Getting to Zero Update

6 May 2009

 

BASIC and Getting to Zero (GTZ)

Marked by the US President's landmark speech in Prague and increased diplomacy in Russian and US arms control, April was a busy month for Getting to Zero. BASIC organized events for officials on both sides of the Atlantic to examine the possibilities for moving down a nuclear weapon-free path and what the movement may mean for overall transatlantic security.

In partnership with the New America Foundation (NAF), BASIC hosted its first of a series of breakfast discussions on NATO's nuclear posture within the context of its Strategic Concept review. The meeting was held at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC on April 3 with around 30 participants - including representatives from NATO-member embassies and US government offices. Ambassador James Goodby (BASIC Board Member) and Dr Morton Halperin (Center for American Progress and member of the Congressional Commission on the US Strategic Posture) started off the meeting by sharing their viewpoints on the Obama administration's approach to nuclear weapons and what it could mean for NATO's nuclear weapons policies. BASIC's Executive Director, Paul Ingram, and Deputy Director of NAF's American Strategy Program, Patrick Doherty, also made opening remarks. Separate table discussions then addressed nuclear sharing, threat perceptions, and strategic concept priorities. BASIC Advisor Ambassador Robert Barry concluded the session.

BASIC also co-hosted with NATO Watch, ISIS Europe a two-day civil society Shadow NATO Summit: Options for NATO: Pressing the Re-Set Button on the Strategic Concept, in Brussels on March 31 - April 1. Sessions covered a wide variety of topics around the future of the Alliance, and ways to improve its contribution to human security within the wider Europe-Atlantic area. BASIC's Executive Director, Paul Ingram debated NATO's nuclear posture and the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons with Guy Roberts, NATO's Assistant Secretary General for WMD on the second day.

Publications

  • NATO nuclear burden sharing and NPT obligations
    Laura Spagnuolo, BASIC,GTZ Paper, Number 13, April 23, 2009
  • Obama's nuclear diplomacy
    Chris Lindborg, BASIC, GTZ Paper, Number 12, April 22, 2009

 

Commitments to Disarmament and Arms Control

NPT opening statements: The third and final Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) before the 2010 nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference convened at UN Headquarters in New York on May 4, and will run until May 15. Given the painfully slow adoption of agenda in the past, there are encouraging signs of progress at this Prep Com.

On May 5, Rose Gottemoeller, leader of the US delegation, delivered the US opening statement, which included a message from President Barack Obama and carried over some of the key points from his speech in Prague on April 5 (see below). Assistant Secretary of State Gottemoeller explained that the US administration is prioritizing the negotiation of a follow-up to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and drafting a Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty. She called for "universal adherence" to the NPT, increased funding to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assure compliance with the Treaty, "consequences" for those who withdrew from it without cause or who violated its terms, and proposed a global campaign to secure all nuclear material. On the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Gottemoeller reaffirmed the Obama administration's pledge to donate nearly $50 million to the IAEA for the creation of an international fuel bank. Perhaps the most surprising element of her speech was the explicit recommitment from the US administration to decisions made at the 1995 Review Conference, which included the Middle East resolution, and the 13 steps at the 2000 Review Conference. She did caution, however, that global circumstances have changed since those decisions were made.

For further developments at this conference, consult the following sources:

 

US President makes landmark speech

US President Barack Obama delivered an historic speech in Prague calling on the international community to cooperate in abolishing nuclear weapons and outlining the priorities of his administration on this agenda, citing the threats of nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of weapons technology to more states. He acknowledged that the goal may take many decades, and qualified his call for abolition by reaffirming his commitment to deterrence "as long as [nuclear] weapons exist." President Obama announced that he will seek to negotiate a fissile material treaty, and called for a "new framework for civilian nuclear cooperation," including the creation of an international fuel bank. As in earlier speeches, he combined this approach with a call for more pressure against countries that violate or withdraw from the NPT, singling out North Korea and warning Iran. To secure nuclear material and stop nuclear black markets, he called for the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism to be made into permanent institutions.

