Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Strategic Policy

Panel Backs Long-Range Conventional Missile

Wade Boese

An expert panel commissioned by Congress advocated Aug. 15 that the United States embark expeditiously on a controversial initiative to substitute conventional projectiles for existing nuclear warheads on some submarine-based missiles. The experts reasoned that the proposal, despite some shortcomings, provides the most viable short-term alternative to using nuclear weapons to counter possible short-notice threats worldwide.

The Bush administration in 2001 called for enhancing long-range conventional strike capabilities and advanced its first specific proposal toward that end in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. That plan involved converting two dozen nuclear-armed Trident II (D-5) submarine-launched ballistic missiles to carry conventional warheads. A pair of those converted missiles would then be installed alongside 22 nuclear-armed missiles on each of the 12 deployed ballistic-missile submarines.

Worrying that such mixed submarine loads might lead to an inadvertent nuclear conflict with Russia if it mistakes a U.S. conventional launch as a surprise nuclear attack, U.S. lawmakers have steered funding away from the Trident plan to other so-called prompt global strike concepts. (See ACT, January/February 2008. ) The proposed class of weapons is supposed to destroy targets located almost anywhere around the world in less than an hour.

Yet, the 18-member panel, convened early last year to study prompt global strike options, implied in its final report that lawmakers had been wrong to veer from the Trident plan and urged progress toward deployment "as quickly as possible." Convened by the National Research Council, an agency of the National Academy of Sciences, the panel gave its initial blessing to the Trident program in a May 2007 interim report. (See ACT, June 2007. ) Chaired by Albert Carnesale, who participated in U.S. arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union in the 1970s, the panel also included General Eugene Habiger, a former head of Strategic Command; John Foster, a former director of the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory; and Walter Slocombe, a former undersecretary of defense for policy.

The experts' final report states that conventional prompt global strike systems could be valuable in killing terrorists, eliminating unconventional weapons shipments or depots, or preempting attacks against the United States, its allies, or its assets, such as satellites. The panel assessed that any such mission would likely entail the use of 10 or fewer strike systems.

Converted Tridents, according to the panel, would be the "only credible near-term" option, given the technical challenges in developing alternatives, such as hypersonic glide vehicles, which at the earliest might be available by 2015. The panel recommended, however, continuing research into systems and technologies other than converting Tridents.

The experts maintained that the principal problem associated with converted Tridents, the "ambiguity" dilemma, had been "overstated and can be substantially mitigated." They first observed that the potential for misunderstandings applied "to varying degrees" to all potential conventional prompt global strike systems, not just submarine-based missiles, due to their inherent capability to deliver nuclear warheads.

The panel further sought to downplay the danger of misinterpretation by noting that it would be confined over the next several years to Russia because it is the only country capable of detecting a missile launch at sea. In the event that Russia, or perhaps China at a later date, spotted a conventional Trident launch, the experts disputed that there would be a rush to retaliate, claiming that the observing country would not likely think the United States was starting a nuclear war with a single missile or handful of missiles.

Moreover, ambiguity risks could be reduced, the panel reported, through transparency measures, such as video monitoring of the systems or missile launch notifications. Another suggested measure to ease foreign concerns was U.S. openness about its use doctrines.

Still, the experts implied that the United States must live with some chance of miscalculations. They stated, "[T]he benefits of possessing a limited [conventional prompt global strike] capability...outweigh the risks associated with nuclear ambiguity."

The panel also dismissed other anxieties identified with the conventional Trident plan. It favorably described Navy plans to prevent submarine crews from misfiring nuclear-armed missiles when intending to launch their conventional counterparts. It discounted fears that a conventional Trident program might stoke other countries' ballistic missile programs. All told, the panel concluded that the proposal, "as currently envisioned, is sufficiently small in scale to make it unlikely that international reactions would be of strategic significance."

Notwithstanding the panel's endorsement of long-range conventional strike systems, the experts highlighted potential limitations to their future effectiveness. A "sizable challenge," the panel warned, is improving delivery system accuracy to within a "few meters" of an intended target; existing ballistic missiles do not require such precision because of the immense destructive power of their nuclear payloads.

The accuracy of the proposed conventional Trident "has not been demonstrated," reported the panel. It further revealed that the re-entry vehicle intended to carry the proposed conventional warhead atop the Trident lacks the maneuverability to enable attacks against "targets in many urban areas and mountainous regions."

Getting a warhead on target, the panel noted, also involves good intelligence and other "critical" enablers. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found those capabilities lacking earlier this year. In an April report submitted to Congress, the GAO cited Pentagon officials as stating that "current intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and command and control capabilities generally do not provide the persistent coverage, processing and sharing of information, and rapid planning required for compressed global strike time frames." That report also indicated that the Pentagon should better coordinate its various prompt global strike-related projects and programs, 135 by the GAO's count. (See ACT, June 2008. )

Congress this year has yet to finalize its two annual bills on the Pentagon's proposed fiscal year 2009 budget, which includes a $117.6 million request for the Prompt Global Strike program administered by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. That request does not entail specific funding for the conventional Trident system. Whether the recent reports might influence lawmakers to concentrate spending on a few particular projects, including a revival of the conventional Trident, remains uncertain at this time.

An expert panel commissioned by Congress advocated Aug. 15 that the United States embark expeditiously on a controversial initiative to substitute conventional projectiles for existing nuclear warheads on some submarine-based missiles. The experts reasoned that the proposal, despite some shortcomings, provides the most viable short-term alternative to using nuclear weapons to counter possible short-notice threats worldwide. (Continue)

Air Force Leaders Fired Over Nuke Handling

Stephen Bunnell

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates fired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne on June 5 after a report by Navy Adm. Kirkland Donald highlighted significant oversights in the Air Force’s nuclear security practices.

The ousting of Moseley and Wynne followed several incidents in the past year that have heightened concerns over the Air Force’s ability to properly maintain and secure its arsenal of land-based ICBMs and nuclear-armed bombers.

Last August, a B-52 bomber flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barskdale Air Force Base in Louisiana wrongly and unknowingly armed with nuclear cruise missiles. (See ACT, October 2007.) In March of this year, it was reported that the Air Force had accidentally shipped four nosecone fuses for nuclear missiles to Taiwan in 2006, drawing complaints from China. (See ACT, May 2008.)

Gates’ action came after another such incident in late May when the 5th Bomb Wing, which is stationed at Minot, received a grade of “unsatisfactory” in nuclear security during a weeklong, highly anticipated inspection by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

According to Air Force Times, the DTRA report, which is not publicly available, catalogs a number of startling failures in the security process. In one case, an airman was caught on tape playing video games on a cell phone. In another incident, inspectors managed to “kill” three security forces members who had failed to clear a building upon entering it. “Security forces’ level of knowledge, understanding of assigned duties, and response to unusual situations reflected a lack of adequate supervision,” said the DTRA team chief.

Gates acknowledged that this chain of events may represent a deeper problem within the Air Force in general and the nuclear forces for which it is responsible in particular. In a June 5 press conference, he characterized the Minot cruise missile incident and the Taiwan nosecone fuses incident as sharing a “common origin” and said both are symptomatic of “a degradation of the authority, standards of excellence, and technical competence within the nation’s ICBM force.” Citing a “lack of a critical self-assessment culture in the Air Force nuclear program,” Gates appointed a task force headed by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger to review nuclear security and stewardship. The task force will offer two rounds of recommendations, one in 60 days, the other in 90 days.

Similarly, a February 2008 Defense Science Board task force reported a widespread perception throughout the Air Force that “the nuclear forces and the nuclear deterrent mission are increasingly devalued.” The task force report catalogs a noticeable decline in attention paid to the nuclear mission by senior-level commanders by citing older Department of Defense reports. For example, a Joint Advisory Committee report from 1995 warns, “There is reason for concern about the long-term quality and quantity of nuclear weapons expertise within the [Defense Department] as the size of the [Defense Department] nuclear community shrinks and the interest level declines.”

Despite Gates’ actions, other reports pointed to ongoing problems. On June 19, a partially declassified internal “blue ribbon” investigation, triggered by the earlier Minot incident, revealed that “most sites” for the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe have failed to meet U.S. security requirements.

In addition to the erroneous shipment of fuses to Taiwan, a June 19 article in the Financial Times reports that hundreds of missile components have apparently gone missing from U.S. stockpiles. According to the article, anonymous government officials have claimed that the number of components unaccounted for is “more than 1,000.”

This has prompted renewed criticism of the Bush administration from lawmakers who had supported Gates’ firings of Moseley and Wynne. In a June 20 letter to Gates, Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded an explanation for how 1,000 sensitive nuclear missile components could have simply vanished from U.S. stockpiles. “While George Bush and John McCain were preoccupied with the misguided war in Iraq, they lost sight of the real danger—terrorists getting their hands on the world’s most dangerous weapons,” said Kerry in a press release.


Secretary of Defense Robert Gates fired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne on June 5 after a report by Navy Adm. Kirkland Donald highlighted significant oversights in the Air Force’s nuclear security practices. (Continue)

Pentagon Calls for More DTRA Support

Stephen Bunnell

A recently declassified report from a Department of Defense review panel calls on the government to provide more political and financial support to a Pentagon agency that is tasked with defending the United States from weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The report, which was originally authored in March, was produced by a review panel headed by Robert Joseph, who served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security under President George W. Bush, and Ashton Carter, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during the Clinton administration.

The report finds that the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), established a decade ago, “has not been given the means required to meet all of its current responsibilities, let alone to realize its full potential for the U.S. Government in combating” weapons of mass destruction. It lists two overarching recommendations: “strong advocacy and commitment by senior [Defense Department] leadership” and “a detailed strategic plan for combating” weapons of mass destruction. The report calls on the Pentagon to treat preparations for WMD threats by adversaries as a top priority.

The report recommends a restructuring of the top levels of DTRA leadership in order to provide the senior-level advocacy needed for the agency. The panel calls for creating a new assistant secretary of defense for WMD issues reporting directly to the secretary or deputy secretary. They further recommend that the DTRA director be a three-star military officer if the new assistant secretary for WMD issues position is created. These recommendations aim to give the DTRA strong advocates within the Pentagon, in order to win the agency greater funding and budget flexibility.

In addition, the report recommends a closer relationship between the DTRA and regional combatant commands and a much more active and involved role for Strategic Command (STRATCOM) within the military in such areas as planning and exercises. The report characterizes the current mandate for STRATCOM as “overly ambiguous and appears to allow [combatant commands] to choose when, how, and whether to involve STRATCOM…in their planning processes, exercises, theater security cooperation programs, and the like.”

Moreover, the report calls for a closer interagency relationship between the DTRA and the rest of the government, describing the DTRA as “a national asset.” It recommends that representatives of the agency participate in meetings of interagency initiatives on counterproliferation and homeland security as well as in international negotiations, such as those seeking nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

New Presidents, New Agreements? Advancing U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Control

Alexei Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller

With the Sochi Declaration in April 2008, the poker players in Washington and Moscow effectively laid down their strategic arms control cards for the last time in the Bush and Putin administrations. They reiterated their intention to carry out further reductions in strategic offensive arms, they pledged to continue development of a legally binding post-START arrangement, and they restated their commitment to Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which calls for eventual total elimination of nuclear weapons.[1]

They also agreed to disagree on missile defenses, with Russia continuing to object to the U.S. proposal to establish defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and reiterating its own proposal regarding the Gabala and Armavir radar sites. What was absent from the statement was any indication of an intent to press forward and finish the negotiations in time for President George W. Bush to sign a new treaty before he leaves office in January 2009.

In one sense, this slow motion is worrisome because START will go out of force in December 2009, giving the new U.S. president and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, only 12 short months to decide on the follow-on to START. Without START, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) signed in May 2002 will lose the verification and counting provisions that had made this short and streamlined treaty somewhat meaningful. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) expressed this concern very well in a speech in January 2008: “We must not forget that this new concept (SORT) was buttressed by…the START Treaty.… In other words, the conceptual underpinning of the Moscow Treaty depends upon something that is about to expire.”[2]

In another sense, this lack of progress at Sochi is a good outcome. The major difference between the two sides on the future of START remains the Bush administration’s insistence that verification and monitoring measures should be binding only politically; the agreement itself may be legally binding, but its accompanying monitoring regime would not be.[3] Moreover, the administration’s concept for monitoring evidently focuses on a number of transparency measures—visits to missile deployment sites, for example—without a rigorous definition of what activities would be permitted once such an on-site visit was underway. Clear definitions characterized the START verification regime, and the Russians are at ease with such an approach.

They are not at ease with a simple transparency regime. In Russian strategic culture, transparency for the sake of trust is an alien notion. The Russian interagency establishment accepted a transparency regime only once, in the Open Skies Treaty, but that step was decided mostly to supplement the verification regime for the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which did not include the territory of the continental United States, while the Open Skies transparency regime did. The secretive Soviet and now Russian system has traditionally viewed transparency as a way for the other side to acquire intelligence information not available through the usual channels.

Moreover, although Russia currently plays somewhat fast and loose with the rule of law—Medvedev calls this tendency “legal nihilism”—the Russians are sticklers for international treaty law. A legally binding international treaty generally overrides domestic Russian law and regulation, thus a treaty is necessary for successful implementation. In particular, it provides for the access of foreigners to sensitive military and nuclear sites, which would never be permitted under a simple transparency regime agreed on an informal basis.

The mood in Moscow, therefore, is one of wait and see. Russian experts both in and out of government appear to believe that this essential difference concerning legally binding verification measures will not be resolved with the Bush administration. Perhaps more importantly, Russian analysts voice a great deal of concern about the administration’s proposed missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic. They are concerned about the long-term impact of unconstrained missile defenses in Europe on the Russian strategic arsenal. They do not believe that the currently proposed deployments, an X-band radar of limited range and 10 anti-missile launchers, will have such an effect, but they do worry that the long-term outlook will not be good once the United States begins such deployments. In particular, they have become neuralgic with concern that U.S. missile defenses in Europe could eventually deny a second-strike capability to the steadily weakening Russian offensive forces.[4]

Waiting for the New President

Along with the conclusion that they cannot “get to yes” with the Bush administration on these issues, the Russians have been watching with great interest relevant developments in the U.S. presidential campaigns. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was first out of the box with a clear statement of intent to pursue further deep reductions. He pledged his allegiance to the goal articulated by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn to begin decisive steps toward achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.[5] Obama also took steps to solidify his own agenda in this regard, authoring a piece of legislation with Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) that would speed up U.S. efforts to denuclearize.[6]

What took many in Moscow by surprise was Senator John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) evident willingness to join the denuclearization camp. In a speech at the University of Denver in May 2008, he declared his own allegiance to the goals laid out by Shultz and his colleagues, referring back to their origins with President Ronald Reagan at the Reykjavik summit in 1987.[7] The Russians were particularly surprised at the Denver speech because they were still chewing over McCain’s speech in Los Angeles six weeks earlier when he had roundly criticized Russia and pledged once again to throw the country out of the Group of Eight (G-8) highly industrialized countries.[8] To the Russians, the vigorous agenda of nuclear arms reductions that McCain proposed did not compute with his urge to throw them out of the G-8. With whom did he expect to negotiate?

Russians recall many U.S. political campaigns that have spurned Russia and then returned to achieve agreements at the negotiating table. The most well-known version of this narrative involves Reagan himself, who reached an agreement to denuclearize with President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Reykjavik summit after a long journey launched when he declared the Soviet Union to be the evil empire.[9]

Some Russians seem to believe, therefore, that McCain’s anti-Russian rhetoric will be tempered should he take office, and this conviction is growing now that the Denver speech is on the table. Ironically, the talking point still exists in Moscow that Russia can make more headway with a Republican administration than a Democratic one, whose members might be overconcerned about issues such as democracy and human rights—this after eight years of a rather determined Republican campaign of democracy building.

Consensus to Move Forward, but Not on Next Steps

Although action in the negotiations is on hold for the moment, both sides seem to have ample will to move forward once Bush leaves office and the U.S. presidential transition is underway. Certainly neither country is resisting the notion that a follow-on to START must be found and urgently. Each country clearly recognizes the deadline of December 2009 and seems to accept that a successful extension or replacement of START will do much to create a positive environment when the next nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference gets underway in the spring of 2010.[10]

That said, several different options are already on the table, and others continue to be developed. For example, Shultz, Perry, Kissinger, and Nunn called for a straightforward extension of key provisions of the existing START in their Wall Street Journal op-ed published in January 2008.[11] Russia and the United States, meanwhile, have agreed to the more ambitious goal of seeking a follow-on agreement to START, not merely an extension of the current agreement. Worries exist in both capitals about whether such an agreement can be negotiated, ratified by the two legislatures, and brought into force in a period of little more than a year. For that reason, some experts have called on Russia and the United States to take unilateral steps to extend the life of START and also perhaps to achieve further reductions. For those seeking to achieve a negotiated agreement, the options also range across a spectrum determined by START at one end and SORT at the other.

The pros and cons of these various approaches deserve to be widely debated. Several points may be highlighted to inform the discussion.

• A simple extension of START for the five years called for in Article XVII of the treaty would be the most straightforward approach and would create time and space to achieve a reasonable, negotiated outcome. According to the terms of START, if this step is to be taken, it will have to be decided by the end of December 2008, one year before the treaty goes out of force. Both governments, however, already have moved beyond this position. Each has its own arguments for saying that START is too cumbersome, a Cold War-era treaty that should not be extended. The Russians base their arguments mainly on the expense and complexity of the START Verification Protocol. They are fond of saying that a number of the notifications and inspections required no longer make sense and should be dropped from a future agreement for a streamlined and less expensive verification arrangement. The U.S. side makes a broader argument about the treaty being no longer relevant to the more friendly environment of the current era. Although this argument has become strained in recent years, it continues to be at the center of the Bush administration’s argument against extending START.

