Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk


It rather appears that Russian, not NATO, nuclear forces make it harder for NATO to work with Russia, not together:


30 JULY 2014

MFA statement on information about Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty

Poland is concerned about the US Department of State’s findings on Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty.

Poland notes with concern the findings of a US Department of State report, dated 29 July 2014, on the non-compliance by the Russian Federation with the 1987 treaty on the full elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles (INF Treaty – cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers). The INF Treaty is one of the foundations of the arms control and nuclear disarmament regime, which has eliminated an entire category of weaponry and made a significant contribution to enhancing security in Europe. Its undermining would represent a serious challenge to Europe’s security.

We expect the Russian Federation to use the opportunity afforded to it, among others, by the consultation mechanism with the United States, and provide comprehensive explanations about reservations concerning the appropriate implementation of the INF Treaty, and to return to the observance of the Treaty, thereby fulfilling its international obligations.

The current situation reaffirms the importance of NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy, which was adopted along with the Strategic Concept at the Alliance’s Lisbon summit in 2010. Poland will hold consultations with its NATO allies on the information about Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty with a view to fully clarifying the issue.
MFA Press Office


Jeffrey has penned an outstanding column “The Sources of Putin’s Conduct.” Jeffrey artfully—in his wonderfully irreverent style—painted a picture of Vladimir Vladimirovich’s motives. His diagnoses of Homo Sovieticus narcissism and endemic Russian paranoia hit the right points, from the Long Telegram to Putin’s time in Germany.  I give Jeffrey an “A” for his answer to the second “eternal Russian question”—Who is to blame? Putin is, of course.  But on the first eternal question—What must be done?—I do not agree with him.

As a long-time student of Russia, the only firm conclusion I ever developed was that Russia is a place of extremes.  When I first went to Russia many years ago, Russians could not show you their own borders on a map.  A friend tells a story of getting lost outside St. Petersburg.  When finding the map they used led them into a field with no road, an old Russian gentlemen explained “maps are meant to confuse German tank formations, not find your way around.” The single greatest problem facing modern Russia is its failure to develop a politically active, stable middle class.  Putin skillfully used the greed of the oligarchs of the 1990s to install himself and the siloviki (almost literally, “the powerfuls,” i.e., state security services) in their place.  He killed, imprisoned and exiled the oligarchs, retaking their assets for the state.  He created a place wherein if you want to be political so long as your politics are Putin’s you are largely left alone. Challenge Putin, and you will find yourself indefinitely detained in Russia’s other modern failure, its kangaroo courts, complete with corrupt judges and absurd laws. Russian life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come from the state, not any organic, rational concept of liberty such as in Europe or the United States.  Russia has become a retrograde society, and Putin is fighting the creation of a stable, politically independent middle class.  Such people are harder to control and they see little threat in a neighboring country’s economic and individual liberty, let alone NATO.  For these reasons, Russia has not just closed its Window on the West, it has bricked it over, opting for post-modern imperialist nationalism (“sovereign democracy,” in the lingua franca).

Jeffrey turns to arms control as means to deal with the modern gilded Russian two-headed eagle (borrowed from Byzantium after the fall of Constantinople in 1453). Of course he would—that’s his expertise. Jeffrey is certainly right that in the Soviet past, we used arms control as means to open a closed society.  But The Center (the cryptic Russian term for where the Big Brain that runs Russia lives, at Lubyanka) now feels no desire to revisit Geneva for talks on new nuclear weapons reductions.  Jeffrey’s discussion of the “dual-track” policy that lead to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is correct, but I disagree with its applicability to today.  Even if Russia has time-warped itself into the Russian Empire Prime or Soviet Union, Part II, there is not a sufficient case for an arms control deal to be made with Putin, or how it would fix our present problems in Crimea or even deal with Russian fears.  Jeffrey notes the role arms control negotiations and treaties played, but he left out that the dual track meant deploying more nuclear weapons, not reducing them, first.  Currently, nobody in Europe, apart from Russia (allegedly), seems ready to do the former and the United States still maintains an official postion of the latter.  The fear and lamentation over a return to the Cold War is understandable, but, yet again, Moscow seems prepared to do its worst.

