductory address to the Board of Governors meeting March 8, ElBaradei stated that “the safety of research reactors and the management of research reactor fuel continue to be areas of Agency emphasis.” Referring to the code, ElBaradei stated that “strong support was expressed on this topic, as part of an international effort to harmonize the laws, policies and safety practices related to research reactor management and operation.”

Interview with State Department Policy Planning Director Mitchell Reiss



April 9, 2004
Paul Kerr and Miles Pomper

ACT: You've spoken recently about the prospects for reaching a breakthrough in talks over North Korea's nuclear program. One of the tools that was advanced during these six-party talks to move things forward was the use of working groups and yet there doesn't seem to be, at least publicly, any movement on having these groups meet. Is there more happening behind the scenes than we know about?

Reiss: The past two days, April 7 and 8, there were trilateral meetings between the United States, South Korea, and Japan in San Francisco. And out of that meeting came the hope that we would be able to stand up the working group with all six members, by the end of this month, or early May. And so there has been a lot of diplomatic movement. It's not easy to coordinate among the five and North Korea, in order to organize this. But we've been very busy trying to make sure that we maintain the momentum from the six-party talks that took place in February.

ACT: What would you hope to gain from these talks?

Reiss: I think what needs to take place are extended conversations among the six. We certainly have strong viewpoints on certain issues like CVID [complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program]. It's understood that other parties also have concerns that need to be aired. None of these discussions can take place by just having brief meetings. It really needs to be an extended conversation of probing of views. But really at the first level, it's more of an explanation and exchange of information: requesting clarification from the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea or North Korea] as to what exactly it means when it says X, Y, or Z. And that, of course, leads to additional questions. And so that's the type of extended conversation that the six parties really need to have to get a better fix on what outstanding differences there may be, and whether it's possible to reach a diplomatic solution as the president has said he wants to do.

ACT: In your 1995 book, Bridled Ambition, you criticize the Clinton administration for not having anyone in charge, especially prior to Robert Gallucci's appointment. You suggested that a "single senior official invested with presidential authority could have disciplined the unwieldy bureaucracy, set straight policy priorities, and shaped a more consistent U.S. approach." Why has the current administration not done this?

Reiss: Well, let me challenge a couple of the assumptions. First of all, I think the situation today is different. We're in a different place than we were in '93, '94. I think that there has been a single person in charge of this policy, and it's been the president of the United States. It was his decision that we should not do this in a bilateral manner. That had been tried and shown to fail before. So the president set out the policy guidance and said it had to take place in a multilateral fashion so that other countries in the region could be invested in the success of this process. And so from day one, he has been setting policy. And, as I said earlier, he's made it clear that he would very much prefer a diplomatic solution.

ACT: But you must realize the president has got a lot of other things on his plate, and is not going to be responsible for actually carrying out the negotiations like Gallucci or someone like Bill Perry , who went over there and had discussions with people. Is it fair to say that there's been a significant amount of conflict within the administration at times on how to approach this issue?

Reiss: Well, let me say that the president's chief foreign policy advisor, the Secretary of State [Colin Powell], has been very clear in terms of his guidance that he's given the building. The State Department has taken the lead on this issue. And media reports of differences are just an occupational hazard here in Washington. Sometimes we tend to focus more on the personalities and the conflicts, and it really caricatures the issues. And it's not surprising that there should be disagreement - it'd be a little surprising if there was complete consensus on any foreign policy issue. So part of the job is to try and make sure that all views are reflected and we come to a single position. And we've done that as we entered the six-party process. And we'll continue to have a vigorous discussion as we go forward with the working groups. But I don't think that that's unusual. I don't think it's unique to this administration.

ACT: In your March 12 speech to the Heritage Foundation, and again today, you talked about Libya as an example for the North Koreans. There's some pretty obvious differences in the strategic and political situations of Libya and North Korea. Why do you believe North Korea will follow Libya's lead? I mean Libya didn't face a sworn enemy for fifty years, for instance?

Reiss: Well, I don't know North Korea will follow Libya's lead. What Libya did was make a strategic determination that it would have a better future-a more secure, a more prosperous future-if it abandoned its weapons of mass destruction. What we're doing now in terms of our diplomacy with Libya is to ensure that that in fact comes true: that there are tangible and intangible benefits for Libya-with us, with our European partners, with Libya's neighbors in the region- as it is welcomed back into the community of nations.

Now North Korea certainly is located in a different place geographically, but I think it faces the same type of strategic decision. Does it want a different future for its people? Is it willing to live in peace and security with its neighbors? [North Korea's leader] Kim Jong Il faces a choice. He can continue to depend on the kindness of strangers, overseeing a devastated economy with an isolated population, or he can join the 21st century. He also has an historic opportunity to do what his father never did, which is to create a stable, peaceful relationship with all his neighbors. That's one of the great benefits of the six-party format. It's one-stop shopping for North Korea. If they want to chart a new course, we want to help them get there. The South Koreans want to help them get there. The Japanese, Chinese, and Russians want to help them get there. It's up to Kim Jong Il to make that decision, and we can't make that for him. What we can do is to explain as clearly as possible what the benefits would be of him going down one path, and what the potential consequences would be if he chooses another path.

ACT: The administration has repeatedly said that six-party talks are better than, or will be more effective than, the Agreed Framework because it could lead to a multilateral versus a bilateral agreement. But the Agreed Framework involved not only the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) , but its implementation also included the EU, South Korea, Japan, and about a dozen other countries. Why do you think the differences are that significant between the Agreed Framework and the six-party talks?

Reiss: I think you're conflating two different entities. The negotiations that led to the Agreed Framework were bilateral, and had implications for the IAEA and for Japan and South Korea. But the other entity that I think you're referring to was KEDO [The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization ] which was a follow-on to the Agreed Framework and did involve many countries, including the Europeans, as a member of the four man executive board.

The Agreed Framework itself was negotiated solely by the United States and the North Koreans. And at the time, the South Koreans and Japanese were extremely concerned - and in fact resentful - of the fact that the United States was negotiating the future of the Korean peninsula, with them not in the room. They were on the outside looking in. And I think that's clear if you talk to any of the principals who were involved at the time.

So there was a sort of a structural problem, right there from the start, that the United States was negotiating the future of the peninsula without the key neighbors involved directly in the negotiations. That's not happening here. What happened back then is that the North Koreans would then try and play South Korea off the United States-the United States off Japan, Japan off South Korea-to try and drive wedges, and try and create differences, and try and increase their negotiating room with all of these countries, in order to enhance their position.

They can't do that in the six-party format. They have to give the same message to all of us. All of us have to hear it at the same time. There's utility in forcing them to be a little bit franker, a little bit more open and candid and honest, than they were when they could play one off the other. And so just in terms of a diplomatic structure, we think that this enhances our ability to reach the objective that all five parties - save North Korea - in the last round of talks, went on record as stating, which is a complete dismantlement of all of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

ACT: So you're saying that you're prepared to accept maybe slower progress up front, because you feel that any agreement will be easier to implement once it's carried out because you've got everyone in the room?

Reiss: I'm not sure I understand what you mean. You mean the negotiation part of this?

ACT: Yes, the negotiations. Presumably if you just have two countries doing the negotiations you may be able to do things a little faster than with six.

Reiss: I'm not sure you can do anything quickly or easily with the North. They're very careful, they're very methodical. They're extremely patient. And I'm not sure that whether it's a two-man game or a six-man game that it makes any difference in terms of the pace or speed of the negotiations. What it does mean is that we're able to present a united front against the D.P.R.K. side, and I think they're feeling the pressure. We were ready to go to a second round at the end of last year. It was the North that was delaying. That's why we didn't get there until the end of February. So, we've been willing to engage; they've been the ones that have been reluctant. And I think they realize that the other five countries are lined up against them, because all five are opposed to North Korea having nuclear weapons.

ACT: Why is it that the North Koreans would be less likely to renege on an agreement made in this format than they were on the Agreed Framework?

Reiss: Well, I'm not sure that they will be. Any agreement that you have isn't going to be based on North Korea's intentions or trust. It's going to have to be verified independently. And that's true for whatever agreement that you have with the North Koreans. So, in a sense, the verification piece is irrelevant to the format issue.

Then why is this format better?

Reiss: The format's better because it gives us a much stronger hand to play when going to the North Koreans unified, with our allies and partners in the region, all of us saying the same thing: telling them their current course is unacceptable.

ACT: Sure, but it was not the case, prior to the Agreed Framework, that any country was saying that it's okay for North Korea to have nuclear weapons, was it? The South Koreans weren't saying that, the Japanese weren't saying that…

Reiss: A couple of things were happening. First of all, there were different threat assessments at the time. The other countries did not share the same concern the United States had in the early '90's - that North Korea actually had an ongoing nuclear weapons program. That was one. Two was that some of the countries, to use an economics term, were free riders. They would rather the United States play the bad cop, and they could play the good cop - let the United States do all the heavy lifting here. And yes, they shared our concern, but perhaps they didn't share it to the same extent because of the threat assessment. Or perhaps they didn't share it at all, but they were happy that the United States wanted to go ahead and deal with North Korea, that was fine.

Fundamentally we're in a different position now, and I think we've seen in particular an evolution of the Chinese position. Whereas a few years ago I think they saw themselves as facilitators, over the last year, early last year, I think they changed conceptually into a role as a mediator. And what we've been seeing more and more, especially over the last six months, is an evolution into their role as a direct participant, because they realize that their national security interests are fundamentally at stake if North Korea becomes a full-fledged nuclear weapons state. And that evolution is helpful, because South Korea and China have the most leverage, short of the use of military force against North Korea. They have the most influence on the North. And so to get them on board with the United States, Japan, and Russia gives us much more weight in these negotiations.

ACT: Is it the claim then that the lack of Chinese involvement in the past is what enabled North Korea to pursue an HEU [highly enriched uranium] program and violate the Agreed Framework?

Reiss: I don't know who's made that claim.

ACT: Well, I'm just trying to understand why… because the problem with the Agreed Framework as I understand it is the reason that the North Koreans were able to violate it is with their HEU program. That's why I'm trying to understand why that's less likely to happen.

Reiss: They were violating the plutonium program.

ACT: The Agreed Framework?


ACT: That they restarted their plutonium [reactor]?

Reiss: What time period are we talking about?

ACT: In October 2002, at the start of the recent dispute…

Reiss: Information coalesced during the summer of 2002 that they had an enrichment program.

ACT: Correct, which was in violation of the Agreed Framework.

Reiss: Assistant Secretary Kelly confronted them in October. Okay, now that had been taking place, we think, for a period of years. Now, you go back to the Agreed Framework and you look at what was agreed in terms of access by the IAEA to the facilities at Yongbyon. And the IAEA was not granted access to the isotope production laboratory, which they should have been- a violation of the Agreed Framework and the understanding subsequent of the IAEA. Okay, that took place in '95, '96, '97, '98. It didn't become public until later.

ACT: OK, is the argument then that that is less likely to happen because of China and South Korea presenting this united front against…

Reiss: I think you're conflating the verification piece with the negotiation phase of this issue.

ACT: I understand that, but the agreement would obviously provide for some sort of verification that has to be worked out, and is it more likely that the North Koreans will agree to that, do you think, with the involvement of China, South Korea, and the other countries?

Reiss: Yes, I think it's more likely, but again there's absolutely no certainty that the North Koreans will agree to it. Again, I think we have much greater diplomatic weight by having all of us sit on the same side of the table wanting the same thing, and putting it to the North Koreans.

ACT: I think this is actually a good point to transition to a broader question. The question of verification is at the heart of some of the problems of the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] more generally, not just North Korea, as is the question of enrichment facilities What are your ideas on coping with this problem in the long term?

Reiss: Well, the place to start really is with the president's address at NDU [National Defense University] on February 11, where he identified a number of measures that need to be adopted in order to enhance both our nonproliferation efforts and global nonproliferation efforts. And let me just go down a quick check-list of them: it was expanding PSI [Proliferation Security Initiative]; it was criminalizing proliferation activities through a UN Security Council resolution; it was highlighting the accomplishment of the administration at the G-8 Summit in Canada in getting a commitment of $10 billion from the United States plus $10 billion from the other G-8 partners over a period of 10 years; it was reinterpreting Article IV in terms of enrichment and fuel services for countries and the conditions under which those should take place in the 21st century; and it was calling for an expansion of the Additional Protocol , and using that ratification as a condition of countries giving civilian nuclear assistance to other countries. I think all of those were important steps that were taken. And I think this administration has done a number of things that really aren't yet sufficiently appreciated in terms of its support for the IAEA, in terms of budgetary support, significantly increasing the budget - especially the safeguards budget for the first time in decades - making a significant increase there. And PSI is important for its ability to capture people that are violating international rules and regulations, its deterrent effect, and I think third and intangibly but importantly, its ability to highlight the lack of enforcement in the international regime, and really the need to consider creative ways to enforce the rules and law against violators. And PSI scores on all three counts-capture, deterrence, and addressing the enforcement issue, which I think is essential.