• Agreed steps to continue the main constraints of START, such as the limitations, counting rules, and major verification provisions, on an informal basis could be a valuable goodwill gesture should negotiations continue without success after the December 2009 deadline. In fact, they could play a significant role in ensuring confidence in the continued implementation of SORT, which has depended on START remaining in force “in accordance with its terms.”[12] In particular, such steps would ensure that further reductions in strategic forces are mutually transparent and correspond to SORT guidelines. An agreement of this kind also would address the complication that START signatories include Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, who would have to agree to a formal extension of START.

• Another proposal has emerged to base further reductions in strategic nuclear forces on parallel unilateral statements made by the two presidents either immediately before the START deadline or after the deadline has passed. For example, the U.S. president might unilaterally state his intention to reduce U.S. strategic nuclear forces to 1,000 operationally deployed warheads while declaring his intention to eliminate warheads in storage. Such a declaration might begin to assuage Russian concerns about the upload potential of U.S. nuclear systems, a point to be discussed further below. Experts from both countries, however, have raised questions about such an approach. Similar to the transparency problem, Russians tend to see unilateral measures as a trap, forcing in motion reductions or changes in their nuclear arsenal that the United States might very well escape by reversing a unilateral decision. Some U.S. experts, by contrast, argue that the United States should never give something for nothing where the Russian nuclear arsenal is concerned, and the only way to ensure that the two countries are giving and getting in equal measure is through a legally binding negotiated reduction.

• “START-Plus” is another option for which some experts have been arguing.[13] This concept may include extending START until such time as a new treaty is negotiated, building further reductions in launch vehicles and warheads into the START structure, instituting a streamlined START verification regime, and accounting for conventional ballistic missiles under existing START counting rules. At a later stage, it would involve dealing with the problem of nondeployed warheads, for example by placing further limits on the number of delivery vehicles or creating a regime to verify nondeployed warheads, an idea the United States proposed in 1997 as the underpinning for a START III. Russian experts have not been particularly enthusiastic about the START-Plus idea because as in the case of a simple START extension, it will create both military-technical and political problems for Russia. Russian experts believe that START generated some difficulties for operating their strategic nuclear forces and in the future may hamper its planned modernization, in particular the deployment of Topol-M-type ICBMs with multiple warheads, formally called multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). A reworked START, for that reason, would not be the preferred approach in Moscow.

The Idea of an Enhanced SORT

An alternative approach, which we prefer, would be to pursue an enhanced SORT. This would not be a simple extension of SORT, which is six years old and was agreed by the past administration in Moscow and soon-to-be past administration in Washington. An enhanced SORT would not return to the complexities of START, however, which, as the Bush team is fond of repeating, was negotiated during the Cold War, now long over. We must emphasize that we do not love SORT and are joined in that view by other experts in Moscow and Washington. As one senior retired Russian diplomat commented during a recent meeting at the Carnegie Moscow Center, SORT “reflects the times, even if we are unhappy with it.”

An enhanced SORT would in fact remedy SORT’s major weaknesses while addressing the main disagreements that have sprung up between the two sides over its implementation. For the Russian side, the major goal would be to maintain a semblance of parity with the United States while addressing the basic problem with SORT, the lack of acceptable counting rules and corresponding verification procedures. For the U.S. side, the major goal would be to maintain sufficient transparency with respect to Russian strategic nuclear forces while making sure that force cuts would not be too expensive for the United States and would be acceptable in force structure terms, i.e., would not require the United States to move immediately from a triad of nuclear forces to a dyad.

These goals may be achieved by structuring an enhanced SORT so that the upper limit allowed for strategic nuclear forces would be 1,700 deployed warheads, to be achieved by the end of 2012. Presently, this number is the lower end of the 1,700-2,200 reduction level called for in SORT. The main issue to be addressed within this limit would be the counting rules, in particular how to account for the possibility that conventional warheads could be placed on Trident-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) or other delivery platforms and how to understand the U.S. principle of counting only “operationally deployed” warheads.

For the conventional warheads, the United States should simply agree to count them as nuclear warheads. Otherwise, we will end up with verification measures that are much too intrusive and to which neither Russia nor the United States would agree at the current time. Such a counting rule should be acceptable because the United States only plans to deploy a few tens of such conventional missiles. Although the overall treaty limit remains at 1,700, counting them as nuclear will only slightly impact the U.S. strategic nuclear potential.

As far as counting operationally deployed warheads is concerned, Russia is not particularly worried about the United States storing warheads, as also has been the case with all past strategic arms control and reduction treaties. Russia is most concerned about the number of launchers that remain in deployment and the number of warhead re-entry vehicles (RVs) that it would be possible to load on those launchers. Russian experts call this “upload potential.”

In START, this problem was addressed through a rule on downloading, according to which not more than two warhead RVs could be removed from a launcher without converting the MIRV dispensing platform, called the “bus,” to carry fewer RVs. Even then, the maximum number of warhead RVs that could be removed—and credited against START limits—was four. The number of types of missiles that could be downloaded and the overall number of downloaded warheads were limited as well.

Interestingly, at the time START was negotiated, Moscow was interested in much more liberal restrictions on downloading than Washington. Now, as has happened many times in the history of strategic arms control, the positions of the sides have reversed. Because converting MIRV platforms is an expensive and lengthy process that sometimes requires additional flight tests, this downloading rule is in fact a tangible constraint on upload potential, particularly if buses with a smaller number of warheads have not been earlier tested on a given missile type.

We are not proposing to adhere to this downloading rule but would look for a cheaper and more acceptable approach that would give the United States some flexibility and give Russia some reassurance about U.S. upload potential. For example, the two sides could agree to liberalize the START downloading rule: not more than 3-4 RVs could be removed without converting the bus and not more than 4-5 with such a conversion.

Russia could easily agree to a ceiling of 1,700 warheads because it would help to save money by not having to extend the service life of some obsolete systems. It would also allow Russia to allocate more funding to a reasonable force modernization, including early-warning and command and control systems. The Russian triad has been shrinking and, regardless of any treaty, will have no more than 1,800-2,000 warheads by 2012, of which about 70 percent will be deployed on obsolete delivery systems or launchers with an extended service life. Under an enhanced SORT, by 2012, Russia could have a more modern force with about 300 ICBMs (700 warheads), along with eight to nine submarines (600 warheads), and 50 bombers with 400 air-launched cruise missiles. As an option, Russia could make the transition to a more economically rational dyad that would include the same force structure at sea and 350 ICBMs (1,100 warheads) on land. In this case, the bombers would be removed completely from the strategic nuclear arsenal and converted for regional missions.

The United States might find it more difficult. With a limit of 1,700 warheads by 2012, its force structure might include 14 submarines with 336 Trident-2 missiles and approximately 1,000 warheads (3 per missile); 300 ICBMs of the Minuteman III type, with one warhead per missile; and about 400 cruise missile warheads on 40 bombers. (The remaining bombers would be redeployed to conventional missions.) If the United States decided to save money by making no changes in MIRV dispensing platforms, leaving 4-5 warheads on each SLBM, then it would have to reduce further the number of Minuteman III ICBMs and bombers with cruise missiles, or it would have to remove two to four submarines from the strategic nuclear forces.

Thus, the United States would find itself faced with some difficult choices. The more severe the constraints on downloading, the more money the U.S. side would have to spend on converting MIRV platforms, or the more ICBMs, submarines, and bombers it would have to retire from its strategic arsenal.

Much will depend here on the wisdom of Russian diplomacy to achieve an optimal outcome. Maybe even a large U.S. upload potential is less dangerous if it involves converting the Trident-2 MIRV bus, although Russia always finds it useful to achieve the maximum retirement of U.S. strategic weapon systems. In order to gain an outcome that would be more acceptable for Washington, it might be possible to give ground on some issues that are important for Moscow, such as the idea of a ban on deploying strategic nuclear forces outside national territory, counting real loadings (instead of an agreed average number) of weapons on bombers, or limiting missile defenses in Europe.

Still, depending on the new downloading rules, U.S. upload potential would be considerable: 1,000-2,000 warheads. In order to hedge against this potential, Russia might rely on some military-technical options in addition to an enhanced SORT. Foremost among such measures would be maintaining a strategic weapons production base in case Russia must quickly respond to a U.S. upload campaign. Russia has only one option for such a response, deployment of mobile Topol-M missiles equipped with MIRVs. Construction of new silos for fixed ICBMs, bombers, or submarines would simply be too expensive and take too long. At the moment, Russia is maintaining a policy of “balanced modernization” among the three legs of its triad; as a result, it only has enough resources to produce five to seven Topol-M ICBMs per year.

If Russia could expand that production potential to 30-40 missiles per year, along with the necessary RVs, then it would be able to add 1,000 warheads to its deployed strategic arsenal over three to four years if it had to do so in response to a U.S. buildup. Such a missile force would have high accuracy and robust command and control potential and sufficient launcher survivability. It would also have efficient countermeasures to any likely missile defense system. If Russia were able to maintain the production capability for such a force, then U.S. upload potential would not cause Moscow as much worry.

After 2012, Russia and the United States could consider deeper reductions, to a level of 1,000-1,200 deployed warheads, along with reasonable and verifiable reductions in strategic force readiness, which would have the added benefit of easing the transition in both countries from a triad to a dyad force structure. We should not fool ourselves; such measures are complicated by themselves, and they require a lot of work to resolve complex, interconnected problems, among them, what to do about missile defense systems, highly accurate long-range conventional weapons, space weapons, nonstrategic nuclear weapons (“tactical” nuclear weapons), the expansion of NATO and adaptation of the CFE Treaty, inclusion of third countries in further nuclear reductions, and strengthening of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Finally, the question of warhead elimination is crucial. Eliminating warheads will remain a largely symbolic activity and one expensive and difficult to verify if it is not taking place in the context of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). If an FMCT is negotiated, it will be possible to pursue agreed methods to verify and dispose of nuclear warheads and material. This is a completely new and hopeful but thus far largely unexplored sphere of nuclear disarmament.

The New Offense-Defense Relationship

To address these complex problems, one must begin by exploring current U.S. and Russian views of the offense-defense relationship. Strategic stability in the final decades of the Cold War was based on a shared understanding of that relationship, which was first enshrined in the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks interim agreement (SALT I), both of which were signed in 1972. With the 2002 demise of the ABM Treaty, the United States initiated new missile defense deployments in the United States and in Europe and continues to develop new missile defense technologies for deployment either at the theater or the national level. At the same time, Russia continues to maintain its single national missile defense site with nuclear armed interceptors around Moscow and has been building, deploying, and selling highly effective theater defense missile systems, for example the S-300 and S-400.

At the Sochi summit in April 2008, the two sides continued to disagree about the need to deploy missile defense components in the Czech Republic and Poland, but they agreed to continue talking about how Russian and U.S. proposals to address the issue could be reconciled. In particular, they agreed to continue fleshing out confidence-building measures that would assuage Russian concerns about the Czech and Polish sites. Because one of the proposals—having Russian military observers at the deployment sites—would require the approval of Prague and Warsaw, the confidence-building proposals involve third parties and remain far from agreement. Nevertheless, even President Vladimir Putin, who had been the staunchest critic of the U.S. missile defense proposal, offered a “certain cautious optimism” during the Sochi press conference.[14]

Thus, the relationship between missile offense and defense has entered new territory, but there have been no real opportunities for Russia and the United States together to consider the full implications. For that reason, the two countries should sit down at an early time to discuss precisely this topic. The relationship between missile offense and defense could become the first subject of a new set of consultations on strategic stability.

We are aware that there are bad precedents. Strategic offense and defense negotiations were conducted in parallel throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and whereas the offense talks led eventually to START, the defense talks were largely sterile, devoted to a long exchange of angry views with little in the way of substantive outcome. That result is undoubtedly a product of the fact that neither side wanted to place new constraints on strategic missile defenses. In fact, some in the United States were already on the road to planning the demise of the ABM Treaty.

We should do what we can to avoid this precedent because a thorough and good-faith airing of differences on the defense topic will be the key to developing the foundation for very deep reductions in offensive forces as a follow-on to a proposed enhanced SORT. Moreover, without such a good-faith exchange and eventual move toward consensus, it is difficult to see how progress can be made on the long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, as called for by Shultz et al. In fact, the need to move toward agreement on missile defenses is a major point that has been reiterated by Russian experts at the Carnegie Moscow Center since these four senior statesmen published their first Wall Street Journal op-ed in January 2007.

At this time, we are not endorsing a new negotiated agreement on missile defenses, for there are too many issues to be explored before either side will be ready to make that commitment. Instead, we are proposing a serious and detailed strategic stability consultation that would first air differences, then turn to developing specific ways in which the United States and Russia might work together in the missile defense arena.

This consultation should have two parts. The first would be an assessment of ballistic missile threats to the Russian and U.S. homelands and threats to allied territories in the Asian and European theaters and a joint consideration of optimal sites and modes of ballistic missile defense deployments to counter these threats. To the extent possible, the assessment should include sensitive information provided by both sides, to back up their own analyses of the threat. This process may also include a joint examination of the missile tests of Iran and other countries of concern, capitalizing on the experience of the START negotiations. During that period, Russia and the United States dedicated special attention to determining ways to verify the range and throw weight of ballistic missiles during tests.

The second part of the consultation would involve an exploration of how to develop significant cooperation between the United States and Russia on missile defenses. This aspiration, first expressed by Reagan at the time of his 1983 “Star Wars” speech, has never come to fruition, although progress has been made in some areas. In particular, the NATO-Russia Council has served as the umbrella for a productive working group on missile defense cooperation in the European theater.[15]

This working group has developed joint definitions of terminology and procedures for interacting on missile defense training, examined how Russian and NATO technologies might be used together in a theater missile defense system, and exercised missile defenses together over the last five years. In the comments of one Russian military expert, NATO and Russia have progressed greatly toward missile defense interoperability in the European theater thanks to the activities of this working group.[16]

Unfortunately, the demonstrable successes of this group have done nothing to dampen tensions over U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in the Czech Republic and Poland. The most successful technical discussions cannot overturn political disagreement, a reality with which the parties will have to grapple at the political level. Nonetheless, a detailed discussion of potential areas of technical cooperation, beginning with a thorough examination of the Russian Gabala and Armavir radar offers already on the table,[17] may play a useful role in addressing these tensions.

This area of consultation should also consider the legal and procedural issues that would facilitate the exchange of information and technologies that would be required to develop joint cooperation on missile defenses. Such issues have significantly complicated other areas of technical cooperation in the 15 years since the demise of the Soviet Union, such as interactions over the International Space Station. Nevertheless, the space program has resulted in successful technology cooperation between Russia and the United States, and its experiences should be mined to develop the agenda for legal consultations over missile defenses.

Although these consultations cannot by themselves clear the air of the grievances that have built up in Russia over missile defenses in Europe, they would begin to develop a new dynamic environment for considering the future of the offense-defense relationship. Because the consultations will take some time to accomplish this result, they should be backstopped from the beginning with confidence-building measures related to missile defenses. These would help early on to develop a better political environment for the discussions and highlight issues that could be fed into the agenda of the consultations. The experience of the NATO-Russia Council working group on missile defenses already provides some good examples of fruitful U.S.-Russian bilateral cooperation in command-post exercises within the context of the broader NATO community.

Another precedent of confidence-building measures that has in fact never been exploited is the New York Protocols of 1997 on delineation of strategic and theater missile defense systems. Russia and the United States negotiated these technical criteria and measures to improve mutual confidence in the scope and nature of the missile defense systems then contemplated or in deployment. The measures particularly emphasized a detailed exchange of technical information about Russian and U.S. missile defense programs. It is time to re-examine these confidence-building measures to see if they could be modified to assuage contemporary concerns about missile defenses, whether in Europe or at the national level.[18]

A third idea for confidence building, which should be rather straightforward to implement, would be to proceed with long-running plans to open a Joint Data Exchange Center (JDEC) for monitoring missile launches. The agreement regarding the JDEC was first signed by Presidents Bill Clinton and Putin at their June 2000 meeting in Moscow. Over the next several years, implementation of the center fell prey to bureaucratic issues between Moscow and Washington such as the question of which side would pay for upgrading the school building that had been selected for the site. In addition, the general disinterest of the Bush administration toward negotiated agreements with Russia, especially when negotiated by earlier presidents, served to shelve the JDEC further. The agreement remains intact, however, and the center could be rapidly established as a venue for confidence building on missile defenses.

A Solution on the Czech Republic and Poland?

This serious new examination of the offense-defense relationship could be accompanied in the near term by a formal diplomatic process to resolve the existing differences over the planned U.S. missile defense deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland. If the next U.S. administration decides to proceed with this plan, the basis of a compromise is already clear: Russia would agree to the assembly of the radar and construction of anti-missile base infrastructure as long as it receives technical assurances and is able to monitor on-site that this defense is not directed at Russian deterrence assets. The United States would agree to postpone deployment of interceptors until Iran successfully tests long-range ballistic missiles. Assessment of such tests would be done jointly, on the basis of work already accomplished in the consultative process outlined above, to provide objective analyses of range and throw weight.

