The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011

Editor's Note

Elisabeth Erickson and Daniel Horner

The security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and infrastructure has been the subject of much coverage and debate in recent months as Pakistani government forces have stepped up their fight against insurgents. In this month's issue, two leading experts offer detailed analyses of the risks and possible policy responses.

According to Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, growing extremism, an expanding nuclear portfolio, and continuing instability challenge Pakistan's ability to protect its nuclear arsenal. He warns in particular against the slow leak of nuclear expertise and materials to nonstate actors.

Feroz Hassan Khan also sees "insider-outsider collusion" as a valid concern, but he emphasizes institutional changes that Pakistan has made to respond to that threat. A potentially much greater threat comes from flawed assumptions and rhetorical excesses, which could lead both Pakistan and the United States down the wrong path, he says.

Neither of the two authors saw the piece the other was writing, but they respond to each other on numerous points, disagreeing in some cases and agreeing in others. The two articles offer a valuable guide to analysts and policymakers navigating a delicate topic that has enormous implications for regional and global security.

Elsewhere in the issue, Hui Zhang addresses another thorny question in Asia as he looks at North Korea's nuclear weapons program and calls for more vigorous efforts by China to end it. He lays out a detailed road map for North Korea and other countries to follow. He argues that China could and should work with North Korea and the United States to pursue such a strategy.

In his "Looking Back" article, Greg Thielmann reflects on the National Missile Defense Act of 1999. He examines the circumstances leading up to it and the impact the legislation has had since its passage. As Eben Lindsey's news article on the Missile Defense Agency's recent testing of the Airborne Laser system indicates, the debates Thielmann describes resonate today.


The security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and infrastructure has been the subject of much coverage and debate in recent months as Pakistani government forces have stepped up their fight against insurgents. In this month's issue, two leading experts offer detailed analyses of the risks and possible policy responses. (Continue)

Reshaping Strategic Relationships: Expanding the Arms Control Toolbox

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.


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.


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.


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)

Loose Nukes in New Neighborhoods: The Next Generation of Proliferation Prevention

By Kenneth N. Luongo

In the initial weeks of the Obama administration, former Vice President Dick Cheney stated that there was a "high probability" of a terrorist attempt to use a nuclear weapon or biological agent and that "whether they can pull it off depends on what kind of policies we put in place." President Barack Obama, in his April 5 Prague speech, said that terrorists "are determined to buy, build, or steal" a nuclear weapon and that the international community must work "without delay" to ensure that they never acquire one. Obama also outlined a number of policies for locking down vulnerable nuclear material and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

If both Cheney and Obama are right, that the threat is real and we are in a race against time, then the new administration needs to act quickly to adapt its nuclear and biological proliferation prevention strategies and threat reduction programs to combat this 21st-century challenge. This effort will require significantly increasing programmatic budgets, creating a robust globalized agenda, harmonizing U.S. government and international programs, removing bureaucratic and legal impediments to action, and utilizing new tools to defeat the new threats. The Obama administration needs to create a next-generation Global Proliferation Prevention Initiative.

Need for a New Concept

The international nuclear and biological threat reduction agenda now encompasses numerous U.S. government agencies and has a budget of more than $1.7 billion in the current fiscal year.[1] With U.S. activities as the core, these programs are supplemented by the Group of Eight (G-8) Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and several other multilateral initiatives, including the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

Although the threat is global, the overall effort is still culturally, politically, and financially very much rooted in one region: the former Soviet Union. This remains true even as many large-scale projects are nearing completion in Russia and the other former Soviet states. The budgets of key programs in the three major U.S. agencies participating in international threat reduction activities, the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State, currently still devote more than one-half of their combined funding to activities in Russia and the other former Soviet states.[2]

Congress has incrementally provided authority for U.S. agencies to expand their mission to other global hotspots; the agencies have exercised that authority primarily in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.[3] For example, the Defense Department has used the authority to remove chemical weapons from Albania and Libya. The Defense and State Departments and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department, combined their resources to remove the nuclear infrastructure in Libya after that country abandoned its nuclear ambitions. The State Department's Biosecurity Engagement Program is working to improve biological security in Egypt, Jordan, and other African and Asian nations. Nevertheless, the entire Global Partnership program is still spending its money primarily in Russia, although the G-8 expanded the mandate at its July 2008 summit, stating, "[T]he Partnership will address...global challenges particularly in areas where the risks of terrorism and proliferation are greatest."[4] The follow-up to this statement has been minimal, although more details may surface at the G-8 summit in Italy in July. Still, despite the loosening of the geographic strictures, the effort is suffering from incremental thinking and adaptation.

Threat reduction programs have always suffered a certain political and bureaucratic pigeonholing and second-tier status. Even Obama's Prague speech, which called nuclear terrorism "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security," pushed this agenda to the back of the speech and led with the more politically popular arms control objectives.

In today's environment, there need to be strong and effective policy adjuncts to the traditional military, diplomatic, and intelligence tools for fighting proliferation. The existing threat reduction agenda needs to be reconceptualized as an integrated global proliferation prevention tool focused on the security, removal, and elimination of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the targeting of the financing for illicit programs and activities.

Shifting to New Neighborhoods

The targets for an expanded preventive proliferation effort are evolving both geographically and substantively. Obama has made a very bold pledge to lead "an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years,"[5] and he also vowed to strengthen U.S. involvement in a broad range of bioproliferation prevention and response activities. (See Table 1.) What is lacking is a detailed strategy for attacking the problem frontally and rapidly with a modernized and comprehensive initiative to achieve these objectives. Conspicuously absent from the Prague speech was any mention of the need for improvements in global biosecurity policy and international coordination on this multifaceted and growing challenge.

To ensure that a new and refocused proliferation prevention effort achieves the same success in new states that the threat reduction programs have had in Russia and the other former Soviet states, several actions must be taken.

As a first step, the Global Proliferation Prevention Initiative needs to merge the best of the old and new cooperative threat reduction (CTR) policies and programs. As a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report suggested, the effort needs to be updated from "CTR 1.0" to "CTR 2.0."[6] A new proliferation prevention initiative must be more agile, flexible, and globally responsive than the current efforts, while retaining the cooperative and results-focused core of current CTR programs.

Importantly, the effort needs to be operationally multilateral, rather than U.S. dominated. This requires better coordination among allies and may require utilizing non-U.S. funding and letting other countries lead efforts in order to overcome any allergy that may exist to U.S.-led initiatives. In particular, Russia and the United States should find a way to share global nuclear nonproliferation responsibilities based on their past history of post-Soviet cooperation.

Also, the proliferation prevention activities need to be given the same legitimacy as the more traditional treaty-based approach to managing proliferation challenges. Both political and financial capital need to be put behind the effort, and the new concept must be driven home within the executive branch, with congressional policymakers, and with the G-8 Global Partnership and other partners.

In addition, the metrics for this initiative should be broadened to recognize the value of cooperation and engagement. These softer, more intangible benefits of the threat reduction approach are very important, but they are politically difficult to comprehend and sell, in part because they were not part of the original threat reduction legislation. These metrics now need to be legitimized because their value has been proven over time. They should be formally incorporated into a new national security directive and legislation. Then, there could be no dispute in the future about the value of the intangibles as legitimate measures of success.

Finally, at home, the United States must ensure that its own agencies and policies are well coordinated. For example, the Department of the Treasury's new "smart" sanctions program recognizes the reality of integrated global financial markets and utilizes them to combat proliferators. The program targets the proliferators' financing networks and denies them access to essential global financial institutions and mechanisms. By freezing and then releasing the personal assets of a number of North Korean officials, the program is probably most responsible for pushing that country's government to fulfill, at least partially, its commitment to abandon its nuclear program. The targeted sanctions are an essential part of the proliferation prevention initiative even if they never were an integral part of the threat reduction agenda. Obama's Prague speech usefully underscored the importance of these "financial tools."

New Target Countries and Regions

As the cooperative proliferation prevention agenda globalizes, it is necessary to look at which countries and regions it might encompass. As it relates to radiological material security and elimination, virtually every country is a target, especially the medical facilities utilizing medical radiological sources. Major U.S. friends, foes, and strategic competitors all are ripe for consideration.

  • The denuclearization of North Korea is a major international objective that, if it occurs, would require significant multinational involvement. The cost for the dismantling of the existing nuclear infrastructure in North Korea is estimated to be about $700 million. The United States would likely pay this entire amount, and the Obama administration has already requested some funding for this project in its first supplemental appropriations request.[7] In addition, if North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex is eliminated, the West may also have to address the issue of excess weapons scientists and the redirection of their activities. Beyond the nuclear program, North Korea has a significant biological infrastructure that also poses a lurking danger.[8]
  • The new U.S.-Indian civil nuclear cooperation agreement did not dwell on the issue of the security of India's nuclear facilities beyond the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on its declared civilian nuclear facilities. New Delhi has rebuffed efforts by Washington to engage more deeply on this issue. As a state that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and that has been given an exception from standard nuclear cooperation rules, India should be more willing to engage in a dialogue about how it can assure the highest levels of safety and security for nuclear materials and weapons. The muddled response to the bolt-from-the-blue terrorist attack on Mumbai and ongoing terrorist activity in India inevitably raise questions about adequate nuclear security, even though India's nuclear facilities are presumably much better protected than soft civilian sites.
  • The United States and Pakistan have had an ongoing dialogue and cooperation on nuclear security since 2001. Reportedly the United States has provided $100 million for equipment and training. This work, initiated during the administrations of George W. Bush and Gen. Pervez Musharraf, will likely continue under the new governments in Washington and Islamabad. In recent years, Pakistan has worked with the United States on biological security, but the nuclear security cooperation is ripe for expansion as the intensity of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has increased. Also, there are continuing questions about insider threats at nuclear facilities. In addition, Pakistani officials have indicated an interest in working with Washington on the issue of retired weapons scientist redirection, but they have not received much of a response from their U.S. counterparts.[9]
  • There has been a nuclear security dialogue between China and the U.S. Energy Department dating back to the 1990s, but it is low-key and cautious. Because China has a close relationship with Pakistan, the former could be a conduit for engaging the latter in more intensive and sensitive cooperation on nuclear security. Also, the May 2008 earthquakes in western China came perilously close to elements of the country's nuclear infrastructure, including a research reactor, two nuclear fuel production facilities, and two weapons sites, all within 40 to 90 miles of the epicenter.[10] Discussions with the United States on how to enhance the resistance of nuclear facilities to earthquakes could be productive. Another very sensitive but vital issue for U.S.-Chinese discussions is preventing nuclear leakage from North Korea and preparing to ensure adequate nuclear security in the event of political transition in that country if it is not denuclearized first.
  • Interest in nuclear power development in the Middle East is rising, and 16 nations have expressed interest in it.[11] Just before leaving office, the Bush administration signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The expansion of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure is one reason, among others, for this increase in regional interest in nuclear power. Growth on the scale currently estimated, however, could be dangerous and far exceed the ability of the IAEA to monitor effectively.[12] The Obama administration has pledged to double the U.S. contribution to the IAEA budget over the next four years, to a total of about $225 million annually.[13] One useful focus of this expanded funding could be to support enhanced IAEA monitoring in the region. In addition, the IAEA's activities could be supplemented under a proliferation prevention initiative by the creation of a U.S. or multilaterally funded nuclear monitoring and training effort in the region.
  • Asia is one of the world's fastest-growing biotechnology regions. In fact, the growth of publicly traded biotechnology companies in the Asia-Pacific region outpaced growth in the United States and Europe in 2007.[14] The international community has not agreed on uniform biosecurity standards, and there is a lack of knowledge and adherence to best biosecurity practices in a number of countries. That situation raises the risk of accidental or intentional misapplication of biotechnology as the industry expands. The State Department is already engaged on this issue, but its resources are inadequate to meet the challenge. Additional funding should be provided to expand the scope of efforts to improve biological security in Asia.

