I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Strategic Policy

Nuclear Weapons Alert Status Debated

Wade Boese

At an annual United Nations meeting, a nonbinding resolution calling on nuclear-armed states to lessen the alert level of those weapons recently won the support of 124 countries despite British, French, and U.S. opposition. It also prompted further debate inside the United States about how quickly its nuclear weapons are primed for use.

New Zealand conceived of the recent measure and partnered with Chile, Nigeria, Sweden, and Switzerland to introduce the resolution Oct. 17 to the UN First Committee, which is the body where governments debate and vote on international arms control and disarmament proposals. That resolution calls for “further practical steps to decrease the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems, with a view to ensuring that all nuclear weapons are removed from high alert status.”

Two nuclear-weapon possessors, India and Pakistan, joined the majority of countries approving the resolution Nov. 1 over the three no votes of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. China, which has nuclear weapons, and Israel, which is generally suspected of having such arms, abstained from the vote along with 32 other countries. Nuclear-armed Russia and North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test last year, did not vote.

Phil Goff, New Zealand’s disarmament and arms control minister, declared after the vote that it should serve as a “wake-up call” to those with nuclear arsenals. Goff, who doubles as defense minister, warned that, with nuclear weapons ready to fire in minutes, “little time exists for dialogue to avoid” a nuclear war “sparked by accident or technical malfunction as well as by a deliberate act.”

In explaining the U.S. vote, Ambassador Christina Rocca, permanent U.S. representative to the 65-member Conference on Disarmament, delivered a statement contesting the resolution’s premise that current U.S. weapons-alert status magnifies the risk of nuclear weapons use. Notwithstanding a well-publicized August incident of the unauthorized transportation of six nuclear-armed cruise missiles by the Air Force (see ACT, November 2007 ), Rocca noted that for ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) there are “multiple, rigorous procedural and technical safeguards to guard against accidental and unauthorized launch.” She also declared that the United States “does not rely on launch-on-warning” although the resolution did not specifically assert that to be the case.

The United States foreshadowed its no vote the previous month after previewing a draft version of the New Zealand resolution. Rocca delivered an Oct. 9 address criticizing “hair-trigger alert” as a description of the U.S. nuclear force posture. She asserted that U.S. nuclear forces “are not and have never been on ‘hair-trigger alert’” and are “postured to provide the president with maximum decision time and flexibility.” In the final draft, New Zealand substituted the phrase “high alert status.”

In a Nov. 6 paper responding to Rocca’s speech, Bruce Blair, a former U.S. Air Force ICBM launch control officer and current president of the independent World Security Institute, argued in effect that New Zealand was initially correct. He wrote that the “nuclear war machinery has a hair-trigger quality” that stems from U.S. and Soviet Cold War calculations that their nuclear forces had to be ready to fire so they could not be wiped out before possible use. Consequently, Blair argued, the forces were and remain configured to “launch on warning—firing friendly forces en masse before the anticipated arrival of incoming enemy missiles with flight times of 12 to 30 minutes.”

Blair further disputed the claim that procedures and safeguards exist to ensure that nuclear weapons are not employed in haste. He contended U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs can be fired in one to two minutes while SLBMs can be launched out of their tubes in 12 minutes. A dozen minutes or less, Blair calculated, is how much time the president would typically have to decide on using nuclear weapons if a suspected incoming missile attack was detected. All told, Blair concluded, “the U.S. posture is still geared for firing thousands of weapons within a few minutes of pressure-packed, checklist-driven deliberation and a few minutes of intense implementation in the field.”

Lieutenant Denver Applehans, a spokesperson for Strategic Command, which is in charge of deployed U.S. nuclear weapons, stated in a Nov. 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today that it is incorrect to say that “thousands of weapons” are primed to fire on short notice. Instead, he explained that the only forces kept “on day-to-day alert” are 450 Minuteman III ICBMs and “a small number” of nuclear-armed submarines. In 1991, the United States removed all strategic bombers from alert.

As part of the current posture, Applehans noted that the “ICBM force could be launched prior to impact, but only if the president were to direct such an action.” He said maintaining the ICBMs to deliver a “rapid response” is “an important aspect of our deterrent because it complicates an opponent’s pre-emptive strike planning.” All told, he said the U.S. posture “has evolved since the end of the Cold War.”

In a Nov. 13 interview with Arms Control Today, retired General Eugene Habiger, a former head of Strategic Command, said that an accurate characterization of the current U.S. nuclear posture is that it is “a continuation of the Cold War alert status, which was not hair-trigger.” He contended “hair-trigger” conjures up the notion of a system set to go off with just a little pressure, while U.S. forces are subject to a “very deliberate process” before use.

Almost all nuclear arms possessors strictly cloak their postures in secrecy. The United Kingdom has been most open, declaring that, under normal circumstances, its nuclear weapons require “several days’ ‘notice to fire.’” Russia is perceived to keep its weapons on an alert status similar to that of the United States, while French, Indian, and Israeli policy is uncertain. China and Pakistan are generally thought to store nuclear warheads separately from delivery vehicles.

At a once-every-five-years review conference of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2000, the treaty’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) announced that their nuclear weapons were not targeted at any state. They also agreed in that conference’s final document to pursue “concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems.”

Since that conference, there have been other high profile calls on nuclear-armed states to change their nuclear postures. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s 2004 high-level panel on security challenges called for “where appropriate, a progressive schedule for de-alerting,” and another panel of experts led by former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix urged the United States and Russia to “agree on reciprocal steps to take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.”

Most recently, two former U.S. secretaries of state, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, joined with former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) to endorse “changing the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning time.” The quartet included this as one element of a broader agenda toward nuclear disarmament that they outlined Jan. 4 in The Wall Street Journal.

Prior to them, however, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush said on May 23, 2000, that the United States “should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status—another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation.”

A full copy of Strategic Command’s e-mail response to Arms Control Today’s questions on the alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons is available at www.armscontrol.org/interviews/ .

NEWS ANALYSIS: The 2008 Presidential Primaries and Arms Control

Zachary Hosford

For more than a year, the 2008 presidential candidates have been traveling the country, giving speeches, writing articles, participating in debates, and shaking hands in anticipation of primaries and caucuses that are set to begin in January. Although health care reform, the state of the national economy, and the Iraq war have dominated the headlines throughout the campaign, the contenders have engaged in heated discussions on a number of arms control and nonproliferation issues.

Continuing a trend that began in the wake of the Cold War, the political discourse has tended to emphasize terrorism and threats involving rogue states more than traditional arms control issues. The discussion of the terrorist threat primarily focuses on the possibility of nuclear or radiological terrorism, with candidates scarcely mentioning the chance that nonstate actors might use chemical or biological weapons.

Still, there has been plenty of conversation on more familiar arms control subjects, including international treaties, ballistic missile defense, and the status of the country’s nuclear arsenal. Throughout the campaign, one noticeable distinction among the candidates has been the amount of emphasis they place on either unilateral or multilateral solutions, with Republicans typically endorsing the former course and Democrats generally expressing greater interest in international cooperation.

This overview does not attempt to describe the position of every candidate on every issue but will provide a sense of the range of views on the most important issues, drawing statements from recent speeches, press releases, debates, and candidate websites.


No arms control issue has received more attention than how the United States should respond to Iran’s nuclear program. Although strategies differ significantly among the candidates, the consensus on both sides of the aisle is that the next administration should not allow Iran to create a nuclear weapon.

Most Democratic candidates favor a strategy of increased engagement to achieve this goal, criticizing the Bush administration’s unwillingness to participate in direct dialogue with Tehran. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have at times advocated negotiations with Iran’s leaders without any preconditions, although Obama’s campaign has backed off somewhat from that statement. The Bush administration has said it is only willing to negotiate with Iran after it is has suspended its uranium enrichment and heavy-water reactor programs, which can be used either for peaceful or military purposes.

In a June debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) emphasized that the United States “always talked” to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, endorsing direct but conditional, mid-level discussions with Iran. Clinton ruled out presidential-level negotiations.

Similarly, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ website notes that he has advocated negotiations with Iranian leaders “who have met a number of criteria,” including a commitment to diplomacy and recognition both of international law and the state of Israel. In a June debate, he indicated a willingness to reward Iran with economic incentives and nuclear fuel supplies controlled by the international community but threatened to punish the country with increased sanctions if it did not cooperate.

Republican candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has endorsed implementing progressively more restrictive economic sanctions against Iran, saying in a February speech that he prefers a policy of “diplomatic isolation” that would treat Ahmadinejad like a “rogue.” Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) has criticized the efficacy of the international community’s past negotiations with Iran, urging the United States to impose sanctions through the UN Security Council, taking unilateral steps only if cooperative measures fail. Among his proposals is the suspension of Tehran’s World Bank funding.

The majority of candidates from each party would not rule out the eventual use of military force, but some have been more willing than others to discuss a potential attack. In a June Republican debate, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, despite predicting that conventional weapons could potentially disable Iranian nuclear facilities, said he would not preclude the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Likewise, Clinton asserted in a Foreign Affairs article that “all options must remain on the table.”

By contrast, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel (D) described such an approach as “immoral” in an April Democratic debate. Similarly, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson promised in an August Democratic debate to implement a no-first-use policy with regard to nuclear weapons and has argued that threats of military force against Iran are counterproductive.


In an October debate, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) admonished his fellow Democrats for paying more attention to Iran than Pakistan, warning that Pakistan could pose a greater threat to the United States. Pakistan, he said, already possesses large quantities of highly enriched uranium, a material used to produce nuclear weapons, while Iran is believed to be at least several years away from being able to construct such a device. The threat is compounded by the recent turmoil within the Pakistani government, prompting fears that the country’s nuclear arsenal could fall into the wrong hands (see pages 11-17 ).

Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, unimpressed with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s record on fighting terrorism, implores the United States on his website to “get tough” with the Pakistani leader. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), however, cautioned in an August debate that Musharraf is “the only person that separates us from a jihadist government in Pakistan with nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear Terrorism

Concerns over Iran and Pakistan have renewed focus on how to prevent nuclear terrorism. Although all of the candidates have underscored the importance of this issue, some have concentrated more on the need to support and expand international threat reduction programs, while others tended to focus on governmental restructuring and domestic proposals.

Richardson, who served as secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, has said in answering a survey from the nonprofit Council for a Livable World that there is a need for improved performance by threat reduction programs. He praised the “successful” Global Threat Reduction Initiative, a Department of Energy program to remove and secure “high-risk nuclear and radiological materials and equipment around the world,” although he acknowledged that “huge security gaps still remain.”

Richardson also lauded the Bush administration for the Proliferation Security Initiative, a global program dedicated to interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction, but he criticized the administration for not spending the $200 million allotted to the Energy Department’s Material Protection, Control and Accounting program, a security-upgrade initiative to protect Russian nuclear warheads and weapons-grade fissile material. Edwards also joined in the criticism, promising to boost spending on cooperative threat reduction programs, something he says currently amounts to less than 1 percent of the total defense budget. Obama won Senate passage of legislation calling for the President to submit to Congress a comprehensive plan for ensuring that all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material at vulnerable sites around the world are secure by 2012 from terrorists.

Romney, however, is promoting international cooperation in a different way. In a speech at Yeshiva University, he advocated developing a “new body of international law” that would make nuclear trafficking a crime against humanity, on par with genocide. His plan would allow for “universal jurisdiction” so that “charges can be brought up at any court, to help prevent traffickers from hiding in complicit or weak countries.”

On the domestic front, Clinton and Romney have each proposed plans to create a high-ranking position specifically dedicated to preventing nuclear terrorism. Edwards says he would improve efforts by increasing governmental efficiency, singling out various redundancies within the system.

Taking a slightly different tack, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) proposed in an August debate that the United States attempt to deter an act of nuclear terrorism by threatening to bomb Islam’s holiest sites.

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle and the NPT

There exists widespread rhetorical support for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but several candidates have said there is a need to revisit it in light of new geopolitical realities. Much of the discussion has involved the proposed creation of an international fuel bank, which would make fuel for peaceful purposes available to non-nuclear-weapon states, thereby perhaps diminishing the need for those states to establish enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing programs of their own.

Obama has introduced legislation authorizing $50 million to start an international nuclear fuel bank under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Both Clinton and Romney have emphasized low nuclear fuel cost as a critical facet of such a plan. In an article in Foreign Affairs, Clinton proposed a “supplement” to the NPT, designed to constrain the number of countries “that pose proliferation risks,” and would guarantee “secure access” at “reasonable prices.” Romney has called for the United States to “take the lead” in the initiative but to provide fuel only to those countries “willing to abide by very high standards for safety and security.”