Although the basis of a compromise exists, the two sides currently differ on technical details and the question of how to structure an agreement; it will fall to the next administration to clear up these issues. We assume that if the Iranian missile threat is taken seriously in the United States, then it would be worthwhile to Washington to make concessions to Russia, to reassure it, and secure its cooperation, provided that Russian demands do not obstruct the very concept of defense. For example, Moscow’s claim that the Gabala and Armavir radars are an alternative to the radar and interceptor sites in central Europe is groundless and should not be accepted. On the other hand, U.S. insistence on reciprocal on-site inspections at Moscow ballistic missile defense sites is purely political and should be dropped, because this system is of no concern to the United States or NATO.

If and when Russia and the United States reach agreement on this matter, the Gabala, Armavir, and Czech radars might be linked to each other and to the proposed Moscow JDEC and current NORAD command centers and, if need be, to a proposed NATO command center in Brussels. Also, real work could start on making U.S. ground-based interceptors in Europe, sea-based Aegis systems, and other anti-missile systems interoperable with Moscow missile defense, S-300 and S-400 systems, thus laying the ground for the development of a joint or partially common ballistic missile defense. By that time, the work of the consultative groups outlined above should provide necessary and valuable input.

It may be that Russia and the United States never come to develop a new treaty on missile defenses but instead develop an array of cooperative programs that in essence succeed in managing both sides’ understanding of this complicated issue as it relates to strategic offensive forces. In that case, Russia and the United States could proceed with deep reductions in offensive forces, having confidence that the other could not derive advantage on the defense side from that process. Thus, two decades after the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States would no longer need to sustain mutual nuclear deterrence as a foundation of their strategic relationship, and they would no longer worry about the destabilizing effect of ballistic missile defenses.


Although Russia and the United States are entering a negotiating interregnum, both sides have ample will to move forward once Bush leaves office and the U.S. presidential transition is underway. Neither country is resisting the notion that a follow-on to START must be found and urgently. Furthermore, interesting proposals are already on the table as to how to replace START and cooperate on future missile defense programs. Therefore, this pause can be thought of as a rare opportunity to think carefully about how to move forward on the strategic nuclear arms agenda.

This process can also be a cooperative one. Historically, when a new leader arrives in power in Washington or Moscow, new arms control proposals would be developed unilaterally, then presented with great fanfare in a speech by the new U.S. president or Soviet general secretary. The negotiations would then begin, but only after a sometimes lengthy period of summitry and ministerial consultations.

The transition this time may be different. First, the talks between the Bush and Putin administrations have been productive, already resulting in understandings on some key issues. In particular, the two sides have agreed not simply to sustain the existing START, but to negotiate a follow-on agreement that would streamline some of START’s more complex verification measures. Furthermore, they have agreed that this follow-on must be legally binding in nature. Second, both sides recognize that there is only a short period in which to work before START expires in December 2009 and no time should be wasted in conducting the normal cycle of summitry and government consultations. Most importantly, communications between the two countries have improved markedly since the end of the Cold War. Although political tensions have sometimes been at nearly a fever pitch in the past year, close discussions have nevertheless continued and not only on a government-to-government level. Nongovernmental experts have also been able to work together more closely and productively than they could have in the past.

For these reasons, we urge that maximum cooperation between Moscow and Washington be maintained during this transition period so that talks can begin very early in the new U.S. administration on finding a follow-on to START and resolving differences over missile defenses. We propose the formula of an enhanced SORT, which we believe has the potential to satisfy current requirements for the strategic forces in each country while laying the groundwork for further and deeper cuts in the future. By building on the arms treaty signed by Bush and Putin, this approach also would incorporate results achieved by those administrations. Such a proposal, effectively an acknowledgement of the Bush-Putin contribution, could be important to gaining the broadest possible political support for the negotiations going forward.

Despite the poor political atmosphere between Russia and the United States, there are good opportunities to achieve a timely replacement to START and to begin developing new joint cooperation on national missile defenses. We have no time to lose, but we also have new potential to work together through this transition period.

Alexei Arbatov is head of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of International Economy and International Relations and a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center. He previously served as a deputy in the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma. Rose Gottemoeller is director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, former deputy undersecretary of energy for defense nuclear nonproliferation in the Department of Energy, and a member of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association.


1. For the full text of the Sochi Statement, see Office of the Press Secretary, U.S. Department of State, “U.S.-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration,” April 6, 2008.

2. See “Lugar Speech at Conference on Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction,” January 30, 2008, found at http://lugar.senate.gov.

3. Of course, the verification disagreement is not the only difference between Moscow and Washington in the negotiations. The Russians are also very concerned about the lack of counting rules for warheads and launchers if START expires and SORT is left to stand alone.

4. For more on this issue, see George Lewis and Ted Postol, “European Missile Defense: The Technological Basis of Russian Concerns,” Arms Control Today, October 2007, pp. 13-18.

5. For a summary of the steps contemplated, see George P. Shultz, Sidney D. Drell, and James E. Goodby, eds., Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2008). See also George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “Toward a Nuclear-Free World,” The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13. Both essays can be found at www.nti.org/c_press/c3_opeds.html.

6. The full name of this legislation is the Obama-Hagel Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act (S. 1977). U.S.-Russian strategic arms reduction is only one aspect of the legislation, which emphasizes securing nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials worldwide by 2012. It also supports a new look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, pursuing a fissile material cutoff treaty, and other major nonproliferation goals. See “Senate Passes Obama-Hagel Provision Aimed at Preventing Nuclear Terrorism,” September 18, 2007, found at http://obama.senate.gov.

7. McCain also stated his commitment to a broad agenda of arms control and nonproliferation goals, including seeking the reduction and perhaps elimination of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and reconsidering the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with allies and the U.S. Senate. See “Remarks by John McCain on Nuclear Security,” May 27, 2008, found at www.johnmccain.com.

8. See “Remarks by John McCain to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council,” March 26, 2008, found at www.johnmccain.com.

9. An excellent new history on this topic is Melvyn P. Leffler, For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007).

10. For a thoughtful commentary on the failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference, see Rebecca Johnson, “Politics and Protection: Why the 2005 NPT Review Conference Failed,” Disarmament Diplomacy, No. 80, Autumn 2005.

11. See Schultz, Drell, and Goodby, Reykjavik Revisited, pp. 78-79.

12. Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, art. II.

13. This description of “START-Plus” is drawn from the presentation “START Anew: The Future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” by Daryl G. Kimball made at the Carnegie Moscow Center on May 12, 2008. The comments of the Russian experts are also drawn from this seminar.

14. Wade Boese, “Bush, Putin Leave Arms Disputes Unsettled,” Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 27-28.

15. For more on this NATO-Russia working group, see “NATO Topics: Missile Defence,” May 16, 2008, found at o.int/issues/missile_defence/index.html.

16. Russian military expert, conversation with authors, Carnegie Moscow Center, May 2008.

17. For a review of issues surrounding the Gabala radar offer, see “Putin Offers Further Missile-Defense Ideas,” Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, June 8, 2007, found at www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/06/afd27c1c-8fcb-4484-a8c9-a56503c456bd.html.

18. For full texts of the protocols, which are related to national and theater missile defenses, see www.nti.org/db/nisprofs/russia/treaties/abmdescr.htm.

With the Sochi Declaration in April 2008, the poker players in Washington and Moscow effectively laid down their strategic arms control cards for the last time in the Bush and Putin administrations. They reiterated their intention to carry out further reductions in strategic offensive arms, they pledged to continue development of a legally binding post-START arrangement, and they restated their commitment to Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which calls for eventual total elimination of nuclear weapons. (Continue)

How Will the Next President Reduce Nuclear Dangers? McCain and Obama Campaign Represenatives Discuss Candidates’ Strategies





MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2008

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.
Edited by the Arms Control Association

DARYL KIMBALL: Good afternoon and welcome back for this third segment of today’s Arms Control Association event addressing the current and future challenges facing the global nuclear nonproliferation system and in particular, the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).  I say 1968 because that treaty was opened for signature nearly 40 years ago on July 1, 1968.

I’m Daryl Kimball. I’m executive director of the Arms Control Association, which is the sponsor of today’s events. We were established in 1971 by several of the leading players in the negotiation of the NPT and other nuclear arms control and nonproliferation agreements. Through our journal, Arms Control Today, our website, and public events like this one, we seek to fulfill our mission which is to provide independent information and analysis and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Now, today’s events have been focusing on the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as I said, which has, over the last four decades, established an indispensable yet imperfect set of interlocking nonproliferation and disarmament obligations and standards. Rather than dozens of nuclear-armed states today that were forecast before the NPT, we have only four additional countries beyond the original five possessors having nuclear weapons today. 

The NPT and energetic U.S. diplomacy have also led several states to abandon their nuclear weapons programs. The NPT, bolstered by nuclear export controls and a safeguard system, makes it far more difficult for non-nuclear-weapon states to acquire or build nuclear weapons. Equally important, the NPT, under Article VI, commits the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Yet, as we heard in this morning’s sessions, the NPT and the nuclear nonproliferation system, as a whole, is at a critical juncture. Some leading figures, including our panelists in this morning’s session, have warned that a nuclear tipping point is approaching and, if mishandled, the situation could lead to a new wave of proliferation.

Now, thankfully, there appears to be a growing recognition of the problem and a growing recognition for the need for renewed U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, including from the presumptive presidential nominees of both the Republican and Democratic parties. While Senator Obama and Senator McCain have each outlined their proposed strategies on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament in speeches and in legislation over the course of the past several months, in our view, the view of the Arms Control Association and many others in our community, media attention on the candidates’ proposals on the topic has been all too thin. Given the importance of the issue to U.S. security, we hope that’s going to change relatively soon.

Now, today, we have the honor to have representatives from the John McCain for President campaign as well as the Barack Obama for President campaign to discuss their respective nominees’ views and strategies about how to strengthen U.S. and international efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. 

John Holum will speak on behalf of the Obama campaign. John is the former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and is the former director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Bill Clinton administration. Steve Biegun will speak on behalf of the McCain campaign. Steve is currently a corporate officer and vice president of international governmental affairs to the Ford Motor Company. He was the national security advisor for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and worked from 2001 to 2003 as the executive secretary of the National Security Council. 

Now, after each of them speaks for about 10 to 15 minutes, we’re going to take your questions, which I hope you’ll write on the three-by-five cards that were on your chairs. If you could pass those to the sides to our staff, they will send them forward and I would just add that we’re going to have far more questions than we’re going to have time to get to and I’m sorry about that. So we’ll do our best to put together a representative sample of questions. 

After the two speakers respond to your questions, we will then allow each speaker, toward the end, about five minutes or so to make any concluding remarks. By mutual agreement, John Holum is going to start out first this afternoon on behalf of the Barack Obama for President campaign. John, the podium is yours. Thanks for coming.

JOHN HOLUM: Thank you, Daryl. Can everyone hear? It’s a pleasure for me to be back with the Arms Control Association. I recall, with gratitude, all the good advice that many of you gave me when I was in the Clinton administration and I’m happy to return the favor and come here and give you my best advice on who should be the next president of the United States.

My own commitment to Senator Barack Obama actually was cemented when he first came under fire for saying he’d talk unconditionally to some of the world’s hardest cases – the leaders of North Korea, Iran, Cuba – and he didn’t back down. I’ll return to that in the context of laying out, briefly, three broad reasons why I think Barack Obama would be a great president, indeed a transcendent president, for the fight against the spread of nuclear weapons. Those reasons flow from what I’ve observed about what he believes, how he thinks, and who he is.

As to what he believes, the first thing to know it that he sees these issues as profoundly important. Given the demands on a president’s time, what he personally cares about can be crucial. On that score, it’s significant that from the time he first came to the Senate, he made nonproliferation a personal priority. His first overseas trip was with Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) focused on safeguarding nuclear weapons. He reached across the aisle to collaborate with Senator Lugar on initiatives to do that. 

Senator Obama and Senator Hagel (R-Neb.), another Republican, introduced the Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act, which would adopt what Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Sam Nunn, and Bill Perry—Norm Wolf’s “four statesmen”—have recommended as practical steps toward a nuclear-weapons-free world, bipartisan recommendations now endorsed in concept by 17 of the most recent 24 secretaries of state and defense and national security advisors. As you would expect, Senator Obama has also made these issues prominent in his presidential campaign including in the far-reaching address last October in which he pledged to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.

To me, three parts of his approach to that stand out. The first is an emphasis on prevention. As he has said, we face no greater security challenge than the possibility that terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon or fissile materials. That’s why he stressed securing loose nuclear materials, a task which, as president, he would complete in four years, as compared to a dozen years at the current pace. Preventing nuclear smuggling is another emphasis, including: support for the Bush administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI); discouraging national reprocessing and enrichment in developing countries through access to an international fuel bank; and strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to fortify enforcement. So prevention is key. 

The second element of Senator Obama’s approach is his recognition that the strong global regimes we need to fight proliferation depend upon progress in arms control. For the past seven-and-a-half years, we’ve had an administration that essentially repudiated the longstanding bipartisan consensus for negotiated arms control, practicing instead a fringe philosophy that international agreements are not only useless, but actually dangerous and that what we really need to do is just get tough. The administration pressed this view even to the point of abolishing the State Department’s Arms Control Bureau, in the process, burying the focus on nonproliferation another level down in the bureaucracy, even though they defined that as a priority.

Senator Obama will take a different course. At a minimum, we shouldn’t be heading off in the wrong direction. In the Senate, Barack Obama opposed development of new nuclear arms, lower-yield tactical weapons, and the so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which is now held in such low regard that the Bush administration no longer even requests funds for it. But the Bush nuclear weapons policy has not changed. Its doctrine has been to blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear arms and to imagine potentially new uses for nuclear weapons. 

Senator Obama has recognized that crossing the nuclear threshold is not simply passing a gradient, but plunging into a different realm. Rather than finding new ways to use nuclear weapons, we need to confirm that, in today’s world, their only utility is to deter an attack on us. And in the world he seeks, they’ll have no utility at all. As I said, last October, Senator Obama took the lead in adopting a principle that presidents often hedge. Specifically, he said, here’s what I’ll say as president. America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons, period.  That goal would serve our security interests for we would all be safer in a world without nuclear weapons. We wouldn’t, for example, have to be concerned about nuclear arms going unaccounted for and weapons technology being misdirected; even in our own country, it’s happened just recently.

The nuclear-weapons-free goal is also at the heart of the nonproliferation bargain. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is what makes the spread of nuclear weapons against the law. It’s the strong international legal framework for all our nonproliferation efforts and Senator Obama understands that if we don’t take seriously our own commitments under the treaty to pursue nuclear disarmament, we’ll have an uphill battle to lead a global response when Iran and North Korea blow off their obligations or an even tougher task in seeking to strengthen enforcement. To Senator Obama, a nuclear-weapon-free world is not merely a dream on a far horizon, but an objective we should be working hard through tangible steps to achieve. 

He would work with Russia to take our arsenals off hair-trigger alert, an idea George Bush raised in 2000 but then forgot. He supports further deep, verifiable, and durable reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. He’ll seek to globalize the U.S.-Russia ban on intermediate-range missiles. He’ll resume the languishing effort to negotiate a fissile-material cutoff with strong verification and he’ll press for the earliest possible ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – not just take a look, but take the lead in getting it approved – and not just to limit testing, but to end it for all time.

The third element in Senator Obama’s approach will be to strengthen our efforts on specific challenges, most notably, the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. Now, obviously, neither one of those lends itself to an easy or quick solution, but under the Bush administration, the U.S. approach to both has been hamstrung by a self-defeating principle: that talking with an adversary is in itself a concession. 

In the case of North Korea, you’ll recall when Secretary of State Colin Powell ventured that the Clinton administration’s contacts with North Korea would continue, he was smacked down. Instead, we saw years of diplomatic immobility while a dangerous regime separated enough plutonium for at least a half dozen more weapons and conducted a nuclear test. At last, belatedly, the principle was relaxed enough to get us back roughly to where we were under the 1994 Agreed Framework, which the Bush administration couldn’t wait to repudiate in 2002. What a dismal record.

The “negotiation-equals-concession” philosophy has been equally unproductive in Iran, where nuclear weapons potential that threatens the region and the world has continued to grow. There, as you know, the Bush position has been that we will only talk on condition that Iran agrees, in advance, to give up the activities that would be the subject of the talks. While we’ve stood still on that principle, Iran’s nuclear capability has not stood still, but has continued to grow. Not talking is the diplomatic equivalent of holding your breath until you pass out – (laughter) – employed against someone who prefers you unconscious – (laughter).

There is in that context that I heard Senator Obama respond, yes, when asked in a debate whether he would unconditionally engage in talks with adversary countries. It’s a position that’s easy to mischaracterize and demagogue as President Bush in his bizarre comments to the Israeli Knesset a few weeks ago. But the bottom line is that Barack Obama is the one who understands a basic reality, that when addressing unacceptable dangers, we cannot deny ourselves any tool. We must, instead, move comprehensively across the board through strengthened global agreements and norms, improved and credible deterrence intelligence, an unmistakable deterrent, workable defenses, broad sanctions, coalition-building, and skilled, creative, and tough diplomacy on every front and at every level, backed up by additional resources to improve our prospects for success.

Obviously, no one can guarantee that restoring diplomacy to the mix will turn the tide. What we do know, for sure, is that the absence of diplomacy has not worked and there’s no reason to believe it ever will. All three of these elements: aggressive prevention, stronger global regimes through arms control, tough and comprehensive enforcement, are ways that, as president, Barack Obama can and will serve the organizing cause of this conference. Now, beyond what he believes, I recommend Senator Obama because of the way he thinks. Let me just briefly touch on that.

