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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General
Strategic Policy

Obama’s NPR: Transitional, Not Transformational

On April 5, 2009, in Prague, President Barack Obama embraced the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In pursuit of that objective, he called for “an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in [U.S.] national security strategy.”[1] One year later, his administration released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which fleshes out policies to meet those aspirations.

The new NPR narrows the circumstances under which the United States might use nuclear weapons and formally establishes some commonsense constraints on U.S. nuclear warhead modernization. It does so in ways that should help reduce the salience of nuclear weapons, help curb proliferation, and open the way for further nuclear arms cuts.

Daryl G. Kimball and Greg Thielmann

On April 5, 2009, in Prague, President Barack Obama embraced the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In pursuit of that objective, he called for “an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in [U.S.] national security strategy.”[1] One year later, his administration released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which fleshes out policies to meet those aspirations.

The new NPR narrows the circumstances under which the United States might use nuclear weapons and formally establishes some commonsense constraints on U.S. nuclear warhead modernization. It does so in ways that should help reduce the salience of nuclear weapons, help curb proliferation, and open the way for further nuclear arms cuts.

Unfortunately, the new U.S. nuclear policy review is not as different from the two previous reviews as it could or should be, particularly with respect to U.S. nuclear weapons declaratory policy and the size and structure of U.S. forces.

Still, the policies articulated in the unclassified 65-page document do represent a positive shift in U.S. nuclear thinking and practice. Unlike earlier post-Cold War reviews in 1994 and 2001,[2] the new NPR finally recognizes that deploying thousands of strategic nuclear weapons organized to perform a wide range of missions, including defending U.S. forces or allies against massive conventional, chemical, and biological attacks, is neither appropriate nor necessary for security and stability in the 21st century.

Instead, it correctly posits that, “[b]y working to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and moving step-by-step toward eliminating them, we can reverse the growing expectation that we are destined to live in a world with more nuclear-armed states, and decrease incentives for additional countries to hedge against an uncertain future by pursuing nuclear options of their own.”[3]

Obama’s NPR identifies preventing the use of nuclear weapons, preventing nuclear proliferation, and reducing the potential for nuclear terrorism as “our most urgent priorities”[4]—not defending against a large-scale attack from Russia, which, the new NPR notes, is no longer an adversary.

A major and important theme throughout the NPR is that “by reducing the role and numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons…we can put ourselves in a much better position to persuade our NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] partners to join with us in adopting the measures needed to reinvigorate the nonproliferation regime and secure nuclear materials worldwide.”[5]

The document forthrightly states, “It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever. As President Ronald Reagan declared, ‘A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’”[6]

Declaratory Policy

The new NPR emphasizes that the “fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack” on the United States and its allies and that the goal is to make deterring nuclear attack the “sole purpose of nuclear weapons.”[7] “Sole purpose” is thus identified as a goal rather than a reality of current U.S. nuclear force posture.

The NPR updates and strengthens U.S. pledges of nonuse toward non-nuclear-weapon states that are in good standing with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations, even in the unlikely event that one of those states attacks the United States or its allies with chemical or biological weapons.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained in an interview broadcast April 11 on CBS’s Face the Nation, “[T]he negative security assurance that we won’t use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, in conformity with or in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, is not a new thing. The new part of this is saying that we would not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state that attacked us with chemical and biological weapons.”

This revised negative security assurance[8] expands the security benefits for non-nuclear-weapon states of good-faith membership in the NPT regime. In addition, it makes it easier for these states to agree to updating and strengthening the treaty, as Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller explained at an April 14 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee: “A number of states party to the nonproliferation treaty have made clear in previous review conferences that the United States posture…makes it more difficult for them to agree to the types of steps that the United States has proposed to strengthen the treaty, steps that would include having the additional protocol applied to all states that have nuclear energy capability.”

However, U.S. officials should be more careful not to imply, as Gates did when he cited Iran and North Korea in an April 6 press conference, that it is any more likely than before that the United States would use nuclear weapons against states not covered by the assurance. Gates said on that occasion, “If there is a message for Iran and North Korea here, it is: If you are going to play by the rules, then we will undertake certain obligations to you, and that is covered in the NPR.” He added, “But if you are not going to play by the rules, if you are going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table.”[9]

Such statements are misleading and counterproductive. The text of the 2010 NPR explains clearly that withholding the negative security assurance from some countries “does not mean that our willingness to use nuclear weapons against countries not covered by the new assurance has in any way increased.”[10]

Unfortunately, the NPR contains some unnecessary qualifications in describing the narrowed role of nuclear weapons, preventing the United States “at the present time” from adopting a policy that the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack. It says that, in the case of “states that possess nuclear weapons and states not in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations—there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW [chemical and biological weapons] attack.”[11]

This unhelpfully implies, for example, that there are circumstances in which the United States would use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against an Iran without nuclear weapons. It draws no distinction in its nuclear posture toward Iran, which is still in partial compliance with its NPT obligations, disavowing an intention to develop nuclear weapons and declaring them “un-Islamic,” and North Korea, which has completely withdrawn from the NPT, has detonated nuclear devices, and threatens to use nuclear weapons if it is attacked.

Among the “narrow range of contingencies” that presumably prevents the NPR authors from adopting a sole-purpose policy is the possibility of a North Korean attack on South Korea using conventional weapons. Pyongyang’s large standing army deployed close to Seoul has long given it the ability to attack with little warning. Such an attack would start with a massive artillery bombardment of Seoul and an invasion of the South by North Korea’s conventional forces, the first elements of which could be on the outskirts of Seoul very quickly. As a result, any U.S. nuclear counterattack against the invading forces, even with nuclear forces stationed nearby, would come too late to prevent this invasion. Moreover, a nuclear response would result in massive collateral damage, killing millions of civilians, and still would not necessarily end the war. An effective nuclear defense protecting South Korea from a North Korean conventional strike is not possible. Only an adequate conventional defense can do that effectively.[12]Keeping open the option of nuclear first-use against an invading North Korean conventional force complicates the broader goal of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons everywhere. So long as U.S. doctrine argues that nuclear weapons are needed to counter conventional imbalances, it will be difficult to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the nuclear doctrines of Israel, Pakistan, and Russia, which posit that nuclear weapons are needed to deal with nonnuclear threats. There is no way to get the world on the road to zero nuclear weapons without giving up this doctrine.

“Deterrence,” as Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command recently noted, “is a combination of capability and credibility.”[13] This should have led the NPR team and Obama to recognize that the enormous destructive effects of today’s nuclear weapons make them an inappropriate and noncredible response to anything but a nuclear attack. The United States should adopt a sole-purpose policy now rather than later. Reserving the option to use nuclear force in nonnuclear situations provides little or no deterrent value at a high cost. It undermines the credibility of conventional deterrence, complicates U.S. nonproliferation diplomacy, and can be used by other countries to justify their pursuit or improvement of nuclear weapons.

The NPR unambiguously seeks to shrink the role of nuclear weapons with regard to responding to chemical weapons. During his Face the Nation interview, Gates said, “[T]ry as we might, we could not find a credible scenario where a chemical weapon could have the kind of consequences that would warrant a nuclear response.” This moves the United States beyond the position expressed by three previous presidents. Yet, even this advance is hobbled by the NPR’s exception concerning the “narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring” an attack by conventional, chemical, or biological weapons.

The administration came close to removing biological weapons from the list of threats potentially justifying a nuclear response. Ultimately, however, the NPR hedged by stating, “Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat.”[14]

The message here undermines the political impact of the NPR in two ways. It implies a future retreat from the goal of establishing nuclear deterrence and defense against nuclear attack as the sole purpose of nuclear weapons. Also, it provides encouragement to those who might seek to translate biological weapons capability into political power by inaccurately equating the potential destructiveness of such weapons with that of nuclear weapons.

No “New” Nuclear Weapons

One of the most dramatic turnarounds from President George W. Bush’s 2001 NPR is the Obama NPR’s support of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratification and entry into force. Another is prohibiting new nuclear warhead development and forgoing the pursuit of new military missions or new military capabilities for the warheads.

The 2001 NPR sought to provide the president with a broader range of nuclear weapons employment options, reportedly calling for the development of new types of nuclear warheads that reduce collateral damage as well as possible modifications to existing weapons to provide additional yield flexibility. The 2001 review specifically cited the need to improve earth-penetrating weapons, designed to threaten hardened and deeply buried targets, such as command and control and weapons storage bunkers. Like its 1994 predecessor, the 2001 NPR endorsed pursuit of a modified version of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb. The Bush administration followed its NPR with a proposal for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which was eventually rejected by Congress as an unnecessary and provocative program.

In contrast, the 2010 NPR explicitly states, “The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs [LEPs] will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.”[15]

Although the NPR does not clearly define what a “new nuclear weapon” is,[16] the policy is the right one from a number of perspectives. There is no technical need for new-design warheads and renewed nuclear testing to maintain the reliability of the existing U.S. nuclear stockpile, given the success of ongoing U.S. warhead LEPs. The JASON independent technical review panel’s September 2009 report concluded that the “lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence.”[17] The JASON panel findings underscore the fact that new-design replacement warheads are not needed to maintain reliability for the foreseeable future, and they clearly influenced the outcome of the NPR on this point.

The NPR does, however, contain a potential loophole because it could allow for the replacement of certain nuclear components at some point in the future to improve reliability, safety, or surety, if they are based on previously tested designs and are expressly approved by the president. As noted by Thomas D’Agostino, the head of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), at the April 14 House Armed Services Committee hearing, the NPR will allow the national nuclear weapons laboratories to “study all options for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear warheads, and we’ll do so on a case-by-case basis.”

Nonetheless, Obama’s no-new-nuclear-weapons policy is a step forward, and it should be emulated by other nuclear-armed states to further reduce nuclear competition.

The NPR calls for the implementation of “well-funded stockpile management and infrastructure investment plans that can sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal at significantly reduced stockpile levels without nuclear testing or the development of new nuclear warheads.”[18] In February, the Obama administration proposed a fiscal year 2011 budget of just more than $7 billion, 10 percent more than the current year’s level, for NNSA weapons activities.

The NPR should put to rest any lingering concerns about the “aging” U.S. nuclear arsenal and the quaint but dangerous notion that the United States might need to resume nuclear testing. As Gates wrote in his preface to the NPR, “These investments, and the NPR’s strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation’s deterrent.”[19] Now, with more than enough resources available for stockpile management, the administration should move the Senate to reconsider and approve the CTBT.

Further Reductions?

Prior to the release of the NPR, Obama stated on numerous occasions that it would “open the way for further nuclear weapons reductions,” presumably below the ceilings established by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)—1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. One of the NPR’s stated goals is to “pursue high-level, bilateral dialogues on strategic stability with both Russia and China, which are aimed at fostering more stable, resilient, and transparent strategic relationships.”[20]

Coupled with Obama’s April 8 call for continued discussions between Moscow and Washington on further reductions involving all warheads, including deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic, it is clear the United States wants to pursue deeper and broader bilateral nuclear limits with Russia in the years ahead and move beyond to engage other nuclear states as well.

Although the NPR acknowledges that the United States and Russia “each still retains more nuclear weapons than necessary for stable deterrence,”[21] the NPR unfortunately does not spell out how much further the Obama administration is prepared to reduce the U.S. arsenal. Instead, it calls for a “follow-on analysis of the goals for future arms reductions below the levels expected in New START,” noting that “Russia’s nuclear forces will remain a significant factor in determining how much and how fast we are prepared to reduce U.S. forces.” The failure to state a desired range of reductions represents a missed opportunity to challenge other nuclear-weapon states and to demonstrate further the seriousness of U.S. intentions to carry out the obligations of the NPT’s Article VI.

Given that the “fundamental role” of U.S. (and Russian) nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others and that China has no more than 300 nuclear weapons, Washington and Moscow could and should reduce their arsenals to 500 or fewer deployed warheads each, so long as other nuclear-armed states do not increase their arsenals.

To make further progress in nuclear disarmament, the United States and Russia must make good on their professed goal of cooperating on regional missile defense and avoiding strategic missile defense deployments that could affect offensive strategic capabilities and hamper progress on nuclear disarmament.

