Getting to Zero Update

In this issue:

Commitments to disarmament and arms control

40th Anniversary of the NPT

July 1, 2008 marks the 40th Anniversary of the opening of signatures for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. To mark the anniversary, the Arms Control Association focused their monthly magazine, Arms Control Today, and their annual meeting on the NPT. The articles in Arms Control Today discussed the current and future problems with the treaty as well as the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and practical steps toward that goal. The Arms Control Association's annual event saw Ambassadors Norman Wulf and S�rgio de Quieroz Duarte call for a nuclear free world and noted the challenges the NPT faces in the future. It also included a debate between representatives of the two leading Presidential candidates: John Holum (for Obama) and Steve Biegun (for McCain), C-Span video available here.

 

Further reading

"The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at Forty: Addressing Current and Future Challenges" (ACA Event Transcripts)
Arms Control Association, June 16, 2008

Envisioning a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
Jonas Gahr St�re, Arms Control Today, June 2008

Elimination or Irrelevance, K Subrahmanyam, Arms Control Today, June 2008

New Opportunities for Nonproliferation
Thomas R Pickering, Arms Control Today, June 2008

Fulfill and Strengthen the Bargain, Jayantha Dhanapala, Arms Control Today, June 2008

NPT: Past, Present, and Future, Daryl G Kimball, Arms Control Today, June 2008

 

Australian and Indian leaders call for nuclear disarmament amid nuclear energy tensions

Earlier in June Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the establishment of a Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Commission with the focus on eventual nuclear disarmament leading into the 2010 NPT Review Conference. "The objective is to take the work already done ... and to seek to shape a global consensus in the lead-up to the NPT review process in 2010," Rudd explained on June 8 in Japan. The following day, former foreign minister Gareth Evans, who was appointed chairman cited the need to include the NPT outsiders, India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan in any nuclear disarmament discussions.

In addition, Prime Minister Rudd declared Australia would not sell uranium to India until they become a signatory of the NPT. Australia possesses the largest uranium reserves and India has been seeking uranium ore for their domestic energy needs. India later acknowledged and accepted the declaration by Prime Minister Rudd, and offered to look in more detail at the proposed new committee.

Meanwhile, at a conference on "Towards A World Free of Nuclear Weapons" in New Delhi on June 8, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for a nuclear free world and announced India had submitted a working paper on nuclear disarmament to the UN General Assembly. He highlighted practical steps for states to work toward nuclear disarmament, and the special danger that nuclear weapons pose with regard to international terrorism. He also argued that India is a responsible nuclear power growing energy needs and rights to access the global uranium market, but that it was willing to work toward a world without nuclear weapons. (See more on India under the Country reports section below.)

Further reading

Nuclear official calls for India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea to join disarmament talks
IHT, June 10

 

Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) progress

US Senator Richard Lugar announced the progress of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program for May, involving the destruction of warheads and missiles. CTR has to date destroyed over 7,000 nuclear warheads, 698 ICBMs, 496 silos, and 631 SLBMs.

 

Calls for removal of US tactical nuclear warheads in Europe at international seminar in Germany

On May 25, 2008, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) held a seminar in Berlin on the future of NATO and the role of nuclear weapons in Europe, alongside a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Key participants, including senior German politicians from SDP, FPD and the Greens, called for an end to NATO's reliance on nuclear deterrence and for the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

 

Country Updates

United States

Air Force leaders fired after series of problems with nuclear weapons security

In a big shakeup of the Air Force's top brass, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and the chief of staff, Gen. T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley from the top two positions in the Air Force on June 5. The move was made in response to the security failures that allowed nuclear weapons to be flown unknowingly across the country, nuclear technology to be shipped by mistake to Taiwan and the corrupt $50 million contract to the Thunderbirds. Gates made the moves after several internal reviews on the operations of Air Force leadership decisions.

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists obtained a recent report by the Pentagon on June 19 detailing the failure of basic security measures in Europe, where 350 tactical nuclear weapons are held. The report concluded, "Most sites require significant additional resources to meet DoD security requirements." In response to the Pentagon report, a NATO official said that security of the tactical nuclear weapons is the responsibility of the United States and the host countries, not the alliance as a whole.

In addition, another Pentagon report released on June 19, found that the United States could not locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear weapons parts. One official put the number up to 1,000. But, the Air Force stresses there were no suggestions that the material fell into the wrong hands.

Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress points out that the Air Force is having a difficult time adjusting to the post-Cold War military world. He notes that the Air Force has not really paid attention to the maintenance and basic security of nuclear weapons, seen as expensive distractions when conventional weapons are capable of accomplishing any necessary missions.