 

Obama and Medvedev make joint declaration before G20 Summit in London; START follow-up

Following their first meeting together on April 1 in London before the G20 Summit, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev issued a joint statement laying out a new ambitious agenda for US-Russian relations. They committed their countries to forging a replacement agreement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is due to expire at the end of the year. The two presidents vowed to "demonstrate leadership in reducing the level of nuclear weapons in the world," acknowledging the ultimate goal of reaching zero, though they did not specify the level of reductions that they aim to achieve. They also gave strong support to the IAEA and the NPT in dealing with proliferation and the threat of nuclear terrorism. (The meeting had been preceded by an op-ed by Medvedev published in the Washington Post calling for increased cooperation between the two powers). Obama also stated that he would work to have the CTBT ratified.

On April 24 in Rome, Rose Gottemoeller, US Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, met with Anatoly Antonov, Chief of Security and Disarmament Issues at the Russian Foreign Ministry, to discuss procedural issues around the negotiations to draft a successor to START. At the press conference afterward, Gottemoeller said that they planned to have a report prepared by July, as ordered by Obama and Medvedev. Antonov expressed his hope that the new treaty will help strengthen the international movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller told Interfax news service on May 4 that the United States would be willing to address strategic delivery vehicles in addition to nuclear warheads in the follow-up agreement (as well as indicating a willingness to reconsider the positioning of anti-ballistic missile defenses). Russian officials have been saying that including delivery vehicles in the next treaty would be critical to forging an agreement, but the US position had previously been unclear.

 

Foreign Minister wants US nuclear weapons out of Germany

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a candidate for Chancellor in the September general elections, announced that he hopes President Obama will start his campaign toward a nuclear-free world by removing US tactical nuclear weapons that are thought to remain in Germany. Steinmeier said that the weapons are "militarily obsolete." Steinmeier's position contrasts with that of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has indicated her support for maintaining the weapons in Germany as part of NATO's nuclear sharing arrangements.

 

Nuclear Disarmament Conference Held in Rome

On April 16 and 17 in Rome, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nuclear Security Project (NSP), and the World Political Forum (WPF) jointly sponsored a conference on nuclear disarmament. During the conference, which was titled "Overcoming Nuclear Dangers," formr Soviet leader and current WPF chairman Mikhail Gorbachev asserted that US superiority in conventional military capabilities would be an "insurmountable obstacle" to the abolition of nuclear weapons unless addressed. Despite this warning, Gorbachev indicated that he was optimistic about the prospects for ridding the world of nuclear weapons, although he conceded that it may not happen in his lifetime.

Former US Secretary of State George Shultz, who headed the American delegation to the conference, called on his fellow Republicans who are in the US Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). While defending their decision to reject the treaty when it was introduced by then-President Bill Clinton in 1999, he explained that technological advancements since then should moot their previous objections. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini added that the entry into force of the CTBT will be crucial to strengthening international disarmament initiatives.

 

IAEA fails to nominate new director

In March, the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors failed to name a successor to outgoing Director Mohamed ElBaradei, who will step down in November. Neither of the top two candidates, Yukiya Amano of Japan nor Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa, secured the necessary two-thirds majority to win. The IAEA's new list includes both Amano and Minty, and three additional nominees: Luis Echivarri of Spain, Ernest Petric of Slovenia, and Mr. Jean-Pol Poncelet of Belgium.

 

Regional Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty ratified in Central Asia

On March 21 the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty - signed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - took effect. It is the first treaty of its kind among former Soviet states as well as the first in the Northern Hemisphere. Under the terms of the Treaty, member nations are prohibited from researching, developing, producing, or storing nuclear weapons. It also requires member states to adopt the IAEA Additional Protocol and ratify the CTBT. Civilian nuclear programs are permitted, but each nation must protect nuclear material and facilities within its borders. Member states are also obligated to attend annual meetings to discuss implementation. The United States, Britain, and France have not recognized the treaty, citing concerns that its provisions could allow Russia to ship nuclear weapons to treaty member states, using military assistance as justification.