ACT: We've certainly taken note of the president's speech. But what is going to happen in terms of follow-up? For example, is there going to be a UN resolution on PSI? As you know one of the problems is, how do you deal with interdiction on the high seas, which is not permitted under the current draft of the resolution. The PSI part was dropped out of that, from what I understand, at Chinese insistence.

Will there only be Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreements on these things since that obviously leaves out some important countries such as Pakistan, which is the root of the problem? And there are number of other questions along these lines.

Reiss: In terms of the high seas, talk to Undersecretary of State John Bolton about that . I think he also has a good argument in terms of boarding ships on the high seas under a self-defense rationale. I think the larger point that I'd like to make, so I'm just going to reinterpret your question, is if we look out over the next 20-30 years. How can we continue to be as successful, or more successful than we've been?

First of all we have to recognize that despite all the problems - and in some cases failures - that this regime has been much more successful, much more resilient, than people had anticipated. And of course the best known quote is from President Kennedy with his nightmare scenario: 20-30 nuclear weapon states by the mid-'70s. We have been very fortunate in not having that nightmare vision realized. We need to understand that a lot of the basic structures and programs are already in place. And so job number one is to make sure that we shore those up, make sure that we reinforce them, make sure they're maintained and improved. And again, the administration has been very good in terms of funding, especially the IAEA, in this regard.

We've also developed new programs, as I mentioned, PSI. But with lots of good ideas, implementation is the key, and so we need to keep our eye on the ball as we go forward and make sure that people honor their pledges in terms of financial commitments, and that we actually use this money so that it makes a real difference. The IAEA needs to continue to be strengthened. We're coming up to the NPT review conference, obviously that is important. We think we have a very good position going into the conference in terms of the accomplishments the administration can point to under Article VI . We also think that it's necessary to have a broad discussion of Article IV and the so-called inalienable right of countries to acquire the entire fuel cycle. Does that make sense in the 21st century, with all the threats that are now out there? And that's an important conversation to have.

ACT: Is it just a discussion or will there be some attempt to modify the NPT, or any specific proposal?

Reiss: I don't know of any attempt to try and amend the NPT. But I think that you can reinterpret provisions. But before you do that, you need to have a broad-based discussion and conversation with all the members. The Nuclear Suppliers Group is one area the president highlighted in his speech that's extremely important and that needs to be improved. The A. Q. Khan network really highlighted that.

Looking out again towards the future, one of the things I think about is when it comes to this revival with civilian nuclear power: how can we manage a possible upsurge in the civilian nuclear industry without creating the anxiety on the proliferation front that took place in the mid to late 1970s after the oil shock, when civilian nuclear power became much more popular, much more fashionable. It's possible with developments in China and in East Asia that civilian nuclear power will become again much more popular. So I'm repeating myself, but how do we manage that so that it doesn't lead to proliferation anxiety?

The nexus between terrorism and nuclear weapons, or even nuclear material, is obviously a current concern. I think its going to be with us for a very long time. The administration has a policy to try to capture radioactive material. We just need to push forward with that.

One of the things that I'm also concerned about is what I call "just in time" proliferation. And it's based on a manufacturing concept that was developed by William Deming and first adopted by the Japanese, and then much more broadly by the rest of the world. And it has to do with having no inventory or stockpiles on the shelf, but items arrive as you need to build your product. What that means is that it's much more difficult to actually find stockpiles of already built weapons. It's much more difficult to track supply lines because they're all disparate, and they only come together for a very short period of time right before a country is actually going to build something. The concept works beautifully in the private sector, and there's no reason why it can't work for the bad guys. But this will create enormous challenges for the IAEA, for the Nuclear Suppliers Group, for all the countries of the world, in order to prevent nuclear proliferation. And, in a sense, it's expected - it should be anticipated - because as we become more effective, as we become more successful in terms of stopping some of these things, we should expect the adversaries to adapt their tactics. So this is one of the tactics that I worry about as coming down the road. And as you think it through, it's going to require different types of efforts by existing institutions and programs in order to deal with it.

What kind of efforts or tools are you thinking of? For instance [former Iraq Survey Group lead inspector] David Kay and others have talked about the role of on-site inspections, and how that seems to them to be the most effective tool. Is that where you're coming from, or are there some other strategies?

Reiss: Well, on-site inspections certainly are important - essential in some cases. Still, there is a concern that you can inspect a place one day and there will be nothing there, and you come back the next week and everything will be there. And that's the whole idea behind the "just in time" concept. And that's going to require different mechanisms to try and prevent it from happening. And again, part of what I want to do in this interview is just start a conversation. We need to do a lot more thinking about how the regime is going to evolve, how the bad guys are going to adapt their tactics, and what measures we're going to need in order to go forward.

Then the final thing is enforcement. What happens when we actually catch somebody who has violated international law, rules, and regulations? And we've got a couple of important cases right now with North Korea and Iran. And so these are test cases to see how the international community and how the nonproliferation regime responds. And again to emphasize the point, this administration is neither unilateral nor preemptive. We are supporting the three European countries who are taking the lead with respect to Iran, we are supporting the efforts of the IAEA to deal with the very serious threat that Iran's nuclear program presents. And there's the six-party format for North Korea, again a multilateral approach seeking a diplomatic solution.

ACT: Speaking of enforcement, I don't know if its status has been clarified yet, but the last thing I heard is that North Korea still had not technically withdrawn, or its withdrawal had not been accepted, from the NPT. So even though they could be subject to more sanctions, nothing has been done in the Security Council which is where you would usually expect action against a state in noncompliance with its NPT obligations. Am I right? And if so, is that a concern given the issue of enforcement?

Reiss: My understanding is their noncompliance was referred to the Security Council in 2003, and that it has not yet been taken up by the Security Council. This administration, under the instructions of the president, is trying to seek a diplomatic solution. And I don't think any options are off the table, but I think the president's often-repeated preference is that he wants a diplomatic solution. So, that's what we're trying to do in the working group and the six-party talks.

ACT: It seems like one of the things that's being rethought in broad terms with the nonproliferation treaty is the role of Article IV and Article VI. But weren't those two articles the main incentives to get other countries to accept a treaty that let five states have nuclear weapons when no one else really could?

Reiss: This is a point I've tried to emphasize in a speech I gave on the 50th anniversary of Atoms for Peace at the Woodrow Wilson Center December 9, and it is that non-nuclear status is not a present that the non-nuclear-weapons states give the nuclear states. It is fundamentally, existentially, in their own interest that they and their neighbors do not acquire nuclear weapons. They are the most vulnerable members of the international community, and therefore the NPT is, above all, in their interests, more so than the nuclear-weapons states' interests. And so the idea that somehow they're making a concession or giving us, bestowing a gift upon the nuclear weapons states by adhering to non-nuclear-weapon status I just think is erroneous. I don't think it's logical. Fundamentally, the NPT is important for international stability and security. But, in terms of which countries benefit most, it's the non-nuclear-weapons states that benefit most from it. So I just want to be cautious in saying that Article VI was in return for Article IV, or Article IV was in return for Article VI. There are fundamental reasons why countries sign up to the NPT that have nothing to do with whether the United States or Soviet Union had 20,000 nuclear weapons or 5,000 nuclear weapons.

Well, my question is if we don't stick to Article IV what do we give non-nuclear-weapon states to overcome their objections? -What's the practical politics of getting them to accept the changes we want to the treaty?

Reiss: The president was very clear in saying that he thought that the private industry should be the ones that adjust their rules of engagement on supplying fuel to certain countries. So it wasn't within an NPT framework.

ACT: Getting back to North Korea, in your speech you also seem to suggest that the North Korean regime could fall apart in the event that it refused to make certain changes. That is if they failed to change their economic policies. But the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research told Congress within the past year that North Korea's not at risk of imminent collapse . What is the basis for believing that North Korea will change its behavior in order to avoid political and economic collapse when no such collapse is likely?

Reiss: North Korea surprised many who predicted that it would collapse in the mid-90s after Kim Il Sung died, and then they went through a very difficult period in terms of their inability to feed their own people. I think during the '96, '97, '98 period, an estimated one to two million North Koreans died of starvation or malnourishment, malnutrition, or a disease related to that. [Still] I don't think anybody is optimistic about the long term future of the North Korean economy. They may be muddling through right now, but it's unclear whether the minimal economic reforms that they've adopted are really a long-term solution to their problems. They still can't feed themselves. They're still dependent on the generosity of the World Food Program and all those who donate to the World Food Program in order to feed their own people. That's job number one for any regime, especially one in Asia.
So even if there's not an imminent collapse, it isn't a particularly attractive future when you look out over the next five to ten years if you're sitting in Pyongyang, if you continue to pursue the course you've been on. There is a different future that is available to North Korea, if they choose differently.

ACT: Is there a red line over which the United States will not allow North Korea to go? Last fall, Secretary Powell seemed to indicate that nuclear testing isn't a red line. So what is?

Reiss: Well, I didn't see the quote, so I can't comment on that. But I don't think it's in any country's interest to conduct a nuclear weapons test, especially North Korea. Let's just leave it at that.

ACT: Vis-à-vis Iran, what's the expectation for the June meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors?

Reiss: Well, there was a March 13 statement resolution by the board of governors which strongly criticized Iranian behavior and the lack of candor in their statements about their program. The delay in allowing inspectors to enter the country, the announcement about Esfahan, I think are further indications that Iran has still not made a strategic determination to surrender its nuclear program. What we appear to be seeing are tactical maneuvers to do as little as possible to avoid censure. The Director General's report will be very important in assessing the extent to which Iran has complied with its obligations, and the matter will be taken up at the June board meeting.

Interviewed by Paul Kerr and Miles Pomper

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Bush, ElBaradei, Discuss Proposals of Nuclear Nonproliferation Talks

Wade Boese

Diplomats from more than 100 states are expected to convene for nearly two weeks beginning April 26 to assess what future measures might be taken to shore up the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In anticipation, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mohamed ElBaradei, the United Nations’ top nuclear expert, met in mid-March to discuss possible proposals.

Although the nuclear nonproliferation regime was recently buoyed by Libya’s December 2003 renunciation of its nuclear weapons program, the exposure of illicit Iranian nuclear activities and the disclosure of Abdul Qadeer Khan’s black market nuclear network highlighted the regime’s ills.

With the help of the Pakistani-based Khan network, NPT states-parties Libya and Iran pursued secret nuclear work for years without being caught. North Korea, which announced its withdrawal from the NPT last year, also conducted nuclear-related dealings with Khan. (See ACT, March 2004.)

These revelations have spurred calls for reform from Washington, other world capitals, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for making sure states do not illegally use their peaceful nuclear programs to build atomic bombs covertly.

At Washington’s invitation, ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, visited the United States March 15-18 to discuss proposals for remedying the ailing nonproliferation regime. ElBaradei met with Bush, top officials from the CIA and the Departments of Energy and State, and members of Congress.

ElBaradei summed up his message to the president in a March 18 PBS interview as “[T]his is a different ball game and we have to revise the rules.”

Possible revisions discussed at the meetings included cleaning up and securing weapons-usable material worldwide, strengthening export controls, and denying uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them. Currently, 15 states possess such capabilities, which are legal under the NPT but necessary for making nuclear weapons. ElBaradei does not want to see that total grow.

Although Bush and ElBaradei share many of the same concerns and believe that the threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons demands that the past rules of the nonproliferation regime be updated, they have yet to announce a set of agreed specific proposals or general strategy.

Both men have laid out initiatives separately: Bush in a Feb. 11 speech at the National Defense University and ElBaradei in a series of written pieces and interviews. (See ACT, March 2004 and November 2003.) Bush’s proposals have stressed getting individual states to do a better job of clamping down on their own nuclear materials and technologies, while ElBaradei has urged that states subject their nuclear programs to more stringent multinational controls. There is some overlap, such as ending the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in reactors around the globe.

The forthcoming NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting, which is scheduled from April 26 to May 7 in New York, will likely see a full airing of proposals to amend the nonproliferation regime. Indonesian Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat will serve as the meeting’s chairman.

Treaty compliance and enforcement will be the central themes pushed at the PrepCom by the U.S. delegation, which will be headed by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton.

In a March 12 interview with Arms Control Today, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter said, “Verification and especially compliance are going to be important topics at the PrepCom.” The reason, she explained, is because the treaty “has been under assault by
North Korea, Iran, and other countries of concern.”

If past PrepComs are any guide to what can be expected, the United States will not be the only state reprimanding other NPT members for failing to live up to their commitments. In fact, the United States will face the same charges.

