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– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Strategic Policy

Pentagon Considers New Nuclear Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

The Pentagon is looking at bringing the U.S. nuclear arsenal below the levels set in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as well as scaling back new weapon systems, administration officials said last month.

Two separate policy reviews to be completed this year are leading the Department of Defense to consider new reductions to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

One review is looking for ways to reduce Pentagon budget growth by at least $450 billion over the next decade. This target is likely to double to more than $900 billion now that the congressional “super committee” has failed to produce a deficit reduction plan. The committee’s failure to reach agreement, announced Nov. 21, triggers automatic cuts in defense and other spending. The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, would not take effect until 2013.

To save money, the Defense Department is re-evaluating its plans for fielding nuclear forces at levels set by New START—1,550 deployed strategic warheads based on 700 missiles and bombers, administration officials said in recent testimony.

A second review, increasingly related to the first given its significant budget implications, is examining fundamental questions of U.S. nuclear policy, such as how many nuclear weapons the country needs for the future and why. (See ACT, June 2011.) Conceived as a follow-on to the report produced by last year’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), this so-called NPR implementation study will set U.S. nuclear force requirements and play a key role in determining U.S. negotiating positions in future arms reduction talks with Russia. President Barack Obama has said he intends to pursue another agreement with Moscow to reduce strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, whether deployed or in storage.

Late last summer, Obama issued a document spelling out the study’s “terms of reference.” That document is known as Presidential Policy Directive-11 (PPD-11), Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said at the Nov. 2 hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, which he chairs.

At the hearing, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said that the 90-day study is expected to be finished by the end of the calendar year. Based on the options presented in the study, Obama would issue new nuclear weapons guidance. The secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would then use this new guidance to issue more-detailed directions to the military, and U.S. Strategic Command would revise its military plans, Miller said. It is not clear how long the entire process will take.

Both studies appear to be looking at how U.S. forces under New START should be deployed. Miller testified that “[d]ecisions have not yet been made as to whether [the Defense Department] will take the full seven years” to make the reductions required by the treaty and “whether delivery systems will be reduced to or below those central limits” before the pact’s implementation deadline.

The Pentagon has previously said that its New START force structure, which must be in place by 2018, would include 240 submarine-launched missiles, up to 420 land-based missiles, and up to 60 long-range bombers, for a total of 720 deployed delivery systems. The Defense Department plans to reduce this force by 20 to meet treaty limits. “In the context of the budget situation [in] which we find ourselves,” Miller testified, “we are looking hard at those numbers again and in fact want to be informed by…this NPR implementation study that is underway.” The implementation study could, for example, recommend that the Navy scale back its nuclear-armed submarine program, which is currently planning to field 12 Ohio-class submarines, each with 20 missiles, to comply with New START.

To achieve major budget savings, however, the Pentagon also will have to look at scaling back its multibillion-dollar plans for modernizing the triad of sea- and land-based missiles and land-based bombers over the next 50 years. The Navy is requesting 12 new submarines to replace the current Ohio-class fleet, and the Air Force is seeking up to 100 new long-range bombers and a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The Pentagon estimates that these modernization programs would cost more than $125 billion over 10 years, although a public breakdown of this total has not been made available. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is also planning to spend about $88 billion over the next decade on refurbishing the nuclear stockpile and modernizing the weapons production complex.

Submarine Budget Warfare

In the face of increasing budget pressures, tensions between the military and the White House over budget priorities are starting to bubble to the surface.

For example, despite previous Pentagon support for the Navy’s new submarine plans, Miller testified that “no decisions have been made with respect to future force sizing or the modernization plans for nuclear delivery systems; such decisions will be informed by the administration’s ongoing review of deterrence requirements.”

Similarly, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of Strategic Command, testified at the hearing that although the country needs to replace the current Ohio-class submarine, “affordability has to be an issue here. What we don’t have to make a decision on today is what the ultimate number of submarines is that we might have to deploy depending on the world situation that we find as we go to the out-years.”

Reflecting this high-level shift away from a commitment to 12 new submarines, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is recommending that the number of new submarines be reduced to 10, according to defense.aol.com. The Navy reportedly is pushing back by claiming that 10 submarines are not enough to support five submarines “on station” at all times. Submarines that are on station are deployed far off the U.S. coasts and ready to launch their missiles on a moment’s notice.

According to congressional staffers, for the Navy to operate four to five submarines on station, it would need 12 submarines in total: five in the Atlantic, with two of these on station and the rest in port or in transit, and seven in the Pacific with two to three on station and the rest in transit.

The requirement for on-station submarines, according to the staffers, is mainly driven by the military requirement to deploy submarine-based nuclear weapons within range of their targets so they can be launched promptly, within an hour or so. Such requirements are under review as part of the NPR implementation study.

Sequestration Politics

Although the Pentagon has accepted the need to reduce its future growth by $450 billion over 10 years, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is making his case against sequestration reductions, which would require additional cuts of $500-600 billion, according to a Nov. 14 letter from Panetta to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

According to a Pentagon summary document that was sent with the letter, such additional reductions would be “devastating.” Cuts of that magnitude, the document said, would lead to steps such as a delay in the development of the new Air Force bomber until the mid-2020s, for a savings of $18 billion; a delay in the deployment of the Navy’s new submarine and a downsizing of the fleet to 10, saving $7 billion; and elimination of the entire ICBM leg of the triad, saving $8 billion.

After Panetta sent his letter, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a statement saying that sequestration “is a threat to the national security interests of the United States, and it should not be allowed to occur.” In a Nov. 21 statement responding to the super committee’s announcement, Obama said that he “will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off[-]ramps on this one.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s nuclear forces already have dropped to or below New START ceilings, according to the Department of State. Former senior Russian officials have said that Moscow will retain fewer than 570 delivery systems by 2018 and will have difficulty fielding the 1,550 warheads allowed by the treaty.

Commenting on defense budget pressures, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in a Nov. 11 Bloomberg interview that “[t]he amount of money we’re spending on maintaining nuclear weapons, modernizing nuclear weapons, is not in keeping with the modern world. It’s much more a Cold War remnant.”

At a Nov. 8 briefing, Pentagon press secretary George Little said, “Our top priority is maintaining a nuclear deterrent, but the arsenal may not need to be as large as it is.”

The Pentagon is looking at bringing the U.S. nuclear arsenal below the levels set in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as well as scaling back new weapon systems, administration officials said last month.

Time to Rethink and Reduce Nuclear Weapons Spending



Volume 2, Issue 16, December 2, 2011

The supercommittee’s Nov. 21 failure to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan has triggered deep, automatic reductions in future U.S. defense spending. At the same time, some in Congress are finally beginning to examine how much the United States plans to spend on nuclear weapons in the years ahead.

Through it all, one thing is clear: the changing security environment and increasing budget pressure mean that the United States can and should spend less on nuclear weapons than previously planned.

The automatic reductions, known as “sequestration,” will double the amount of money the Pentagon must cut from its projected budget growth, from about $450 billion to roughly $1 trillion, over the next decade. These cuts could get derailed before they take effect in 2013, but that outcome is impossible to predict. The Pentagon and Congress have to plan for these reductions, and they should start now.

Where should the budget cuts come from? For starters, we should stop funding excessive, Cold War-era nuclear weapon systems and capabilities that do not help address current or likely security threats.  As the Obama administration noted in its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), “The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War era of bipolar military confrontation is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons.”

The most pressing security threats we face today, such as terrorism and cyber attack, simply cannot be addressed with nuclear weapons. The United States does not need to continue to deploy as many as 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads as is allowed under the New START treaty to deter nuclear attack from Russia or any other nuclear-armed state, nor does it need to spend hundreds of billions over the next decade to rebuild the nuclear “triad.”

At the same time, the Obama administration is re-examining the fundamental purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons and how many the country really needs. This review, called the NPR Implementation Study, will likely alter obsolete nuclear deterrence requirements and clear the way for further reciprocal nuclear reductions with Russia.

Even though current nuclear delivery systems will remain operational for another 20-30 years, key decisions on their replacements are being made right now.

Major procurement decisions should be informed by the results of the administration’s review of nuclear forces. To its credit, Pentagon officials told Congress last month that “no decisions have been made with respect to future force sizing or the modernization plans for nuclear delivery systems; such decisions will be informed by the Administration’s ongoing review of deterrence requirements."

Rather than build a new, more expensive version of the nuclear triad from the 1960s, we must recognize that the world has changed. The Cold War ended 20 years ago, but U.S. and Russian arsenals far exceed what is necessary to deter nuclear attack. According to the State Department, as of Sept. 1 the United States deployed 1,790 warheads on 822 strategic delivery vehicles, and Russia deployed 1,566 warheads on 516 strategic delivery vehicles. Each side possesses thousands more warheads in storage.

No other nuclear-armed country deploys more than 300 strategic warheads; China has no more than 40 to 50 warheads on intercontinental-range missiles. Nevertheless, both Russia and the United States currently plan to spend scarce resources to modernize and deploy excessive numbers of nuclear weapons for decades to come.

The United States can save at least $45 billion over the next 10 years and still maintain a formidable and survivable nuclear force.  Here’s how:

Rightsize the submarine force: Current Navy plans call for 12 new ballistic missile submarines—each with 16 nuclear-armed missiles—to replace the existing fleet of 12 operational Trident subs. Each new sub would cost an average of $7 billion; the entire fleet would cost $350 billion to build and operate over 50 years. The United States can rightsize the current and future ballistic missile submarine fleet from 12 to 8 and save $27 billion over 10 years (and $120 billion over the life of the program). Eight operational boats would allow the Pentagon to deploy the same number of sea-based warheads (about 1,000) as planned under New START.

Delay the new strategic bomber: The Air Force plans to retain 60 nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s, but has begun research on a new nuclear-capable heavy bomber, which could cost $50 billion or more to build. It would carry a new air-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile. There is no rush to field a new bomber given that the Pentagon’s plan to deploy 60 heavy bombers under New START will be be achieved with existing aircraft. Delaying this program would save $18 billion over the next decade, according to the Pentagon.

For additional savings, the Pentagon could consider reductions to its land-based strategic missile force. The Air Force plans to maintain a force of up to 420 land-based missiles through 2030, and wants to buy a follow-on missile in the future. An additional $8 billion could be saved by “eliminating” the land-based missile leg of the nuclear triad, according to the Pentagon. Short of elimination, these missiles could be reduced and the follow-on missile program cancelled.

The Bottom Line

Wasting billions on an excessive nuclear force does nothing to help convince nations, such as Iran or North Korea, or terrorist actors to abandon their pursuit of dangerous weapons.

Nevertheless, “defense hawks” in Congress are calling the sequestration “dangerous” and the military services are lining up to protect their pet programs, such as the new ballistic missile submarine.

Fresh thinking is in order. The automatic reductions, although large, are achievable if done smartly. National security can actually be enhanced through greater budget discipline. Programs that address low priority threats must be scaled back to preserve more pressing national security needs.

As Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Nov. 11, “The amount of money we’re spending on maintaining nuclear weapons, modernizing nuclear weapons, is not in keeping with the modern world. It’s much more a Cold War remnant.”

For the good of the country, it is time to fundamentally rethink federal spending on nuclear weapons. –Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball


Volume 2, Issue 16, December 2, 2011

The supercommittee’s Nov. 21 failure to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan has triggered deep, automatic reductions in future U.S. defense spending. At the same time, some in Congress are finally beginning to examine how much the United States plans to spend on nuclear weapons in the years ahead.

Reviewing Nuclear Guidance: Putting Obama's Words Into Action

Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris

The success of President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the role of nuclear weapons and setting out on a path toward their elimination is at a critical juncture. Two and a half years after his Prague speech reinvigorated the international community with a promise to "put an end to Cold War thinking" by "reduc[ing] the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy,"[1] Obama has ordered a review of the requirements for how the military should plan for the potential use of nuclear weapons.

The review is probably Obama's most important and perhaps last chance to change the role that nuclear weapons have traditionally played in U.S. national security strategy. The result of the review will be a broad rewriting of directives and analyses that are used to guide military planners in preparing the country's forces and strategic nuclear war plan. How different the new guidance will be depends in no small measure on how efficiently the president is able to steer the review through a morass of interservice competition, institutional inertia, Cold War mind-sets, defense contractor lobbying, and personal preferences.

Like all policy reviews, this one will trigger fierce battles among departments, agencies, and individuals who support or disagree with the president's vision. Some will argue that the United States can and should reduce its nuclear forces and that the nuclear mission and war plan, more than two decades after the end of the Cold War, still are dominated by Cold War thinking. Others will argue that the current force structure has served the United States and its allies well and that the world is too dangerous and uncertain to scale back forces and mission further until Russia and China become less adversarial.

Obama will need to maintain keen and persistent oversight to ensure that the review is being implemented according to his wishes. If he is not attentive or loses focus, the review will almost certainly be co-opted and diffused by various bureaucracies.

This is not a public process. Reviewing the basis for the strategic nuclear war plan is as secret as it gets. Traditionally, the war plan has had its own level of classification. When it was known as the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan), it was SIOP-ESI, for Extremely Sensitive Information. The more recent versions are likely the same. Despite its importance, few in the White House or Congress have ever seen the plan, much less understand how it is created. Unlike the process the administration used in drafting its "Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] Report," there will be no unclassified document to inform the public debate or the international community. If the past is any indication, the only information the world will hear about the result of this review is a carefully leaked story to a major newspaper and a few general remarks by officials, if that.

Preparing for Further Reductions

According to national security adviser Tom Donilon, the Obama administration is "making preparations for the next round of nuclear reductions." As a consequence, the strategic requirements for the U.S. nuclear posture will need to be reassessed, including "potential changes in targeting requirements and alert postures."[2] General Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), acknowledged the administration's intention to "review and revise the nation's nuclear strategy and guidance on the roles and missions of nuclear weapons."[3]

Outdated presidential nuclear guidance can be a hindrance to reducing nuclear arms and lead to wasteful spending on excessive force levels. During the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) III talks in 1996-1997, for example, it became clear that the presidential guidance dated back to October 1981 (President Ronald ReaganΓÇÖs National Security Decision Directive-13), a decade before the end of the Cold War. In November 1997, the Clinton administration issued an updated nuclear weapons employment policy (Presidential Decision Directive-60, or PDD-60) that reduced strike planning against Russia, but increased strike planning against China and so-called rogue states (or "states of concern," as they later were known) with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, the military's interpretation of PDD-60 still translated into a stockpile of 10,000 nuclear warheads. When the administration of George W. Bush sought to reduce the stockpile, it issued an updated nuclear employment policy (National Security Presidential Directive-14, or NSPD-14) in June 2002. That directive lowered the planning requirement against Russia, allowing for a stockpile decrease of nearly 50 percent while increasing planning against regional proliferators.

The force levels set by New START, which entered into force earlier this year, also are based on the Bush administration's guidance. "The force level that was agreed to and the assessments that were made... were based upon a series of deterrence objectives that have been in place for quite some time," according to Kehler.[4] In other words, the U.S. nuclear force level had been in excess of national security needs for some time, making it possible to trim the force level for New START without changing the guidance. Under the terms of the treaty, the new force level does not have to be reached until 2018. Thus, there is not an urgent need to update the guidance if no further cuts are made.

If there are negotiations on a new round of reductions, however, the administration needs to develop a series of force structure options, and that will require new guidance. "Reductions below the level that we have now are going to require some more fundamental questions about force structure," according to Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and WMD terrorism. Samore said the United States has "reached a level in our forces where further reductions will raise questions about whether we retain the triad or whether we go to a system that only is a dyad."[5] The triad currently includes intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and long-range (heavy) bombers.

Shortly before stepping down from his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen offered a similar assessment. "At some point in time, that triad becomes very, very expensive... [A]t some point in time, in the future, certainly I think a decision will have to be made in terms of whether we keep the triad or drop it down to a dyad," he said. [6]

The Bureaucratic Labyrinth

The targeting review began this summer with Obama ordering the Department of Defense to develop options for reducing the number and role of nuclear weapons. It will end with publication of an updated or a new strategic nuclear war plan. Between those two points lie 12 to 18 months of working groups, studies, simulations, and the creation of guidance documents that culminate in the war plan itself.[7]

Along the way, scores of officials from the military services, federal agencies, and defense contractors will pore over existing guidance, planning documents, and war plans to determine Obama's intentions and how they might affect the posture. Emerging from this initial review process will be a series of options that that will be provided to Obama. He will either choose one or ask for modifications and revisions. Eventually, there will be a presidential policy directive (PPD) that describes his priorities on what the new nuclear weapons employment policy is.

That is only the beginning of the process. From the time the new PPD leaves ObamaΓÇÖs desk, scores of civilian and military officials will begin to "translate" the guidance by adding their own interpretation of the president's words that may alter or even undermine his intentions.

This is the fate of almost any policy generated from top levels of the executive branch. Former STRATCOM Commander Admiral James Ellis recalls that "[the] president's direction to me was less than two pages; the Joint Staff's explanation of what the president really meant to say was twenty-six pages."[8] In the words of Admiral James Miller, who was deputy director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff under President Richard Nixon, "It is in the implementation that the true strategy evolves, regardless of what is generated in the political and policy-meeting rooms of any Administration."[9]

Guidance for the Employment of the Force. The first step in implementing the PPD will be preparation of the Guidance for the Employment of the Force (GEF), a document created by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The current GEF dates from 2008 and is a combination of the previous Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy and several other guidance documents. The GEF contains a list of specific strike options and targeting objectives against specific adversaries based on the presidential guidance. The options include Emergency Response Options, Selective Attack Options, Basic Attack Options, and Directed/Adaptive Planning Capability options. They range in size from employment of hundreds of nuclear warheads in a single strike against a broad section of an adversary's targets to the use of a few warheads against a few targets in a limited strike.

Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan. The second step is formulation of the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (Nuclear Supplement), or JSCP-N, which is produced by the Joint Staff and is based on the GEF and presidential guidance. The JSCP-N directs and initiates the deliberate joint operations planning process for development of operational plans by assigning planning tasks and nuclear strike forces to the combatant commanders tasked with nuclear operations.[10]

Command Guidance. The third step is the Command Guidance issued by the commander of STRATCOM. Based on the PPD, GEF, and JSCP-N, the Command Guidance instructs the Joint Functional Component Command for Global Strike (JFCC-GS) at STRATCOM how to modify the strategic nuclear war plan so it meets the new guidance. The JFCC-GS, formerly known as the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, is the Component Command at STRATCOM that designs, maintains, and, if so ordered by the president and the STRATCOM commander, executes the strategic war plan.

OPLAN 8010-08 (formerly SIOP). The fourth step is the production of the strategic war plan itself and its promulgation to the military services that maintain the nuclear forces for use by STRATCOM. The current plan is known as "Operations Plan (OPLAN) 8010-08 (Change 1) Strategic Deterrence and Global Strike." As noted above, the war plan was known as the SIOP during the Cold War. OPLAN 8010-08 (Change 1) went into effect on February 1, 2009, and remains the current plan.[11]

Options for Change

Each U.S. administration reviews the four aspects of nuclear policy (declaratory policy, acquisition, deployment, and employment). The Obama administration's review has the potential to be significant because it occurs at a point in the nuclear arms reduction process where changes begin to go beyond simply trimming Cold War force levels to requiring more-fundamental decisions about the nuclear force structure and mission in order to carry out the president's ambitious agenda.

The Prague speech declaration that the administration intends to "put an end to Cold War thinking" by "reduc[ing] the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy" is a rather high bar for the targeting review process to understand and implement. Although Obama did not specify what he meant by "Cold War thinking," the use of the term raises the question of exactly how the administration can reduce the role of nuclear weapons in ways that put an end to such thinking. If the administration is serious and receptive, numerous changes could be adopted.

Reduce Target Categories. One possibility is to reduce the number or categories of targets against which military planners are required to plan nuclear strikes. OPLAN 8010-08 is understood to include strike options against military forces, WMD infrastructure, military and national leadership, and war-supporting infrastructure. Not all categories are covered in all strike options; some may be focused on one or a few.

One or more of these target categories could be dropped or trimmed significantly. Nuclear planning in the 21st century will not be about winning nuclear wars by using nuclear strikes to deplete war-fighting assets but more about ensuring the right kind of retaliatory capability to deter nuclear attack in the first place.

Reduce Damage Expectancy. The new guidance could lower the requirement for how much damage must be accomplished to ensure that a target is destroyed. As specified in weapons effects manuals and guidance documents, "light damage" means "rubble, "moderate damage" means "gravel," and "severe damage" means "dust."[12]

If the guidance requires that target X be severely damaged rather than moderately damaged, then either additional warheads will have to be employed, or the characteristics of the weapon will have to be changed to make it more accurate or give it a higher yield. Therefore, how the damage criteria are set will determine a great deal about the size and composition of the arsenal. If damage expectancy can be lowered, then the number and capability of the weapons can be reduced.

Reduce the Mission. Another option is to reduce the missions for nuclear weapons. Currently, nuclear weapons are used to hold at risk all kinds of WMD facilities and systems, military forces, leadership, and war-supporting capabilities of six adversaries. Surely, this list can be narrowed.

The NPR Report created a new doctrine, according to Donilon, "that reduces the role of nuclear weapons in our overall defense posture by declaring that the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks" as opposed to deterring conventional, chemical, and biological attacks.[13]

Yet, the report also declares that "there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring" an attack against the United States or its allies and partners involving conventional, chemical, or biological weapons. "The United States is therefore not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that the 'sole purpose' of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack."[14]

A sole-purpose mission would end nuclear planning against half of the six adversaries in OPLAN 8010-08. The six are not identified, but thought to be China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and a September 11-type attacker with unconventional weapons. Ending the requirement to plan nuclear strikes against conventional, chemical, or biological attacks would have the additional benefit of removing the contradiction with U.S negative security assurances, according to which the United States has pledged not to attack or threaten with nuclear weapons countries that are members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with the treaty.

To truly end Cold War thinking, the review would have to change the mission against the core adversaries, Russia and China.

Reduce the Number and Diversity of Strike Options. The guidance review could reduce the number of strike options that planners make available to the president. Post-Cold War nuclear war planning has been characterized by a proliferation of strike options precipitated by a renewed focus on proliferation of unconventional weapons to states of concern and a fear that they may share this technology with terrorist organizations.

The Clinton administration's PDD-60 and the Bush administration's NSPD-14 each expanded planning against regional proliferators. "STRATCOM is changing the nation's nuclear war plan from a single, large, integrated plan to a family of plans applicable in a wider range of scenarios," Ellis said in 2003.[15] The new plan "provides more flexible options to assure allies, and dissuade, deter, and if necessary, defeat adversaries in a wider range of contingencies," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers later explained.[16]

The philosophy seems to be that more diverse threats require more diverse options and all are offered to the president. A frequently heard claim is that "you cannot take options away from the president," but of course, one can. U.S. legislation and policy have done so frequently in the past, for example by prohibiting indiscriminate attacks on civilians and removing options to use chemical or biological weapons.

Reduce Alert Levels. During the 2008 presidential election campaign, Obama's agenda included a pledge to work with Russia to take ballistic missiles off "hair-trigger" alert. For the first couple of months of 2009, the pledge was listed on the White House Web site. Once New START negotiations with Russia got under way, however, the pledge disappeared; the administration, as it indicated in the NPR Report, instead decided to maintain the current readiness level of nuclear forces. That was a complete policy reversal, although perhaps not a final one. As Samore explained earlier this year, as part of the target review, the White House is "expecting that options will be presented to the president that will look at the implications of changing the alert status and postures and what impact that would have on force size and structure."[17]

Predictably, some influential military and former officials have warned against de-alerting weapons, arguing that re-alerting them in a crisis would risk triggering escalation by causing an adversary to conclude that a first strike was imminent. Others have argued that nuclear forces on alert continuously pose a first-strike threat and that U.S. nuclear strategy already includes scenarios for increasing alert levels in a crisis and uploading thousands of reserve warheads.

The United States currently maintains an estimated 800 warheads on high alert, mainly on ICBMs and a handful of ballistic missile submarines, an important motivation for Russia to maintain a portion of its strategic nuclear forces on high alert as well. It is difficult to think of a feature of the current U.S. nuclear posture that symbolizes Cold War thinking more dramatically than the maintenance of strategic forces at high levels of alert. The ICBMs can be fired within minutes, and the submarines patrol at an "operational tempo" similar to that during the Cold War.

Short of fully de-alerting, a half step might be to remove the requirement for the military to plan for prompt launch of nuclear weapons, for example in a preventive attack or to limit the damage an adversarial attack could inflict. This change would significantly reduce the high requirement for the operational readiness of nuclear forces. The NPR Report described efforts to lengthen the decision time for nuclear use, a related but limited measure.

Reduce Damage Limitation Options. A classic Cold War mission is to seek to limit the damage an adversary's WMD forces can inflict on the United States and its allies by destroying the forces before they can be used. Although much less emphasis is placed on this mission today compared with the Cold War, the mission gained new life with the Bush administration's Global Strike mission in 2003, which planned for pre-emptive conventional and nuclear attacks against WMD targets in states of concern.[18] Removing the requirement to plan for damage-limitation options would essentially create a no-first-use policy without publicly committing to one.

Reduce From Triad to Dyad. The statements by senior White House and Defense Department officials that deeper cuts may require cutting one of the legs of the triad would, if implemented, require a major rewriting of the guidance and the strategic nuclear war plan that is derived from it. Targets previously covered by warheads on the amputated leg would have to be covered by warheads on the remaining two legs, or a decision would have to be made to stop holding those targets at risk. Moving to a dyad would require significant changes to the strike options within the war plan and the way forces are deployed.

Most analysts agree that the bombers are the most likely leg to be cut. The land-based and sea-based ballistic missile legs already carry most of the day-to-day deterrence mission, with bombers serving as a backup. Yet, a missile-only posture would retain the most offensive and potentially destabilizing characteristics of the arsenal and give up the bomber's capability to signal in a crisis or be recalled after a strike has been launched. If the goal is to move to deep cuts and reduce the role of nuclear weapons, then one of the ballistic missile legs will have to be cut.

Reduce Counterforce Planning. Another option is to reduce or end the counterforce mission of nuclear weapons. Counterforce is associated with the ability to attack military and leadership targets, with forces kept capable of launching on warning or pre-empting through high levels of alert.[19]

Historically, a half-dozen or so factors formed a counterforce targeting strategy, beginning in the early 1960s and continuing in the decades that followed. The most important factor was the geopolitical context of the Cold War with sophisticated intelligence capabilities and ever more accurate ballistic missiles. The identification of countless new targets in the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact generated requirements for new warheads to cover them. Soviet efforts to harden facilities to withstand nuclear blasts further intensified the race for additional capabilities to sharpen U.S. nuclear counterforce capabilities.

The current central nuclear posture of the United States is widely understood to be primarily one of a counterforce attack with force-on-force planning for nuclear weapons used to destroy an adversary's nuclear weapons and other strategic assets. Because some of the targets are near or within population centers, however, countervalue targeting (sometime called "city-busting") is an unintended consequence. In fact, even pure counterforce attacks are likely to kill millions of civilians.

The degree to which the requirements that resulted in nuclear counterforce are still operative will partially determine whether counterforce can be reduced or abandoned and replaced with something else. Maintaining a credible deterrent is frequently described as threatening with highly reliable nuclear forces the targets an adversary values most. However, things are never simple or static when it comes to deterrence; and few terms in discussions of nuclear weaponry are more misused, misunderstood, or distorted than "deterrence." Indeed, as the Cold War vividly demonstrated, the concept of deterrence has been used to justify excessive nuclear forces levels and dangerous strategies.

Deterrence can be limited and simple or, as it turned out, expansive and complex. Over the decades, the concept went through many transmogrifications, ending up late in President Jimmy Carter's administration and then Reagan's to mean that the Soviet Union could only be deterred if it knew that the United States could fight and prevail in a nuclear war. Central to that goal was that the Soviet leadership and its instruments of political control and military power be in the crosshairs and be declared vulnerable.

Today's nuclear capabilities and the thrust of OPLAN 8010-08 are the direct descendants of this Cold War counterforce race. "Counterforce is preemptive, or offensively reactive,"STRATCOM concluded in a document prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2002. "Every [nuclear, biological, or chemical] weapon that is destroyed before it is used... is one less we must intercept... or absorb... and mitigate."[20] To end Cold War thinking, the Obama administration's targeting review must re-examine the need for nuclear counterforce to reduce the role of nuclear weapons.


Obama has an important opportunity to update the nuclear policy guidance for the U.S. nuclear force structure and employment policy in ways that would break from obsolete past practices, make future reductions possible, reduce the role of nuclear weapons, and improve U.S. and global security.

The current U.S. nuclear arsenal and the force structure planned under New START are far larger than required to deter a nuclear attack from Russia or any other nuclear-armed adversary on the United States and its allies. The oversized arsenal reflects the fact that U.S. military planners base targeting calculations on Cold War assumptions, including that U.S. forces must be able to destroy enemy nuclear forces and a wide range of other "strategic" assets in order to be credible. Consequently, previous nuclear policy reviews have only trimmed U.S. nuclear forces.

The guidance review should result in a smaller set of new strike options based on what is sufficient to deter the United States' potential nuclear-armed adversaries from initiating a nuclear attack on the United States, its allies, or its partners. The strike options should be based on a new approach to nuclear planning that significantly scales back the number and types of targets, the damage expectancy, the counterforce focus and force-on-force planning, and the operational readiness of the forces. This approach would significantly reduce the number of targets and missions and facilitate further reductions in the number of nuclear warheads and delivery platforms, while maintaining a secure and sufficiently credible nuclear deterrent.

Such steps would make the U.S. nuclear posture more consistent with the Obama administration's policy of significantly reducing the number and role of nuclear weapons and strengthening nonproliferation. An added benefit would be to facilitate significant budgetary savings in the years ahead by reducing the costs associated with current, multibillion-dollar plans to modernize not only each leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, but also nonstrategic nuclear capabilities, nuclear warheads, and the nuclear production complex. Such reductions will, in turn, also help convince Russia that it is in its security and financial interests to pursue further, parallel reductions in its equally bloated nuclear forces. ACT



Hans M. Kristensen is director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, where Robert S. Norris is a senior fellow for nuclear policy.




1. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Remarks by President Barack Obama," April 5, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered.

2. Tom Donilon, "The Prague Agenda: The Road Ahead" (remarks at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, March 29, 2011, http://geneva.usmission.gov/2011/03/31/donilon-future-nuclear-policy/).

3. House Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, The Status of United States Strategic Forces, 112th Cong., 1st sess., 2011, p. 121, www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112hhrg65112/pdf/CHRG-112hhrg65112.pdf (answers of Gen. Robert Kehler, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, to questions submitted by Rep. Michael Turner).

4. Gen. Robert Kehler, Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal year 2012 and the Future Years Defense Program, June 3, 2011, p. 14, http://armed-services.senate.gov/Transcripts/2011/06%20June/11-46%20-%206-3-11.pdf.

5. "Pursuing the Prague Agenda: An Interview With White House Coordinator Gary Samore," Arms Control Today, May 2011.

6. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "Address by Admiral Mike Mullen," September 20, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/92011_transcript_Mullen.pdf.

7. For a chronology of documents and updates of U.S. nuclear weapons guidance during the Bush administration, see Hans M. Kristensen, "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Guidance,"Nuclear Information Project, January 3, 2008, www.nukestrat.com/us/guidance.htm.

8. U.S. Strategic Command, "Commander U.S. Strategic Command End of Tour Interview for Admiral James O. Ellis, Jr.," June 18, 2004 (last updated January 17, 2006), p. 5 (copy on file with author).

9. Gerald E. Miller, "Beres and Others Have No Access to the 'True Strategy,'" Center Magazine, November/December 1982. Miller was deputy director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff from the summer of 1973 to September 1974.

10. For a description of the declassified fiscal year 1996 JSCP-N, see Hans M. Kristensen, "The Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP) Nuclear Supplement," Nuclear Information Project, June 16, 2005, www.nukestrat.com/us/jcs/jscp.htm.

11. For a review of the post-Cold War evolution of the strategic nuclear war plan, see Hans M. Kristensen, "Obama and the Nuclear War Plan," Federation of American Scientists Issue Brief, February 2010, www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/publications1/WarPlanIssueBrief2010.pdf. For a detailed description of U.S. nuclear targeting, see Matthew McKinzie et al., "The U.S. Nuclear War Plan: A Time for Change," Natural Resources Defense Council, June 2001, www.nrdc.org/nuclear/warplan/index.asp.

12. Jerry Miller, Stockpile: The Story Behind 10,000 Strategic Nuclear Weapons (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2010), pp. 72-84. For a glossary of nuclear planning terminology and definitions, see William M. Arkin and Hans M. Kristensen, "The Post Cold War SIOP and Nuclear Warfare Planning: A Glossary, Abbreviations, and Acronyms," January 1999, www.nukestrat.com/pubs/SIOP%20Glossary%201999.pdf.

13. Donilon, "Prague Agenda."

14. U.S. Department of Defense, "Nuclear Posture Review Report," April 2010, p. 16.

15. J. O. Ellis, Memorandum to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "USSTRATCOM Request to Change the Name of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) to Operations Plan 8044," January 3, 2003, http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/united_states/revision03-ellis.pdf.

16. Gen. Richard B. Myers, "Written Posture Statement to SAC-D," Washington, DC, April 27, 2005.

17. "Pursuing the Prague Agenda."

18. For a chronology of the Prompt Global Strike mission, see Hans M. Kristensen, "Global Strike: A Chronology of the Pentagon'S New Offensive Strike Plan," Federation of American Scientists, March 15, 2006, www.nukestrat.com/pubs/GlobalStrikeReport.pdf.

19. For a perceptive analysis of the formation of counterforce and the growth of the strategic arsenal, see Miller, Stockpile.

20. U.S. Department of Defense, Counterproliferation Operational Architecture, prepared by USSTRATCOM and U.S. Special Operations Command, April 26, 2002, pp. 3, 6, 9 (copy on file with author).  


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Obama Submits NWFZ Protocols to Senate

Alfred Nurja

President Barack Obama on May 3 transmitted to the Senate the protocols to the Pelindaba and Rarotonga nuclear-weapon-free-zone (NWFZ) treaties, the regional pacts that ban testing, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons in Africa and the South Pacific.

Once ratified, the protocols “will extend the policy of the United States not to use or threaten use of nuclear weapons against regional zone parties” that are members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and are “in good standing with their non-proliferation obligations,” a White House press release said.

In his transmittal letter, Obama said the protocols’ entry into force would require “no changes in U.S. law, policy or practice.”