 

Further Reading

 

Country Reports

United States

Congressional Commission on the US Strategic Posture releases final report

On May 6, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, led by Dr. William J. Perry and Dr. James R. Schlesinger, published its final report. The 12-member bi-partisan group of prominent experts and former officials pointed to the changing security environment since the end of the Cold War, which they contend has led to a significant reduction in the role (and number) of nuclear weapons and said that "this process can continue, assuming that Russia is willing to remain involved in the process." However, the Commission said that the nuclear posture must now meet a number of emerging threats, both to the United States and its allies, in a complex global environment. The group reaffirmed the need "to maintain a safe, secure and reliable [nuclear] deterrent" for the time being. Lamenting the previous handling of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) issue, the Commission warned that the Stockpile Stewardship Program and the Life Extension Program "cannot be counted on for the indefinite future." The Commission was notable for its lack of an "agreed position" on whether to support the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), as well as its lack of consensus on the vision and the long-term prospects for the global elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Commission advised that the nuclear triad will be necessary "for the immediate future." It issued support for effective missile defense systems, but cautioned that the deployment of these systems should be done in a manner that avoids eliciting negative responses from Russia or China. The group advocated pursuing more arms control agreements with Russia (especially on non-strategic nuclear weapons) and more broadly, "strategic dialogues" with Russia, China and allies. It also called for "reenergizing" nonproliferation efforts, and taking stronger steps to secure US territory from a nuclear or electromagnetic attack. The Commission also recommended more autonomy for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) as part of a wider effort to improve the nuclear weapons complex.

On the same day of the report's release, Commissioners participated in a press conference at the US Institute of Peace and appeared before the House Armed Services Committee. The hearing was continuing as of the writing of this update. Visit the HASC website for additional information: http://armedservices.house.gov. The Senate Armed Services Committee is also scheduled to receive testimony from the Commission's Chairs on May 7. It is unclear to what extent the report will influence the Obama administration's nuclear posture review, which is now expected to come out in January 2010.

 

Defense Secretary suggests possibility of eventual changes in nuclear triad

On April 15, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke before Air Force personnel at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. In his opening address, Gates explained that though the United States has conventional air capabilities far superior to any competitors, merely relying on "more technologically advanced versions" of Cold War-era weaponry is inadequate in meeting current and future threats. During the question and answer session, he indicated that further reductions in America's nuclear arsenal may lead to a reconsideration of the nuclear triad, and singled out the bomber leg of this triad for reconsideration, hinting that the next Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) will address these issues. In addition, Gates said that independent assessments of Air Force personnel involved in the nuclear program will be revived to ensure "a high level of performance."

Secretary Gates said in a CNN interview aired on May 3rd that he supports President Obama's long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. However, he noted that he has worked for three other presidents who have said that they support such a goal, and that he sees critical obstacles to containing the spread of nuclear weapons technology.

 

Vice President to advocate Administration's nuclear nonproliferation agenda

President Obama has placed Vice President Joseph Biden, a seasoned foreign relations veteran, at the helm of his administration's nuclear nonproliferation efforts. In this new role, the Vice President will act as the chief liaison to the Senate on the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and head efforts to secure nuclear material worldwide within the next four years - an oft-stated goal of the President.

 

Senator McCain backs Obama on nuclear weapon-free world

US Senator and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain (Arizona), speaking on April 10 in Japan during an extended tour of Asia, reiterated his support for President Obama's "ambitious goal" of a world without nuclear weapons. The Senator made the comment in reference to North Korea's missile launch and the President's Prague speech, both of which had occurred four days earlier.

 

Resolution on reducing nuclear weapons introduced in Congress

Representatives James McGovern (Democrat-Massachusetts) and Daniel Lungren (Republican-California) introduced the "Global Security Priorities Resolution" (House Resolution 278) on March 24. The legislation calls for addressing "the threat of international terrorism and protect the international security of the United States by reducing the number of and accessibility to nuclear weapons and preventing their proliferation, and directing a portion of the resulting savings towards child survival, hunger, and universal education, and calling on the President to take action to achieve these goals."