The fundamental problem confronting us today is that a better reason for arms control than reductions or disarmament is needed.  As Stephen Hadley noted during Senate hearings on the New START Treaty in 2010, “you just can’t keep reducing by a third every ten years.”  Jeffrey knows, as well, that past reductions were the coins used to purchase the verification and access we used to open up a closed society.  Sadly, we lost more verification capability in New START than we gained, and the only real reductions were those the United States will make, even though, on balance, as James Schlesinger also said of New START in 2010, we were “obligated” to ratify it.

If we seek to reduce the risk of major war in Europe, or anywhere else, weapons like submarine-launched cruise missiles, hypersonic glide vehicles and other nuclear weapon-delivery platforms—none of which are truly covered by any treaty—are the sources of risk.  Non-deployed nuclear warheads are not a military threat.  Neither Russia nor the United States really wants to negotiate lower limits on these or other items before we know what the future holds.  That was why former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates said he liked the New START Treaty.  It gave us seven years to see how things work out before we had to meet its central limits—he did not say that if Russia was already lower, then we should just go ahead and act like its 2018 (the year in which both countries must have not more than 1,550 warheads on 700 deployed missiles and heavy-bomber weapons).  It’s a good thing, too, because Putin is acting like it’s 1853 in Crimea.  Accelerating reductions wouldn’t fix anything and is not required.

We are not relying “on nuclear weapons to prevent Moscow from sending Spetsnaz special forces posing as concerned citizens and biker gangs to stir up Russian-speakers in the Baltics or to dig trenches in Donetsk” as Jeffrey states (out of context, that looks worse than it was in the piece).  We’re doing worse:  The United States has for far too long not sold enough tactical air platforms and air defense weapons in Europe to newer NATO Members.  Initially, there might have been no reason for it.  Russia was conventionally weak and did not threaten its neighbors.  And while I fully support President Obama’s European Reassurance Initiative, I know that the Administration stood in the way of a large number of arms sales to certain countries in Europe so as not to offend Moscow.  The Administration did little to prevent French and German arms sales to Russia, as well.

Russian conventional forces performed with a high degree of effectiveness in the Crimean invasion and occupation, successfully setting the conditions needed for Russian annexation.  Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis noted that Russia “played their hand of cards with finesse.”   This “finesse” included the use and manipulation of both diplomatic and military means and rapid isolation and termination of Ukrainian command and control with advanced, coordinated and effective electronic warfare.  All this while Russia simultaneously carried out “snap” conventional forces exercises, on land and at sea, around Ukraine, and a major exercise of all three legs of Russia’s nuclear triad.   Russia’s conventional presence now massed could, in as little as 12 hours, move against Ukraine.   As NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove, USAF, noted in April, “This is a combined-arms army, with all of the pieces necessary should there be a choice to make an incursion into Ukraine…supported by fixed-wing aircraft…rotary aircraft…all of the logistics required in order to successfully make an incursion if they needed.”   This force—and Russia’s use of it—led one observer to note “the old tired excuse that Russia must rely on nuclear weapons because its conventional forces are weak and broken is now demonstrably absurd.”

(An aside to Paris and Berlin:  This nonsense and this other nonsense really makes one want some Freedom fries with some Freedom dressing.  Guys, we’ll buy your “hospital ship” and as for the other stuff, Berlin appears to be waking up.  But heck, maybe Moscow didn’t want to play Die Wacht am Rhein while the Preobrazhensky honor guards march during the annual Victory Day Parade?)