The new global targets of opportunity are important, but functional issues can and should drive an expanded proliferation prevention agenda.

New Tools to Drive the Agenda

The original CTR agenda grew out of a congressional initiative, but the drivers for a robust, globalized proliferation prevention effort could come from a number of other sources.

Expanding the Budget

To advance the proliferation prevention agenda, Congress and the administration need to act in the short term to ramp up the budget significantly in the nuclear and biological areas. Over the past several years, the international nuclear and biological threat reduction budget has remained essentially static, with occasional significant decreases and increases to certain programs.[15] The new administration reportedly has indicated that it will increase its fiscal year 2010 budget request to meet the president's initiative to accelerate control of loose nuclear materials. It has already taken a first step with the submission of its supplemental appropriations request, which contained $186.5 million for nonproliferation activities.[16]

Another step the administration reportedly is ready to take is to increase the budget for NNSA nuclear nonproliferation programs in fiscal year 2010 and then to substantially increase the budget for each of the next four years to a total increase of roughly $2.4 billion.[17] This would bring the NNSA nonproliferation budget up to about $3.5 billion by fiscal year 2015. This is an admirable financial goal and certainly should be enough money to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological stockpiles. Yet, if the budget ramps up too slowly and gradually, it may not allow Obama to meet his four-year promise. Roughly $1 billion could be used by the NNSA alone to accelerate existing activities and capitalize on new opportunities in fiscal year 2010. Therefore, the budget ramp-up should be concentrated in the early years rather than the later years.

Clarifying Authorities

The Obama administration has acted on the long-standing proposal to create a nonproliferation czar whose job is to bring cohesion to the nonproliferation policy elements that are spread across multiple U.S. agencies.

One important action that the new czar could take is to clarify and improve the authorities that govern the use of existing CTR-related funds and future proliferation prevention budgets. For example, transfer authorities between agencies should be streamlined so that the agency best suited to carry out a specific nonproliferation task can do so as rapidly as possible without being hampered by bureaucracy or statutory limitations. Under current law, the State Department's Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) is the only program allowed to finance work in a country that the United States has sanctioned, such as North Korea or Iran, without receiving a waiver to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act.

The "notwithstanding any other provision of law" authority enjoyed by the NDF should be expanded on a limited and trial basis to all other relevant agencies and programs. Agencies conducting nonproliferation programs need some unrestricted funding, perhaps 10 percent of the total as suggested by the NAS report, and the latitude to reprioritize funding based on changing conditions. Illustrating this need, even if the Defense and Energy Departments were cleared to work in North Korea, their programs may not have unobligated funds-i.e., funding that has not yet been allocated for a specific purpose-available for a new project. Although budgetary priority should be given to established program line items, small contingency funds are needed to address unexpected threats, and the current funding authorities are not well suited for this purpose.

In addition, U.S. programs should expand their ability to take contributions from foreign governments for relevant work and to send money to foreign countries if another country is leading an important nonproliferation effort. The NNSA Global Threat Reduction Initiative has already accepted funds from third parties, and Congress provided the same authorization this year to the NNSA's International Nuclear Material Protection and Cooperation program and Russian Plutonium Disposition program. These authorities should be used as a model for other agencies.

Finally, there are questions as to whether the United States has in place all the authorities necessary to recover, remove, and dispose of nuclear, radiological, and biological materials, especially those that may need to be returned to this country. A review of these authorities should be conducted, and any limitations should be remedied by appropriate legislative or executive action.

Creating New Initiatives

One of Obama's key nonproliferation goals is to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials and warheads within four years. Undoubtedly there will be considerable debate inside the administration about how to define and meet this goal, but there is a range of other initiatives that the administration should also pursue as part of a next-generation tool kit to combat WMD threats.

Nonproliferation Enterprise Fund. A "nonproliferation enterprise fund" would allow government programs to form more effective partnerships with the nongovernmental and university communities to assist in nuclear and other nonproliferation analysis. A part of this fund could be dedicated to the development of "the next generation of nonproliferation experts," who would be required to perform some government service in return for educational and training support. This proposal is similar to the collaboration between the federal government and U.S. research universities on energy issues and could be funded at a modest $25 million per year to start.

Multilateral WMD Rapid Reaction Force. Given the unpredictable nature of WMD crises, there is a need for domestic and international forces that would allow for quick and coordinated action in the face of a nuclear, radiological, or biological emergency or disarmament opportunity. This type of force would allow, in advance of a crisis, for the clear delineation of the roles and responsibilities among agencies and partner countries based on threat or opportunity scenarios. It would require dedicated funding for operations, transport, integrated training, and related issues. In addition, it would ensure that all the necessary legal authorities are put in place to allow for the rapid extraction and return of foreign nuclear, radiological, or biological materials and other assets to the United States or other countries if necessary.

Private-Public Partnership for Nonproliferation Funding. In the globalized environment, it is essential to look beyond purely governmental structures and address opportunities for partnership among government, civil society, and the private sector to create innovative nonproliferation solutions. Such collaboration could result in a new, multidisciplinary "Iron Triangle," with government institutions providing the authority and funding, nongovernmental organizations providing their unique analyses and creative approaches to emerging challenges, and the private sector, especially in the nuclear and biological areas, assuming a new partnership role and driving innovative solutions.

One proposal to operationalize this new cooperation is for the nuclear industry to contribute to a nonproliferation fund that could increase funding for IAEA activities or be used for other international nonproliferation purposes. One option is that, for every dollar in direct subsidies for new nuclear power plants that the U.S. government provides, the nuclear industry would be required to contribute a portion, perhaps 0.1 percent, to the nonproliferation fund. Alternatively, if the United States provides only loan guarantees for new nuclear plants, the industry would pay into the nonproliferation fund a small percentage of the underwriting costs of the government-funded guarantees. Another, more global alternative is to require utilities to contribute 0.01 cents of the price of each nuclear-generated kilowatt-hour to the nonproliferation fund.[18]

These ideas are similar to the responsibilities that governments have imposed on the nuclear industry to deal with waste management, and the cost could be 10 percent of that levy. In this case, it would link the nuclear power industry into the security dialogue, recognize explicitly the security implications of the expansion of nuclear power, offer a reputational benefit for the nuclear power industry, and increase the pool of funds available for addressing nuclear security challenges. Similar proposals that link the biotechnology industry into the biosecurity debate also should be explored.

New Treaties and Agreements. The U.S.-Russian strategic arms reduction treaties and the Chemical Weapons Convention have provided important drivers for the Defense Department CTR program and its nonproliferation spending priorities. In the near term, there may be a follow-on to START, which expires at the end of 2009. Because Obama has called for global reductions in nuclear weapons, the START process could be expanded to other nuclear-weapon states. In addition, the new administration has identified a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) as a U.S. policy goal. As these agreements are pursued, however, a number of other initiatives could be undertaken as part of a next-generation proliferation prevention regime.

  • UN Security Council Resolution 1540 Implementation: UN Security Council Resolution 1540 requires all nations to report on their nuclear, chemical, and biological security status and nonproliferation activities. Compliance with this mandate has been inconsistent. It would be very useful for the Global Partnership members to provide financial, technical, and manpower support to those countries that need to do a better job of reporting but do not have the resources.[19]
  • FMCT: An FMCT faces significant challenges. For example, India and Pakistan are opposed to the treaty and continue to produce fissile materials for their weapons programs. One possibility is for the five NPT nuclear-weapon states to take the lead in advance of the 2010 NPT Review Conference and announce that they will agree to end fissile material production. There could be significant challenges in this more limited concept as well, but these five states have stopped making fissile material for weapons, and this could be a common starting point.[20]
  • Global Partnership Reconceptualization: The G-8 Global Partnership is in need of reconfiguration and expansion. A new proposal is to create from the partnership a multilateral ready reserve that would train for and be prepared to respond to proliferation and WMD challenges.[21] The concept is not unusual, as some countries participate in this type of coalition under the PSI. The proposal for the Global Partnership, however, would expand the concept beyond cargo in transit and would allow for an interchangeable lineup of countries to address the challenges that arise. This approach would use PSI-type exercises, but with more structure and with a focus on the protection, removal, and elimination of WMD materials and infrastructure. The multilateral force would require identification of resources, material, and manpower and plans for short-notice mobilization and assignment of responsibilities.
  • Global Nuclear Security Standard: Despite the detailed technical information provided by the IAEA for the safeguarding of nuclear facilities and the other domestic and international conventions and regulations that govern nuclear material protection, there is no universally accepted standard for securing nuclear materials and weapons. The new administration, as part of its proposed Global Summit on Nuclear Security, should call for the establishment of a minimum nuclear security standard to jump-start this process.[22]
  • A Global Biosecurity Pact: The lack of broadly recognized and adhered-to international standards for biosecurity is a looming global danger. As the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has pointed out, although biotechnology "has benefited humanity by enabling advances in medicine and in agriculture, it has also increased the availability of pathogens and technologies that can be used for sinister purposes."[23] There needs to be an effort to move all countries with life-science research to a common set of security standards. Such an agreement could provide for improved biotechnology trigger lists, beyond those maintained and observed by the Australia Group. These objectives will be extremely difficult to accomplish because the biotech industry is largely owned by private entities, is spreading rapidly around the globe, and generally resists demands for broad intrusiveness. As a first step, developing countries could be offered financial support to assist them in rising to the highest biosecurity and safety standards as defined by the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Funds also could be provided for the improvement of the "network of networks" that serves as the informal, voluntary, transparent monitoring and reporting structure on biological issues and developments. Additionally, the NNSA Second Line of Defense program and the Homeland Security Department's Container Security Initiative should explore the benefits of installing biodetection technologies along with their nuclear screening equipment overseas as an adjunct to the use of medical surveillance to detect pathogens and terrorist smuggling of biological agents.