However, the submittal drew criticism from Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “I am deeply troubled that President Obama is attempting to codify by international agreement his flawed nuclear weapons declaratory policy, which would limit the instances in which the President would use nuclear weapons to defend the United States and its allies from attack,” Kyl said in a May 5 press release.

He was referring to the administration’s April 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] Report,” which stated that the United States “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

The NPR report revised a previous policy under which the United States had said that it reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack using biological and chemical weapons, even if the attack came from a non-nuclear-weapon state. Advances in U.S. military capabilities allow the United States to forgo the option of a nuclear response in such situations, the NPR found.

In a May 18 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Susan Burk said ratification of the protocols “will not disturb existing security arrangements or impinge upon U.S. military operations, installations, or activities. The Department of Defense, including the Joint Staff, was fully engaged throughout our review process and agrees with these conclusions.”

NWFZ treaties provide for protocols to be signed by the countries that the NPT recognizes as nuclear-weapon states: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Under these instruments, the nuclear-weapon states assume legal obligations not to use nuclear weapons against members of the zone, conduct nuclear tests in the treaty’s zone of application, or take any other action that violates its terms. The United States is the only country out of the five that has yet to ratify the protocols to the two treaties.

Russia had delayed ratification of the protocols to the Pelindaba treaty as it sought clarification as to whether the treaty applied to the island of Diego Garcia, a British possession that Mauritius, a party to the treaty, claims. The United States, which operates a major military base in Diego Garcia, recognizes British sovereignty over the island.

“Diego Garcia is not part of the ‘territory’ of the zone as defined by the Treaty,” said an article-by-article overview of the treaty prepared by the U.S. Department of State. Russia ratified the Pelindaba treaty protocols in March 2011 with a reservation that its obligations would not apply to Diego Garcia.

Kyl’s statement also criticized Obama for seeking ratification of two treaties that do not “address the illegal nuclear weapons program of Iran and North Korea” and urged the Senate not to consider the protocols “until the President shows he is serious about stopping” those programs. “[B]eyond the implications of these two treaties, this latest action is more proof that the President’s nuclear policy priorities are deeply flawed,” Kyl said.

Asked to comment on that point, Burk said, “We agree that addressing the threats posed by the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea [is a] fundamental nonproliferation priorit[y]. The comprehensive set of policies this Administration has adopted over the past two years with respect to Iran and North Korea, especially expanding pressure through strengthened multilateral sanctions, should leave no doubt as to the seriousness of our commitment.”

Burk added, “But our nonproliferation work does not stop there. Rather it requires that we build greater political support for efforts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime.”

Both treaties allow parties to decide for themselves whether to allow nuclear-armed ships and aircraft to visit or transit their territory. The treaties “explicitly uphold the freedom of the seas, and do not affect rights to passage, guaranteed by international law, through territorial waters,” the State Department overview said.

Under President Bill Clinton, the United States signed the protocols to the Pelindaba and Rarotonga treaties in 1996, but the protocols had never been submitted to the Senate. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced at the 2010 NPT Review Conference that the Obama administration would submit the protocols for Senate approval. The protocols are considered treaties and therefore would need a two-thirds Senate majority in support of ratification.

The Obama administration “looks forward to consulting with the Senate to decide the timing of consideration” of the protocols, Burk said in the e-mail.

The Rarotonga treaty, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and other, smaller South Pacific island-states, entered into force in December 1986. Under a separate protocol to this treaty, submitted along with the others to the Senate, the United States is to refrain from stationing or testing nuclear weapons in the U.S. territories of American Samoa and JarvisIsland.

The Pelindaba treaty, which encompasses all African Union states plus Morocco, entered into force in July 2009. (See ACT, September 2009.) Twenty-two signatories have yet to ratify the treaty with some African members of the Arab League, including Egypt, linking ratification with progress toward the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.


The Obama administration sent the Senate the protocols to two nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, prompting objections from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Pentagon to Revise Nuclear Guidance

Tom Z. Collina

Implementing a key recommendation from the April 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] Report,” the Obama administration announced in May that it has started the process of revising guidance issued by the Bush administration for nuclear weapons operations and deterrence policy.

In May 4 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said that the review will assess “deterrence requirements, including analyzing potential changes in targeting requirements and force postures.” Miller said the review would inform the administration’s goals for future nuclear reductions below the levels of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). According to senior administration officials, the Pentagon review will provide options to President Barack Obama by late summer or early fall, but final decisions may not be public until the United States reaches agreements with Russia for comparable policy changes.

The Obama administration has been operating under a 2008 guidance document. After Obama’s inauguration, administration officials determined they did not need to revise the Bush guidance in advance of the negotiation of New START, as the treaty’s modest reductions in weapons levels to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles were consistent with existing plans. The 2010 NPR report, however, found that an “updated assessment of deterrent requirements” would be needed for reductions below New START levels.

The size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is determined in large part by the missions assigned to U.S. nuclear forces and the number of targets against which they must be aimed. For example, since the 1960s, the primary mission for U.S. strategic weapons has been to attack “counterforce” targets, that is, an adversary’s leadership and nuclear and other military targets, to be able to degrade their ability to inflict further damage through a second or third strike. The operational requirements for a counterforce mission are reflected in current U.S. nuclear policy, which calls for more than 1,000 deployed strategic warheads, with hundreds kept at high levels of alert, ready to launch upon warning of an enemy attack.

In addition, a “hedging” policy requires the military to keep about 2,000 warheads in reserve, which could be “uploaded” onto deployed delivery systems, to guard against strategic surprises or unforeseeable technical failure. To reduce the U.S. arsenal below New START levels and to change the alert posture, officials say, the core missions assigned to the nuclear arsenal, such as counterforce, may need to change. “To develop these options for further reductions, we need to consider several factors, such as potential changes in targeting requirements and alert postures that are required for effective deterrence,” national security adviser Tom Donilon told the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference March 29.

This has already become a controversial issue on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans are seeking to limit the Obama administration’s ability to change the current guidance. For example, the House version of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act would prohibit the president from reducing the hedge force until new weapons production facilities are completed. The bill also would prohibit any shift from counterforce targeting unless the president submits a report to Congress on the proposed changes.

Another reason for revising the nuclear guidance, according to the officials, is that the Obama administration’s NPR set new nuclear policy that is not reflected in existing Pentagon plans. For example, the Bush administration policy was to “use” nuclear weapons to deter an adversary’s use of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons, an approach that is presumably reflected in the targeting guidance, which is classified. Obama’s NPR narrowed the nuclear mission somewhat to the “fundamental” role of deterring nuclear attack with a limited range of other contingencies, but the Bush-era guidance has not been changed to reflect this new policy.

New Nuclear Options for the President

According to administration officials, as of mid-May, Obama was preparing to send a memo to the Pentagon with his directions for conducting the guidance review. Then, by late summer or early fall, the Pentagon is to submit a set of options for Obama to consider; he could accept them or send them back for further review. Ultimately, Obama will issue a revised presidential policy directive, to be followed by more detailed directives from the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Once we have that review in place, then we’ll be able to actually start a real negotiation with the Russians in terms of providing them with a position,” White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Gary Samore told Arms Control Today in an April interview.

However, according to the administration officials, any significant changes to U.S. nuclear policy and posture are not likely to be announced before the end of the year because the United States would take such steps only in tandem with Russia. For its part, Russia has been reluctant to discuss future arms reductions until related issues, such as possible U.S.-Russian cooperation on ballistic missile defense in Europe, are resolved. (See ACT, April 2011.) Given upcoming presidential elections in Russia and the United States, significant progress on bilateral nuclear reductions may be unlikely before 2013.

The NPR report noted that due to improved relations, strict numerical parity between the United States and Russia is “no longer as compelling as it was during the Cold War.” However, Miller told the Senate, the NPR also said large disparities in nuclear capabilities could raise concerns on both sides and “may not be conducive to maintaining a stable, long-term strategic relationship, especially as nuclear forces are significantly reduced.” It is therefore important, he said, “that Russia joins us in moving towards lower levels.”

From Triad to Dyad?

According to Miller’s testimony, the Pentagon analysis will look at “possible changes to force posture that would be associated with different types of reductions.” These changes could include, for example, ending counterforce targeting or moving from a nuclear force based on a triad of delivery vehicles—intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers—to a dyad that might eliminate nuclear-armed bombers. Under New START, the Pentagon plans to keep only 60 nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers. By comparison, the Pentagon currently plans to keep up to 420 ICBMs and 240 SLBMs.

In the April interview, Samore said that “we’ve reached the level in our forces where further reductions will raise questions about whether we retain the triad or whether we go to a system that only is a dyad. Those are important considerations.”

Another issue to be explored for the next nuclear arms treaty, according to the administration officials, is the possibility of setting one overall limit for strategic, tactical, and nondeployed weapons. Up to now, bilateral arms control treaties have dealt with deployed strategic (long-range) and intermediate-range weapons, but have not covered tactical (short-range) weapons or weapons in storage. “One approach to take,” according to Samore, “which is our inclination at this point, is to have a single ceiling that would include both deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic [weapons].”

The review also is expected to consider options for changing the alert posture of nuclear weapons to increase the amount of time the president would have after a nuclear attack to decide on a response. During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama said that the capability for prompt launch “increases the risk of catastrophic accident or miscalculation.” Obama’s NPR report, however, concluded that the current alert posture—U.S. heavy bombers off full-time alert, nearly all ICBMs on alert, and a “significant number” of submarines on alert deployed at sea—should not be changed. Reducing alert rates, the report found, “could reduce crisis stability by giving an adversary the incentive to attack before ‘re-alerting’ was complete.” Samore said, “We’re expecting that options will be presented to the president that will look at the implications of changing the alert status and postures and what impact that would have on force size and structure.”

Others issues expected to be in the review include bilateral monitoring of nuclear warhead storage and dismantlement facilities, which have not been covered by a treaty before; whether the United States should continue counterforce targeting of Russian ICBM silos, which presumably would be empty when a U.S. response arrived if the United States did not launch first; the need to plan for fighting two nuclear wars, with China and Russia, simultaneously; and the potential contributions to deterrence of non-nuclear strategic systems, such as a conventional prompt global-strike capability (see ACT, April 2011).

Proponents of nuclear reductions say that they could be a source of significant budgetary savings, particularly as the Department of Defense prepares to replace or modernize each leg of the U.S. nuclear triad. Current administration plans call for spending $125 billion over the next 10 years on new strategic ballistic missile submarines and maintaining the Trident D-5 SLBM, a new ICBM to replace the current Minuteman III, new long-range nuclear-capable bombers, and a “long-range standoff” missile to replace the current air-launched cruise missile. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a May 18 press conference that if Obama’s goal of reducing defense spending by $400 billion over the next 12 years is to be achieved, “then I don’t think we can afford to have anything that’s off the table.”

New START Inspections Begin

Meanwhile, under New START, the United States and Russia exchanged initial databases of nuclear weapons inventories and their locations in March, Miller testified. Those databases will be updated every six months, he said.

New START, which entered into force Feb. 5, does not count hundreds of U.S. strategic delivery vehicles that were previously counted under the original START, which was in force from 1994 to 2009. Under New START, the United States is required to show Russia that these formerly nuclear systems, including converted cruise missile-carrying submarines and the B-1B bomber, are now only conventional weapons systems and that a number of ICBM silos and heavy bombers are no longer in use. The U.S. exhibition of the converted B-1B occurred on March 18, Miller said.

Russia exhibited the RS-24 road-mobile ICBM and its associated launcher in March, and the United States exhibited the B-2 bomber in early April, he said. The treaty allows each party to conduct up to 18 on-site inspections each year. The United States completed the first of these inspections in Russia on April 16, and Russia conducted its first inspections in mid-May.


The Pentagon will provide options to President Barack Obama for future nuclear reductions below New START levels and for policy changes in areas such as targeting, prompt-launch alert posture, and retention of the nuclear “triad.”

Pursuing the Prague Agenda: An Interview With White House Coordinator Gary Samore

Interviewed by Peter Crail, Daniel Horner, and Daryl G. Kimball

Gary Samore is White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction terrorism. Before joining the Obama administration in 2009, he was vice president for studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. During the Clinton administration, he served as special assistant to the president and senior director for nonproliferation and export controls.

Arms Control Today spoke with Samore in his office April 7. Among the topics covered in the interview were the current impasse in talks with Iran on its nuclear program, the modernization and expansion of nuclear weapons programs in Asia, and the U.S. approach to talks with Russia on missile defense and tactical nuclear weapons.

The interview was transcribed by Xiaodon Liang. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: It has now been two years since President Barack Obama’s April 2009 Prague speech, in which he outlined his vision for addressing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. A central part of that vision was the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START] with Russia, which entered into force earlier this year.

But New START still leaves both sides with very substantial numbers of nuclear weapons. The president has declared his intention to seek further bilateral nuclear reductions involving deployed and nondeployed, strategic and tactical warheads, and national security adviser Tom Donilon recently said, “We are ready to begin discussions soon with Russia on transparency and confidence-building measures that could provide the basis for creative verification measures in the next round.”

What factors will help determine how much further each side is prepared to trim its remaining arsenals? What types of verification, transparency, and confidence-building measures would help provide the basis for further reductions?

Samore: Well, let me speak on the U.S. side because I can’t really talk about how the Russians make their decisions—but I can speculate. As far as we’re concerned, we’ll need to do a strategic review of what our force requirements are and then, based on that, the president will have options available for additional reductions. That review is ongoing. It’s likely to take quite a bit of time because we’ve reached the level in our forces where further reductions will raise questions about whether we retain the triad or whether we go to a system that only is a dyad. Those are important considerations. Reductions below the level that we have now are going to require some more fundamental questions about force structure.

Once we have that review in place, then we’ll be able to actually start a real negotiation with the Russians in terms of providing them with a position. On the verification and the transparency piece, we believe that the next treaty or the next agreement should include nondeployed systems, which have never been monitored or limited under arms control agreements. We believe that tactical nuclear weapons should be included in the overall ceiling. One approach to take, which is our inclination at this point, is to have a single ceiling that would include both deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic [weapons]. And then, both sides, given the different force structures we have, would have some freedom to mix under that total ceiling. But in order to make that kind of an approach work, you would have to have inspections that we’ve never had before, and that would include inspections of nuclear weapons storage facilities.

I think you would need to have some kind of a mechanism to account for nuclear weapons that are destroyed because we have a huge backlog of nuclear weapons that are waiting to be destroyed, and the Russians will want to know how to account for those because, in theory, they could be reused. So, to me, the next treaty or agreement is going to require a very different set of verification and transparency measures, and up to now, both sides have been reluctant to agree. Frankly, the Russians are much more cautious than we are when it comes to verification, so we’re going to have to overcome serious hurdles if we’re going to get down into an agreement that gets at the nondeployed forces.

ACT: Is it accurate to say the rationale for the majority of U.S. nuclear forces is Russia’s nuclear force?

Samore: If you look at the NPR [2010 “Nuclear Posture Review Report”], you’ll see the rationale for our nuclear force structure.

ACT: Does the administration foresee further U.S. nuclear reductions if Russia’s deployed nuclear force shrinks below the 1,550-warhead level allowed by New START?

Samore: As the NPR says, at this point it makes sense for there to be some parity between U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, so we don’t rule out taking steps on our own. In the absence of a formal agreement or treaty, there may be parallel steps that both sides could take or even unilateral steps that the U.S. could take. But those are not—decisions haven’t been made yet. Right now we have the New START treaty to implement, which gives us seven years to [come] down to the levels that are identified there. Whether we do things in addition to that or that would supersede that, that would depend very much on the discussions that we have with the Russians.

ACT: During the 2008 campaign, then-Senator Obama said, “Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice...increases the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation” and pledged to “address this dangerous situation.”

The NPR report calls for the evaluation of options that could increase the president’s decision-making time regarding the use of nuclear weapons in times of crisis. News reports suggest new presidential guidance will be formulated that may address this matter.

What specific steps are under consideration that could reduce the potential risks of accident or miscalculation due to so-called prompt launch posture?

Samore: You’ll notice that in Tom Donilon’s [March 29] speech [at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace], when he talks about the strategic review, he mentions that alert postures will be one of the factors that will be addressed in that review. We’re expecting that options will be presented to the president that will look at the implications of changing the alert status and postures and what impact that would have on force size and structure.

ACT: Russian leaders continue to express concern about the more advanced U.S. missile interceptors planned for the later phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach.

Could you update us on the status of the ongoing U.S.-Russian talks on missile defense cooperation and describe the types of missile defense cooperation that these discussions might produce? For example, would it focus on joint early-warning data sharing, an agreement not to target defensive systems against the other side’s strategic offensive systems, or something else?

Samore: We’ve had very senior-level discussions recently with the Russians on missile defense cooperation including Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates’ discussions when he was in Moscow. President Obama and [Russian] President [Dmitry] Medvedev have discussed the issue in their regular phone conversations. We’re certainly engaging with the Russians at a very senior level to try to find ways to cooperate on missile defense in a way that provides assurance to them, because our missile defense system really isn’t intended to threaten their nuclear deterrent, as well as improving our capacity and their capacity to defend against emerging threats from countries like Iran.

Certainly one of the areas we’re looking at is sharing data in terms of early warning. Again that’s something that Tom Donilon mentioned in his speech as an area where we think it would actually serve both sides if we could work together and where the Russians have something to bring to the table because they have radar capacity that would be useful for us in terms of defense of Europe and the United States. So that’s certainly one aspect of cooperation that we’re discussing.