Edwards wrote in Foreign Affairs that, within six months of taking office, he would create a Global Nuclear Compact to “bolster” the NPT by closing any “loopholes” through which rogue states might attempt either to misuse nuclear facilities or divert material to illicit weapons programs. Obama supports a provision in the treaty that would automatically trigger “strong international sanctions” against countries found to be in violation of their obligations.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the few Republicans to specifically address the NPT, would make larger changes than those proposed by the Democrats. In particular, he said in Foreign Affairs that he opposes Article IV of the treaty, in which nuclear states agree to assist the “exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information” for peaceful purposes to other states, especially to non-nuclear-weapon ones.

McCain disputes the assumption that nuclear technology can spread without subsequent proliferation of nuclear weapons programs and would revisit the basic concept that non-nuclear-weapon states “have a right to nuclear technology.”

McCain also endorses reversing the “burden of proof” for states suspected to be in violation of the treaty, with “an automatic suspension of nuclear assistance to states that the agency cannot guarantee are in full compliance with safeguard agreements.” In addition, McCain says he would “substantially” increase the IAEA’s annual budget to improve its ability to fulfill its monitoring and safeguarding duties.

National Missile Defense

The candidates generally divide along party lines on the issue of long-range ballistic missile defense. Implicitly or explicitly, the debate involves the concept of deterrence. Some Democrats argue that the Cold War tenet still applies to today’s geopolitical situation, while the leading Republicans are convinced that a nuclear-armed, ballistic missile-capable Iran cannot be deterred as the Soviet Union may have been.

Perhaps the most vocal of the unilateral missile defense supporters has been McCain. Regarding Russian opposition to the proposed interceptor and radar sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively, McCain said in an October debate that he would support implementation “first thing…and I don’t care what [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] objections are to it.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) responded to McCain’s comments by taking a more conciliatory approach. He said that the United States should accept Russia’s offer of collaboration on a sea-based missile defense program. Specifically, Hunter proposed positioning of Aegis missile defense cruisers in the Black Sea to thwart a potential Iranian missile launch.

 Giuliani has urged the United States to “press ahead” with a national missile defense system, saying Iran will pose an even more significant threat once its nascent nuclear weapons program is mated to a ballistic missile program.

He accused Democratic candidates of mischaracterizing the nature of the threat, stating that the country can “no longer rely on Cold War doctrines such as mutual assured destruction in the face of threats from hostile, unstable regimes.”

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has dismissed the notion that Iran requires a new approach, calling the system “unnecessary.”

In a May speech, Edwards pledged to thoroughly review defense spending, including the national missile defense program, which he labeled as “costly” and “unlikely to work.” Richardson, who describes the system as “failing,” promised in a press release to save $8 billion by significantly “scaling back” the program if elected president.

The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

Addressing the size and nature of the U.S. nuclear arsenal does not seem to be high on Republican candidates’ list of priorities. By contrast, many Democrats have aligned themselves with the authors of a January Wall Street Journal opinion article—former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.)—in supporting a reduction in the nuclear stockpile. There is, however, some disagreement among Democrats on how to implement such reductions without jeopardizing national security.

Many Democrats have called for the resumption of bilateral arms control negotiations with Russia, with Richardson in a press release supporting an arsenal reduction to no more than 1,000 missiles and 600 deployed warheads, enough to maintain “an ample nuclear deterrent against any foreseeable threat.” Others avoided proposing specific figures, although Edwards and Obama have not shied away from mentioning disarmament as the ultimate goal. Obama acknowledged in a speech at DePaul University that the process will be a “long road,” and Edwards says that disarmament is the only way to address the international community’s inability to stem nuclear proliferation under the current system.

Discussion of the U.S. arsenal also included debate over the merits of producing a new generation of nuclear weapons, particularly their potential effect on halting the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. Several Democratic candidates have argued that programs such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) would have a negative effect, while others maintained that hostile states would continue to pursue nuclear weapons programs regardless of any decision by the United States to construct new warheads.

Clinton, who said that constructing new nuclear weapons would have no effect on states such as North Korea and Iran, vociferously opposes the RRW program. She criticizes the Bush administration in the Council for a Livable World survey for “planning to rush ahead with new nuclear weapons without any considered assessment” of their potential impact on global nonproliferation efforts.

Biden also stated that he would scrap the RRW program, although he left the door open for a new weapons design in the future. Obama takes a softer tone as well, calling the decision to proceed with the RRW program “premature” but declining to reject it completely. Richardson has proposed cutting the RRW and other new nuclear weapons programs, which by his calculations would save a total of $5 billion.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits all nuclear explosions, has drawn little attention from the Republicans but widespread support from the Democratic candidates, who often associate U.S. refusal to ratify the treaty with a perceived decline in global nonproliferation leadership.

Both Richardson and Clinton are strongly critical of the Bush administration’s “unilateralist” stance regarding the treaty, with the latter, in the Council for a Livable World survey, accusing the administration of weakening U.S. national security. Edwards, in the same survey, endorsed the CTBT’s ratification, citing its potential positive effects on the nuclear weapons policies of countries such as India and Pakistan. In a Foreign Affairs article, Obama urged the United States to ratify the treaty given “recent technological advances” in verification and called for the United States to pay its full contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in the meantime.

Although positions have been taken for the primaries, they may change once the parties have chosen their respective nominees. Moreover, the course of events involving Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan, as well as unpredictable terrorist activities, could play a significant role in shaping the landscape to which all of the candidates will have to adjust.

Text of Nov. 28 E-mail from Strategic Command responding to ACT's questions on the alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons



November 2007

Q1) If "hair-trigger alert" and "launch-on-warning" are incorrect terms for describing the status of US forces on alert, what is the proper term?

A1) U.S. nuclear forces are not on “hair trigger” alert. The term “hair trigger” ignores the safeguards, deliberate actions, and procedures required in order to employ nuclear weapons. The U.S. nuclear force posture has evolved since the end of the Cold War. Only a portion of the operationally deployed U.S. nuclear forces is maintained on a ready alert status. No strategic bombers, 450 Minuteman III IBCMs, and a small number of SSBNs at sea are on alert at any given time.

U.S. policy is not to rely on a "launch on warning" strategy. U.S. strategic forces are postured to provide maximum flexibility so the U.S. is not faced with a “use or lose” dilemma. A major strike on the U.S. would be required to eliminate the responsive ICBM capability. The ICBM force could be launched prior to impact, but only if the President were to direct such an action. In addition, should the ICBM force not be able to respond, the U.S. SSBNs at sea could deliver an overwhelming response if directed by the President.

Should the international security situation call for it, the U.S. could bring its nuclear forces to a higher state of readiness (i.e., “generated alert”), putting a larger portion of its submarines to sea and returning heavy bombers to alert, to increase their survivability.

Q2) The US government has made statements to the effect of as long as
nuclear weapons exist it is necessary for us to keep some portion of our forces at some level of alert. What is the proper description or term for that "level of alert?"

A2) See answer 1. A portion of U.S. nuclear forces are on day-to-day alert. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the U.S. has reduced dramatically both the overall number of nuclear weapons and nuclear systems maintained on day-to-day alert. To ensure deterrence, U.S. nuclear forces must be postured such that, under any credible scenario, a sufficient number of nuclear weapons would survive to respond to an aggressor’s attempt to carry out a disabling attack on the U.S. The proper term would be “on day-to-day alert”.

Q3) The US government statement also noted that US forces have evolved away from "rapid reaction high alert levels." Is that the proper term to describe the alert status of some US nuclear weapons systems today?

A3) The U.S. nuclear force posture has evolved since the end of the Cold War. Only a small portion of our SSBNs and the 450 Minuteman III ICBMs remain on day-to-day alert. Nuclear capable bombers have been removed from alert status, but could be re-postured in a national crisis and additional SSBNs could be generated to alert status.

Q4) Has the US completely stopped this previous practice of "rapid reaction high alert?"

A4) See answer 3.

Q5) What measures marked this shift? What steps were taken that no longer classifies or makes US weapons as on "rapid reaction high alert?"

A5) Under the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, all nuclear bombers were removed from alert. Only the Minuteman III ICBM and a small portion of our SSBN force remain on day-to-day alert and neither force is targeted against any country. All 50 Peacekeeper ICBMs, 50 Minutemen III ICBMs, the B-1 Bomber fleet, and four SSBNs have been deactivated or removed from strategic service.

Q6) The USG statement further said that "few of the operationally deployed US nuclear forces are maintained on a ready alert status." What is meant by the term few?

A6) Only the Minuteman III ICBM force and a small number of SSBNs are on day-to-day alert.

Q7) Independent nongovernmental analysts say that regardless of what the alert status is called, the reality is that some US nuclear weapons are capable of being fired in "minutes." Is that assertion accurate?

A7) The United States maintains the ability to launch its nuclear weapons in a timely basis as directed by the President. Minuteman III ICBMs are designed to be capable of delivering a rapid response prior to being struck by an adversary’s ballistic missile force. This is an important aspect of our deterrent because it complicates an opponents’ pre-emptive strike planning. However, the fundamental fact is that U.S. forces are postured such that the President is not confronted with a “use or lose” situation in that other strategic forces could be directed to respond to an attack. See answer 1.

Q8) In a Nov. 6 paper, nongovernmental analyst Bruce Blair wrote, "the fact remains that the US posture is still geared for firing thousands of weapons with a few minutes." Is that an accurate statement?

A8) No, this is not true. Under the Moscow Treaty, the U.S. will have only 1700-2200 operationally deployed nuclear weapons. The U.S. is well on its way to achieving this limit. Only a portion of these are on day-to-day alert.

Q9) Now that the Soviet Union is gone and the United States says Russia is no longer an enemy, why is it necessary for the US to keep some of its forces on alert for possible launch in minutes?

A9) The security environment of the 21st century is dramatically different from the East-West rivalry of the Cold War era, but the goals of U.S. security policy remain much the same: to strengthen deterrence and limit risks that could result in serious -even catastrophic- damage to the United States, its allies, and friends. Nuclear capabilities continue to play an important role by providing options to deter a wide range of threats, including the use of WMD by a variety of adversaries. These capabilities also contribute to our non-proliferation goals by assuring allies and friends that the U.S. will be able to fulfill its security commitments, thereby negating any need to develop their own nuclear weapons.

“De-alerting” strategic forces raises other unique concerns, related to the safety and the credibility of the deterrent force. Additionally, the generation of nuclear forces during a crisis, when none had been on alert, could cause an already tense situation to be come unstable.

Q10) What measures does the US have in place to prevent nuclear weapons from unintentional or accidental use?

A10) There are multiple, rigorous technical and procedural safeguards to protect against accidental or unauthorized launch.

These safeguards include positive measures such as weapon design features, safety rules, procedures (including two-man rule), accident prevention or mitigation measures, and other controls. Such controls include physical security and coded control systems, which are used collectively or individually to enhance safety and to reduce the likelihood, severity, or consequences of an accident, unauthorized actions, or deliberate destructive actions.

Subject Resources:

Report Urges U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile and Posture Overhaul



Media Advisory

For Immediate Release: November 8, 2007
Press Contacts: Sidney D. Drell, (650) 926-2664; James E. Goodby, (650) 725-8560; and Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.): The independent Arms Control Association (ACA) today released a report that concludes ambitious nuclear weapons reductions by the United States would help lessen distrust with Russia and aid global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear arms. Such cuts could be implemented without imperiling U.S. security, argue the report’s authors, who recommend a total U.S. force of 1,000 nuclear warheads in 2012. Current U.S. plans envision at that time a stockpile between 5,000 to 6,000 nuclear warheads. Drell and Goodby also say that “each of the dejure and de facto nuclear-weapon states will have to be involved in some fashion in the effort to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in international security relations.”

The report, What Are Nuclear Weapons For? Recommendations for Restructuring U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces, is a revised and updated version of the original 2005 edition. Stanford physicist Sidney D. Drell and Ambassador James E. Goodby co-wrote the initial report and updated it.

“The conclusions and recommendations of this report have grown in importance due to developments since its initial release,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the association, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization.

Kimball pointed to souring relations and escalating tensions between the United States and Russia as a key factor meriting a fresh look at the report. Moscow charges the United States is seeking to gain strategic superiority by deploying to Europe what could be the first of many strategic anti-missile interceptors capable of countering Russian ballistic missiles. Russian concerns are further aggravated by the fact that the Bush administration is opposed to codifying lower nuclear force levels in a successor arrangement to the 1991 START nuclear reductions accord, which is set to expire December 5, 2009.

Drell and Goodby argue in the updated report for a different course than that of the Bush administration. “Given the up-and-down history of the U.S.-Russian relationship, it would be prudent to pursue further verifiable reductions in operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems through new legally binding arrangements,” they state. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agrees with this approach, declaring recently that he hoped “the [Bush] administration will ultimately abandon anxieties about legally binding commitments.”

Drell and Goodby maintain that keeping thousands of nuclear warheads serves no useful purpose, contending “yesterday’s [nuclear] doctrines are no longer appropriate for today’s realities.” Accordingly, they urge adjusting the nuclear stockpile and its attendant doctrines “to minimize the salience of nuclear weapons and to ensure that they are truly weapons of last choice.” Echoing a call early this year by former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Senator Sam Nunn, and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the ACA report authors declare, “a world without nuclear weapons should be the ultimate goal.”