 

Further reading

USAF Report: "Most" Nuclear Weapon Sites In Europe Do Not Meet US Security Requirements
Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists, June 19

 

DOE official admits concern about the smuggling of nuclear material

A Department of Energy official said on June 17 that the US Government is not doing enough to stop nuclear smuggling in an effort to keep material out of the hands of terrorists and 'rogue' states. "We must take urgent action to scoop up any nuclear material outside state control before terrorists do," said DOE's intelligence director Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. He added, "The continuing instances of trafficking in nuclear materials means we collectively have not done enough to keep material out of the hands of terrorists. We must urgently intensify efforts to acquire any materials that may be for sale on the illicit nuclear market." Mowatt-Larsen suggested that now more agencies are working together to try and solve the problem of loose nuclear material and smuggling.

President Bush has come under criticism for his failure to appoint a high-level White House coordinator for preventing nuclear terrorism, despite a Congressional mandate passed with broad bipartisan support over 10 months ago.

 

Bush administration faces tough debate on Russia nuclear deal

On June 12, John Rood, the acting Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee spoke of the benefits of civilian nuclear cooperation between the US and Russia, highlighting innovative Russian nuclear technology and a new Russian international nuclear fuel storage facility. Rood faced staunch opposition from Democratic and Republican committee members alike. Representatives Howard Berman (Democrat-California) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida) argued that Russia had not demonstrated an adequate commitment to preventing Iranian nuclear proliferation. Furthermore, Dan Burton (Republican-Indiana) and David Scott (Democrat-Georgia) expressed concerns over the dual usage capabilities of certain US technologies and the possibility of Russian dissemination of these tools to Iran. The US-Russia nuclear deal will come into effect 90 days after its May 13 introduction into Congress unless both houses block it by majorities of two-thirds.

 

US presidential race

Speaking at the Israeli Lobby group AIPAC on June 4th, Presumptive Democratic Nominee Barack Obama vowed to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon - everything," he stated to the large crowd. He also proclaimed, "The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat." He pointed to the need for more diplomacy.

Critics have pointed out that both candidates in the campaign speak as if Iran is on a path towards nuclear weapons, despite last November's National Intelligence Estimate, which could limit future policy options.

Further reading

Obama vs. McCain on Nuclear Proliferation
Howard Salter, American Chronicle, June 10

Traveling the road to nuclear reduction
Steven Pifer, Boston Globe, June 9

Obama vs. McCain: A Side-By-Side Comparison on Arms Control
John Isaacs and Leonor Tomero, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, June 9

 

China

US diplomats and defense officials met with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing on June 4. The US delegation objected to China's anti-satellite missile test in January 2007, despite a similar exercise conducted by the US Navy earlier this year. They also tried to gain a clearer understanding of Chinese nuclear doctrine. China maintains a no first-use policy on nuclear weapons and has spoken out against a space arms race, but many Chinese officials believe that the country should be ready for a protracted and intensified rivalry with the United States. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that China has 200 nuclear warheads, compared to the US arsenal of over 10,000.

 

India

A US-India nuclear energy cooperation deal appears increasingly unlikely. The opposition party in India called off talks on June 18. Opposition leaders stated that the deal "undermine[s] the independent foreign policy of India. We do not think this deal gives us any advantages." Even an unnamed senior US official acknowledged that the agreement will probably not make it back to the United States for Congressional ratification. The failure of the agreement, a landmark for the Bush Presidency, would be a huge blow to the Administration. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh still tried to press the deal, stating the possible benefits of the agreement with the United States. Prime Minister Singh also threatened to push ahead with the agreement without political support, even calling for early elections if necessary.

 

Further reading

The US-India Nuclear Deal
Esther Pan and Jayshree Bajoria, Council on Foreign Relations, February 7

 

Iran

A proposal designed by MIT scientists that would entail the creation of an international uranium enrichment facility in Iran to replace the country's current enrichment program is gaining more attention. The plan's intent is to allow Iran to "[enrich] uranium on its own soil, while preventing the dangerous material from being diverted to weapons." The MIT authors contend that-if successfully implemented-the plan would allow Iran to reap the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy, achieve enrichment on their soil involving Iranian scientists, but would also inhibit the country's scientists from duplicating the foreign technology and converting it to use for nuclear weapons development. (see MIT Research Affiliate Sir John Thomson's Open Letter to the UK Government, which calls for such a solution).