You may recall that at roughly the same time as he was under attack for his willingness to talk with adversaries, Senator Obama was chastised for casting doubts on whether we would use nuclear weapons against one evil person, Osama bin Laden, and also for saying that if we had actionable intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts in Pakistan and our ally, Pakistan, wouldn’t act, we would. We can discuss the merits of those positions, but what I’d like to underscore here, is that Senator Obama was demonstrating a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom and to depart from time-worn talking points. 

That had a particular resonance for me because, as you may recall, I joined the Clinton administration late in 1993 and I can’t tell you how many times I encountered a policy question only to be told that it had already been settled in a presidential decision directive and it was too late. To his historic credit, President Clinton was himself willing to reexamine some of those previously decided issues, which is what made it possible to extend the NPT indefinitely and to negotiate a truly comprehensive ban on nuclear testing.

Senator Obama is not only receptive to new thinking; change is what his campaign is about. Obviously, a good deal of conventional wisdom remains wise. But as a president who’s prepared to challenge old precepts and doesn’t see every issue and every player fitting into pre-defined box can make a huge difference. 

Finally, a few words on supporting Obama because of who he is. It will take at least a generation, in my view, to repair the damage to U.S. international interests inflicted by George W. Bush and ideologues whose pet theories became his lodestars. After the debacle in Iraq, hawked through exaggerated intelligence and minimized risks, we have a long struggle ahead just to regain American credibility so other nations and institutions will trust what we say. We’ll also need to rebuild alliances and coalitions fractured by the swaggering, go-it-alone mentality and forge new collective measures effectively to address challenges as diverse as climate change, radical Islam, and WMD proliferation, which even the world’s strongest nation can’t resolve by itself.

In the coming months, America and the world will come to recognize even more clearly that we have an opportunity to elect a leader who has shown sound judgment on the transcendent issues of our time, is clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, especially those of climate change and nuclear terrorism, and has laid out an ambitious and comprehensive agenda to meet them. 

Our first task, beginning next January, must be to reconnect with the world through means other than bluster and arms. The election of Barack Obama will, in and of itself, jumpstart those endeavors. His heritage and extraordinary life story will inspire people all over the world and be seen as a confirmation more powerful than any words that America has at once honored its highest ideals and turned the page to a new kind of leadership.

That’s why I believe that, in one stroke, Senator Obama’s election will lift us out of the hole the Bush presidency has dug for us and onto higher ground where we can once again engage from strength and respect. For all of these reasons – what he believes, how he thinks, and who he is – I’m immensely proud to be here as an advocate for Barack Obama for president of the United States and I look forward to our discussion. Thank you. (Applause.)

KIMBALL: Thank you, John Holum. Next, Steve Biegun.

STEPHEN BIEGUN: Good afternoon. I apologize in advance to John because, unfortunately, I’m not going to represent the Bush administration at this forum. (Laughter.) I was curious to hear that the bulk of his critique was directed at the president who will be leaving office next year. I have a newsflash; John McCain is running and he’s running against Barack Obama.

I also hope to persuade you with an open mind and a sound mind on the many reasons why John McCain really is the superior candidate for the presidency of the United States. But, first, before I do that, I’d like to go to some of the substance of the issues that you’ve been considering over the course of the day and then return back to that point just at the end.

Let me first say that my role with the campaign is as an outside foreign policy advisor. I’m not formally on the campaign team. I’ve had the opportunity to work in and out of the government over the past 20 years, for the last 20, very closely with Senator John McCain, who’s been a fixture in virtually every debate of import in U.S. national security over that period.

Senator McCain recently gave a speech in which he pulled together many ideas that are of great interest to the crowd here today. The speech was given in late May at the University of Denver and, for those of you who haven’t seen it, I would encourage you to take a look at it. While I am not the most experienced of all of Senator McCain’s advisors on proliferation issues, I count myself as one of the most passionate, through personal experience and personal concern. I am very pleased to be associated with a candidate who is willing and able, credibly, to lay out a vision of leadership on nuclear security issues, which is incomparable to anything given by the other campaign, the other candidate in this campaign. 

Senator McCain has 20 years-plus experience in the United States military, 20 years-plus experience in the United States Senate, served on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate. I do want to emphasize that his experience has put him at the center of virtually every national security debate of import over that period. He has a reputation and admirers on both the Democrat and Republican side for courageous leadership, for a willingness to buck conventional wisdom, for a willingness to go against his own party when necessary or with the other party when called for. 

Senator McCain is a proven leader. While being bound by the precepts of the past can be a convenient explanation for an absence of experience, John McCain shows above and beyond all candidates that have been in this election this year the importance of leadership. Senator McCain has proven leadership.

Senator McCain gave his University of Denver speech in late May and he laid out a vision that isn’t just a catalogue of positions on particular treaties or particular priorities. His intention was to lay out a comprehensive vision, knitting together many different trends that are happening in the world today, some of which John, I think, very eloquently defined, including America’s standing in the world, its ability and the vigor of its leadership with the international community. 

Also, Senator McCain sought to address the tie-in between the growing threat of nuclear proliferation and the growing global demand for nuclear energy. As we face an energy-constrained world, it is inevitable that civilian nuclear energy will increasingly be a choice for many nations around the world.

I’d like to address three basic issues in the context of Senator McCain’s remarks and then we’ll go ahead for questions. One is the timing; why did he do this now? Second is, what is this directional approach that he has laid out? Third, a little bit of the substance of his speech.

On the timing, there’s obvious urgency on the nuclear proliferation issue, as there has been for some time. Not only North Korea and Iran, but even our handling of our own nuclear materials in this country is a subject of great concern. We only needed to open yesterday’s Washington Post to read further affirmation that the plans for an advanced nuclear weapon were being shopped around to many countries – who knows where? – to understand the urgency of this threat.

We do have the ongoing possibility of the threat of terrorists acquiring and using a weapon of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapon and including against us. As I said, there’s an interplay. At the same time these concerns are growing, many countries around the world are seeking the development of civilian nuclear energy to answer their own domestic energy needs. So what Senator McCain laid out is a comprehensive vision that seeks to encompass all of these parts.

Now, directionally, I think one thing that, again, makes Senator Obama and his supporters uncomfortable, is that Senator McCain is not President Bush. Senator McCain openly embraces the role of allies in this process. He openly embraces the role of multilateral organizations in this process of addressing nuclear proliferation and improving nuclear security. 

He openly endorses the important role of traditional treaty-making, bilateral negotiations, verifiable measures as the means and the conduit through which we can achieve these aims. In short, Senator McCain endorses the approaches that have been successful in the past, but need some refinement, improvement if they’re going to succeed in the future. 

He also lays out the ability to call upon allies and friends with whom not only the United States, but Senator McCain personally, has invested decades in nurturing a trusting relationship with. Now, in the speech, Senator McCain lays out many different initiatives and I won’t catalogue all of them, but I would like to touch upon a few which I would consider the highlights.

First, like Senator Obama, Senator McCain has laid out an underlying philosophy on nuclear issues. In this, he chose to quote Ronald Reagan who, 25 years ago, said, “Our dream is to see a day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.” This is very much Senator McCain’s hope as well. 

Now, Senator McCain is not going to come here or come anywhere else, certainly not going to go to University of Denver, and tell you that’s going to happen during the four years of his presidential term, but he has affirmed that that is, directionally, where he wants to take the United States. In his speech, he also sought to restore some of the anathema around nuclear weapons. I completely agree with John that it’s diplomatic and strategic folly for us to erase the divide between nuclear weapons and conventional weapons. There is an anathema around nuclear weapons that properly must be restored.

In his speech, Senator McCain commits to reductions. He will continue the process of studied, but forward progress on reducing the size of the nuclear arsenal of the United States of America. But likewise, he will be looking to engage Russia, to engage Russia in the reduction of its nuclear forces. Also Senator McCain separately calls for additional strategic dialogue with China to begin the process of better understanding, better recording, and, hopefully, even leading to a result where China’s strategic nuclear arsenal is constrained.

Senator McCain lays out a vision on new nuclear weapons systems. In this, here I’d want to quote directly from the text in his speech, that he would only support the development of any new type of nuclear weapon that is absolutely essential for the viability of our deterrent, that results in making possible further decreases in the size of our nuclear arsenal and furthers our global nuclear security goals. In short, he is establishing a test for any future weapons system and, in the course of this speech, he also, as Senator Obama has, opposes the deep-earth nuclear penetrator.

Third, in his speech, Senator McCain lays out some initiatives for strengthening the IAEA. As I said, Senator McCain is very eager to invigorate the international and multilateral institutions that help us constrain the spread of nuclear weapons. He calls for some specific reforms including reversing the burden of proof to put upon proliferators the necessity to demonstrate that they aren’t developing nuclear weapons programs. He calls for more automaticity in sanctioning of violators of the nonproliferation treaty. And he also calls for the return of any material assistance provided to countries under the Atoms for Peace program who subsequently withdraw from the agreement.

Lastly, Senator McCain does return to the issue of civilian nuclear energy, which he does recognize and support as an important means for the United States and other countries, not only to lessen their dependency upon non-domestic energy resources, but also very much sees its contribution potentially to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Toward that end, he lays out a framework under which he would envision both international enrichment centers and international centers for the storage of spent fuels as two choke points to attempt to limit the ability of countries to use the cover of civilian nuclear energy to develop nuclear weapons programs.

As I said at the start, Senator McCain does lay out a comprehensive vision. He ties together both the energy agenda as well as the nuclear proliferation and arms control agendas. I do firmly believe, as somebody who has worked with him for 20 years, that he is not only capable of enacting this vision; he is capable of leading a global initiative to reinvigorate the fight against proliferation. He has a record of accomplishment. He has strong credibility with allies. 

Now, a couple of comments, just in passing, on what John mentioned. It was with verbal deftness that John quickly went from Senator Obama’s commitment in the first year of his presidency to unconditionally meet with leaders like President Ahmedinejad to transform that into a commitment to restore diplomacy or a willingness to talk with adversaries.

Senator McCain is not at all critical of diplomacy. In fact, he firmly supports it as the first and best opportunity for the United States to resolve issues of all natures around the world, including nuclear proliferation. But the statement by a presidential hopeful that within the first year of their presidency, with no conditions, at the highest level of government, they would meet with a leader, with a tyrant as important as President Ahmedinejad without precondition not only provides a level of prestige and recognition to a leader like Ahmedinejad, but it also had the consequence of actually doing harm to the existing diplomacy that’s underway right now. 

All President Ahmedinejad has to hold out for now is the hopeful victory of President Obama. Why should he, during the interim, have any serious negotiation with the European allies who are working so hard to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

Senator McCain doesn’t need to reconnect the United States to the world; Senator McCain, as a leader of the United States, is well connected to the world. Countries like Mexico and Canada, countries like Colombia, European allies to whom he has never pejoratively referred as having had U.S. diplomacy outsourced to them as if their efforts are feeble. There is no need for Senator McCain to reconnect to anyone. In the course of this campaign, in the course of his 40 years of public service, he has shown at every turn a willingness to listen to allies, a close cooperation with them. He’s traveled extensively. He’s been to the places that challenge the United States and I encourage you to reflect long and hard upon the importance of that experience, that credibility, that reputation with friend and foe alike. 

Senator McCain is the next choice for president of the United States and he would strongly welcome the support of this community as he pursues it. Thank you. (Applause.)

KIMBALL: Thank you very much to both of you. We now have time for questions. If I could just remind you, if you could pass them to the sides to the volunteers rather than getting up, that would facilitate the process. 

All right. All right. So we have a series of questions from our audience and we’re going to give each of you a chance to respond to the questions even if they’re not directed toward you and your candidate. Here is the first question:  “The next presidential administration will come into office in the middle of a six-party process on denuclearizing North Korea. What should be maintained from the current approach and what should change?” John or Steve, would you like to begin?

HOLUM: I can begin, I guess. Senator Obama has been complimentary of the Six-Party Talks and very hopeful that they’ll be successful. I think also, as a matter of principle, that it doesn’t make sense for a presidential candidate to inject himself into the middle of the details of a negotiating process that’s under way. As I said in my remarks, it’s been a very important step that the administration has overcome its allergy to talking, at least in the six-party context, with North Korea. And that’s had some impact on the process.

North Korea is still in violation of global norms on nonproliferation. I think there’s a good case to be made, a good argument to be made, that its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was not legitimate under Article 10. But, in any event, the process should go forward. We hope very much that they’ll live up to their obligations under the agreement they’ve already accepted and that that process will succeed.

BIEGUN: Just as an aside, John, I remember one of the hang-ups early in the Bush administration and why the negotiations couldn’t begin, ironically, is that the Bush administration wanted unconditional negotiations. That is, they wanted everything on the table. It was the North Koreans who were insisting that any discussion be narrowly limited to a set of issues that they were comfortable talking about. 

As you remember, even early on, the nature of the regime, the huge Stalinist gulags that continue to exist in North Korea, the absolute lack of political liberties confounded the diplomacy. In the end, obviously, the ascendant threat of a North Korea that was not only nuclear armed, but potentially proliferating has driven the diplomacy to the front and put together the Six-Party Talks. 

Senator McCain, certainly, is well complimentary of the process of a six-party negotiation and we should be mindful, again, that there is no agreement. I think, conditionally, were this to be going on in the next administration – and I don’t think that’s necessarily, at least, who knows the state it will be by the time the next president takes – I think Senator McCain would be very interested that any agreement be complete and verifiable. As we go forward, we really do need to put the highest priority on ending and accounting for everything that North Korea has done in a nuclear area and we’re certainly hopeful that these Six-Party Talks can produce exactly that outcome.

KIMBALL: All right. Thank you. Next question is on Iran and how to deal with Iran:  “Both candidates have said that we need tougher multilateral sanctions against Iran. How can we best engage states like Russia and China, which have been hesitant to impose tough sanctions to agree to strengthen measures against Tehran?”

BIEGUN: Certainly, one of the challenges that United Nations sanctions present for us is that getting it through the Security Council empowers both China and Russia with the ability to veto the sanctions. I think it’s almost a unanimous frustration among people who want to see an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program that the U.N. Security Council process has been so halting. We should continue to work with the U.N. Security Council. We should continue to seek every opportunity to put comprehensive multilateral sanctions on Iran. But it doesn’t need to be the sole limit of our activities either. 

Senator McCain has certainly strongly endorses the type of financial sanctions that are being discussed on a bilateral or really multilateral basis between the United States and the European Union, but also recently in a speech has called for putting together a coalition of countries to examine investment sanctions as well. It would be preferable, in all cases, to have China and Russia in support and participating in effective sanctions against Iran, but there is still a significant amount of economic pressure that can be put on the regime in Iran through simply the cooperative action of U.N. countries.

HOLUM: I agree. (Laughter.)

KIMBALL: We have a few questions relating to the subject of nuclear testing and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. One of them is phrased: “Does your candidate support bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty – CTBT – into force as currently negotiated? If yes, what steps would be taken to achieve that objective?” I think you talked about that, John. “If not, how would your candidate address the CTBT and ensure that the world does not return to nuclear testing?’

HOLUM: Well, I think it’s a combination of things. First, yes, on the question of whether he supports the CTBT as currently negotiated. Senator Obama has been very clear in his October speech and elsewhere that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is a priority for him. So it takes two parts. One is to submit it to the Senate. Obviously, again, another is to begin a comprehensive engagement with the Senate to make sure that the objections that led to its defeat in 1999 have been overcome. 

There have been a lot of things that have happened since 1999. The international monitoring system is largely in space: 200 monitoring stations around the world. We’ve had an additional nine years of experience under the Stockpile Stewardship Program. So we know now better than we did nine years ago that we can maintain our stockpile safe and reliably under the test ban treaty for the indefinite future. 

We have no need to test. Some senators were concerned about that in 1999. So I think a lot of the objections that were raised then have been cleared up. I think it’s important to engage in a bipartisan way on Capitol Hill, follow up on the excellent report that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashvili, prepared and submitted to the president in 2001 and get this treaty ratified.

BIEGUN: Senator McCain, in his remarks at the University of Denver, first, put a line underneath the current moratorium on testing that he’s committed to continuing the U.S. moratorium on testing. Second, going to the greater issue of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, he did commit in the speech in both specific as well as in generic form to take a look at this initiative and any other serious initiative for its potential not only to meet U.S. national security needs, but also, ultimately, to meet through reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation.

John laid out the two issues that were a particular conundrum to the United States Senate when the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was rejected by a majority of senators in the late 1990s. I don’t accept as confidently as John that all of those problems are resolved, but Senator McCain, in his speech, commits to taking a very serious look at exactly those points. Is the verification regime inherently more accomplished than it had been? Is there an ability to verify satisfactorily a zero-yield test ban? Those were questions around which the Senate ultimately rejected the treaty, among other issues, but certainly a willingness to look at verifiability and going forward is an important issue.

Second is the ability through modeling to maintain the safety and security of the stockpile. While there have certainly been recent developments in computing speed and a variety of other issues that potentially, certainly, I think, in the Senate would create an opportunity to revisit those issues. Again, I would not, in advance, myself, having been out of it for a few years, confidently project that we yet have the ability, absent testing, to do all of the modeling necessary to maintain the safety and security of our stockpile.

Ultimately, while Senator McCain strongly believes that we should move away from nuclear weapons and himself would hope for a day in which there are no nuclear weapons in the world, as long as there are nuclear weapons, the United States does need a reliable and usable deterrent. It’s for deterrence, not only for our security, but that of many of our allies. And to the extent that our own confidence in our deterrent is in any way eroded, not only does it have consequences for the effectiveness of that deterrent and for, ultimately, for the security of the United States, that also can have, potentially, a corrosive effect on the many countries around the world that do not pursue nuclear weapons precisely because they do have a confidence in the United States’ deterrence and the effectiveness of the United States’ nuclear umbrella.