Maintaining the Old Neighborhood

While the global expansion of the proliferation prevention agenda is pursued and loose nukes in new neighborhoods are locked down, it is important not to lose sight of the enormous security investment that the United States and other Global Partnership members have made in Russia and the other former Soviet states. All the countries involved in that effort must ensure that the quality of the equipment and training remains high as the Western countries hand over control to the former Soviet states. Congress has legislated that the bulk of U.S. funding for Russian nuclear security be completed by 2012. As a result, U.S. officials are in a dialogue with Russia on the issue of the long-term sustainability of the substantial U.S. investment in Russian security improvements, but the progress has been slow. The United States needs to continue its engagement with Russia and the other former Soviet states, and it needs to check the equipment periodically after the 2012 deadline.

In addition, several other initiatives beyond the current scope of the discussion could be undertaken. One is the installation of a satellite uplink on all portal monitors and perimeter security equipment. The satellites would provide real-time reporting on the equipment's operational status and would log security alerts and breaches. Because of the sensitive location of much of the security equipment in Russia, the information could be downloaded to a regional monitoring center that could be manned jointly by U.S. and Russian specialists. This effort could be supplemented by a U.S.-Russian nuclear security hotline that would allow for immediate communication on suspicious incidents. Such a connection already exists between the United States and Russia to reduce the risk of a nuclear exchange stemming from accident, miscalculation, or surprise attack,[24] and the IAEA manages an Incident and Emergency Center to monitor nuclear reactor safety around the globe.[25] This idea would extend these concepts to nuclear materials security. The proposal is likely to meet stiff resistance from the nuclear bureaucracy in Russia, and in the United States if the proposal is reciprocal, but that should not be a deterrent to action in support of greater nuclear security.

This concept could be expanded globally for civilian facilities monitored by the IAEA. In this case, the monitoring center could be manned by rotating international experts. But the goal would be the same: constant real-time monitoring of all nuclear facilities under safeguards, IAEA or domestic, and rapid global alerting and response to security breaches.

This concept could be supplemented by the establishment of regional training centers that could promote nuclear materials security in key regions around the globe. These centers would serve to cultivate a local security culture, improve efficiency by consolidating training courses rather than repeating training to multiple audiences, and provide ready access to best practices for new partners. These training centers could be initiated with U.S. funding but supplemented or ultimately fully supported by Global Partnership nations and the IAEA.


Obama made his first major nuclear security speech just 75 days after he took office, a signal of the importance he places on preventing nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The policies that he committed the United States to pursue are important for U.S. and global security, and they create a firm foundation for progress. Many of the policy proposals are well known, however, and most of the nuclear policy details were left unspoken. Perhaps more importantly, the acute dangers posed by biological terrorism and proliferation were not addressed.

As the new administration works to develop its full suite of policies, it must think beyond the mere expansion and adaptation of the existing arms control and threat reduction models and programs, and beyond the atom, and focus on how to construct a transformative next-generation proliferation prevention strategy. Creating a Global Proliferation Prevention Initiative would build on the current structures and include new policy ideas and tools, players and coalitions, and funding. It would squarely face the reality that domestic and international institutions and bureaucracies are having difficulty maintaining pace with evolving 21st-century threats and challenges. By tackling these issues early, creatively, and comprehensively, the United States can lead the world toward the enhanced global security and international stability that are so desperately needed.

Table 1: Obama’s Commitments to Securing Loose Nukes and Preventing Bioterrorism

In his April 5 Prague speech, President Barack Obama highlighted the need to ensure global nuclear security. Although his Prague remarks largely restated the nuclear nonproliferation goals that he had articulated during his campaign, they represented needed leadership on these globally vital issues. The table below summarizes Obama’s commitments to securing loose nuclear materials and preventing nuclear and biological terrorism. As the accompanying article explains, the administration should go further than Obama did in the Prague speech. In particular, it should develop a stronger focus on biosecurity and bioterrorism as well as embrace the new ideas, tools, players, coalitions, and funding that can result in the creation of a next-generation nonproliferation strategy that is adaptable and robust enough to meet 21st-century threats.

Securing Vulnerable Nuclear MaterialsSecuring Vulnerable Nuclear Materials
Campaign Commitments Prague Speech
Lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years Undertake a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years
Work with Russia and other nations to implement a comprehensive set of standards to protect nuclear materials from theft Set new standards, expand U.S. cooperation with Russia, and pursue new partnerships to lock down sensitive materials
Build state capacity to prevent the theft, diversion, or spread of nuclear materials
Strengthen policing and interdiction efforts, such as by the institutionalization of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Turn efforts such as the PSI and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism into international institutions
Increase pace of deployment of nuclear security detectors at key border crossings Build on efforts to break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt dangerous trade
Convene a summit on preventing nuclear terrorism in 2009 and regularly thereafter in order to agree on globally implemented measures to prevent nuclear terrorism Convene a Global Summit on Nuclear Security hosted by the United States within a year
Strengthen nuclear risk reduction work at the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State
Preventing Bioterrorism
Campaign Commitments
Provide assistance to states in meeting their commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Biological Weapons Convention
Strengthen U.S. intelligence collection overseas to identify and interdict would-be bioterrorists before they strike
Build capacity to mitigate the consequences of bioterrorism attacks, for example, by linking health care providers, hospitals, and public health agencies and investing in electronic health information systems
Accelerate development of new medicines, vaccines, and production capabilities
Expand development of bioforensics program
Create a Shared Security Partnership that forges an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks

Sources: Arms Control Association, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Obama for America, Organizing for America, U.S. embassy in Prague

Data compiled by Michelle Marchesano, Partnership for Global Security



Kenneth N. Luongo is president of the Partnership for Global Security and a former senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to the secretary of energy.


1. Total fiscal year 2009 funding for international nuclear and biological proliferation prevention includes funds from the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and State. Excluding the Homeland Security Department, the amount is $1.7 billion. Michelle Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs," PGS Policy Update, April 2, 2009, www.partnershipforglobalsecurity.org/documents/fy09_wmd_security_programs_final_funding.pdf.

2. In fiscal year 2009, the cumulative Russia/FSU component accounted for more than 60 percent of the total combined funding of the four major U.S. government threat reduction programs. The individual percentages for the four programs are as follows: Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction program, 98 percent ($424 million); Energy Department's International Nuclear Material Protection and Cooperation program (INMPC), 56 percent ($224 million); Energy Department's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), 34 percent ($134 million); and State Department's Global Threat Reduction program, roughly 50 percent ($30 million). Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs," and personal communication with program officials.

3. Beginning in 2002, the annual authorization bills began to include language that expanded the authorities of programs in the Defense, Energy, and State Departments to conduct threat reduction work globally. For a full list, see Committee on Strengthening and Expanding the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and Committee on International Security and Arms Control Policy and Global Affairs, "Global Security Engagement," National Academy of Sciences, 2009 (hereinafter NAS Global Security Engagement report). Most recently, in fiscal year 2009, $10 million was provided for the Defense Department's CTR activities outside the former Soviet Union. Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs."

4. "G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit Leaders Declaration," July 8, 2008, para. 64, www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/summit/2008/doc/doc080714__en.html.

5. Barack Obama, "Remarks of President Barack Obama," Prague, April 5, 2009, http://prague.usembassy.gov/obama.html.

6. NAS Global Security Engagement report.

7. For the text of the supplemental appropriations request, dated April 9, 2009, see www.whitehouse.gov/omb/asset.aspx?AssetId=1086 (hereinafter president's supplemental appropriations request).

8. Richard Stone, "A Wary Pas de Deux," Science, September 17, 2004, pp. 1696-1703.

9. Personal communication with Pakistani officials.

10. Gethin Chamberlain, "Chinese Earthquake: Nuclear Sites Alerted," Telegraph.co.uk, May 17, 2008, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/1974263/Chinese-earthquake-nuclear-sites-alerted.html.

11. Sharon Squassoni, Nuclear Energy: Rebirth or Resuscitation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., March 2009, p. 55, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nuclear_energy_rebirth_resuscitation.pdf.

12. For growth projections, see ibid., pp. 48-61.

13. See www.barackobama.com/pdf/issues/HomelandSecurityFactSheet.pdf.

14. Ernst and Young, "Beyond Borders: Global Biotechnology Report 2008," 2008, p. 93, http://www.ey.com/US/en/Industries/Biotechnology/Biotechnology_Beyond_Borders_2008.

15. Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs"; Partnership for Global Security, "International WMD Security Programs Funding," April 2, 2009, www.partnershipforglobalsecurity.org/documents/fy06_09_cumulative_wmd_security_program_funding.pdf.

16. The president's request includes $89.5 million for the NNSA and $97 million for the State Department. Within the NNSA's $89.5 million amount, $55 million is for the INMPC "to counter emerging threats at nuclear facilities in Russia and other countries of concern though detecting and deterring insider threats through security upgrades"; $25 million is for GTRI "to complete disablement tasks and to initiate spent fuel disposition and other denuclearization efforts" in North Korea; and $9.5 million is for the Nonproliferation and International Security program "for the disablement and dismantlement support for the denuclearization efforts" in North Korea. Within the State Department's $97 million amount that is directed to the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, "$47 million is to support dismantlement of nuclear facilities in North Korea and $50 million is to provide border security equipment, training, and program management for Egypt to prevent smuggling of illicit goods into Gaza." President's supplemental appropriation request, pp. 68, 88.

17. "Sustained Nonproliferation Increase Called For," Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, Vol. 13, No. 6 (February 16, 2009), p. 3.