Many states have previously alleged that Washington, as well as Beijing, London, Paris, and Moscow, have not done enough to reduce the role and size of their nuclear arsenals. Article VI of the NPT calls upon all treaty members to work toward disarmament.

In 2000, these five capitals joined in agreeing to 13 steps to advance toward that goal, but they have made mixed progress in fulfilling their pledges. For example, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans nuclear testing, has not been brought into force, and negotiation of a treaty to end the production of HEU and plutonium for weapons purposes has not been initiated even though a five-year deadline was set for its completion. The Bush administration is now reviewing whether it supports such negotiations. (See ACT, March 2004.)

However, the administration contends it has a solid NPT record, citing its 2002 treaty with Russia to reduce their nuclear forces to fewer than 2,200 deployed strategic warheads each by the end of 2012. “I think we can point toward greater progress under this administration in moving toward the objectives of Article VI than can be pointed to under the entire history of the NPT,” Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker asserted in a Jan. 21 interview with Arms Control Today.

DeSutter said, “I think it would be a very sad thing given the assault we’re seeing on the NPT by virtue of the noncompliance that we’ve got if countries focused on the United States instead of where the problem is.”





Diplomats from more than 100 states are expected to convene for nearly two weeks beginning April 26 to assess what future measures might be taken to shore up the beleaguered...

Interview with Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter



March 12, 2004
Wade Boese and Miles Pomper

ACT: The bureau that you're in charge of, the Bureau of Verification and Compliance, became operational in February 2000. Could you explain to our readers what the bureau does, its responsibilities, and so on?

DeSutter: The Verification and Compliance Bureau has three primary missions. One, we assess other nations' compliance with their arms control and nonproliferation agreements and commitments. We provide those assessments on a day-to-day basis within the department. We also prepare the president's annual report to Congress on adherence to and compliance with agreements. We're a little late with the next version of the publication, but it is something that we prepare. We try to make sure it is a high-quality product that includes rigorous assessment of all the available intelligence weighed against the existing obligations and commitments.

The second mission that we have is that when arms control or nonproliferation agreements are being considered, proposed, negotiated, we try to make sure that we are involved early on to make the agreement or commitment as verifiable as possible. A lot of times people think that depends on whether or not the agreement has onsite inspection measures. Actually, very often the difference between a more or less verifiable agreement can be in how it's worded because these agreements or commitments are expressed in words. Some words are easier to understand so that everybody understands what the commitment is. We also will work closely with the intelligence community to make sure that we have the capabilities to monitor the agreement, and will try to structure an agreement so that we can enhance the intelligence capabilities that we have to give us the data that we are looking for.

Third, we are the principal policy liaison to the intelligence community for verification and compliance matters. That means we work closely with the intelligence community. We participate in their interagency groups. We look at various collection systems to make sure that we are retaining capabilities that we need for verification, and that-as we look into the future-we are going after the types of capabilities that will make us the most effective in our verification mission. So those are the three principle functions of the bureau.

ACT: Does the bureau monitor weapons programs of states that are not party to various arms control treaties?

DeSutter: We are mindful of them. Our report, generally speaking, does not include those, although we do participate in the review of activities for sanctions purposes. There may be applicable sanctions laws for those countries, and so we'll be mindful of those, as well. In addition, should there be a future commitment or agreement with those countries, we want to have been monitoring their activities and understand where they are.

ACT: What treaties and initiatives is the bureau currently verifying?

DeSutter: First and foremost, we are working to verify the Libyan commitment to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction programs and missiles of the range of those addressed in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). That's been our primary focus since December when Libya made its commitment. But we also focus on the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the CFE [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] Treaty and associated documents, the Nonproliferation Treaty, the Limited Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies, START, the Moscow Treaty, the INF Treaty, the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, and PNI [Presidential Nuclear Initiatives initiated by U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin].

ACT: What about the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)? Are you involved in that activity at all?

DeSutter: We are not very involved in PSI. That's primarily led out of Undersecretary [of State for Arms Control and International Security John] Bolton's office with the assistance of the Nonproliferation Bureau.

ACT: How exactly do you verify these arms control agreements? In other words, what are the tools that you use to gather information on other countries' weapons programs? Without disclosing state secrets, of course.

DeSutter: We review all-source intelligence on the activities in question. We may notice the intelligence in raw reporting ourselves or the intelligence community may give us a heads-up that there is activity of concern. We will then examine the relevant obligations. If it rises to the level of a concern, we will begin drafting an analysis that probably will eventually make it into the annual noncompliance report. If there is any inspection data, we will review that as well.

ACT: Speaking of the annual noncompliance report, as you alluded to before, since the Bush administration has come into office only one such report has been submitted. Why is that?

When I got here there was a draft report that had been not completed. We went through it one more time and I analyzed it to see what improvements needed to be made in it. That report was submitted in June of last year. That report had always been prepared at the secret level with one or two annexes at a higher classification. It was my view that what was needed was to make sure that the report included all the relevant intelligence. Most of the relevant intelligence, especially in the proliferation area, is above the classification that the report was previously prepared at. We undertook new reviews of the intelligence across the board so it's a pretty comprehensive report. [The latest version] is in the clearance process. Frankly, we are a very small bureau with only a few people that work very hard and a lot of our attention has been focused on Libya rather than getting the report done.

ACT: What period will this new report cover? The previous report covers December '00 to December '01.

DeSutter: There is a cut-off date, but what I have told people is that we need to be up-to-date. For example, clearly we need to update the draft that we have written with the information we've gotten from Libya.

ACT: You said that the classification level of the report is going up. Is there going to be an unclassified version released?

DeSutter: There will still be an unclassified version. But whereas before the analysis was primarily done at the secret level, which means you couldn't include all of the available intelligence, it was only that data that was going to enlighten the unclassified findings. Now what we're trying to do is to increase the amount of information that's being used to develop the findings. The obligations are still going to stay the same, but the data that's going to be the basis of those findings will be enhanced. I think it will make it an even more rigorous report. What we've lost in timeliness will be made up for in quality.

ACT: When do you expect this latest version to be submitted?

DeSutter: I am hoping it will be submitted this summer.

ACT: One tool available to the United States to compel other states to comply with their treaty obligations is sanctions. This administration has imposed sanctions on foreign entities at a significantly greater rate than its predecessor.


ACT: Why is that?

DeSutter: Because a) we believe that the laws exist for a reason and that they should be fully implemented, and b) because we believe that we need to change the cost-benefit analysis of proliferators. We need to impose costs-the costs available in the form of sanctions laws-like every other tool we have available to us to try to stem the tide of proliferation.

ACT: And is there evidence to suggest that these sanctions are effective?

DeSutter: I believe there is. The sanctions that existed on Libya, for example, were certainly a significant element of the Libyan decision to give up their weapons of mass destruction programs. Colonel Moammar Gaddafi last week made it pretty clear that it wasn't that anyone else had imposed sanctions, it was that [Libyan] activities had brought the sanctions upon them. Those were clearly costly [to Libya], and removing those sanctions was a goal that they were seeking. In other cases, it's fair to assume that sanctions are having some effect.

At the same time, there are some foreign entities that have been sanctioned multiple times. It seems like they are not getting the hint. Does that really suggest that sanctions can be effective, if you have the same entities doing the same things over and over again?

It means that we have not been effective enough with regard to that particular entity. On the other hand, we are learning in the Libya case [that] their chemical program was impeded because it was difficult to obtain the best equipment. When the equipment came and wasn't what they needed, they really didn't have a complaint mechanism. So, what we do by these sanctions is we force countries into less effective acquisition routes. You do have the exception of the Khan network, which was selling pretty good stuff. But for the most part, you are forcing countries to do sub-optimal acquisition.

ACT: And that's what you consider an effective sanction? That's how you would measure the effectiveness?

The other measure is, does the country under sanctions understand that there is a cost associated with doing this? Countries have to make a choice between trading with the United States and trading with countries of proliferation concern.

The state that has had the most entities sanctioned by the administration is China. Over the past couple of months, China has initiated efforts to join both the MTCR and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Is China's nonproliferation record good enough for it to join these two voluntary export control regimes?

That's under internal discussion within the U.S. government.

ACT: Can you give me some sense of what kind of steps China might need to take to prove that it is responsible enough to join these regimes?

DeSutter: I don't think that would be appropriate for me at this point.

ACT: With past Chinese proliferation, is it your assessment that it is one of the government not [effectively] enforcing its export controls, or is it one of the government turning its head?

DeSutter: Well, whichever it is, we have not seen a total cessation of the nature that we'd like.

ACT: In the wake of the recent Khan revelations, the United States has not imposed any sanctions on Pakistan. Why is that?

A.Q. Khan has been retired from the Pakistani government for some time from his major post. While I do not want to get into any detail, he certainly has been acting in his own interests rather than in the interests of the Pakistani government.

ACT: But as you recall, the president in his February 11th speech urged other states to get tough on proliferators. Does the US decision not to impose sanctions on Pakistan undermine the president's message?

DeSutter: I don't think so. I suppose others could have a different view. I don't think we can expect A.Q. Khan to be doing any more proliferation.

ACT: What about other members of his network? Is the United States confident that the network is now shut down? What steps are being taken to verify that the Khan network is no longer operating?

DeSutter: I'm really not in a position to discuss that.

ACT: Does the recent experience with Pakistan suggest that the United States should work harder to get its friends and allies, such as Pakistan and Israel, to grant greater transparency to their weapons programs, instead of simply focusing on states hostile to the United States?

DeSutter: I don't see how that follows from the Khan piece, but others might have different views.

Well, apparently the judgment was made that we didn't have a full understanding of what was going on with Khan's network until late in the game.

DeSutter: As the president noted in his [February 11] speech, Khan was producing equipment outside of Pakistan. Access to the Pakistani program wouldn't have necessarily given us insight into what was being produced in Malaysia.

ACT: Would access to these countries, though, provide us with greater confidence that they are not being used as a source for proliferators or that materials are not being diverted with or without their knowledge to potential proliferators?

DeSutter: Perhaps. I really would defer to my colleagues in the Nonproliferation Bureau.

ACT: Turning to Iran, what actions could Iran take to quell growing concerns about its nuclear program?

DeSutter: The primary step that Iran could take is to make a strategic commitment of the type Libya has made. That is: to give up its nuclear weapons program. Iran has not made such a decision.

Short of that, is ratifying and implementing the Additional Protocol sufficient for Iran to provide confidence that it is not illicitly pursuing nuclear weapons?

DeSutter: Let me point out that Libya had eliminated its nuclear weapons program prior to its adherence to the IAEA Additional Protocol this week. Iran can give up its nuclear weapons program independent of a decision to sign up to the Additional Protocol. The Additional Protocol might be a good step, but a better step is giving up its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Given that, if Iran does comply with the Additional Protocol, should it be allowed to possess enrichment and reprocessing capabilities?

DeSutter: My view is that Iran, by its actions, has given up the [right] to be treated as a trustworthy state.

ACT: What's the legal basis if you were going to try to deny these capabilities to Iran?

DeSutter: Article IV of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty provides for cooperation in peaceful nuclear programs so long as a country is in compliance with Article II. It will be difficult for Iran to give confidence that it is complying with Article II, particularly in the absence of a strategic commitment to do the type of forthcoming disclosure that we have seen from Libya.

ACT: What would that strategic commitment look like?

DeSutter: Libya serves as a good model. The Libyans said, "We are no longer going to have a nuclear weapons program." They invited the United States and the United Kingdom in. They gave the United States and the United Kingdom access to all facilities that we requested to see. They were willing to permit any tests that we wanted to conduct. They were willing to have their centrifuge program removed. They were willing to convert the Tajoura reactor from HEU [highly enriched uranium] to LEU [low enriched uranium]. They gave up their entire centrifuge program. Their transparency thus far has been complete. They also had in the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. My impression has been that they have given the IAEA access to whatever the IAEA asked for access to. There have not been time limits on how long the IAEA could be present. They have been very forthcoming.

In the chemical weapons area, we assisted them in drafting their declaration to the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]. They had the OPCW technical secretariat come in. On one occasion they said, "You know, we really hadn't told the others that came before, but there are some other munitions we need to show you." They took us to a facility that we almost certainly would not have been able to identify independently and showed us the unfilled munitions there. That is transparency. That is the kind of access that we are given when a country has made a strategic commitment. They volunteer information.

Currently no international body exists to monitor and verify threats posed by biological weapons and missiles. Does your recent experience with Libya suggest that such bodies are needed or would be helpful?

DeSutter: No.

ACT: Could you expand on that?

DeSutter: I think that biological weapons are one of the areas where an international body would not be very helpful.

Why is that?

DeSutter: Because, for example, what we are doing in Libya is talking to them and looking around. They have said that U.S. and U.K. experts can go anywhere they want to go and talk to anyone they want to talk to. That is not the kind of access and regime that you are going to have in a negotiated onsite inspection protocol.

ACT: What about for missiles?