The full report is online at <http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/20071104_Drell_Goodby_07_new.pdf>

More information on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces and negotiations can be found at <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/usnw>.        

Media Advisory

Subject Resources:

In Memoriam: Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky

Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr.

With the passing of Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky—“Pief” to his many friends—the world has lost not only an internationally acclaimed scientist but also a dedicated leader of the effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war through arms control. Although many members of the scientific community were outspoken in their profound concern about the consequences of nuclear war, Pief was one of the few senior scientists who devoted a significant portion of his intellectual efforts to the difficult technical issues related to achieving reliable control and reduction of nuclear weapons.

Pief grew up in Hamburg, Germany, until his family emigrated to the United States after his father, a distinguished art historian, was fired from his professorship by Hitler’s edict barring Jews from teaching. After graduating as valedictorian from Princeton University and receiving a Ph.D. from Cal Tech, Pief began work with the Manhattan Project even before he received his U.S. citizenship. One of his contributions to that effort was designing the instrumentation that determined the yield of the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

In scientific circles, Pief is best known for his tireless and imaginative leadership beginning in 1961 in the construction and operation of the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC). It was designed to accelerate electrons to extremely high velocities and bombard other elementary particles in order to determine the fundamental constituents of the nucleus from the resulting interactions. In completing the gigantic two-mile-long device in 1966 on time and unprecedentedly under budget, he demonstrated his remarkable managerial and problem-solving skills. When no U.S. company would meet his quality specifications of a critical component required in large quantities, he solved the problem by creating his own production line and manufacturing the components on-site. His early, successful completion of SLAC made possible three Nobel Prize winners and advanced the careers of hundreds of future physicists.

Despite his heavy responsibilities in the planning, construction, and direction of SLAC, Pief began his half-century-long engagement with issues of national security and arms control by playing a key role with President Dwight Eisenhower’s science advisers, James Killian and then George Kistiakowski. The first time I met Pief was during the negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty, when in 1959 he headed the U.S. delegation to an ad hoc working group on the detection of nuclear tests in outer space.

The working group was convened hurriedly because U.S. critics of the future treaty were arguing that clandestine tests could be conducted in outer space and even behind the moon, scenarios that the 1958 report of an experts group on the monitoring of nuclear weapons tests did not address. Although there was agreement as to the amounts of radiation associated with such tests, the working group deadlocked over the distances at which the tests could be detected. The leader of the Soviet delegation, Yevgeny Federov, a scientist with close Communist Party connections, opposed including any estimates on the limits of detection, apparently based on Marxist/Leninist ideological grounds that human capabilities are potentially unlimited. Pief, however, firmly opposed such an unscientific conclusion and eventually found language regarding capabilities on which everyone could agree. For nearly half a century, Pief continued to champion a comprehensive test ban as important to U.S. security and refuted on technical grounds repeated arguments against it by the weapons laboratories and their supporters.

Pief was also at the center of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) debate, which engaged every president from Eisenhower to George W. Bush. As a member of the Presidents Science Advisory Committee and thereafter, he raised technical issues regarding the feasibility of various versions of the system and the effect that deployment of such systems would have on the nuclear arms race. He was a strong supporter of the ABM Treaty negotiated under President Richard Nixon. He was also in the vanguard of the large body of physicists who denounced as technically absurd President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which aimed to provide an impervious shield that would make nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” As that grand vision of SDI gradually deflated over the following 25 years, Pief was a constant critic of the still-inflated claims surrounding the remnants of SDI.

With the fading of the collective memory of Hiroshima and the subsequent thousand-fold increase in the yield of individual nuclear weapons, Pief grew increasingly concerned that policymakers would again come to consider nuclear weapons as acceptable instruments of warfare. As a problem-solver, he saw arms control, including drastic reductions of existing stockpiles and strict nuclear nonproliferation, as the best insurance policy against resumed interest in using nuclear weapons. In 1981, I had the honor of co-authoring with Pief an article in the Winter 1981/82 issue of Foreign Affairs, “MAD versus NUTS.” We argued that the often-maligned term “Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD)” accurately described reality and that nuclear weapons should only exist to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others. Hence, if this strategy succeeded, nuclear weapons would never be used. It was clearly far superior to NUTS (Nuclear Utilization Target Selection), which reflected strategies actively advocated at that time to legitimize nuclear weapons for battlefield use, an act that would almost certainly escalate to general nuclear war.

As chairman and member of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) of the National Academy of Sciences, Pief was the moving spirit in a series of studies that advocated formal international treaties establishing deep reductions in nuclear stockpiles with the goal of an ultimate prohibition of nuclear weapons. Recognizing that convincing verification would be necessary to obtain support for deep reductions, he also played a major role in the 2005 CISAC study “Monitoring Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Explosive Materials,” which explored techniques that could be used to verify a deep reductions regime. Shortly before his death, Pief wrote an important article published in the September/October 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs entitled “Nuclear Insecurity.” The piece challenged recent increased political support for legitimizing pre-emptive war, increased talk of using nuclear weapons, and assertions by some analysts that the United States would soon be in a position to conduct a pre-emptive, disarming nuclear strike against Russia without fear of nuclear retaliation. Looking forward, Pief again called for drastic verified reductions in nuclear stockpiles leading to the eventual prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Pief sought throughout his career to engage the international scientific community in efforts to control nuclear weapons. Through CISAC and his other activities, he had extensive contacts with senior scientists in the Soviet Union, then Russia, and China; through the Amaldi conferences, he sought to energize the European scientific community to become more engaged in the security and arms control policies of their governments. Evidence that his achievements and policy efforts were widely recognized and appreciated was his election as a foreign member of the Academies of Sciences of China, France, Italy, and Russia. In China, his integrity and wisdom were so highly regarded that he was designated by formal agreement as the reviewer of the Chinese high-energy physics program. In the last few years, he also worked with a small group of U.S. scientists to initiate a dialogue with Iranian scientists on the Iranian nuclear program.

In all his long, busy life, Pief never lost the common touch and a delightful sense of humor, often directed at himself and never at the expense of others. He treated subordinates with the same genuine respect and interest that he showed distinguished peers. He took a special delight in his family, proudly showing a picture of his wife Adele, five children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which he described as the “Panofsky Fast-breeder.” Somehow in the midst of all this activity, Pief and Adele, who celebrated their 65th anniversary earlier this year, found time and energy for yearly private, week-long expeditions to Death Valley and Baja California.

Pief was a truly wise, talented, and caring individual whose life was filled with major accomplishments and an abiding passion to help ensure that the world would survive so that others could enjoy it too.

Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr. first worked in the Office of the President in 1956 when he served on the staff of the Gaither Committee. Subsequently, he served as a technical assistant to the president’s science adviser under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson and concurrently as a senior member of the National Security Council staff under Kennedy and Johnson. Under Presidents Nixon and Carter, he served as assistant director and then deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was executive director and president of the Arms Control Association from 1985 to 2001.

What Are Nuclear Weapons For? Recommendations For Restructuring U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces

Updated October 2007

By Sidney D. Drell and James E. Goodby

The U.S. and Russia have agreed to cooperatively reduce their large nuclear stockpiles. The report recommends that the U.S. reduce its arsenal to 500 operational deployed warheads, with 500 warheads in a responsive force, by 2012. These reductions would be made in concert with Russian warhead reductions. The authors specifically outline where and how the remaining warheads should be deployed.

Avoiding Renewed U.S.-Russian Strategic Competition



Arms Control Association Press Briefing
Monday, June 11, 2007
9:30 – 11:00 A.M.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC

Click Here for the Transcript

U.S. and Russian leaders are clashing over missile defenses, nuclear forces, missiles, and conventional arms in Europe. This has induced growing anxiety that the former foes might again slip into a revived arms race. Indeed, Kremlin officials increasingly invoke the possibility. In addition, the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is due to expire in December 2009 and neither side, at this time, intends to extend it in its current form. The panelists discussed what steps the two countries should take to put their relationship on a more stable footing and how they could effectively and verifiably reduce their still massive nuclear weapons arsenals and the lingering distrust they engender.


Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), Chair, House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Congresswoman Tauscher is serving her sixth term representing California’s 10th District, which is home to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She is a leading proponent of reducing global nuclear dangers and recently urged the Bush administration to “bridge the gaps between the United States and Russia on missile defense.” Congresswoman Tauscher is only the third woman in history to chair a House Armed Services subcommittee.

PDF fileClick here for Rep. Tauscher's remarks

Edward Ifft, Foreign Affairs Officer, Department of State. Over his long government career, Dr. Ifft was part of several arms control negotiating delegations, including a stint as Deputy U.S. Negotiator to START. He also served as Deputy Director of the On-Site Inspection Agency and Senior Advisor to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Dr. Ifft is an adjunct professor of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.

PDF fileClick here for Edward Ifft's remarks

John Steinbruner, Director, Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. Prior to his current position, Dr. Steinbruner served for nearly two decades as Director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Currently Co-Chair of the Committee on International Security Studies of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Steinbruner is also Chairman of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors. A prolific writer, he most recently authored Principles of Global Security.

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






Event with Ellen Tauscher, Edward Ifft, John Steinbruner and Daryl G. Kimball

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Avoiding Renewed U.S.-Russian Strategic Competition


MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2007








Transcript by:
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.


DARYL KIMBALL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. I want to welcome you here to ACA’s birthplace, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where we were established 35 years ago. For those of you not familiar with ACA, we’re a research organization devoted to advancing effective arms control policies designed to enhance international security, and we have, for many of our years, been working to advance U.S.-Russian arms reductions. We’re here again today to talk about that very subject.

As a result of many landmark U.S.-Soviet Russian arms reduction and limitations agreements, U.S. and Russian arms holdings and arms competition have significantly decreased. The Cold War is over, but many Cold War weapons still remain behind. The U.S. and Russia are not true allies, suspicions linger, and they continue to store thousands of obsolete weapons that were originally built to deter and destroy one another and they continue to deploy many of those weapons. Five years ago this month, President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, also known as SORT, which calls for deeper reductions in deployed strategic warheads to 1,700 to 2,200 each by the year 2012. But unlike the START agreement, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, SORT does not require the destruction of delivery systems, warheads may be stored, and no new verification mechanism was established. In sum, the treaty’s emphasis on flexibility undermines predictability. 

Now, news reports indicate that neither party wants to extend START in its current form. Washington’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and current plans to deploy ground-based interceptors and advanced radars in the former eastern bloc coupled with the expansion of NATO and the Bush administration’s resistance to further arms reductions is only increasing Moscow’s anxieties about U.S. strategic missile capabilities, prompting new Cold War-style threat-mongering from Moscow. As we’ve heard in recent weeks, Moscow has threatened to abrogate a number of old Cold War-era agreements like the INF Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It’s threatened to target European countries if the missile defenses go in. President Putin has authorized new strategic missile systems and plans to increase the number of warheads carried by certain Russian missile systems.

Just in the last few days, President Putin has suggested the United States could, instead of deploying missile interceptors in Poland and building a radar in the Czech Republic, use U.S. ship-based missile interceptors on Aegis destroyers and access information from the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan. That was positive. It has technical merit and should be explored. But it still seems as though the Bush administration wants to move forward with the Poland and Czech plan.

Today, you’re going to hear from three distinguished experts and opinion leaders on these issues. Our bottom line message, I think, coming out of this session is going to be that Washington and Moscow have a responsibility to refrain from threats and counter-threats and to actively pursue a meaningful and sustained dialogue on offensive nuclear arms reductions and missile defenses to restore transparency, predictability, and trust between the former adversaries.

Much of our focus today is going to be on START. While U.S. and Russian experts have begun discussions on the follow-on to START just beginning last March, the two sides are at odds over several core issues. Let me add before I introduce the speakers that in the view of the Arms Control Association, and I think others here today, rather than to allow that pact to expire or mask over long-simmering differences with non-legally binding transparency measures, as the Bush administration proposes, Bush and Putin should agree to extend or at least to continue to observe START until they can enter into a new agreement that accomplishes what the 2002 SORT Treaty did not: permanent verifiable reductions of excess U.S. and Russian Cold War nuclear forces.

To discuss these issues and others, we’re honored to have with us today Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California. She is the chair of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. She is going to provide her perspectives on missile defenses, strategic reductions, and the U.S.-Russian relationship. She is serving her sixth term representing the 10th district of California, and she really has been a leading proponent throughout her tenure for arms control, nonproliferation, and practical strategies for reducing global dangers. She’s recently urged the Bush administration to “bridge the gaps between the United States and Russia on missile defense.”