18. The latter alternative was developed by Frank von Hippel and could generate approximately $80 million per year in the United States and $250 million per year on a global basis. For more information, see International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Global Fissile Material Report 2008," 2008, p. 115, n. 93, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr08.pdf.

19. For more analysis of what is required to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540, see Elizabeth Turpen, "Non-State Actors and Nonproliferation: The NGO Role in Implementing UNSCR 1540," August 6, 2007, www.stimson.org/pub.cfm?ID=538; Lawrence Scheinman, ed., "Implementing Resolution 1540: The Role of Regional Organizations," UNIDIR/2008/8, September 2008, www.unidir.org/bdd/fiche-article.php?ref_article=2747.

20. "Only India, Pakistan and possibly Israel, continue to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons. The United States, United Kingdom, Russia, [and] France...have officially announced an end to their production for weapons, while China has indicated this unofficially." International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Global Fissile Material Report 2008," p. 7. This FMCT proposal has also been promoted by former State Department official Ambassador Norman A. Wulf.

21. Partnership for Global Security, "G-8 Global Partnership: Adapting to New Realities," Washington, D.C., July 9, 2008, www.partnershipforglobalsecurity.org/Documents/press_release_g8gp_final.pdf (press release).

22. See Matthew Bunn, "Securing the Bomb 2007," September 2007, pp. 40, 107-108, www.nti.org/e_research/securingthebomb07.pdf.

23. World at Risk: the Report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, New York: Vintage, 2008.

24. A 1963 agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union established a direct communication link between the two states. "Hot Line Agreement (1963)," atomicarchive.com, n.d., www.atomicarchive.com/Treaties/Treaty2.shtml.

25. Kirstie Hansen, "A Life-Saving Hotline: The IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre Answers the Call," November 9, 2006, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Features/IEC/hotline.html.


In the initial weeks of the Obama administration, former Vice President Dick Cheney stated that there was a "high probability" of a terrorist attempt to use a nuclear weapon or biological agent and that "whether they can pull it off depends on what kind of policies we put in place." President Barack Obama, in his April 5 Prague speech, said that terrorists "are determined to buy, build, or steal" a nuclear weapon and that the international community must work "without delay" to ensure that they never acquire one. Obama also outlined a number of policies for locking down vulnerable nuclear material and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime. (Continue)

Chinese Report Discusses Nuclear Planning

Peter Crail

On Jan. 20, China issued its biennial defense white paper, which explained for the first time how its nuclear force would respond to different situations in line with its policy of "no first use of nuclear weapons." The paper, entitled "China's National Defense in 2008," is the sixth Beijing has issued since 1998.

China's primary strategic nuclear force is maintained by its Second Artillery Corps, which Beijing states "takes as its fundamental mission the protection of China from any nuclear attack." Although the paper's description of the role of the Second Artillery Corps focused on its nuclear forces, the corps also has a conventional precision-strike missile capability.

China outlined in broad terms three phases of readiness for the nuclear forces of its Second Artillery Corps. In peacetime, the paper asserts that China's nuclear missiles "are not aimed at any country." Other nuclear-armed states, including the United States, have made similar assurances regarding not targeting their nuclear arms.

If threatened by a nuclear attack, Beijing states that its nuclear missiles "go into a state of alert and get ready for a nuclear counterattack" to deter the use of nuclear weapons. Lastly, in the event of a nuclear attack against China, the paper indicates that the Second Artillery Corps will launch a nuclear counterattack "either independently or together with the nuclear forces of other services."

China's navy has maintained a small sea-based nuclear missile capability since 1983. It has been developing a new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and is believed to be working on a more advanced submarine-launched nuclear missile. China has an estimated stockpile of 100-200 nuclear weapons.

Although China has consistently claimed that it would only use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack, the United States has questioned the credibility of that assurance. A 2008 annual Pentagon report on China's military power stated that "doctrinal materials suggest additional missions for China's nuclear forces include deterring conventional attacks against [Chinese] nuclear assets or conventional attacks with [weapons of mass destruction]-like effects." The report notes, however, that Chinese officials have offered public and private assurances that its no-first-use pledge would not change and that the policy has support in China's military.

In addition to describing China's nuclear force planning, the paper appears to provide a limited explanation of the country's strategic nuclear modernization efforts. It states that the Second Artillery Corps "strives to raise the informationization (sic) level of its weaponry and equipment, ensure their safety and reliability," and enhance a variety of missile capabilities. In particular, it states that the development of the Second Artillery Corps' nuclear and missile forces has allowed it to deploy solid-fueled and liquid-fueled missiles of varying ranges and with "different types of warheads."

China does not indicate the nature of the types of warheads it has developed. It is unclear if such an explanation helps to assuage concerns expressed by the United States and its allies regarding China's lack of transparency in its military modernization efforts, including its nuclear forces and delivery systems. The 2008 Pentagon report asserted that Chinese leaders have not yet explained the rationale and objectives behind its strategic modernization, increasing the risk of "misunderstanding and miscalculation."

On Jan. 20, China issued its biennial defense white paper, which explained for the first time how its nuclear force would respond to different situations in line with its policy of "no first use of nuclear weapons." The paper, entitled "China's National Defense in 2008," is the sixth Beijing has issued since 1998.

China's primary strategic nuclear force is maintained by its Second Artillery Corps, which Beijing states "takes as its fundamental mission the protection of China from any nuclear attack." Although the paper's description of the role of the Second Artillery Corps focused on its nuclear forces, the corps also has a conventional precision-strike missile capability. (Continue)

Chinese-U.S. Strategic Affairs: Dangerous Dynamism

Christopher P. Twomey

Many aspects of the Chinese-U.S. relationship are mutually beneficial: some $400 billion in trade, bilateral military exchanges, and Beijing's increasingly constructive diplomatic role. There are other grounds for concern. Each side's militaries view the other as a potential adversary and increasingly make plans and structure their forces with that in mind.

On the conventional side, there are many important areas to consider, but the potential for nuclear rivalry raises monumental risks. This article assesses the dangers in the bilateral nuclear relationship, the potential for traditional arms control to address these challenges, the broadening of the "strategic" military sphere, and the issue of proliferation beyond the bilateral relationship.

Strategic relations are not at the center of Chinese-U.S. relations today. They do not deserve to be tomorrow. They are, however, rising appropriately in importance and must be managed proactively.

The Core Bilateral Strategic Relationship

China and the United States are not in a strategic weapons arms race. Nonetheless, their modernization and sizing decisions increasingly are framed with the other in mind. Nuclear weapons are at the core of this interlocking pattern of development. In particular, China is the only permanent member of the UN Security Council expanding its arsenal; it is also enhancing its arsenal. The basic facts of Chinese strategic modernization are well known, if the details remain frustratingly opaque. China is deploying road-mobile, solid-fueled missiles, giving it a heighted degree of security in its second-strike capability. It is beginning to deploy ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). It is researching a wide range of warhead and delivery systems technologies that will lead to increased accuracy and, more pointedly, increased penetration against ballistic missile defenses. The size of China's deliverable arsenal against the United States will undoubtedly increase beyond the few dozen that it possessed recently.[1] The pace of growth thus far has been moderate, although China has only recently developed reliable, survivable delivery systems. The final endpoint remains mired in opacity and uncertainty, although several score of deliverable warheads seems likely for the near term. These developments on the strategic side are coupled with elements of conventional modernization that impinge on the strategic balance.[2]

The relevant issue, however, is not simply an evaluation of the Chinese modernization program, but rather an evaluation of the interaction of that modernization with U.S. capabilities and interests. U.S. capabilities are also changing. Under the provisions of START and SORT, the United States has continued to engage in quantitative reductions of its operational nuclear arsenal. At the same, there is ongoing updating of warhead guidance and fusing systems. Ballistic missile defense systems of a variety of footprints are being deployed. The U.S. SSBN force now leans more toward the Pacific than the Atlantic, reversing the Cold War deployment. Guam's capacity to support heavy bombers and attack submarines has been enhanced. Furthermore, advances in U.S. conventional weaponry have been so substantial that they too promise strategic effects: prompt global strike holds out the promise of a U.S. weapon on target anywhere in the world in less than an hour and B-2s with highly accurate weapons can sustain strategic effects over a campaign.

What are the concerns posed by these two programs of dynamic strategic arsenals? Most centrally, the development of the strategic forces detailed above has increasingly assumed an interlocked form. The U.S. revolution in precision guided munitions was followed by an emphasis on mobility in the Chinese missile force. U.S. missile defense systems have clearly spurred an emphasis on countermeasures in China's ICBM force and quantitative buildups in its regional missile arsenals.[3] Beijing's new submarine-based forces further enhance the security of China's second-strike capability in the face of a potential U.S. strike but are likely to lead to increased attention to anti-submarine warfare in the United States. China's recent anti-satellite test provoked a U.S. demonstration of similar capabilities. Such reciprocal responses have the potential to move toward a tightly coupled arms race and certainly have already worsened threat perceptions on each side. The potential for conflict is not simply that of inadvertent escalation; there are conflicts of interests between the two. Heightening threat perceptions in that context greatly complicates diplomacy.

Further, the dangers of inadvertent escalation have been exacerbated by some of these moves. Chinese SSBN deployment will stress an untested command-and-control system. Similar dangers in the Cold War were mitigated, although not entirely overcome, over a period of decades of development of personnel and technical solutions. China appears to have few such controls in place today. U.S. deployment of highly accurate nuclear warheads is consistent with a first-strike doctrine and seems sized for threats larger than "rogue" nations. These too would undermine stability in an intense crisis.

Prospects for Improvement?

There is no simple solution for this set of problems. The differences in national interests held by Beijing and Washington are not likely to be materially affected by Barack Obama's inauguration as president. That said, the unilateralist and anti-institutional approach to arms control that characterized the Bush administration is likely to wane. The Chinese are not currently interested in discussing traditional bilateral arms control agreements for two reasons: doing so suggests an equating of the contemporary Chinese-U.S. relationship with the Cold War standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States and the U.S. arsenal remains much larger than China's. Yet, it is wrong to expect such views to hold in perpetuity. Beijing's emphasis on ambiguity about its arsenal, which is incompatible with serious negotiations over arms control, is not a cultural predisposition toward "strategic deception" any more than was the Soviet Union's early Cold War emphasis on secrecy. Instead, these are rational strategies when nuclear arsenals are small. Intrusive verification eventually became conceivable even to hard-line Soviet leaders. Certainly, economic exhaustion contributed to that change, but so too did fundamental changes in Soviet threat perceptions.[4] Although the former seems unlikely in China in the near term, the latter is something that might be fomented.