Nuclear weapons do not “make it much harder for NATO to work together.”  NATO’s nuclear sharing is a marvel of modern military alliance management.  Or it was, until certain folks started to mess it up in 2009.  It’s one that our allies in Asia might someday try to replicate, too.  We would look like complete fools today had Obama agreed to remove U.S. non-strategic weapons from Europe in 2009.  Jeffrey’s description, and others, of current NATO nuclear sharing is dead wrong.  These weapons are not “politically divisive”—the only reason they were was because of a disarmament movement that tried unilaterally to get rid of them in the last decade.  And it failed.  It tried hard to find a way to replace the nuclear guarantee of Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty, but never found one.  It is a good thing that is the case, today, after Crimea.

What I might propose is that we study the past a bit more to better understand our present.  An excellent series of declassified documents over at the National Security Archive describe ABLE ARCHER and the 1983 nuclear war scare in Europe that was “the last paroxysm” of the Cold War.  What the record shows is that Moscow liked to make NATO nukes into a divisive issue.  I dislike arms control advocates who now use many of the same Soviet arguments to divide allied opinion in NATO over nuclear weapons.  Jeffrey is certainly not guilty of any Soviet sympathy, but I caution him and others to be more careful and recall more of the past when reforming or recasting the single most successful military alliance in history.  ABLE ARCHER’s history also shows us where we, and NATO, were dead wrong when it came to Soviet nuclear war plans.  Alarmingly those plans, now Russian, have unlikely gotten better with age.

Arms control aims to reduce the risk of use nuclear weapons, but it does not proscribe it.  The best task of arms control has been to detect the signals of intention in order to reduce the risk of nuclear war—not to end all wars or to get rid of all nuclear weapons.  We will do better to start from this premise when dealing with Putin than not.  If you offer Putin more disarmament, you will likely see only more Russian revanchism.


The President submitted the renewed U.S. agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Taiwan to Congress on January 7.  Presumably, Vietnam’s new agreement will soon be submitted as well.  You can read the Taiwan package, including the agreement, here.

Bottom line up front:  Congress ought to approve the Taiwan agreement.  But it should make clear that a trend in these agreements is not consistent with the Congressional role in current law in approving or disapproving these pacts.  The trend arises out of the fact that the Taiwan agreement (similar to Japan’s agreement) is of indefinite duration.  While Japan’s 123 did have a duration specified, it however also included language that has a negative effect on Congressional review.  Unless there is a major renegotiation, or new agreement to replace the Taiwan or Japan agreements for some reason, Congress only ever reviews nuclear cooperation one time with them under review provisions enacted in 1978.  The President can do this–nothing in the law says he cannot.  However, it would appear to be inconsistent with the intent of all major nuclear cooperation laws enacted by Congress, going back to first Atomic Energy Act (of 1946) that provide a strong legislative role.

These are not treaties under U.S. law.  They are Executive agreements that Congress must approve or disapprove.  Treating them as indefinite U.S. commitments and obligations for civilian nuclear assistance is unwise.  And yes, I can already hear the interagency reply:  ”Indefinite duration does not mean infinite duration; we can cease cooperation at any time.”  Yes, we know that.  But that’s not why the Executive (or our allies) favor this trend.  Consistent with former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates’ recently public view of Congress, it’s just another case of Executive power growing where Congress does not do enough oversight.

The Japan Agreement’s Duration

Article 16 of the 1987 US-Japan agreement set a precedent that is now replicated in the Taiwan text.

Article 16 states (in full):

1. This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which the parties exchange diplomatic notes informing each other that their respective internal legal procedures necessary for entry into force of this Agreement have been completed and shall remain in force for a period of thirty years, and shall continue in force thereafter until terminated in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 2 of this Article.

2. Either party may, by giving six months written notice to the other party, terminate this Agreement at the end of the initial thirty-year period or at any time thereafter.

3. Notwithstanding the suspension or termination of this Agreement or any cooperation hereunder for any reason, Article 1, paragraph 4 of Article 2 and Articles 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 14 shall continue in effect to the extent applicable.