Ambassador Thomas Pickering and associates also promoted this solution earlier this year (see NY Review of Books article). In 2005, IAEA officials advocated the creation of an international nuclear energy consortium in Iran. That same year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invited other countries to work with Iran to develop nuclear power on a visit to the United Nations in New York. This was repeated in Iran's offer to the international community earlier this month. Though Bush administration officials continue to dismiss the plan as appeasement and John McCain rejects it, Barack Obama's advisors have yet to endorse or reject the solution.

 

Bush pushes for new sanctions; Solana delivers revised incentives package

US President George W. Bush visited Europe from June 10-16, attempting to gain European support for intensified sanctions against Iran-among other things. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke out in favor of Bush's proposal, announcing British sanctions targeting the foreign assets of Iran's largest bank, Bank Melli, and the Iranian gas and oil sectors.

Meanwhile, Javier Solana, High Representative for the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) spent the weekend of June 13-15 in Tehran talking with Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator. Solana presented Jalili with an updated version of the P5+1 incentives package offered to Iran in 2006. The revised package includes Western assistance in the development of a civilian nuclear program which abides by the guidelines of the NPT, economic aid, and the normalization of trade and diplomatic relations between Iran and the West-including potential WTO membership. Iran has one month to make a decision on the package. Solana also formally offered a freeze-for-freeze interim step towards cessation of enrichment activities. Freeze for freeze entails no more sanctions in return for Iran's freeze in their expansion in the number of centrifuges at Natanz.

On June 16 in Luxembourg, representatives from EU member states agreed with Prime Minister Brown on the need for new sanctions, but delayed the decision on their implementation until after Tehran has reached a conclusion on the package presented by Solana. Resistance within Europe to significantly stronger sanctions looks likely for economic reasons.

A Congressional resolution asking the President Bush impose "stringent inspection requirements" on trade with Iran, hinting at a military blockade, may come to the House floor this week. A military blockade would be a major escalation, and possibly interpreted as an act of war.

Further reading

Iran says ready to negotiate on nuclear incentives
Frank Nyakairu and Wangui Kanina, Reuters, June 19

NYT Exposes Fraud of "Generous Offer" to Iran
Robert Naiman, Huffington Post, June 17

Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix rips U.S. approach on Iran's nuclear program
International Herald Tribune, June 12

Prominent Calls for Diplomacy with Iran
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, June 9

Iran threatens to sue 5 nations over nuclear reputation
USA Today, June 5

Sanctions against Iran: A Promising Struggle
Michael Jacobson, The Washington Quarterly, summer 2008

 

Consensus building in Israel for strike on Iran

Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former Defense Minister and key advisor to Prime Minister Olmert, stated that a military operation against Iran may be "unavoidable." Mofaz cited Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, in the face of international pressure, as the justification behind this threat. However, Iran's nuclear facilities are dispersed throughout the country and are heavily-defended, raising questions about the feasibility of such an attack. Recent Israeli jet exercises indicate that the IDF may be planning such an operation, drawing criticism from Russia. An Israeli strike may be intended either to disrupt Iranian nuclear activities or draw the United States into conducting its own military operations.

Further reading

Attacking Iran: The last resort
David Isenberg, Asia Times, June 19

Iran pledges to continue enrichment, but stay in nuclear treaty
RIA Novosti, June 18

Israeli Ministers Mull Plans for Military Strike against Iran
Der Spiegel, June 16

To war or not to war with Iran: that is the temptation
Ismail Salami, Press TV, June 9

Senate: Iranian intel concealed from CIA, DIA
by Pamela Hess, AP, June 5

 

Syria

IAEA to visit al-Kibar site; skepticism about US claims

IAEA inspectors arrived in Damascus on June 22, with little press by the Syrian government for their planned trip June 22-24 to visit the al-Kibar site. In April, the United States prompted an IAEA investigation of Syria by submitting intelligence documentation of the al-Kibar site, a potential Syrian nuclear reactor which was bombed and destroyed by Israel in September 2007. While the United States and Israel have accused Syria of collaborating with North Korea to develop nuclear weapons technology, Syrian contends that the bombed facility was a non-nuclear military site under construction. Syrian officials intend to allow weapons inspectors access to the al-Kibar site, but the IAEA will not be granted access to three other sites that US officials suspect of playing roles in a covert nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei said that the IAEA does not believe that Syria has the technical knowledge or nuclear fuel resources to maintain a large nuclear program. It is difficult to see where the fuel for any reactor would have come from - Norman Dombey points out Syria itself has no capacity to make it and any appropriate North Korean fuel is limited and under tight safeguards. It seems clearer than ever that the raid was a signal to Iran that nuclear projects in the region would not be tolerated. Syrian President Bashar Assad stated that the country seeks peaceful nuclear energy through a collective project among Arab nations, rather than the development of nuclear weapons.