ACT: When do you hope to see some kind of agreement concluded?

Samore: I would be rash to predict when an agreement will be concluded. But it’s something that Presidents Obama and Medvedev have identified as the top strategic priority right now, because we think that’s an area where there’s room for progress.

ACT: The administration has expressed interest in engaging Russia in talks on tactical nuclear weapons. National security adviser Donilon recently has suggested that “increas[ing] transparency on a reciprocal basis concerning the numbers, locations, and types of nonstrategic forces in Europe” could be a useful starting point. Could you give us more details about what you have in mind?

Samore: I think we have to recognize that there’s a disparity between the U.S. and Russia when it comes to tactical nuclear weapons in terms of numbers and in terms of mission. From the Russian standpoint, they have many more tactical nuclear weapons, and they claim they believe they need them to counter NATO’s conventional superiority. So one way to begin to get into a process that will lead to reductions on a reciprocal basis is to have a better understanding of both sides’ numbers, doctrine, storage facilities, and so forth, and that’s something we would be prepared to exchange with the Russians on a confidential basis. Whether the Russians are willing to go down that road, I can’t tell you; but what we have in mind is at least starting with an exchange of information as a way to try to get a better understanding of each side’s position and hopefully that would lead—as I said, we think tactical nuclear weapons could be included in the next overall agreement. But another approach would be to take parallel actions in advance of there being a new treaty or agreement, something else that Tom Donilon mentioned in his speech.

ACT: Regarding the remaining U.S. tactical nuclear stockpile in Europe, which is part of the ongoing NATO deterrence review, are the remaining forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Europe necessary for the defense of the alliance?

Samore: The primary mission or the primary value of tactical nuclear weapons is symbolic and political because whatever military mission they serve could of course also be accomplished through the use of systems that are not tactical systems based in Europe.

ACT: Under what circumstances might NATO consider their consolidation or withdrawal?

Samore: What Tom Donilon talked about in his speech is [steps taken] on a reciprocal basis with Russian actions. That is a principle that all the NATO allies have agreed on. If Russia took reciprocal actions, we would be prepared to take actions. But there’s no agreement in NATO to take unilateral actions as concerns U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.

ACT: A general question relating to all of these issues on the U.S.-Russian agenda: How would you characterize the nature of the conversations at this point? These are taking place at the cabinet level, and these are discussions. At what point do you expect that there might be more formal work occurring on any one of these or all of these issues?

Samore: If you’re talking about a formal arms control negotiation, neither side is ready to do that. We’re not prepared to do that yet because we haven’t completed our internal reviews, so we wouldn’t know what position to take. The Russians have indicated publicly that they’re not prepared to consider additional reductions until their concerns about missile defense and weapons in space and a number of other things have been addressed. At this point, I don’t anticipate we would begin formal arms control negotiations anytime soon. That’s why we’re emphasizing the need to have discussions about things like verification, transparency, and so forth; that’s a precursor to having a formal arms control negotiation.

ACT: In the Prague speech, the president pledged to pursue U.S. ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT]. Mr. Donilon recently reaffirmed that the administration will engage with senators on that treaty.

How does the CTBT contribute to U.S. nonproliferation efforts, and do you expect ratification would lead the handful of other states that have not yet done so to reconsider the treaty?

Samore: I think the best argument we can make for the CTBT is that it serves U.S. national security interests by giving us one tool to help constrain the nuclear buildup in Asia. I do believe that if the U.S. ratified the CTBT, it’s likely that China, India, and Pakistan would all ratify the CTBT and that would create a legal and political barrier to a resumption of nuclear testing. I think the risk of a resumption of nuclear testing is greatest in Asia. Obviously, North Korea could test at any time, but among Pakistan, India, and China, those are the countries that are building up their forces, modernizing their forces, and where testing might make sense in terms of those programs. So, to the extent that we can put in place the CTBT and to the extent that that will constrain options in Asia, it will help to tamp down the one part of the world where there is a nuclear buildup taking place.

ACT: On Iran, the United States, particularly with its P5+1 partners,[1] was pursuing a dual-track strategy. We saw from the [January 21-22] meeting in Istanbul, there were no real gains, no progress made on outstanding issues. U.S. officials have said since then that the door is still open but that they’re also looking at tightening the implementation of existing sanctions. How would you characterize the P5+1 diplomatic strategy and options going forward?

Samore: You described it very well. The P5+1 and [EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] Lady [Catherine] Ashton have said that the door is open to a resumption [of talks]. I’ve seen no indication that the Iranians are interested and no indication that they’re prepared to come to the table with any serious intent, so we’re very much focusing on the pressure track of the dual-track strategy. We’ve continued to take actions, and you will see in coming weeks and months that, with our allies, we’ll continue to try to increase pressure on Iran in order to persuade its government that the best way to avoid those pressures is to come to the bargaining table and be serious about trying to come up with a diplomatic solution. But at this particular moment, there’s no active diplomacy.

ACT: As you are well aware, Iran has asserted that progress with the P5+1 depends on other states recognizing what it claims is its right to enrich uranium.

Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton recently told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Iran could possibly enrich uranium at some point in the future under very strict conditions and “having responded to the international community’s concerns and irreversibly shut down its nuclear weapons program.” Can you give us some sense of what those strict conditions might be and how the United States intends to ensure that Iran takes those necessary steps?

Samore: I think the key to Iran resuming its full nuclear—peaceful nuclear—activities is to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions that require them to suspend all enrichment- and [spent fuel] reprocessing-related activities and to fully cooperate with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to address concerns about their past and present nuclear activities, especially in the area of weaponization. So, the first step, if Iran wants to restore confidence and if Iran wants to lift sanctions, is to comply with the Security Council resolutions. What Secretary Clinton said has made explicit what has always been implicit in our policy, going back to the Bush administration, that if Iran were to satisfy the UN Security Council that its nuclear intentions were peaceful, then we would have no objection to Iran engaging in the full suite of peaceful nuclear activities. Up to this point, Iran has not been able to persuade anybody, frankly, that its nuclear intentions are peaceful. That’s why the Security Council continues to demand full suspension as the initial step they can take.

ACT: Turning to North Korea, recently Mr. Donilon said that, in order for the six-party talks [involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States] to resume, “North Korea first needs to engage with the South and address issues surrounding its military provocation and then take significant and irreversible steps toward the goal of denuclearization. Those steps must include monitored suspension of their newly declared uranium-enrichment program.”

What steps can the United States and its partners in the region take to achieve these objectives, and what risk is there, in the meantime, that North Korea might continue to build on its nuclear and missile capabilities?

Samore: Very much like the case of Iran, we have applied pressures to North Korea, both in the form of UN Security Council resolutions and in actions we and our allies, especially South Korea and Japan, have taken to try to persuade North Korea to take the steps we consider necessary to resume a diplomatic process. I think we’ve begun to see the North Koreans, at least right now, looking for a way to resume the six-party talks. We’ll continue to do that, and as Tom Donilon said, for us it’s very important that we not go back to the old way of doing business where the North Koreans get benefits in return for just talking. What we want to see are concrete actions. As Tom said, getting the North Koreans to suspend their enrichment program is an important step.

ACT: On the fissile material cutoff treaty [FMCT], U.S. officials, including yourself, Clinton, and Donilon, have said that “our patience is not infinite” and that if the stalemate continues in the CD [Conference on Disarmament], the United States would seek other options. What is the United States doing now to break the deadlock in the CD? In the absence of agreement on a work program, what “other options” are you considering to halt the further production of nuclear bomb material?

Samore: We’re continuing in the CD as we have since President Obama’s Prague speech to argue that we’re prepared to begin negotiations on a verifiable FMCT. In fact, all countries at the CD agreed to such a work plan. Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to block a consensus on carrying out that work plan, and at this point, it appears unlikely to me that the CD will be able to come up with a compromise to begin FMCT negotiations. We’re going to start consulting. We will start consulting and have started to consult with allies and partners on whether there’s an alternative venue for the Conference on Disarmament. There are a couple of different ideas out there in play and we’re open-minded. The important thing for us is to get the negotiation started. So, we’re talking to the key countries, including countries that would be directly affected by an FMCT, as well as the technology holders.

It seems to me that is a group that we would want as much as possible to be included in such a process. Recognizing that the Pakistanis are probably not going to be willing to participate, but nonetheless if the CD is not going to be able to get started in terms of negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty, it’s important that we find some other way to do that, even if it means bypassing the CD, because these negotiations are not going to be quick and easy. There are a lot of pretty fundamental disagreements or differences of point of view, for example, whether existing stocks should be included and how the verification would be carried out. This is going to be a very lengthy, difficult, complicated negotiation, and the longer we wait to get started, the longer it will be before a treaty can actually be achieved.

ACT: You say such consultations should involve “technology holders.” By “technology holders,” do you mean those countries that have enrichment and reprocessing technology?

Samore: Yes. It would be good to include the Japanese, the Germans, Brazil, South Africa—countries that have developed enrichment and reprocessing for peaceful purposes. It seems to me they have something to bring to the negotiations, and to the extent that any verification regime would have some elements that would be in addition to the existing IAEA safeguards, it would directly affect countries that have [enrichment and reprocessing] facilities that are already under safeguards.

ACT: In the meantime, Pakistan and India are the two countries, North Korea aside, that are believed to be continuing fissile material production for weapons. What steps can the United States and the international community pursue prior to a negotiation on an FMCT to address the risks posed by the continued accumulation of fissile material in South Asia?

Samore: I think it’s very unlikely that either India or Pakistan is prepared at this moment to stop its nuclear buildup. Both countries, for their own reasons, just like China for its own reasons, seem intent on further developing their capabilities. In the near term, I don’t think there is any sort of [regional] arms control arrangement, whether it’s by one of those countries or by two or three of them, that could deal with this buildup. That’s why we think the FMCT and the CTBT provide international instruments for trying to get at that concern. Certainly in the case of South Asia, it’s very important, I think, to minimize as much as possible incidents that could lead to military tension and conflict between India and Pakistan because, in my view, the risk of a conflict escalating to a nuclear war is probably higher in South Asia than in anywhere else in the world. We’ve obviously worked very hard to encourage India and Pakistan to resume their composite dialogue, worked very hard to try to convince the Pakistani government to take action against groups in their country that might be carrying out terrorist actions against India. So to me, the focus in the near term has to be on confidence building to reduce the risk of war. In the long term, to the extent that we can get these international instruments in place, like the CTBT and the FMCT, that’s a way to constrain the nuclear buildup.

ACT: There have been reports in recent months suggesting that Pakistan’s fissile material production rate has been accelerating. Is this the case? Has India also increased its rate of fissile material production since the approval [by the United States and the Nuclear Suppliers Group of a policy of resuming nuclear exports to India] in 2008?

Samore: I probably can’t talk to that specifically. All I can do is repeat that there is a nuclear buildup under way in Asia: India, Pakistan, and China all are modernizing and expanding their nuclear forces. We need to figure out a way to, A, manage and, B, try to constrain that as much as we can. The best approach we’ve been able to come up with is one that emphasizes these multilateral international arms control instruments because I don’t see any purely regional approach that will be effective, and I don’t see any approach where any of those three countries would, on their own, decide to stop.

ACT: In an October 2010 presentation, you cited Pakistan as the issue that keeps you up at night. With regard to nuclear proliferation and material security, do you still have those concerns?

Samore: The Pakistani government takes the nuclear security threat very seriously, and they’ve put a lot of resources into trying to make sure that their nuclear facilities and materials and weapons are well secured. There’s no lack of recognition that this is a very important issue, and there’s no lack of incentive on the part of the Pakistani government to maintain control. What I worry about is that, in the context of broader tensions and problems within Pakistani society and polity—and that’s obviously taking place as we look at the sectarian violence and tensions between the government and the military and so forth—I worry that, in that broader context, even the best nuclear security measures might break down. You’re dealing with a country that is under tremendous stress internally and externally, and that’s what makes me worry. They have good programs in place; the question is whether those good programs work in the context where these broader tensions and conflicts are present.

ACT: On the nuclear security summit, we’re about a year away from the second summit to be held in Seoul. What are the United States and South Korea hoping to accomplish at the summit next year? What are the biggest challenges that have to be addressed in order to meet the four-year goal that has been set out?

Samore: I think we’re on track to have a very successful summit. We’ve already been able to secure, remove, [and] eliminate very large quantities of fissile material, and we’ve still got a year to go. So, I think we’ll have an additional track record of success.

We’ve also made a very concerted effort to set up the centers of excellence and training, which is very effective because nuclear security is more than just the material. It also requires, and it is in many ways more important, that the people responsible for securing the material do their job properly. Since the [2010] Washington summit, we’ve signed agreements with a number of countries to either establish or work together in these nuclear security centers, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and so forth. I think there may be some additional ones that would be announced in Seoul.

Lastly, and this is the one area where I think we have the greatest challenge, how do we translate the work that the summit participants do into the broader international community? I think there is a very good working relationship among the 47 or so countries, and we’ve all agreed on a work plan and will be able to come to Seoul and show that we’ve made very significant progress to carry out the steps in the work plan. But we need a mechanism for including the 150 or so countries that are not actually at the summit, and that means finding a greater role for the UN. I think Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is very interested in being active in this area. I think it means using other international organizations, like the IAEA, and strengthening their nuclear security assistance program.

The summit will show that there has been substantial progress among the countries that participated in the Washington meeting in terms of carrying out the work plan. The challenge for us is to find some way to include those countries that are not actually physically present at the summit because, as a practical matter, we can’t include everybody, and that’s something we’re working on.

ACT: The part about the president’s four-year goal—can you address that? Where do things stand? What are the challenges in order to complete that particular goal of the president?

Samore: We, of course, still have a ways to go before we’ve reached our four-year mark. I think there will be cases where we don’t have access [to] or even knowledge of nuclear material, for example, nuclear material in North Korea. We don’t have a cooperative relationship with the North Koreans, so we won’t be able to say from our own knowledge that that nuclear material has been secured. I think it probably has been, but I have no way to make that judgment. In some cases, we can have direct access, work directly with countries on-site, either to secure, remove, or eliminate nuclear material. In other cases, we won’t have direct access. That’s why we’re trying to work through these indirect mechanisms, like centers of excellence, where we think we can help countries to establish a good security culture and training and equipment and so forth, and then strengthen the international elements, whether it’s the UN or the IAEA or the different conventions. At the end of the four-year period, I can’t tell you exactly where we’ll be, but the Seoul summit is sort of coming up on the halfway mark, and we’ve already been able to show very substantial progress.

ACT: At the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] review conference last year, there was an agreement to hold a conference on a Middle East weapons of mass destruction-free zone. What does the United States hope to achieve through the 2012 conference? Are you looking for states in the region to take certain interim steps that would contribute to the realization of such a zone? Given the nature of the nuclear debate in the region, to what extent will the meeting focus initially on chemical and biological weapons?

Samore: Our view is that it’s important that the meeting, if it takes place in 2012, focus on the broader range of nuclear, chemical, biological, and ballistic missile [issues]. When we agreed to organize this meeting at the NPT review conference, 2012 seemed like a pretty reasonable timeline for getting something organized. Obviously, since then there have been some extraordinarily dramatic changes in the region; and whether or not we can still make that 2012 meeting is, I think, much less clear. We have to continue to make an effort.

What we would like to do is identify a number of host countries and then see if we could get some, if not consensus, at least strong support from among the countries in the region for a host. That would be an important first step in terms of making the conference more real. But given the disagreements in the region on these issues and given the turmoil and uncertainty in the region, this whole thing is going to be a very challenging enterprise.

ACT: The P5 states[2] plan to meet in Paris later this year to discuss nuclear transparency issues and possible ways to verify additional nuclear arms reductions. What do you hope to achieve at this meeting, and do you expect similar meetings to follow?

Samore: We hope there will be similar meetings. There isn’t any basis on which the five recognized nuclear-weapon states can engage in formal arms control negotiations. There’s no political basis on which you can have a five-way nuclear arms agreement because of the disparity between the U.S. and Russia on one hand and the U.K., France, and China on the other. In place of, or in advance of, there being any kind of formal multilateral arms control process, we’re trying at least to develop some areas of understanding on verification and transparency because if the U.S. and Russia continue to reduce [their nuclear arsenals] in the long term, it would create conditions where, in theory, you could have an arms control negotiation among the five, among states that possess nuclear weapons. If you were to have such a negotiation, there would have to be some kind of verification and transparency arrangement. So these discussions, I think, are useful in that sense, recognizing that the conditions for having formal arms control negotiations among the five just don’t exist.

ACT: Just remind us about the genesis of these meetings. There was an earlier meeting in London...

Samore: It was the British that started the idea, and we were very comfortable with that. Now the French have picked up [on it], and I would hope in the future, although this hasn’t been agreed, you would see similar meetings hosted by the other countries. But we have to recognize that the other countries are very wary of being brought into an arms control process at a time when, from their standpoint, the U.S. and Russia have 10 times more nuclear weapons than they do. I don’t think any country of the five is prepared to agree to any kind of a treaty or agreement that would lock them into a position of having less weapons.

ACT: Has a date been firmly set for the meeting?

Samore: I don’t believe so; you would have to ask the French. I’m not sure there has been complete agreement on there even being a meeting. I think that’s still under discussion. We’re very comfortable with it, and we would hope that all of the others would agree to it as well.

ACT: Is there anything we should have asked that we didn’t? Anything you want to say that we haven’t touched on in our questions up to this point?