DeSutter: Well, [the Libyans] certainly have been willing to give up their Scud-Cs. We would have to think about the missile side. Missiles are certainly easier to verify than biological [weapons].

ACT: At the same time, there isn't an international prohibition on missiles, just supply-side restraints through MTCR.

DeSutter: That's true.

ACT: In the absence of such an international body, would you need to develop a norm against international missile possession?

DeSutter: Yeah.

Looking back at Libya retrospectively, can you identify areas in which the United States and the international community could have improved its monitoring of Libyan weapons activities?

DeSutter: That is something that we are going to have to give some additional thought to. I'm sure that the IAEA is examining that very question right now.

ACT: Are there any other lessons learned from the actual dismantlement of Libya's programs?

DeSutter: Not yet, in the following sense. Libya made its commitment December 19th. We had the first group of U.S. and U.K. experts on the ground January 20th. It is now only March 12th. In that period of time, we have removed the Scud-Cs, the uranium enrichment program, including the uranium hexafluoride, and many other things. They have destroyed all of their unfilled chemical munitions. They have consolidated all of their agent and precursors into a safer location. We have been very busy. So, we are at the stage now where we need to begin thinking about what the lessons learned are. We want to have lessons learned from this because we want Libya to be a model for other countries. What has been accomplished with regard to Libyan weapons of mass destruction (WMD) elimination is breathtaking. It's time for us to stop, catch our breath, think about what all this means, and how we can apply these lessons elsewhere.

ACT: The flip side of the question is that you cited Libya as a possible model for the Iranians. They've also been cited as a possible model for the North Koreans. Is Libya's particular situation different-its political and strategic situation-in ways that allowed it to make this choice that would make it more difficult for North Korea that has been locked in a 50-year conflict with South Korea or an Iran that is in a dangerous neighborhood to make those choices?

DeSutter: I think one key difference is that both the North Korean and the Iranian programs are further advanced than the Libyan program. So, in that sense, there would be more to eliminate, although Libya was moving out smartly on its nuclear program. It's still a little hard for me to say this out loud, but Gaddafi got it right when he said that their WMD programs made them less secure not more secure. Iran, for example, has an awful lot of potential. And should it give up its support of terrorism, should it give up its WMD programs, I can imagine tremendous movement in terms of how close the United States would want to be to Iran; the kind of trade and people-to-people contacts that would greatly benefit Iran. I cannot imagine any scenario in which that decision would hurt Iran's security rather than help it. The same stands for North Korea. I do not think that South Korea has any intention, nor does Japan, and nor does the United States, of launching an attack against North Korea. I cannot see any [North Korean] national security needs that are enhanced by the North Korean nuclear program. I can see an awful lot of national needs that it has that would be best served by making a strategic commitment to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Gaddafi made the right choice for the Libyan people. It would be good if the governments of North Korea and Iran made the right decision for their people.

Some commentators have suggested that UNMOVIC proved itself in Iraq, and that it should now be converted into, or used as a model for, a permanent international arms inspection corps. What do you think of that idea?

DeSutter: I don't know why we need a permanent UN arms inspection corps.

ACT: It wouldn't be useful in a situation if Iran or North Korea gave up their weapons programs?

DeSutter: Not in my view. The way the Libya process worked was just fine.

ACT: So that's a no on the permanent inspection body?

DeSutter: I think no would be good, but the last time I just said no you were not very pleased with the answer.

We did an interview a couple of days ago with [Iraq Survey Group lead inspector] David Kay. Dr. Kay said, "International inspection is even more important now than it ever was. The on-the-ground examination of what's going on is irreplaceable as to what it can do. And so we've got to find a way to be sure that that inspection is well-equipped and well-funded, organized, and with maximum access possible, rather than believe that sitting back some place staring through space, or even with domestic export control laws, that you're going to be able to stop it that way." What is your reaction to Dr Kay's comments?

DeSutter: I have tremendous respect for David Kay. He did hard work in Iraq. Part of my answer is that even in Libya, where they had made the commitment, there is no substitute. No number of inspectors is an adequate substitute for a firm commitment on the part of the government to yield its weapons program.

Is it enough to constrain a weapons program though?

What do you mean?

ACT: Is the presence of inspectors enough to constrain a weapons program where it does not develop into one that is a threat to its neighbors or other countries?

DeSutter: It probably depends on how long an illicit program may have been underway, and what's being inspected.

The United States has accused other states of violating their commitments under the CWC not to possess chemical weapons. The CWC has a provision that permits challenge inspections. Yet, the United States has not called for a challenge inspection. Why is that?

DeSutter: The first thing that we generally do is we'll use the Article IX bilateral consultation mechanism to try to get a better understanding of where a program is. I think there is a growing consensus at the OPCW that is more favorable to challenge inspections. I favor using the challenge inspection mechanism more readily. Because it has not been used in the past, it becomes increasingly difficult to use it. So the question is, what standard of proof do you want to have before you actually ask for a challenge inspection? If you believe that you better have a case where you're absolutely positive that you're going to find evidence of noncompliance during that challenge inspection, you're going to make it so that you don't exactly need a challenge inspection. I think that the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty model is a better model for how you want to regularize those sorts of things so that when you have a question or concern you go have a look under challenge inspection-type process without it being akin to a declaration of war.

When you say there's a greater consensus, does that mean other countries now share those views?

DeSutter: Yeah. It seemed that many of the European countries certainly thought that the challenge inspection process needed to be thought through.

Is that lack of support in the past been what's held up the challenge inspections?

DeSutter: I don't think that's been the only issue.

ACT: The latest arms reduction accord the United States negotiated with Russia, the Moscow Treaty, does not contain any new verification measures. How will the United States be able to verify that Russia is abiding by the terms of the accord?

DeSutter: We will be using our national technical means. We will also be using the provisions of START, which provides for inspections, dialogue with the Russians, and other activities.

ACT: START expires in 2009. Should the United States extend START so you have those verification mechanisms in place until the SORT implementation deadline of 2012.

DeSutter: I know some people feel strongly that that should be the case, but at that point we would be able to give it some thought. I don't see any problems at this point that would require us to do that.

ACT: One of the rationales used by the Bush administration to reject a proposed verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was that it would put at risk U.S. industry and defense secrets. How does the United States expect other states to grant access to their weapons and dual-use facilities if the United States is unwilling to do the same?

DeSutter: I don't think we expected other countries to open up their biological facilities under BWC protocol we rejected.

ACT: Another major verification problem right now is North Korea. Has the United States developed a model verification regime that it would require North Korea to submit to if it decides to give up its nuclear weapons program? And could you describe the key elements of such a regime?

DeSutter: It would be best if we discussed the elements of any possible verification regime with the other parties to the six-party talks first. But, obviously, the United States has given a lot of thought to the difficulties that we would face in verifying a North Korean commitment. Again, the single most important enhancement to a verification capability is a strategic commitment on the part of that country to genuinely give up its capabilities. If North Korea makes such a strategic commitment, the verification regime will be far easier to design and implement.

There are some that say that a verification regime isn't valuable if its not 100 percent verifiable. Is there anything that is 100 percent verifiable?

DeSutter: There is no-and I think probably never will be-a 100 percent verifiable agreement or commitment. What we have to try to understand is when is verification good enough? Generally, what we mean when we say verification is effective. The way you reach that determination is fairly complicated. There's no set equation, but there are a number of factors, including: What is the compliance record of the country that we are trying to verify? How difficult is it to hide those elements that we are trying to verify from either inspection or national technical means? How much risk does the United States put itself at, or its allies, if there is undetected cheating? Those are just some of the elements that we have to look at in determining whether verification is effective.

For example, if you have two parallel agreements, and one of the agreements was with the United Kingdom and one was with Iran, and they had the same words, you might decide that verification was [more] effective in the case of the United Kingdom with whom we have an open transparent partnership than Iran, which has a history of noncompliance with its arms control and nonproliferation agreements and commitments.

In our recent experience with Iraq, though, you have a situation where its compliance record wasn't very good. But now that we are in Iraq, we're not finding the materials that we thought they were hiding. So is that criteria [reliable]?

DeSutter: When the new Iraqi government is constituted, I suspect that any given commitment made by them in the arms control and nonproliferation area will be judged to be far more verifiable [than before] because we have been there. We know what the ground truth is. Hopefully, this will be a regime that is trustworthy. I would expect it to be an ally of ours. [In contrast,] Saddam Hussein had a history of cheating, of lying, and of using weapons of mass destruction. The pictures of what happened to the people at Halabja are horrendous. There is a picture of a woman holding her baby, trying to cover it and protect it from the gas that was killing them. That is the type of regime that that was. I think that like many people who looked at the intelligence before, there wasn't a night during [last year's] war where I wasn't hoping and praying that chemical and biological weapons wouldn't be used against our troops. Clearly, he had the intent. David Kay has borne that out. Clearly, Iraq had programs. David Kay has supported that. What have not been found are the [weapons] stockpiles that we were concerned about. If you are going to wait until you know that they have the stockpiles, you have changed the equation. Certainly our intelligence was off. But it was off on some things and not on others. Iraq had these programs. It had the intent. Thank God they weren't as far [along] as we thought. Thank God they didn't have the stockpiles we were concerned about. Yes, we need to make sure our intelligence is as robust and credible as it can possibly be, but thank God they didn't have the stockpiles we were afraid of.

ACT: What you seem to be saying is we only can be confident in verification when it's people that we're already allied with or friendly with, which are the people you don't need to verify.

DeSutter: No, no, no. I'm not saying those are the only people we can verify. I'm saying that the single element that makes verification easier is if it is someone that we have an ongoing record. As I said, one of the elements in assessing whether verification is effective is what is the compliance record of the country you are looking at? That is only one element. You can still have agreements with countries that you don't trust. Certainly when we signed the INF Treaty we did not have a tremendous trust of the Soviet Union. And in those cases, you are going to have to do more work, you are going to have to have more measures, you are going to have to be more careful. And hopefully, your intelligence capabilities are going to be up to the task because you are not going to be able to expect them in every case to be forthcoming about the nature of their program. What you are going to need is to have robust intelligence.

What happens though in the case of Iraq where your robust intelligence conflicts with what inspectors on the ground are saying?

DeSutter: You have to weigh both. And this is true of any intelligence you may not have as well. Sometimes an intelligence briefer will come here and say we have no evidence that "x" is occurring. Well, that is an interesting data point only if you believe that our intelligence capabilities are capable of telling us whether or not "x" is occurring. For example, if you're not collecting on something, the fact that you have no intelligence that tells you that that's happening isn't a very interesting data point. And one of the things that I said goes into an assessment of effective verification is what is it that you're trying to verify. If we had an onsite inspection regime that was looking for large phased array radars, I'd be pretty confident. If you have a verification regime that is looking at something that is really big and hard to hide, fine. As things get smaller, as things become more dual-use, then the verification challenge is going to grow. It doesn't mean it's impossible, it just means it's going to get more difficult. The effectiveness determination is critical. You have to be able to say: What is going on in this particular case? What are we looking for? What are our capabilities to look? What are their capabilities to hide? What are their inclinations and their history of hiding things? How can we put all of this together? What's our capability to respond in a timely fashion? What is the risk to us if there is undetected noncompliance? All of those factors have to be put together, there's no one single factor that's going to be the whole thing that you look at. You've got to put those all pieces together or else you're not going to have a very robust determination about the effectiveness of verification. Some things are just harder than others.

ACT: I think that's all the questions we had. I don't know if there is anything you wanted to add that we haven't asked.

DeSutter: The Nonproliferation Treaty PrepCom is coming up in New York. That's going to be a very important [event]. The NPT has been under assault by North Korea, Iran, and other countries of concern. We have extremely good news in the Libya case. But verification and especially compliance are going to be important topics at the PrepCom. [The United States] needs to explain our views on compliance and why it's important, and why all of the nations who are party to the NPT need to have a stake in enforcement.

ACT: With regards to the PrepCom, I'm sure the United States is going to hear charges that it regularly hears, that it's not complying with the NPT. As the head of the Verification and Compliance Bureau here in the United States, how do you respond to those allegations?

I would say that given the number of commitments and actions that the United States has taken relevant to cutting the number of our nuclear weapons, moving forward in a number of areas, I think it would be a very sad thing, given the assault we're seeing on the NPT by virtue of the noncompliance that we've got, if countries focused on the United States instead of where the problem is.

Is the United States expecting to introduce additional measures beyond those that the president has discussed in his recent speech at the PrepCom?

DeSutter: I don't think so.

ACT: Will the Verification and Compliance Bureau be working with NSG countries to be sure they're implementing President Bush's request not to supply reprocessing and enrichment capabilities to other countries? Is that something your office will be dealing with?

The Nonproliferation Bureau would have the lead on that, but we would be happy to help our colleagues over there with that.

We appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

Subject Resources:

Broaden the Nonproliferation Campaign

Daryl G. Kimball

Following last month’s disclosures of illicit Pakistani nuclear assistance to Libya and Iran, President George W. Bush outlined new measures to restrict the trade of key equipment that can be used to make bomb material. However, Bush’s proposals, as well as his overall nonproliferation strategy, are too limited and contradictory to address current and future nuclear weapons dangers adequately.

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) guarantees non-nuclear-weapon states the right to nuclear technology for energy and other nonmilitary purposes under international safeguards. Decades of nuclear trade, however, have led to the broad diffusion of uranium-enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing technologies, which can also be used to make bomb-grade uranium and plutonium. Some states, such as Iran and North Korea, have abused the system and acquired the means to produce these fissile materials.

In response, Bush has proposed that the 40-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) not sell enrichment and reprocessing equipment to any state that does not already have the capability. He has also proposed that these nuclear supplier states not provide equipment to nations that have failed to agree to a tougher set of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections. This proposal is mostly designed to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Although a push for new and tighter nuclear export restrictions through the NSG is long overdue, long-term success requires the application of the same standards to all states and more aggressive efforts to eliminate other means of fissile material production. Several important, additional steps should be considered.

First, those states currently without enrichment or reprocessing capabilities, such as Brazil and Iran, will strongly resist efforts to deny them access to such technologies. If these and other states are to be expected to agree to tougher restrictions, their access to low-enriched uranium fuel for light-water reactors (LWRs) will need to be guaranteed. The solution requires the creation of a long-term, multinational fuel supply that would make national possession of uranium-enrichment plants unneeded and uneconomical.

This could be accomplished in a number of ways, each of which presents challenges and requires more visionary U.S. leadership. As IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has suggested, one approach is to develop a new protocol to the NPT that would bar enrichment and reprocessing capabilities but continue to guarantee access to nuclear fuel supplies and regulate spent-fuel disposition under the supervision of the IAEA. Another option is low-cost access to fuel for LWRs through market-based consortia.

Second, the Bush formula would allow significant nuclear suppliers not part of the NSG, such as Pakistan, to continue to peddle their wares. The recent disclosures about transfers of uranium and uranium-enrichment equipment from the Khan Research Lab warrant, at the very least, revisions to Pakistan’s lax export-control system.

Third, Bush should immediately quash two ongoing Department of Energy “nuclear research” programs that actually promote the spread of reprocessing technology and the means to produce plutonium. Spent-fuel reprocessing is an uneconomical, polluting, and unnecessary way to harness nuclear energy. Currently, global stockpiles of separated civilian plutonium exceed 195 tonnes and pose a long-term proliferation threat.

Fourth, the United States should reaffirm its long-standing support for negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty. The treaty would verifiably halt the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons by all states; establish baseline information on global stockpiles; and help bring India, Israel, and Pakistan into the nonproliferation system. A shift in China’s position opens the way to revive the long-delayed negotiation, but now the Bush administration has announced it is reviewing the U.S. position.

Finally, Bush’s call for others to abide by tougher nonproliferation rules rings hollow as his administration continues to reject meaningful limits on U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. Bush remains opposed to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to verifiably dismantling excessive U.S. and Russian nuclear bombs and missiles. Worse still, the administration has outlined plans for developing new earth-penetrating nuclear weapons at cost of nearly a half-billion dollars over the next five years. Not only are such weapons impractical and unnecessary, but they invite hard-liners in other states to keep their nuclear weapons options open.

The evolving nature of the nuclear threat requires a more comprehensive and robust global nonproliferation strategy than the work in progress outlined by Bush. In the end, it requires more than just pressure on a few of the nuclear “have-nots”—it requires greater restraint and leadership from the nuclear “haves.”






Curbing Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East

Robert J. Einhorn

In terms of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats in the Middle East, 2003 ended up being a pretty good year. It did not start out that way. In fact, the situation was looking pretty ominous at the beginning of last year. Intelligence agencies in the United States and elsewhere were convinced that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. At the very minimum, Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East were uncertain about Saddam Hussein's WMD intentions and capabilities, and this uncertainty was a factor motivating some of them, especially Iran, to pursue WMD programs of their own.

In Iran, disclosures by dissidents about two sensitive fuel-cycle facilities and investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had revealed that Iran was making an alarming amount of progress in its uranium-enrichment program and, therefore, in its nuclear weapons program.

In Libya, the United States and other countries were growingly concerned that Moammar Gaddafi's long-standing nuclear and missile programs were finally getting some traction and could no longer be considered a joke. When added to Israel's already advanced but undeclared nuclear capability and Syria's relatively sophisticated chemical and missile capabilities, these situations in Iraq, Iran, and Libya suggested that the Middle East was destined to become a region saturated with weapons of mass destruction.

A year later, things have changed quite significantly. Both the fears and the uncertainties about Iraq's WMD capabilities and programs have largely been eliminated. Faced with the prospect of an IAEA Board of Governors finding of noncompliance and the possibility of UN Security Council sanctions, Iran has agreed to suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities, to adhere to the IAEA Additional Protocol, and to make a full disclosure of its nuclear program. In addition, Gaddafi has now decided to come clean about Libya's WMD programs and to permit their elimination under verification. Just as importantly, Libya is providing information to U.S., British, and IAEA officials about its sources of supply, and hopefully this is going to permit strong action to be taken against the black market networks that constitute one of the greatest threats to the nonproliferation regime today.

The Bush administration and its critics are debating why these positive developments are occurring. Bush supporters claim that the administration's tough national security strategy and the "demonstration effect" from the Iraq military operation are responsible and that this has caused Iran and Libya to have second thoughts about their WMD programs. Administration critics, however, argue that the Libyans and Iranians are motivated at least as much by positive inducements as they are by fear. They say that recent progress confirms that multilateral institutions and carrot-and-stick diplomacy can be successful.

I would say that both sides of this argument are right to some extent. Regardless, the outlook today for curbing WMD proliferation in the Middle East is much better than it was just a year ago.

What should we be doing to try to keep this progress pointed in the right direction? On Iraq, I think the priority should be preventing any residues from Hussein's WMD programs from becoming the seeds of WMD programs in Iraq or elsewhere. The Iraq Survey Group should keep pressing to try to find out what happened to the weapons, the precursors, the materials, the blueprints, and so on. Coalition authorities should do whatever they can to keep track of former Iraqi weapons scientists to provide them with professional opportunities in the civilian sector and to make sure that they are not peddling their know-how outside of Iraq-or even to insurgents inside Iraq.

In our dealings with future Iraqi authorities, U.S. officials will need to make clear the importance they attach to avoiding any WMD recidivism in Iraq, and they are also going to have to work closely with Iraqi defense institutions to make sure that the country develops the kind of army and conventional defense capabilities that reduce Iraq's incentives for developing weapons of mass destruction in the future.

On Iran, I think the challenge is much more difficult. Iran's agreement this past fall to adhere to the Additional Protocol and suspend enrichment activities was hardly an indication that Iranian leaders have made the fundamental decision to abandon their quest for nuclear weapons. Indeed, Iran has already begun to arouse suspicion by insisting that its suspension of enrichment be defined in a very narrow way.

Still, I think it may be possible over time to convince Iranian leaders that nuclear weapons are simply not in Iran's national interest. The United States, Europe, and Russia need to stick together and confront Iran with a stark choice: it can be a pariah with nuclear weapons, or it can abandon its ambitions to get nuclear weapons and become a well-integrated member of the international community-politically and economically. Iran needs to understand that giving up the nuclear option convincingly means giving up the capability to enrich uranium. The suspension of enrichment and reprocessing activities must be replaced with a permanent prohibition on these capabilities, which means existing facilities eventually must be dismantled. In exchange for giving up the right to produce enriched uranium fuel, Iran should receive a multilateral guarantee that, as long as it lives up to its nonproliferation obligations, it will be able to buy reactor fuel for any civilian nuclear power reactors that it decides to build. The Europeans, Russians, and Americans should get together to offer such a guarantee.

Such a fuel assurance might well address possible Iranian concerns about arbitrary future cutoffs of fuel supply, but it will not address what I believe is Iran's principal motivation for seeking the nuclear option: security. With the Iraqi threat gone, as far as Iran is concerned, Iran's main security preoccupation today is the United States, specifically that the Bush administration may be interested in putting pressure on Iran and even toppling its regime. That is why I believe that a permanent solution to the Iranian nuclear issue will probably require a fundamental improvement in bilateral relations between the United States and Iran. The sooner these two countries begin to engage one another and explore the possibility of a modus vivendi that can address each side's concerns, the sooner it may be possible to reach a durable solution.

On Libya, things seem to be moving in the right direction. The United States, the United Kingdom, and the IAEA are working to document and dismantle Libya's WMD programs. I wish I could say that they were working collegially to do this, but that is clearly not the case. The United States and United Kingdom have a legitimate interest to be fully involved in this process. They have a great security stake in being involved in the process. The IAEA's role, however, is also legitimate and central. I think the Bush administration would be well advised to recognize that its longer-term nonproliferation objectives would be served by not trying to marginalize the IAEA on Libya.

Syria has come under strong pressure from the United States since the invasion of Iraq. In some areas, such as preventing the movement of foreign fighters through Syria to Iraq, Syria seems to be trying to accommodate U.S. demands. Nevertheless, on the question of abandoning its WMD capabilities, especially chemical and missile programs, Syria has so far given no indication that it is prepared to follow Gaddafi's lead.

Syria sees its nonconventional weapons capabilities as a counter to Israel. If it is prepared to put those capabilities on the negotiating table at all, it would probably do so only in the context of a peace settlement with Israel. Even then, Syria might argue that it needs to hold on to those capabilities as long as Israel retains nuclear weapons.

In the period ahead, Israel can expect to become the focus of increased attention. Already Libya, Syria, and Egypt have raised the question of a double standard in the Middle East, and they have urged Israel to relinquish its nuclear weapons capability. Israel is reportedly giving consideration internally to how it can respond.

In my view, it is unrealistic to expect Israel to do very much at the present time, especially on the nuclear issue. It is certainly true that the fall of Hussein, the apparent end of Libya's WMD programs, and positive steps in Iran have diminished the WMD threat faced by Israel. Yet, the Israelis correctly point out that the Iran issue has not been resolved, and more fundamentally, the Israelis believe that the Arab world today is less prepared to accept the existence of the state of Israel than it was during the 1990s when the peace process was moving forward in a very purposeful and promising way. As long as the Israelis face what they regard as an existential threat, they are going to be reluctant to surrender what they see as an ultimate guarantor of their security.

Still, in order to keep the positive momentum going within the region, Israel needs to consider what it can do now. George Perkovich and Avner Cohen have recently suggested that one step Israel could take is to ratify the Chemical Weapon Convention and adhere to the Biological Weapons Convention.[1] I think this would be a good idea.

On the nuclear issue, I would not expect much. One thing Israel should do is state that, in the context of a comprehensive and durable peace in the Middle East, it is prepared to give up its nuclear option as long as others in the region, including Iran, do the same. Israel adopted this position in the early 1990s. It apparently remains Israel's position, but we do not hear much about it today. It would be valuable for Israel publicly to emphasize that it is prepared to renounce its nuclear weapons capability under certain conditions.

Finally, an important way of addressing the Middle East WMD threat in the longer term is to try to re-establish a region-wide multilateral forum on arms control and regional security. Such a forum existed from 1992 to 1995 and made some impressive progress, including on confidence-building measures. It made some impressive progress during that period, but it had a number of flaws-namely that Syria, Iraq, and Iran were not involved. In the future, that should be corrected. The forum eventually broke down, in large part over disagreements between Egypt and Israel about how to deal with the nuclear issue. Given the raw nerves that exist in the region today over the Israeli-Palestinian problem, it is difficult to imagine resurrecting this forum in the immediate future, but we should look for opportunities to do so as soon as conditions permit.

My bottom line? The Middle East is not going to become a WMD-free zone any time soon. Indeed, you would have to be quite an optimist to think that the Middle East will ever be completely free of weapons of mass destruction. Yet, there are reasons to be optimistic. A year ago, security experts assumed that the Middle East would eventually be home to at least several nuclear powers. Today, that no longer seems inevitable.


1. George Perkovich and Avner Cohen, “Devaluing Arab WMDs,” Washington Times, January 19, 2004, p. A19.

Robert J. Einhorn is a senior adviser in the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) International Security Program. Before coming to CSIS, he was assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation. This article is adapted from a speech he delivered January 28, 2004, at the Paul C. Warnke Conference on the Past, Present, and Future of Arms Control, which was co-sponsored by the Arms Control Association.







Lugar Says Some Administration Officials Undermining Bush's Efforts on Additional Protocol

Paul Kerr

Although President George W. Bush reiterated his support for a bilateral U.S. agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month, a key Senate leader has complained that some within the administration are not fully on board.