The further development of those U.S.-Russian arms control discussions will have critical implications for China. If follow-on agreements to START and SORT include further quantitative reductions, as is likely, they will again move the U.S. arsenal toward an important rhetorical threshold that China has used to justify its own stance on bilateral arms control. This poses risks and opportunities. The opportunity to bring the other nuclear powers to the table, even informally, as the Russian-U.S. discussions progress would be a useful vehicle to elicit China's interest in serious moves in this area. The risk of enticing China to engage in an arsenal buildup to U.S. levels is not one that should be overstated. At the geostrategic level as well as in operational doctrine as it is understood, China's approach to nuclear strategy has emphasized elements that would be inconsistent with a large buildup: counter-value rather than counter-force or war-fighting doctrines, a historical tolerance of much lower arsenal sizes given a perception of the limited utility of nuclear forces, and, explicitly, avoidance of a strategic arms race. The United States can actively reduce these risks further.

Deepening engagement on nuclear and nuclear-related strategic issues would be constructive in this regard. Bilateral confidence measures between China and the United States could be discussed, particularly in the area of declaratory policy. The Chinese have often asked why the United States is unwilling to offer a no-first-use pledge. A blanket no-first-use pledge might undermine U.S. credibility in other regions. Yet, a pledge narrowly confined to the Chinese-U.S. arena would seem to have fewer costs. What benefits would the United States garner from such a pledge from Beijing? Similarly, would Beijing view positively a definitive statement that the United States accepts the existence of a Chinese secure second-strike capability? For what might the United States hope in return? These questions remain unanswered.

Other steps could move beyond diplomacy alone. Detailed discussions with China of U.S. warhead modernization plans that take Chinese concerns seriously could be constructive. Similarly, a reinvigorated U.S. effort to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) would hint at a broader return to the commitment toward multilateral arms control that characterized U.S. foreign policy under both parties throughout the Cold War. Such reinvigoration of the broader regime is critical to making progress on narrowly bilateral issues as that regime provides a global context in which Beijing views the bilateral relationship. Finally, are there aspects of the U.S. modernization program, for instance, highly accurate guidance systems on Trident II warheads, that Washington and Omaha might be willing to forgo in exchange for tacit restraint in other areas from Beijing? Precisely these sorts of trades were at the heart of important arms control agreements between the Soviets and the United States in the Cold War. Although such steps are premature today, understanding the possible parameters of such exchanges is useful for laying the groundwork for future discussions.

Certainly, some of the onus for stagnation of dialogue on such issue rests with China. Direct U.S. interaction with Chinese nuclear strategists is extremely rare, and the Bush administration is to be commended for prioritizing an official dialogue on this topic with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the Second Artillery (its nuclear force) in particular.[5] Still, even scheduling meetings has been fraught with difficulties. Most recently, Beijing used a Taiwan arms sales package as a pretext to derail official discussion of these topics. The Obama administration should advocate rapid resumption of these important confidence-building measures. At the same time, it is important for the United States to discuss Chinese concerns about U.S. plans openly and honestly. The increasing coupling of strategic modernization and development suggests this issue needs added attention from both sides.[6]

Broadened Meaning of "Strategic"

Space and missile defense are increasingly intertwined with traditional nuclear issues. U.S. missile defense certainly complicates the calculus of potential adversaries, but it also greatly complicates traditional approaches to reducing dangers of strategic weapons. International relations theory has trouble putting nuclear weapons and missile defense systems into an "offensive-defensive" dichotomy because most theorizing about nuclear weapons took place in the era of mutually assured destruction when the utility of nuclear weapons for anything other than retaliation made little sense. The space realm is clear in that area. Anti-satellite weapons are clearly offense dominant today: first-strike attacks against satellites confer great advantages, and defenses are costly and not currently deployed. This emphasizes the dangers of spirals and security dilemmas. Other issues are less straightforward. The dual-use potential for launch capabilities complicates verification of any potential arms control agreement. More broadly, communications and data collection satellites are directly connected to economic markets in ways most military technologies are not.

Beyond applying these general concerns to its own situation, Beijing sees a fairly integrated package that seems designed to undermine the security of its second-strike capability. Improved accuracy and capacity for hitting silos call into question China's older missiles. Advanced intelligence assets would be useful for tracking China's nascent mobile missile force. Accurate conventional weapons, global strike or otherwise, could reduce the scale of damage imposed on Chinese society writ large in some cases. Even a moderate-scale missile defense system-the Pentagon is planning on 50 interceptors by 2012-provides important capabilities against any surviving Chinese missiles.

The incoming Obama administration can do much to improve on existing policy. The Russians have received extensive briefings on U.S. missile defense systems and were offered the right to observe control rooms in eastern European missile defense facilities. What steps along that range might be appropriate for China? In the area of space policy, numerous small steps can be taken in terms of codes of conduct, launch notifications, noninterference pledges, and other issues.[7] Again, even discussing these issues has been quite simply off the table under the Bush administration. Chinese proposals on "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space" require much further development before they can be adequately evaluated. Several issues are critical from the U.S. perspective: the status of various missile defense technologies under that proposal, dual-use technologies, and the nature of verification in general. Still, more active U.S. diplomacy on this issue, whether at the Conference on Disarmament or in other fora, would be beneficial. An administration less wedded to complete freedom of action on missile defense technologies and scale should be willing at least to begin these discussions.

Nonproliferation: Global Regimes and Specific Cases

A global approach to nonproliferation will fail without China's active support. Bush administration policies have eroded the current system, already under stress due to globalization and the end of the Cold War. The U.S.-Indian deal on nuclear energy was highly salient for China because of its rivalry with India and friendship with Pakistan. In the North Korean case, inspections may well move forward on a bilateral basis rather than through existing global fora.

The United States can take steps to begin to repair this damage, regaining the initiative on the global nonproliferation regime. Quick ratification of the CTBT will send a positive signal. Reinvigorated diplomacy on a treaty cutting off the production of fissile material for weapons might do so as well. On that issue, however, China's objections need to be taken seriously. China's stockpile of fissile material is a miniscule fraction of that of the United States. Freezing that ratio in place in perpetuity is something China would only concede in response to other inducements. These should be discussed frankly.

Beyond these small-scale steps and more fundamentally, a new nonproliferation architecture is needed. China must be integrally involved in its design. In the wake of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal and with failures to stop proliferation in North Korea, it is unclear if the current hodgepodge of overlapping institutions (nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG], etc.) will continue to form the basis of the global approach to containing proliferation. As new global approaches are developed, it should be recognized that China's participation in the World Trade Organization and in the recent G-20 meetings on the financial crisis has generally been responsible, if not entirely to U.S. liking. In the current global context, the United States cannot dictate the design of that architecture; Beijing, as well as others, must play a constitutive role.

It should be noted that Beijing's behavior in several specific cases has improved in this regard. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has hailed Chinese leadership of the six-party talks. Chinese policy on Iran hardened notably in 2006, supporting UN Security Council Resolution 1696. In both cases, U.S. preferences would have been for still-firmer action, but the progress in Chinese policy is clearly discernable. On the other hand, China's recent apparent regression in deciding to sell additional nuclear reactors to Pakistan seemed to flout common sense and its previous commitments to the NSG. Again, however, the U.S. role in undermining the framework within which the NSG exists by pursuing the India deal is notable.

Creating the same degree of engagement and, indeed, internalization of goals that China has on North Korea in the other two cases-Iran and Pakistan-will be elusive. Iran serves important energy security needs for Beijing,[8] and Pakistan's role in traditional Chinese security concerns on its flank is substantial. Still, a U.S. nonproliferation policy that discriminates based on regime type rather than nonproliferation behavior is unlikely to resonate in authoritarian China. A creation of international institutions that can judge proliferation behavior impartially would be more successful. Chinese analysts voice increasing concern that proliferation is a problem for China rather than merely a Western concern.


It is critical that policymakers recognize the rapidly changing nature of the way foreign policy is practiced in China today. Although deep-seated strategic cultural norms are of limited utility in understanding China's policy today, the interplay between civilian and military leaders and the proliferation of inputs available to policymakers is. On arms control issues, the tensions between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the PLA strain the policy formulation process. Understanding Chinese space policy requires an immersion in the economic actors that shape PLA policy. Proliferation issues bring a different set of economic actors into the process. Even asking whether there is civilian control in any of these policy areas grossly oversimplifies. China is in the midst of substantial political change, a pluralization of actors, and a new set of political responses to a range of domestic challenges. This process complicates any interaction with China on security issues as well.

These domestic changes complicate the dynamism in the strategic arena itself. The interaction of the U.S. shift in approach toward strategic weapons coupled with modernization of China's arsenal has much potential to destabilize the relationship. Further tightening of the interlocking moves by each side has the potential to lead to an arms race, at least in qualitative terms. This would move the strategic issue to the foreground of the relationship. Given that there are pre-existing contentious issues to be dampened and more positive aspects to the relationship to be managed, this outcome would be inflammatory. Strategic nuclear competition between the two nations would be extraordinarily costly. Taking prudent steps to keep this issue out of the center of the relationship today is valuable. The policies suggested above would be important first steps in dampening dangerous dynamics in Chinese-U.S. strategic relations.



Christopher P. Twomey co-directs the Center for Contemporary Conflict and is an assistant professor in the Department of National Security Affairs, both at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He manages an annual “track II” meeting between China and the United States on strategic issues. His views are not those of any government office.


1. For a comprehensive discussion of what is known about the Chinese nuclear arsenal in open-source literature, see Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2008," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 64, No. 1 (March/April 2008), pp. 50-53.

2. For instance, a rapidly increasing conventional ballistic missile threat against Taiwan and targets further afield in Japan and Guam, a range of anti-satellite technologies, cyber warfare, and certain elements of China's "anti-access" strategies aimed at holding off U.S. carrier battle groups.

3. Chinese interlocutors speak about the role of penetration aides in this context. See Christopher P. Twomey and Kali Shelor, "U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue, 3rd Annual Meeting, Conference Report," 2008.