Samore: The one thing I would say is that I really do think that President Obama’s approach to this range of issues is that there has to be an integrated approach, and the Prague speech was very deliberately designed so that there were four interlocking elements, and I think we’ve made very good progress on each of those. But to me, the challenge of Iran and North Korea continues to be an area that if we don’t get right, will unravel everything else we’re trying to do. I really do think that unless we’re able to check the programs in North Korea and Iran, there’s a very high likelihood that it will eventually lead to further proliferation. I’m not saying it’s going to happen right away, but if that happens, if we see additional nuclear powers emerge in East Asia and the Middle East, then that completely undermines everything else that we’re trying to do. So, I hope that people appreciate how important it is that we work together to convince Iran and North Korea to comply with their obligations. Otherwise, everything else that we’re doing in the other areas, I think, will probably come to naught.

ACT: That’s a wide-ranging and complex set of challenges. Thanks for giving us an overview on all of these things two years after the Prague speech.

Samore: Sure.


1. P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plus Germany.

2. The P5 also are the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states under the NPT.


The White House’s top arms control and nonproliferation official discusses the prospects for future U.S.-Russian agreements on nuclear weapons and missile defense, the administration’s strategy for addressing Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, the nuclear buildup in Asia, and more.


The Urgent Need for a Seoul Declaration: A Road Map for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit and Beyond

Kenneth N. Luongo

The April 2010 nuclear security summit in Washington raised the international profile of the threat of nuclear terrorism and focused attention on the need to better secure all weapons-usable nuclear materials in all corners of the globe. It will be followed by another summit in 2012 in Seoul, a decision that has set the stage for what could become a very important, biennial, high-level international political event.

Because they are attended by heads of state, these biennial summits have the potential to become the pre-eminent international forum where the state of global nuclear material security is evaluated and where new commitments are made to improve the world’s defenses against nuclear terrorism. They could become the nuclear security equivalent of what the UN climate change conference process is for transnational environmental challenges and what the Group of Eight (G-8) and Group of 20 (G-20) meetings are for global financial issues. To achieve this status, however, the nuclear security summit process needs to evolve, and participating counties need to be willing to accept changes that will strengthen the nuclear material security regime.

The lead-up to the 2012 summit provides an opportunity to begin this evolutionary process. The Washington summit solidified and underscored the key elements of the current nuclear material security regime, including UN Security Council resolutions, international agreements, and the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The South Korean summit can build on the success of its predecessor by moving beyond the current elements of the regime and endorsing some key new policy initiatives as part of a “Seoul Declaration” package.

This type of a declaration would utilize the inherent action-forcing value of the summit process, set a precedent for achieving further improvements over time at subsequent summits, and position South Korea as a global leader in the nuclear material security field. In particular, because South Korea is a contributor to the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and a member of the G-20, it can serve as a bridge between these groups on this issue, encouraging contributions and action from the G-20 on global nuclear security priorities.

Some of the new policy initiatives for the Seoul summit could be prepared for implementation in the short term, and others would require further evaluation and development in order to be implemented at future summits. This additional work could be carried out by empowering a technical expert process at the Seoul summit that would complement the political “Sherpa” process that currently shapes and guides the summits. (A Sherpa is the representative of a government who leads its preparation for an event such as the nuclear security summit.) The current summit Sherpas are generally representatives of the foreign ministries of participating governments and not necessarily deeply knowledgeable about the technical aspects of nuclear material security practices and challenges.

If the Seoul summit could start the policy evolution process and if this step could be continued in subsequent summits, it would help strengthen and expand the existing nuclear and radiological material security regime significantly. This summit process then should be supplemented and coordinated with the related efforts of the G-8 and G-20, the IAEA, and the other national and multilateral programs and initiatives that are focused on the challenge of preventing nuclear terrorism. Therefore, it is important that the summit events not be viewed as an end in themselves, but rather as a facilitating mechanism for the journey toward a modern, stronger, more flexible, and responsive 21st-century nuclear material security architecture.

Acknowledging the Threat

One of the significant challenges in maintaining nuclear material security as a high global priority is that a number of nations do not see nuclear terrorism as a real threat. The Washington summit tackled this issue in its communiqué, in which all 47 participating countries agreed that “[n]uclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security.”

However, there is still skepticism in some governments. One issue is a belief that building even a crude nuclear weapon is beyond the capability of most terrorist groups. Also, virtually every country possessing fissile materials is reluctant to acknowledge that its security procedures may have shortcomings that could be exploited by terrorists.

A number of U.S. blue-ribbon commissions and analyses have underscored the threat of nuclear terrorism.[1] The cables that were released by WikiLeaks in late 2010 indicate that other countries beyond the United States and its NATO allies are concerned about this threat.[2] The root of the threat is the very large and still growing stockpile of weapons-usable fissile material around the globe. Rough estimates put it at 1,600 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 metric tons of plutonium.[3] About one-half of the world’s fissile material is in military stockpiles; the remaining 50 percent is in civilian stockpiles. The exact amount of this material is not known with any precision; the margin of error on the estimates is as much as 300 metric tons for HEU and as much as 25 metric tons for plutonium.[4] Even with the imprecise estimates, it is clear that there is enough material for 100,000 to 150,000 nuclear weapons today.[5]

The HEU has prompted particular concern because it is used in a number of nonmilitary applications, and a crude HEU gun-type device is considered to be the type of nuclear weapon most accessible to terrorists.[6] It is estimated that it would take 40-50 kilograms of HEU to make such a device.[7] However, it likely would be large and heavy, and creating it would require some basic infrastructure support, such as a machining capability. A plutonium device is much more difficult to develop without a more sophisticated technical infrastructure and experts, and terrorists likely would need more technical assistance with this type of a weapon.

Nuclear smuggling is another window into the threat and its reality. According to the IAEA, there have been 1,600 cases of illicit nuclear trafficking since 1993.[8] There have been 18 cases of the theft or loss of HEU or plutonium. None of the HEU that was recovered was reported missing from the facility from which it disappeared. Recently, there have been three cases of holding radiological sources for ransom.

Irrespective of the possession of fissile materials, virtually every country possesses and uses radiological sources for industrial and medical purposes. Some of these sources are very high intensity. Radiological terrorism is considered to be a higher-probability event than a nuclear attack.[9] Radiological devices do not result in nuclear explosions, but they do spread toxic radioactive materials. A radiological attack is much less sophisticated than a nuclear terrorist attack and would cause much less physical damage, but its impact on the global economy could be very significant depending on the location. There is a significant problem with the security of radiological sources around the world. The IAEA estimates that there are 100,000 to 1 million radiological sources around the globe, but no one knows for sure.

In the wake of the nuclear emergency that occurred in Japan, it is important to recognize that nuclear crises can erupt without warning, generate devastating results, and carry extremely high price tags. In the case of nuclear terrorism, the cost of the damage and response would dwarf the price of prevention. It would be very sobering if, at the next nuclear summit, an analysis of this cost was provided to the assembled nations. It likely would have a dramatic impact on developed and developing nations.

Nuclear Material Security

Despite the agreement at the Washington summit on the importance of nuclear material security, there still seems to be some lingering confusion in the international community about what nuclear material security actually is and how it relates to other nuclear power, nonproliferation, and arms control objectives.

Nuclear material security involves the accounting of plutonium and HEU and the protection of those materials against theft or diversion to use by terrorists, other nonstate actors, and non-nuclear-weapon states. By comparison, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the nonproliferation regime are concerned with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to new states, primarily through the diversion of nuclear materials or the clandestine use of an existing nuclear infrastructure by a state for weapons purposes. The IAEA safeguards program is the primary way that compliance with the NPT is monitored.

Because nuclear material security is widely considered to be the responsibility of the country that possesses the materials, and these materials are considered to be sensitive, a number of international agreements, national regulations and laws, and nonbinding recommendations are applicable in this area and constitute the foundation of the current regime. One result of this disaggregated approach, however, is that there are no standardized international rules governing nuclear material security, and each country creates its own system.

A Seoul Declaration

Two very important decisions need to be made at the outset of the planning for the South Korean summit: What will be the scope of that event, and how will the summit expand the nuclear material security regime beyond its current limits? In December, the Korean government gave some indication of the issues that it was interested in seeing addressed. These included a progress report on implementing the Washington summit commitments, developing HEU management guidelines, enhancing security culture, countering nuclear smuggling, strengthening nuclear forensics cooperation, and securing radioactive materials.[10] The issues of enhancing transportation security and information sharing and security may be added to this list. There also is the very sensitive issue of how to address the issue of North Korea in the context of the Seoul summit (see box).

Recently, the Japanese nuclear crisis has created pressure to add nuclear safety to the agenda. This issue, and its relationship to the future of nuclear power, could obscure the unique focus of the summit on nuclear material security unless it is used to advance the security agenda. One important step is to follow the example of the European Union, which recently agreed to conduct voluntary “stress tests” to assess the safety of the 143 nuclear reactors in EU countries. The tests will be conducted by national regulators based on agreed upon criteria, and the results will be made public. This is an important precedent that overcomes concerns about borders and sovereignty to ensure that there is uniformity in EU safety procedures and technology.

Nuclear security summit participants could agree in advance of the Seoul meeting to perform similar stress tests for nuclear material security based on agreed upon criteria, and participating countries could report back on the results at the summit. Alternatively, the summit attendees could agree at the summit to perform these stress tests and then report back after the meeting. In either case, any deficiencies found should be identified and corrected immediately. This process will significantly strengthen the state of global nuclear material security.

The South Korean government has established an interministerial preparatory committee headed by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik to organize the summit and has opened a preparatory office led by Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan to oversee general planning, management and protocol for the event.[11] There also seems to be movement toward the creation of an advisory committee that would include representatives from leading South Korean think tanks. As presently envisioned, the Seoul summit would be anchored by the government summit, but as in last year’s event in Washington, there would be two satellite events—one for the nuclear energy industry and the other for nongovernmental and academic experts.

As South Korean officials and their counterparts from other countries discuss the upcoming summit, they should consider how to build the summit process into a strong and lasting initiative that will serve global nuclear security objectives. All the new proposals for the Seoul summit that have been identified are important. In keeping with the current regime, however, they are discrete elements without a connecting thread; one goal of the Seoul summit should be to tie them together by articulating more-encompassing themes. The participating governments have the opportunity to endorse these themes and to package them as part of a Seoul Declaration[12] that will be a concrete step toward a 21st-century nuclear material security architecture.

This declaration could include six key issue areas that are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. If actions were implemented under each of them, they would significantly improve the global security of nuclear and radiological materials.

Track commitment implementation. The participants in the Washington summit made more than 50 commitments. Although virtually all the pledges were nonbinding, the participants did agree to make best efforts to implement them. Tracking the implementation of these commitments is an important effort that could be reported on at the Seoul summit. There is some controversy among the summit participants on how transparent this reporting should be. Making all of this information public would be valuable, but it may be easier to share some information behind the scenes.

By the 2012 summit, it is unlikely that all countries will have implemented all commitments. Even the United States probably will not achieve that goal. In particular, Washington is not likely to fulfill its pledge to ratify an amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material before the Seoul summit. (The amendment would extend and strengthen the convention’s physical protection requirements by including materials in storage or use at domestic nuclear facilities as well as materials in transit.) Some of the other commitments, such as ending the use of HEU in civil applications in the countries utilizing it for this purpose, have long lead times.

The South Korean summit could announce the establishment of some type of a transparent display, such as a Web site, that allows the public to assess progress. Such a step is essential to maintaining the credibility of the summit process.

Strengthen the regime. Although there seems to be some international fatigue with the current set of nuclear material security activities, this is partly because of the large number of initiatives undertaken in the past 15 years. These efforts were developed as the opportunity or need presented itself, rather than as part of a rational planning process. Now, the threat has been validated, the gaps in the existing regime identified, and the need to harmonize and strengthen the current unwieldy system demonstrated.

In addition to nuclear material security stress tests, one step that the South Korean summit could take is recognizing that the Obama administration’s four-year objective to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the globe was an important motivator of international action but that the goal is unlikely to be accomplished by 2013. There is even a danger in strictly hewing to this goal because it conveys the sense that this mission requires only four years when it in fact is a lifetime objective. The security of nuclear materials must evolve and be strengthened as long as these materials exist. That should be one key statement in the 2012 communiqué.

Another step is to organize some of the new ideas that have been put forth in the Sherpa process for strengthening the regime. These ideas could include developing HEU management guidelines, countering nuclear smuggling, strengthening nuclear forensics cooperation, and enhancing transportation security.

A third step is to consider endorsing the development of a nuclear material security architecture that will provide cohesion and a driving force. The current nuclear and radiological material security regime does not have an essential organizing document. One proposal is to package the current regime and new initiatives in an international framework agreement. A nuclear material security framework agreement would identify the threats to humankind from vulnerable fissile and radiological materials, especially the threats posed by terrorists, and list actions and commitments required to mitigate them. It especially would allow the subject to be acknowledged at a very high political level as a global priority and then require the adherents to take specific steps to achieve the agreement’s objectives.

This could streamline the existing components of the regime and allow new initiatives to be folded into the agreement over time. It would alleviate some of the overlapping meeting and reporting burdens that are currently placed on governments by the broad spectrum of existing programs.

This type of agreement may run into serious opposition because of bureaucratic resistance or concerns that it could turn into a never-ending multilateral negotiation. Nevertheless, rationalizing the current regime should be a priority at future summits and should be included as an objective in the next communiqué. It also could authorize a small diplomatic working group to prepare a recommendation for the following summit or focus the development process on a coalition of those countries committed to the framework proposal.

Standardize nuclear material security. Each country protects its nuclear materials differently. The IAEA provides detailed technical recommendations for the securing of nuclear facilities, domestic regulations are developed and approved by individual nations, and international conventions provide norms for nuclear material protection, although not all have been approved by all countries. Even with these interrelated guidelines, no universal standard exists for securing nuclear materials and weapons.

There are reasons that the nuclear material security system is not standardized, including sovereignty and national security concerns, but the question is whether these motives outweigh the danger. The need for more-standardized methods to implement nuclear material security and to judge its effectiveness is an important issue that merits further examination in advance of the next summit.

The establishment of these standards would eliminate gaps in implementation and help to ensure accurate assessments of security across borders. These standards could include performance-based and security-specific criteria[13] as well as suggestions for regulations. However, they would have to be constructed carefully so they do not conflict with national laws and regulations or undermine the legitimacy of the security recommendations provided by the IAEA, including the recently revised Information Circular on the physical protection of nuclear material.[14]

Discussions are taking place inside and outside the IAEA on the subject of nuclear security standards, but there are differing views that are not easy to reconcile. Development of a baseline standard is almost certainly too controversial to be completed before the 2012 summit. Yet, the summit communiqué could endorse the objective of creating a baseline standard and then task a technical working group with convening the discussions and performing the assessments that will be needed to begin the process of moving countries toward a unified standard by a possible 2014 summit or perhaps even beyond that date.

Fund global nuclear security. The United States currently spends about $1.5 billion per year on international nuclear material security efforts, including physical improvements to storage facilities, removals of material, and prevention of nuclear smuggling. These activities are supplemented by the Global Partnership, which has more than 20 G-8 and non-G-8 contributors, including South Korea. At present, however, the partnership is funding activities only in Russia and Ukraine; most of those activities deal with chemical weapons destruction, submarine dismantlement, and nuclear safety.

The U.S. programs and those funded by the Global Partnership currently face a budget backlash. In the United States, ballooning deficits have caused Congress to consider cutting the programs by more than $300 million from the budget proposed for 2011 by the president. In addition, just weeks after the Washington nuclear security summit, the proposed extension of the Global Partnership for another 10 years and its expansion to other globally focused missions was delayed, primarily because of economic turmoil in Europe. The Global Partnership’s future activities now are under discussion by a group of experts from G-8 countries. It seems that they are considering approving an extension of the Global Partnership without requiring any substantial new funding.

Both of these efforts are important and should be continued, but they may need to be better harmonized and include contributions from new countries, including those from the G-20, to maintain strong and broad international political support. One new initiative that the participants in the South Korean summit could take is to endorse a robust and enduring Global Nuclear Security Fund. The fund should total $2.5-3.0 billion per year for all weapons of mass destruction-related efforts over the next 10 years, with roughly 75 percent ($1.9-2.3 billion per year) of that devoted to nuclear security activities.

If the United States continues its current yearly contributions of about $1.5 billion in this area, the remaining contribution for nuclear security required from all other countries would be $400-800 million per year. As objectives are accomplished, the overall amount needed would be reduced.

In addition to endorsing this integrated fund, the 2012 summit communiqué should identify specific objectives to be achieved by the following summit. One target should be the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund, with the goal of doubling its annual budget from about $25 million to $50 million. That would allow this IAEA office to upgrade its efforts to assist countries in improving the security of all nuclear and radiological materials. The communiqué also should support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which has a broad and important mandate but few resources to command compliance.[15] Also, to entice broader participation in the global fund, the cost of a country’s domestic nuclear security improvements above its current standards should be counted as part of that country’s donation to the fund.

The creation of this fund would need to be coordinated with the Global Partnership countries, but by making it a global fund with new contributors and rules, it could overcome some of the current donor fatigue that exists in some G-8 countries.

Secure radiological sources. The issue of radiological material security was not afforded a high priority at the Washington summit. Although the communiqué and the work plan made reference to the issue, several counties would have liked to have placed higher priority on this work. Comments by the South Korean government clearly indicate it is interested in raising the profile of this issue.