In a Feb. 11 speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., Bush urged the Senate to “immediately” ratify an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the IAEA. In his May 2002 letter of transmittal for the protocol, Bush called “universal adoption” of an additional protocol “a central goal of [U.S.] nonproliferation policy.” Officials from the Departments of State, Defense, Energy, and Commerce have also offered their support, arguing during a Jan. 29 hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that U.S. adoption of the protocol would induce other countries to follow suit.

All non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) have safeguards agreements with the IAEA that require detailed declarations of nuclear activities and allow IAEA inspections to ensure that those activities are not being used for illegal military purposes. As a recognized nuclear-weapon state under the NPT, the United States is under no legal obligation to accept such safeguards but has, as a matter of policy, voluntarily permitted them, albeit with broad “national security” exemptions.

The agreement that the Senate is considering is based on the 1997 Model Additional Protocol. The IAEA, after its failure to detect Iraq’s pre-1991 crash nuclear weapons program revealed weaknesses in the agency’s inspections and monitoring procedures, developed the protocol to strengthen the agency’s ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities. For example, the protocol allows agency inspectors to conduct short-notice inspections of undeclared facilities and requires states to provide more information to the IAEA about their nuclear activities. The IAEA cannot actually implement these measures in a particular country unless its government has concluded its own version of the additional protocol.

The U.S. version of the additional protocol, signed in 1998, would provide the IAEA with nonmilitary information on U.S. research, development, enrichment, and reprocessing activities; locations and capacity of fissile material production sites; export and import of nuclear material; and uses of fissile material and waste products. The agreement, however, allows the United States to invoke a provision called the “national security exclusion” to deny the IAEA access to “activities with direct national security significance…or to locations or information associated with such activities.” The United States has the “sole discretion” in determining whether it can invoke the exclusion. In the event that it does allow IAEA inspectors into a facility, the United States will be able to use “managed access” to limit the inspectors’ activities.

In addition, Washington can also employ “managed access” to protect “proliferation-sensitive” and “proprietary or commercially sensitive information” in military and commercial nuclear facilities.

During the Jan. 29 hearing, administration officials emphasized repeatedly that Washington intends to limit the IAEA’s inspection powers in the United States. For example, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pointed out that the national security exclusion allows the United States to “exclude information and activities from declarations and deny access to IAEA inspectors anytime, anyplace.”

Despite these limitations, Assistant Secretary of State Susan Burk argued that IAEA inspections in the United States still have value because they serve a “political purpose of underscoring U.S. support for the [nuclear nonproliferation] regime.”

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) stated during a Feb. 12 hearing that “in coming weeks” the committee “intends to report the resolution of ratification...to the Senate.” A Senate aide told Arms Control Today Feb. 23 that the committee is working on the resolution and discussing it with the administration.

Bush transmitted the agreement to the Senate in May 2002, and the administration delivered the implementing legislation to Congress last November. Defense Department concerns over the extent of the protocol’s oversight provisions delayed an interagency agreement on the legislation, but the department now publicly supports the agreement. (See ACT, December 2003.)

During the hearings, however, Lugar alleged that some administration officials are still attempting to stall ratification, and he asked Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was testifying before the committee, to “inform the president that we are eager [to act on the protocol], and perhaps he can inform the rest of his administration to work with us.”





Although President George W. Bush reiterated his support for a bilateral U.S. agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month, a key Senate leader has complained...

Interview with Stephen G. Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control



January 21, 2004
Wade Boese and Miles Pomper

ACT: Some critics of the administration charge that it is anti-arms control. How would you respond to that criticism?

Rademaker: I don't think that's true at all. I think we have a very good record on arms control issues. Obviously, we are in a period that is different than the period of the Cold War so we've had to adapt the structure of arms control to deal with the contemporary security issues that we face. That's meant that some arms control arrangements that made sense during the Cold War, like the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, no longer made sense and we've parted company with them. As you well know, there were predictions that if we did that the inevitable result would be a new arms race, but history has been unkind to people who made that prediction. Within six months of terminating the ABM Treaty, we signed the Moscow Treaty [also known as the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty], which provided for the largest reduction ever in deployed strategic nuclear warheads.[1] In the past year, we've brought that treaty into force and we're very proud of it. We'll match our strategic arms control agreement up against that of any other administration. As you know, the last strategic arms control agreement negotiated between the United States and Russia was under the previous Bush administration. So I guess I'm perplexed by the suggestion that we need to defend our record.

ACT: As you know the historic bargains of arms control grants governments access to nuclear, chemical and biological materials, technologies and know-how for their civilian and defense related programs in exchange for not developing weapons. The administration has raised the question of whether these bargains still make sense. Is there an answer to that question and is it time for these bargains to be modified or dropped?

Rademaker: I think recent developments in Iran really put that question in perspective, because what is clear from the evidence that has emerged with regard to Iran is that it has been violating its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and under its safeguards agreement. They're no longer denying these violations. The only possible explanation for the violations was that they were intent upon developing nuclear weapons in violation of their international obligations. So then, once this evidence was uncovered, we confront the question "What to do about it?" Their contention, which, unfortunately, received some support in other quarters, is that we should just let bygones be bygones, that the Atoms for Peace bargain is the Atoms for Peace bargain and, having been caught red handed, we should excuse their previous violations and reinstate them as a NPT party in good standing and, as such, they should be entitled to technical cooperation under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that they should be entitled to have a uranium enrichment program, because that is their treaty right. We question that. They promised to suspend their enrichment program under the deal that was cut late last year. First of all, obviously, suspension is different than termination and dismantlement. It's our view that it would be unacceptable, given their history in this area, for them to get back in the business of enriching uranium. We would hope that international arrangements like the IAEA and the NPT would take into account the fact that, at least in the case of proven cheaters, that the Atoms for Peace bargain needs to be applied in a judicious manner.

ACT: Is there any thought of a broader sort of policy change in terms of this trade-off and this bargain?

Rademaker: I think that there's general recognition that we have some problems under the NPT. There's this extraordinary situation of a country withdrawing from the NPT; I'm referring here to North Korea. We have the Iran problem. Clearly we had a Libya problem that's only now coming to light. So, I think there's a lot of rethinking that's going on, not just here. As I'm sure you know, the Director-General of the IAEA [Mohamed ElBaredei] has come up with a couple proposals of his own.[2] So, I think there's general recognition that we've got some problems with the existing arrangements and the desire in many quarters to reconsider some of these things.

ACT: Are there any proposals out there that you can say you're actively looking at as a way to revisit these bargains?

Rademaker: Well, we consider all the proposals that are made. We're considering the proposal made by [IAEA Director-General Mohamed] ElBaradei. We're considering what makes sense from our point of view. This is something we're looking at actively, but I'm not in a position today to tell you that we've decided to put forward the following three U.S. proposals. As you know, we have a NPT review conference coming up and we have one more PrepCom before that takes place.

ACT: So you expect this on the agenda?

Rademaker: I think inevitably it is something that the participants in that process will want to look at.

ACT: In general, the administration, including you, has been quite critical of the UN, the Conference on Disarmament, and the international disarmament machinery as not doing enough to address peace and security issues. Can you discuss what they should be doing and what are some of the U.S. recommendations and prescriptions for ensuring that the UN and its disarmament process remain relevant?

Rademaker: Well, we've been concerned that the UN disarmament process has lost some of its relevance and has been ineffective in recent years and there's no better example of that than the gridlocked Conference on Disarmament over the past 7 years. We've been dissatisfied with that, but I think everyone is dissatisfied with that. I'm not sure you'll find any country that will say that's an acceptable state of affairs. There may have been some movement late last year in the Conference on Disarmament as far as the position of China on negotiating a FMCT (fissile material cutoff treaty), so there is some prospect that finally, after 7 years, work may resume in Geneva. But, there are various proposals floating around about how to resume work and I'm not sure there has yet emerged a consensus on how the CD will get back to work.

ACT: In that case, is the U.S prepared to support negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty at this point?

Rademaker: The FMCT is not a new idea. It is a decade old idea at least. It was conceived at a time when this approach was considered the solution to nuclear breakout in South Asia. The mandate for FMCT negotiations was notionally finalized in 1995, in the so-called Shannon mandate, and, since then, there have been no negotiations.[3] As you know, there were radical developments in South Asia in the interim, so the philosophical objective of the FMCT has evolved in the meantime. Obviously, we can no longer stop nuclear breakout in South Asia with an FMCT. Now the suggestion is that an FMCT is a way to cap a nuclear arms race in South Asia. But with the developments in the CD late last year, we have had to take a fresh look at the whole question of FMCT and this 9-year-old mandate that has been sitting there. We're still in the process of evaluating how we think an FMCT would work in the contemporary environment. That review is ongoing and we don't have an outcome yet that we're prepared to announce.

ACT: Any timeframe for this?

Rademaker: Well, we're all aware of the fact that the CD reconvened two days ago in Geneva and there's an expectation that the U.S. is going to pronounce on both FMCT and then the larger package of possible proposals, and so we know that we don't have unlimited time to provide an answer one way or the other. On the other hand, the interagency process moves slower than we in government would sometimes like. So I regret that I can't tell you that next week we will have answer or how soon we'll have an answer.

ACT: Is your support for an FMCT, though, contingent upon this review?

Rademaker: Well, yes. Our position on FMCT will be determined as a result of the review

ACT: Is the FMCT as an idea still supported by the United States government and you're just looking at various ways the treaty would be negotiated or is the review a reconsideration of the concept in general?

Rademaker: I think given that this is a concept that's been around for a long time and a concept that has not evolved while the context in which it exists has evolved, we are looking at the threshold question, does an FMCT make sense, as well as the question of, if it does make sense, what kind of FMCT would we want to see?

ACT: There's been much discussion about the question of noncompliance and you mentioned Iran. One suggestion has been the creation of an international inspectorate to investigate illegal weapons activities, particularly in the biological weapons and missile field, which don't have organizations to do that. President Chirac and Hans Blix have put forward proposals on this. So far the administration hasn't embraced the idea. What does the administration see as viable alternatives?

Rademaker: As you know, the administration took a close look at the proposed inspectorate for biological weapons under the Biological Weapons Convention protocol and we decided that we didn't like what we saw and we walked away from that. I haven't seen any other international inspectorate proposals with regard to biological weapons that we would be in a position to accept or support. On missiles, I think the verification challenges are different, but, again, I've not seen an international inspectorate proposal that we could support. Frankly, I think one of the things that is going on is that coming out of the Iraq situation we have this UN entity in search of a mission. It's not the view of the United States government that that's the proper way to establish inspectorates, because we have a bunch of people and we need to do something with them. That's backwards. The proper way to go about it is to identify the problem that we seek to address and then develop an answer that speaks to the problem. I think UNMOVIC today is an answer in search of a problem, not a problem in search of an answer. The very fact that people are saying "Let's have UNMOVIC do missiles, no, let's have UNMOVIC do biology," shows that its an answer in search of a problem.

ACT: In light of the U.S. search for WMD in Iraq, which so far hasn't turned up any definitive weapons or weapons programs, does that make the administration rethink UNMOVIC's record in Iraq? The inspectors were saying, "The weapons are not there, we're not finding substantial evidence." Does this bolster support for, "Hey, these guys can do a good job?"

Rademaker: Again, all suggestions today that we should bring UNMOVIC to bear on particular arms control problems around the world are, as I said, answers in search of a problem. Any retrospective reevalution of the effectiveness of UNMOVIC would not bear on my fundamental point, which is that this is backwards to approach verification problems in this way. Let's identify the problem and then figure out what solution might make sense, not approach it from the perspective of we've got this UN entity and we need to do something with it.

ACT: North Korea and Iran are clearly the two countries that top the administration's proliferation concerns. Does one of them keep you up more at night?

Rademaker: No, because I'm the assistant secretary for arms control and I let the assistant secretary for nonproliferation stay up late at night worrying about Iran versus North Korea.

ACT: There were reports this morning that Iran is failing to fulfill its agreements with the foreign ministers' initiative to suspend its uranium enrichment. How does the administration rate Iran's progress in fulfilling these commitments in general and do you think that this foreign ministers' approach was the right one?

Rademaker: I thought it was deeply troubling that as soon as the agreement was announced, the Iranian press and the spokesman for the Iranian government went to great lengths to stress that they were only promising to suspend rather than terminate their enrichment program and further to stress that, from their perspective, the most important element of the entire arrangement was the reaffirmation of their rights under the NPT to have a peaceful nuclear program, which, when it comes to the question of uranium enrichment, I think translates to they fully intend to eventually terminate the suspension and get back into the business of enriching uranium. So, this has been a concern from the outset that we have had in the US government and I'm not surprised at all to see press accounts suggesting that Iranian compliance is not what we hoped it would be.

ACT: So what's the next step?