Next we’re going to hear from Edward Ifft, who is a retired Foreign Affairs Officer with the Department of State on the value and prospects of START. Dr. Ifft has been part of several arms control negotiations, including a stint as deputy U.S. negotiator on START. He’s currently an adjunct professor of the securities studies program at Georgetown.

Finally, we’ll hear from John Steinbruner, who is a director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. He’s going to explain what seems to be behind Moscow’s tougher posture toward the west. John is currently co-chair of the Committee on International Security Studies of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is also the chairman of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors.

First, we’ll start with Congresswoman Tauscher, who is only going to be able to be with us for half an hour, 45 minutes. We’ll go right to questions to her before we pick up with the other two panelists. Ellen, thanks for being here.

ELLEN TAUSCHER: I want to thank Daryl, John, and ACA for their leadership. It’s a great pleasure, always a great pleasure, to be here at Carnegie. And, it’s always nice to see Dr. Ifft, and thank you very much for your leadership, especially on this issue of START, which was kind of happening below us. I appreciated your Washington Post editorial where you lifted it up so we could all take a look at it and start to engage the administration on it. 

The announcement about today’s events calls on the panelists to discuss what steps Russia and the United States should take to put their relationship on a more stable footing and how they an effectively and verifiably reduce their still-massive nuclear weapons arsenal and the lingering distrust they engender. It’s a tall order, but it couldn’t be better timed.

Allow me to offer a few thoughts on the immediate crisis generated over the Bush administration’s proposal to deploy missile defense systems in Europe and the future of arms control agreements between both nations. Both of these issues could be addressed separately, but they are linked politically. I want to make it crystal clear: President Putin’s recent actions and rhetoric are exaggerated and inflammatory and unnecessary. The missile defense system that the Bush administration proposed, despite its many flaws and however poorly it may have been presented, is certainly not a threat to Russia. Ten missile interceptors and a radar are no match for thousands of Russian warheads and should not affect Russia’s strategic calculations. 

Even more importantly, both the House Defense Authorization Bill, which I helped author, and the Senate version, cut the funds for the proposed site in Europe and put strong restraints on moving forward. Despite the rhetorical war of words, the Bush administration’s proposal for a European missile defense site is not moving forward this year. I and my Democratic colleagues believe that a missile shield for our NATO allies to deal with the short-term threats from Iran is one that we want and one that works. We want it to cover all of our allies, and we eventually want NATO to help pay for it. But the shield proposed by the administration does none of this. Congress is committed to work to make a robust and practical system; one that meets these criteria, one that we can work for cooperatively, one that we can make sure deals with the current threats and not some major science project, one that is not only worked on cooperatively but is interoperable, and one that we all pay for. That is the system that we should put forward. 

We also believe that it is significant to deal with the issues that the Bush administration has proposed. The fact that the Bush administration has proposed a fixed site in Poland causes some of us pause. We have many mobile systems on the books; certainly the Aegis BMD system is one that if combined with the right kind of cuing radars could cover all of Europe. The site in Poland, as proposed, effectively is there to protect the United States against a long-term threat of long-range missiles from Iran that most people believe will develop between 2012 and 2015. If that is true, then the site in Poland is not there to protect Europe against its current threat, which is short- and medium- range missiles out of Iran. 

So that lack of congruency is what has caused Congress to pause. What we really want to do is to make sure that we have a commitment to work first and foremost inside of NATO, not bilaterally with either one or the other country. We want to be sure that we are dealing with current threats. That means short- and medium-range missiles out of Iran; not only those that would be deployed against our forward-operating troops and our assets in Europe, but our significant allies inside of NATO.

NATO is the premier defensive alliance in the world. That is the alliance that we should choose to negotiate with; not two members of NATO, which we have great affection and great relationships, but where we cause the people and the parliaments of Europe to be unsettled, and certainly one where we cause the Russians to have—I don’t think a long-term argument or even one that many people find to be grounded—an inflammatory argument to cause the parliaments and the publics inside of Europe to be unsettled. The Congress is committed to work to make a robust and practical system that meets the criteria that I just laid out. 

More significant than last week’s Russian ICBM test and Putin’s threats of unspecified retaliatory steps is how quickly the United States and Russian relations appear to have degenerated. Between Putin’s threats and Bush’s persistence, it is clear to me that there is a profound disconnect between both countries. Overblown rhetoric and threats from the Kremlin are not new. In 1999, Russia tried to blame the sinking of the Kursk submarine on the United States. Some of this renewed rhetoric may be aimed at domestic audiences inside of Russia in advance of the Russian elections next April. First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov, who is a likely successor to Putin, boasted that Russian ICBMs could penetrate any defense system, and President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. missile defense plans would turn the region into a powder keg. 

Some of the rhetoric harkens back to historic fears of western encirclement. Referring to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, Putin said, “We have signed and ratified the CFE and are fully implementing it. We have pulled out all our heavy weapons from the European part of Russia to locations behind the Ural Mountains and cut our military by 300,000 men. And what about our partners? They are filling Eastern Europe with new weapons, a new base in Bulgaria, another one in Romania, a site in Poland, and a radar in the Czech Republic. What are we supposed to do? We can’t sit back and look at that.”

Even though Russia will never dictate how America defends its national security interest, it is critical that we look at the items that Putin has raised and decide what elements are worth engaging over. Right now, the Bush administration is crippled by the fact that it is a lame duck administration having pursued haphazard, bilateral, and short-term foreign policy goals with no thought for the future. Furthermore, it has consistently undermined the global norms and treaties that have successfully constrained the spread of weapons of mass destruction for decades. What we need is a strategic review of our nation’s objectives and defined roles for missile defense, nuclear weapons, conventional weapons, and nonproliferation programs. 

Included in this year’s defense authorization bill is a commission which would examine the role of deterrence in the 21st century, assess the role of U.S. nuclear weapons, and make recommendations for the most appropriate strategic posture. This commission would replace the administration’s nuclear posture review of 2002, which raised more questions about U.S. strategy than it answered. This new assessment does not mean we take any threats less seriously than we have in the past. In fact, the defense bill also extends the report on our capabilities to defeat hard and deeply buried targets. That ensures that we are developing the necessary capabilities to hold at risk an entire class of targets. Most critically, what this bill does this year is it ends the Republican Congress’s starving of our nation’s nonproliferation programs by accelerating them and expanding them to other nations. 

Putin’s comments are useful for providing a framework to assess our priorities. Putin first announced that Russia will suspend and potentially end its adherence to the 1990 CFE Treaty, which caps the amount of tanks, artillery, and other conventional weaponry that its 30 states-parties deploy in Europe. Then, later last week, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would not leave it. Preserving the CFE Treaty is in the U.S. interest. We want Russia troops to leave the independent nations of Moldova and Georgia. We want to prevent destabilizing deployments of troops throughout Europe.

Putin had also threatened to withdraw from the INF Treaty, which prohibits possession of nuclear and conventional ground launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Leaving the INF Treaty would allow Russia to devote its resources to defeating intermediate threats posed by China. Russia has mentioned this desire previously to both Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld. We must work to preserve the INF Treaty, which set a standard for accountability and intrusive inspections. Let me repeat that: accountability and intrusive inspections. One of the many very wise things that ACA advocates, and what we are right now at the brink of losing, is this issue of having verifiability, including intrusive inspections and transparency and confidence-building measures that cause no one to quibble and for no one to be confused. 

What we have dealt with, unfortunately, for the last six and a half years is what the Bush administration chooses to call flexibility. I call it the absolute erosion of confidence-building measures. It is absolutely walking away from what we have known has worked for many, many years: the ability for both sides to understand what they’re seeing; for both sides to feel as if they’re seeing the same picture; for both sides to feel that they have confident interlocutors that cause them to be able to know that these agreements are not only working but they’re enhancing their ability to take weapons down confidently; and that they understand exactly what the real picture is. No one is being derelict in their duty to their own populations, to their own allies, and their own treaty commitments. But what we have to reassert, and I think Daryl has been very forceful in this kind of discussion, a commitment to verifiability, to confidence building, to transparency and to moving forward again on these frameworks which have worked so successfully for so long but which unfortunately have been abandoned by this administration. 

Because the INF Treaty is so important and because we know Russia’s motives are to turn their attention away to deal with China, we have to move forward these intrusive standards for accountability and inspections because we do not want a nuclear arms race to break out across Eurasia. Russia also is warning that a proposed U.S.-Russia clearinghouse to share information on missile launches worldwide would be shelved. This is an important early warning system that must be pursued. U.S. and Russian experts are currently discussing follow-on measures to the historic 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START, but neither side wants to extend the accord past its scheduled expiration on December 5, 2009. Russia recently claimed holdings under START of 4,162 deployed strategic warheads and the United States reported a total of 5,866 warheads. The two countries are supposed to further reduce their nuclear forces under the May 2002 SORT agreement to less than 2,200 “operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads” apiece by December 31, 2012. On that date, however, SORT expires, and neither country’s forces will be limited any longer. 

What’s really important about this and what has been my consistent gripe about this administration is that while we liked the numbers in SORT, we actually wanted SORT plus. There was always this kind of nagging sense that because we were not dismantling these weapons and actually destroying them, we were instead putting them on blocks in a garage. This was the flexibility that the administration has been advocating. Frankly, we don’t want flexibility in disarmament agreements. You want absolute precision in disarmament agreements. You want a sense that there is no ambiguity about what one’s intention is because you have verifiability.

Although SORT, also called the Moscow Treaty, was widely heralded, it is an agreement that falls very short of where we really want to be because there is not a significant amount of dismantlement going on. There is a lot of putting things on blocks in a garage. There is a sense of being able to resume what you have partially taken down. That does not build confidence. That does not give people a sense that these are real arms control agreements or that we are really doing what the American people thought we were doing when we made this agreement, which was to take these weapons down and take them down permanently.

I am deeply concerned that the Bush administration has put too strong a premium on flexibility rather than accountability and leadership. This does little to take us toward significant reductions in our nuclear arsenal. I believe it is critical that Putin and Bush formally agree when they meet in July to observe START until they can agree to new levels that achieve real and verifiable reductions beyond the numbers prescribed in SORT. I believe such a goal is achievable by both relaxing some of the notification requirements and on-site visits mandated under START while still achieving a legally binding treaty.

The intelligence community has expressed concern with losing the verification component provided by START. The head of Strategic Command (STRATCOM), General James Cartwright, who just this weekend was nominated to be vice-chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—it’s a very good nomination—has stated, “whatever the construct is that we do with a treaty-like activity, you are trying to make sure that you can build confidence, understand the intentions of your adversary, and have time to react appropriately to those intentions.” He added further that the attributes of a follow-on to START “that you seek are transparency, the ability to generate warning time, and confidence in what the intentions are of a counterpart.”

The United States made a commitment to verifiable and irreversible cuts at the 2000 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. It is time again that we act as leaders. Our relationship with Russia is not an easy one, and the administration has paid too little attention to Russia and the arms control issues that Putin raises. But despite his aversion to treaties, if Bush does one thing in this regard before leaving office, it would be to state that the U.S. commitment to preserving START before a new agreement is reached by the next president.

I hope that we can all continue to work on these issues. I think that these are fundamentally some of the most important issues that we can work on. It’s been my pleasure to work with ACA, Daryl, and John, and I appreciate your attention. I’m happy to answer any questions that you have.

KIMBALL: Thank you very much. Please stay there. If audience members with a question could raise your hand and identify yourself. Here comes the microphone. Why don’t you begin?

QUESTION: Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times. One of the theses that’s put forth to explain Putin’s rhetoric recently is that the Russians are trying to do is extract a long-term concession, such as when they pull out of the INF treaty, America would not raise much of a stink. Do you agree with that? If not, what do you think the Russians are really trying to accomplish?

TAUSCHER: Well, I think that we, long ago, ceded the high road when we abrogated the ABM treaty, and I think that when a great nation like the United States rejects the currency of 2,000 years of civilization which are binding treaties which cause people to not only communicate but to have a set of expectations and an easy way to deal with whether one party or the other isn’t doing that. When you cede the high road the way we did when we abrogated the ABM treaty, which could have easily been either renegotiated or replaced with some other kind of treaty, we began a rush to the bottom, and the INF treaty is a perfect example. I think that certainly Russia has enormous internal political instability, and Putin has about nine months left. Sergei Ivanov has not been directly named as his successor but I think that people expect him to be; he certainly gives a lot of speeches in English to prove that he can do it.

The real question is whether Putin is speaking, because now we all hear everything everyone says, to an internal audience, whether he’s setting a case for some of the old guard still in the Russian military. I really don’t know what his motives are. I do know what the effect of what he has done. I sat literally where I am, and Putin sat literally where you are at the Munich conference in February, and I have to tell you that we were all, the American delegation, we were just stunned at his shoe-banging attitudes and taking us back to the Cold War. So this has been going on a very long time. He also made a speech like this about eight months ago. This has been a thread throughout Putin’s international conversations, and I think his motives certainly could be very directly about the INF treaty, that they want to redirect these capabilities toward China, that they think that if they create enough saber-rattling and they warn us enough and embarrass us enough that we’ll not say anything. 