The upcoming summit could endorse several actions in this area, beginning with an international commitment to secure all high-intensity radiological sources in public buildings with an immediate focus on major metropolitan hospitals. The United States should take the lead by announcing that it will secure all radiological sources in such hospitals before a potential 2014 summit. This would include about 500 buildings at a cost of approximately $125 million.[16] The summit also could endorse the establishment of regional radiological zones of security, where the countries in the region work together to ensure the security of radiological sources. Initial work could be done on the Korean peninsula or in the Middle East. All these activities, which could be financed through the Global Nuclear Security Fund, would demonstrate the unique value of the nuclear security summit process.

Enhance technical and educational engagement. At the summit, participants could take several steps to address the human element of nuclear material security.

The first is the promotion of best practices, education, and security culture. The Washington summit communiqué and work plan placed a significant emphasis on these subjects, and some actions have been taken to date.[17] For example, China, India, Japan, and South Korea have created or are in the process of establishing centers of nuclear security excellence where best practices can be shared. Also, at least a half-dozen workshops on issues including nuclear forensics, guard force improvement training, and detection of and response to nuclear smuggling have been held around the world. In addition, France and Italy have incorporated nuclear security education into their academic curricula. Much more can be done in these areas and others, and the 2012 summit communiqué should identify specific countries that intend to host meetings, workshops, and trainings.

A second goal should be the establishment of a multilateral technical working group that would complement the current Sherpa process. This group could work through the details of issues that the South Korean summit endorses but that would not be ready for implementation before a 2014 summit. These could include nuclear and radiological security standards and elimination of civil HEU. This group could provide reports on progress to the periodic Sherpa meetings and allow that political body to help resolve difficulties that may arise in the technical discussions. The establishment of a technical working group would provide a mechanism for moving some essential but complex issues forward between summits.

The third objective is better partnering among government, industry, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Government, civil society, and the private sector all play important roles in responding to 21st-century nuclear proliferation threats, and each sector offers a vital contribution the others lack. These key stakeholder groups need to be brought into more regular contact as part of a new, multidisciplinary nuclear material security “Iron Triangle.” The NGO and industry events that took place around the 2010 summit are examples of how this conceptual triangle is beginning to take a concrete form. The goal would be to exchange ideas among the key stakeholders and to plan and implement common or mutually reinforcing policies, events, and actions. The Seoul summit communiqué should encourage a deeper dialogue among these parties between the 2012 and 2014 summits by establishing a government-industry-NGO conference against nuclear weapons proliferation that could meet periodically between summits.[18]


The nuclear security summit process is a new and unique opportunity to begin to build a stronger 21st-century nuclear material security architecture. The Washington summit was a watershed event. The decision to continue the summit process in 2012, and possibly beyond, creates the opportunity to extend these meetings into a policy-building process that should be utilized to the maximum extent possible.

As a first step, there should be a decision to continue the summit process until significant improvements beyond the scope of the current nuclear material security regime are implemented. The Washington summit initiated a very important and high-level political process that did not exist before, and continuing it can exert useful pressure on bureaucracies to deliver results. The summit forum also offers an opportunity for making progress on a scale that otherwise would not exist because of the large number of countries involved and the attendance by national leaders.

A second priority is to use the 2012 summit to begin to reframe the nuclear material security debate and to initiate some key changes in strategy and policy. Each summit needs to be viewed as a chance to strengthen and improve the nuclear material security regime further beyond its current limits. The Seoul summit and whatever comes after it will allow for a package of ideas and activities to be placed before at least 47 leaders for approval by all at the same time. That is an unparalleled opening.

Finally, South Korea is an important choice for the second summit because of its unique position as a significant domestic consumer of nuclear energy, a rising exporter of nuclear technology, a member of the G-20 and contributor to the Global Partnership, and a non-nuclear-weapon state with a nuclear-armed state on its border. The 2012 summit provides South Korea with the opportunity and the imperative to seize international leadership in improving the security of nuclear and radiological materials. This can be done most effectively by creating a Seoul Declaration for the 2012 summit.

If successfully initiated and implemented, the declaration can significantly improve the security of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide and create a much stronger barrier against nuclear terrorism over time. This should be the primary objective of the nuclear security summits.

Kenneth N. Luongo is president of the Partnership for Global Security and was a senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary. He is a member of the Arms Control Association’s board of directors.


1. See, for example, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, “The 9/11 Commission Report,” July 22, 2004, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/index.htm; Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, “World at Risk,” December 2008, www.preventwmd.com/report.

2. Heidi Blake and Christopher Hope, “WikiLeaks: Al-Qaeda ‘Is Planning a Dirty Bomb,” Telegraph, February 2, 2011.

3. International Panel on Fissile Materials, “Global Fissile Material Report 2009: A Path to Nuclear Disarmament,” p. 8, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr09.pdf.

4. Ibid., p. 8.

5. Ibid., pp. 8-20.

6. Matthew Bunn, “Securing the Bomb 2010: Securing All Nuclear Materials in Four Years,” BelferCenter for Science and International Affairs, April 2010, p. 16, www.nti.org/e_research/Securing_The_Bomb_2010.pdf.

7. Union of Concerned Scientists, “Weapon Material Basics,” August 17, 2004, www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_weapons_and_global_security/nuclear_terrorism/technical_issues/fissile-materials-basics.html.

8. Tim Andrews, “Strengthening Global Nuclear Security: The Role of the IAEA” (presentation to the Nuclear Security Conference, King’s College London, February 18, 2010).

9. “Radiological Terrorism Tutorial,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2004, www.nti.org/h_learnmore/radtutorial/chapter01_02.html.

10. Cho Hyun, “Preparation for Nuclear Security Summit 2012 and Possible Deliverables” (presentation at the 9th ROK-UN Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Issues, Jeju, December 3, 2010).

11. Martin Matishak, “Next Nuclear Security Summit Could Take on Radiological Threat,” Global Security Newswire, March 18, 2011.

12. The concept of a Seoul Declaration was developed by the Partnership for Global Security in collaboration with staff at the Johns Hopkins University U.S.-Korea Institute. The elements of the declaration in this article are the author’s conception.

13. Matthew Bunn of HarvardUniversity’s Managing the Atom Project has written in several of his reports about this proposal, including in the “Securing the Bomb” series published by the Project on Managing the Atom, HarvardUniversity, and Nuclear Threat Initiative. See www.nti.org/e_research/cnwm/overview/cnwm_home.asp.

14. IAEA Information Circular (INFCIRC) 225 provides guidance and recommendations for the physical protection of nuclear material against theft in use, storage, or transport and contains provisions relating to the sabotage of material or facilities. INFCIRC 225 was released in 1975, and its fifth revision was completed in 2011.

15. The resolution was unanimously passed by the UN Security Council in April 2004 under its Chapter VII authority to address issues dealing with international peace and security. The resolution requires that all member states create and enforce measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction materials and equipment, including through export controls and criminalization of misuse. States are required to report on their efforts to implement the resolution and are encouraged to request or lend assistance as necessary. For a list of the national reports that have been submitted, see www.un.org/sc/1540/nationalreports.shtml.

16. Kenneth N. Luongo, “Right-Sizing the ‘Loose Nukes’ Security Budget: Part 2,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 25, 2010, www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/right-sizing-the-loose-nukes-security-budget-part-2.

17. Robert Golan-Vilella, Michelle Marchesano, and Sarah Williams, “2010 Nuclear Security Summit Commitment Implementation: Status Report” (forthcoming).

18. This is a permutation of an idea that was proposed as a government-industry forum in a new Brookings Institution study’s survey and was deemed to be acceptable to many of the industry respondents. See Brookings Institution, “Non-Proliferation and the Nuclear ‘Renaissance’: The Contribution and Responsibilities of the Nuclear Industry,” May 2010.

Including North Korea in Nuclear Security Summits

With the approach of the 2012 nuclear security summit in South Korea, an obvious question is what role, if any, North Korea will play at the event. Pyongyang was not invited to the 2010 Washington summit, and its nuclear weapons program, which is estimated to include enough plutonium for five to eight nuclear weapons, is a focus of serious international concern. The six-party talks on North Korean denuclearization have been stalled for years, and their future is unclear. The relationship between North and South Korea has deteriorated during the past year with the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, the North’s shelling of YeonpyeongIsland, and the unveiling of the North’s uranium-enrichment capability.

Therefore, it is not clear how South Korea will want to approach the issue of North Korea in the context of the Seoul summit. One option for tying the North into the summit’s substantive scope is to utilize one or more of the centers of nuclear security excellence as a venue for discussions. The establishment of these centers was announced at or soon after the 2010 summit by China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

On April 21, 2010, just a week after the Washington summit, in a memorandum on the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, the North Korean Foreign Ministry stated that North Korea “has a willingness to join the international efforts for nuclear non-proliferation and on nuclear material security on an equal footing with other nuclear weapons states.”1 The members of the six-party talks have indicated that North Korea will not be recognized as a nuclear-weapon state. By expressing its willingness to join international efforts on nuclear material security, however, North Korea has opened the door to dialogue, although it likely would have to be in the context of the resumption of the denuclearization talks.

The process could develop as follows:

One or more of the five countries that had been involved in multilateral talks with North KoreaChina, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States—or even one or more nongovernmental institutions could invite Pyongyang to participate in a dialogue on best practices in nuclear material security. The location could be the new nuclear security centers in China, Japan, or South Korea or the existing Russian Methodological and TrainingCenter in the science city of Obninsk, which Russia and the United States have used for these types of activities for a number of years. The discussions could be held before the South Korean summit.

The substance of the meetings could be a series of discussions on the protection of direct-use materials, perhaps initially focusing on plutonium, or best practices for radiological material security. The workshops could focus on the technicalities of providing modern security for stockpiles using computer-based accounting methods; physical security systems that utilize cameras, fences, and intrusion detection technologies; emergency management and communications techniques; guard force training; and protection of materials in transit. They also could include border security and prevention of nuclear smuggling. These issues are at the heart of the summit’s objectives.

There is no need to engage with the North Koreans on the specific materials or facilities that they possess. In similar discussions of sensitive facilities, the United States and Russia have used mock-ups or computer-based animation of a “typical” facility very successfully.

The 2010 summit called for high levels of protection in all countries, not just the 47 countries that attended the event. Reaching out to North Korea would serve that objective. It also would provide a low-profile, technical way of beginning to renew discussions with the North Koreans on sensitive nuclear issues.

Furthermore, it would provide Pyongyang with the opportunity to take steps to implement specific improvements that would serve its internal needs for security and demonstrate to the international community that it is a responsible possessor and protector of its nuclear materials. For example, North Korea could install modern physical protection equipment and invite experts to see it and verify its effectiveness. This would give the North Koreans an opportunity to demonstrate that they are addressing international concerns about the potential migration of their materials to other states or to nonstate actors.

If successful, this process could open the door for North Korea to engage with the 2012 summit and potentially could result in an agreement for the establishment of a Korean Peninsula Nuclear Material Security Zone. Such a step would form a concrete basis for further dialogue on nuclear issues on the peninsula and lead Pyongyang back to the six-party talks and the resumption of the denuclearization process detailed in prior agreements. —KENNETH N. LUONGO




1. “Foreign Ministry Issues Memorandum on N-Issue,” Korean Central News Agency, April 21, 2010, www.kcna.co.jp/item/2010/201004/news21/20100421-27ee.html.


Universal Transparency: A Goal for the U.S. at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit

Bill Richardson with Gay Dillingham, Charles Streeper, and Arjun Makhijani

Global quantitative transparency of nuclear arsenals and fissile materials (universal transparency)[1] is an indispensable complement to arms reduction treaties. It is a necessary element in creating a path to disarmament that can be traveled by all nuclear-weapon states.

For the purposes of this article, that category includes the five countries that have nuclear weapons and are parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—as well as four states that are outside the NPT framework and have or are widely presumed to have nuclear weapons: India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea. The first three have never been part of the NPT. North Korea joined the NPT, but has declared its withdrawal.

Universal transparency is important for numerous reasons, but its primary aim should be a meaningful demonstration of a commitment to global security by removing the unnecessary secrecy surrounding nuclear weapons programs while preserving truly necessary secrecy, such as weapons designs. Undoubtedly, for some states, universal transparency will be a difficult pill to swallow, and some concessions will have to be made to take account of their particular geopolitical and threat environments. Also, transparency declarations ultimately will have to be confirmed by verification measures. Nevertheless, transparency should be seen as an essential tool to demonstrate a state’s tangible commitment to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and unsecured weapons-usable fissile materials worldwide. By being open about their stockpiles of weapons and materials, states remove the justification for excessive hedging by their nuclear-armed rivals. Similarly, such transparency could help undermine the rationale for maintaining or pursuing a nuclear weapons capability by countries beyond the current nuclear powers, although transparency is very unlikely to be sufficient for that purpose unless it is combined with other substantive measures.

In April 2010, President Barack Obama hosted a nuclear security summit; of the nine states in question, only North Korea was absent. Transparency underlies nearly every commitment made during the summit and in its communiqué. A follow-on summit will be held in South Korea in 2012. To prepare for that meeting and to ensure the summit becomes a biennial fixture in the nonproliferation regime, the United States must lead by example and press for an agenda consisting of the following topics:

• Develop a concrete path and time frame for complete declarations of nuclear arsenals and fissile material stocks by all states possessing nuclear weapons and significant stockpiles of fissile materials.

• Discuss and define acceptable technical and procedural measures that will demonstrate confidence in the accuracy and credibility of state declarations of nuclear arsenals and fissile materials.

• Outline a timeline, agenda, and potential forum for inclusion of the accounting and verification of fissile material in waste within the process of universal transparency.

The 2012 summit has the potential for enormous success if it can accomplish most or all of the above suggestions on the eventual universal transparency of nuclear warheads and fissile materials. In addition, the international community must come forward with tangible support of the numerous commitments that the Obama administration and several U.S. allies have made toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The stage has already been set.

The Importance of Disclosure

In 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first politician to disclose the arsenal of a nuclear-weapon state, 300 active nuclear warheads that would be reduced to about 290.[2] In 2010 the United States announced it had 5,113 active and inactive warheads,[3] marking the first time a nuclear-weapon state had specified the total number of warheads in its arsenal. After the U.S. declaration, British Foreign Secretary William Hague declared in the House of Commons that the United Kingdom would limit the number of its warheads to 225 with no more than 160 being operationally available, leaving 65 warheads in inactive status. This number was subsequently revised in the Strategic Defence and Security Review to not more than 180 deployed and nondeployed nuclear weapons, no more than 120 operationally available warheads, and a maximum of 40 warheads on each submarine.[4] The unilateral actions by France, the United States, and the United Kingdom toward greater transparency regarding their nuclear arsenals are significant initial steps consistent with the eventual goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. The U.S. declaration of its nuclear arsenal should be seen in light of earlier, equally important unilateral declarations of stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU).[5] Transparency on the part of three of the NPT nuclear-weapon states sets an example, but it will not provide a foundation for further progress until Russia and China also have made complete declarations of their nuclear arsenals and stocks of fissile materials.

China already has gone some of the way toward providing information on the size of its nuclear arsenal and its future intentions. Specifically, the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared in 2004 that China had the smallest nuclear arsenal of all the NPT nuclear-weapon states. This statement by China provided an indirect indicaton that China had fewer than 200 deployed nuclear warheads.[6] The United States must build support within the global community by incentivizing a fuller and more current declaration by China. Yet, residual ambiguity by China on the size of its arsenal is likely to persist as a deterrence measure[7] and in the absence of a declaration of the size of Russia’s much larger arsenal. If Russia were to reciprocate U.S. actions so far with declarations that are equally complete, the resulting bilateral declarations would cover roughly 96 percent of total global military fissile materials stockpiles and more than 90 percent of nuclear warheads worldwide. Therefore, it is critical that Russia make some form of declaration soon.

The equally important unilateral declarations of stockpiles of plutonium and HEU that the United States already has made are in themselves a symbol of commitment to disarmament. They clarify to the international community the size and characteristics of the inventory that ultimately will need to be verified and not reconstituted into the arsenal.

The British, French, and U.S. declarations have placed pressure on Russia to become more transparent about the number of its strategic nuclear weapons. In fact, very soon after the U.S. and British declarations, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Nesterenko, suggested the possibility of reciprocal declarations on deployed strategic delivery vehicles and warheads on the condition that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) be ratified.[8] This is a welcome development, but the omission of nondeployed warheads and nonstrategic weapons is a vast, undesirable gap. To make a positive global impact, a Russian declaration must be thorough, official, and public. If it is not, it may not provide anything that was not covered by the bilateral information sharing requirements of New START. Nonstrategic nuclear weapons are slated to play an integral role in U.S. plans for follow-up negotiations to New START. The United States should make an eventual Russian declaration of all deployed and nondeployed warheads and, at a minimum, all military fissile materials an integral part of its diplomatic strategy.

Open-source reporting on the U.S. nuclear arsenal proved to be quite accurate. The margin of error will likely be much larger for Russia. Therefore, an official declaration by Russia is all the more important. Strategically, Russia has little to lose from transparency in the matter of warheads and fissile materials, in part because its stocks are so enormous; there is simply no conceivable advantage that any third party might gain from confirmation of this already well-known fact. Moreover, the United States has made declarations of the size of its arsenal and its military fissile material stockpile. A complete declaration by Russia will probably bring to light inaccuracies, at least some of which are likely to come from the difficulties of accounting fully for fissile materials, for instance in processing plants.[9] Despite the potential embarrassment, it is important for Russian and global security to bring these material errors to light. Moreover, Russia would have company in this regard.