4. At the request of either party, the parties shall consult with each other whether to amend this Agreement or to replace it with a new agreement.

While the legislative history provides no clear view of the USG or the US Congress regarding this unique construction, it is clear that, unless the USG or Japan gives 6-months’ notice under 16.2, or either decides that an amendment is needed under 16.4, then the agreement itself continues for an indefinite period of time, never again coming back to Congress for review.

The TECRO Agreement’s Duration

Paragraph (3) of Article 15 of the Taiwan agreement is a shorter formulation of the Japan language, but with the same effect:

This Agreement shall remain in force indefinitely unless terminated by either Party on one year’s written notice to the other Party.  Prior to termination of this Agreement, the Parties shall review this Agreement in accordance with the provisions o f Article 12.2.


Unlike other 123 agreements, which contain fairly standard duration, termination and entry-into-force requirements, the effect of these provisions could be that the US Congress would not again review an agreement even after it expired (there being no decision by either party under 16.2 or 16.4), in Japan’s case.  Japan won an indefinitely extendable agreement that cut Congress out of future review.  Japan’s nuclear cooperation with the United States isn’t given the benefit of the review contemplated by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-242), despite the fact that it, like the India 123 and the US agreement with EURATOM, involves substantial retransferring and reprocessing of US material.  That means that Congress only got a notional picture of the Japanese fuel cycle in 1987–not the the fuel cycle it actually has now.  Many of these agreements negotiated since the Japan pact contemplate no clear need to return to Congress for review.  Even the India agreement (which, apart from the US-Australia agreement, permits the United States to transfer sensitive nuclear technology, in that case, to India, in the other, from Australia to the United States (for SILEX)) has a duration of 40 years, but then includes rolling 10-year extensions that are not clearly subject to Congressional re-approval once the pact’s set duration expires.

Other allies in Asia will seek similar treatment, now that Taiwan got it.  Notably, South Korea will now push (for reasons of prestige and regional competition) for an identical provision in its agreement since Japan and Taiwan now have it.


The Taiwan agreement contains a fairly clear prohibition on any enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) activities in Taiwan, subject to certain conditions that cover routine things like post-irradiation examinations (PIEs) of material and etc.  Defined term (T) of Article 1 includes a new term, and definition, to wit, “(T) ‘Sensitive nuclear facility’ means any facility designed or used primarily for uranium enrichment, reprocessing of nuclear fuel, heavy water production, or fabrication of nuclear fuel containing plutonium[.]”  Taiwan shall not have these as Article 7 makes it plain that:

TECRO….shall not possess sensitive nuclear facilities or otherwise engage in activities related to the enrichment or reprocessing of material or to the alteration in form or content (except by irradiation or further irradiation or, if agreed by the Parties, post-irradiation examination or spent fuel stabilization) of plutonium, uranium-233, high enriched uranium or irradiated source material or special flssionable material.

Section 3 of the Agreed Minute also appears to make clear that retransfers of U.S. material from Taiwan to other locations require case-by-case consent.

What happens to Taiwan’s spent fuel?  France, inter alia.  Paragraph (a) of Section 3 of the Agreed Minute to the agreement states that:

The Parties agree that irradiated source material or special fissionable material subject to Article 5 and Article 6 of the Agreement may be transferred from the territory of the authorities represented by TECRO to France, or other countries or destinations as may be agreed upon in writing by the Parties for storage and reprocessing.  All such transfers described in this paragraph a. of Section 3 shall be in compliance with the policies, laws, and regulations of the recipient country or destination, including any requirement that indicates a provisional period for the receipt and treatment of such irradiated source material or special fissionable material or that the waste produced as a result of the reprocessing be returned to the territory of the authorities represented by TECRO.