Rademaker: As you know, the IAEA board of governors is seized with this matter and I expect this will be something that's discussed at the next meeting of the board.

ACT: The United States is obviously a part of the Board of Governors. What do we expect to advocate as one of the members of that board?

Rademaker: We certainly would want to make sure that Iran is out of the business of enriching uranium.

ACT: So that would require calling for dismantlement, not suspension?

Rademaker: Yes. Let me interject. I'm the arms control guy. These are all nonproliferation questions, so if I hesitate, it's because you're forcing me to give another bureau's answers to these questions.

ACT: What is the status of the U.S. review of whether the United States should sign the Ottawa convention by 2006 as President Clinton previously pledged?

Rademaker: We're certainly not on track to sign the Ottawa Convention. We've been reviewing our landmines policy and I would anticipate that in the not too distant future we will announce a new administration policy with regard to landmines, but that policy will certainly not include signature of the Ottawa convention.

ACT: Can you give us any sense of what it will include?

Rademaker: No.

ACT: The U.S., though, will continue efforts to negotiate a protocol at the CCW on the anti-vehicle mine issue?

Rademaker: Correct.

ACT: As you mentioned earlier, next year will be the 5-year review conference of the NPT. Do Bush administration initiatives to explore new nuclear weapons designs for new missions contradict its Article VI commitment?

Rademaker: No.

ACT: Why not?

Rademaker: It's quite clear there's no provision in the NPT that prohibits nuclear-weapon states from continuing to explore new weapons designs, which is all we're doing at this point. The NPT has been around since 1968. The vast majority of weapons in our inventory were designed since 1968 so it's certainly a novel suggestion that we're prohibited from developing nuclear weapons under the NPT.

ACT: How would you assess the U.S. record in complying with Article VI?

Rademaker: I'm quite happy to stand on the Moscow Treaty and the two-thirds reduction in our deployed strategic nuclear warheads. I think we can point toward greater progress under this administration in moving toward the objectives of Article VI than can be pointed to under the entire previous history of the NPT.

ACT: As part of the agreement under the review conference of 2000, there were these 13 steps that were agreed to. One of them was the irreversibility of reductions. The Moscow Treaty does not require any warheads or delivery systems to be destroyed and it expires, essentially, the same day that it enters into force. So does this go against the U.S. pledge to make its reductions irreversible?

That would certainly be a novel interpretation of what irreversibility of reductions means. I would have thought that irreversibility of reductions means that you reduce by two-thirds you can't subsequently build-up beyond the reduction. To say that to reduce deployed forces requires you to also dismantle warheads, that's never been the case under any previous strategic arms control agreement and, obviously, the previous agreements were negotiated before the 13 steps were agreed.

ACT: But they did call for destroying the launchers.

Rademaker: That's correct, but not the warheads. I was perplexed throughout this debate about the Moscow Treaty that anyone could find fault with the absence of a provision in the Moscow Treaty mandating warhead dismantlement. There's no precedent for such a requirement in any bilateral arms control agreement with Russia.

ACT: There was an agreement at the Helsinki Summit to explore warhead dismantlement within START III though.

Rademaker: I was talking about arms control agreements. I mean, you have START II, you have START I, you have SALT II, SALT I. None of them required dismantlement of warheads. Then the Bush administration negotiates the Moscow Treaty and suddenly there's this objection that it doesn't contain a dismantlement provision, which was not an objection that was ever voiced with respect to START II, START I, SALT II, SALT I.

ACT: The Bush administration has focused much of its attention on rolling back or denying Iraq, Iran, and North Korea nuclear weapons programs, yet the administration has said little about the programs of Israel, India and Pakistan. Is the Bush administration conferring legitimacy on these weapons programs?

The most important distinction, of course, between the two categories of countries you cited were, in the case of the first category, we're talking about countries that have nuclear programs that violate their obligations as parties to the NPT. The second category of countries, you're talking about countries that are not violating the international legal obligation that they've undertaken. Those countries, and obviously it's the vast majority of countries in the world, that entered the NPT did so with their eyes open and we all understood as we came in that there were particular problems when it came to adherence by India, Pakistan, and Israel. So, does the U.S. support nuclear weapons programs in those countries? Absolutely not. But do we see it as a different kind of threat to the NPT regime? Absolutely. North Korea is a profound threat to the NPT regime. Countries can be a part of the regime while it serves their interest and then pull out when they feel like they've sufficiently advanced their nuclear programs to go it alone outside the NPT, well, the entire regime has been subverted. We think holding countries that adhere to the NPT to their commitments is a very high priority.

ACT: Why is the U.S. opposed to negotiating an agreement banning weapons from outer space?

Rademaker: It's our view that there's not an arms race in outer space so to negotiate a treaty prohibiting an arms race in outer space presumes a fact not in evidence. The fact is that we do have an arms control regime in outer space under the Outer Space Treaty and we think that treaty adequately covers the field. Now, we have said in Geneva that we're prepared to have a discussion about arms control considerations as they might apply to outer space, but the idea that its right to negotiate some new treaty banning a nonexistent arms race in outer space we consider premature, so we've not been prepared to agree to the commencement of such a negotiation.

ACT: Last question. Have proposals to shift and realign U.S. force deployments in Europe taken into account the provisions of the CFE and Adapted CFE Treaties, as well as the NATO/Russia Founding Act?

Rademaker: The decision-making on any redeployments in Europe is still underway, so it would be premature for me to assure you that the outcome of our decision-making has been something that fully complies with the CFE Treaty. What I can assure you of is that we are very mindful of our existing obligations under the current CFE Treaty, the obligations we hope to one day have under the Adapted Treaty and I expect that the results of the decisions will take account of those obligations and will be compliant with them. But, again, until the final decisions are made, I hesitate to tell you that. Well, it's impossible for me to tell you that they're compliant with the treaties, because the decisions haven't been reached yet.

ACT: Is there anything you want to add?

Rademaker: No.


1. The accuracy of this statement is debatable. Under START I, Washington and Moscow both committed to reduce their arsenals by more than 4,000 warheads, from more than 10,000 warheads down to 6,000. Under SORT, they agreed to reductions of between 3,800 and 4,300 warheads from 6,000 warheads to no more than 2,200 warheads and no less than 1,700 warheads. In addition, the SORT treaty followed on the preexisting if unimplemented START II agreement which committed both countries to no more than 3,500 warheads.
2. See "Curbing Nuclear Proliferation, an interview with Mohamed ElBaredei," Arms Control Today, November 2003.
3. The CD agreed to negotiations on a FMCT in August 1998, although they did not evolve to a point where a chairman was appointed to lead the talks before the session (and the agreed mandate) expired.

Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

Subject Resources:

Election 2004: The National Security Context

Special Section: Campaign 2004

By Alton Frye

In U.S. politics, it is not always “the economy, stupid.” However often economic and domestic concerns have dominated U.S. political campaigns, national security and foreign policy issues also play frequent roles in shaping voter choices, especially for president.

Skip through American history and note the many instances in which international security problems, often intersecting with economic difficulties, impinged on U.S. politics. From the frictions with Britain and France and pirates that dominated the opening decades of U.S. diplomacy to the issues of war and peace that were central to the country’s emergence as a world power in the 20th century, presidents were forced to confront hard trade-offs among foreign policy choices and domestic campaign imperatives. Consider only the abrupt swings in Lyndon Johnson’s political fortunes that occurred between the 1964 and 1968 presidential elections. Fears of his Republican opponent Barry Goldwater’s nuclear recklessness contributed significantly to Johnson’s 1964 political landslide, even spawning an entire organization of “Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey.” Yet, four years later, LBJ was forced to make an anguished withdrawal amid the Vietnam catastrophe.

These examples offer a partial context for anticipating the 2004 political campaign. The contours of the race are already visible, and they include a heavy weight for national security and foreign policy concerns. There will be arguments over the balance of attention the administration has given to unilateralism versus multilaterism, to military operations abroad versus measures to secure the homeland, to free-trade negotiations versus protecting American jobs, to pre-emptive action against plausible threats versus investments in intelligence to confirm actual dangers. Those contours, however, remain fluid, especially because of possible—in fact, likely—surprises on the international scene. A North Korean nuclear test, the assassination of President General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, collapse of the Karzai regime in Afghanistan, or a major additional terrorist success for the elusive Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda—any of these developments would complicate policy and politics severely, just as progress in any of those arenas would bolster the administration’s claim to effective international performance.

Bush’s Re-election Campaign

By all accounts, President George W. Bush and his advisers have been preoccupied with what they consider the lethal lesson of the first Bush presidency, namely, that domestic concerns trump even a successful foreign policy when it comes to voters’ behavior in the next election. After what was arguably the most successful major diplomatic-military campaign in American history—the mobilization of a global coalition to repel the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991—George H. W. Bush soared to astronomical levels of public approval only to lose the election the next year.

Moreover, the anxieties of the Bush team are well grounded in history. Time and again, even successful war leaders are dumped by voters, notwithstanding the general tendency of citizens to rally round the commander-in-chief during a crisis. Franklin D. Roosevelt surely benefited from the latter tendency in 1944 as the Second World War moved toward a climax, but Winston Churchill was unceremoniously removed from office a few months later.

It is understandable, therefore, that a slow sigh of relief has been rising from the White House as rather encouraging economic reports have blended with highly touted legislation to revamp Medicare with prescription benefits to improve Bush’s domestic political standing. Yet, it may be premature. In the end, Bush’s political future is likely to hinge on the public’s view of Bush’s performance on national security concerns as much as economic ones, and foreign policy issues may not play out to the benefit of the White House. In the end, voters may be forced to decide if they should hail and reward Bush for the strong leadership he exhibited after the terrorist attacks of September 11 or punish him for the unease they feel over protracted engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A New Terrain

No one can doubt that Bush has altered the terrain and the terminology of the national security debate. He has done so partly by force of circumstance, compelled to respond to the unprecedented implications of the September 11 attacks. Yet, quite apart from that traumatic event, Bush introduced sharply different perspectives and preferences to U.S. policy. From his campaign themes forward, Bush has displayed greater kinship to the style and substance of the Reagan presidency than to those of his father. That is nowhere more evident than in Bush’s habit of drawing lines in the sand comparable to Ronald Reagan’s famous declaration about the “evil empire” and his sharp-edged demands for Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Sometimes, however, a reach for moral clarity can breed political confusion, as one may argue was the case in Bush’s rhetorical flourish against the “axis of evil.”

Like Reagan, Bush’s rhetoric is polarizing: it invigorates his fellow Republicans while infuriating Democrats. Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s surge toward the nomination has drawn strength not only from the sense among Democratic base voters that they were robbed in Florida in 2000 but from their opposition to Bush’s war in Iraq and his perceived abandonment of America’s bipartisan traditions in foreign policy. In going to the polls, voters are likely to respond to Bush’s general approach to America’s international role as much as his policies on individual issues.

Nonetheless, many voters will find it essential, if difficult, to draw a scrupulous ledger of the assets and liabilities of Bush’s foreign policy record. There is much to be listed on the positive side of that ledger, and critics would do well to stipulate as much. Bush has taken the most advanced position of any president in supporting a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has made multibillion-dollar commitments to the global effort to deal with HIV/AIDS, and his recasting of U.S. foreign assistance programs into the Millennium Challenge Account will, if funded, represent major improvements. He provided sober and determined leadership after September 11, earning wide admiration. With more agility than many expected, Bush shifted from a wary initial posture toward China as a strategic competitor to forge what knowledgeable observers describe as the best relationship the two countries have known since the Tiananmen Square crisis of the late 1980s. The president will able to tout these and other aspects of his foreign policy record as the 2004 race proceeds. It is on other issues that challenges will center.

Consider for a moment developments in arms control. The vocabulary of arms control has become almost taboo, but Bush has certainly effected clear changes in arms control and nonproliferation policy and has been more balanced in his approach than is often advertised. No president before him has placed such emphasis on the danger that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) could lead to their acquisition by terrorists, presenting a threat that would be less susceptible to traditional means of deterrence. Bush’s highlighting of the enhanced risks of proliferation in an age of terrorism is the baseline for his national security policy, a formulation that is both sound and politically astute.

Nevertheless, this central preoccupation has bred controversial initiatives. Disregarding domestic resistance and nearly universal international opposition, Bush moved methodically—some would say gratuitously—to terminate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to pursue an as yet unproved national missile defense system. Yet, he coupled the action with commitments for further reductions in strategic offensive nuclear forces. Those commitments were embodied in a new treaty with Russia, albeit one of limited duration and scope. The president opposed reconsideration of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty but promised continued adherence to a testing moratorium. The latter policy, however, grew suspect with the administration’s plans to investigate new types of nuclear weapons and shorten the lead time for the possible resumption of testing, if deemed necessary for such hypothetical missions as deep-penetration bunker busters. Reflecting the administration’s skepticism of anything less than nearly perfect verification arrangements, the Bush team shied away from attempts to enhance inspection and enforcement provisions in the Biological Weapons Convention.