4. Thomas Risse-Kappen, "Ideas Do Not Float Freely: Transnational Coalitions, Domestic Structures, and the End of the Cold War," International Organization, Vol. 48, No. 2 (1994); Matthew Evangelista, "Turning Points in Arms Control," in Ending the Cold War: Interpretations, Causation, and the Study of International Relations, ed. Richard K. Herrmann and Richard Ned Lebow (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

5. The author would like to thank Brad Roberts for highlighting the importance of this point.

6. For a useful discussion of some possibilities in this regard, see Brad Roberts, "Arms Control and Sino-U.S. Strategic Stability," in Perspectives on Sino-American Strategic Nuclear Issues, ed. Christopher P. Twomey (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

7. For detailed discussions of these and others, see James Clay Moltz, The Politics of Space Security: Strategic Restraint and the Pursuit of National Interests (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008).

8. For a masterful treatment of the history of the Chinese-Iranian relationship, see John W. Garver, China and Iran : Ancient Partners in a Post-Imperial World (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006).


Many aspects of the Chinese-U.S. relationship are mutually beneficial: some $400 billion in trade, bilateral military exchanges, and Beijing's increasingly constructive diplomatic role. There are other grounds for concern. Each side's militaries view the other as a potential adversary and increasingly make plans and structure their forces with that in mind.

On the conventional side, there are many important areas to consider, but the potential for nuclear rivalry raises monumental risks. This article assesses the dangers in the bilateral nuclear relationship, the potential for traditional arms control to address these challenges, the broadening of the "strategic" military sphere, and the issue of proliferation beyond the bilateral relationship. (Continue)

Report Predicts Future Global Arms Trends

Kirsten McNeil

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) released its fourth Global Trends report on Nov. 20, timed to correspond every four years to the period of transition between presidential administrations. Chaired by Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis Thomas Fingar, the NIC is within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which sits atop the sprawling U.S. intelligence community. The "Global Trends 2025" report aims to identify key strategic drivers in the global system that could shape the issues facing the new administration and to guide policymakers toward a broad view of the world.

The report addressed weapons proliferation as well as other global issues, such as climate change and economic trends. Broadly speaking, the report predicts that China and India will see an increase in their relative power, shifting the international system to a multipolar scheme rather than the current unipolar one. The United States will continue to remain the most powerful country but will see a relative decrease as these other states rise in stature. Up-and-coming states such as Indonesia, Iran, and Turkey will also be major drivers in the system.

At a Nov. 20 press conference, Fingar warned that "[i]f Iran were to go nuclear, there could be a regional arms race. If one of the states that has the capability elects to proliferate...we could have a problem. And it's not too hard to imagine regimes having access to a weapon without the kind of fail-safe controls that we have [and] the Russians have."

More broadly, the report goes on to state, "[f]uture asymmetries in conventional military capabilities among potential rivals might tempt weak states to view nuclear weapons as a necessary and justifiable defense in response to the threat of overwhelming conventional attacks."

During the period, conventional weapons are predicted to be of increasing importance for terrorists, who are expected to seek advanced tactical weapons, such as anti-tank missiles and man-portable weapon systems. The current spread of improvised explosive devices and inexpensive robotics and sensors is expected to continue. The study characterizes warfare in the year 2025 as increasingly asymmetric, nonmilitary, and reliant on information.

Overall, the report tells a cautionary tale based on the spread of different kinds of weapons systems in conjunction with expanding and evolving reasons for conflict to occur among states. As the report notes, "[T]raditional security concerns are declining in importance but may be replaced by new issues, such as competition over resources."




The National Intelligence Council (NIC) released its fourth Global Trends report on Nov. 20, timed to correspond every four years to the period of transition between presidential administrations. Chaired by Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis Thomas Fingar, the NIC is within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which sits atop the sprawling U.S. intelligence community. The "Global Trends 2025" report aims to identify key strategic drivers in the global system that could shape the issues facing the new administration and to guide policymakers toward a broad view of the world. (Continue)

Long-Delayed Arms Sales to Taiwan Announced

Kirsten McNeil

The Bush administration notified Congress Oct. 3 that it plans to sell more than $6.4 billion in military equipment to Taiwan, triggering sharp criticism from China, which believes that the move would violate bilateral assurances made by Washington to decrease arms transfers to Taiwan.

According to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the bulk of the planned U.S. sale would include 330 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles and 30 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, as well as 182 Javelin guided anti-tank missiles, 32 submarine-launched Harpoon missiles, spare parts for F-16s and other fighter aircraft, and upgrades for four E-2T Hawkeye 2000 early-warning aircraft. The proposed package does not include new F-16 fighter jets or submarines, about which Beijing has been particularly concerned.

Congress has 30 days to review and possibly object to the transfers. The sales will only be finalized after formal agreements are signed between Taiwan and the United States.

China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province, protested the planned sales by canceling or postponing senior-level military visits and humanitarian exchanges with the United States and blocking U.S. military ships from entering Chinese ports. Beijing filed a formal complaint and has called for the deals to be canceled.

As with past U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, China accused the United States of violating a provision in the Sino-U.S. Joint Communiqué of 1982, which states that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will decrease in quantity, frequency, and scope based on the levels of that time. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao issued a statement Oct. 6 calling for the United States to “stop disturbing the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, so as to prevent further damage to the Sino-U.S. relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Department of State deputy spokesperson Robert Wood on Oct. 8 called the Chinese reaction to the latest announcement “unfortunate,” and the Pentagon defended the arms sales as defensive in nature. Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the United States has stated that it is U.S. policy to provide arms for the defense of Taiwan, even though the United States has not formally signed a defense treaty with Taiwan.

By holding off on the sale of F-16s and submarines, however, the United States has avoided transferring the most lethal technologies to Taiwan and the equipment that most worried China.

The Bush administration has been trying to carry out some of the arms sales since 2001, but political wrangling in Taiwan and U.S. fears of upsetting China at a time it is playing a crucial role in nuclear talks with North Korea have helped delay most of the sales. An April 2001 package advanced by President George W. Bush included offers to sell Taiwan eight diesel submarines, 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, torpedoes, missiles, helicopters, amphibious vehicles, howitzers and four destroyers. However, in 2001, Bush deferred decisions on requests from Taiwan for Aegis-equipped destroyers, Abrams tanks, and Apache helicopters.

In the seven years since the 2001 announcements, some arms sales from the United States were rejected during the political process in Taiwan because of objections from Taiwan’s parliament or judicial system. Within the Taiwan legislature, heated debates occurred over the island’s defense budget, defensive strategy, funding priorities, and differing perceptions of relations with China.

In the period between the 2001 announcement and Oct. 3 announcement, some more limited arms sales did go forward. Twenty arms sales notifications were published by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, including those related to several missile systems, early-warning radars, aircraft, and destroyers. Nonetheless, according to a Dec. 20, 2007, Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, actual deliveries of U.S. arms to Taiwan have been decreasing but are still significant. During 1999-2002, deliveries to Taiwan totaled $5.8 billion; during 2003-2006, $4.1 billion; and in 2006, $970 million.

An opportunity to move forward with some of the sales emerged after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, ending the eight-year reign of the Democratic Progressive Party and re-establishing the historically dominant Kuomintang (Chinese nationalist) party. In contrast to his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, Ma has taken a more conciliatory approach toward Beijing and has eased tensions with China by downplaying the issues of Taiwan’s status and formal designation.

Nevertheless, in a statement released on his Web site, Ma welcomed the deal, stating, “We feel that [the Oct. 3] announcement by the U.S. administration marks an end to the turmoil in Taiwan-U.S. relations of the past eight years and also represents the beginning of a new era in peace and security, as well as mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States.”

Although the original 2001 announcements included diesel submarines (see ACT, May 2001), the most recent arms sales announcements did not. The prospect of Taiwan acquiring diesel submarines has raised strong opposition in China and debate over whether these would be considered defensive weapons systems. As noted in a 2008 CRS report, the U.S. Navy accepted a proposal from the Taiwan legislature in 2007 to “start the design phase” for these submarines. The Department of Defense also noted in its most recent annual report on Chinese military power, released March 3, 2008, that the Taiwan legislature after years of delay passed a 2007 defense budget that included “funding for a study that would produce a diesel submarine design.”

The same Defense Department report details the current status of forces surrounding Taiwan. Chinese naval and air forces have an advantage in numbers, except in coastal missile boats and fighters. China has been building up short-range missiles on the coast across the Taiwan Strait at a rate of about 100 additional missiles per year, with current force levels around 1,000 short-range missiles. Ostensibly, the 330 PAC-3 missiles could be used to provide some defense against the mainland’s short-range missiles.

Wendy Morigi, a spokesperson for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), Oct. 8 welcomed the arms sale package, calling it “an important response to Taiwan’s defense needs. This action is fully consistent with U.S. obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. The sale helps to contribute to Taiwan’s defense and the maintenance of a healthy balance in the Taiwan Strait.”

On Oct. 7, the Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), said the proposed sales do not go far enough because they do not include submarines or new F-16 aircraft. “I urge the administration to reconsider this decision, in light of its previous commitment to provide submarines and America’s previous sales of F-16s,” McCain said.

The Bush administration notified Congress Oct. 3 that it plans to sell more than $6.4 billion in military equipment to Taiwan, triggering sharp criticism from China, which believes that the move would violate bilateral assurances made by Washington to decrease arms transfers to Taiwan.

According to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the bulk of the planned U.S. sale would include 330 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles and 30 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, as well as 182 Javelin guided anti-tank missiles, 32 submarine-launched Harpoon missiles, spare parts for F-16s and other fighter aircraft, and upgrades for four E-2T Hawkeye 2000 early-warning aircraft. The proposed package does not include new F-16 fighter jets or submarines, about which Beijing has been particularly concerned. (Continue)

Type, Targets of Sanctions Shift in Bush Administration

Wade Boese

In September, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed proliferation sanctions on 25 Iranian entities. Enacted under Executive Order 13382, the sanctions freeze any U.S. assets of the accused and prohibit them from engaging in U.S. financial or commercial activities.

The sanctions are the latest installment in a series the Treasury Department has imposed during President George W. Bush’s second term on entities allegedly assisting or engaged in the acquisition or sale of unconventional weapons, related materials, or missiles. At the same time, the Department of State, which spearheaded the drive to reinvigorate sanctions during Bush’s first term, has increasingly taken a back seat. The changes parallel a shift in the target of sanctions: over the course of the administration, sanctions have decreased against Chinese entities and increased against Iranian entities.