 

Further Reading

 

United Kingdom

Prominent Conservative Party-member David Davis questioned Trident replacement in an opinion article published in the Financial Times on April 30, saying that "Our system was designed to maintain retaliatory capacity after a full-scale Soviet nuclear onslaught. Now our likeliest nuclear adversary will be a much smaller, less-sophisticated state. Should not the costs reflect that?" The Guardian reported that other Conservative Party members, notably Defence Committee Chair James Arbuthnot and former defence minister Nicholas Soames, were questioning plans for following up Trident, particularly in light of the recent global recession and changing security priorities.

In March, the UK Public Accounts Committee released a report titled, "The United Kingdom's Future Nuclear Deterrent Capability." The report examined the timeline, costs, management and oversight for developing a new fleet of nuclear submarines, a decision on which the government is expected to make in September. The chairman of the Committee, Edward Leigh, noted in a Committee press release that he is concerned about the United Kingdom's reliance on a US follow up to the Trident D5 missile and whether a new missile would work with the proposed submarine fleet. (For more background information on the original decision, see BASIC's Green Paper on Trident replacement)

Crime and Security Minister Vernon Coaker recently informed British lawmakers that the United Kingdom has spent almost �.7 ($114) million on radiation scanners for national ports and plans to spend an additional �.6 ($127) million over the next two years. For security reasons, he did not disclose the detectors' locations. "Air, sea and Channel Tunnel traffic entering the UK will be subject to screening, including container and road freight, post and fast parcels, vehicles and passengers," according to the Home Office's website for Security and Counter Terrorism.

Further Reading

 

Iran

US plans collaborative talks with Iran

State Department spokesman Robert Wood announced that the United States will join the other permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia), along with Germany (dubbed the P5+1) in holding regular meetings with Iranian officials. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, announced that Tehran welcomes discussions with the United States and other countries on Iran's nuclear program. On April 15, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran is preparing a series of proposals to bring to the P5+1 talks. No date has been set for the first meeting.

President Obama is reportedly prepared to agree with Iran continuing the enrichment of uranium during the initial stages of the negotiations. Abandoning uranium enrichment was a precondition for the Bush administration to enter into direct dialogue with Iran. Obama insists, however, that the ultimate goal is enrichment suspension. Recent comments made by Secretary of State Clinton underscore this goal. At a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 22, she indicated that it may be necessary to impose stronger sanctions against Iran if the P5+1 talks do not show results. Iranian leaders have maintained that their country's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

 

Ahmadinejad opens new nuclear facility

President Ahmadinejad marked Iran's national nuclear technology day by formally unveiling a new nuclear fuel manufacturing plant in Isfahan on April 9. The new facility will produce uranium oxide fuel pellets, which Iran plans to use in their heavy water reactor under construction at Arak. Ahmadinejad also said that two new types of centrifuges with higher capacities to enrich uranium had been tested at Natanz. Several days later, Ahmadinejad proclaimed that given the recent steps made in Iran's program, it is achieving complete control of the nuclear fuel production cycle, from the mining of uranium to the production of fuel for the reactor.

Possible Tension between Whitehouse and Tel Aviv over Iran

An Israeli defense official told the London Times on April 18 that Israel will launch preemptive strikes against Iran if it deemed necessary. Target sites would likely be complexes at Natanz, Esfahan, and Arak. But Israel is unlikely to carry out such an operation against US objections. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently warned that such an attack would likely be ineffective and destabilizing. Ali Larijani warned Israel that a preemptive strike would be met with a strong response.

 

Further Reading

 

North Korea

North Korea launched a long-range rocket (reportedly carrying the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite) from the Musudan-ri site on its east coast on April 5, hours before President Obama made his Prague speech. The international community had been anticipating this latest launch for weeks, basing their assessments on statements from North Korea and satellite imagery. North Korean officials later announced that the satellite successfully entered orbit and is currently transmitting data. US Northern Command claimed the launch was in fact a test of the North's three-stage Taepodong-2 missile and did not reach orbit.

The UN Security Council released a statement on April 13, formally condemning the launch, urging the DPRK to return to the stalled Six-Party Talks, and increasing sanctions against North Korea under UNSC Resolution 1718, including asset freezes and travel restrictions on officials involved with the nuclear program. On April 15, the Obama administration proposed sanctions on 11 companies involved with the North's missile program.