 

Further reading

Nuclear Inspectors to Check Syria Site
New York Times, June 23

North Korea may have hand in Syrian nuclear site
France 24, June 18

ElBaradei's candor
Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, June 5

Inspecting Syria's Al-Kibar Site: A Technical Note
ISIS, May 12

 

North Korea

Despite the North Korean-Syrian al-Kibar link, the United States, South Korea and China all called for the resumption of talks with North Korea to accomplish the goals of denuclearization of the peninsula. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that North Korea was a "serious adversary" but he said he knew of no evidence that it was sharing nuclear capabilities with other countries besides Syria. "The talks are the best way to confront the regime on proliferation issues." New Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping agreed.

South Korea reported on June 18 that North Korea was ready to restart negotiations and work toward the denuclearization of the peninsula. North Korea was complaining of slow energy aid at the beginning of the month, and negotiators stated they will speed up aid to North Korea.

The United States may have found traces of highly-enriched uranium on the over 18,000 documents that North Korea provided. Both the State Department and White House refused to comment, but the discovery does not seem to have any lasting repercussions. North Korea is still expected to release on June 26 comprehensive details of its past nuclear activities.

The media will be invited to watch as North Korea destroys the cooling tower to the Youngbyon nuclear reactor on June 27. The destruction of the cooling tower is a major symbolic step in eliminating the country's nuclear weapons program and moving towards a completion of the Six Party Talks.

 

Further reading

NKorea ready for six-party talks round: Seoul envoy
AFP, June 18

Japan raids firms linked to N Korea
Al Jazeera, June 13

Chronology of US-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy
Arms Control Association, June

 

Pakistan

Kahn smuggling ring

The Swiss, the United Nations and the United States discovered an international smuggling ring linked to the selling of advanced nuclear weapons designs out of Pakistan and the A.Q. Khan network. The advanced weapons designs could have been sold to North Korea, Iran, Libya and other countries. Swiss officials discovered the advanced weapons design, which could be fitted on a ballistic missile, on a laptop in 2006. Though the Swiss destroyed the computer under the auspices of the United Nations, David Albright noted that it was unclear who had had access to the information. Investigators claim the Khan network was trafficking the information for advanced nuclear designs, much like the ones Pakistan used in their nuclear detonation in 1998, though it is unclear whether Iran had received these designs.

In response to the allegations, A.Q. Khan flatly denied selling any blueprints to anyone or any government. "This is all a lie, there is no truth in this," he stated. He continued, "We never prepared (such blueprints), we are not the designer, we are not the proliferator."

 

Further reading

Swiss Smugglers Had Advanced Nuclear Weapons Designs
David Albright, ISIS, June 16

 

Security of Pakistani nuclear weapons arsenal

Several key members of the nonproliferation community testified before Congressional hearings June 12 and 14. Michael Krepon of the Henry L. Stimson Center stated the importance of the current military command and control structure and said that as long as they stay intact, the weapons should remain safe.

In another Congressional testimony, other leading experts expressed concern about the potential problems the arsenal presents to the United States, including a nuclear war with India, extending a nuclear umbrella to the Middle East or technology sharing, possible nuclear theft or smuggling, and weapons falling into the wrong hands. The experts suggested the United States should increase its engagement into the India-Pakistan conflict to try and defuse the situation with the aim of ending the reliance on deterrence.

 

Russia

Reductions in Russian nuclear facilities and forces

Russia has ceased production of weapons-grade plutonium at the Siberian Chemical Combine, closing down its ADE-5 nuclear reactor. In the post-Cold War era, Russia maintains large stockpiles of plutonium, rendering ADE-5's output irrelevant in the production of new nuclear weapons. Though the Siberian plant had been converted to the production of heat and electricity, the ADE-5 reactor remained active and significant quantities of fissile materials were stored at the facility.

The European Union and partners have developed a long-term strategy to reduce the dangers caused by unnecessary Russian nuclear facilities. Known as the Strategic Masterplan, this should be implemented by 2025 and may cost up to 2 billion euros. The plan began to take shape on June 10 when the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) issued over 70 million euros in grants to Russia "for disposing of scrapped nuclear ships and submarines moored at naval bases in [the country's] northwest." Contingent on the outcome of the first few endeavors, these projects are expected to continue in the future. Commenting on the subject, RIA Novosti, Russia's state-run news agency noted that "Russia cannot get rid of its dangerous Soviet nuclear legacy singlehanded. Aware of the threat this poses, Europe has decided to finance the relevant projects."