But that, frankly, is the last thing we need to do. We need to be even bolder now. In fact, what I consider to be deleterious and significantly wrong policies of the Bush administration have caused us to be perhaps too shy and embarrassed to stand up when we see other things happening. I, frankly, can’t wait until we have a new president in 2009 to begin to remake some of these relationships. But until then, it’s going to take leadership, and that’s what many of us in the Democratic-controlled Congress are trying to do. None of us have names that many of you know, but we’re standing up because it is very important that we begin to try to identify the high ground, which is very different than it was six years ago. We need to begin to identify the high ground and begin to move to it and begin to once again take the leadership roles that we have and responsibilities that we have as the country that holds all of these weapons, the country that has all of this power, and to do it in a way that is responsible and also, I think, one that is going to create the opportunity for us to do the right thing when we have a new president.

QUESTION: I’m Jonathan Landay with McClatchy Newspapers. I’d like to ask that question but in another way. This isn’t the first year that the administration has put money in its proposed defense budget for these two sites, or at least money for the European leg of the American missile defense system. There was money last year. I think the Republicans themselves knocked it out for the interceptors, and yet there was no outcry, either from over here, really, or even from Russia. So why now? Why are we hearing this escalation in sharp language from both sides, and why is the administration making this part of its missile defense policy, putting the emphasis on it now, whereas last year barely said a word?

TAUSCHER: Well, I wasn’t Chairman last year. We were not only in the minority in both houses last year, but actually most of our efforts were in killing RNEP, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. Only this administration could decide to name a nuclear earth penetrator robust because it wasn’t big enough before. So we were killing the RNEP last year. When you’re trying to persuade, you can’t do this by yourself and when we were trying to persuade our [Republican] colleagues to help, that took a lot of our energy and frankly took a lot of our chips. So we did successfully kill the RNEP.  

We knew that the money was going to come out for many reasons for the European site, and, by the way, it didn’t all come out. They were still doing things. In this case, I made a compromise to buy the interceptors, which we can use in Vandenberg, and to buy the radar, which is benign. I mean, the radar going into the Czech Republic is the least of our problems. We’ve got one in Fylingdales and one in Thule. We’ve got radars all over the place. That’s not the issue. Even Putin has said the Czech Republic radar is not the issue. 

If you’re talking about the politics of this, the politics of this are that we have gone from moribund to extremists because of what’s happened in the year. There has been a significant degradation of commitment by this administration to not only non-proliferation but to treaties with teeth and the ability to hold together these agreements, which have worked enormously successfully for us for decades. It is a big deal to have us in the majority. I’m blessed to have a fabulous staff. I’ve got two of my subcommittee staffers here, Rudy Barnes and Frank Rose, and I’ve got my own congressional staff here. But it’s very different when you’re sitting in the minority, trying to figure out what you can help somebody help kill than writing a bill and having a big agenda. That’s what we’ve done here. This is just a baby step. We hope to be in the majority for a long time, but also for our presidential candidates. This is the first time in 13 years that Democrats are writing bills. We have a chance to do things that give some advice and some ability to say this is what we’re doing to our presidential candidates. A lot of this is incremental because it needs to be. The American people put us in the majority but they didn’t, by the way, give us a veto-proof majority, and there’s a 49-49 stalemate in the Senate. We still don’t have the running room we would like to have, but I think that we’ve done a lot in this bill and we will continue to do that. But we’re way behind the curve and we have, frankly, lost our way and our reputation for the high ground and for being leaders in this, and for consistently speaking in innovative ways on ways to do the right thing. 

QUESTION: Farah Stockman with The Boston Globe. You’ve made it clear that you’re looking forward to a new president who’s going to take this in another direction, but what can President Bush do going forward? What would you like to see come out of the Kennebunkport meeting? What’s the best thing, the best outcome that could come from that meeting? 

TAUSCHER: I think it’s about START. I think it’s about making an agreement with Putin that START will not be allowed to lapse just because a new president hasn’t taken office. We have to have a bridge agreement that will extend START until a new president can begin to have some kind of negotiating ability.

Look, I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the short term. I made a speech at the Atlantic Council in March. It’s very unusual for a chairman or even a new chairman to telegraph what they’re going to do in a bill they’re not marking up until May, but I made it very clear in March that I was not going to support the European sites, that I was not going to support funding them, that I was not really interested in a non-NATO endorsed shield, that I wanted to deal with the short-term threats for Europe and cover all of Europe and that I believe that we needed to do that inside of NATO with a cooperative co-pay, so to speak, and that we had to deal with short-term threats, not long-term threats.  

People are starting now to understand that the Poland site is really to protect the United States against a future threat and it is not going to cover all of Europe and it doesn’t deal with the current threat that they have for short- and medium-range missiles. We think that Aegis BMD, certainly PAC-3 and the coming forward of that in a cooperative effort with NATO is a much better system. We do need, by the way, a downrange X-band radar so the Azerbaijani proposal that President Putin made is actually not a bad idea. But the current radar is old and it’s a VHF radar, so it’s not appropriate for the kind of cueing that we need to do. But he’s being creative. He’s coming to the table with, by the way, an idea that he already put forward in 2000 to the Clinton Administration. It’s not like this is all new, which is why it’s so disturbing and dissatisfying that the administration, which had previous Putin proposals sitting out there, just kind of ran right past it. 

What we want the president to do in Kennebunkport is to offer President Putin a bridging of START and to move START to a place where it gives a new president in 2009 a chance to assemble a negotiating team, put together what kind of congruent policy we should have, talk to allies, talk about the new science, talk about the new technologies out there, try to understand what does verifiability mean in the 21st century. How do you do it in a way that deals with intrusiveness in a new way of technology and gives us much more current, much more better information, and allows more people to understand it? Maybe you’re dealing with real time streaming. I think that’s what Putin and Bush should do when they’re in Kennebunkport; not just riding around on a boat, although that might be fun. 

QUESTION: Good morning, I’m Katya with Stern Magazine from Germany. 

TAUSCHER: How are you? 

QUESTION: Quite well, thank you very much. Great remarks, thank you. 

TAUSCHER: I love your chancellor, she’s really fabulous. 

QUESTION: Thank you, I’ll pass this on. At least she made a good image in Heiligendamm, didn’t she? General Obering, defending his program, cites a certain urgency of installing the interceptors in Poland. If the installations would be started next year, the missiles would be only ready in 2013, so it would be just in time to cover a threat from Iran to Europe and to the U.S. What’s your take on that? 

TAUSCHER: I don’t dispute the intelligence estimates of 2012 to 2015 and I do not dispute the threat from Iran. What I want to be sure is that when we provide coverage for the United States from these fixed sites in Poland that we’re actually getting the best defense that we can get. Fixed sites are very easy to defeat. That’s why I like the mobility of the Aegis BMD system, PAC-3, and THAAD. 

The other issue is that this is a two-stage rocket that’s never been tested. One of the things we did in the defense bill is to not only bring MDA into the real world and have OT&E—I’m sorry, I hate it when people do this—Missile Defense Agency actually have the Office of Testing and Evaluation watch their tests and be part of their testing regime. I wish for the SATs that I was able to develop a test, take the test, and grade the test, which is what MDA has been able to do for the six years in the Republican Congress. The Republican Congress and the president gave MDA every thing they asked for the last several years. We have a system that has not achieved credible deterrent status, has an embarrassing level of failures in testing, and [at a cost of] $75 to $80 billion. Keep in mind that we’ve got another system called “Star Wars” worth about $100 billion lying on the floor of a garage some place. 

This is not good enough for the American people. This doesn’t create a level of confidence or peace of mind. It doesn’t create the kind of credible deterrence that is necessary to cause people pause to say, well, maybe I shouldn’t go build that or try to defeat that, which is the point, I would think, of a significant amount of this. Because of that, I believe, they rushed to deploy it for the 2004 presidential election. So we’ve got these Hollywood facades sitting there and they turn the lights on every once in a while and all that stuff and they’re moving very aggressively toward having a system that’s operational, but we have not achieved credible deterrence. 

Now, they want to put at a third site a two-stage rocket, which has never been tested, with a system that has a scattered, at best, testing regime. They have been able to write the test, take the test, and grade the test. Meanwhile, we have current threats that are short- and medium-range missiles. We believe that our commitment in the defense bill is not only to the American people writ large, but specifically to our war fighters and what their threat currently is: short- and medium-range missiles. So we redirected the portfolio away from some of these massive science projects to delivering the investment portfolio to the kinds of things [addressing current threats], such as Aegis BMD, bought more; PAC-3, bought more; THAAD, spending more; and working cooperatively with Japan and working with Israel, both on David’s Sling and on Arrow. 

We’re trying to do what we think is the most important thing: deal with the current threats, deal with the war fighter, deal with the American people, put real accountability into MDA, make them test this thing, and make it work. But, clearly, with NATO being the premier defensive alliance that we have, if you’re going to do things in Europe, you need to do them cooperatively with Europe. I think that’s important. When I was in Europe 10 days ago for the NATO parliamentary assembly, I had a lot of my colleagues, especially from, not surprisingly Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania saying, “We’re not under your umbrella, why not? We’re downrange. We actually are within range of a short- and medium-range attack from Iran. Why are we the ones not protected?” I don’t think you treat people in an alliance that way, especially when you have an Article V commitment to protect them. 

I think that we’ve gotten this wrong all over the place. We’ve made it very clear that we think that it’s important to deal with the current threats. We have not [killed] anything in this bill; we actually left a door open. Should there be a cooperative agreement and framework inside of NATO and should the Russians and the United States actually come to, at a minimum, a rhetorical agreement to move forward against the current threat—a threat Russia shares, by the way, from Iran—that we could do some things to accelerate site preparation and all of that. But under the conditions that we have now, there’s no reason for us to consider it. 

QUESTION: One thing that came up when you were discussing INF was the Russian fear of China’s nuclear weaponry. Obviously, at least part of the U.S. nuclear posture review was also premised on the fear that China would start modernizing its arsenal and increasing it. How do we get China involved in this kind of dialogue so we don’t have these issues on both sides of the U.S.-Russian relationship? 

TAUSCHER: Well, I certainly don’t think you can do it racing to the bottom. I think you have to, once again, make a commitment to achieving higher ground. Part of that is renewing the optics of being a good player, of being consistent, of being predictable to some extent, and of keeping your word of, once again, investing in treaties which, I believe, are the point of the realm when it comes to dealing government to government. 

We have to want to understand that we have an enormously complicated relationship with China as we do with Russia. Russia is no longer a superpower, but it is an enormous power and certainly one now fueled with a huge windfall from gas and energy. So the idea that you could ignore Russia because it was on its knees and we won and they’re not doing so well, that went away pretty quickly. It’s been away, by the way, for about five years, at least. 

We need to be saying to Russia, look, we still have a big WMD threat from the fact that you have not done all you need to do internally to put fissile material and know-how and all of that in places that are well identifiable with better gates and guards with no guns. We need to work together. You need to spend some of your own money; we’ve spent a lot of American money. By the way, it’s the best nonproliferation money you could spend, but you need to be doing more yourself. Let’s figure out how we can have these cooperative relationships. Let’s decide what these new programs are. Let’s do it together. This administration has absolutely no commitment to that. 

The China issue is a very, very complicated one. We have to have a relationship with China that deals with the many different complications, whether it’s the currency issues, the trading issues, obviously the nuclear issue, and the weaponry issue. I saw in the paper today the reports of how much money they’re spending, not surprisingly. They are on a buying spree in Africa. They are doing a phenomenal job of ingratiating themselves very nicely all through Africa. Anybody in Africa that’s got any kind of energy, China’s there writing aid checks day in and day out, sending workers over, building bridges, doing all kinds of things, when we are absent. 

I think we need to look at our entire portfolio of soft power levers. That’s why I’m yearning for a new president, because apparently this president doesn’t like soft power at all. We need to find out what is in our soft power toolbox and that’s where Daryl and ACA and many of our other friends will be enormously helpful. We need a new toolbox of soft power levers and we need to understand how to implement them and bring them out. But part of it is a desire of the United States to, once again, stand up and take leadership on these issues, speak boldly, to be innovative, to be cooperative, and also to be able to take people to the woodshed quietly when we need to. Once again, we’ve got to get our own house in order and make our own commitments stick and be paying dues that we have in arrears to different organizations and things that we’re not doing well because you’re not very effective wagging your finger at somebody when they feel as if they’ve got a grievance that they can wag their finger at you about. This is about leadership and innovation and commitment and getting these soft power levers, once again, to be a primary investment strategy and a commitment of the United States. 

QUESTION: My impression from talking to the Russians is actually they’re very concerned about the radars and one of the reasons they want to have the radar in Azerbaijan—if they’re actually proposing that the U.S. put the X-band there as well as having the forward-based radar—is that it wouldn’t be looking at Russia, whereas the Czech Republic radar would be and it would be fixed. 