A positive feature is the NPR’s call for the long-overdue retirement of nuclear-equipped, sea-launched cruise missiles (Tomahawk Land Attack Missile-Nuclear [TLAM-N]). The NPR notes that the United States will retain options for forward deployment of bombers with bombs or cruise missiles, as well as forward deployment of dual-capable fighters, and that U.S. intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles “are capable of striking any potential adversary.” The NPR says, “The deterrence and assurance roles of TLAM-N can be adequately substituted by these other means.”[22]

On the other hand, the NPR is neutral on whether the United States should continue to station the residual arsenal of 200 forward-deployed nuclear gravity bombs at six bases in five European NATO countries. Those weapons are a subject of the ongoing Strategic Concept review by the alliance that is due in November. The NPR repeats the stale NATO refrain that “the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons…contribute[s] to Alliance cohesion and provide[s] reassurance to allies and partners who feel exposed to regional threats.”[23]

Yet, two successive German governments have made clear that Berlin favors the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Germany. One NATO ally that sometimes expresses concerns about regional threats is Poland, but Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski wrote in February, “We still face security challenges in the Europe of today and tomorrow, but from whichever angle you look, there is no role for the use of nuclear weapons in resolving these challenges.”[24] Maxime Verhagen, foreign minister of the Netherlands, another NATO member hosting U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, suggests there are other means for constructively 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.”[25]

These weapons clearly can and should be retired because they serve no practical military role in the defense of NATO, are a greater security liability in the age of terrorism, and are an impediment to opening talks with Russia on accounting for and reducing the larger Russian stockpile of tactical nuclear bombs. For the same reasons that the NPR calls for retirement of forward-deployed sea-launched cruise missiles, the Obama administration should urge its NATO partners to support the withdrawal of obsolete tactical nuclear bombs from Europe.

Conclusion

Obama’s new nuclear policy narrows the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy and moves the United States and Russia toward a more stable strategic relationship at lower levels of nuclear arms. The policy is framed to support action for the immediate next steps toward a world without nuclear weapons that were outlined by Obama in his Prague speech one year ago: conclusion of a new strategic arms treaty, accelerated action to secure nuclear weapons-usable material, entry into force of the CTBT, and the strengthening of the NPT.

Obama’s Prague speech aimed for the mountaintop, but the NPR leaves U.S. nuclear policy in the foothills. Cautious rather than bold, the policy has won strong backing from the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the military, but at a cost. The 2010 NPR ends up being a transitional, rather than transformational, document. In order to realize fully the promise of a world without nuclear weapons, Obama and his team must do more to change outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons that are more of a liability than a useful military asset in the 21st century.


Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the Arms Control Association (ACA). Greg Thielmann is a senior fellow at the ACA, where he directs the Realistic Threat Assessments and Responses Project. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the ACA’s directors or members.


ENDNOTES

1. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama, Hradčany Square, Prague, Czech Republic,” April 5, 2009.

2. The 2001 NPR reportedly argued that U.S. nuclear weapons “provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and large-scale conventional military force.” The review also said that “nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities).” See Philip Bleek, “Nuclear Posture Review Leaks, Outlines Targets, Contingencies,” Arms Control Today, April 2002, www.armscontrol.org/act/2002_04/nprapril02.

3. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf, p. vi (hereinafter NPR).

4. Ibid., p. v.

5. Ibid., p. vi.

6. Ibid., p. 16.

7. Ibid., p. viii.

8. The 2010 NPR eliminates the so-called Warsaw Pact caveat from the previous U.S. negative security assurance and removes ambiguity about the potential use of nuclear weapons in response to the threat of chemical or biological attack from non-nuclear-weapon states. On February 22, 2002, Department of State spokesman Richard Boucher reiterated the 1995 version of a U.S. negative security pledge first outlined in 1978. He stated, “The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon state parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies or on a state toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state.” Boucher subsequently qualified the pledge, saying, “We will do whatever is necessary to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its allies, and its interests. If a weapon of mass destruction is used against the United States or its allies, we will not rule out any specific type of military response.”

9. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), U.S. Department of Defense, “DOD News Briefing With Secretary Gates, Navy Adm. Mullen, Secretary Clinton, and Secretary Chu From the Pentagon,” April 6, 2010, www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4599.

10. NPR, p. 16.

11. Ibid.

12. During the Korean War, when the United States had a massive nuclear advantage over North Korea’s Soviet ally and China had no nuclear weapons, neither President Harry Truman nor President Dwight Eisenhower seriously countenanced such an attack, even when China intervened on the side of North Korea.

13. Kevin P. Chilton, Statement before the House Armed Services Committee, April 14, 2010.

14. NPR, p. 16.

15. NPR, p. 39.

16. In Section 3143 of the fiscal year 2003 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress defined a “new nuclear weapon” as one that “contains a pit or canned subassembly” not already in the active or inactive stockpile or in production. A pit is the plutonium component in a warhead’s primary stage, and a canned subassembly is the uranium and lithium-deuteride component in the secondary stage. Together, these parts are known as the warhead’s nuclear explosive package.

17. JASON Program Office, “Lifetime Extension Program (LEP) Executive Summary,” JSR-09-334E, September 9, 2009.

18. NPR, p. 46.

19. Ibid., p. i.

20. Ibid., p. 46.

21. Ibid., p. 5.

22. NPR, p. 28.

23. NPR, p. 32.

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

25. “Nederlands initiatief voor kernontwapening,” Nieuwsbericht, February 26, 2010 (translation provided by the Netherlands Foreign Ministry).

 

A New Nuclear Posture

A year after President Barack Obama set very high expectations with an April 2009 speech in Prague outlining his vision of a world without nuclear weapons, his administration has released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which goes some distance toward meeting Obama’s stated goal of reducing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons.

Perhaps more importantly, the NPR, made public in its entirety, places U.S. nuclear policy within a conceptual framework based on two important ideas. First, the United States has a compelling interest in preventing any use of nuclear weapons. Second, preventing the use of nuclear weapons requires cooperation as much as, if not more than, it requires deterrence. This is a profound change.

 

Morton H. Halperin

A year after President Barack Obama set very high expectations with an April 2009 speech in Prague outlining his vision of a world without nuclear weapons, his administration has released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which goes some distance toward meeting Obama’s stated goal of reducing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons.

Perhaps more importantly, the NPR, made public in its entirety, places U.S. nuclear policy within a conceptual framework based on two important ideas. First, the United States has a compelling interest in preventing any use of nuclear weapons. Second, preventing the use of nuclear weapons requires cooperation as much as, if not more than, it requires deterrence. This is a profound change.

The NPR asserts that “[i]t is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.”[1] Moreover, instead of listing the many dangers that the potential U.S. use of nuclear weapons may deter, the NPR warns that the greatest danger of nuclear use comes from suicidal terrorists or unfriendly regimes such as North Korea and Iran. Implicitly, the NPR recognizes the threat of nuclear weapons use as a common danger that compels the United States to cooperate, even with potential adversaries.

The NPR flatly states that the United States must align its nuclear policies and posture to meet these urgent priorities. In particular, the NPR concludes that the United States can contribute most effectively to these objectives by reducing both the size of its nuclear forces and its reliance on nuclear weapons. The NPR rejects the notion that the United States can most effectively prevent proliferation by maintaining a robust nuclear arsenal and seeking to make credible the threat to use nuclear weapons in a variety of situations. Critics will seize on the obvious fact that Iran and North Korea are unlikely to abandon their nuclear programs simply because the United States reduces its reliance on nuclear weapons. Yet, this view overlooks the fundamental realization that the United States can prevent proliferation only with the cooperation of other countries—cooperation that does require that the United States demonstrate that, consistent with its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it is reducing its nuclear forces and its reliance on nuclear weapons.

The NPR also states that “[t]he fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners.”[2]

Arms control advocates, including this author, have argued that what the United States says about the purpose of its nuclear weapons should reflect the fact that the use of nuclear weapons is not in the country’s national interest. For many years, they hoped a more sensible U.S. declaratory policy would state that the United States would not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack.

Recognizing the political and diplomatic baggage associated with a so-called no-first-use pledge, many of these advocates urged the administration at least to make clear that it maintained nuclear weapons for the “sole purpose” of deterring their use by others, while declining to speculate on hypothetical scenarios in which nuclear weapons might be used. The text of the document makes clear that this option was considered. In the end, the Obama administration asserted that “[t]he United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or our allies or partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.”[3] Thus, for the first time, the United States has established the goal of aligning its declaratory policy with its broad interest in the nonuse of nuclear weapons.

Rejecting Nuclear Ambiguity

The administration took two other important steps in moving declaratory policy away from the calculated ambiguity that was at odds with the U.S. interest in the nonuse of nuclear weapons.

First, the administration finally issued a “clean” negative security assurance, asserting that “[t]he 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.”[4] Non-nuclear-weapon states that faithfully adhere to the NPT were surely entitled to such a pledge from the start. How can the United States ask other states to sign a treaty that prohibits them from possessing nuclear weapons, while also exposing them to nuclear weapons threats by those who are permitted them?

Some press reports have interpreted this as a new threat against Iran and North Korea. It is not a new threat in any sense. Every previous administration has made this “threat” against every adherent to the NPT. What Iran and North Korea have been given is a clear choice: come into compliance with the NPT in exchange for immunity from nuclear attack or remain outside and at risk. The NPR goes one important step further by delimiting the circumstances in which the United States would consider using nuclear weapons against states that either have nuclear weapons or are working toward them. It says that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons “in extreme circumstances” to defend “vital interests.”[5] The United States no longer intends to use nuclear weapons whenever it is convenient, but only reserves the right to decide to do so in extraordinary circumstances.

In addition to issues relating to declaratory policy, the debate within the administration focused on how to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal while meeting Obama’s objectives of reducing the number of nuclear weapons and their role in U.S. policy so as to advance the country’s nonproliferation objectives.

Although the NPR, to the disappointment of many, commits to substantial expenditures on the nuclear weapons stockpile and infrastructure, in terms of doctrine and policy it sets out a policy fully consistent with Obama’s goals. The NPR announced three very firm nos. First, it says flatly and without qualification that “[t]he United States will not conduct nuclear testing.”[6] It goes on to call for Senate consent to ratification as well as entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which means persuading many other recalcitrant countries to adhere to the treaty. The second no is that the United States will not “develop new nuclear warheads.”[7] Again, there is no equivocation, and the NPR says that the program to maintain a safe and effective nuclear arsenal will use only previously tested designs. The NPR also expresses a strong preference for refurbishment or reuse of an existing configuration: “Replacement of nuclear components would be undertaken only if...goals [of the program] could not be met, and if specifically authorized by the President and approved by Congress.”[8] Such replacement would have to be with a plutonium pit that had been tested for another purpose. The third no is that the program will not be aimed at developing new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.

The NPR promises that this approach will permit substantial reductions in the U.S. stockpile of nondeployed weapons. These weapons are now maintained as a hedge against technical failures or a change in the international situation that required a larger deployed force. A more robust research effort would provide a substitute hedge for both of these purposes. The NPR does not provide any specific numbers for either the existing nondeployed stockpile or for the number or timing of the proposed reductions. The administration made a decision at the outset to write only one version of the NPR and to release it in its entirety. There was apparently an intense debate at the last moment about whether these numbers could be declassified and included in the report. The review of this question continues, and one can only hope that Obama’s commitment to transparency, which strongly influenced this entire effort, will prevail here as well.

A robust commitment to maintaining a safe, secure, and effective arsenal within these very clear policy guidelines does not interfere in any way with U.S. nonproliferation efforts or a reduced reliance on nuclear weapons. It is also, practically speaking, a necessary precondition for Senate consent to ratification of the CTBT. The administration now appears confident that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will be ratified, perhaps even this year, and with an overwhelming vote. Because New START is a modest step, following in every important detail the recommendations of the bipartisan Perry-Schlesinger Commission,[9] on which the author served, the Senate should overwhelmingly support the treaty. There will certainly not be the same level of Senate support for the CTBT, which split the commission. Securing a bipartisan supermajority in the Senate for ratification will require, along with other steps, persuading key senators that the administration is serious about the modernization of the nuclear complex and that Congress as a whole is prepared to provide the funding.