Discrepancies in inventory already have been a significant issue during the declarations of fissile materials by the United States and the United Kingdom.[10] The sooner a state discloses its fissile material inventory, the less problematic it will be for that government to account accurately for the material and to bring to the fore the question of how residual uncertainties will be handled in the disarmament process. The United States should try to overcome this obstacle by encouraging Russia, as a first step, to make a declaration of its current military stockpiles. (All five NPT nuclear-weapon states provide annual declarations of their civilian plutonium stocks to the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA].)

Transparency among nuclear-weapon states is essential as a benchmark for disarmament and provides tangible evidence of a commitment to disarmament. The United States also must engage non-nuclear-weapon states to encourage and facilitate a graduated process of universal transparency on the part of NPT and non-NPT nuclear-weapon states. After all, the responsibility for disarmament under Article VI of the NPT does not lie solely with the nuclear-weapon states.[11]

Transparency and the Non-NPT States

One way to see the critical importance of transparency as a symbol of disarmament in relation to the three non-NPT nuclear-weapon states that were present at the 2010 nuclear security summit is to consider their stance on the NPT. Because the NPT would require them to become parties as non-nuclear-weapon states, they have rejected the treaty and are unlikely to change their position in the foreseeable future. Transparency among the NPT nuclear-weapon states is one step that could foster more trust and bring the non-NPT nuclear-weapon states further into the nonproliferation regime.

In that context, the recent nuclear security summit represented a significant development with regard to the three non-NPT nuclear-weapon states. They were at the summit and approved the communiqué, as did a number of Middle Eastern states. Although observers have noted the relatively weak content of the communiqué, there has been little attention to the historic first that three non-NPT nuclear-weapon states agreed to a near-global consensus document on securing all fissile materials in a very short time. The international community has not seized on the strategic significance of this action in the context of disarmament. The NPT nuclear-weapon states now have a novel diplomatic pathway to begin bringing non-NPT nuclear-weapon states into the transparency process at an early stage of disarmament.

Delineating steps toward fissile material declarations, in the context of the 2012 nuclear summit, would not constrain the non-NPT nuclear-weapon states in the same way that declaring their nuclear arsenals would, but it likely still will be a significant challenge. For example, Israel is reluctant to declare that it has nuclear weapons, much less provide numbers. Israel also has not been supportive of discussing its fissile material stockpiles within the context of potential negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). Similar concerns would surround the unsafeguarded nuclear programs of India and Pakistan.

Also important is some of the transparency language that appeared in the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Among several other statements in support of increased nuclear-weapon-state transparency, the most notable is in paragraph 94: “The Conference notes the increased transparency of some nuclear-weapon States with respect to the number of nuclear weapons in their national inventories and encourages all nuclear-weapon States to provide additional transparency in this regard.”[12] Action 16 in the document includes language supporting declarations to the IAEA by nuclear-weapon states of all fissile materials designated excess to military purposes. There are also references in the final document to adhering to the 13 “practical steps” that were agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, with step 9 calling for “increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to the[ir] nuclear weapons capabilities.” One other venue where universal transparency will be essential is in the development of an FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament.

Tracking Fissile Materials

Uncertainties in fissile material quantities arising from measurement errors, holdup in production equipment, and discards to waste can be much larger than amounts needed to produce a single nuclear bomb. The problem is well known in the civilian sector. For instance, it took two years to resolve an accounting discrepancy of 70 kilograms of plutonium—enough for several bombs—in Japan’s civilian plutonium-fuel fabrication facility; fortunately it ultimately was discovered that most of it was held up as dust in plant equipment.[13] Similar problems exist in the military sector. Addressing uncertainties on fissile material in waste will become an increasingly important issue, especially during the advanced stages of disarmament of each state’s nuclear arsenal. The inability at least to attempt to account for this material fully will be a concern with regard to any state that has a nuclear breakout capability.[14]

The importance of this issue came to public notice as part of the openness initiative of Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary in the mid-1990s. Compilation of plutonium-production records leading up to the publication of the 1996 Department of Energy report “Plutonium: The First 50 Years” revealed two types of accounts for plutonium in waste. The first set of numbers is in an Energy Department safeguards account, known as the Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System (NMMSS); the second set is reported by the waste and environmental management operations of Energy Department sites.[15] The amounts of waste in the two accounts did not match. Even though the data had the appearance of accuracy, reporting each waste number to the nearest 0.01 kilogram, the cumulative discrepancy between the two accounts was multiple orders of magnitude greater than that amount. There was some confusion as to whether they were tracking the same thing. The Energy Department expressed confidence in the plutonium-inventory declaration, saying that even small inventory differences were “always carefully investigated.”[16]

Yet, the mere exercise of compiling the military plutonium inventory did not bear out this confidence. The problem was deemed serious enough that O’Leary formed a working group “to resolve differences from these [materials accounting] methods, and to make recommendations on the appropriateness of making changes to how [the Energy Department] tracks its plutonium inventories.”[17] No public information is available on the outcome of the working group’s investigation, if there was one. It remains unclear which of the two numbers was correct or, indeed, if both were inaccurate and to what degree.

The critical importance of transparency is made eminently clear here. The very exercise of compiling data for public release in the United States brought to light discrepancies far larger than believed possible. A more thorough approach to nonproliferation and disarmament would necessarily include addressing this issue as well.

Fissile material accounting in production processes, including discards to waste, in other states possessing nuclear weapons is unlikely to be better. Whether or not it is, attempting to account for the significant amounts of fissile materials in waste, at least in Russia and the United States, would ensure that materials tracking and safeguards against diversion have been implemented as fully as possible; it would help define methods for such accounting as part of the disarmament process.

Other states possessing nuclear weapons or producing unsafeguarded nuclear materials in much smaller quantities might have an advantage of not having to account for such large legacy or current amounts of fissile material. To ensure that they do not create a legacy issue with these materials as well, such states should attempt to adopt accurate and, when possible, more transparent accounting methods from the start.

Fissile material in waste is a sensitive area of transparency that cannot be ignored. All states involved in the 2012 summit should address it as part of topics covering fissile materials.


Transparency has been an imperative for Obama since he took office. This priority has been demonstrated by his administration’s numerous commitments to nonproliferation and disarmament that involve transparency in some form. In order to meet these commitments, the United States must continue to lead and encourage other countries to adopt the goal of universal transparency as a reciprocal and vital step toward building a foundation for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Bill Richardson was governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2010. Prior to that, he was a U.S. secretary of energy and U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations during the Clinton administration and a U.S. representative from New Mexico. Gay Dillingham, an entrepreneur and business owner, is a former member of the board of directors of the Center for Defense Information/World Security Institute. She served as energy adviser on the unofficial delegation led by Richardson to North Korea in December 2010. Charles Streeper is a nonproliferation analyst and researcher. He received his M.A. in international policy studies and certificate in nonproliferation studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He has worked on radioactive waste, nuclear nonproliferation, and nuclear disarmament issues since the 1980s. He has a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in nuclear fusion.


1. Universal transparency of nuclear arsenals and fissile materials is a flexible concept in that a state may consider declaring only deployed nuclear warheads or only excess military fissile materials. The recommendation of this article is for consideration of all forms of nuclear warheads, both active and reserve, and all fissile material inventories, including those in waste. Such a definition provides a more thorough and meaningful interpretation of quantitative transparency (transparency with regard to numbers and quantities, rather than characteristics such as whether a weapons system has been upgraded). In this article, the term “universal transparency” refers to the more expansive definition.

2. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “French Nuclear Forces, 2008,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 64, No. 4 (September/October 2008), pp. 52-54, http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/k01h5q0wg50353k5/fulltext.pdf.

3. The Department of Defense’s definition of active and inactive is the following: “Active warheads include strategic and nonstrategic weapons maintained in an operational, ready-for-use configuration, warheads that must be ready for possible deployment within a short timeframe, and logistics spares. They have tritium bottles and other Limited Life Components installed. Inactive warheads are maintained at a depot in a non-operational status, and have their tritium bottles removed.” See www.defense.gov/npr/docs/10-05-03_fact_sheet_us_nuclear_transparency__final_w_date.pdf 10/14/2010.

4. “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review,” Cm 7948, October 2010, p. 38, www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_191634.pdf.

5. Global civilian fissile material stockpiles of about 250 metric tons of plutonium and 70 metric tons of HEU (only 1.3 metric tons of HEU are under voluntary-offer agreements in NPT nuclear-weapon states) are essentially all declared and under IAEA safeguards. In the case of the five NPT nuclear-weapon states, the IAEA arrangements are “voluntary” because these states are not required to have inspections even for civil nuclear materials under the NPT. Civilian fissile materials in France and the United Kingdom, however, are subject to EURATOM inspections.

6. International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), “Global Fissile Material Report 2009: Fourth Annual Report of the International Panel on Fissile Materials,” 2009, p. 32. See Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Fact Sheet: China: Nuclear Disarmament and Reduction of,” April 27, 2004, www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zzjg/jks/cjjk/2622/t93539.htm.

7. Nicholas Zarimpas, ed., SIPRI Yearbook 2003: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 2003), p. 55.

8. Guy Faulconbridge, “Russia Says May Lift Veil on Nuclear Arsenal,” Reuters, May 12, 2010, www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64B2U920100512.

9. Examples of difficult materials-accounting problems include estimating plutonium and HEU in defense radioactive wastes or in various other nonrecoverable forms, such as holdup in pipes and ventilation systems.

10. IPFM, “Global Fissile Material Report 2009,” p. 34. The discrepancy for the United States was 2.8 tons of plutonium and 3.2 tons of HEU.

11. Article VI states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

12. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010.

13. Union of Concerned Scientists, “Reprocessing and Nuclear Terrorism,” n.d., www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/nuclear_proliferation_and_terrorism/reprocessing-and-nuclear.html.

14. Chad T. Olinger et al. “Measurement Approaches to Support Future Arms Control Transparency,” paper submitted to the 39th annual meeting of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, LA-UR 98-3115, 1998.

15. The first, from the NMMSS, is reported from within the safeguarded areas and maintained as the master account of nuclear materials. The second is related to waste storage and disposal practices and impact assessments. It has not had any particular security status, despite the large amounts of fissile materials involved.

16. U.S. Department of Energy, “Plutonium: The First 50 Years: United States Plutonium Production, Acquisition, and Utilization From 1944 to 1994,” February 1996, p. 52. www.doeal.gov/SWEIS/DOEDocuments/004%20DOE-DP-0137%20Plutonium%2050%20Years.pdf.

17. Richard J. Guimond and Everet H. Beckner, “Plutonium in Waste Inventories,” U.S. Department of Energy memorandum, January 30, 1996, www.ieer.org/offdocs/Guimond1996Memo.pdf (Attachment B).

The Potential for Transparency: North Korea

Bill Richardson

The potential for transparency to provide an opening in tough situations was illustrated in December 2010 during an unofficial visit by a U.S. delegation I led to North Korea at the invitation of Kim Kye Gwan, the former nuclear envoy and now first vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The goal of our delegation, which arrived in the midst of high tension and the possibility of war, was to help reduce the tension on the Korean peninsula.

We discussed the nuclear issue in some detail. The North Korean leadership stated that they have enough nuclear weapons and that they want a centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant for energy purposes. Moreover, they said that denuclearization was the last wish of their “Great Leader,” Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. They said they are ready for dialogue or confrontation and that denuclearization depends on U.S. attitudes toward these matters. In my view, those proceedings showed that fissile material accounting, monitoring, and declarations could be among the most important steps not only to the resumption of negotiations on denuclearization, but also to integrating North Korea into a larger process of disarmament that would include long-range ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction, and perhaps conventional arms.

North Korea’s willingness to sell 12,000 fresh fuel rods to South Korea and to allow International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring teams back into its nuclear facilities was encouraging, as is the potential resumption of negotiations. Although the universe of North Korean nuclear materials is significantly larger, the North Korean offer indicates one nuclear component of what might be a fruitful path to a reduction of tensions. Transparency of nuclear materials is the key.

Establishing a process through which North Korea could attend the nuclear security summit in Seoul in 2012 would be complex and maybe impossible, but a successful effort would bring all the essential nuclear players around the table for the first time on the issue of transparency. That is the issue on which North Korea seems to be most ready for talks and possibly action.



NATO Struggles to Define New Nuclear Doctrine

Oliver Meier

NATO is likely to defer major decisions on its future nuclear weapons policy until after the alliance’s Nov. 19-20 Lisbon summit, according to answers given by the German government to the Bundestag July 20. Diplomatic sources from several countries made similar comments during interviews in recent weeks.

At the summit, the alliance is scheduled to adopt its new Strategic Concept, defining NATO’s role in the coming decade. At their last summit, in April 2009, NATO member states tasked the secretary-general with developing the new concept.

The future role of nuclear weapons in NATO’s deterrence posture, particularly the continued presence of about 150 to 200 tactical U.S. nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, has emerged as a contentious issue in the deliberations on the new concept. (See ACT, May 2010.)

Diplomats told Arms Control Today that expectations in Brussels are low that the new Strategic Concept will contain major revisions of NATO’s current nuclear policy. In response to questions posed by opposition Social Democrats on progress toward withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Germany, the German government acknowledged that the new Strategic Concept is likely to contain only “guidelines for the future nuclear policy of the alliance, which will then be implemented by the appropriate NATO bodies” after the Lisbon summit.

The level of detail of those guidelines and the mandate and purpose of a possible follow-on process are apparently still controversial issues, according to the diplomats.

The current coalition government, which is led by the Christian Democrats, promised after the September 2009 elections “as part of the development of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, to work within the Alliance and with our U.S. allies to ensure that the nuclear weapons remaining in Germany are withdrawn.” (See ACT, December 2009.) In a March 24 joint resolution, governing and opposition parties in the Bundestag urged the government “to work vigorously” toward implementation of that goal.

In an Aug. 24 interview, Uta Zapf, a Social Democrat who chairs the disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation subcommittee in the Bundestag, said she is disappointed by the government’s current position. The government answers indicate that “not much appears to be left” of Germany’s ambition to work toward withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from German territory, Zapf complained. “The government is too passive, merely reacting to what is being proposed by others,” she said.

A report delivered by a group of former officials and other experts to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen May 17 had recommended re-establishing the special consultative group on arms control “for the purpose of facilitating its own internal dialogue about the whole range of issues related to nuclear doctrine, new arms control initiatives, and proliferation.” (See ACT, June 2010.) Asked whether it supports this proposal, the government stated that Germany supports the creation of a “high-level” body to enable NATO to play a stronger role in disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation, but that the exact mandate of such a body will have to be decided “at the appropriate time” by the alliance.

There is apparently still some uncertainty as to when and how Rasmussen intends to finalize the concept. Some observers say they expect Rasmussen to release his draft Sept. 28, when the new Strategic Concept is on the agenda of a NATO Council meeting. Rasmussen then could invite member states to comment on his draft. But some NATO member states would like to see an earlier release because they want to have adequate time to prepare for the Oct. 14 meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers, when member states are expected to outline their official responses to the draft.

Although NATO has previously highlighted the importance of transparency on discussions of a new Strategic Concept, some diplomats in Brussels predict that the final stages of the drafting process will take place behind closed doors, among NATO diplomats only. By contrast, Zapf argued that discussions on the new Strategic Concept should be transparent and that “parliaments must be involved in the process at all stages, particularly as the final draft is being discussed.”


NATO is likely to defer major decisions on its future nuclear weapons policy until after the alliance’s Nov. 19-20 Lisbon summit, according to answers given by the German government to the Bundestag July 20. Diplomatic sources from several countries made similar comments during interviews in recent weeks.

Reassessing the Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey

Mustafa Kibaroglu

NATO is revising its Strategic Concept; the alliance is due to complete work on the document in November. A key issue in the revision is the deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as part of the alliance’s policy of extended nuclear deterrence. Although Turkey has long been in agreement with its allies on the value of these forward deployments, it may soon find itself in a delicate position on the question of how to continue the policy effectively.

With other NATO countries such as Luxembourg and Norway supporting them, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands have indicated a desire to reassess the case for continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories. Should these countries advocate withdrawal of U.S. weapons from Europe, Turkish decision-makers might conclude that two fundamental principles of the alliance, namely solidarity and burden sharing, have been seriously weakened. Those principles have been the basis for Turkey’s agreement, since the early 1960s, to the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil.

The issue is contentious within NATO, which makes its decisions by consensus—an approach that was reaffirmed by the alliance’s foreign ministers at an April meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, and by an Experts Group report released in May.

Although final decisions on the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons probably are not imminent, the debate has already been joined, and Turkey should be an active participant. If Turkey continues to sit on the sidelines of that debate, as it has done until now, it could find itself in an uncomfortable spot: A decision to remove the U.S. weapons from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands would likely leave Turkey and Italy as the only NATO members with foreign nuclear weapons on their soil.[1] Such a situation would put pressure on Turkey to reverse its long-standing policy of hosting U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory—even more so if the U.S. nuclear weapons are removed from Italy as well. Turkey’s calculus must include an additional element because it has Middle Eastern neighbors that are a source of concern to some allies but with whom Turkey is developing increasingly close diplomatic ties after a long period of animosity that extended beyond the end of Cold War rivalry.