Fuel Supply Commitment

Article 2 contains a relatively unconditional commitment from the United States to TECRO that it will cooperate in “Promotion of the establishment of a reliable source of nuclear fuel for future civil nuclear reactors deployed within the territory of the authorities represented by TECRO[.]”  It might have made sense to tie this commitment to other provisions regarding nonproliferation; reading it as a piece of the whole however, a question arises whether we are committed thusly for a very long time.

Weighing the Issues

On balance, despite the fact that the Taiwan agreement could be read as a limitation on Congressional power, it is still a good agreement.  As you can read it, there is a long enumeration of things related to fuel-cycle nonproliferation contained in it (Articles 2 and 3).

It’s version of the Gold Standard passes the test imposed by many nonproliferation advocates.  No transfers of sensitive nuclear technology nor of restricted data are included (humor aside, we never would).

However, we now have several items in play.  Discretely, issues arise combining the questions related to ENR under US 123 agreements and the role Congress has in policy concerning peaceful nuclear cooperation agreements, generally.  Is it a reward to Taiwan for adopting the Gold Standard that its agreement has an indefinite duration?  Certainly that did not and could not apply to Japan, which has indefinite duration and broad consent rights involving U.S. material in Japan.  Would it a be reward for South Korea if it sticks to the 1992 commitments it made on ENR?  Regarding Vietnam, does it get an indefinite agreement even though it did not agree to the Gold Standard?

In Taiwan’s case, the original 1972 123 agreement was never renegotiated despite the plain command in the NNPA that it should have been, and not 40 years later.  Neither was South Korea’s agreement ever renegotiated, and it now must be extended for two years as it expires in less than 90 days.  But Taiwan has something else in common with South Korea besides old agreements–neither nation’s program ever had a Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) submitted to Congress regarding its nuclear programs (all of them).  Now that Taiwan’s NPAS is with Congress, it will certainly include the complex history of Taiwan’s nuclear weapons effort.  Congress would do well to take a long look at the National Security Archive record to which I have linked.  It demonstrates a few lessons that were apparently never learned, or are ignored, in other countries.  Classified oversight in closed spaces should be used to riddle out what the open record has never shown on US-Taiwan nuclear cooperation, in the past.  But significantly, Congress needs to focus on what is and is not included in these NPAS documents and Taiwan’s history will provide Congress with a unique chance to see how much the State Department includes in rendering judgments about a particular country’s proliferation past.  It might even lead somebody to finally decide what should and should not be included in an NPAS–something the NNPA, as enacted, never did.

As for South Korea, I recommend against inclusion of indefinite duration in any new 123 agreement–whatever it says about ENR unless it can motivate negotiators to think about things other than the pending extension and pyroprocessing.  The forces of change shaping Asian nuclear calculations are in significant flux.  China’s 123 will expire in 2015–a year before the South Korean pact will expire, if it is extended, in 2016.  That’s no time to take Congress out of the loop on US assistance to foreign nuclear energy programs.



Not a single shred of evidence.



Expect everything.


–Bashar al-Assad, Charlie Rose Interview, 9/9/2013


The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security.  Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you.  We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.


–President Putin, The New York Times, 9/11/2013


We don’t have an actual, verifiable deal that will begin that process.  But the distance that we’ve traveled over these couple of weeks is remarkable.


–President Obama, This Week on ABC, 9/15/2013


We welcome these agreements. On the one hand, they will help Syrians come out of the crisis, and on the other hand, they prevented the war against Syria by having removed a pretext for those who wanted to unleash it.


–Syrian National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar, RIA Novosti, 9/15/2013


If the all the United States ever wanted to get rid of in Syria were chemical weapons (CW), then the Obama-Putin Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons agreed to in Geneva could have been negotiated months ago.  But until Obama threatened to use force to weaken the al-Assad regime, predicated on its use of CW, Obama’s policy was that “Assad needs to go.”  Now, Obama is “maintaining our readiness” to use force, but U.S. policy appears to be that al-Assad’s chemical weapons must go after he used them, by not later than the end of the first half of 2014 (July 2, 2014).  On top of adjustments to U.S. policy, there is confusion as to where Syrian CW came from and disagreement as to which Syrians used them.