The decisions on declaratory policy and stockpile management now appear to enjoy the firm support of the departments of Defense, Energy, and State, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nuclear weapons complex. The administration also consulted actively with key allies in the process. In doing so, it seems to have come to understand that Germany and Japan, often cited as the countries most concerned about extended deterrence, were comfortable with the changes announced by the NPR and would have supported more far-reaching changes. These discussions led to the decision to retire the TLAM-N nuclear cruise missile and to leave open for NATO discussions the role of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe. These consultations also revealed that the South Koreans, as well as newer NATO members such as Poland, continue to have lingering concerns about more dramatic changes, such as a no-first-use policy. The key to maintaining momentum for the Prague agenda will be to reinvigorate NATO’s conventional planning while educating key participants in all of these nations, in both official and track two conversations, about the limited role that nuclear weapons can and should play in their defense.

Disappointments

The most disappointing part of the NPR is the section dealing with decisions about the size of the deployed force and the continued reliance on a version of mutual assured destruction as the basis for determining force size and posture. The business-as-usual approach resulted in part from the way that the NPR was conducted. In order to permit the negotiations with the Russians to begin early in the administration, and to do so without opening itself to the charge that it was negotiating before completing its own review, the Pentagon was instructed to do an early minireview that focused on the issues relevant to the New START negotiators. To do this quickly and without intense dispute, the minireview proceeded on the basis of existing guidance from the Bush administration. The strategy worked in the sense that the reductions consistent with that guidance were more than sufficient for the modest changes envisioned in New START.

Further reductions, however, will require significant follow-on study and new presidential guidance that could take years to complete. With the treaty text settled and the NPR released, the administration must now undertake a variety of actions, including “[c]omplet[ing] the Presidentially-directed review of post-New START arms control objectives, to establish goals for future reductions in nuclear weapons, as well as evaluating additional options to increase warning and decision time, and to further reduce the risks of false warning or misjudgments relating to nuclear use.”[10]

The NPR rightly rejected the idea of de-alerting forces now because of the difficulty of doing so in any meaningful way with the existing forces and the current presidential guidance, which does not seem to have been reviewed as part of the NPR process. The agreed numbers in New START were dictated by and will enable the military to meet the requirements imposed by the presidential guidance. This requires the force to be able to survive a massive out-of-the-blue Russian attack and promptly deliver a massive strike on a very wide range of targets in Russia with very high confidence that each of the targets will actually be destroyed.

Consistent with the realities spelled out in the NPR, Obama needs to provide the military with new guidance as to what is needed to deter the very, very unlikely, if not impossible, scenario of a massive Russian surprise attack. Obama needs to make it clear that he does not intend to respond quickly and that there is no requirement for a prompt and massive retaliatory option. Rather he should indicate that high confidence in relatively modest (by war-planning standards) levels of destruction of Russia is sufficient to deter such an unlikely event.

In issuing this guidance, the president should make clear he does not intend to micromanage what retaliatory options with what target sets would be appropriate. Instead, he should seek the design of a force over time that does not rely either on maintaining alert in peacetime or on moving to such a state in a crisis for survivability. Moreover, the president should make it clear to the Russian and Chinese leadership that the United States neither has today nor seeks in the future the capability to negate their deterrents.

Changing the guidance for what is sufficient for deterrence would not by itself determine what size force the United States needs in relation to the Russian nuclear force. However, it would eliminate such calculations from being any obstacle, as it was in the New START negotiations from the U.S. side, in future negotiations on further substantial bilateral reductions with Russia and later multilateral reductions with all of the existing nuclear powers. In addition, it would make possible a more considered conversation of how far the United States could reduce its stockpile in the absence of further agreements with Russia.

The NPR pays homage to Obama’s commitment to seeking a world without nuclear weapons. Verbal commitment to that goal plays a positive role in maintaining support for the NPT regime, and it encourages efforts to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons until their sole purpose is deterring nuclear attacks. A better lodestar for fundamentally rethinking the U.S. nuclear force posture is the set of tasks set out in the NPR for the short term. These include moving toward universal no-first-use and a force posture that is designed to survive any possible attack and poses no threat to the nuclear forces of potential adversaries. This would permit the United States to reduce its total stockpile of nuclear weapons far below 1,000 total warheads. That is a goal that can be reached in Obama’s lifetime and that would significantly reduce the risk of nuclear use by a terrorist or any government and would help to prevent further nuclear proliferation.


Morton H. Halperin is a senior adviser at the Open Society Institute and was a member of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, which released its report in May 2009. He served in the Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton administrations working on nuclear policy and arms control. The observations presented in the article are based on the text of the Nuclear Posture Review, briefings (on and off the record) by administration officials, and more informal conversations with administration officials.


ENDNOTES

1. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf, p. 16 (hereinafter “NPR”).

2. Ibid., p. 15.

3. Ibid., p. 17.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid., p. 16.

6. Ibid., p. 38.

7. Ibid., p. 39.

8. Ibid.

9. Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, “America’s Strategic Posture: The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States,” United States Institute of Peace, 2009, http://media.usip.org/reports/strat_posture_report.pdf.

10. NPR, p. 47.

 

U.S. Nuclear Review Shifts Threat Focus

Flagging nuclear terrorism and proliferation as the top U.S. national security priorities for the first time, the White House released its long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) April 6. The congressionally mandated report provides a comprehensive description of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and strategy for the next five to 10 years. The 2010 NPR is the third post-Cold War review—the others were in 1994 and 2001—and is the first to be published in an unclassified form.

Tom Z. Collina

Flagging nuclear terrorism and proliferation as the top U.S. national security priorities for the first time, the White House released its long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) April 6. The congressionally mandated report provides a comprehensive description of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and strategy for the next five to 10 years. The 2010 NPR is the third post-Cold War review—the others were in 1994 and 2001—and is the first to be published in an unclassified form.

President Barack Obama, who reportedly played a major role in crafting the final language of the report, said in an April 6 statement that the NPR “recognizes that the greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states.”

In language similar to that of the 2001 NPR, the new one states that “Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries” and that prospects for military confrontation have declined dramatically.

The review indicates that global security can be “increasingly defended” by the United States’ “unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defenses,” Obama said. The NPR’s reduced emphasis on large-scale nuclear forces as a guarantor of U.S. security allows the United States to take “specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons,” Obama said.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and other senior officials said in briefings that, in response to the risks posed by nuclear proliferation and terrorism, the 2010 NPR emphasizes the central importance of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), initiatives to strengthen and update the treaty, and programs designed to better secure vulnerable nuclear materials.

Updated Assurances

Administration officials highlighted the shift in U.S. nuclear weapons negative security assurances described in the NPR, which states that the United States “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” This covers the vast majority of states in the world today.

This policy updates earlier versions of U.S. negative security assurances first enunciated in 1978 and reaffirmed in 1995, which had left open the option to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are “in association or alliance with” a nuclear-weapon state—generally understood to be a reference to the Warsaw Pact allies of the Soviet Union.

In his April 6 statement, Obama said the United States was updating its negative security assurance policy to emphasize “the importance of nations meeting their NPT and nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

In an April 14 article, CQ Today Online News quoted several Republicans questioning the new policy. According to the article, Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), chairman of the Republican Conference, said, “I prefer the ambiguity of our [previous] nuclear policy,” under which the United States would not specifically rule out the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states in any scenario, including the use of chemical or biological weapons.

However, Gates said at the April 6 Pentagon press conference that “[i]f any state eligible for this assurance were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners, it would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response.” The NPR notes that the United States also reserves the right to adjust its policy if the threat from biological weapons grows.

For recognized nuclear powers, such as Russia and China, and states not compliant with the NPT and other nonproliferation obligations, such as Iran, North Korea, and perhaps Syria, the new NPR makes clear that the United States will reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first or in response to an attack even if that attack does not involve nuclear weapons. The NPR notes, however, that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.” As Gates put it in his April 6 remarks, nuclear weapons are “obviously a weapon of last resort.”

For these states, the NPR foresees “a narrow range of contingencies” in which the United States might still use nuclear weapons to deter an attack with conventional, chemical, or biological weapons.

In contrast, the 2001 NPR reportedly said that nuclear weapons “provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and large-scale conventional military force.”

Although the new NPR states that the “fundamental role” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to “deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners,” other roles remain. This falls short of the policy declaration that some experts were advocating, that the “sole purpose” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack. The NPR says that the United States will continue to strengthen its conventional capabilities “with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or its allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.”

Obama and other administration officials highlighted another shift in policy spelled out in the 2010 NPR. Obama said the United States is “fulfilling our responsibilities as a nuclear power committed to the NPT” by not conducting nuclear testing and by seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

No New Nuclear Weapons

Obama said “the United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.” Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright stated in an April 6 press briefing at the Pentagon, “[N]o new testing, no new warheads…no new missions or capabilities.”

The “no new nuclear weapons” policy in the 2010 NPR is a significant change from the 2001 NPR, which emphasized the need for new types of “[nuclear] warheads that reduce collateral damage” as well as “possible modifications to existing weapons to provide additional yield flexibility.” The earlier review specifically cited the need to improve “earth-penetrating weapons,” designed to threaten hardened and deeply buried targets, such as command and control and weapons storage bunkers. (See ACT, April 2002.)

One of the central questions going into the Obama NPR was how far down the road to new nuclear warheads the Obama administration would go to maintain the nuclear stockpile and how the administration would define “new” in this context. (See ACT, April 2010.) The NPR says that the United States will extend the life of warheads currently in the nuclear arsenal as an alternative to the development of new nuclear warheads, “which we reject.” The NPR lays out several principles that will guide this effort. For example, Life Extension Programs (LEPs) for U.S. weapons “will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.”

In the document, the administration pledges that, “[i]n any decision to proceed to engineering development for warhead LEPs, the Administration will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse. Replacement of nuclear components would be undertaken only if critical Stockpile Management Program goals could not otherwise be met, and if specifically authorized by the President and approved by Congress.”

These principles suggest that the door to new warheads is well guarded but not completely closed. Senior White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace April 21 that a new nuclear weapon is one “based on a design that’s not previously tested,” referring to the “physics package,” or the nuclear components. Using the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program canceled by Congress as an example, Samore said that “some of the RRW warheads were based on designs that were not previously tested, that would be a new nuclear weapon.”

“Replacement,” Samore said, “would be to make a weapon with a physics package that had been previously tested but is not currently deployed.…I think refurbishment and reuse will be perfectly fine for the foreseeable future. But if I’m wrong and replacement becomes necessary, the president has the option to do that.”

Cartwright, in his April 6 comments, said, “I think we have more than enough capacity and capability for any threat that we see today or might emerge in the foreseeable future.”

The NPR sets the stage for additional reductions in U.S. nuclear forces beyond the force levels outlined in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), but it does not specify how much further the United States will reduce its nuclear stockpile. According to the NPR, the U.S. nuclear triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and nuclear-capable heavy bombers will be maintained under New START, although the ICBMs eventually will carry only one warhead each. Trident submarines will likely be reduced from 14 to 12, and the bomber force will likely be cut, according to the NPR. The only specific system that the NPR says will be retired is the nuclear-tipped, submarine-launched cruise missile known as TLAM-N. The NPR notes that the future of the remaining forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in five NATO countries in Europe will be decided through the alliance’s Strategic Concept process, due to be completed at year’s end.

Future Cuts Envisioned

The NPR states that the United States will pursue post-New START arms control with Russia that addresses not only strategic weapons, but also nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons. The document also pledges the United States will pursue high-level bilateral dialogues with Russia and China aimed at promoting “more stable, resilient, and transparent strategic relationships.”

The NPR calls for a presidentially directed review of post-New START arms control objectives and the launching of a national research and development program to support progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons, including work on verification technologies. According to the NPR, future efforts should “set a course for the verified elimination of all nuclear weapons” while minimizing the risk of cheating and breakout by focusing verification efforts on nuclear warheads rather than delivery vehicles.

The implementation of the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and the modernization of the nuclear infrastructure will allow the United States to “shift away” from keeping thousands of nondeployed warheads as a “hedge” against geopolitical surprise, the NPR says. The policy of maintaining substantial warhead reserves while reducing the deployed arsenal was established by the 1994 NPR.

Principal Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said April 6 at the Pentagon that reducing the hedge force will depend “on our success in getting congressional approval for infrastructure investments” so that the United States can move from relying on spare warheads to the ability to build new ones if needed.