With the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, as well as with many of the other initiatives that Senator McCain has laid out in considerable detail in the course of his speech, one of his first stops, beyond the United States military and the Department of Defense and its strong analysis and recommendations, one of the first stops that Senator McCain will make is with our allies. All of this has to be done in concert with the other countries that depend so much on U.S. national security. 

There is much we can accomplish and I think Senator McCain agrees wholeheartedly with Senator Obama that there is much the United States must do to lead toward that end, but it also has to be done cognizant of the fact that we still live in a world in which nuclear weapons play a very important role to our security.

KIMBALL: So Senator McCain would take another look and explore the CTBT again with those issues in mind, to be clear?

BIEGUN: Specifically, what he said is that he commits to take a very serious look at the obstacles that prevented it from gaining approval in the Senate because not only will the next president of the United States have to be convinced of this – because already one president of the United States was convinced of this – the United States Senate has to be convinced of it; two-thirds of the United States Senate has to be convinced of it. So it’s not simply enough for the president to be convinced or else this treaty would have already been enforced or this treaty would have already been ratified by the United States Senate. I don’t think this treaty –

KIMBALL: There are 44 nations required to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force, including the United States and China, which also has not ratified.

BIEGUN: And a specifically enumerated set of countries which will be extremely difficult to ever get to ratify this treaty in its form. John paraphrased the question, would the next president submit the treaty or support the treaty? The question was, can this treaty, as its currently written, be brought into force. I think that’s a stretch and initiatives in the United States Congress, even among supporters of the treaty as it currently is written, are proposing changes that would alter the requirement for countries that have to be adhering to the treaty in order for it to come into force. 

KIMBALL: Well, in another area where there might be a stretch, we heard in this morning’s discussion about how to deal with the global nuclear fuel cycle and how to manage the potential spread of technologies that could make bomb material, highly enriched uranium and plutonium. This is a question directed to Steve Biegun: “If Senator McCain supports international enrichment centers as an incentive to persuade non-nuclear-weapon states not to build them, would he support demonstrating U.S. leadership by converting some of the U.S. enrichment plants to multilateral ownership or management?” And if you could also answer that, too, John.

BIEGUN: It’s not an issue that Senator McCain has taken a position on to date so I cannot speak for Senator McCain on that issue, but this goes to the conundrum of the entire NPT, which is the haves and have-nots, that some countries have nuclear weapons, some don’t. There’s a central bargain contained in the treaty by which the countries that do have the weapons commit themselves ultimately to disarmament and the ones that don’t have nuclear weapons agree to proceed with the peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy for civilian purposes with the guidelines that are in place.

I don’t think that I would be eager to take this to the next level of putting all U.S. enrichment under international supervision. I think that’s blurring the line, but, again, it runs into the same conundrum we have with nuclear-weapon states. A good first step would be to get our arms around the security and the location, geographical location, of all enrichment anywhere in the world. 

Ultimately, I would place – and I trust Senator McCain would place – a much higher premium on putting under international control or keeping under international control that enrichment which could potentially contribute to the development of a new nuclear power. The United States is a declared nuclear-weapon state. It is what it is. While there may be political benefit for another country to introduce this as a foil, it’s not one that I personally would be enthusiastic about. 

But, you know, these are the kinds of issues that, if Senator McCain is elected president, I have no doubt will be on the agenda. We’re just going to have to work our way through the inherent contradiction or the inherent conundrum of the NPT, which is that there are countries that have and countries that have not, and try to create a totality of benefits, opportunities, and punitive measures that can keep people from moving across the line from non-nuclear-weapon state to nuclear-weapon state. That’s where I would put the highest premium, if I were advising Senator McCain on that issue.

HOLUM: Well, I’m in the similar position to Steve in that I don’t have any specific guidance on this fairly detailed question. As I said in my remarks, Senator Obama has strongly endorsed the idea of international centers for enrichment and assuring countries that pursue nuclear energy that they’ll have a secure supply of fuel in which they can have confidence.

I think the important thing – and somebody touched on this in the discussion this morning – is that we need to take the mystique out of enrichment. That involves making sure that fuel supply is dependable, that countries that want to proceed with nuclear energy can know that their sources of low-enriched uranium for reactors will not be interrupted. There’s a lot of doubt about that. I think U.S. leadership can make a great deal of difference to pursue it. The first time I saw this idea it was from Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and he’s been very energetic in pursuing it and I think it’s a terrific idea.
The core reality underlying all of this and the one that we used when we were engaged in the effort to extend the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty indefinitely in 1995 was that the treaty is not a favor of the non-nuclear-weapon states to the nuclear-weapon states. Tom Graham and Norm Wulf and others were very effective in demonstrating why the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the bargain, is in the interest of the non-nuclear countries. The same sort of principle should apply when we engage in the process of seeking to limit national enrichment and plutonium separation programs.

The countries that will agree not to pursue those capabilities will do so because it’s in their interest, because they’ll have better confidence that their neighbors will not be doing the same thing. So I think that basic principle has to be at the core of our international diplomacy on this issue.

KIMBALL: Thank you. Well, we have a couple of questions here about how to deal with the threat of catastrophic nuclear terrorism, which the question states:  “Many experts believe that the threat of catastrophic nuclear terrorism is among the highest risks our nation faces. What specifically would your candidate do to reduce that risk in his first year in office?”

HOLUM: Should I go first?

BIEGUN: No, please.

HOLUM: The first priority that Senator Obama has laid out and that he’s pursued since he has been in the Senate is prevention, securing all the nuclear materials and nuclear weapons that are now in vulnerable sites in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Everything else pales behind that responsibility. 

It’s shocking to me that we’re still 12 years away from having those materials secured based on the current pace. What he’s pledged to do is pursue that within four years. The risk is not that a terrorist organization is going to build a bomb; the risk is that a terrorist organization is going to acquire materials from somewhere else. There’s a possibility that they conceivable could build one, but they could acquire materials or acquire a weapon that they could use.

So the first priority has to be to nail that down. The second priority, of course, in the same context is to pursue the efforts to close down the nuclear weapon operations in North Korea and Iran because those are two countries that we can’t have any confidence that they wouldn’t be prepared to transfer materials to other country; and now North Korea has enough so it could possibly transfer plutonium. So those two priorities would be at the top of Senator Obama’s list.

BIEGUN: Well, the good news is Senator McCain is not waiting until next year; he started 20 years ago. For his two decades in the United States Senate he has been a strong supporter of treaty-based arms control. He was supportive of the agendas both in the Reagan administration as well as the Bush and Clinton administrations. Senator McCain was a close ally and supporter of Senators Nunn and Lugar with the foundation of the Nunn-Lugar program and also in the early 1990s a vocal defender of the Nunn-Lugar program when it was periodically under pressure in part because of backsliding in Russian behavior, in part because of some of the administrative difficulties, particularly on the Russian side in the early stages of that program.

Senator McCain is and has been a vocal opponent of the spread of nuclear weapons and he has a long record of concern on the development of nuclear weapons capabilities not only in countries like Iran and North Korea, but Iraq – lest we forget – was rapidly moving toward the acquisition of a nuclear weapon in the early 1990s. Senator McCain cares so much about this issue that he’s made it one of the centerpieces of his national security debate in the course of his campaign.

Senator McCain is fully aware, as not only a presidential candidate but as a United States Senator and ultimately, perhaps, as the president of the United States, that in his very first moment in office, this issue, epitomized by Iran and North Korea but more broadly the growing and very serious threat of nuclear weapons, has to be at the front of the next president of the United States’ mind right from the first moment in office.

I completely agree with the premise of the question, personally, that this is a growing threat. The threat of catastrophic nuclear attack against the United States by a terrorist is certainly a plausible scenario; and it’s one that the next president of the United States – I’m actually confident, regardless of who it is – will put at the very top of their agenda. I think I’ll just leave it at that.

KIMBALL: We have several questions regarding potential plans for the United States to develop new nuclear weapons capabilities; and some of this goes back to the discussion on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. One of these questions asks: “If we assume that the United States arsenal will continue to be certified as safe and reliable by the Pentagon and Energy Department, would either an Obama or McCain administration decide to pursue or commit not to pursue the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead Program, which the Department of Energy and Bush administration have advocated?”

There is another question on a related issue; this is directed to Steve: “Senator McCain recently said in his May 27th speech that he would not support the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator Program, which was a previous program advocated by the Bush administration to build an earth-penetrating nuclear weapon. He voted twice for that in 2003 and 2004. What led to the change in his position?”

BIEGUN: Why don’t I go first? Now, I’ll take the second one since it’s specific to Senator McCain and then I’ll address RRW and then pass that on to John for any comments that he has. On the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, Senator McCain did support the feasibility studies to look as this. Ultimately, he found the logic unpersuasive that we could presume to use a nuclear weapon in a non-nuclear manner and consider ourselves not having crossed the threshold, a very significant threshold, of use of nuclear weapons proved to him to be an argument that was unsupportable.

Now, the program was not requested for funding this year by the administration; that’s right. It’s not a completely dead issue; but I assure that if Senator McCain does win the presidency, it is a completely dead issue. That issue is resolved in his mind and he won’t be revisiting it.

The Reliable Replacement Warhead is a very important issue, and one that the next president of the United States will have to consider. Senator McCain doesn’t address it specifically in his May 27th speech, but he does lay an all-encompassing vision that he expects to apply to any new developments in this strategic area.

I quoted it, but I will cite it again because I think it’s an important test to direct your attention to, he said – if I could get the quote directly – he said that, “I would only support development of any new type of nuclear weapon that is absolutely essential for the viability of our deterrent, that results in making possible further decreases in the size of our nuclear arsenal, and furthers our global nuclear security goals.”

Those are carefully chosen words – well thought through – and Senator McCain, in the course of putting together his speech, consulted with some of the true lions of American national security over decades. It’s no secret that he counts among his friends some of the leading strategic thinkers across several administrations. In putting together this speech, it’s not just a speech; it is a statement that approaches presidential policy.

I think, for anyone who has read it, you can see that it goes beyond normal campaign rhetoric and in a passage like that, I can tell you – and I would apply this to the RRW as well as anything else – Senator McCain carefully chose those words there so when he becomes president, if he were to become president, that would be the test that he would apply to this.

HOLUM: I’ll just say, I just want to mention, Steve, that the notion of having come to a new position on Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator is very welcome. Very welcome, but it also cuts against a little bit the notion of being there for 20 years because Senator Obama has been against this since it was first proposed even though it’s more recent than Senator McCain’s earlier support for it.

That said, the Reliable Replacement Warhead has to be considered in the context of the U.S. leadership role in reducing the roles and risks of nuclear weapons and ultimately eliminating them, which Senator Obama has said he would pursue from day one of the new administration. So we shouldn’t be rushing to deploy a new nuclear warhead at a time when we are leading to convince the rest of the world that nuclear weapons have a diminished and an ultimately disappearing role in our security strategy and in the security strategy of other countries.

He hasn’t ruled out for all-time that concept; but he has said it’s very important not to pursue anything like this way before it’s necessary to consider it. Remember that we’ve conducted 1,000 nuclear weapons tests, far more than any other country in the world; all the weapons in our stockpile have been thoroughly tested. There are between 4,000-6,000 parts of a nuclear weapon. Very few of those parts are precluded from testing under the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

All you can’t do is test to an explosive yield. So all those mechanical and electronic and other parts can be constantly tested, and are being so, and replaced. Recent studies have suggested that the pits, the plutonium pits of our nuclear weapons, are secure for way longer than expected; as long as 80 years. So this is not something we need to rush up on.

KIMBALL: We have a set of questions regarding how the United States will relate to Russia with respect to nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. Question is: “Both candidates have spoken about deeper U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons reductions. The START I Treaty, that is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, is due to expire in December of 2009. How do each of the candidates propose to follow on that agreement and, specifically, pursue deeper nuclear reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals?” Either of you can start.

HOLUM: Okay, I’ll start. Senator Obama has said that he supports reductions in nuclear weapons; and that means going significantly below the levels in the current agreement of 1,700-2,200 deployed warheads. He also wants those agreements to be verifiable, either through extension of the START verification provisions or some other arrangement worked out in discussions with Russia.

He wants those limitations to be durable. This is an important point because the so-called SORT Treaty limits come into effect in 2012 and on the same day, they expire. So it’s only a moment in history when we have to be down to those levels and then either side can do whatever it wants. What we need to do is resume the negotiating process that we’ve pursued traditionally and put into effect, as I said in my remarks, deep, durable, and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons.

BIEGUN: Agreed. Senator McCain would, as a matter of approach, begin this process with a Nuclear Posture Review. It would require not only a strong advisory role for our military and our civilians in the Pentagon but also close consultation with our allies. But I trust that that would be the same for Senator Obama as well. In terms of the overall direction, no difference of opinion.

KIMBALL: Okay, now there are other issues relating to the United States and Russia and arms control, one of which has to do with the Bush administration’s plan for missile defenses, particularly the proposal to put 10 interceptors in Poland. Question is: “Does either the Obama or the McCain – let me rephrase this – would either President McCain or President Obama continue to pursue the current U.S. plan for a missile defense system in Europe. If so, under what terms, under what schedule? And would they continue to pursue a cooperative approach with Russia, which the Bush administration has begun discussing in the past year?”

BIEGUN: In regards to Senator McCain, it’s his stated intention to continue with the deployment. It’s also, as he laid out in his University of Denver speech, it is his intention to seek to continue to address Russian concerns in this context, including whether any sort of data sharing or other cooperative actions can ameliorate Russian concerns.

It is not Senator McCain’s intention to honor any request that would be judged as being premised upon the right of a country, in this case, Russia, to have a say in the security decisions of a sovereign nation that may or may not have been under its orbit at one point, when those objections are judged to largely be based upon the expression of a geopolitical sphere of influence.

If there are legitimate Russian security concerns that arise from a limited number of interceptors being based in Central and Eastern Europe to protect the territory of the North Atlantic area against a limited missile strike, largely emanating from one country but potentially others, we definitely need to have a dialogue with Russia about that. But we do not and should not have a dialogue with Russia about the sovereign decisions of Poland or the Czech Republic and what decisions they make to defend their own security in cases in which it poses no threat whatsoever to Russia.

HOLUM: I think the possibilities for working out understandings, making clear to Russia that its security interests aren’t threatened by European deployments are reasonably high. Certainly, that’s an effort that should be pursued. But I also think it’s important to put missile defenses in a broader context.

Senator McGovern–boy that’s old-speak (laughter)–Senator Obama has -

KIMBALL: You once worked for Senator McGovern, yes? (Laughter.)

HOLUM: Thirty-five years ago, good grief. Don’t I have a great memory? Senator Obama agrees with the deployments that are in place. He certainly supports the deployments that are in place in California and Alaska. But at the same time, he thinks it’s very important to proceed on the basis of workable defenses, making sure that systems are capable before we put so many resources into these systems. He also believes we need to prioritize our missile defense based on the threats. So we should be focusing on theater defenses and local defenses, and further down the list, as the technology is proven, more effective defenses; national or longer-range defenses.

He also has stressed that defenses don’t answer the threat of nuclear smuggling. The likeliest dangers that we face are not that a nuclear explosion will arrive with a return address on it and be susceptible to interception if the system could work; but in a suitcase or in a boxcar or in a shipping container where missile defenses don’t have any impact. Those are the likeliest threats. So, we really need to concentrate our attention on things like port security, securing materials as I discussed earlier, and the kinds of issues that are much more immediate.

KIMBALL: We have several questions about how the next administration will organize itself to deal with this wide range of proliferation challenges, disarmament-related challenges. One question about legislation that was signed into law in 2007, H.R. 1, which mandates a White House coordinator for preventing nuclear terrorism. The question states, and this is correct, that the Bush administration has not acted on that mandate. So the question is: “Where do your candidates stand on the issue of a White House coordinator for preventing nuclear terrorism?”

Before you jump to that question, we have another related question, which is: “How can the State Department best organize itself to address arms control in the next administration. And specifically, what do the candidates think of the idea of an independent agency for nonproliferation and arms control to elevate the issue inside the administration?”

HOLUM: I guess that question is addressed to me.

KIMBALL: Well, it’s addressed to both of you since it’s an issue both candidates need to consider.

HOLUM: First, on a White House coordinator, I don’t know that Senator Obama has addressed that question. So I can only express a personal view, and that is if we are going to have a White House coordinator of anything – this is a matter of influence and effect – the position needs to have control over resources and not just be a voice without backing. We’ve had a lot of experience with those kinds of offices and the drug czars and various others; and they tend not to work very well.

In terms of how the State Department should be organized itself, Senator Obama had nothing to do with the reorganization that was carried out in the 1990s and then again in, I think it was, 2005. But Steve Biegun and I both were involved in the first one of those. I have personally come to believe that folding the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency into the State Department was a mistake, essentially because of the way the State Department has treated it. Policy will vary from administration to administration. But institutions do make a difference.

So this is again a personal response; it’s not something that Senator Obama has addressed. But I think it’s something that needs to be revisited. I’ve been terribly disappointed by the further eclipsing of arms control in the State Department and by the department’s inability to welcome and promote and retain the kind of technical expertise that arms control and nonproliferation depend on. So I’d look at that question again.