These elements in the Bush policy produce a complex mosaic that does not lend itself to single, definitive characterization. One thinks of Harold Laski’s aphorism that, when socialism came to America, it would be called capitalism. When arms control comes to the Bush administration, it is called defense policy.

A Controversial Strategy

A serious difficulty in the administration’s approach—one sure to attract criticism in the coming election season—has been a tendency toward inflammatory language and provocative concepts. Read as a whole, the administration’s National Security Strategy offered many reasonable, forward-looking dispositions, including acknowledgement of a host of issues that can only be addressed through effective international collaboration. The entire document came under a cloud, however, because of its brief assertion of a doctrine of pre-emption and a determination that the United States should strive to maintain its military dominance more or less permanently. Those ideas were bound to elicit worry and condemnation in many quarters; they were hardly rallying cries for other states to join in efforts to manage the wider array of shared problems identified in the paper.

Particularly controversial is the theory of pre-emption, and that controversy grows more serious with the failure to find expected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Other rationales for the war to remove Saddam Hussein may persuade many people, but the pre-war depiction of the Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction was primary, and the collapse of that argument is likely to heighten skepticism about any similar future U.S. claims. Though many Americans want to give their president the benefit of the doubt in such matters, especially after the attacks of September 11, international sentiment is rock solid in demanding that the concept of pre-emption be tied to an imminent threat of attack—that means a very high standard for intelligence, one the United States was clearly not able to meet during the months before the invasion of Iraq. Pre-emption without intelligence is Mars without eyes; the god of war may strike the innocent as often as the guilty.

Obviously, the verdict on Bush’s actions in Iraq hinges on developments still to come. It is already apparent, however, that the president acted on the basis of twin hypotheses, both of which proved dubious. The military decision rested on a worst-case assumption, crediting Hussein not only with WMD programs but with available chemical and perhaps biological weapons that might be used or passed to terrorists. The plans for postwar operations relied on a best-case assumption that Americans would be greeted as liberators and supported by functioning Iraqi institutions that could meet many of the country’s security and social needs. The president will be hard-pressed to obscure the inadequacy of those assumptions, even though he undoubtedly feels that the capture and expected prosecution of Hussein amply justify U.S. policy.

In the Iraq case, U.S. pre-emption certainly eroded the UN Security Council foundations for collaboration. Impatient though Americans may be with regard to the United Nations, there remains a strong desire in public opinion to share the burdens of international security with other nations. Only the most skillful diplomacy and flexible policies toward the transition in Iraq will enable the administration to engage UN and other collaborators in the process of accelerating the return of sovereignty to Iraqis before next November’s U.S. election.

The Iraq intervention stands in marked contrast to the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The administration’s justification for stern action after the 2001 terrorist attacks was scarcely questioned at home or abroad. Moreover, the president’s demeanor and the emphatic success of dislodging the Taliban from government as appropriate retaliation for harboring bin Laden’s terrorists deserve the nearly universal praise they won. Though tentative and fragile, progress toward restoring a credible and representative government in the face of chronic warlordism is one of the administration’s most impressive diplomatic accomplishments. Unless things fall apart badly for the Karzai government in Kabul, Bush will carry into his election campaign credible claims of historic results in Afghanistan.

One notes that in Afghanistan the president moved quickly to correct a damaging slip of the tongue. His initial reference to a “crusade” gave way to more careful and suitable descriptions, offering reassurances that the assault on the Taliban and al Qaeda was in no sense directed against Muslims in general. Yet, Bush’s own instinct for confrontational language, together with insensitive speech by others associated with his administration, has produced a troubling pattern of rhetoric that impedes effective policy implementation. No matter how confident the president was of U.S. military capability in Iraq, it was in no sense helpful for him to taunt the Iraqi resistance by the ill-chosen phrase “Bring’em on.” The hundreds of American and other personnel killed since he uttered those words are a profound rebuke to gratuitous tough talk. Similarly, a nation devoted to the rule of law was not well served by Bush’s recent sneer about “international law, maybe I better consult my lawyer.” These lapses of language diminish the president personally while eroding respect for the policies he espouses.

Counterproductive Labeling

Of all the rhetorical problems generated by the administration, the president’s ad lib remarks are less serious than the deliberate but utterly counterproductive labeling of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” Part of the difficulty with that formulation was its ahistorical analogy. Unlike the original Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japan, there is no Tripartite Pact formally linking the three targets of Bush’s ire. (Even with a formal treaty relationship, the original Axis powers were more wary of each other than actively cooperative—Theo Sommer described them as “accomplices without complicity.”) Moreover, the operational ties among them appear tenuous and occasional at most.

If the phrase “axis of evil” fails as an accurate description, it was positively pernicious as a basis for dealing with the three countries. Facing a Bush doctrine that contemplated pre-emption, would any of the regimes portrayed in such terms be receptive to accommodation with Washington? Or would they court favor elsewhere while seeking to bolster their own indigenous capabilities to thwart U.S. aims? Evidently, linking the three countries rhetorically did nothing to ease the path for U.S. policy to deal with each of them individually. It also triggered further doubts among close U.S. allies that Washington had a coherent view of the three quite varied situations or sound approaches to cope with them.

One wonders, however, if that notorious phrase, coupled with the demonstrated readiness of the Bush administration to use force, has played a part in nudging Iran onto a more constructive course. As evidence mounted of clandestine Iranian programs to develop nuclear capabilities it had pledged in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to forgo, European countries took the diplomatic lead. They did so, however, with U.S. military power actively engaged both west and east of Iran, and that fact surely constituted an important backdrop to the mission to Tehran by the German, British, and French foreign ministers. From those encounters and the subsequent negotiations under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, there emerged a far more forthcoming posture by the Iranian government, which submitted to intrusive inspections to guarantee that its nuclear programs complied with their professedly peaceful purposes. The intersection of U.S. and Iranian politics remains prickly, with little prospect of early normalization, but on the central issue of weapons of mass destruction, 2004 finds more promising restraints on Iranian efforts than had previously existed. Bush cannot be denied some degree of credit for that result. The same now appears true of the breakthrough in fresh commitments by Libya to curb its WMD ambitions and subject its activities to extensive international inspections.

The North Korea Problem

Harder to assess are the status and trajectory of the third member of the alleged axis, North Korea. It is tempting to blame Pyongyang alone for the heightened tensions and the breakup of the Clinton-era Agreed Framework to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. Although details remain obscure, most analysts accept that the Kim Jong Il regime was cheating on the earlier deal by pursuing a secret project to produce enriched uranium for weapons (though that kind of program was not specifically prohibited in the Agreed Framework). Bush’s diplomacy, infected by the president’s intense antipathy for the North Korean totalitarian, contributed to North Korea’s expulsion of inspectors and withdrawal from the NPT. There is no virtue in assuming that a country’s nominal allegiance to the NPT solves the problem of proliferation; North Korea (and presumably Iran) was not reluctant to conduct weapons-related programs under cover of NPT membership, even when that membership was supplemented by more elaborate monitoring arrangements for the facilities identified in the Agreed Framework. There is even less virtue in taking steps that tempt a would-be proliferator to walk way from the NPT regime entirely.

Again, one records a mixed verdict on the administration’s policy toward North Korea. Better to know and confront Pyongyang’s nuclear cheating than to ignore it, but better still to shape a diplomacy designed to deal with the problem in a timely manner. There is merit in the Bush team’s determination to shift the focus from bilateral dealings between Washington and Pyongyang to six-power talks involving other countries with key stakes in the issue. Unfortunately, the tempo of those talks seems much too slow, if North Korea is in fact taking steps to fabricate additional nuclear materials and weaponize them in the near future. North Korea’s intentions and activities remain shrouded in mystery, and it is not yet clear whether Bush will enter the re-election campaign saddled with grave misgivings about his handling of this threat or boosted by progress in the six-power talks toward a sounder bargain to constrain it. Although the administration thwarted Congressman Curt Weldon’s proposal to lead a delegation to the DPRK in 2003, the New Year’s announcement that Pyongyang will receive an unofficial visit to its Yongbyon nuclear complex by a group including the former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory may indicate that Kim Jong Il is at least flirting with a possible accommodation.

All in all, the president’s personalization of policy toward North Korea, reflected in his overt hostility toward Kim Jong Il, does not bespeak prudence in the face of danger. The menacing reality on the Korean peninsula makes hostages of Seoul’s millions of citizens and the thousands of U.S. forces deployed there. North Korea’s massive firepower along the 38th parallel constitutes an awesome conventional deterrent and denies the United States any acceptable military option to counter the North’s WMD activities. Great powers do not usually advertise their anxieties, but if the president’s approach is to be faulted, it is probably because it embodies too much loathing and not enough fear.

The hazard of North Korean proliferation is amplified, of course, by the regime’s long-standing practice of selling weapons and weapons technology to other countries. The scope and character of Pyongyang’s involvement in secret missile and nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, Iran, Libya, and other states are still obscure, but North Korea has undoubtedly relied heavily on trade in such items to gain income vital to its survival. To cope with the possibility that North Korea might export fissile material, as well as missiles, the Bush administration has enlisted a number of countries in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), planning and conducting various exercises to interdict such exports at sea, on land, and in the air.

The PSI grew out of the embarrassing episode in which Spanish forces, acting on a U.S. request, intercepted a suspicious North Korean vessel, only to have to release it when Yemen claimed the missile shipment belonged to it. Without clear international legal authority for such interdictions, the PSI faces an uncertain future, but even if legal justification can be found, China’s reluctance to join the effort could leave a fatal loophole in attempts to interfere with North Korea’s exports. Further, PSI offers little aid in terms of preventing the transfer of the softball-size quantities of fissile material that would be required for a few nuclear weapons: actionable intelligence will be exceedingly hard to come by and, if somehow obtained, could still pose the daunting challenges of forcing U.S. or allied troops to shoot down aircraft or stop a highly motivated individual rather than stopping ships for inspection at sea. In short, the PSI is useful mainly as a means of mobilizing the needed international coalition to address the matter, but it cannot be a sufficient method for preventing proliferation beyond North Korea if Pyongyang intends to follow that course.


This mosaic of U.S. foreign policy at the start of the 2004 election season presents opportunities both for attacks on the incumbent president’s performance and for credible defenses of his record. If the Bush campaign’s opening ads signify anything, their stress on the incumbent’s commitment to “preemptive defense” reveal that he is staking his administration’s fate on the bold, but costly, national security initiatives he has launched.

The Democratic nominating process has already brought to the fore the main critiques: recklessness in a war of choice against Iraq, compounded by inadequate preparation for the aftermath; loss of focus on the main anti-terrorist war by diverting attention to Hussein’s villainy; failures of intelligence; dismissive treatment of allies and indifference to the rising tide of hostility to U.S. policy throughout the world. Whether those assaults will erode the president’s continued strong approval ratings depends most of all on the train of events unfolding in Iraq. If Hussein’s capture is followed by marked reductions in attacks on U.S. and other coalition forces, by demonstrable progress toward a representative government in Iraq, and by broadening international participation in the country’s reconstruction, Bush may well be able to drown out complaints that he based the war on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that have not been discovered.

Bush’s greatest diplomatic feat—and his greatest political and diplomatic failure—have centered on Iraq. His sober address to the United Nations in September 2002 placed the onus for enforcing Iraqi compliance with UN orders where it belonged, on the Security Council. Secretary of State Colin Powell followed up with immensely skillful negotiations to produce the unanimous Security Council resolution that sent inspectors back into Iraq for more extensive surveillance than had ever been undertaken in any country. Yet, in the next few months the United States brushed aside the concerns of its allies and aborted the UN inspection process. By doing so and failing to find the alleged weapons of mass destruction, the U.S.-led invasion confirmed the worst suspicions of many that Bush was merely going through the motions in seeking UN involvement and that his intention all along had been to eliminate Hussein’s regime.

The diplomatic price for that conclusion may well be paid for years to come in the wariness of other nations toward future U.S. appeals for cooperation in large endeavors, such as constraining Iran or North Korea. Whether or not that is the dominant diplomatic result of the war in Iraq hinges on the pace and durability of political developments in that country. By proclaiming the goal of building democracy in Iraq as the preface to democratizing the entire region, Bush has set the bar very high.

He surely will not clear it before November 2004. The president will need to demonstrate progress on Iraq to convince the American people that he is a capable and responsible commander-in-chief. Unless there are further terrorist attacks on the United States, the degree of progress, or lack of it, toward credible stability in Iraq will cast the longest shadow of any national security issue in the coming election. Like many presidents before him, Bush enters the campaign both fortified and jeopardized by the relentless realities of America’s place in a dangerous world.

Alton Frye is counselor and presidential senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he co-directs the Congress and U.S. Foreign Policy Program.

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