On nuclear weapons alert status, the NPR found that the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces—bombers off full-time alert, nearly all ICBMs on alert, and “a significant number” of SLBMs at sea—should be “maintained for the present.” However, it said that efforts should continue to reduce the possibility of accidents, unauthorized actions, or misperceptions and to maximize presidential decision time by continuing “open-ocean targeting” (targeting nuclear missiles at the open ocean in peacetime), strengthening command and control, and exploring new ICBM basing modes that “enhance survivability” and reduce “incentives for prompt launch.”

The NPR concludes that “a nuclear force of thousands of weapons has little relevance” to preventing nuclear terrorism and proliferation and that “more can and must be done” to reduce these forces.

Table 1: Nuclear Posture Reviews, Then and Now

The Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review is the third since the end of the Cold War. It differs from its predecessors in several key areas.

Issue

Obama, 2010

Bush, 2001

Clinton, 1994

Missions for nuclear weapons

"Fundamental" role is to deter nuclear attack; also to deter chemical, biological attack

Deter weapons of mass destruction and conventional forces; "all options on the table"

Deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies as well as deter and respond to chemical and biological threats

Negative security assurances

United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states in compliance with NPT

Maintains the possibility that U.S. nuclear forces may be used to counter threats from non-nuclear-weapon adversaries

Maintains the possibility that U.S. nuclear forces may be used to counter threats from non-nuclear-weapon adversaries

Arms reductions

New START, 1,550 strategic deployed warheads; calls for future reductions to include nondeployed and tactical weapons

SORT, 2,200 strategic deployed warheads; rejected verifiable, binding arms control; rejected ABM Treaty

START II, 3,500 strategic warheads; creation of "hedge" force, warheads removed from delivery platforms would be kept in storage; calls for further reductions

New weapons and testing

Ratify CTBT, no nuclear testing, no new weapons development, no new missions for nuclear weapons

Called for new-design weapons and new missions (bunker busters); rejected CTBT

No nuclear testing, no new-design nuclear warhead production

ABM: Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
CTBT: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
NPT: Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
SORT: Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty
START: Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

 

 

Ministers Urge NATO Nuclear Policy Review

The foreign ministers of five NATO countries last month called for a discussion of what the alliance can do to advance nuclear arms control and said “the inclusion of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in subsequent steps towards nuclear disarmament” should be part of the discussion.

Caitlin Taber and Daryl G. Kimball

The foreign ministers of five NATO countries last month called for a discussion of what the alliance can do to advance nuclear arms control and said “the inclusion of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in subsequent steps towards nuclear disarmament” should be part of the discussion.

Steven Vanackere of Belgium, Guido Westerwelle of Germany, Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg, Maxime Verhagen of the Netherlands, and Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway made the proposal in a Feb. 26 letter to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. They said the NATO foreign ministers meeting next month in Tallinn, Estonia, provides “an opportunity to open a comprehensive discussion on these issues.” NATO’s “future policy requires the full support of all Allies,” they said.

The initiative follows several high-level calls for NATO to change its current nuclear sharing policy under which an estimated 150-250 U.S. nuclear gravity bombs are stationed in 87 aircraft shelters at six bases in five NATO countries.

Shortly after taking office, Germany’s coalition government said in an Oct. 24 statement that, in the context of upcoming talks on a new Strategic Concept for NATO, Berlin “will advocate a withdrawal of remaining nuclear weapons from Germany, both within NATO and vis-à-vis our American allies.” NATO states are scheduled to produce an updated Strategic Concept for the alliance by November.

Separately, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski called on the United States and Russia to achieve “early progress on steep reductions in sub-strategic nuclear weapons” in a Feb. 1 joint op-ed in The International Herald Tribune.

“We still face security challenges in the Europe of today and tomorrow, but from whichever angle you look, there is no role for the use of nuclear weapons in resolving these challenges,” Bildt and Sikorski wrote.

Russia is estimated to possess about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons in various states of readiness. Moscow has indicated that its willingness to discuss the matter depends on the removal of U.S. tactical warheads from NATO bases in Europe. In January 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state-designate, said the United States supports future nuclear arms talks with Russia addressing all types of nuclear weapons—deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic.

At a Feb. 23 press briefing in Washington, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said, “This is a discussion we want to have with allies…. [I]t is not something that we want to do unilaterally, and we don’t want any other ally to move in a direction unilaterally to try to change the NATO nuclear discussion.”

 

 

Burnishing Reagan’s Disarmament Credentials

A Review of Reagan’s Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World From Nuclear Disaster by Martin Anderson and Annelise Anderson (Continue)

Reviewed by Paul Boyer

Reagan’s Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World From Nuclear Disaster

By Martin Anderson and Annelise Anderson

Crown Publishers, 2009, 450 pp.

The husband-and-wife team of Martin and Annelise Anderson has established a cottage industry of producing works enhancing Ronald Reagan’s image. The truly Herculean labors of the Andersons, who are based at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, have already given us Reagan in His Own Hand (2001), a selection of the future president’s radio talks; Reagan: A Life in Letters (2004); Reagan’s Path to Victory: The Shaping of Ronald Reagan’s Vision (2004); Stories in His Own Hand: The Everyday Wisdom of Ronald Reagan (2007); and Reagan in His Own Voice, a three-CD set of the radio talks.

Their latest effort, Reagan’s Secret War, welcomed with lavish praise by Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Ed Meese (“superb”), and George Shultz (“an immense contribution”), continues in the same admiring vein. For the Andersons, Reagan is a colossus who even in death still dominates America: “His spirit seems to stride the country, watching us like a warm and friendly ghost.”

Acknowledging Nancy Reagan’s help in giving them access to classified documents, the Andersons quote her plea to them: “I just want people to know who Ronnie is.” They conclude, “We hope this book has helped to accomplish that goal.” One may safely predict that this work will please the former first lady, to whom, along with Shultz, the Andersons dedicate the book. How the broader world of scholars, arms control insiders, and observers of the Reagan years will view it may be more problematic.

Much of the book consists of direct quotes from Reagan’s speeches, letters, pre-presidential radio talks, private communications with Soviet leaders, diaries (as edited and abridged by historian Douglas Brinkley), and comments at meetings of the National Security Council (NSC) and the smaller National Security Planning Group (NSPG). Like Bibles in which Jesus’ words are printed in red, every quote from Reagan is highlighted with an impressive gray background scrim.

The authors range widely over Reagan’s presidency, including the 1981 assassination attempt, the economic program, and the Iran-contra scandal. Yet, as the subtitle promises, the focus is on Reagan’s strategic thinking, particularly the 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The Andersons make a simple point: Above all else, Reagan was a man of peace whose unwavering objective, rooted in his personal history and reinforced by his brush with death in 1981, was a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Andersons quote Reagan’s repeated assertions of his peaceful intentions and wholly endorse his insistence that the massive military buildup and intensified nuclear weapons competition of his first term were only a means to his utopian goal: to force the Soviets to recognize the futility of competition and the inevitability of total nuclear disarmament as their best option.

With equal conviction, they embrace Reagan’s view that the missile defense system envisioned in his SDI proposal would advance the cause of peace. As the United States developed and deployed a foolproof anti-missile system, the Russians would realize that competition in this area too was futile and would gratefully welcome Reagan’s offer to share the new technology. Once the shimmering vision of universal nuclear disarmament was achieved, a global defensive shield would protect all the world’s peoples against any cheaters or rogue states tempted to nuclear adventurism. As the Andersons uncritically quote vast swaths of Reagan’s rhetoric and embrace his own assessment of his motives, they sometimes seem simply to be channeling him rather than offering a critical assessment of the implications, context, and contemporary resonance of his strategic thought.

The book certainly has its merits. The authors convincingly portray Reagan as an active shaper of strategic policy. Those who view him as merely a gifted actor who stumbled into the presidency and amiably occupied the office for eight years as a puppet-like figure manipulated by others will find little reinforcement for their view in this book. Edward Teller, Kenneth Adelman, Richard Perle, the far-right beer baron Joseph Coors, the Harvard Sovietologist Richard Pipes, and other influential figures are mentioned, but the Andersons’ account emphasizes Reagan’s prickly independence of mind, which clearly comes through. Working with Shultz, his secretary of state once the preening Alexander Haig had been dumped, Reagan forcefully pursued his objectives, clinging tenaciously to SDI despite resistance within his own administration. “I will make the decisions,” he informed the NSC after his inauguration, and he lived up to his word. (The hollow bravado of George W. Bush’s similar “I am the decider” comment, as he announced in 2006 that Donald Rumsfeld would remain as secretary of defense, offers yet another example of Bush’s somewhat forlorn effort to emulate Reagan.)

The extensive citations from Reagan’s diary offer convincing evidence that his public avowals of peaceful intentions were not merely boilerplate pieties, but sincere expressions of a firmly held conviction that all his military and strategic policies, however they struck others, would ultimately advance his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Reagan’s Secret War challenges those who have argued that SDI was essentially a bargaining chip to extract arms control concessions from Moscow. Had this been the case, Reagan would have cashed in his chips at the 1986 Reykjavik summit, rather than clinging to SDI despite the breathtaking concessions dangled by the Russians in exchange. He really believed in SDI.

The authors underscore the depth of Reagan’s religious beliefs, contributing to our heightened awareness of the importance of religion in U.S. politics and foreign policy generally, an awareness driven home during the presidency of George W. Bush. In a diary entry after the assassination attempt, Reagan wrote, “Whatever happens now I owe my life to God, and will try to serve him in every way I can.” This sense of divine obligation, they argue, reinforced Reagan’s conviction that the quest for peace should be his guiding principle. (In this connection, the Andersons might profitably have explored Reagan’s well-documented belief that unfolding world events could be correlated with Bible prophecies of the end times.)

Flawed History

Ultimately, however, although Reagan’s Secret War does shed light on some important aspects of Reagan’s tenure, it is rather disappointing as a work of history. Even its principal contribution, the quotes from classified NSC and NSPG documents, exchanges with Soviet leaders, and summit conference transcripts, to which Martin Anderson gained access through the intervention of Nancy Reagan and Karl Rove, raises questions. Which documents were released or withheld, and why? The documents that are quoted contain many ellipses, inevitably raising cautionary flags. For example, here is the Andersons’ version of a key exchange at Reykjavik in which Reagan rejects Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s insistence that the United States limit SDI research to the laboratory only: “I can’t go along with that…. In my country…I have a lot of critics who wield great influence…. They will accuse me of breaking my promise to the people of the United States regarding SDI.” What additional material is represented by the ellipses? Were such deletions made before the documents were shown to the authors or after? As with all historical work based on privileged access to restricted sources, the Andersons’ use of these records, while of interest, involves troubling methodological issues.

Even the heavily redacted quotes that the Andersons provide contain some revelations that complicate their rose-tinted perspective. At a December 1981 NSC discussion of Moscow’s repression of the Polish Solidarity movement, Reagan mused, “Can we afford not to go all out? I’m talking about a total quarantine of the Soviet Union.” This stunning idea dismayed even Haig, not usually given to dovish hesitations. A total economic quarantine would be “a matter of life and death” for Moscow, he warned: “They would go to war over this.” Reagan passed off the incident with a joke. “[E]veryone stock up on vodka,” he advised as the meeting ended.

The Andersons’ narrow range of sources further weakens the book’s scholarly value. They note their access to classified documents and their interviews with some surviving members of Reagan’s inner circle. Beyond this, however, their notes are striking for the total absence of the large body of work by historians, strategic thinkers, scientists, ethicists, public intellectuals, and journalists that bears directly on the book’s topic.[1] The authors draw a chapter epigraph from Paul Lettow’s Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (2005) but do not otherwise cite Lettow’s useful and generally pro-Reagan study.

Deterrence and Defense

Any reader relying solely on Reagan’s Secret War will gain little understanding of strategic thinking as it had evolved by the 1980s. Not only the Russians, but most U.S. strategists, including some of the most hawkish, understood that, in the world of nuclear strategy, even “defensive” moves such as SDI had offensive implications. If the airtight missile defense system envisioned by Reagan actually had proven feasible and been deployed, it would have radically altered the strategic balance. The United States would have been able to launch a nuclear first strike with no fear of a devastating counterblow.

Reagan simply shrugged off such criticism. His goal was peace, and in his fantasy scenario, missile defense technology generously shared with the Russians would go hand in hand with total nuclear disarmament. Yet, Cold War nuclear strategy, as elaborated by game theorists and think-tank intellectuals, did not rely on wishful thinking or protestations of goodwill, but on calculations of different outcomes rendered more or less likely, at least theoretically, by different weapons systems, deployment patterns, and targeting configurations, irrespective of particular leaders temporarily in power or their assurances of peaceful intentions. The radical disconnect between Reagan’s visionary scenario and the foundational principles of deterrence theory contributed significantly to the drumfire of criticism directed at his missile defense proposal.