BIEGUN: There’s a lot to reflect on from those years, John, when we worked sometimes together, sometimes on opposite sides of issues. One lesson I would take away – and this really goes to answer the question on organizational charts – this is nothing that is particularly wise, I don’t think – organizational charts simply are not going to guarantee any outcome. It has to be the presidential priority. In fact, the White House coordinator on nuclear terrorism has to sit at the desk. It has to be a high priority for the president of the United States, whoever he or she is. I do think that we are at that point where we can almost have certain confidence that that will be the case with the next president of the United States, whoever it is.

I also think that that message has to emanate through the organizations that are in place, whether it’s the National Security Council and the national security advisor, how that person prioritizes their time, as well as the State Department. But I’d also raise a very important area that I think needs to be energized and tremendously active is also the intelligence community. Adequate and confident intelligence in the state of nuclear weapons programs in countries around the world—our ability to efficiently and effectively share that intelligence with some of the people and organizations who need to act, like the International Atomic Energy Agency—are going to be critically important for our ability to stop proliferation.

Well, we are well past the point where the United States alone can take on this issue, if we were ever at that point. The United States has to look to gear its governmental bodies to the closest possible cooperation with allies and with international organizations around the world. That includes our diplomacy but it also includes our intelligence and, again, to repeat where I started, it includes the president of the United States making this a high priority for themselves.

KIMBALL: Thank you. We have a question about the fissile material cutoff treaty, which is the proposal that has been around for quite some time to have a global halt to the production of highly enriched uranium, plutonium that can be used to make nuclear weapons. The question is: “Both candidates have expressed support for a fissile material cutoff treaty. Senator McCain has expressed support for a fissile material cutoff treaty; Senator Obama for a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty. The question is, is this verifiable? Also, how would the next administration break the impasse on multilateral talks that have not started on the FMCT, as it is called, for some time? And how would they propose to bring in Pakistan and China and India into such a ban?”

BIEGUN: There are a variety of initiatives and opportunities on the diplomatic calendar, not limited to the FMCT, in which the United States needs to fully throw itself with its allies. My hope would be that one way to break the impasse on this would be for the United States to take an all-enveloping approach on issues of nuclear proliferation, including the agenda that we take to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, including the FMCT, including also the leadership that the president of the United States certainly in my book, hopefully President McCain of the United States, is taking domestically, in order to demonstrate the United States’ continuing commitment to the reduction of nuclear weapons around the world.

I don’t therefore expect that peace and cooperation will break out all over the world. In fact, there are many countries, and particularly the ones that we’re most concerned about, for which no U.S. action would likely change their thinking or change their ways. That’s though ultimately not what is going to have to be the highest priority for our approach. We’re going to have to build the strongest possible international consensus. We’re going to have to invigorate not only our own leadership but support and invigorate the leadership of our allies in all of these issues.

Now, does that produce an FMCT specifically to the question? There’s a proposal on the table that I think could be easily be taken up. It really is the argument over the verifiability. But it’s one that I think the United States is going to have to weigh in the context of a broader arms control and nonproliferation approach. On the downside risks of a verification regime is that it potentially could have the ability to further spread technologies versus the upside risk of the United States gaining action on this critical priority, which is the cutoff of the flow of fissile materials. I would hope that we can resolve this quickly. Like I said, there is a proposal on the table that is very close, verifiability issues, if we can get around it. I think Senator McCain would be very eager to move forward.

KIMBALL: Steve, just to clarify that, the proposal you are referring to is the proposal the Bush administration has forwarded to the Conference on Disarmament? That’s the one you’re referring to?


HOLUM: Yeah, I think first, as to Senator Obama’s position, he’s made clear that he’s in favor of negotiating a verifiable fissile material cutoff. The countries that the questioner mentioned are crucial to that process. That in turn puts you in the context of an international negotiating forum, which has been, to say the least, very sleepy and unproductive over the last dozen years.

I think the key there—and it takes presidential leadership as well as a concentrated negotiating strategy—is to break this concept that has broken down, that has really held up the Conference on Disarmament on linkage. We want to pursue a fissile material cutoff. Other countries say, well, you can do that; but only if we start negotiations on an outer space treaty or some other pet agenda item. The way we have proceeded, for example, with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, is when the political will was exhibited, U.S. diplomacy was fully engaged and active around the world to say this has got to be a priority. You need to set aside your other pet projects. I still think it’s possible to proceed in the Conference on Disarmament with this. I think the treaty has to be verifiable or it’s not going to be trusted.

KIMBALL: Thank you. I think we’ve got time for a couple more quick questions. Then, I’ll give both of you a chance to wrap up. We have several questions relating to how the United States should deal with the nuclear capabilities of India and Pakistan. One question is simply: “What is your candidate’s stance on dealing with the nuclear capabilities of India and Pakistan?”  (Laughter.) That’s pretty straightforward.

And another question, noting that each of the two candidates voted in 2006 for final passage of the legislation for the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, that the deal is stuck because of domestic Indian disputes at the moment, and that the U.S. legislation requires that if the United States trades with India and India tests, the United States would cut off nuclear trade with India, asks: “Does your candidate support such a cutoff if India tests?”

So those are the two questions. One more broadly about how to deal with India and Pakistan, which are outside the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and are continuing to build up their arsenals. Another specifically, on the testing aspect of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal?

HOLUM: Well, should I go first? One of the advantages of pursuing global regimes is that you have the possibility of social pressure, if you want to use a simple term, global pressure to bring in countries that have remained outside the various regimes. That’s one of the reasons why I think a fissile material cutoff that covers us as well as others can have an impact, and why the diplomacy for the test ban treaty’s ratification and entry into force has to be pressed on a global basis.

That said, India and Pakistan are linked, obviously, by geography. But they are different questions. Senator Obama, as you indicated, did support the authorizing negotiations of the peaceful nuclear cooperation arrangement with India, in significant part because he believes we need a broad strategic relationship with a fellow democracy that has not been a disseminator of nuclear technology and materials elsewhere in the world, which is a condition that obviously does not apply to Pakistan and the AQ Khan network, which has been one of the most horrendous sources of proliferation in recent years.

At the same time, he supported that authorization after his amendments were adopted to make sure that fuel supplies were limited to what would reasonably be used in civilian nuclear power reactors and connecting the agreement to a continued testing moratorium. He also supported other amendments that strengthened the nonproliferation aspects of the agreement. He hasn’t yet made a judgment on the deal. As it’s been negotiated, it may not happen that the proposal will be submitted to the Senate or to the Congress, because of the objections within the Indian government, as well as the complications in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In the case of Pakistan, our first priority needs to be to work with them to make sure that their nuclear arsenal is protected and that the sad experience of the past in terms of technology and other transfers is not repeated. I don’t see any prospect of a nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan.

KIMBALL: One final question before we go to closing comments, which comes back to some of the earlier discussion at today’s Arms Control Association session on the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Both candidates have expressed an interest in pursuing the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Senator Obama has put it in other words; I can’t quite remember how he put it. But would your candidate renew the unequivocal commitment of the United States and the other nuclear weapon powers, made in 2000 at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference on the elimination of nuclear weapons? That could be a simple yes or no answer, if you like.

BIEGUN: I don’t know the text as described. But Senator McCain is definitive in his statement that this is the direction he’ll take the United States. I’d be happy to look at the text if the person wants to show it to me. But he gave his citation quoting Ronald Reagan. So rather than quote that document, I’d rather stick with the quote that he cited in his speech. But that’s the direction he’ll go.

HOLUM: I’d take the same view with regard to Senator Obama. I hesitate to adopt something that I’ve probably forgotten the exact terms of.

KIMBALL: Well, I want to thank you both for taking that rapid-fire series of questions from our expert audience. We have a few minutes left for each of you, beginning with Steve, please, to make any closing comments or any remarks that weren’t covered in the discussion that you feel are important to explain to the audience about what a President McCain would do to strengthen the nonproliferation effort?

BIEGUN: Thank you. Thank you, Daryl, and thanks to the Arms Control Association for your leadership and your support and sometimes criticism over the years. I also thank you all for listening patiently today and giving fair thought to both John’s presentation and mine.

Let me start where I started, which is the vital importance of experience in this election and the role that experience should play in you making your choices, and the American people more importantly and more broadly making their choices. The president of the United States wears many hats. The president of the United States is the leader of a political party. The president of the United States is the president of this great country. The president of the United States is a leader, the leader of the free world. The president of the United States wears many hats and must constantly be conscious of the fact that he or she wears those many hats.

A leader of a political party has to be willing to stand up when the most activist and vocal base in the party is pushing in a certain direction, but the president of the United States knows otherwise. When Bosnians were being massacred after the collapse of Yugoslavia, it took a leader like John McCain to stand up and fight isolationist voices in his own party and call on the American people to support President Clinton, of the other party, in an important act of international intervention to end terrible slaughter. It takes courage for a leader to stand up against the prevailing wisdom or the prevailing view of their political party. But also, a leader has to be able to lead their party in the right direction.  Senator McCain has that ability in the context of the Republican Party.

The president of the United States has to be willing to look at the American people and tell them the honest truth about the difficulties and opportunities that face us in the world today. But as they are looking at that voter, whether it’s a voter who has voted, whether it’s a primary voter, whether it’s a general-election voter, they also have to be cognizant of the fact of their third role as leader of the free world, as a leader of global consequence.

When you look at voters in New Hampshire and tell them that you’ll go into Pakistan and bomb tribal areas if you have to, to get a terrorist, but you haven’t spent any time developing your relationship with the government of Pakistan to build a position of trust, to build a position of communication, to build a relationship where you can disagree or go through the pretense of disagreeing when something happens like this to preserve the political niceties of governing in Pakistan; when you leap forward like that without looking in your rear-view mirror and then the next day you want to go to that government and talk to them about the security of their nuclear weapons program, don’t expect a great result.

When you look at a voter in the state of Ohio and you promise to them within six months you’re going to pull out of NAFTA, and you haven’t looked in your rear-view mirror and noticed that that’s actually a very important agreement to our friends in Mexico, and more so to the Canadians whose support we’re going to need in every element of our national security, whether it’s border control or whether it’s pushing positions in international bodies. You have to be cognizant that you’ve got that position.

When you look a voter in the eye and you say that the Bush administration has outsourced U.S. diplomacy to those, my word, feckless Europeans on Iran, you’ve outsourced to the Europeans as if that’s somehow a fault to trust those untrustworthy Germans and Brits and French in negotiating the end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and you don’t think through that six months later, you might be sitting down with those same three countries to try to bring purpose to that negotiation, it betrays a lack of experience.

A president has to have a 360-degree awareness. It’s something that Senator John McCain has developed over a lifetime of service to the country in the armed services and in the United States Senate. When he talks to a voter, he knows he’s talking to the world. When he takes an issue like nuclear proliferation or nuclear security, he knows that he is taking an issue that isn’t just inherently important to the security of our people but to everybody around the world. If they don’t sense that their security is as important to us as our security, then we’re going to have a very hard time getting them to the table to cooperate.

Now the good news. The good news is that there is a large middle on this issues that has clearly come out, not only in the context of this discussion, but also in the context of the speeches and statements of the two candidates for the president of the United States. I’d hazard to guess that we’ve probably encompassed 90 percent of a common agenda here. It’s the 10 percent margins on the side, some of it will be process; some of it will be substance. But there is a broad agreement. I, as an American, take great comfort in that.

Senator McCain is anchored in the institutions of government. He’s not, by anyone’s definition, a captive of them. As much as the Obama campaign wants to run against George Bush, John McCain is not George Bush. Anybody who thinks so hasn’t spent time with the two gentlemen. Anybody who thinks so has to suspend belief about everything that Senator McCain has done and stood for, including his run for presidency in the year 2000.

Senator McCain knows that these ideas need collaboration inside our political system. He knows that we need to reach out to Democrats and Republicans alike. He has a proven record on issues of national consequence, of not only reaching out but of successfully achieving a result. Senator McCain doesn’t take up this task lightly. He understands the consequences of running for president; he understands the huge and awesome duty and challenges that come with that office.

He is a tremendous leader. He is someone I know personally and someone with whom I’ve, as I said, had the chance to work with for 20 years. It will give me great pleasure, and I would welcome anyone who wishes to join me, in voting for him in November. So thank you all very much.

HOLUM: In summing up, I’d just like to make two broad observations about the forthcoming campaign and election. The first is that one of the results has to be a sharp change next January in our approach to the spread of nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has had an ample chance to test its own strategy, one of rejected arms control, neglected global regimes, and defective enforcement. It hasn’t worked.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. We went to war, as you’ll recall, in Iraq over nuclear weapons, at least that’s what we thought. Famously over the smoking gun in Iraq not turning out to be a mushroom cloud; but of course, there weren’t any there. It turned out that the sanctions and inspections, however imperfect, were working.

But there are nuclear weapons right now in North Korea, a capability built up while we’ve been bogged down in Iraq. Whereas they previously had enough plutonium for one or two weapons, now they have enough to test, use, or sell. In a very few years, there might be nuclear weapons in Iran as well.

Last December, our intelligence community concluded that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program, leading many to believe that the danger had receded. President Bush tried to counter that impression, making the case that the threat was still growing in Iran because they were pursuing their enrichment programs and he was right. I recall Tom Friedman observing at the time that some things are true even if George Bush believes them. (Laughter.)

As you know, the technology for a crude weapon is comparatively easy. The hard part is the fissile material, which is why as both senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama has focused like a laser on such issues as loose nukes and nuclear smuggling. On the material, Iran has been steadily moving ahead.

A world in which either of these countries had deliverable nuclear weapons would be dramatically more dangerous. It’s also not hard, of course, to imagine either of these countries transferring nuclear capabilities to other countries or to terrorists. So we simply cannot afford not to turn the page on an approach that has failed.

My second point is that for that very reason, it would be far better if this were not an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign but rather if there could be a bipartisan consensus on how to proceed. I have been encouraged that this appears to be one of those areas in which Senator McCain, despite his close relationships with the Bush administration as a senator on these issues, has as a presidential candidate been edging away from President Bush. Steve has been galloping away.

I read his recent speech on the subject closely, as I know many of you have. There are a number of points that coincide with positions Senator Obama has taken, including of course his dream that we share of a nuclear weapons-free world. Here’s an idea. What if both candidates pressed to include that position in their party platforms at this summer’s convention? It would also be great if some of the hazy areas in Senator McGovern – or Senator McCain’s speech – (laughter) –

BIEGUN: There you go again, John. (Laughter.)

HOLUM: This was a critical one. It would be good if some of the hazy areas in Senator McCain’s speech could be made more specific. For example, replacing phrases like “seriously consider” with “support,” and commit not just to take another look at the comprehensive test ban, but push for its ratification and entry into force. It would also be great if the idea of talking to such countries as Iran without preconditions could be seen not as an opening to score political points but as a potential opportunity for progress against grave national security threats.

I’ll keep watching for those developments, but in the meantime, you know in considerable detail what Senator Obama believes, how he thinks about these issues, and who he is: a leader with the unique potential to transform the nation’s international approach, capture the imagination of people around the globe, and help us confront looming dangers and achieve a safer world. 

Thank you.


KIMBALL: Thanks to both of you. Thanks to both John Holum and Steve Biegun for your time and to both campaigns for making you available as representatives. This has been a really excellent discussion. I hope it’s not the only discussion we have over the next five months on these issues. Let it just be the start.

I just want to note that a full transcript of today’s events, including this one, will be available on the website of the Arms Control Association, which is www.armscontrol.org. For Arms Control Association members, we have a meeting beginning in about 10 minutes in the back room. I want to thank our audience and our speakers again. This session is closed.


Russia Wants Limits on Prompt Global Strike

Wade Boese

One divisive issue in U.S.-Russian talks on a future strategic weapons treaty is Russia's interest in having that agreement limit long-range missiles and delivery systems armed with non-nuclear warheads. The Bush administration is seeking such weapons to expand U.S. quick-strike options against targets around the world, but Congress and a recent government watchdog report have raised some concerns about the initiative.

Current U.S. efforts to develop long-range conventional-strike weapons grew out of calls for such a capability in the Pentagon's 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review and the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review the same year. (See ACT, January/February 2002 .) Administration officials contend that those weapons, now generally referred to as "prompt global strike" and intended to strike targets in less than an hour, would provide a military option when the United States might otherwise face the choice of using nuclear weapons or not acting against a potential danger. Officials acknowledge those moments might be rare, but they include scenarios such as terrorists meeting briefly in remote locations or foes preparing a missile launch threatening U.S. troops, allies, or satellites.

Russia objects, saying such weapons would be destabilizing because their use could be misconstrued as a nuclear attack against it, leading Russia to potentially launch nuclear weapons at the United States. U.S. officials maintain there are measures, such as pre-launch notifications or basing non-nuclear missiles separately from nuclear missiles, to minimize possible misperceptions. (See ACT, May 2006 .)

Still, Russian officials note that non-nuclear systems could be used to attack their country. In addition, a Russian government source May 15 indicated to Arms Control Today that another concern is that the United States could amass more potential long-range nuclear delivery vehicles than Russia by deploying unregulated non-nuclear delivery systems that could be modified quickly or secretly to carry nuclear warheads, undermining long-standing efforts to maintain U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear parity.

U.S. and Russian officials since March 2007 have been engaged in irregular and so far unproductive talks on a possible agreement to succeed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) , which is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009. (See ACT, May 2007. ) START imposes ceilings on U.S. and Russian deployments of nuclear warheads and strategic delivery vehicles: land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers. At the Bush administration's insistence, the May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) , which expires at the end of 2012, limits only warheads.