TAUSCHER: Right. Putin’s comments about the radar are a little bit everywhere. He basically has said both things. But he’s most recently said, it’s really not the issue, it’s really the Polish site, of course it would be. As I said earlier, the public and the parliaments [in those countries] are interesting. Sixty-three percent of Czechs don’t want the radar and 50-plus percent of Poles don’t want the interceptors. Part of that is the saber rattling from Russia which causes a little post-traumatic stress disorder, understandably. 

But it’s also because I think that they have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t meant to protect them and that they may be getting used a little bit. I think that the way for us to mitigate that would have been for us to say that is primarily for us, although it could deal in the future with a medium-range threat from Iran over Europe. It would be like Daryl and I going out to dinner and knowing it was going to rain and having John and Ed coming with us, but I brought an umbrella for two. That wouldn’t be a very nice dinner. I would also look like a jerk. And, I think we look like a jerk. We look pretty selfish. We’re taking care of ourselves. The truth is NATO needs a push, not a surprise. 

NATO does not procure systems; the countries do. NATO becomes capable of having command and control. We’ve got a command and control model for what we did for nuclear weapons. A lot of this is well toiled ground. We just didn’t make the commitment. We actually had a hearing in my subcommittee where a gentleman from the Defense Department basically said, well, it’s 26 countries, who’s got time for that? One just wanted to say, make the time. I mean, are you kidding me? Because if something happens to one of them, we still have to go. It’s maybe inconvenient to have to negotiate. They may be a little slow. Then, you’ll always have the French. But let’s go. Let’s make it happen. 

Either they don’t understand the threat, which is an interesting thing, because maybe they don’t trust our intelligence. That would be shocking. But maybe they don’t understand the threat; make sure they understand the short- and medium-range missile threat from Iran. They’ll get it. Make sure they know they’re going to get covered. I think people understanding that we’re going to get them covered for their threat are perfectly willing to cooperate with us about our threat. But we didn’t do that. We took care of ourselves.  We’ve made a mess of it and now we’ve got to try to fix it. I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. 

KIMBALL: I think after the congresswoman finishes her term as secretary of state, she might want to retire and go into a new line of national security comedy. If it weren’t so serious, I would laugh harder. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Tauscher. 

Well, our next speaker is Edward Ifft. Ed is going to be talking about why we’re so excited about START and what its future prospects are. Thank you. 

EDWARD IFFT: Thank you very much, Daryl, and thanks to the Arms Control Association for setting up this important event. It’s too bad that Congressman Tauscher had to leave, but I think she has touched all the important bases and given us a lot of things to think about. I would like to devote my time to what may be the next big thing in arms control and that is the future of the START Treaty. I feel strongly that people need to pay attention to the fact that one of the most important multilateral international security agreements of the past 30 or 40 years is set to expire in 2009. 

The U.S. and the Russian Federation have begun to discuss what to do about this. Yet, it has gotten almost no attention, even among the high priests of nuclear matters inside the Beltway. I think it’s ironic since a huge controversy and a spirited debate grew up around the fate of the ABM Treaty a few years ago. Of course, that debate had fundamental importance and involved deeply held views on all sides, but basically it dealt with what are largely theoretical considerations and with non-nuclear weapons that may not amount to much for many years to come, at least in terms of what gets deployed. Today, ballistic missile defense is back on the front page, as we’ve seen, probably only briefly, and people are trying to find Azerbaijan on the map. But the story seems to have a half-life shorter than the Paris Hilton story. 

In contrast, the START regime deals with thousands of real nuclear weapons that exist today. I need to make the usual disclaimer that I’m speaking personally and not for the U.S. government or Georgetown University. There’s a second disclaimer that may be less obvious: I need to certify that I am not nostalgic for the Cold War nor, although many years of my life were devoted to negotiating and implementing it, am I obsessed with START. On the contrary, I fully recognize that the START Treaty has already met many of its goals. Its ambitious reductions in the world’s most dangerous weapons were successfully completed in 2001. It has increased mutual trust and understanding in both the political and military spheres and opened the door to valuable programs to eliminate or make more secure weapons systems; programs not actually required by the treaty itself. 

I also recognize that the treaty, as it stands, reflects suspicions on both sides that are no longer in existence and it imposes on both sides certain sometimes burdensome requirements that may no longer be necessary. As an aside, I thought that was the case even when we were negotiating the treaty, but no one could slow down the verification juggernaut that seemed somewhat out of control at times. Nevertheless, the START regime has enduring values that benefit both the U.S. and the Russian Federation and those they would jettison at their peril. 

I should add that I am not slighting Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, who are, of course, also parties to the START Treaty and should be consulted, but the general assumption is that whatever replaces START will be bilateral, just as the Moscow Treaty, or SORT. The START regime has several major features that people should consider carefully, regardless of the levels of strategic offensive weapons that might be agreed in the future or the form that a follow-on agreement might take. For example, it created a high level of transparency and confidence in nuclear weapon deployments, technical characteristics, and activities. An elaborate system of notifications provides an accurate picture of the numbers and locations of each side’s strategic nuclear forces. This leads to a memorandum of understanding over 100 pages long that is updated every six months and here it is: a thing of beauty, everything you would want to know about U.S. and Russian nuclear forces right here. 

The sides are forbidden from interfering with each other’s national technical means, operating in a manner consistent with the recognized principles of international law. They’re also forbidden from using concealment measures that impede verification by national technical means.  Furthermore, national technical means is buttressed by a system of cooperative measures which make it easier for satellites to monitor the numbers and locations of strategic forces. A ban on most forms of telemetry encryption during flight tests of ICBMs and SLBMs provides additional confidence that such tests are not being used for illegal purposes. A system of on-site inspections provides assurance that treaty-limited items are in their proper places and the allowed numbers of missiles, heavy bombers, and warheads are not exceeded. These are currently proceeding at the rate of two or three inspections per month. The U.S. also has monitors at the missile plant in the Russian Federation where the newest ICMB, the RS-24, was assembled. 

There are agreed procedures for the conversion or elimination of systems, which provides assurance that such reductions are genuine and cannot be easily reversed. A special system of notifications in numerical and geographical constraints controls the numbers and locations of mobile ICBMs, formidable weapons only possessed by the Russians who have about 250 deployed. Finally, the sides are prohibited from basing strategic offensive arms outside their national territories or from transferring such arms to third countries, with an exception for the existing U.S. pattern of cooperation with the U.K. 

It should be obvious that these sorts of regulations should continue to control the world’s most dangerous weapons. It does not follow, however, that they need to retain all the complexity and expense of their current form. We hear that neither side has simply renewing the treaty in its present form as its preferred option. For example, both sides could probably live quite happily with fewer notifications and fewer inspections. Some of the more burdensome requirements for eliminating systems could probably be relaxed, especially in view of the fact that the U.S. has been involved in many of these elimination programs in the Russian Federation. It might be possible to relax the rules regarding changing the number of warheads on ICBMS and SLBMs and to allow the replacement of nuclear warheads by conventional warheads as envisioned in the U.S. prompt global strike program. These are all technical details that obviously we don’t have time to go into right now. 

There’s also the first order question of whether the levels of the Moscow Treaty should be lowered further now and, indeed, the rather fundamental question of whether we are constraining launchers, missiles, warheads, or all three. In my judgment, we should pay attention to all three, but if one must choose, warheads are the most important.

Further, are we only dealing with deployed systems? Or do we need to do something about the large numbers of non-deployed warheads which are piling up as reductions in deployed systems proceed. 

Negotiating these matters might not be simple or quick, but neither are lots of other negotiations we engage in and which I would think are far less important to the future of humanity. The basic point is that it would be a monumental blunder to allow the START regime to disappear and both sides appear to recognize this. However, what we need is a serious and well considered set of obligations and rules that involve more than handshakes and hand waving. 

Allow me to make a few points of a broader political nature. We are now trying to solve very difficult problems related to the nuclear activities of Iran and North Korea. The solutions, if they are to be successful, will certainly involve some strict verification, including intrusive onsite inspection. How could we expect our friends and allies to support such measures and indeed get these two countries to accept them if we ourselves are simultaneously shedding the verification regime which governs nuclear weapons in the U.S. and the Russian Federation? 

Again, looking at the big picture, we all know that the NPT is under great stress. Anyone who follows the five-year review conferences, including the Preparatory Commission meeting held in Geneva earlier this year, knows that the U.S. is under constant criticism for its alleged failure to do more in regard to Article VI. Whether or not such criticism is justified, it is certainly damaging to our cause and would only get worse if the wrong decisions are made about the START Treaty. 

The Russian Federation is hinting that it may withdraw from the INF Treaty. President Putin also has threatened to suspend compliance with the CFE Treaty and called for an emergency meeting on the subject this week in Vienna. Countries are properly alarmed about this. However, how can we be upset about the possible loss of a treaty that regulates tanks, armored combat vehicles, et cetera and yet not be concerned about the possible loss of a historic document that regulates nuclear weapons? Even if START disappears entirely, of course, there is still the Moscow Treaty which lowers the level of strategic nuclear warheads. However, the Moscow Treaty was never intended to replace START. As you know, the Moscow Treaty, or SORT, contains no verification at all or even any agreed definitions or counting rules. Indeed, it was sold partly on the basis that the START verification regime would be there to at least partially verify its provisions. 

My assumption is that both sides will want to replace START with something that retains at least some of the benefits I have just outlined. The situation is rather awkward because START is set to expire in December 2009 while a peculiar feature of the Moscow Treaty is that it has practical effect for just one day in December 2012. This creates a three-year gap along with the question of what happens after 2012. The most likely solution would seem to be to create something that replaces START and at the same time provides some implementation and verification support for the Moscow Treaty and beyond. An obvious issue is whether this something should be legally binding or not. 

If we take our clues from negotiation of the Moscow Treaty in 2002, we could assume the Bush Administration will frequently use the words transparency and confidence-building, but try to achieve these worthwhile goals through informal arrangements that are not legally binding. The Russians, on the other hand, will argue for a more formal, legally binding agreement. These assumptions have basically been confirmed in the last few weeks. 

In theory, I could envision a regime based entirely on, say, parallel unilateral statements that could be successful if—and it’s a big if—if the content were sensible. However, it is difficult to see any compelling reasons why we would not want something this important which will transcend presidencies on both sides to be legally binding, especially if that’s the approach preferred by our negotiating partner. Now, I can think of two reasons why some might argue for an informal gentlemen’s agreement, but neither is compelling. The first reason would be to avoid a bruising ratification battle. However, this would not seem to be a big problem for any sensible agreement given that the Senate gave its consent to ratification of the Moscow Treaty 95 to 0, and that the Russian Duma is much less hostile, to put it mildly, to the Russian president than it was a few years ago. The second argument would be that the future is uncertain and so we should not tie our hands in case we change our minds in a few years. My response to that would be to consider what our reaction would be if North Korea would say the outcome of the Six-Party Talks should be informal and non-binding since it might wish to change its mind in the future. 

There are, of course, many creative ways to solve these problems. If a treaty is not desirable for some reason, maybe an executive agreement would be the answer. If people are worried about possible long-term developments, an agreement could have a short duration with long-term solutions left to new administrations on the two sides. Another option if decisions seem too difficult now would be to allow the treaty to expire but voluntarily continue to observe it for a certain period of time. Still another possibility would be to keep the treaty legally in force, but voluntarily reduce some activities where rights, as opposed to obligations, are concerned. For example, if they are permitted to do something X times a year, the countries could voluntarily agree to do it Y times a year where Y is less than X. There are precedents for all these possibilities. Thus, we do not need to agonize now over trying to find a single best answer for many years into the future. A final first order issue is whether further reductions should be verifiable and irreversible. 

It is clear that the rest of the world wants this to be the case: recall the 13 steps unanimously agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. However, although these two words are usually used together, they really are two different concepts. It is possible, if desired in specific cases, to have one without the other. Perhaps not all actions need to be irreversible, nor do all obligations need to be effectively verifiable. But one should think carefully about such cases. Consider the 50 Peacekeeper ICBMS, for example. The U.S. has reduced these systems. They will not count under the Moscow Treaty, but they are still in the books for the START Treaty. This is because the 50 silos are still sitting empty in Wyoming and there are more than 50 Peacekeeper missiles in storage in Utah. Thus, these reductions, though real, are not irreversible. However, one could easily devise a system to verify that the silos are really empty and that there’s no capability to reload them rapidly. 

I’m coming to the end here, Daryl, you’ll be glad to know. In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union dissolved, broke up, it seemed to me that we faced two possible paths regarding the future of our relations in this area, given the dramatic improvement in U.S.-Russian relations and the greater openness and trust that accompanied it. One path was to say, good, now we can achieve much more in arms control, deeper reductions, more interest of verification, solutions to the problems posed by non-deployed nuclear warheads, and their dangerous fissile material and so on. The second path was to say, good, now we don’t need all this arms control and its intrusive verification. 