Reagan’s Secret War does not begin to address the radical way SDI challenged deterrence theory, as formalized in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Under that treaty, the two superpowers pledged not to develop national missile defense systems and allowed themselves only two local missile defense systems each: one for their capitals and the other to protect one offensive launch site apiece. They thereby laid themselves open to nuclear attack, on the principle that the best safeguard against all-out nuclear war was the certainty that any nuclear attack would trigger a devastating retaliatory response.

The Andersons quote Reagan’s ritualistic expressions of revulsion against deterrence theory, a revulsion widely shared by theologians, moral philosophers, and anti-nuclear activists because the theory did assume a capability and willingness to commit mass slaughter if deterrence failed. Nevertheless, for more than 30 years, neither Cold War adversary had exercised the nuclear option despite each side’s ever more lethal strategic arsenals. It seemed plausible to conclude that fear of retaliation, whether or not formulated theoretically or codified by treaty, had played a role in this restraint.

This history suggested that the principle of deterrence and the ABM Treaty embodying it should be abandoned only after the most careful strategic analysis. Yet, nothing in Reagan’s Secret War suggests that Reagan, for all his alleged strategic sophistication, ever engaged SDI’s profound implications at a deep level or really grasped the point the Russians and his domestic critics were making.

The Andersons share Reagan’s puzzlement that Gorbachev and his team proved unwilling to accept the president’s peace-loving protestations at face value and instead treated SDI as a grave escalation of the nuclear arms race, a potentially fatal blow to the concept and reality of deterrence, and an insuperable barrier to the dramatic strategic arms cuts the two leaders were considering. (The Andersons’ blow-by-blow account of Reykjavik, although familiar in outline, is deeply depressing, as Gorbachev repeatedly presses for concessions on SDI in exchange for major strategic arms reductions and Reagan simply digs in his heels ever more stubbornly.) The authors are equally mystified that not only the Russians but also many domestic commentators, including powerful media voices such as Time magazine, blamed Reagan for the Reykjavik failure. Reagan’s hawkish reputation, they insist, was a canard promulgated by “political enemies.”

The book’s tunnel-vision focus on Reagan obscures the intense behind-the-scenes battles that SDI triggered within the administration and precludes attention to the larger political, economic, and cultural factors influencing events—Congress, the media, churches, the popular culture, military contractors profiting from the Reagan military buildup, and universities and think tanks that stood to gain from SDI research appropriations. The deep skepticism about SDI’s technical feasibility that arose within the scientific and technological communities and, more cautiously, in the Pentagon—a skepticism amply borne out by years of failed tests—receives minimal attention.

Apart from an annoyed January 1983 reference by Reagan to “the placard carriers,” one gets little inkling of the groundswell of support for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze campaign that swept America in 1981-1982, a grassroots uprising viewed by many historians as a major factor behind Reagan’s March 1983 SDI speech. (Among the protesters was Columbia University senior Barack Obama, who in 1983 published a plea in a campus newsmagazine for “a nuclear free world” despite the “military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets.”)

Contemporary Resonances

The authors do not reflect much on Reagan’s arms control legacy. A less reverential observer might have noted not only Reagan’s doubtless sincere longing for a nuclear-free world and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty removing intermediate-range missiles from Europe, but also features of the Reagan years such as the continued destabilizing deployment of ICBMs equipped with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles and the bloated military budgets with their dizzying array of weapons systems.

These elements were not unique to the Reagan presidency, but many observers found them particularly worrisome because of other aspects of his time in office. During the Reagan years, there was insistent talk by administration officials about surviving nuclear war through civil defense. In addition, Reagan articulated a particularly Manichaean worldview, famously calling Moscow “the focus of evil in the modern world.” Although the “us versus them” construction was a staple of Cold War rhetoric, Reagan reinforced and escalated it in a way that arguably still colors much U.S. thinking, even though the adversary has changed. Notably, in prosecuting his “global war on terror,” Bush pledged to “rid the world of evil.”

Among the other longer-term impacts, Reagan’s attachment to the concept of missile defense has resulted, in the two decades since he left office, in a multibillion-dollar research program that has produced meager results while leading to continued wrangling with Moscow over installations in eastern Europe.

Complicating any assessment of Reagan’s relevance to the contemporary arms control discourse is the fact that the present situation is both more complex and more promising than that of the early 1980s. The Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, the hostility of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, the continued provocation of Israel’s nuclear weapons, cyberthreats to weapons-control systems, risks of nuclear materials falling into terrorists’ hands, the difficulty of distinguishing nuclear power from nuclear weapons programs—all this presents complexities hardly imaginable as Reagan and Gorbachev haggled at Geneva and Reykjavik.

In other ways, however, the situation is more hopeful than it has been in years. Total nuclear disarmament is again being seriously discussed at the highest levels. In his Prague speech last April, President Obama not only called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but proposed steps toward that goal considerably more concrete than anything in Reagan’s earnest but vague rhetoric. Even more interesting has been the emergence of Shultz, Reagan’s old comrade in arms, now nearing 90, as one of the authors of a proposal outlining a series of specfic steps leading to the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. In a January 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, a Hoover Institution conference, and a follow-up Journal piece in January 2008, the group, which also includes former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), urged redoubled efforts to reduce the nuclear threats confronting humankind, with the long-term aim of eliminating nuclear weapons. The proposal is backed by a larger bipartisan group of politicians, diplomats, scientists, and others, including Martin Anderson.

Although it invokes Reagan’s vision, the four statesmen’s approach is quite different. It proposes a series of immediate and intermediate measures, it avoids the ideological rhetoric that so compromised Reagan’s credibility, and, while recognizing that the United States and Russia still possess 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, it defines the threat as a complex global issue. Above all, Shultz and his colleagues are not hamstrung by having to insist, as Reagan did, that progress toward comprehensive nuclear disarmament must be hostage to U.S. missile defense plans. Their action agenda still speaks of missile defense research as a “cooperative multilateral” effort, pursued through negotiations, not U.S. fiat, and even including a JointDataExchangeCenter based in Moscow.

To what extent this initiative will prevail within a Republican party riven by ideological conflict remains unknown. In a June 30 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan years, and Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have denounced Obama’s call for further U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons reductions as “dangerous wishful thinking.” Kenneth Adelman, head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Reagan years, warns that to envision a world free of nuclear weapons is “to lose all grip on reality.” Reagan’s arms control legacy seems, at best, a mixed one, and it is not yet clear how urgently a Department of State with much on its plate and a Democratic Congress grappling with a recession, health care, and environmental issues will address the goal articulated by Obama in Prague. Nevertheless, the present moment is clearly one of considerable promise for those committed to nuclear abolition, Reagan’s oft-stated goal.

A critical assessment of how Reagan’s strategic views and policies relate to these developments might have added a timely contemporary dimension to Reagan’s Secret War. The authors’ boundless admiration for their hero and their determination to laud his every decision and utterance have resulted in a book that will be welcomed by true believers but contributes less to our historical understanding and, ironically, to Reagan’s reputation than a more objective, comprehensive, and intellectually probing work might have done.


Paul Boyer, professor of history emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is author of By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1985) and Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter With Nuclear Weapons (1998). He edited Reagan as President: Contemporary Views of the Man, His Politics, and His Policies (1990) and is author of the forthcoming “Selling Star Wars: Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative” in Selling War in the Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century (2010).


ENDNOTES

1. See, for example, John Tirman, ed., The Fallacy of Star Wars (New York: Vintage Books, 1984); Keith B. Payne, Strategic Defense: “Star Wars” in Perspective (Lanham, MD: Hamilton Press, 1986); Joseph S. Nye Jr., Nuclear Ethics (New York: Free Press, 1986); Michael Charlton, From Deterrence to Defense: The Inside Story of Strategic Policy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987); Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989); Erik K. Pratt, Selling Strategic Defense: Interests, Ideologies, and the Arms Race (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1990); William J. Broad, Teller’s War: The Top-Secret Story Behind the Star Wars Deception (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992); Frances FitzGerald, Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

 

Change U.S. Nuclear Policy? Yes, We Can.

As the administration of President Barack Obama works to complete the congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) by early 2010, it is clear to most that yesterday’s nuclear doctrines are no longer appropriate for today’s realities.

In an April address in Prague, Obama made clear that he wants “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged that “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.” (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

As the administration of President Barack Obama works to complete the congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) by early 2010, it is clear to most that yesterday’s nuclear doctrines are no longer appropriate for today’s realities.

In an April address in Prague, Obama made clear that he wants “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged that “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

The forces of nuclear policy inertia are, however, difficult to overcome. Even after two post-Cold War NPRs, the United States retains thousands of nuclear warheads to deter a Russian nuclear attack, defend U.S. forces or allies against conventional attack, and counter chemical and biological threats.

Once again, entrenched interests inside the Pentagon and elsewhere threaten to undermine long-overdue, transformational changes in U.S. nuclear policy. The White House must now step in to ensure the review advances today’s highest security priorities: preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to terrorists or additional states and moving toward a world without nuclear weapons.

To start, Obama should clarify that maintaining a large nuclear arsenal dedicated to performing a wide range of missions is unnecessary and contrary to U.S. security interests. Instead, the president should direct the NPR to reduce the number of U.S. nuclear weapons to 1,000 or fewer and restrict their role solely to deterring nuclear attack by others.

Given the United States’ conventional military edge, no plausible circumstance requires or could justify the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. They are useless in deterring or responding to nuclear terrorism.

Gen. Colin Powell put it well in his 1995 autobiography: “No matter how small these nuclear payloads were, we would be crossing a threshold. Using nukes at this point would mark one of the most significant political decisions since Hiroshima.”

As an eminent National Academy of Sciences panel concluded more than a decade ago, “[T]he only remaining, defensible function of U.S. nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era is ‘core deterrence’: using the threat of retaliation to deter other countries that possess nuclear weapons from using them to attack or coerce the United States or its allies.”

Without significant reductions in the role and number of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and without U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the United States’ ability to harness the international support necessary to prevent nuclear terrorism and strengthen the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will be greatly diminished.

A core deterrence approach would also reinforce existing U.S. negative security assurances vis-à-vis non-nuclear-weapon states and support our positive security assurances to allies in the event of nuclear attack on them, which would further strengthen support for the NPT.

Some suggest that deep U.S. nuclear weapons reductions would lead certain U.S. allies, namely Japan and Turkey, to consider building their own nuclear arsenals. Such assertions exaggerate the role of “extended nuclear deterrence,” underestimate the role of U.S. conventional forces, and ignore the risks and costs of going nuclear. According to a May 2009 NPT working paper, Turkey, which hosts a handful of U.S. tactical nuclear bombs, officially supports “the inclusion of all non-strategic nuclear weapons” in the disarmament process “with a view to their reduction and elimination.”

A core deterrence approach would be consistent with current U.S. policy not to design or test new-design warheads, yet would allow the United States to maintain its existing arsenal in a safe, secure, and reliable fashion. Contrary to the suggestions of some, the United States is not on the brink of losing that capability and has never depended on a program of nuclear test explosions to check for stockpile reliability.

In fact, the nuclear weapons laboratories have more information on and higher confidence in the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal than ever before. Since the United States halted nuclear test explosions in 1992, new tools and programs have enabled the nuclear labs to discover and fix stockpile issues without test blasts. Independent experts confirm that a conservative program of warhead refurbishment that minimizes alterations can maintain the U.S. stockpile with high confidence into the indefinite future.

Rather than reverse his January 2009 pledge to “stop the development of new nuclear warheads,” as some NPR participants are advocating, Obama should make it clear in the NPR and elsewhere that the United States will not develop or produce new-design warheads or modified warheads for the purpose of creating new military capabilities.

Unless the United States reduces its reliance and emphasis on nuclear weapons, other states will have a cynical excuse to pursue or to improve the capabilities and size of their nuclear forces. As Obama himself noted in July, “A balance of terror cannot hold. In the 21st century a strong and global regime is the only basis for security from the world’s deadliest weapons.”

Daryl Kimball Discusses the Role of Nuclear Weapons at STRATCOM

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On July 29, 2009 ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball spoke to STRATCOM at its 2009 Deterrence Symposium. He was a member of a panel on the "Role of Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century U.S. National Security Strategy."