For supporters of arms control, or at least the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the possibilities presented in Syria seem positive.  The Framework would “facilitate the fulfilment of obligations by Syria deriving from the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it has decided to join.”  One of the remaining five countries that have not signed or acceded to the CWC, Syria, a possessor state, says that it now will.

Multilaterally, the burden to verify the value of our payoff (al-Assad having obtained his) becomes the burden of the United Nations and its Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its 41-nation Executive Council.  Provisional application of a treaty is permissible where the negotiating parties have agreed to it or if the plain terms of a treaty call for it.  The CWC contains no mention provisional application of itself, in whole or in part, even though that is explicitly what is contained in the Geneva Framework, which Russia and the United States, but not Syria, negotiated, and what Syria has agreed to, but not clearly in whole or even in which part.

The Obama-Putin Geneva Framework specifies that the UN and the OPCW shall have “the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria.”   The only analogous language in the CWC concerns Challenge Inspections, governed under the procedures of Article IX and Part X of the CWC Annex on Implementation and Verification (the “Verification Annex”).  These provisions require “inspection of any facility or location in the territory or in any other place under the jurisdiction or control of a State Party requested by another State Party” if the Executive Council does not block it.  While the OPCW Technical Secretariat routinely conducts exercises for Challenge Inspections, no Challenge Inspection has taken place since no State Party to the CWC has requested one.

Syria is not yet a state that is a party to the CWC.  As a factual matter, the United States and Russia are Permanent Members of the Security Council but would be “observers” as the term is defined in the CWC Verification Annex (defined term number 20, Part I of the Verification Annex) to a kind of challenge inspection that is not clearly the kind of inspection envisioned by the CWC but is by the Geneva Framework.  However, by a two-thirds vote, the OPCW Executive Council can block any Challenge Inspection under the CWC.  Whether or even if the Executive Council would try to do this in a period of provisional application is unclear.  The inspections being proposed in the Geneva Framework will not clearly rely on the CWC for authority.  So we can speculate that any inspections in Syria will not be Challenge Inspections under the CWC before Syria is a CWC State Party–but speculation is no substitute for the kind of clarity that will be difficult to find in the Security Council or the Executive Council.

While the stakes can diminish the prospect that the Executive Council would vote against an actual Challenge Inspection in Syria, the same costs could also ensure such an outcome.  Doubts many have about the ability of the OPCW Technical Secretariat to conduct a Challenge Inspection combine with the legally vague circumstances surrounding Syrian obligations to do more than declare and permit removal of CW under whatever obligations are (selectively) culled from the CWC into a novel provisional application of its terms.  After Syria becomes a State Party to the CWC there is the very real possibility that the Challenge Inspection scenario provided for in the CWC will be tested, for the first time, and in Syria.  If a Challenge Inspection in Syria is tied to the threat to use force, then the scenario in which the Executive Council blocks it seems more likely.

The prospect of a fight in the OPCW Executive Council over a Challenge Inspection has been a worry for CWC supporters ever since the U.S. Senate debated the treaty in 1996-1997.  But the prospect for disagreement over a Syrian Challenge Inspection is real and sets up a further area of cloudy process in the provisional period of the CWC’s application in Syria:  What if the Security Council’s resolution came into conflict with a right Syria finds in the CWC and/or a decision in the OPCW Executive Council arising out of rights Syria has claimed in the CWC?  While Article 103 of the UN Charter appears to make it clear that obligations under the Charter are superior to other international agreements, and could prevail against any Syrian rights under the CWC, this is largely a political matter, not a legal one, which, naturally, brings us right back to the fact that two Permanent Members of the Security Council–the United States and Russia–don’t appear to agree on specifics.