Current and former U.S. government officials familiar with Bush administration sanctions offer various explanations for the shifting trends, including personnel changes, bureaucratic battles, modified Chinese behavior, and the introduction of Executive Order 13382. Some of the officials contend the trends do not reflect conscious policy choices, but some former officials say that as time passed, the administration has moderated its sanctions approach on Chinese entities in a bid to win China’s cooperation in dealing with Iran and North Korea.

The Bush Administration Sanctions Record

Since taking office, the Bush administration has imposed sanctions related to unconventional weapons and missile proliferation 278 times against 197 foreign entities and one U.S. entity, a subsidiary of a Chinese company. Many foreign entities have been sanctioned multiple times, such as North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corp., which has been penalized on nine separate occasions.

The number of sanctions invoked annually by the Bush administration has oscillated but averages about 35 times per year. In comparison, the Clinton administration averaged eight sanctions annually, according to June 4, 2003, testimony to the House International Relations Committee by John Bolton, then undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

The dramatic rise in sanctions under the Bush administration compared to its predecessor was no coincidence but stemmed from a concerted push by Bolton, who held his undersecretary post for Bush’s first term, and other administration officials, several of whom had been Republican congressional staffers who were strong proponents of sanctions. They saw sanctions as a useful tool to punish and stigmatize proliferators and criticized the Clinton administration for not utilizing them more. Top Clinton administration officials often saw sanctions as too confrontational, potentially damaging to bilateral relations, and not always constructive in getting undesirable behavior changed. Instead, the Clinton administration tended to rely more on demarches, which are formal diplomatic notes, to inform foreign governments of activities that it wanted ceased. (See ACT, September 2003.)

Bolton indicated soon after he became undersecretary in May 2001 that he wanted to “go after sellers and sanction harshly,” a former U.S. government official told Arms Control Today in a Sept. 19 interview. Another former official in an interview the same day said, “Bolton was big on sanctions.”

Bolton encouraged the bureaus reporting to him to scour intelligence information for activities that mandated sanctions. Christopher Ford, who left government in September after serving as the U.S. special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, e-mailed Arms Control Today Sept. 19 that Bolton’s hard-driving approach on sanctions stemmed from his interest in both curbing proliferation and fulfilling statutory requirements that he and others alleged the Clinton administration had shirked or had been too lax in implementing.

A Tale of Two Terms

Bolton’s eagerness to employ sanctions during the Bush administration’s first term produced a large jump in penalties, particularly on Chinese entities. Sixty-two of the 108 sanctions (57 percent) levied in that span by the State Department involved Chinese entities.

Although the sanctions did not identify who was receiving the goods, general speculation centered on Iranian importers, given that many of the sanctions stemmed from the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 and the Iran-Iraq Nonproliferation Act of 1992. Those laws focused more on punishing exporters than importers. Only two Iranian entities were sanctioned during the administration’s first four years.

Bush in March 2005 nominated Bolton to serve as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. After a grueling five-month process during which lawmakers refused to confirm him to the post, the president gave Bolton a recess appointment, which ended in 2006. (See ACT, January/February 2007; September 2005.)

During its second term, the Bush administration has sanctioned 170 entities, 62 more than during its first term. But 106 of the sanctions emanated from the Treasury Department, which was empowered in June 2005 to take a more active role in proliferation sanctions when the president issued Executive Order 13382. (See ACT, September 2005.) That order authorized the department, working with other government agencies, to block the U.S. assets of entities judged to be engaged in or assisting proliferation, as well as the U.S. assets of foreign banks that do not follow the U.S. lead.

The State Department levied the other 64 second-term sanctions, 44 less than during Bolton’s tenure as undersecretary. A U.S. official, however, told Arms Control Today Sept. 18 that the State Department was on the verge of imposing several more sanctions.

The administration’s sanctions also differed between the first and second terms in their targets. Iranian entities accounted for 96 of the 170 second-term sanctions, or 56 percent. On the other hand, Chinese entities in the same period were slapped with 16 sanctions, a quarter of the number in the administration’s first term.

Explaining the Shifts

All the current and past officials interviewed by Arms Control Today agreed that Bolton’s departure from the State Department in 2005 influenced to some degree the drop-off in sanctions it issued. Most also noted that his successors, Robert Joseph and John Rood, view sanctions as important but of lower priority than other goals.

Ford observed that Bolton seemed to have a “taste and flair for effective bureaucratic infighting,” helping ensure not only that the bureaus reporting to him followed his intent to rigorously apply sanctions laws, but also in outmaneuvering other State Department bureaus that worried such penalties might jeopardize relations with the government whose entities might be sanctioned. For instance, Lawrence Wilkerson, an aide to first-term Secretary of State Colin Powell and no fan of Bolton, told Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff on May 6, 2005, that the East Asia and Pacific Bureau “didn’t like” the many sanctions against China when the United States was “trying to negotiate with North Korea and have China be a very meaningful player in that negotiation.” Ford and Carolyn Leddy, who worked at the State Department before becoming director for counterproliferation strategy on the National Security Council (NSC) from July 2006 to November 2007, suggested that, with Bolton’s absence, the State Department bureaus skeptical of sanctions prevailed more frequently in intradepartmental struggles.

As the State Department’s focus on sanctions waned after Bolton, the Treasury Department’s proliferation sanction activities expanded through Executive Order 13382. The allure of “financial sanctions” received a boost in the eyes of many administration officials when the Treasury Department in September 2005 succeeded in getting a Macau-based bank, Banco Delta Asia, to freeze some North Korean accounts after designating the bank a “money laundering concern.” (See ACT, April 2006.)

Although North Korea eventually succeeded in getting the funds released, some foreign banking institutions in the interim had curtailed their activities with North Korea and Banco Delta Asia. That ripple effect pleasantly surprised Bush administration officials because the sanctions imposed through the State Department typically had not been replicated abroad. Sanctions triggered by the laws administered by the State Department generally prohibit the accused from U.S. trade or aid. Sanctions critics note that such penalties are often symbolic because most entities sanctioned generally do not trade with or receive aid from the United States in the first place.

Leddy stated in a Sept. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “when I was at the NSC, Treasury certainly was the go-to department to get anything done.” She added that Stuart Levey, the undersecretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, and his staff have “a real dedication and belief in the power of these financial tools.”

Some of the current and past officials also speculated that the Treasury Department’s growing role in sanctions could reflect that Executive Order 13382 sanctions are procedurally and bureaucratically easier to invoke than the laws that the State Department implements. Sanctions under the executive order require a determination by the Treasury Department or other agencies that an entity is engaged in or assisting proliferation, while the State Department must be satisfied that its determinations meet the criteria and intent of laws passed by Congress. The current official interviewed Sept. 18 also said that executive order determinations appear less reliant on secret intelligence, making it more feasible to levy sanctions without alerting proliferators to possible U.S. intelligence sources or methods.

The executive order also enables the U.S. government to go after the buyers or recipients of alleged proliferation transactions more than previous laws, which were focused on punishing the sellers. Many of the individuals interviewed by Arms Control Today saw this as a factor in the rise of sanctions on Iranian entities, in addition to the greater international scrutiny on Iran after the exposure of its clandestine nuclear activities in 2002.
One former State Department official e-mailed Arms Control Today Sept. 22 that the rise in Iranian sanctions was “in essence a decision to begin sanctioning as a political signaling mechanism, both to tell Iran that we knew what was up…[and] to signal to third parties that [the sanctioned entities] were bad news and that [the third parties] were vulnerable if they traded with the Iranian front companies.”

Less agreement existed among the current and former officials on why sanctions on Chinese entities have decreased. Almost all said that China’s proliferation record improved, but some suggested that the Bush administration also has become more lenient in sanctioning Chinese entities.

In May 20 testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Patricia McNerney, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, gave a mixed assessment of Chinese proliferation. She charged that “a number of Chinese entities continue to supply items and technologies useful in weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, and advanced conventional weapons to regimes of concern.” At the same time, she said some oft-sanctioned Chinese entities, namely NORINCO and the China Great Wall Industry Co., have taken steps to prevent “inadvertent transactions” that could contribute to proliferation. A month later, the Treasury Department lifted Executive Order 13382 sanctions against the latter company, stating that it had “implemented a rigorous and thorough compliance program to prevent future dealings with Iran.”

Still, two of the former U.S. officials contend that Chinese behavior had not improved so much to justify a falloff in sanctions. Instead, one of them argued Sept. 19 that the administration in its latter years has sought to “make nice with the Chinese” and “avoid antagonizing the Chinese because of the desire for support on North Korea and Iran.” The other former official concurred, telling Arms Control Today Sept. 20 that there had been “some effort to soften [sanctions] to win Chinese support” in negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear programs. The first official condemned the perceived change in approach as “not only false, but foolish.”

Matthew Levitt, who served from 2005 to 2007 as the deputy assistant secretary of treasury for intelligence and analysis, cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the numbers of sanctions imposed on the entities of one country or another. He e-mailed Arms Control Today Sept. 17 that “there are real world issues that drive these decisions and in many cases decisions are taken not to take [sanctions] but another kind of action.”

Do Sanctions Matter?

Almost all the officials interviewed by Arms Control Today positively assessed the consequences of the Bush administration’s increased use of sanctions compared with that of its predecessor. Ford recalled that although he saw a considerable amount of incoming information on “problematic transfers by Chinese entities” when he arrived in 2003 at the State Department, the flow of reporting on such matters diminished over time, suggesting the sanctions were working. He conceded that some of the change might have been due to Chinese entities getting better at “concealing” their activities, but he maintained that U.S. sanctions certainly played a role in the decrease.

Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, said in June 26, 2007, remarks at a Washington conference that U.S. sanctions combined with various UN Security Council resolutions on Iran and North Korea “have prompted many businesses and institutions around the world to scale down or terminate completely their dealing with proliferators.” Similarly, in a Sept. 10 briefing on the imposition of additional sanctions under Executive Order 13382, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told reporters that the sanctions “are having an impact” but added that “much of what we know is based on intelligence that we can’t really discuss in an open briefing.” The Treasury Department has not released any totals for the amount of assets frozen under Executive Order 13382.

In a December 2007 report on sanctions against Iran, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which conducts studies for Congress, concluded it was difficult to judge sanction results. The GAO noted that several big European banks had followed the U.S. sanctions lead in curbing business with certain Iranian entities, but the agency also stated “the extent of [sanctions] impacts is difficult to determine.” The agency added that the Treasury Department’s assessment that Iran continues to pursue nuclear and missile capabilities “reinforces our finding that the overall impact of sanctions is unclear.”

Corrected online November 4, 2008. See explanation.