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On July 29, 2009 ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball spoke to STRATCOM at its 2009 Deterrence Symposium. He was a member of a panel on the "Role of Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century U.S. National Security Strategy." Fellow panelists included Frank Miller and Dr. Brad Roberts.

Click here to watch the panel.

Daryl at STRATCOM

 

 

Subject Resources:

Reshaping Strategic Relationships: Expanding the Arms Control Toolbox

Soon after the Obama administration took office, Vice President Joe Biden set the tone of the new administration's approach toward Moscow when he called for the United States and Russia to press the "reset button" in their bilateral relationship.[1] This theme was reiterated in the March 9, 2009, meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Providing guidance to their bureaucracies, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, at their meeting on the margins of the April G-20 financial summit in London, "decided to begin bilateral intergovernmental negotiations to work out a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace" START. (Continue)

Lewis A. Dunn

Soon after the Obama administration took office, Vice President Joe Biden set the tone of the new administration's approach toward Moscow when he called for the United States and Russia to press the "reset button" in their bilateral relationship.[1] This theme was reiterated in the March 9, 2009, meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Providing guidance to their bureaucracies, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, at their meeting on the margins of the April G-20 financial summit in London, "decided to begin bilateral intergovernmental negotiations to work out a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace" START.[2]

Meanwhile, the U.S.-Chinese military-defense dialogue that had been suspended by China in November 2008 to protest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan resumed in February 2009.[3] Again on the margins of the G-20 financial summit, Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao discussed how to "build a positive, cooperative, comprehensive U.S.-Chinese relationship for the 21st century" and went on to announce the creation of a "Strategic Track" as part of a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.[4]

Strategic dialogue and formal arms control treaty negotiations are but two elements of a wider spectrum of cooperative security activities available to U.S. officials and their counterparts to revamp the U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese strategic relationships. Other cooperative security activities include:

  • Information, data exchanges, and transparency measures;
  • Joint studies, experiments, and planning;
  • Personnel exchanges, liaison arrangements, and joint military staff bodies;
  • Joint activities, programs, systems, and centers; and
  • Unilateral initiatives and coordinated national undertakings.

This expanded arms control toolbox also can be used to deepen cooperation among the five nuclear-weapon states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Such cooperative efforts could include the creation of building blocks for pursuing nuclear abolition.

The specific combination of cooperative security activities would vary across today's strategic challenges. Decisions on what particular measures to use will depend not only on U.S. thinking but also on that of U.S. partners. The acceptability of different measures will vary with the underlying political-military relationship, past precedents, and the strategic cultures of the countries directly concerned. The timing of proposals for specific cooperative initiatives will be another important consideration. Not least, the success of U.S. efforts to use an expanded arms control toolbox to help create strong habits of U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese strategic cooperation will depend on comparable commitments to that goal by Moscow and Beijing.

Building a Nonadversarial U.S.-Russian Strategic Relationship

As the Obama administration moves to reset the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship, it confronts deep Russian mistrust of U.S. strategic intentions as well as a pervasive official and public belief that the United States "took advantage" of Russia's weakness in the post-Cold War turmoil. NATO expansion from the 1990s onward, U.S. and NATO use of force in Kosovo in 1999, U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the pursuit of national missile defenses, and the recent proposal to deploy missile defenses in eastern Europe all are cited in a Russian bill of particulars.

On the U.S. side, there is continuing uncertainty about Moscow's intentions. Russia's use of military force against Georgia in August 2008 heightened concerns about Moscow's pursuit of a restored sphere of influence. Sometimes, questions also arise about whether Russian officials would welcome a nuclear Iran as a check on U.S. power. Areas of cooperation exist, most prominently efforts to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but the goal of a nonadversarial relationship characterized by U.S.-Russian strategic cooperation has eluded each of Obama's immediate predecessors-George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Successful negotiation of a START replacement is the necessary first step. Even as those negotiations accelerate, however, U.S. and Russian officials can draw on the full set of cooperative security activities to address mutual uncertainties, deal with key disputes, and lay the building blocks for longer-term, mutually advantageous cooperation.

Joint Studies, Experiments, and Planning

Given today's deep mutual uncertainties, Washington and Moscow need to find better "windows" into each other's thinking, plans, and programs. Traditionally, arms control negotiations partly served this purpose, and the START follow-on process will do so again.

Strategic dialogue can be another means to provide such windows. To serve that goal, however, a new U.S.-Russian strategic dialogue will require a changed approach on each side. U.S. officials will need to go beyond the recent scripted presentations of U.S. positions of the Bush administration that did little to meet Russian concerns; Russian officials will need to break out of their Cold War confrontational habits of thinking.[5] On both sides, sustained top-level attention and a robust institutional structure to ensure bureaucratic follow-through will be other keys to success.

Joint studies would be a natural complement. There are many possible topics, including the emerging proliferation threat, future nuclear weapons requirements, new concepts of strategic stability, and the political-military conditions of nuclear abolition. Participants could be drawn from the two countries' respective defense establishments, militaries, and nuclear weapons laboratories. Each country's participants would address and then discuss an agreed set of issues. Even if the two sides could not produce a consensus written report, the process would provide each side with valuable insights into the other's thinking. Official intergovernmental studies would be preferable, but so-called Track 2 efforts of retired officials and experts could be an initial stepping stone.

Joint experiments would also provide windows into each side's thinking and build cooperation by addressing shared problems. Ample precedent exists in both the Joint Verification Experiment of the late 1980s, looking at enhanced verification measures for the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, and the U.S.-Russian-IAEA Trilateral Agreement of the late 1990s, looking at monitoring nuclear warhead storage. Building on the Trilateral Agreement, a joint experiment on nuclear warhead storage monitoring would be a logical first step. This action could be followed by a joint experiment on procedures for the mutually monitored dismantlement of nuclear warheads, including consideration of what types of international involvement or exchange of information could be provided.

Joint military-defense planning is another area to explore. Possible joint responses to nuclear terrorism are one example. Consider a situation in which a non-nuclear-weapon state had thwarted a terrorist attempt to smuggle an improvised nuclear device or even a stolen nuclear weapon through its national territory or waters. What type of assistance would such a country want from the nuclear-weapon states to render that device or weapon safe, how would that assistance be provided in an extremely urgent fashion, and what would be done with the device or weapon? Comparable joint planning could focus on all of the actions that then would be necessary to seek to attribute the terrorist device to its source and to determine the identity of possible aiders and abettors. Crisis gaming also could be used to build habits of cooperation in dealing with the shared terrorist nuclear challenge.

Institutionalizing Defense-Military Engagement

More institutionalized engagement between Russian and U.S. military and defense officials is another cooperative security activity. U.S. readiness to move ahead in this area, however, has not been matched by Russia, reflecting some combination of the downward slide in the overall relationship between the two countries, lingering Cold War thinking, and uneasiness about a U.S. presence at Russian military sites and institutions, even on a reciprocal basis.

Assuming greater opportunity for cooperation in today's changed political context, one possibility would be regularized exchanges of personnel at each other's military training institutions, for example, in the United States at the National Defense University and Army, Air, and Naval War Colleges. More formal military liaison arrangements also could be explored, with senior Russian officers present at one or more U.S. defense sites and vice versa. Such liaison arrangements would build on the presence of Russian military personnel at the North American Air Defense Command during the Y2K transition from December 1999 to January 2000. The two countries could create two joint, standing Senior Military Staff Groups, one in Moscow and one in Washington, each with flag-rank officers from each side, for exchanges on issues of mutual concern as well as approaches to shared challenges.[6] Regardless of the specific mechanism, the purpose of these activities would be to help improve each side's understanding of the other's thinking, plans, and programs and, again, to build habits of cooperation.

Indeed, U.S. officials could consider unilaterally proposing a Russian military presence at one or more U.S. sites, even without asking for reciprocity. Given Moscow's concerns about U.S. missile defenses and the erosion of Russia's deterrent, two possibilities to explore would be a nonreciprocal Russian liaison presence at the North American Air Defense Command or at the Missile Defense Agency. The latter option would complement possible pursuit of a joint missile defense capability along the lines discussed in the next section.

Squaring the Missile Defense Circle

A joint U.S.-Russian-NATO missile defense system could square the circle on the potential deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Europe. It also could be part of a more comprehensive, if somewhat longer-term, approach to addressing the deep and continuing U.S.-Russian differences over national missile defenses. The possibility of joint U.S.-Russian missile defenses, whether globally or for Europe, has been broached periodically by U.S. and Russian officials and experts over the past two decades.

The most recent proposal came in June 2007 from Russia's then-president, Vladimir Putin, in response to U.S. plans for deploying missile defenses in eastern Europe. Current U.S. plans for this "third site" would put ten longer-range interceptors in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic. But Putin, who is now prime minister, had proposed instead that Russia and the United States develop a joint missile defense for Europe based partly on a Russian radar in Azerbaijan. Some serious technical work on joint activities has been done, both in the 1990s and after Putin's proposal.

A joint missile defense system could begin with a pilot project to test the feasibility of combining available radars, interceptors, and command and control assets, including decision-making rules, to defend Iran's immediate neighbors against that country's existing medium-range missiles. In parallel, U.S., Russian, and NATO experts could define the architecture, components, and associated procedures for a follow-on joint system to counter a more advanced Iranian nuclear missile threat, as well as other threats to Europe. The particular sites for deploying new interceptors and radars would be addressed as part of designing this overall joint follow-on architecture.

Pursuit of a joint missile defense program by the United States, other NATO members, and Russia would help meet Moscow's fears that U.S. missile defenses ultimately are aimed at negating Russia's nuclear deterrent. The potential payoffs of such a proposal for a joint missile defense program in Europe as a means of reassuring Russia and avoiding new arms competition would be increased were it joined to a U.S. commitment promptly to follow a successful START replacement with additional U.S.-Russian negotiations to reach an agreement on offense-defense limitations. A joint program and system also might provide all parties concerned with a credible way to step back from the currently configured plans for deploying missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Not least, U.S.-Russian-NATO missile defense cooperation could be part of a broader strategy of offering Iran's leaders a choice between, on the one hand, the benefits of economic, political, and social integration into the wider international community, including steps to meet Iran's security concerns, and, on the other hand, the risks of further isolation and military containment by the United States, Russia, and other countries. In effect, cooperation would send a very strong signal to Iranian leaders that if they actually acquire nuclear weapons, the great powers will act together to ensure that Iran will not gain from that move. Finally, proposing joint missile defenses would be a good test of the potential nonproliferation payoffs for the United States of addressing Russian strategic concerns.

In addition, Moscow and Washington could act to implement their 2000 agreement to create a Joint Data Exchange Center for early-warning data. Officially, implementation has been prevented by disputes over liability; in practice, neither side has perceived a significant advantage in going forward. Implementation would be an important symbolic step to demonstrate both countries' interest in a changed relationship.

Nuclear Posture Review

Congress has mandated a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to be carried out by the secretary of defense in consultation with the secretaries of energy and state. The review will consider all nuclear weapons issues, from the role of nuclear weapons to the future nuclear weapons complex. Its answers will affect the evolving U.S. strategic relationship with Russia, both directly and as a result of Russian reactions.

At the least, U.S. officials should consider informing the Russians of the ongoing progress of the NPR, the key issues being discussed, and eventually the key conclusions reached. U.S. officials even could exchange views formally or informally with Russian officials about selected issues being addressed during the NPR. For example, U.S. officials could raise questions about Russia's own strategic programs, goals, and intentions as well as its views on broader global strategic issues. How to do so would raise its own issues. Engagement of Russia on the NPR would have to be conducted in a way that protected sensitive information on detailed U.S. operational practices and capabilities. It also would need to be done in a manner and at a level that would be taken seriously by the top levels of the Russian military-defense establishment. Such a unilateral U.S. initiative would reduce uncertainties and misperceptions that could affect the parallel START negotiations, would avoid U.S. or Russian misunderstandings and missteps, and would open windows into each other's strategic thinking.