Pyongyang responded by expelling all international nuclear inspectors from North Korea. IAEA inspectors removed their seals from the Yongbyon complex and left Pyongyang on April 16. The government also announced that it was withdrawing permanently from the Six-Party Talks and that it would reactivate Yongbyon (which would take about six months to a year to have the reactor fully operational again), and said that it would consider reported plans by South Korea to join the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to be an act of war. It is now threatening another nuclear testunless the United Nations apologizes for its condemnation of April 13. US State Department spokesman Robert Wood warned of consequences for the expulsion of inspectors while urging a return to the Six-Party Talks.

Some analysts believe that Pyongyang used the rocket launch as a way to pull out of the Six-Party Talks and negotiate one-on-one with the Obama administration, among other reasons. In Beijing on April 20, IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei said that North Korea should now be considered a state with nuclear weapons, calling for dialogue with both it and Iran.

Further Reading

 

Russia

Russia is upgrading its nuclear submarines to improve its tactical and strategic capabilities. An official from the Russian Defense Ministry told Itar-Tass that Russia plans to deploy at least six Severodvinsk nuclear subs, part of Russia's fourth-generation Graney-class, in 2011. These subs are to be equipped with long-range cruise missiles armed with low-yield nuclear warheads capable of targeting aircraft carriers. Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev, deputy head of the Navy General Staff, describes the commission of the Severodvinsk as part of Russia's plan to make greater use of tactical nuclear weapons in its nuclear submarine fleet. He indicated that Russia will also upgrade its strategic fleet with plans to build at least six Borey-class strategic subs to serve in its Northern and Pacific fleets. Currently, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, two Borey-class subs, are being built at the Sevmash shipyard, and should be completed in 2009 and 2011, respectively. The first Borey-class vessel, the Yury Dolgoruky, is expected to begin sea trials in June.

 

Further Reading

 

Pakistan

Nuclear security becomes greater concern after Taliban advances

In recent weeks, Taliban forces have moved within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, causing concerns about the stability of Pakistan's government and the control and security of the country's nuclear arsenal and related facilities. President Asif Ali Zardari has said that Pakistan's nuclear weapons remain secure. The New York Times reported, however, that the United States, which had previously provided funding to bolster security around Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure, does not have a detailed assessment of how the US funds were used. National Security Advisor to the US President, Gen. James Jones (ret.), told the BBC on May 4 that the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, "is very much an ongoing topic" between Pakistani and US officials. President Zardari is scheduled to meet with President Obama on May 6 in Washington.

 

Further Reading

 

Missile Defense

Diplomatic complications surrounding missile defense

In Obama's joint statement with Medvedev at the G20 summit in London, the two leaders indicated that they would cooperate on missile defense. In his Prague speech a few days later, however, Obama indicated his intention to press ahead with the system in Poland and the Czech Republic as long as the United States suspects a threat from Iran, and if the system would be cost-effective and proven to work. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated in a recent interview that the measures the Obama administration has taken thus far have been "mostly symbolic." In a speech given at the University of Helsinki on April 20, Medvedev warned that Washington's "unilateral efforts" on missile defense are complicating "the mutual balance of weapons."

More recently, US officials indicated a conciliatory stance. During a meeting in Washington, DC on May 1, Gary Samore, a senior national security advisor to President Obama, said that he believed some of Russia's concerns about US missile defense have been legitimate. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller told Interfax news agency on May 4 that the United States would now be open to considering a Russian offer to host a joint missile defense system in Azerbaijan or Southern Russia instead of eastern Europe.

 

House Resolution calls for hastening deployment in Europe

A group of 20 House Republicans submitted House Resolution 319 on April 2, calling on President Obama to "take all necessary steps to expeditiously deploy a missile defense system in Europe that will help provide such a defense to United States allies in Europe while enhancing United States defenses against missile attacks."

 

Pentagon announces plans to reduce overall missile defense budget

On April 6, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a comprehensive reduction in the Pentagon's funding of certain weapons programs by billions of dollars. Funding for missile defense programs would be cut overall by $1.4 billion, and reflect a shift in emphasis from long-range to theater-based missile defenses.

 

Further Reading

 

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