The most sensible course for Turkey is to support the efforts of other host nations to create a consensus within the alliance that would lead to a withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. That step would help Ankara to continue cultivating relationships with its non-European neighbors and could be achieved without undermining extended nuclear deterrence.

NATO’s New Strategic Concept

Since 1999, when NATO last revised its Strategic Concept, the world has undergone dramatic changes and witnessed tragic events, such as the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, followed by others in Bali, Istanbul, Madrid, London, and Amman. Since the September 11 attacks, NATO, while maintaining its identity as a collective security organization, has accelerated the pace at which it is transforming itself from one focused on defending a particular geographical area against a well-known enemy to one that would be capable of dealing with emerging threats such as international terrorism, which may manifest itself in different forms and almost anywhere in the world.

This process of transformation within NATO has called into question the relevance of the 1999 Strategic Concept to the challenges and threats that the allied countries are facing now and are likely to confront in the future.

The Strategic Concept has therefore been under revision since the alliance summit convened in Strasbourg/Kehl, on April 3-4, 2009. At the summit meeting, NATO heads of state and government tasked the secretary-general with assembling and leading a broad-based group of qualified experts who would lay the groundwork for the new Strategic Concept with the active involvement of NATO’s highest decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council.[2] The report, “NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement,” was released May 17.

The details of the new Strategic Concept are not yet final, but the Experts Group report and media accounts of the ongoing deliberations give an idea of the general principles that are likely to govern the new document. For instance, during their April 22-23 meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, NATO foreign ministers discussed ways to modernize the organization and held talks on the new Strategic Concept. In those discussions, they shared the view that “the new concept must reaffirm NATO’s essential and enduring foundations: the political bond between Europe and North America, and the commitment to defend each other against attack,” according to a NATO press release.[3]

More specifically, concerning the nuclear strategy of the alliance, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that, “in a world where nuclear weapons exist, NATO needs a credible, effective and safely managed deterrent.”[4]

That statement suggests that nuclear weapons are likely to retain their central role in NATO’s forthcoming Strategic Concept. That would satisfy Turkey’s expectations; Ankara is looking f or the continuation of extended deterrence, which has traditionally relied on U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.

Nevertheless, the positions of the European allies are not fully compatible with that of Turkey. Some western European allies have expressed strong reservations about the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories, while some central and eastern European allies still support the deployment of these weapons in Europe as a visible sign of U.S. security guarantees for Europe.

The foreign ministers of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway stated in a February 26 letter to Rasmussen that they “welcome the initiative taken by President Obama to strive toward substantial reductions in strategic armaments, and to move towards reducing the role of nuclear weapons and seek peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons.”[5] The letter emphasized that there should be discussions in NATO as to what the allies “can do to move closer to this overall political objective.”[6]

Some central and eastern European allies of NATO attach great importance to the continuation of the extended nuclear deterrence strategy of the alliance and the forward deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons, which they consider to provide credible assurances against the potential threat that they perceive from Russia.[7] There is unanimous support for including tactical nuclear weapons in the next round of nuclear arms control, and there are also views suggesting concomitant withdrawal of all Russian and U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.[8]

However, even the central and eastern European countries that favor the continuation of nuclear sharing do not want to commit themselves to any obligation to host U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories.[9] This was, in fact, an agreed-on principle within the alliance at the time of their admission so as not to provoke Russia, which was adamantly opposing the eastward expansion of the alliance throughout the 1990s and beyond.

According to the terms of agreement of the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, which was negotiated prior to the admittance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to NATO, the alliance declared it had “no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy.”[10] Hence, it would be fair to assume that if nuclear weapons are withdrawn from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, there are no new candidates to take them.

Should this be the case, Turkey might have to revise its stance vis-à-vis the U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil.[11]

U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey

Turkey has hosted U.S. nuclear weapons since intermediate-range Jupiter missiles were deployed there in 1961 as a result of decisions made at the alliance’s 1957 Paris summit. Those missiles were withdrawn in 1963 in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis. Since then, no nuclear missiles have been stationed in Turkey. The only nuclear weapons that have been deployed are the bombs that would be delivered by U.S. F-16s or Turkish F-100, F-104, and F-4 “Phantom” aircraft at air bases in Eskisehir, Malatya (Erhac), Ankara (Akinci/Murted), and Balikesir.[12] All such weapons, whether on U.S. or Turkish aircraft, have been under the custody of the U.S. Air Force.

Turkey still hosts these U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on its territory, albeit in much smaller numbers.[13] They are limited to one location, the Incirlik base near Adana on the eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey.[14] All other nuclear weapons have been withdrawn from the bases mentioned above.[15] Moreover, the Turkish air force no longer has any operational link with the remaining tactical nuclear weapons deployed at Incirlik.[16] F-104s have not been in service since 1994. F-4s are still in service after modernization of some 54 of them by Israeli Aerospace Industries in 1997. Yet, only the F-16 “Fighting Falcons” of the Turkish air force participate in NATO`s nuclear strike exercises known as “Steadfast Noon,” during which crews are trained in loading, unloading, and employing B61 tactical nuclear weapons.[17] The Turkish aircraft in these exercises serve as a non-nuclear air defense escort rather than a nuclear strike force.[18]

There were two main reasons for Turkey to host U.S. nuclear weapons. First and foremost has been the deterrent value of these weapons against the threat posed by the nuclear and conventional weapons capabilities of its enormous neighbor, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War. Similarly, after the Cold War, these weapons were believed by Turkish military commanders to constitute a credible deterrent against rival neighbors in the Middle East, such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria, which used to have unconventional weapons capabilities as well as delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles.[19]

A second reason for Turkey to host U.S. nuclear weapons has been the burden-sharing principle within the alliance. Turkey has strongly subscribed to this principle since it joined NATO in 1952. In fact, Turkey had already displayed unequivocally its willingness to share the burden of defending the interests of the Western alliance by committing a significant number of troops to the Korean War in 1950, even before NATO membership was in sight.

Yet, if Turkey is likely to be left as the only country, or one of only two countries, where U.S. nuclear weapons will still be deployed after a possible withdrawal of these weapons from other allies and no other NATO country will be willing to assume the burden of hosting nuclear weapons, Turkey may very well insist that the weapons be sent back to the United States. From Turkey’s current standpoint, this would not be the desired outcome of the current deliberations within the alliance.

According to a Turkish official, the principle of burden sharing should not be diluted. To live up to their commitment to solidarity, which was reaffirmed in Tallinn, the five countries that currently host these weapons should continue to do so for the foreseeable future, the official said.[20]

Deterrence Against Whom?

Because of the view that NATO’s deterrent will be more credible with the presence of forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons in the allied territories in Europe, Turkish diplomats believe that the burden of hosting these weapons should continue to be shared collectively among five allies, as has been the case over the last several decades.

Even if all of Turkey’s allies accept this proposal and act accordingly, Turkey will still face a dilemma in its foreign and security policies if it sees the hosting of U.S. nuclear weapons as the only way for it to fulfill its burden-sharing obligations.

Ankara’s continuing support for the presence of the U.S. weapons on Turkish territory could be justified only if there were a threat from the military capabilities of Turkey’s neighbors, the two most significant of which would be Iran and Syria, and if the Western allies shared that threat assessment. There can be no other meaningful scenario that would justify Turkey’s policy of retaining U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory as well as leaving the door open for the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Turkey in the future. Recent trends, however, appear to be moving from such a threat assessment by Turkey. Over the last few years, Turkey has experienced an unprecedented rapprochement with its Middle Eastern neighbors.

Last year, Turkey held joint ministerial cabinet meetings with Iraq in October and Syria in December. Until recently, Turkey had treated both countries as foes rather than friends. These meetings have produced a significant number of protocols, memoranda of understanding, and other documents on a wide array of issue areas including the thorniest subjects, such as ways and means of dealing with terrorism effectively and using the region’s scarce water resources more equitably.

Moreover, these high-level meetings resulted in the lifting of the visa requirement for Turkish citizens traveling to Syria and vice versa. That action has paved the way to an opening of the borders between the two countries; the borders had stayed closed for decades due to the presence of large numbers of heavy land mines on both sides. The mines will soon be cleaned up with a view to opening huge land areas to agriculture.

In addition to improvements in bilateral relations with its immediate neighbors, Turkey has become more involved in wider Middle Eastern political affairs than it ever has been since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. A key part of this regional involvement is mediation efforts between Israel and Syria. Another element is a willingness to take on a similar role in Iran’s dispute with the international community over the nature and scope of Tehran’s nuclear program, which is generally considered by Turkey’s NATO allies to have the potential for weaponization and thus further proliferation in the region. Top Turkish political and military officials have suggested on various occasions that the most promising way out of the conflict in the longer term would be the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Against that background, the continued insistence of the Turkish security elite on hosting U.S. nuclear weapons has drawn criticism from Turkey’s Middle Eastern neighbors.[21]

Some of these neighbors, such as Iran and Syria, criticize Turkey’s policy of retaining nuclear weapons because they see the weapons as being directed against them.[22] Others in the Arab world, such as Egypt, portray these weapons as a symbol of Western imperialism.

Turkey therefore will have to seriously reconsider its policy on U.S. nuclear weapons. For this to happen, a debate should take place in the country in various platforms, in closed as well as open forums, with the participation of experts, scholars, officials, and other concerned citizens.

There is a common belief in Turkey that the U.S. weapons constitute a credible deterrent against threats such as Iran’s nuclear program and the possible further proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region in response to Tehran’s program. Others contend that if Turkey sends the weapons back to the United States and Iran subsequently develops nuclear weapons, Turkey will have to develop its own such weapons. These observers argue that even though they are against the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on Turkish soil in principle, the weapons’ presence in the country will keep Turkey away from such adventurous policies.[23] Similar views have also been expressed by foreign experts and analysts who are concerned about Turkey’s possible reactions to the developments in Iran’s nuclear capabilities in case U.S. nuclear weapons are withdrawn from Turkish territory.[24]

The negative effects of the weapons deployments on Turkish-Iranian relations need to be assessed as well. Some Iranian security analysts even argue that the deployment of the weapons on Turkish territory makes Turkey a “nuclear-weapon state.”[25] There is, therefore, the possibility that the presence of the weapons could actually spur Iranian nuclear weapons efforts. This issue may well be exploited by the Iranian leadership to justify the country’s continuing investments in more ambitious nuclear capabilities.


A key question for NATO’s new Strategic Concept is whether burden sharing will continue to be construed as it has had for many decades, as suggested by Turkey, or whether it will be altered in response to the combined negative stance of some western European allies regarding the forward deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons.

This situation could lead to a divisive and unnecessary controversy between Turkey and its long-standing allies in the West. By insisting that the weapons remain on European territory, Turkey would not only alienate some of its Western allies that truly want to move the weapons out of their territories, but also create tension in its relations with its neighbors and newly emerging partners in the Middle East.

On May 17, Turkey signed a joint declaration with Brazil and Iran, providing for the safe storage of Iran’s 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium fuel in Turkey in return for the delivery by France, Russia, the United States, and the International Atomic Energy Agency of 120 kilograms of fuel needed for the Tehran Research Reactor.[26] This “nuclear fuel swap” is potentially a breakthrough in the long-standing deadlock in Iran’s relations with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program. There is no question that the degree of trust that Turkey has built with Iran, especially over the last several years with the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, had a significant impact on getting this result.

Iran has so far adamantly refused all other offers. Hence, the Iranian political and security elites who have been closely interacting with their Turkish counterparts at every level over the past several months and years prior to the fuel swap announcement may raise their expectations in turn. They may press for withdrawal from Turkey of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, which they fear may be used against them, as a way for Turkey to prove its sincerity regarding its stance toward Iran and, more broadly, its commitment to creating a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East.

Turkey clearly has to tread carefully, but the risks should not be overstated.

One concern might be the contingencies in which the security situation in Turkey’s neighborhood deteriorates, thereby necessitating the active presence of an effective deterrent against the aggressor(s). Yet, given the elaborate capabilities that exist within the alliance and the solidarity principle so far effectively upheld by the allies, extending deterrence against Turkey’s rivals should not be a problem. Turkey would continue to be protected against potential aggressors by the nuclear guarantees of its allies France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the three NATO nuclear-weapon states. Turkey’s reliance on such a “credible” deterrent, which will not be permanently stationed on Turkish territory, is less likely to be criticized by its Middle Eastern neighbors[27] and should not engender a burden-sharing controversy with its European allies.

One cannot argue that once U.S. nuclear weapons that are stationed in Turkish territory are sent back, the nuclear deterrent of the alliance extended to Turkey will be lost forever.

Currently, three NATO members are nuclear-weapon states. Of the NATO non-nuclear-weapon states, only five, as mentioned above, are known to host U.S. nuclear weapons. The remaining 20 members have no nuclear weapons on their territories. Yet, these members enjoy the credible nuclear deterrent of NATO, which remains the most powerful military organization in the world. Hence, the simple outcome of this analysis is that, for NATO members to feel confident against the threats posed to their national security, they do not have to deploy U.S. nuclear weapons on their territory.[28] Turkey need not be an exception to this rule.

Mustafa Kibaroglu teaches courses on arms control and disarmament in the Department of International Relations at BilkentUniversity in Ankara, Turkey. He has held fellowships at HarvardUniversity’s BelferCenter for Science and International Affairs, the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.



1. Italy is believed to host U.S. nuclear weapons, but it is not clear whether it wants to get rid of them. For an account of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Italy, see Hans M. Kristensen, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe: A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning,” Natural Resources Defense Council, 2005, p. 9.

2. NATO, “NATO’s New Strategic Concept – Why? How?,” May 2010, www.nato.int/strategic-concept.

3. NATO, “NATO Foreign Ministers Hold Talks on New Strategic Concept,” April 22, 2010.

4. Ibid.

5. Jean Asselborn et al. to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, February 26, 2010. For the full text of the letter, see www.armscontrol.org/system/files/Letter%20to%20Secretary%20General%20NATO.pdf.

6. Ibid.

7. Latvian ambassador, personal communication with author, Ankara, March 31, 2010. For a similar approach from the region, see Lukasz Kulesa, “Extended Deterrence and Assurance in Central Europe,” in Perspectives on Extended Deterrence, No.3/2010 (Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris, 2010).

8. Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski, “Next, the Tactical Nukes,” The New York Times, February 1, 2010.

9. Latvian ambassador, personal communication with author, Ankara, March 31, 2010.

10. Kulesa, “Extended Deterrence and Assurance in Central Europe.”

11. Retired Turkish ambassador, personal communication with author, Ankara, March 31, 2010.

12. See Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Turkey and Shared Responsibilities,” in “Shared Responsibilities for Nuclear Disarmament: A Global Debate,” Occasional Paper, AmericanAcademy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2010, pp. 24-27.

13. Retired Turkish air force commander, personal communication with author, Ankara, February 15, 2010.

14. Hans M. Kristensen, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe: A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning,” p.9.

15. Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Isn’t It Time to Say Farewell to US Nukes in Turkey?” European Security, Vol. 14, No. 4 (December 2005), pp. 443-457.

16. Retired Turkish air force commander, personal communication with author, Ankara, February 15, 2010.

17. Hans M. Kristensen, e-mail communication with author, April 22, 2010

18. Retired Turkish air force commander, e-mail communication with author, April 23, 2010.

19. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability was destroyed following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Iran and Syria still have such weapons in their military arsenals. Hence, the Turkish security elite still consider extended nuclear deterrence to be significant for Turkey’s security.

20. Turkish diplomat, personal communication with author, Ankara, January 29, 2010.

21. Amr Mousa, personal communications with author, Paris, February 1-4, 2010.

22 Mohmood Vaezi and Saghefi Ameri, personal communications with author, Tehran, December 2004.

23. These comments were made by Turkish security experts and analysts in response to a presentation by Mustafa Kibaroglu entitled “US Nuclear Weapons in Turkey and the Evolution of NATO’s New Strategic Concept” at the Strategy Group Meeting of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara on March 31, 2010.

24. Various arms control experts, personal communications with author, Washington, April 12-13, 2010.

25. Mohmood Vaezi and Saghefi Ameri, personal communications with author, Tehran, December 2004.

26. Joint Declaration of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Iran and Brazil, May 17, 2010.

27. The credibility of NATO’s deterrent has been questioned by security analysts both inside and outside of Turkey in various discussion platforms, and some have expressed their concerns about whether NATO countries would really use nuclear weapons against Iran to defend Turkey. There can be no clear answer for such a question, which relates to a dilemma that is inherent in the concept of deterrence.

28. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen also suggested there are other means for maintaining alliance cohesion: “A more modest option would be for NATO to retain a nuclear task without U.S. nuclear weapons being stationed in Europe.” Daryl G. Kimball and Greg Thielmann, “Obama’s NPR: Transitional, Not Transformational,” Arms Control Today, May 2010.


NATO is revising its Strategic Concept; the alliance is due to complete work on the document in November. A key issue in the revision is the deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as part of the alliance’s policy of extended nuclear deterrence. Although Turkey has long been in agreement with its allies on the value of these forward deployments, it may soon find itself in a delicate position on the question of how to continue the policy effectively.

With other NATO countries such as Luxembourg and Norway supporting them, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands have indicated a desire to reassess the case for continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories. Should these countries advocate withdrawal of U.S. weapons from Europe, Turkish decision-makers might conclude that two fundamental principles of the alliance, namely solidarity and burden sharing, have been seriously weakened. Those principles have been the basis for Turkey’s agreement, since the early 1960s, to the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil.


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