NATO Enlargement and Russia's Near-Abroad Posture

Successfully resetting the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship will require addressing Russia's opposition to NATO enlargement. Conversely, it also will require addressing U.S. concerns about Russia's political intentions on its borders. These issues far exceed the scope of this discussion. Successful pursuit of the types of cooperative security activities set out here would build needed habits of U.S.-Russian cooperation and bring both countries closer to their oft-stated goal of a nonadversarial strategic relationship. Within that changed milieu, Russian attitudes could change (e.g., at least toward NATO enlargement in the past and Russia's need for a security buffer zone); existing mechanisms could prove more effective (e.g., the NATO-Russia Partnership); and now inconceivable options could be considered (e.g., bringing a nonadversarial Russia into a NATO transformed to deal with 21st-century threats).

Building U.S.-Chinese Habits of Strategic Cooperation

Improved relations between Taiwan and China since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office a year ago have reduced the dangers of a military confrontation involving China, Taiwan, and the United States. Nevertheless, miscalculation by China or the United States remains conceivable, as does the danger of growing strategic competition. Chinese officials are uncertain and concerned about the eventual scope of U.S. missile defenses as well as growing U.S. longer-range conventional strike capabilities.[7] U.S. officials continue to watch closely the growth of China's military power and are uncertain about Chinese strategic plans, programs, and intent.[8]

Beijing and Washington have compelling reasons to avoid military confrontation and competition, while building habits of strategic cooperation. They have strong economic interdependencies as well as many shared regional and global security interests. Cooperative security activities again can contribute to shaping a stable and cooperative relationship. Yet, historical memories, a mix of congruent and competing interests, and differing strategic cultures all shape what cooperative security activities may be practicable and how soon. Moreover, although precedents exist, including, for example, the six-party talks on North Korea, they are much weaker than in the U.S.-Russian relationship. Thus, the bilateral goal should be to achieve some initial cooperative successes, create some additional precedents, and begin a longer-term process.

Defining Principles, Institutionalizing the Process

Resumed strategic dialogue between the two countries promises to provide needed windows into each side's thinking on strategic issues, but China's leaders have been prepared to cut off past strategic discussions, as well as other military-to-military contacts, to express displeasure with perceived U.S. provocations.

Obama's announced visit to China later this year could provide an opportunity for the two presidents to define the overarching principles that would govern their resumed strategic dialogue and their broader strategic relationship in the early 21st century. One important principle would be affirmation of the importance of institutionalizing a renewed U.S.-Chinese strategic dialogue and of insulating it from future political ups and downs. Ongoing working groups could be established to address baskets of issues between high-level meetings.

In negotiating these principles, one particularly difficult question likely will be whether the United States can accept and acknowledge limited nuclear vulnerability because of China's capabilities. Such acceptance may be necessary to avoid growing offense-defense competition, with its adverse spillovers. The United States may have no choice, given China's apparent readiness to invest whatever it deems necessary to hold at least one U.S. city at risk. Acknowledging China's limited deterrent would require language that accepted strategic reality but did not unintentionally reinforce more adversarial ways of thinking in China and the United States. The United States also would need to be careful not to undermine Japan's confidence in the U.S. security relationship.

"Soft" Transparency

Calls for greater strategic transparency have been resisted by Chinese officials. China's periodic White Papers on National Defense, including its 2008 paper, are a partial exception. The arms control model of "hard" transparency-exchanges of data on numbers of warheads, systems, and locations-runs counter to China's historic strategic culture, its continuing sense of weakness, and its operational practices. A different approach would emphasize the "softer" side of transparency, including, for example, discussions of perceived threats and required capabilities for responding to them, as well as of nuclear doctrine, roles, missions, and decision-making. Both sides' views of conventional ballistic missiles-shorter-range in China's case, longer-range in the U.S. case-also could be part of this set of exchanges. "Soft" transparency could prove more acceptable to China but still be useful to both countries.

From Dialogue to Joint Studies

Joint studies may be a particularly promising next step after strategic dialogue to reduce the risk of mutual miscalculation, lessen mutual uncertainties, and build habits of cooperation. Studies would entail more focused and sustained, rather than limited and ad hoc, discussions. By way of example, topics could include global proliferation trends, dimensions of WMD terrorism, sources of strategic miscalculation and miscommunication, possible futures of nuclear weapons, and pathways to nuclear abolition. Depending on Chinese readiness to participate officially, an initial study or assessment might need to be carried out, not on a government-to-government basis but by some mix of experts and retired government or military officials with official observers. It also might be necessary to frame the issues generically rather than specifically to the U.S.-Chinese relationship. As with Russia, there would be no need to produce a consensus report.

Stretching the U.S.-Chinese Envelope

The time is not ripe for traditional bilateral arms control negotiations aimed at legally binding, verifiable agreements between Beijing and Washington, let alone trilateral negotiations involving Moscow. U.S. officials will be absorbed over the coming year with negotiating a follow-on to START, while outside experts are only beginning to think beyond a bilateral U.S.-Russian arms control process. Chinese officials continue to assert that the United States and Russia bear the immediate burden for nuclear disarmament, while opposing the type of hard nuclear transparency that would be essential for formal treaty negotiations. The eventual ripeness of legally binding arms control agreements also will depend on pursuing negotiations cooperatively rather than in the very adversarial style that characterized much of the U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian arms control experience.

Multilateral efforts, such as working to achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to reach agreement on a treaty setting limits on fissile material production for nuclear weapons, are valuable for Beijing and Washington. In particular, ratification of the CTBT by both countries would be the most dramatic means by which they could implement their nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT. Their ratification would create significant momentum for the CTBT's entry into force, helping to strengthen support for the NPT and for nonproliferation actions by the NPT's many non-nuclear-weapon states. These nuclear risk reduction initiatives, however, address only one part of the overall U.S.-Chinese strategic relationship. By contrast, more thinking is needed on the potential contributions of other cooperative activities, including actions aimed at eventually bringing China into an arms control process involving the United States, Russia, and China.

As with Russia, one step would be for U.S. officials to brief Chinese officials on the results of the NPR, if not also to exchange views with them formally or informally as the process proceeds. From a Chinese perspective, exchanges on the NPR could provide a potentially irresistible incentive for eliciting Chinese thinking on their own strategic thinking, programs, and plans. Even if such exchanges during the process are ruled out, Chinese officials will be highly attuned to the NPR results and to how China will be treated in it. Better for them to hear the answer officially and accurately from the United States than via leaks and third-party descriptions.

As already noted, given mutual uncertainties about each other's strategic plans, programs, and intentions, there is a danger of growing U.S.-Chinese offense-defense arms competition in the years ahead. Parallel national undertakings-i.e., those pursued in coordination but without a formal treaty commitment-by the United States and China could be part of the overall approach to avoid that outcome. One relevant historical precedent is the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991, which committed the United States and Russia to withdraw ground-launched and ship-based nonstrategic nuclear weapons to their national territories and destroy them. U.S.-Chinese coordinated national undertakings could be used to set out limits on U.S. missile defenses and Chinese strategic offenses. In turn, should the United States and Russia follow up a new START by negotiating legally binding limits to regulate their own future offenses and defenses, one important issue would be how to involve Beijing in that process. China could be encouraged to associate itself with that agreement by accepting restraints on its own strategic offensive capabilities in parallel with U.S. and Russian restraints on their offenses and defenses.

Planning for Nuclear Abolition

Speaking in Prague on April 5, Obama declared "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons" and later stated that the United States would host a Global Summit on Nuclear Security within the next year.[9] This U.S. pledge followed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's March statement that the "recognized nuclear weapon states must show unity and leadership" on nuclear disarmament.[10] A year before, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had set out French thinking on an "action plan" for the five NPT nuclear-weapon states, including agreement on transparency measures.[11]

Dialogue among these five countries on the goal of nuclear abolition will assuredly accelerate in the months ahead. As part of that dialogue, U.S. officials could not only encourage or support joint studies and experiments but also explore possible development of an action plan for nuclear disarmament.

Joint Studies and Experiments

The United Kingdom has already conducted its own technical assessment of verification of nuclear disarmament[12] and is cooperating with Norway to address monitored dismantlement of nuclear warheads.[13] It has proposed an assessment by the five NPT nuclear-weapon states of the technical conditions of nuclear disarmament. Such a study would be a good next step. In addition, it could be broadened over time to entail examination of the political, military, and legal conditions for nuclear abolition and how they might be brought about. Another possible step would be an analysis of technical options for the monitored storage, dismantlement, and disposition of nuclear warheads. How best to engage the non-NPT nuclear-weapon states in the nuclear disarmament process also could be assessed. The format, participants, and product of such studies would be shaped by what the five governments are prepared to support initially and over time. As this process of interaction continued, they then could undertake a joint experiment on the monitored storage of nuclear warheads prior to their elimination.

Nuclear Transparency

The time has come for a favorable response to Sarkozy's call for agreed transparency measures. Obstacles exist, not least Chinese "transparency skepticism." But greater transparency, even if put in place incrementally, is an essential building block toward the goal of nuclear abolition. With that in mind, the Obama administration should declare its support for the Sarkozy proposal. One approach would be for the nuclear-weapon states to exchange views on the full set of soft and hard transparency measures, the benefits and risks of those measures, and possible ways to mitigate perceived risks. Their goal would be to identify incremental transparency actions acceptable to each of them. This process would also provide the basis for a joint transparency initiative at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Nuclear Abolition Action Plan

Finally, the five countries should pursue their own action plan for nuclear abolition. This plan would include a reaffirmation of the goal, discussion of conditions for nuclear abolition, identification of building blocks, and specific objectives for action over the next decade. If agreement were reached, this action plan could be presented at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Even if agreement proves too tough, the process of engagement would help demonstrate the countries' commitment to their Article VI nuclear disarmament obligations, prepare them for the give-and-take at the review conference, and pave the way for later action.

Conclusion

The Obama administration has moved swiftly to take arms control out of the "cold storage" where it was relegated by the Bush administration. The primary focus of the new administration has rightly been on resetting the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship and on negotiating a replacement for START. The administration also has acted to reinvigorate the strategic dialogue with China, while signaling support for a wider nuclear dialogue among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states.

In pursuing these goals, U.S. officials can draw on a rich array of other cooperative security activities, in addition to strategic dialogue or negotiated agreements. Within this expanded arms control toolbox, some of these complementary activities are more "ready to go" than others. The many possibilities for joint studies and, to a somewhat lesser degree, joint experiments stand out. Other activities would stretch the envelope of existing cooperation, including new ways to institutionalize defense and military engagement between the United States and Russia and between the United States and China. Still others would break with long-ingrained thinking, whether pursuing soft transparency among the nuclear-weapon states or ongoing exchanges by the United States with Russia and China on the NPR. Several activities would build on past precedents but in very different ways, perhaps best typified by joint U.S.-Russian-NATO missile defenses. Also in this category is the use of parallel coordinated national undertakings to lessen the risk of U.S.-Chinese offense-defense competition and to begin to integrate China into the bilateral U.S.-Russian arms control process.

The bottom line of this analysis can be stated quite simply: as part of an expanded arms control toolbox, many different cooperative security activities can contribute to reshaping the U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese strategic relationships successfully, as well as building habits of cooperation among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states. U.S. officials and their counterparts in other countries should take advantage of the full spectrum of these activities.

 

 


Lewis A. Dunn, a senior vice president of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), served as assistant director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and ambassador for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in the Reagan administration. The views herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of SAIC or any of its sponsoring organizations.


ENDNOTES

1. Office of the Vice President, The White House, "Remarks by Vice President Biden at 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy," February 7, 2009.

2. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Joint Statement by Dmitriy A. Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, and Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, Regarding Negotiations on Further Reductions of Strategic Offensive Arms," April 1, 2009.

3. "China, U.S. to Resume Military Dialogue," Reuters, February 15, 2009.

4. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Statement on Bilateral Meeting With President Hu of China," April 1, 2009.

5. See Stephen J. Blank, "Russia and Arms Control: Are There Opportunities for the Obama Administration?" Strategic Studies Institute, March 2009.

6. This idea builds on a suggestion made by former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Director Maj. Gen. William Burns (retired).

7. On Chinese attitudes, see Lewis A. Dunn et al., "Foreign Perspectives on U.S. Nuclear Policy and Posture," December 2006 (report prepared for the Advanced Systems and Concepts Office, Defense Threat Reduction Agency).

8. Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2009," March 2009.

9. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, "Remarks by President Barack Obama," April 5, 2009 (in Prague).