The Clinton Administration was following the first path while the Bush Administration has chosen the second. Now, we face another fork in the road. Yogi Berra’s advice—if you come to a fork in the road, take it—is of no help. If we were starting over today, we certainly would not invent something as complex as the START Treaty. But it exists and we know it works. We can learn the lessons from living with it for 15 years and preserve its best features in a way that improves U.S.-Russian relations, supports our nonproliferation and counter terrorism objectives, and makes further progress toward a better, safer world with diminishing reliance on nuclear weapons. I will stop there and not impinge further on John’s time. Thank you. 

KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Ed. That was extremely helpful and substantive, and that’s the stuff for a memo to a number of member’s of Congress. 

John, please. Onto the subject of why the Russians are so bearish. 

JOHN STEINBRUNER: I think my role at this point is to be brief, so what I’m going to do is ask forgiveness in advance for whatever sins of compression I’m about to commit. Let me suggest two main themes I’d like to introduce to you. First of all, the security problem with Russia is quite serious and it has more to do with offense than defense, so this is really the occasion of trying to surface very deep, underlying problems and we better recognize it. Secondly, the United States has a serious security problem with the rest of the world—almost the entire rest of the world—in conveying reassurance about the responsible management of our primary military power. For the world, that has a lot to do with the issues of legal restraint. More is going on here than just the immediate features of the issue. 

Let me just note that both the U.S. and the Russian military planning systems inside professionally use standard contingency planning principles to assess threat. They look at capability, not intention. They try to program against plausible threats in terms of capability, regardless of assessed probability. Those are their deep traditions. That’s what we use and that’s what they do as well. Application of those principles within the Russian planning system generates very legitimate concern, hard to recognize from this distance, but very important inside their system. Russian deterrent forces are seriously and continuously vulnerable to the forms of preemptive attack that the United States, in principle, could undertake. They do not have commensurate capability of that sort against us and that degree of vulnerability will increase under the projected deployment conditions. 

Air defense forces could not protect against incursion from the NATO area and they realize that. The integration of U.S. nuclear and conventional operations under STRATCOM and the projected development of prompt global strike missions combine and intensify these two vulnerabilities and they would consider themselves to be potential targets of this capability. Russian conventional forces are not capable of defeating the kind of combined armed offensive that China, in principle, could undertake in Siberia and, again, seems improbable, but that’s not the point from their point of view. If it happened, they could not handle it. They face political insurgencies along the southern border, imposing continuous strain on their existing forces. Even with recent increases in their defense budget, they cannot finance the military establishment that they inherited from the Soviet Union, let alone develop its capabilities so it could meet these contingency requirements. 

The bilateral stabilization measures, as we’ve noted, have been repudiated by the U.S.  The ABM Treaty, the Moscow Treaty really effectively removed any restraint from U.S. offensive capability against them. Fundamental political reassurances have been repudiated as well. They have a problem with the entire history of NATO expansion. At the time of German unification, they thought they were told that this would not happen, and it has. External alliance relationships provide either credible reassurance or meaningful assistance.

All of which is to say that it’s reasonable to assume that the process of accommodation in which Putin has engaged so far has not delivered any security benefit to the Russians, and that is an internal issue. He is undoubtedly getting pressure from the Russian military planning system. If the United States were in comparable capability, this would be a furor here; a comparable situation. So we ought to take it quite seriously. This issue is going to be with us for quite some time, whether it’s Putin or somebody else. This is not simply rhetoric, it is deeply serious. 

Let me just make a few practical observations about that. First of all, there is no serious prospect for regenerating the one feature of the Cold War which is the large-scale conventional force confrontation in Central Europe. That cannot happen, and so the tough talk about regenerating the Cold War from that point of view is silly. 

Secondly, though, the other main feature of the Cold War, which is the continuous daily deterrent confrontation between the two forces, has all along been there. It hasn’t gone away. In that sense, we’ve never gotten rid of the Cold War. By the way, it should be noticed that that is by far the greatest physical threat to the United States, to Russia, and to the rest of the world as well. The locked in coupling of these two forces could do the greatest amount of destruction. It’s really the only thing that could seriously hurt the United States.

The dominant interest in this situation, from the U.S. point of view, from Russia’s point of view and everybody else, is not the preservation of historical deterrence. We have plenty of deterrent capability. We can hardly avoid having it. The problem is managerial control. We have dispersed large numbers of forces. We only have a loose sense of, globally, how many [weapons] are out there; a lot of explosive material. We need to establish higher standards of managerial control over the forces and the material. That is our dominant interest. Pursuing that interest will require fundamental security accommodation among the U.S., Russia, and China at a minimum. We’re not going to establish higher standards of managerial control without transforming the security relationships among these three parties. That, in turn, will require initiative from the stronger party, the United States. That is not yet officially conceived or discussed.

Although the current fuss provides an actual occasion for trying to reach down and develop this underlying agenda, it’s difficult to be immediately optimistic that that will occur despite the very interesting and progressive notions Congressman Tauscher just gave us. The United States political system is very far from being able to take the initiative required under these conditions. Whether one is optimistic or pessimistic over the long-term, however, it’s prudent to recognize, I would say, that this situation poses a test of competence for the entire political system. Current policy simply does not meet fundamental standards of responsibility. Those standards will eventually impose themselves. We’re going to be forced by circumstance to pay attention. There’s a phrase—I don’t think Yogi Berra said it, but he should have—that if you have to bet between sentiment and circumstance, bet on circumstance over the longer term. 

KIMBALL: Thank you, John. We’ll now move to your turn, the audience’s turn, for questions on this very broad range of issues that we’ve presented here. I want to thank the audience for your patience through this discussion so far. If my microphone helpers are ready, we’re ready to take your questions on these subjects. Or have we exhausted the topic. The Cold War is not over and we’re just going to live with it. Ambassador Goodby?

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Could I ask you, Ed, if the two parties to the Treaty of Moscow accept that on that magic day in 2012 when they reach 1,700 to 2,200 warheads, each side gets to confirm that those numbers are there in accordance with how each side interprets that number? Or is there an assumption that they will simply say yes we did it and thanks very much and that’s the end? In other words, is there a possibility that since there is a reference to START in the Treaty of Moscow, that the only method of verifying those numbers would be that provided by the START Treaty, and, therefore, it’s a pretty good case to be made for keeping it on? 

IFFT: Well, that’s a good question. I don’t think we know yet what happens on December 31, 2012, because the Bilateral Implementation Commission, which is supposed to be seized with questions like that, hasn’t finished its work. I have pretty high confidence that both sides will get down to those levels. It would be nice if they did it according to the same counting rules, but that may or may not happen. 

I would be surprised if, by the time we get there, we don’t have some kind of, assuming that START goes away, I would be very surprised and very disappointed if there weren’t some kind of data exchange and some kind of verification procedures that would provide reasonable confidence that what they said was true. But we just don’t know yet. 

QUESTION: But technically speaking, there isn’t anything that is there to provide certainty that each side has reduced their operational strategic weapons?

IFFT: Not yet, no, not yet. Now the Moscow Treaty does say that it can be superseded by a subsequent agreement. Maybe that’s the bridging agreement that the congresswoman was talking about. Or maybe it’s sort of START lite, which gets negotiated. I just don’t know, but there are a number of ways to get to a satisfactory situation in 2012. But it’s not there yet. 

STEINBRUNER: Let me just point out the obvious, though, that even if you got there, completely verified, the level of deployment at 2,000 plus warheads provides basically annihilating capability. You can’t really rationally use more warheads than that. So we really have not reduced the destructive potential of the forces commensurate with the reduction of the arsenals. Basically what we’ve done here is eliminate excess capability. It still leaves in place the highly lethal programming of two forces against each other. 

KIMBALL: Peter, you had a question. 

QUESTION: Peter Potman with the Netherlands Embassy in this town. I would like to thank both gentlemen for very insightful remarks. I’ve got a question for John Steinbruner. You mentioned the necessity of a long-term security relationship between U.S., Russia, and China. That intrigued me. Could you elaborate a little bit on what kind of a shape such a thing could take, and whether NATO at any point would play a role in these matters? Is it something that the U.S. has to start doing, as you were saying, as the stronger partner in all of this? Doesn’t it get too complicated because India will have to get in there as well? So could you shed some light on how you see this?

STEINBRUNER: There are quite a few complications. Again, having to speak very quickly, it’s overwhelmingly in the interest of the United States to get all these weapons off of alert. Unless we do it, the others will not do it. The biggest danger to the United States is a breakdown of the daily deterrent operations. So, sort of imposing, if you will, higher standards of daily control on all sides are much more important in terms of physical security reality than reducing the numbers. China, of course, does not conduct alert operations, so they set the standards that the other two forces might agree to on that. You could do something with that presumably in this dialogue. 

That would be a necessary basis for doing the second thing that you want to do which is upgrade the accounting and physical security arrangements for all weapons and material, particularly in Russia. Russia inherited a system of control from the Soviet Union that was fractured. They’ve done awfully well, actually, in preserving control so far, but we shouldn’t leave that situation indefinitely. Again, the whole problem is basically providing reassurance. Nobody thinks that deliberate attack is a problem. The problem is reassurance about responsible management and you need to upgrade the standards. 

In the long-term, or not so very long-term, the dominant problem here is likely to be the role that nuclear power generation has to play in a response to global warming. To put it mildly, it would be suicidal to think of expanding nuclear power generation worldwide under current arrangements. If we have to do it, we will have to first of all have different reactor designs, but we will also have to have different fuel cycle management practices, ie. very strict international control. In order to set that up, it’s clear that deterrent operations would have to be terminated. That’s a very big deal. That’s a very big deal in India and China, the principal venues for this. That dialogue is not very far out in front of us. We’re going to have to recognize that. 

That issue has the potential for really raising itself to the heads-of-state level and making heads-of-state pay attention. It’s sort of there in the background right now, but I think it is coming. I think it will energize everything we’ve been talking about here. 

QUESTION: Richard Weitz, Hudson Institute. A question for the two panelists about the Azerbaijani radar proposal. We heard what the representative thought about the idea. I wasn’t sure whether the two panelists thought that would be useful either for averting the immediate European missile crisis or perhaps in some other capacity? I know we’ve had problems in the past with the proposed joint missile monitoring site in Moscow. I wasn’t sure if this one would work any better. 

IFFT: The Azerbaijan radar is an early warning radar, not a battle management radar. I think it could be quite good in providing early warning data if you’re concerned about Iran. This is a technical matter that needs to be analyzed, but I would think that that’s too close to put your interceptors. I would think if the interceptors were there they would have to be boost phase. Once an ICBM gets behind you, you’re not going to catch it. I think the good thing about this proposal is that it sort of moves us away from confrontation to discussing cooperation. 

KIMBALL: I would add that the proposal has to be looked at, first of all, with a view towards the technical matters and, second, operational issues. We’re still not exactly clear—unless anyone here has been talking to Vladimir Putin—what the exact nature of the proposal was. But from a technical standpoint, there is value in terms of putting a new U.S. radar, battle management radar, in that location. It’s valuable in terms of politics, in terms of moderating the heated discussion. In terms of the operation procedures, it’s not clear exactly how the transfer of information from a site at Gabala would be integrated with the U.S. system, but one of the things that I think is interesting to note is that one of the reasons why the United States and Russia have not moved forward on the joint early warning center, which has been in the plans for quite some time, is the Russians have been hesitant to give up the detailed information from their own radars. It’s kind of an interesting proposal that the Russians have put forward. We have to see what the details of the proposal are before we really judge it, accept it, dismiss it, whatever. But it’s a helpful step forward that the two sides really ought to evaluate. 

IFFT: Another point is that people have made the point about why aren’t we using NATO more. There is another part to that, and that is that the NATO-Russia Council actually has a pretty good record of cooperation in theater missile defense. So, the question that one might ask is why not make some use of that form and the experience that it has already produced?

STEINBRUNER: Let me just also note, I think it’s likely that Russian military planners are more concerned about the Czech radar than was alluded to here, primarily in terms of its upgrade potential. An upgraded radar at the Czech location connected with large-scale deployment of THAAD downstream would give the Russians some problem over the long-term, and, again, they are looking at that problem. 

KIMBALL: As we look at the missile defense issue as a whole, one of the things that’s important to remember is that the proposal for the Polish and the Czech sites would theoretically defend two-thirds of Europe in a rudimentary fashion. The United States does not need a missile interceptor site in Poland to defend the continental United States from theoretical Iranian missiles in the future. The Alaska site could do that. In some ways, it’s a question of what kind of early warning radar and battle management radar might be useful to deal with a Middle Eastern-origin missile. In some ways, this whole discussion, in my view, is a moot discussion. I think Congressman Tauscher mentioned that one of the driving forces is not the threat so much as the departure date for President Bush. They want to have the concrete poured in Poland so that the next administration can’t back out of this particular plan.