In the ongoing talks, Moscow is pressing for an agreement that sets limits on both warheads and strategic delivery vehicles, unlike SORT, and counts all such vehicles against the ceiling whether they carry nuclear or conventional payloads. A second Russian government source May 14 told Arms Control Today that his government's "firm position" is that "all strategic weapons, no difference [between] nuclear or conventional loads, must be under strict mutual treaty control." He contended that the "prompt global strike effort is extremely dangerous [because] you can never tell what the load [is] when a strategic missile is launched."

The first Russian government source, however, noted that the United States "is reluctant to speak about ceilings on carriers." Although publicly stating for the first time that the Bush administration is open to new warhead limits, John Rood, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, acknowledged May 21 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia wants "a treaty with a broader scope, something which would also cover...conventional delivery systems." He said the administration opposes that position. In all likelihood, the question of whether to negotiate treaty limits on prompt global strike systems will pass to the next U.S. administration.

That administration also will face decisions on developing or deploying prompt global strike weapons. Congress rejected the Bush administration's initial two-year plan unveiled in 2006 to start substituting conventional payloads for nuclear warheads on two SLBMs on each of the 12 deployed U.S. ballistic missile submarines. Fearing that specific approach carried too much risk of Russian misinterpretation of launches, Congress called for further study of the general concept and more research into alternatives. (See ACT, January/February 2008 .)

In its February budget request for fiscal year 2009 starting Oct. 1, the Bush administration asked Congress for $117.6 million to fund a Prompt Global Strike program under the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. The request includes funds to research a long-range, land-based Conventional Strike Missile and technologies for a submarine-launched system, as well as some funds for the Falcon project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Those funds are in addition to a separate $25 million request by DARPA to pursue the Falcon program, which involves research on a hypersonic technology vehicle that, unlike a ballistic missile, would travel at a flatter trajectory, spend more time flying inside the atmosphere, and be able to maneuver toward a target. The Army has done research into a similar hypersonic glide vehicle that some lawmakers are pushing to make part of the broader Prompt Global Strike program.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which conducts studies for lawmakers, released an April report charging that current prompt global strike efforts lack coordination. Observing that it had identified 135 projects and programs that could have applications for prompt global strike, the GAO contended that the Pentagon "has not yet established a prioritized investment strategy that integrates its efforts to assess global strike options and makes choices among alternatives." It further noted that key military stakeholders have different views about the global strike concept and how such future weapons might be used.

The GAO also indicated that too much attention is being paid to the potential weapons and not "critical enabling capabilities." For instance, the report pointed out that officials with the Pentagon's Strategic Command, which is tasked with promoting and facilitating prompt global strike, say "current intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and command and control capabilities generally do not provide the persistent coverage, processing and sharing of information, and rapid planning required for compressed global strike time frames."

A panel of the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council also referred in a report last year to "supporting enablers." The panel, which endorsed the general concept of prompt global strike (see ACT, June 2007 ), said it would provide a full analysis of those enablers in a final report on prompt global strike due this year to Congress. Although the panel estimated that report would be completed "by early 2008," a panel spokesperson April 28 e-mailed Arms Control Today that the report would not be out until "the later half of this year."

Corrected online September 3, 2008. See explanation.

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One divisive issue in U.S.-Russian talks on a future strategic weapons treaty is Russia's interest in having that agreement limit long-range missiles and delivery systems armed with non-nuclear warheads. The Bush administration is seeking such weapons to expand U.S. quick-strike options against targets around the world, but Congress and a recent government watchdog report have raised some concerns about the initiative. (Continue)

Repairing U.S.-Russian Strategic Relations after Bush and Putin



Arms Control Association Press Briefing

Friday, April 11, 2008, 9:30 - 11:00 A.M.

National Press Club, The Murrow Room on the 13th Floor
529 14th St., NW, Washington, DC

Please click here for the transcript.

Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin are seeking to burnish their legacies by touting a raft of U.S.-Russian accomplishments completed on their watch. But the two leaders are leaving U.S.-Russian strategic relations at arguably their lowest point since the Cold War. The two governments are deeply divided on future nuclear arms limits and missile defenses, particularly U.S. plans to deploy anti-missile systems in Europe. The panelists will discuss steps to put the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship on a more stable footing, reduce the two countries’ excessive nuclear arsenals, and craft a more sensible approach to dealing with missile threats and missile defenses.


Ambassador James E. Goodby, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Goodby has held many U.S. government positions, including Deputy to the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Special Representative for the security and dismantlement of nuclear weapons, and chief negotiator for nuclear threat reduction agreements. He recently co-edited with George Shultz and Sidney Drell Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. Also with Drell, Goodby co-authored the Arms Control Association report What are Nuclear Weapons For? Recommendations for Restructuring U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Ambassador Avis T. Bohlen, Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. A former career Foreign Service Officer, Bohlen retired in 2002 from the Department of State after serving in a variety of top positions, including Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Much of her Foreign Service career focused on European security issues, arms control, and Soviet affairs. She is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors.

George N. Lewis, Senior Research Associate and Associate Director of the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University. Lewis, who holds a PhD in physics, is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He received that society’s Joseph A. Burton Forum Award. An associate editor of the journal Science and Global Security, Lewis has co-authored two extensive reports on missile defense: Countermeasures: A Technical Evaluation of the Operational Effectiveness of the Planned U.S. National Missile Defense System (2000) and Technical Realities: An Analysis of the 2004 Deployment of a U.S. National Missile Defense System (2004).

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association.
Arms Control Association Press Briefing

Country Resources:

Nuke Commander Unhappy With Status Quo

Wade Boese

The top U.S. military commander in charge of deployed nuclear forces is speaking out against the current state of the nuclear weapons enterprise and advocating for new warheads and the infrastructure and people to produce them. Meanwhile, Congress recently appointed a group of 12 experts to evaluate the appropriate roles for nuclear weapons in future U.S. security policy.

General Kevin Chilton, the head of Strategic Command, is striking a discordant note against a growing chorus supporting the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, ranging from former Republican Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Chilton Feb. 27 testified to lawmakers that nuclear weapons would be “important for the remainder of this century” and expressed discomfort with the notion of reducing U.S. deployed nuclear forces to levels below the planned 2012 treaty limit of 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads. Russia is imploring the United States to negotiate lower limits, but so far the Bush administration has refused.

To be sure, Chilton said at a Feb. 21 speech at an Air Force Association symposium that “I share the vision of any parent of a day…where there are no nuclear weapons in the world.” But he added, “[F]rankly, I don’t see us achieving that vision in this century.”

Chilton, who assumed command of U.S. strategic forces last October, contends deeper reductions under current circumstances would be risky given his assessment that the United States lacks a sufficient warhead manufacturing base to build more weapons if a new threat emerges or something goes wrong with existing U.S. arms. Indeed, he argued Feb. 21 that existing warheads “are not maintainable” because of the way they were designed to pack the maximum number of warheads on top of a single missile in order to boost explosive power. Still, the U.S. government has annually certified existing warheads as safe and reliable and continues to invest billions in extending their lives without nuclear testing, which the United States ceased in 1992.

Chilton is calling for a sweeping effort to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear stockpile, numbering approximately 5,000 warheads, and reinvigorate the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including what he described as its “graying workforce.” He argued, “[W]e cannot tolerate that if we are going to provide a nuclear deterrent for the future generations of this country.”

Chilton’s predecessor, General James Cartwright, who is now vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed similar concerns, but Chilton appears to have placed a greater emphasis on them. For instance, Cartwright in 2007 devoted a few paragraphs of his address to the Air Force Association on modernizing U.S. nuclear warheads and production capabilities, while Chilton made it a centerpiece of his 2008 speech. Similarly, Chilton’s prepared testimony to lawmakers devotes much more attention to nuclear weapons than that delivered by Cartwright.

During the Feb. 27 hearing before the strategic forces panel of the House Armed Services Committee, Chilton delivered a more critical assessment of the U.S. weapons production capability than Thomas D’Agostino, the head of the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which manages the nuclear weapons complex. D’Agostino noted the United States can annually produce approximately 10 plutonium pits, the trigger component of warheads. But Chilton stated, “I would argue with Mr. D’Agostino that being able to produce 8 to 10 [pits] a year is a production capability.” NNSA is seeking to increase its output to 30 to 50 pits annually as early as 2012.

Chilton’s message aligns with the Bush administration’s goals to recapitalize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and revive an initiative, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, to explore new warhead designs that supposedly will be easier to build and maintain and less susceptible to accidents or misuse than existing warheads. Congress denied funding for that program last year, but the administration is seeking some $40 million related to it as part of the most recent annual federal budget request. (See ACT, March 2008 .)

Lawmakers refused to appropriate money last year for the NNSA’s RRW program on the basis that the United States should not start developing new warheads without first determining future U.S. nuclear posture and policy. Hence, Congress mandated the Pentagon to conduct a nuclear posture review and created a separate commission to carry out a similar study.

On March 19, lawmakers announced the dozen experts making up the bipartisan commission. Its chairman is William Perry, a former secretary of defense for the Clinton administration, and the vice chairman is James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Other members include former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), former Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), and Fred Ikle, a former director of the defunct Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The group is supposed to make their recommendations on “the most appropriate strategic posture and most effective nuclear weapons strategy” to Congress and the president by Dec. 1.


The top U.S. military commander in charge of deployed nuclear forces is speaking out against the current state of the nuclear weapons enterprise and advocating for new warheads and the infrastructure and people to produce them. Meanwhile, Congress recently appointed a group of 12 experts to evaluate the appropriate roles for nuclear weapons in future U.S. security policy. (Continue)

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons: An Interview With Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairman Sam Nunn

Interviewed by Daryl G. Kimball and Miles A. Pomper

Sam Nunn has long been a leader in the U.S. national security community. A Democrat from Georgia, Nunn served four terms in the U.S. Senate from 1972 to 1996, including as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is currently co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to reducing the risk of the use and spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

In January 2007 and this past January, Nunn and three other senior U.S. statesmen from both parties—former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry—co-authored op-ed articles in The Wall Street Journal calling for the United States to champion the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and outlining several immediate steps toward achieving this goal. On January 24, Arms Control Today met with the former senator to discuss this initiative and relevant U.S. arms control and nonproliferation policies.[1]

ACT: In essays in The Wall Street Journal in January 2007 and January 2008, you and other prominent Americans called for “a world free of nuclear weapons,” asserting that the current approach to dealing with nuclear dangers is inadequate. How did all of you arrive at this dire conclusion and ambitious solution?

Nunn: I think all of us probably arrived at the conclusion at different times and different ways. We then converged together with that view over a period of several months. In my own case, it was several years of my evolution to [come to] that conclusion.

I believe that the threat has fundamentally changed. We went through the Cold War, where we had a great danger of escalation from conventional [warfare] to tactical nuclear weapons, right up the ladder to strategic nuclear weapons. I was convinced that, at the battlefield front, [NATO’s] military people were going to ask for nuclear release at the very beginning of any conventional war. So I spent a great deal of time in the Senate to try and strengthen conventional forces in Europe so we could raise the nuclear threshold and make it where we would have at least several days, maybe even weeks, to make a decision [to go nuclear].

[More recently,] the work we’ve done with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)—particularly on the fuel bank,[2] securing and reducing nuclear material stockpiles, trying to convert reactors around the globe from using highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium,[3] and advocating a fissile material cutoff[4]—has convinced me that we simply are not going to get the cooperation we need around the globe to take the steps that are essential for our security without having a restoration of the vision that was laid down in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Whether we agree on the interpretation or not, the world perceives that the countries with nuclear weapons made a pledge to step-by-step reduce them, make them less relevant, and eventually get rid of them.[5]

The nuclear fuel bank is aimed at trying to prevent proliferation of uranium-enrichment facilities all over the globe.[6] But when you start talking to people about the fuel bank, you find out pretty quickly that there’s no interest even among our best friends, in setting up another have and have-not regime: those who have and can enrich uranium and those who have not and will not be able to enrich. That is why it’s hard to get traction in terms of sanctions against Iran. It’s hard to get unity on a lot of things and, I think, it will get increasingly difficult.

Therefore, in my view, we’re moving toward a nuclear nightmare with more enrichment, more nuclear materials, and more know-how around the globe and terrorist groups who have made it very clear they are doing everything they can to get these weapons. Thus, I believe the vision and the steps go together. The way I like to express it is that we ought to make nuclear weapons less relevant and less important, prevent nuclear weapons or materials from getting in the hands of dangerous people, and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons as a threat to the world.

ACT: What do you think are the biggest challenges in convincing nuclear-weapon states to pursue this kind of path?

Nunn: People don’t know that the nuclear-weapon states have a hard time thinking about national security without nuclear weapons. They’ve become so relevant. For a time in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union broke up, I thought it was an opportune time to make nuclear weapons a lot less relevant, particularly with the Nunn-Lugar program.[7] But that time passed for a lot of reasons that you can debate. I think that expanding NATO and putting the military first after the collapse of the Soviet Union rather than making an economic expansion with the European Community was a fundamental mistake. It gave the Russians the feeling that they were, as they pretty much are, excluded from European defense and security. Now, the Russians are in the position that we were in when we ordered up thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. They feel that their conventional forces are not strong enough, requiring them to have not only a nuclear deterrent in a very active way, but a heavy reliance on battlefield nuclear weapons and first use. It’s not unusual that the Russians would come to that conclusion. That’s the conclusion we had during the Cold War. I think the nuclear powers have varying reasons [for possessing nuclear weapons], but it all goes to dependency on nuclear weapons psychologically.

With U.S. conventional capabilities now and with the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, I really think we are in a totally different threat environment. The current threat environment is one where not only is there no need to have a confrontation with the Russians, but there’s every reason for our own security to have cooperation. While the threat environment has changed, the psychology of nuclear weapons for the nuclear powers in most cases has not changed. That would apply to India and Pakistan for obvious reasons. It would apply to Israel and the Middle East. It would apply to China. Everybody is kind of looking at everybody else.

I describe moving toward zero as climbing a mountain, the top of the mountain being zero nuclear weapons. We might not get there in my lifetime, but we need to be heading up the mountain, not down the mountain. We have to head up the mountain together. It’s not going to be a unilateral move. It’s going to have to be moving up the mountain together and hopefully reaching a plateau so that our children and grandchildren can at least get out their binoculars and see the top of the mountain.

ACT: Which steps up the mountain would you say are the most important?

Nunn: I have my own pet rocks. I think working with the Russians on missile defense is enormously important because if that does not happen, we are going to make all these other steps, which involve the Russians, much less likely and much more difficult. On the other hand, working with the Russians on missile defense and early-warning systems could open up the door for a lot of other things.

If I had to say what would do more good than any one single thing in terms of improving American and Russian security, it would be extending warning times. I haven’t been briefed on the U.S. warning time in a long time because it’s classified. But whatever it is, it is minutes.[8] It’s insane for us, 16 years after the Cold War, to think of the Russian president having four or five minutes to make a decision about whether what may be a false warning requires a response before he loses his retaliatory force. It is insane. That’s fundamentally against American security interests. The Russians can make a mistake. Radars and satellites can go wrong. So we ought to ask ourselves why we don’t work with the Russians to give them more warning time. They need to ask themselves why they don’t work with us to give us more warning time.

ACT: What in particular on missile defense would you do? The most recent essay talked about a cooperative approach. When and how do you think the United States and Russia should reach a cooperative approach on missile defense, particularly missile defense in Europe?

Nunn: I was glad to see Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice go to Moscow with proposals. Evidently it took a long time for the bureaucracy to put those proposals in writing, and when they put them in writing, there were certain things left out from the Russian perspective.[9] Still, I think it was a big step forward for them to go over there. George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and I all strongly recommended that after we met in Russia last July with a group led by [former Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny] Primakov. We came back saying missile defense was very important, so we hope that we had something to do with Gates and Rice going over there. They went, and I think that was very good.

When I say cooperative, I think the two presidents have to make it clear to the people under them that this is strategic, not tactical, and that the militaries are expected to take whatever the obstacles are and work the problems.

The thing is that [the Bush administration] is basically deploying a system that’s not mature against a threat that’s not mature.[10] The Russians don’t agree on the threat. One of the things I mean by cooperation is a joint threat assessment. I proposed that recently to President [George W.] Bush. I proposed a joint intelligence assessment on the threat. It doesn’t have to be just the Iranian threat, but the generic missile threat. That would tell you how much time you’ve got and where differences exist. If you don’t agree on the threat, it’s going to be ultra hard to agree on the response.

Warning time is similar. I proposed to both [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Bush in the last six months what I just basically said to you. I suggested respectfully that they tell their military leaders, “We want more warning time. If it’s ‘x’ now, we want it to be ‘2x.’ You give us the steps. We want you to work out the details.”

What is it that makes Russia think it has to launch quickly? What is it that makes Russia think, in the tactical area, that it needs the option of first use? What is it that makes NATO continue to say it has to have first use? Start working those problems because insecurities are on both sides. Beyond the prestige factor—we’ve made nuclear weapons too important—the underlying factor is insecurity. So we have to work the insecurity problems with the United States and Russia and then in every region of the world if we’re ever going to go up the mountain. We have to work regional insecurity problems. “We” are the United States and other nuclear powers, as well as the regional powers.

ACT: The May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) commits the United States and Russia to each lower their strategic operational forces to less than 2,200 strategic warheads by 2012, which is when the treaty expires. Should there be a follow-on treaty to SORT, and how low should the numbers go?