10. Gordon Brown, speech on nuclear energy and proliferation, London, March 17, 2009 (hereinafter Brown speech).

11. Nicolas Sarkozy, speech, Cherbourg, March 21, 2008.

12. "Verification of Nuclear Disarmament: Final Report on Studies Into the Verification of Nuclear Warheads and Their Components," NPT/CONF.2005/WP.1, April 18, 2005 (working paper submitted by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

13. Brown speech.

 

New Members of the Obama Administration

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In the past several months, President Barack Obama and his leading cabinet members and advisers, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and national security adviser Jim Jones, have set an ambitious arms control agenda focusing on the need to extend START, prevent proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and secure loose nuclear weapons and fissile material from theft or unauthorized use. (Continue

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Last Updated May 7, 2009

In the past several months, President Barack Obama and his leading cabinet members and advisers, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and national security adviser Jim Jones, have set an ambitious arms control agenda focusing on the need to extend START, prevent proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and secure loose nuclear weapons and fissile material from theft or unauthorized use. Carrying out this ambitious agenda will require the administration to fill dozens of lower-level positions. The following is a list of some of the other, sometimes less-known administration members who will be advising top officials and the president on issues relating to arms control and nonproliferation. The list selectively includes indications of policy stances from confirmation hearings or recent writings, where appropriate, and also notes key positions that remain to be filled.

Executive Office of the President:
Gary Samore - White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism (WMD "Czar") Former Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations and Clinton administration Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council.
Steve Kosiak - Office of Management and Budget, Associate Director for Defense and International Affairs Former Director of Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; specialist in defense and security budget analysis; co-author of "Smarter Bombs, Fewer Nukes" (1998), which discusses U.S. development of non-nuclear strategic weapons that can outperform nuclear weapons.

Mark Lippert - National Security Council Chief of Staff

Obama staffer and Senior National Security Adviser during the campaign; served tour of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Navy; previously worked on Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee.

John Holdren - Assistant to the President for Science and Technology

Former Director of Science, Technology, and Public Policy program at Harvard University and President of American Association for the Advancement of Science; consistent nonproliferation advocate who worked extensively on issues relating to global environmental change; served as head of presidential science panels from 1995 to 1999 focusing on securing fissionable material and energy research.
Steve Fetter - Assistant Director at large - Energy, Environment, Science, Security Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland; serves on the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on International Security and Arms Control and the National Council of the Federation of American Scientists; served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy from 1993-1994; areas of expertise include climate change and nonproliferation
Office of the Vice President:
Antony Blinken - National Security Adviser to the Vice President
Former Biden Staff Director on Senate Foreign Relations Committee; served on National Security Council during Clinton presidency; helped craft Biden's positions on nuclear disarmament and Iran.

Jon Wolfsthal - Special Adviser to the Vice President for WMD and Nonproliferation Policy

Former Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; co-authored Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats (2005); expert on unconventional weapons proliferation, fissile material, and Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs.
Department of State:
Rose Gottemoeller - Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance
Most recently she was the Director of the Carnegie Endowment's Moscow Center. During the Clinton Administration she served as Deputy Undersecretary for Defense Nuclear Non-proliferation in the U.S. Department of Energy and was the Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasian Affairs in the National Security Council.
James B. Steinberg - Deputy Secretary of State Deputy National Security Adviser during Clinton administration; Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to Obama during campaign; seeks to reinvigorate the arms control agenda.
Susan Rice - Ambassador to the United Nations Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs during Clinton administration; Senior Director for African affairs at the National Security Council (1993-1995).

Ellen Tauscher - Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (nominated)

Congresswoman Taucher is currently serving her seventh term in the House of Representatives representing California's 10th district. She is the chair of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee and the New Democrat Coalition. Her district houses two of the national nuclear laboratories, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia. Throughout her career she has worked to strengthen nonproliferation programs and ensure the reliability of the nation's missile defense programs by requiring greater oversight of the Missile Defense Agency.

Andrew J. Shapiro - Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs (nominated)

From 2001 to 2009 Shapiro served as Senator Clinton's Senior Defense and Foreign Policy Advisor and worked closely with Senator Clinton on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Formerly, Shapiro served as counsel to the Justice Department's International Competition Policy Advisory Committee.

Stephen Bosworth - Special Representative for North Korea Policy Former U.S. ambassador to South Korea; recently dean of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; favors attempting to bring North Korea into the regional and global economy, an effort he thinks will require further U.S. humanitarian and economic aid.
Dennis B. Ross - Special Advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia Former Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; played a central role in the Middle East peace process during the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations; Co-founder of the United Against Nuclear Iran program.

Ray Takeyh - Assistant to U.S. Special Advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia Dennis Ross

Former Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; Iran expert and author of "Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic" and "Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs"

Susan Burk - U.S. Special Representative to the President for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference

Former Deputy Coordinator for Homeland Security in Office of Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism at State Department; Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Controls; Led U.S. preparations for the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference
Bonnie Jenkins - Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs Program Officer for U.S. Foreign and Security policy at the Ford Foundation; former Research Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University; served on the 9/11 Commission and wrote part of the 9/11 Commission Report; expert on arms control, counter-terrorism policy, and non-proliferation
To be filled - Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation
Department of Defense:
William J. Lynn III - Deputy Secretary of Defense Comptroller and Undersecretary of Defense during Clinton administration; senior vice president at Raytheon; favors closer cooperation with South Korea to guard against North Korea's nuclear threat.
Michele Flournoy - Deputy Undersecretary for Policy Former President and Co-founder of the Center for a New American Security; served two positions in the Defense Department during Clinton administration.
Ashton Carter - Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Former professor of science and international affairs at the Kennedy School of Government; Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy from 1993-1996 and presided over Cooperative Threat Reduction program; will now oversee the reverse role, arms development and acquisition.
Andrew C. Weber - Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs (nominated)

Currently serves as a Defense Department adviser for threat reduction policy and is responsible for Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction initiatives to reduce WMD proliferation.

Michael G. Vickers - Assistant Secretary for Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict, and Interdependent Capabilities Assumed his current role in July 2007 during the Bush administration; Former Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; Served as an Army Special Forces NCO from 1973 to 1986
Elizabeth King - Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Department of Defense

Former Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor on Defense, Foreign Affairs and Veterans and Principal staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee for Senator Jack Reed; Served as Counsel for the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission in 1995.

Edward L. Warner III - Secretary of Defense Representative for Post-Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Negotiations
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction from 1997 to 2000, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Requirements between 1993 and 1997.
To be filled - Director, Defense Threat Reduction Agency
Department of Energy: Although Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has been confirmed, several key positions at the Department of Energy have yet to be filled. They include the key positions at the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which manages the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and Energy Department nonproliferation programs. These positions include: Undersecretary for nuclear security and administrator (NNSA), Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (NNSA), and Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (NNSA).

Daniel Poneman - Deputy Secretary of Energy

Principal of the Scowcroft Group, a business advisory firm which provides advice on a number of issues ranging from energy to security policy; served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council from 1993-1996; before that he served as Director of Defense Policy and Arms Control at the NSC; coauthor of Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis

 

Arms Control Resources for the Obama-Medvedev Meeting

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Description: 

In London tomorrow, Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev will meet for the first time and attempt to "reset" the U.S.-Russian security relationship. At the top of their agenda will be the negotiation of a follow-on agreement to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), as well as the resolution of other weapons-related disputes over the possible deployment of additional U.S. strategic ballistic missile interceptors, the future of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, and how to strengthen international diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities. (Continue)

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For Immediate Release: March 31, 2009

Press Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 x107 or Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow and Director of Realistic Threats and Responses Project (202) 463-8270 x103

(Washington, D.C.): In London tomorrow, Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev will meet for the first time and attempt to "reset" the U.S.-Russian security relationship. At the top of their agenda will be the negotiation of a follow-on agreement to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), as well as the resolution of other weapons-related disputes over the possible deployment of additional U.S. strategic ballistic missile interceptors, the future of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, and how to strengthen international diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities.

For current information and additional background on these issues, please visit the links below from the independent Arms Control Association (ACA) or contact the ACA experts listed above for further commentary and analysis.

While in Europe, President Obama is also expected to deliver a major address on his administration's vision for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear terrorism, and moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama provided a wide-ranging and detailed set of responses to questions from Arms Control Today on his administration's nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament strategy, which is available online <http://www.armscontrol.org/2008election>.

Negotiation of a New Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty: Excessive U.S. and Russian nuclear forces continue to drive defense planning and distrust on both sides. Today, the United States is believed to deploy at least 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads, with a comparable number of warheads in reserve. Russia is believed to deploy between 2,000-3,000 strategic nuclear warheads. Each side maintains many of these weapons on a high-alert status.

START, which was concluded in 1991, helped end the Cold War by slashing each country's strategic warhead deployment capability from about 10,000 to less than 6,000 and limiting each country to no more than 1,600 strategic delivery systems. START still provides far-reaching inspections and data exchanges without which neither side can confidently predict the size and location of the other's nuclear forces. Although the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty calls for a lower number of deployed strategic weapons by the end of 2012-no more than 2,200 each-it expires the same day the treaty limits take effect and provides no additional verification provisions.

U.S. and Russian officials have voiced their support for the negotiation of a new a treaty establishing lower, verifiable limits on the two countries' strategic nuclear arsenals. However, given the looming START expiration date there is little time available to negotiate a follow-on agreement.

For the latest news coverage from Arms Control Today on recent statements by top U.S. and Russian officials on the future of START, click here: <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/61/date>

Two key essays describe options and the rationale for deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear talks:

"New Presidents, New Agreements? Advancing U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Control," in the July/August issue of Arms Control Today by Alexei Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller. Gottemoeller, a former member of the ACA Board of Directors who has been tapped by President Obama to be the administration's point person for the START follow-on talks.

"START Treaty: What's Next?," by former Russian Ambassador Lem A. Masterkov, a special commentary published on the ACA web site here <www.armscontrol.org/start/masterkov>.

For an overview of past and current U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements, see <http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/factfilejune07>.

Missile Defenses: Since 2005, Russian leaders have bristled at a proposal hatched by the George W. Bush administration to rush the deployment of untested and unproven strategic anti-missile systems in Poland and a sophisticated tracking radar in the Czech Republic to counter Iran. Obama came into office pledging that he "will make sure any missile defense, including the one proposed for Europe, has been proven to work and has our allies' support before we deploy it."

Obama's pragmatic approach on the issue would seem to be prudent given that the new two-stage interceptors are as yet unbuilt and untested. Planned testing for the system likely will take a few years to complete. Regardless, the Pentagon's Office of Operational Test and Evaluation concluded in February 2008 < http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_03/MissileDefense > that testing of the U.S. system that the European deployment is based on "is not sufficient to provide a high level of statistical confidence in its limited capability."

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have also noted that greater Russian cooperation with international efforts to curb Iran´s nuclear program would reduce the need for the U.S. to consider deployment missile interceptors in the region. Without nuclear payloads, Iran's long-range missiles, which the U.S. intelligence community assesses Tehran cannot develop until at least 2015, would be essentially impotent.

For more information and analysis on developments relating to the row over missile defenses in Europe, see: <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/18/date>

Conventional Forces in Europe: In late-2007, Russia unilaterally suspended implementation of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which caps that amount of tanks and other weaponry deployed in Europe. Moscow has been frustrated that NATO members refuse to ratify a 1999 revision of the accord because Russian military forces remain in Georgia and Moldova. Information on the CFE Treaty dispute is available at <http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/ct/>. A full description of the Adapted CFE Treaty is at < http://www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_11/wbno99>.

ACA's Perspectives: Experts with the Arms Control Association are urging U.S. and Russian leaders to focus on concluding a new treaty with dramatically deeper and verifiable nuclear arms reductions, which would ease tensions and put them on a path to resolve other difficult issues and strengthen cooperation in key areas such as securing vulnerable nuclear weapons-usable materials.

For further analysis, see ACA executive director Daryl Kimball's column in the April issue of Arms Control Today, "Pressing the Nuclear Reset Button" here <www.armscontrol.org/2009_04/focus>.

Given that the U.S. ground-based strategic ballistic missile system is still unproven, would have a very limited capability against Russian missiles, and is years away from possible deployment, there is ample time for Moscow and Washington to find cooperative approaches to counter Iran's potential missile threat and possibly agree to limits on the overall number of strategic interceptors.

For further analysis see "What should Obama do about missile defense?" originally published in The Washington Times on November 30, 2008. <http://www.armscontrol.org/node/3606>

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