QUESTION: Phil Fleming, Lawyers Alliance. The congresswoman mentioned the possibility of a bridge amendment as a way to maintain the verification protocol or certain elements of START. Would the panel comment on whether there’s any precedent for that, and is there another way to maintain the verification and provisions of START without having to extend the entire treaty?

IFFT: Well, I mentioned in my remarks several possibilities for doing that. There are some legal complications, of course. To oversimplify, I would say the two sides can pretty much do whatever they want. Now, the U.S. Senate, of course, would have its own views about how that was done, but I suppose you could pick and choose the provisions that you liked. That’s sort of what I was suggesting, and I think that’s what the congresswoman was suggesting as well. The details of that could be messy because the parts that the U.S. would like to retain may not be the same as the parts the Russian Federation would like to retain. So you have a complex negotiation perhaps. 

STEINBRUNER: I think it’s probable that the Russians recognize that an element of leverage they have in this situation is simply the agreement to provide us information. The U.S. intelligence community would not enjoy having to set the order of battle entirely in terms of their own resources as they once had to do. That book is very important. It saves us a lot of money and effort, actually. We are going to be very interested in preserving the reporting requirements. You can imagine a memorandum of understanding in which people balance their various concerns in order to do that. That is an extremely important thing to do. Again, our intelligence community, I think recognizes that. And the Russians recognize the importance to them so there’s a bargain that needs to be struck here.

KIMBALL: The method may be unclear, as Ed outlined. There are many different options. But I think one thing we agree on, and I think Congresswoman Tauscher was also expressing this, is that the goal needs to be to agree to extend some elements of START—streamline START—at least until such time as, I would argue, a legally binding agreement that requires each side to more deeply reduce, more quickly reduce, and irreversibly reduce their deployed and their reserved stockpiles comes into effect. I think that is the general goal that we’re arguing for here. There are many paths toward that goal. It’s important that this administration, the Bush administration, does not pursue a policy that takes the United States and Russia far off from achieving that goal while they are still in office. 

QUESTION: Dean Rust, retired from the State Department. Both of you have spoken one way or another about the lack of salience of START extension in the public domain. Mr. Steinbruner talked about the failure of the political system to be able to deal with a lot of this stuff. I wonder if, apart from Congresswoman Tauscher’s interest in this and the extent to which she’s raised concerns about START extension, not missile defense is any of that sort of spreading throughout the Congress at all. What about the other side of the aisle? What about the Republicans? Are there some Republicans who are concerned about this? And are there any of the presidential candidates, in either Republican or Democratic camps, that are speaking to some of these issues?

KIMBALL: Well, I might be able to answer a little bit of that question. One reason why we’re here is to bring this to their attention. It has only recently been said by the United States and Russia that they don’t plan to extend START in the current form. This is relatively recent news. So, word has not spread like wildfire quite yet. There are, however, some members who are aware of this and who are concerned about this. Senator Biden made statements in a Reuters story not long ago. I’m aware of Senator Lugar having concerns about the current situation. I hope that there will be others like Tauscher who bring their concerns forward and try to advance a set of views that helps shape the administration’s policies. But, you’re right. This is at the bottom of the list of concerns that Congress has at the moment about the U.S.-Russian relationship. It’s one reason why we’re asking you to sit here today. 

QUESTION: Nate Hughes with Stratfor. I actually wanted to trace back and follow up a little bit. You mentioned that the Alaska site would be sufficient to defend against an Iranian missile launch. My understanding of the engagement, although it is limited, puts that way outside of Alaska. Our assessment of the Poland site is if your goal as the U.S. is to defend against an Iranian missile launch that’s the only justification for Poland. If you can push off to 2015 or 2020, then the follow-on technologies of BMD will be more than sufficient to be mobile and flexible.

KIMBALL: What I should have said is that the Alaska site, in combination with ship-based AEGIS systems, possibly could deal with any potential Iranian threat. My point is that this is not the only way to deal with this theoretical Iranian threat; this Polish missile defense site.

QUESTION: While we’re on the subject, could you help us understand a little bit more about how the Aegis SM-3 interceptor is enough? The SM-3 has a much better track record than the GMD interceptors were spending so much money on. But if we’re looking at 2012, could you flesh that out a little bit for us? How we can do this without Poland and the Czech Republic?

KIMBALL: Well, I would refer you back to a talk that Ellen Tauscher gave that’s based on information from MDA about this option in which she outlined, as I recall, the utilization of two to four AEGIS ships in the Mediterranean-North Atlantic combined with THAAD capabilities, dealing with this kind of missile threat. This is, as I understand it, an option that the Missile Defense Agency evaluated some three to four years ago. They decided not to pursue this path. They decided to go with the ground-based fixed site in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. Those discussions began with the Eastern European countries back in late 2003 and our own Wade Boese at Arms Control Today was the first to report on those discussions in a piece he did in 2004. That’s about as much as I can tell you at the moment about that particular option. 

QUESTION: Stephen Young with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Just a question basically about how exactly does START expire? When exactly does this happen? Does the Bush administration have to do anything? If they do nothing at all, can the next administration in some form save the treaty if the Bush administration lets it linger away?

IFFT: Yes, if you do nothing, the START Treaty expires on December 5, 2009. I think one of the problems that we face is that people say that’s more than two years away, why are you getting excited now about it? One reason is that if the two presidents who are coming into their final months in office want to solve this problem before they leave, then this whole thing is accelerating. If you do nothing, it expires. But you can extend it without getting Senate approval for five years. The treaty provides for that as well. The assumption was always that it would be replaced by something else. START III, in fact, was where the Clinton administration was going in the Helsinki framework in 1997. 

Could I just make an arms-control point here? If you think about it, the Americans are trying to build a system to counter an Iranian ICBM which does not exist. The Russians are developing systems to penetrate a U.S. ABM system which does not exist. There’s a certain parallel there. The point is that this is one of the great virtues of legally binding arms control agreements is that people then do not have to make worst-case assumptions about what the world will look like ten or fifteen years in the future.

KIMBALL: A very good point, perhaps one to end on. I want to thank everyone for being here today. We will have transcript available thanks to Federal News Service in three or four days. Stay tuned with the Arms Control Association. I want to thank John Steinbruner and Edward Ifft, and please join me in giving them a round of applause. 


Country Resources:

Panel Endorses U.S. Global Strike Initiative

Wade Boese

An independent panel recently provided a boost to a coolly received Pentagon initiative that would convert some long-range, submarine-launched ballistic missiles to deliver conventional warheads instead of nuclear ones.

In a May 11 report to Congress, the 19-member panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council stated the initiative, if proven effective, “would be a valuable addition to U.S. military capabilities.” The initiative is intended to enable the United States to conduct non-nuclear strikes worldwide in less than an hour.

The general concept is known as prompt global strike. Under the Conventional Trident Modification program, each of the dozen deployed U.S. ballistic missile submarines would have two of their 24 Trident nuclear-armed ballistic missiles converted to carry conventional payloads.

The panel recommended that lawmakers sufficiently fund research and development of the program so an “initial operational capability” will be ready in three years. But it also urged postponing full-scale production and deployment until some policy issues are settled.

The experts said policymakers should explore alternatives and deal with the “ambiguity issue,” which is the possibility that other countries, particularly Russia, might mistake a conventional Trident launch as a nuclear attack. This danger has been a central concern of lawmakers, leading them last year to cut inaugural funding for the program from $127 million to $25 million and commission the NAS study. The Bush administration asked Congress in February for an additional $175 million. (See ACT, April 2007. )

Congressional caution toward the program remains widespread. On May 17, the House passed a fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill that prohibits any spending to deploy conventional Tridents. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which initially proposed the restriction, said the move reflected a “need for additional effort to ensure that a conventional missile launch from a Trident submarine is not misinterpreted.”

The Senate has yet to pass its version of the defense authorization bill, which will then need to be reconciled with the House measure, but some senators share similar sentiments. At an April 11 hearing, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the proposed conversion “is a very destabilizing idea in the minds of many of us.”

The NAS panel suggested that “cooperative measures” with other countries might help reduce misunderstandings and recommended that any prompt global strike effort, including the Trident conversion, “be designed in both hardware and operational terms to minimize the possibility of misinterpreting intent.” Yet, the panel noted, “the ambiguity between nuclear and conventional payloads can never be totally resolved.”

Still, the experts asserted that a prompt global strike capability is worth pursuing. “Given the pace of terrorism’s spread and the consequent uncertainty about where terrorist operations will occur, coupled with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a truly global capability may soon be required, if it is not required today,” the panel stated.

In addition to being used against terrorists, the panel said prompt global strike systems could be employed at the outset, or “leading edge,” of major combat operations. In such a scenario, the panel cautioned that misinterpretation risks would rise.

The brief time frames associated with prompt global strike also present difficulties, according to the panel. It stated that getting accurate and reliable short-notice data on a target would be a “daunting challenge” and warned that decision-makers would have to rapidly weigh potential collateral damage and other risks.

The panel predicted that the actual use of prompt global strike weapons would be rare, numbering “at most a few dozen” instances during their first decade of service. It calculated that “only a few terrorist leaders would merit use of such a weapon.”

Other prompt global strike options mentioned by the panel include conventionally armed U.S.-based ICBMs, intercontinental-range hypersonic boost-glide vehicles, and higher-speed cruise missiles launched from bombers. These and the Trident conversion program will be analyzed more fully in a second report the panel is supposed to supply Congress early next year.

Albert Carnesale, who most recently served as chancellor of UCLA, chairs the panel. Other panel members include retired General Eugene Habiger, former commander of U.S. Strategic Command; James Woolsey, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Walter Slocombe, former undersecretary of defense for policy.

Corrected online September 3, 3008. See explanation.

U.S.-Russian Missile Center Faces Another Hurdle

Wade Boese

A long-stalled U.S.-Russian project to share information on missile launches worldwide might never advance if the United States bases strategic anti-missile systems in Europe.

Two Russian officials, who asked not to be identified, told Arms Control Today in April interviews that the fate of the proposed Joint Data Exchange Center was currently tied to the U.S. initiative to station 10 missile interceptors in Poland. (See ACT, March 2007. ) They said Moscow remained interested in the center but warned that position would change if Washington fielded the interceptors, which are intended to destroy missile warheads in space.

U.S. officials reacted with surprise when informed of the Russian statements. They said the U.S. government still supported the joint center, which is supposed to be established in a renovated kindergarten in Moscow.

The center’s intended purpose is to allow the United States and Russia to share missile tracking data in real time to diminish the chance of a false missile attack alarm and to build mutual trust. General James Cartwright, who oversees deployed nuclear forces and missile defenses as the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, described the center in a May 2006 Arms Control Today interview as “important for transparency.” (See ACT, June 2006. )

But the Russian officials indicated Moscow would be opposed to the possibility of revealing sensitive and technical information about its early-warning systems to the United States if it was deploying strategic anti-missile interceptors in Poland.

As of mid-April, the United States had installed 15 similar interceptors in Alaska and two in California. The Pentagon last September conducted its first successful intercept test of a target using an interceptor model that was the same as those deployed. (See ACT, October 2006. )

Initially agreed to in principle in 1998, the U.S.-Russian center was delayed by broader disputes over whether U.S. entities working in Russia should pay Russian taxes and be liable for damages. Such issues were resolved in a settlement last fall between Moscow and Washington for a more contentious project, raising hope that the center would soon benefit from a similar solution. (See ACT, October 2006. )

One U.S. official told Arms Control Today April 20 that the United States hopes last fall’s agreement will serve as a precedent for the Moscow-based center. The official further said Washington was only aware of “relatively minor” and “resolvable” issues concerning the center.

Russia has made no secret of its opposition to U.S. missile defense deployments in Europe. President Vladimir Putin and other senior political and military officials have railed against the proposal, threatening a range of responses, including militarily targeting the proposed base and withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. The INF prohibits Moscow and Washington from possessing ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Russian officials dismiss U.S. assurances that the interceptors are to protect against a growing missile threat from Iran and are not geared toward Russia. The Kremlin asserts Iran poses no threat and implies the initial minimal U.S. deployment could be enhanced and expanded to potentially undermine Russia’s missile force.

In a recent arms treaty information exchange with the United States, Moscow claimed to have 530 deployed land-based ICBMs and 272 deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles. All told, these missiles are recognized as carrying approximately 3,500 nuclear warheads.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote in an April 11 Financial Times article that U.S. missile defense “capabilities may well grow significantly.” He also asserted their deployment in Europe “would fundamentally alter the continent’s geo-strategic landscape.”

The Bush administration is trying to placate Russia by providing it with a “serious offer for cooperation on missile defense,” Department of State spokesperson Sean McCormack said April 19. Moscow, however, has shown little interest publicly in the proposal.


Subscribe to RSS - Strategic Policy