Nunn: I would like us to focus on the number of quick-launch weapons. I have felt for a long time that while it is perfectly valid and important to talk about and come down in numbers, it is much more important to make nuclear weapons less relevant in the long run. If we can make them less relevant, then the number will come down very appreciably.

Nuclear weapons can be made less relevant if they are not going to be used in the early stages of a conflict. Some type of physical barriers could be introduced down the line so nobody can launch within a week and their retaliatory response is not threatened. You have to have both. You can’t have nuclear weapons locked up in a pile sitting there waiting for someone to destroy them.

ACT: START I expires at the end of 2009. How mechanically and diplomatically do you think the two sides can pursue the reductions that you are describing? Is it in the context of the SORT and START processes or through unilateral reciprocal initiatives? How do you see future reductions being pursued?

Nunn: All of the above. I do not think it’s either arms control treaties or things beyond arms control treaties. I think it is both.

It would be folly to allow the START verification provisions to expire. I think reconstructing them would be a whole lot harder than having this administration and the Russians agree on [extending] them.

I also think SORT needs to be fulfilled. When it first came up, I called it a “faith-based treaty.” It expires the same day that the limits take effect. I think that is absurd. The next administration has to do something about that. Obviously, this one will not. The next administration will have to tie verification provisions to SORT.[11]

I think the arms control treaty process is important. Obviously, you want to reach agreements. But the dialogue, the conversations, the people getting to know each other, and the realization of the fears and seeing where the fears coincide are important. That is where I differ so much from this administration. Sure it is frustrating and takes a long time.

We have a lot of things that we can do without treaties. Warning time, for instance, I don’t think lends itself to a treaty approach.

I also would like to see [command and control] updated in light of the huge technological changes, particularly the cyber world. I don’t think we have explored anywhere near adequately the danger of command and control being penetrated by people in the cyber world, whether it’s a third country or a very clever hacker. There are horrors out there when you see the stakes involved. That’s why I go back to my big pet rock. If everyone had the posture where they could not shoot for a week, it would be a different world. That would make nuclear weapons less relevant, and the discussion about how many you need takes on a different flavor. That is in no way in opposition to reducing numbers, but it is saying that reducing numbers is not the be all and end all.

ACT: There are still several hundred tactical U.S. weapons in Europe. Would you support their unconditional or immediate withdrawal? Why or why not?

Nunn: What I favor is a U.S.-Russian agreement—NATO would have to be involved—that would basically acknowledge the problems of tactical nuclear weapons: the fact that they are susceptible to terrorist attack; the fact that if they are deployed, there is more difficulty with command and control; and the fact that, in some cases, it is reported that there is pre-release authority, where you would not have to get permission from the leaders of the country. I hope nobody has it. I’m not sure about the Russians. I would talk about all of that.

My first goal would be to have transparency between the United States and Russia: where the weapons are and how many there are through mutual exchange of inventories. If you don’t have a baseline, how do you know what they are missing? That’s the way that I would start with tactical nukes. The [final] goal would be to get rid of all of them.

ACT: Given what you mentioned about Russia’s changing perception of threats after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, do you think Russia is ready for that dialogue now, or are there changes in U.S. and NATO policy that are going to be necessary to open the door to that negotiation about transparency and accountability?

Nunn: At this stage, I have seen no indication that Russia is ready for that conversation.I think you have to be willing to sit down and talk to the Russians about where they fit into the overall European security framework. NATO’s Partnership for Peace[12] was a worthy effort for a few years, but it has run its course in my view. The discussions now by serious people about inviting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and [deploying] missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland mean that the clock is running. We don’t have that much time to have a serious discussion about Europe. NATO has to ask itself if it is in NATO’s interest for Russia to be virtually the only country in that part of the world that’s not eligible to be in that huge defense alliance. If the answer is “that’s the way we want to go,” we’re doing everything just right. If we want Russia to be excluded and if we want Russia to perceive NATO as a permanent enemy, we’re doing it all just right. I don’t think it is our goal. I also don’t think it is NATO’s goal. I don’t even think it is this administration’s goal. So we have to back up a little bit and say, “Time out. What is the view of the Russian security role?” I think the Russians have to ask themselves that. Most of their responses are simply frustrated responses to what is happening rather than thoughtful and creative ideas about the kind of role that they want to play.

Obviously, Russia is not ready to join NATO. NATO’s not ready. But should there be some kind of overall security framework that the Russians play a big role in and really have a significant voice? If there is not, my view is that we’re going to have a very hard time with this whole nuclear agenda and we’re going to have a very hard time with the security agenda in Europe over the long haul.

In my view, the behavior of an awful lot of people involved in NATO security during and since the 1990s, including the Bill Clinton and Bush administrations, has basically been one of almost deliberate disdain for Russia being important enough to worry about. I have felt all along that that was extremely shortsighted. It was perhaps true in a pure economic sense for quite a while. It is no longer true in energy, no longer true in environment, no longer true in economics, and, in my view, never has been true in terms of national security. Russia’s going to be a player, and to me, the question is whether it’s inside or outside the tent. Right now, it is outside the tent. Maybe that is what the Russians want. Maybe that’s what NATO wants. But I believe it is happening inadvertently without much thought.

ACT: You are well known for your work with Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to create the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. What are your recommendations for accelerating and maximizing the unfinished work of that program and similar efforts?

Nunn: I see a maturing of the Nunn-Lugar program in the former Soviet Union. There’s a lot left to do, but given Russia’s very impressive economic progress, I think that Russia should step up to the plate much more as a partner. I believe that Russia and the United States should really join together to approach this whole subject on a global basis. I see the Nunn-Lugar concept continuing, but I don’t see the funding continuing to be primarily American. The Group of Eight has already made pledges, and they need to be fulfilled.[13] The Russians also need to step up much more to their own security and beyond their own security. I see Russia necessarily moving from being, in effect, a partner that is supplicant for funds to a truly global partner that deals with these subjects on a global basis with its own experts and its own money.

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1540, which places the burden on every country to take security steps to prevent catastrophic terrorism by protecting their nuclear arsenals or materials, including radiological [materials]. Most countries have not been able to do much under that mandate. I have proposed that the United States and Russia offer U.S. and Russian experts who have worked together on the Nunn-Lugar program to basically be available under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help any country in the world that needs help implementing that resolution. Those experts could provide technical assistance, best practices, and other know-how on the ground. The United States and Russia have learned so much working together over the last 15 years that I think it would be a shame not to have that lab-to-lab, military-to-military, scientist-to-scientist expertise available to others. It could grow into a bigger project, but I would start off with a small group of people, and it would need to be under the IAEA. It would have to be voluntary. Nobody could impose that on the world, but it certainly ought to be offered. That is the way I see the Nunn-Lugar program evolving.

ACT: I want to get back to your discussion earlier about the fuel bank, particularly the NTI role. What’s your sense on the notion that there has been movement in Russia in establishing a fuel center? What are the prospects that this will really happen, and what are the obstacles that might prevent its creation? Where do things stand?

Nunn: We are involved in it all the time, but the answer is, I don’t know. I think there’s a good chance that we could get something done. I think the IAEA, at least its leadership, would like to get something done. The problem gets back to the haves and have-nots. There are a lot of countries out there that are determined, no matter what happens, not to get into a regime where some people have and some people have not. I think that whatever’s framed in terms of fuel assurances has to be framed so that countries do not forsake their sovereign right to engage in enrichment at some point down the line. From my point of view, the whole concept of fuel assurances is to help those countries that have decided on their own not to go into enrichment. So there’s a thin line there. Not going into enrichment is an actuality; forsaking your right is a pledge. I do not think we are going to get anything that looks like a pledge.

I think what we can get is a regime that has tiers of assurances for fuel, starting predominantly with the marketplace but with marketplace backups, including the Russian concept of enrichment on its soil under IAEA supervision; the U.S. concept of cross guarantees of supplies; perhaps some of the Japanese, German, and British ideas for a series of tiers; and certainly the final reserve, which we propose is the NTI fuel bank controlled by the IAEA.

All of those things are entirely possible, but right now it is going to take a lot of diplomatic leadership to make it happen. It is going to require some of those countries that don’t have enrichment and don’t want enrichment, but also don’t want to give up that right to enrichment, to step up strongly and endorse this concept. Right now, that is the missing element.

ACT: Given those realities, which countries do you believe will be convinced to take advantage of a fuel bank and decide not to go down the enrichment path? Is a fuel bank really going to convince the hard cases, such as Iran or an Iran of tomorrow?

Nunn: The Russian proposal with Angarsk[14] or some concept like that is the best case in terms of Iran. Of course, Iran has said “no” so far. But my understanding is that they have said “no” and not “hell no.” They may not use profanity.

Some people believe we could simply divide [the world] into good guys and bad guys, and if they are good guys, they [can enrich]. So India and Brazil could go ahead and enrich. I don’t think that works, and I don’t think it has any sustainability. I don’t think we can sit here and divide the world into good and bad. Now, we can take adamant positions against people that we think are extremely dangerous, like the Iranians. But a lot of the countries are going to be in between. They are not going to fit into anything like that. So I think there has to be an international regime. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is very dedicated to that. I have a lot of confidence in him, but whether he can pull it off is uncertain given the attitude of so many of these countries which have the determination not to be have-nots with enrichment, as well as with weapons. But I will add that I think it is important to have all enrichment, including U.S. enrichment, under international safeguards. That might not be acceptable here, in Russia, and in a lot of other places, but I think it is going to have to be that way. I don’t think we can simply divide the world up.

ACT: The next president is going to have to deal with a lot of issues, including the war in Iraq. How realistic is it that the next administration and Congress will take up and implement the ambitious agenda that you and your colleagues have outlined? And how do you get the U.S. government to prioritize these issues?

Nunn: It depends on who is elected. Some of the candidates have talked about some of these things in some depth and others, primarily on the Republican side, have not addressed these issues.

In the last presidential election, both Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and President Bush said on national television that nuclear terrorism was the most important challenge we faced. President Bush has said over and over again that keeping the most dangerous weapons out of the most dangerous hands is our top priority. President Putin has said the same thing. It’s the gap between words and deeds that is the frustration because all the words are there.

What is missing is execution. What is missing is presidential focus, both Bush and Putin, on a continuing basis. What is missing is a sense of priorities in our allies, although British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now speaking out on these subjects. What is missing is an organization in the United States, Russia, and other countries that is held accountable for real execution and performance. Most of the efforts disappear at third and fourth levels of the bureaucracies without people at the top paying a lot of attention. That has to change with the next U.S. administration, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, and hopefully in Russia too.

Click here for the unabridged version of this interview.



1. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “Toward a Nuclear-Free World,” The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13. Both essays can be read on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Web site at www.nti.org/c_press/c3_opeds.html.

2. The general concept of a nuclear fuel bank is to establish a reserve of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes that can be made available to those states forgoing the development of full national nuclear fuel cycles. For more information on the NTI initiative and other fuel bank proposals, see Oliver Meier, “News Analysis: The Growing Nuclear Fuel Cycle Debate,” Arms Control Today, November 2006, pp. 40-44.

3. Highly enriched uranium can be used to build nuclear weapons. Low-enriched uranium cannot be used for that purpose.

4. A fissile material cutoff entails ceasing the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes. Both these fissile materials have been used in nuclear arms.

5. Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligates its states-parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

6. Uranium-enrichment facilities can be used to produce low-enriched uranium to fuel power reactors and highly enriched uranium to build nuclear weapons.

7. Established by legislation passed in 1991, the U.S. Nunn-Lugar program has funded activities in Russia, other states of the former Soviet Union, and additional countries, such as Albania, to secure and dispose of excess or outlawed biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and materials, as well as delivery vehicles.

8. An ongoing debate about the actual alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons flared up last fall when New Zealand sponsored a UN resolution calling on nuclear-armed states to remove their nuclear weapons from high alert. Wade Boese, “Nuclear Weapons Alert Status Debated,” Arms Control Today, December 2007, p. 44.

9. The United States maintains it did not renege on its proposals to ease Russian concerns about plans to deploy 10 strategic anti-missile interceptors in Poland and an associated radar in the Czech Republic. Wade Boese, “Europe Anti-Missile Plan Faces Hard Sell,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2008, p. 47.

10. The Bush administration claims that its proposed European-based anti-missile system is to defend against a growing Iranian ballistic missile threat.

11. SORT did not include any verification measures. In his June 2002 letter transmitting the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, President George W. Bush stated, “It is important for there to be sufficient openness so that the United States and Russia can each be confident that the other is fulfilling its reductions commitment. The Parties will use the comprehensive verification regime of [START] to provide the foundation for confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions.”

12. NATO launched the Partnership for Peace program in 1994 to enable nonmember countries to pursue bilateral cooperation on a variety of military and political issues with the alliance.

13. In a June 2002 summit at Kananaskis, Canada, the Group of Eight members (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) pledged to raise up to $20 billion over 10 years to help secure and eliminate biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. Paul F. Walker, “Kananaskis at Five: Assessing the Global Partnership,” Arms Control Today, September 2007, p. 47.

14. Russia plans to establish a multinational uranium-enrichment facility in the Siberian city of Angarsk.

Transforming U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

Daryl G. Kimball

Effecting change in Washington, and nuclear weapons policy in particular, is exceedingly difficult, requiring strong presidential leadership and a working bipartisan majority. Yet, recent congressional actions and trends will give the next occupant of the White House a rare opportunity to initiate sweeping changes in outdated U.S. nuclear weapons and arms control policies.

Congress in December struck down the Bush administration’s ill-conceived plan for new “replacement” nuclear warheads and an additional plutonium pit production facility to help build them. Although President George W. Bush may try to revive these projects and insist that the nuclear arsenal is as small as possible, there is growing support and a strong security rationale for fewer, not newer, nuclear weapons.

Rejecting administration arguments for new replacement warheads, appropriators led by Reps. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and others denied the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) $89 million request for the program. In a July 2007 paper, the administration claimed the delays in the replacement warhead program would “raise the prospect of having to return to underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons.”

In an August letter, Visclosky and Hobson shot back, saying “[i]t is irresponsible for the administration to make such an assertion.” They correctly noted that that “there is no record of congressional testimony or reports sent to Congress by the Administration claiming…that a resumption of testing to verify the performance of warheads would be a necessity.” Indeed, the latest studies on warhead aging show that weapons plutonium lasts for 80 or more years without significant degradation.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino acknowledged he was “concerned…about some misunderstandings…about our views on the possible need for nuclear testing.” In a December letter to Congress, he wrote, “Let there be no doubt: today’s nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable and has not required post-deployment nuclear testing to date, nor is nuclear testing currently anticipated or planned.”

Bottom line: The existing Stockpile Stewardship Program works. Through regular surveillance and periodic upgrades of the conventional explosives and non-nuclear components, the weapons labs can reliably maintain a smaller U.S. arsenal under the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which should be reconsidered by the Senate and ratified in the next presidential administration.

Reflecting bipartisan frustration with Bush’s nuclear policies, Congress also mandated a top-to-bottom review of the role and size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal by the end of 2009. This represents an opportunity that the next president must not squander.

Previous Bush and Clinton administration nuclear posture reviews fell woefully short. Each version only slightly modified previous Cold War targeting plans and policies. As a result, the number of deployed nuclear weapons were trimmed, but the force is still enormous. The 1994 nuclear posture review endorsed a force reduction from 3,500 deployed strategic warheads to 2,500. Bush’s 2001 review called for a force of 1,700-2,200 such warheads by 2012.

Breaking with past policy, the Bush administration also embraced the idea that the U.S. arsenal should not be governed by any new treaty-mandated timetables and verification arrangements. The emphasis on flexibility has lessened predictability and increased Russia’s sense of vulnerability, adding to U.S.-Russian friction on a range of arms-related issues.

Washington’s reluctance to pursue deeper reductions, definitively end new warhead production, and ratify the CTBT has also eroded confidence that the nuclear-weapon states intend to fulfill their nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments to take concrete steps toward disarmament. This has complicated efforts to repair the beleaguered nonproliferation system.

These policies can and must change. The current U.S. nuclear posture does not match the post-September 11 threat environment in which nuclear weapons are a greater security liability than an asset. The next administration must recognize that there is no plausible threat scenario that justifies the possession of more than a few hundred nuclear warheads, let alone 2,200. New nuclear weapons are unnecessary and provocative. The United States should not be threatening terrorists or non-nuclear-weapon states with nuclear weapons, but rather should be doing all it can to keep nuclear weapons material and technology out of their hands.

Early on, the next president must begin work with Russia to negotiate a new treaty that locks in far deeper, verifiable reductions in each nation’s nuclear and missile forces before START expires at the end of 2009. As Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said last October, “[T]he administration must reject the arguments from some that suggest the U.S.-Russian relationship has moved beyond the need for legally binding treaties.”

These and other developments open the way for the next president to pursue a new approach to nuclear weapons policy and restore U.S. global leadership that is needed to win support from other states to bolster nonproliferation efforts and eliminate the nuclear weapons threat.

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Effecting change in Washington, and nuclear weapons policy in particular, is exceedingly difficult, requiring strong presidential leadership and a working bipartisan majority. Yet, recent congressional actions and trends will give the next occupant of the White House a rare opportunity to initiate sweeping changes in outdated U.S. nuclear weapons and arms control policies.

Congress in December struck down the Bush administration’s ill-conceived plan for new “replacement” nuclear warheads and an additional plutonium pit production facility to help build them. Although President George W. Bush may try to revive these projects and insist that the nuclear arsenal is as small as possible, there is growing support and a strong security rationale for fewer, not newer, nuclear weapons. (Continue)


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