 

Further reading

Norway allocates $6.2 mln to dispose of nuclear subs in Russia
RIA Novosti, June 20

Future space-based missile defenses trigger Russian nuclear development

At a conference last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned of a new Cold War and observed that mutual trust and respect was higher in the Cold War than it was today. He explicitly pointed to the rise of elite opinion supporting arms control and disarmament within the US as a key glimmer of hope in the situation.

Predicting the eventual deployment of space-based ballistic missile defense (BMD), Russia has begun to develop a new class of ICBMs. Yuri Solomonov, the director general and head designer of the Moscow Institute of Heat Power Engineering, said that the new ICBM will allow Russia to carry out an effective retaliatory second-strike against both current and future missile defense systems, including those positioned in outer space. He also noted that Russia would deploy "a new unit of silo-based and mobile-launched Topol-M" ICBMs and would begin the deployment of the RS-24, a MIRV-equipped ICBM which was developed for the purpose of overwhelming various types of ABM systems.

 

Further reading

Russia destroys 20 ballistic missiles in 2008 under START treaty
RIA Novosti, June 9

 

France

On June 17, the French government released a White Paper detailing their revised approach to defense and national security. One of the core concepts of this new strategic doctrine is the strengthening of an independent nuclear deterrent, which appears to some to contradict earlier endorsements of disarmament by Sarkozy in March. The report details France's new ballistic missile submarines, the modernization of their nuclear forces to adapt to the changing threat environment in the globalization era,the importance of early warning detection, the fear and threat of terrorism and increased coordination/collaboration with NATO.

 

Further reading

Le Livre Blanc Est Ici
Arms Control Wonk, June 18

 

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is having difficulty staffing their nuclear submarines. Nuclear submarines, carrying the Trident Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile, leave port with as little as 85% staff. Despite high pay increases, the British military is still having trouble meeting recruiting. The Navy is forced to use sailors from surface ships and cutting the time ashore. The British Navy stresses that the lack of full staffs on submarines is not in any way impacting safety.

 

Missile defense

In light of the stalled talks in Poland over the Bush administration's planned missile defense system in Europe, US officials have entered into talks with Lithuania to explore the possibility of placing ten missile interceptors in that country. Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary said, "We are hopeful that we can soon reach a deal with the Poles, but we have always said that there are other options available to us. There are several other European nations that could host the interceptors and Lithuania is one of them. That said, we have not entered into negotiations with any other country and hope that does not become necessary."

Disagreements with Poland involve requests for additional military equipment and air defenses, and the demand for $1bn a year rental. The Pentagon did not rule out having the Czech Republic host the interceptors instead.

Lt Gen Kevin Campbell, head of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, stated on June 15 that he believes that countries like Iran and North Korea are racing to develop long-range ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons. He cited the increase in ballistic missile tests in 2007 over 2006. He also cited the expansion of the Iranian and North Korean missile programs over the past few years. On missile defense in Europe he noted, "Perhaps we can begin to devalue some of their (Iranian) missiles. It would be terribly short-sighted if we didn't move toward Europe and close the door." As a forthcoming BASIC paper on Iran's missile program highlights, these fears may be greatly exaggerated.

Meanwhile, Victoria Samson of CDI notes that the US Missile Defense Agency has cancelled a ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system test after a series of delays in order to keep to a schedule. The proposed sites in Eastern Europe would entail a GMD system, so cancellations of GMD-related tests could affect the project. Tests this year were supposed to include countermeasures in an effort to make conditions more realistic, but this looks more unlikely now despite a passage of six years since the last time countermeasures were incorporated into tests.

 

Further reading

Russia says missile defense talks with U.S. stalled
RIA Novosti, June 20

U.S. 'plans to neutralize Russian nuclear weapons by 2012-2015'
RIA Novosti, June 18

 

Other publications

Fourth meeting of US-Russian initiative against nuclear terrorism
AFP, June 18

The Incredible Shrinking Missile Threat
Joseph Cirincione, Foreign Policy, May/June 2008.

Reconsidering the Rules for Space Security
Nancy Gallagher and John D. Steinbruner, CISSM, 2008

The Reality: A Goal of a World without Nuclear Weapons Is Essential
Sidney Drell and James Goodby, The Washington Quarterly, summer 2008

Why Do States Give Up Nuclear Arsenals?: Proliferation as Economic Bargaining
Kevin Kiernan, Bologna Center Journal of international Affairs, Spring 2008

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