In September, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed proliferation sanctions on 25 Iranian entities. Enacted under Executive Order 13382, the sanctions freeze any U.S. assets of the accused and prohibit them from engaging in U.S. financial or commercial activities.

The sanctions are the latest installment in a series the Treasury Department has imposed during President George W. Bush’s second term on entities allegedly assisting or engaged in the acquisition or sale of unconventional weapons, related materials, or missiles. At the same time, the Department of State, which spearheaded the drive to reinvigorate sanctions during Bush’s first term, has increasingly taken a back seat. The changes parallel a shift in the target of sanctions: over the course of the administration, sanctions have decreased against Chinese entities and increased against Iranian entities. (Continue)

Chinese Arms Shipment Sparks Outrage

Jeff Abramson and Jessica Lasky-Fink

In April, South African dockworkers refused to unload a Chinese cargo ship carrying more than 70 tons of small arms destined for Zimbabwe. The refusal set off international reactions that led to the recall of the shipment and calls for stronger international arms trade measures, such as a global arms trade treaty.

The shipment, including three million rounds of ammunition for AK47s and 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, was meant to be unloaded at Durban, South Africa, and transported overland to land-locked Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has experienced increasing political strife since March parliamentary and presidential elections in which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change claimed victory over the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party. In light of escalating tensions in Zimbabwe, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) declared that its port members would not unload the ship's cargo for fear that the weapons would contribute to internal repression. SATAWU instead called for the ship to return to China with the arms onboard and for a peaceful solution to be sought to the political instability in Zimbabwe.

SATAWU is affiliated with the International Transport Workers Federation, which expressed full support for the union's actions and continued to track the ship's movements. After being rebuffed from South Africa, the ship sailed to and docked in Angola where it only unloaded construction materials, according to transport union officials.

Initially, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson defended the shipment, saying it was part of normal trade between two sovereign countries. The ZANU-PF also defended their right to buy weapons from any legal source. China announced April 24 that because it could not deliver the arms shipment, the Chinese company responsible for the ship was recalling its vessel.

International Reaction

The incident generated international outcry and raised further questions about the export of arms to countries with dubious democracy records or that are engaged in civil war.

Zambia, which currently chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC), urged regional states to prohibit the ship from entering their waters. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa voiced his belief April 21 that the "Chinese can play a very useful role in Zimbabwe without the use of arms."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown went a step further April 23 and called for a worldwide arms embargo on Zimbabwe. The next day, U.S. ambassadors and other Department of State officials called the idea a "good one" that "[t]he United States will consider seriously." On April 29, EU foreign ministers followed with their own appeal to China, African nations, and others to ban the supply or sale of arms and related equipment that could exacerbate political tensions in Zimbabwe.

The UN Security Council met at the end of April to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe but failed to agree on an appropriate course of action. Any resolution regarding Zimbabwe must be agreed on by all five permanent members of the Security Council, including China, which is one of Zimbabwe's main trade partners and allies.

Although there is no UN-sponsored arms embargo on Zimbabwe, the 27-member European Union has unilaterally implemented a sanctions regime on the Mugabe government. The EU first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 in response to the perceived breakdown of the rule of law and human rights violations under the rule of ZANU-PF. The measures adopted in 2002 have since been renewed and include an embargo on the sale of arms to Zimbabwe and the freezing of personal assets of and travel restrictions on senior members of government and other high-ranking officials.

In an op-ed published in early May, South African Nobel Peace Prize-winner Desmond Tutu explicitly linked the incident with a call for a global arms trade treaty now under discussion. He wrote that "[a]t the moment the UN is working on an arms trade treaty that could stop weapons transfers such as this one to Zimbabwe. If a strong treaty eventually becomes law, then an arms exporter will have to block the sale if there is evidence the weapons are likely to be used to commit serious violations of human rights law."

As part of a UN-sponsored process, a group of government experts from 28 countries are conducting a study of the "feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." (See ACT, March 2008.) That group has met twice, with a final meeting to take place July 28-Aug. 8.

It is unclear whether a treaty that might eventually result from the process would have stopped the shipment to Zimbabwe. According to a U.S. official who spoke with Arms Control Today May 22, a future arms trade treaty's reporting mechanism will probably call for notification after a transfer rather than prior to it. As such, the requirements may resemble the now voluntary UN Register of Conventional Arms, to which about 120 countries currently file a report. (See ACT, September and November 2007.)

The U.S. official also suggested that states participating in an arms trade treaty are unlikely to place absolute limits on their arms transfer decisions. Instead, eventual states-parties would more likely commit to taking certain factors into consideration when making arms trade decisions, but ultimately choose to engage in trade based on national prerogatives. (See ACT, November 2005.)

Whether or not an arms trade treaty emerges from the incident, the U.S. official praised the outcome of the standoff: "It is a positive development that neighbors got involved to take action. It goes to the old adage that talk is cheap, action is dear."

In April, South African dockworkers refused to unload a Chinese cargo ship carrying more than 70 tons of small arms destined for Zimbabwe. The refusal set off international reactions that led to the recall of the shipment and calls for stronger international arms trade measures, such as a global arms trade treaty.

The shipment, including three million rounds of ammunition for AK47s and 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, was meant to be unloaded at Durban, South Africa, and transported overland to land-locked Zimbabwe. (Continue)

Hotline to Link U.S.-Chinese Militaries

Jeremy Patterson

The Department of Defense has negotiated a landmark new communications hotline between the U.S. military and the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, while it continues to keep a watchful eye on China’s growing military capabilities.

Defense Department officials announced Feb. 29 that they had formally agreed to implement the long-discussed Defense Telephone Link (DTL) with China. The agreement comes after years of talks between the two sides. Hotline talks were given a boost last September when President George W. Bush raised the issue directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The link was discussed again when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited China in November and at an annual bilateral meeting of undersecretary-level defense representatives in Washington in December.

The formal agreement was reached in Shanghai during a meeting of representatives at the deputy assistant secretary level. In a statement to Arms Control Today March 17, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder said that “the agreement will allow us to move forward on installing the actual equipment in the next few weeks. We anticipate the DTL will become operational this month.” A Chinese spokesperson refused to commit to a specific date when asked at a March 4 press conference, although he did express hopes that the new connection would “enhance political mutual trust, exchanges, and cooperation.”

At the Shanghai talks, the United States and China also agreed to move forward with their nuclear strategy and policy dialogue. In March 3 remarks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Sedney, who negotiated the final hotline agreement, said “we do have a process in place now. This process was proposed by the PLA [Chinese military], and the first part of that will be a discussion between Chinese military officers and Chinese military academics and counterparts here in the U.S. And we expect that to happen in the next month or so… maybe two months.”

The hotline and nuclear strategy talks are part of a multiyear effort to enhance openness in the troubled relationship between the two military establishments. The Defense Department is eager to learn more about the Chinese military, including better understanding Beijing’s military philosophy, and command and control structures.

Report on Chinese Military Power

The Defense Department’s 2008 Military Power of China report, released March 3, also underscores Washington’s continuing uncertainty about Chinese procedures and intentions. The annual report asserts that the “lack of transparency in China’s military and security affairs poses risks to stability by increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

This year’s report notes several new developments in China’s nuclear capabilities, including the deployment of fewer than 10 each of the new solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF-31A ICBMs. These missiles’ enhanced mobility and quicker launch times make them less vulnerable than the older, liquid-fueled CSS-3 and CSS-4 missiles that are being phased out. The liquid-fueled missiles must be held in position and fueled before they can be launched, a process that takes several hours during which they are vulnerable to disarming strikes. The report asserts that the enhanced mobility enabled by the new missiles will create new command and control challenges for the Chinese leadership.

The report says that China continues to deploy 20 CSS-4 ICBMs. The DF-31A and CSS-4 are the only Chinese ICBMs capable of targeting the continental United States. In contrast, the United States maintains approximately 450 ICBMs and 430 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that can strike the Chinese mainland.

The Pentagon also reports a substantial increase in CSS-5 deployments. The CSS-5 is a shorter-range, solid-fueled, road-mobile missile for regional use and is expected to fully replace the aging CSS-2 by 2010. CSS-5 deployment has increased from 40-50 missiles with 34-38 launchers last year to 60-80 missiles with 60 launchers this year. Because the report notes that China is preparing a conventionally armed version of the CSS-5, however, it is possible that some of these do not have nuclear missions.

The report also indicates that China is researching technologies for its ballistic missile forces that would counter potential ballistic missile defenses, such as those being developed by the United States. (See ACT, November 2007 .) These include maneuverable re-entry vehicles, multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles, decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and anti-satellite weapons.

China also appears to be improving its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) capabilities. The report indicated that one JIN-class (Type 094) SSBN may soon enter service, although publicly available satellite imagery suggests the existence of at least two of the new submarines.

The report estimates that up to five JIN-class submarines may be deployed by 2010, reflecting for the first time a December 2006 estimate by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence. The JIN-class submarine will carry the JL-2 SLBM, which the Pentagon expects will reach initial operational capability by 2010.

China has built only one of its previous-generation XIA-class SSBNs equipped with JL-1 SLBMs. The 2008 report now lists the operational status of that submarine as “questionable.”

The report indicates that China has also acquired an uncertain number of cruise missiles. It estimates that China now has 50 to 250 indigenously produced DH-10s. By 2010 the report says new air- and ground-launched cruise missiles “could perform nuclear missions.”

Although new Chinese budgetary figures were not available at the time of the report’s publication, the Pentagon’s report continues to criticize China’s alleged underreporting of its military spending. Historically, the Defense Department has estimated that China’s actual military spending is roughly two to three times the official number reported by the Chinese. China released its claimed 2008 military spending March 4, the day after the Pentagon released its report. China said it would spend $59 billion on its military in 2008, a 17.6 percent increase over the 2007 figure. In contrast, the U.S. military budget in fiscal year 2008, which ends Sept. 30, is $481.4 billion, not including funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense has negotiated a landmark new communications hotline between the U.S. military and the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, while it continues to keep a watchful eye on China’s growing military capabilities.

Defense Department officials announced Feb. 29 that they had formally agreed to implement the long-discussed Defense Telephone Link (DTL) with China. The agreement comes after years of talks between the two sides. Hotline talks were given a boost last September when President George W. Bush raised the issue directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The link was discussed again when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited China in November and at an annual bilateral meeting of undersecretary-level defense representatives in Washington in December. (Continue)


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