Great care is required under the CWC for the conduct of a Challenge Inspection.  As another erstwhile friend of the United States, China, has observed, “Whether a challenge inspection is applied rightly and justifiably and whether an abuse can be effectively prevented or otherwise penalised will have a significant impact on the authority and effectiveness of the Convention, and also on confidence and cooperation among States Parties.”  Any future Challenge Inspection in Syria could arguably be seen as the most critical test faced by the OPCW, the Executive Council, and indeed, the CWC itself.

The world will have to act quickly under the provisional period the Geneva Framework contemplates.  Once Syria joins the CWC, presumably it will have full use of its rights under it.  Syria’s ally Iran, a State Party to the CWC sitting on the Executive Council, clearly has anticipated these circumstances.  Last April, at the Third CWC Review Conference, the Islamic Republic submitted a statement that noted “On alleged use, any alleged use investigation both involving a State Party or State not Party to the Convention should be considered merely within the scope of the provisions of the Convention.”  This view would appear to focus more narrowly on investigations involving the use of CW under Part XI of the CWC Verification Annex.  Specifically, however, on Challenge Inspections, Iran has had this to say:

The OPCW should conclude the outstanding issues regarding challenge inspections. Given the political and potential damage of abusive requests for challenge inspections and at the same time the importance of this mechanism for compliance, we need to address many areas for implementation of the provisions of the Convention as was emphasised by the previous review conferences such as the timing of notification, the inspection equipment, the financial aspects, punishment of abuse, etc.

So, are these first inspections Challenge Inspections, special inspections based on and like Challenge Inspections, or something else altogether?

We’ll see.


The best target for Assad’s chemical weapons was always Obama’s red line.

Assad is still using his chemical weapons this evening, though not to interrupt the flow of neurotransmitters among his own people but rather to asphyxiate the use of force against him in order to buy time.  This is an infinitely more valuable use of them than further use against his people, at least, for the moment.  And that may have been the very calculation that was made.  If so, then we must be quite careful in whatever precedent we establish regarding the removal, destruction or safeguarding (which has an ominous connotation in this context) of the Assad regime’s CW, which will take time.

U.S. ships on patrol cost money, and one doubts they can linger on, in particular under our sequestered and war-weary condition, indefinitely.  Time will tell whether SSV-201 Priazovye might linger on in the Levant, too.  In this regard, a strong burden rests on Obama to clarify how he will keep the threat of force real, relevant and in front of Assad, and to obtain concrete agreement from his Russian counterparts regarding when and how force might still be used, should he now accede to their offer.

Ban Ki Moon has decided, as the OPCW DG has noted, that if this is to be done correctly, then Syria might have to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  That almost certainly won’t be done in Kerry’s hypothetical context, i.e., in a week.  You are free to examine what must be declared by anyone contemplating becoming a party to the CWC, and encouraged to examine other requirements, such as detailed plans for the destruction of CW.

The differing views regarding whether or not we are to (a) remove CW; (b) to destroy it, in situ or at dedicated, monitored facilities; (c) safeguard it until such time as activities might be safely carried out related to (a) and (b); and (d) when and how, are, each of them, sufficiently unclear to merit much specific response, at present.  Neither is the “we,” clear, Kemosabe.  Removal would pose significant challenges for determining completeness/compliance–it’ll be messy, highly dangerous and only realistically undertaken by governments that could do it.  And in the middle of a war, no less.  And the United States has said “no boots on the ground.”  Having achieved any of (a) through (c), at what point does the United States withdraw its threat to use force? 

It’s worth noting, too, that in cases in which we have had the opportunity to dispose of chemical weapons with more cooperative governments, it’s taken us years, and we are still not finished—Libya comes to mind.

What seems likely is some rapid response under a loosely-constructed UNMOVIC-like authority.  Then, in the longer term, Syrian membership in the CWC.  Doubtless, one can already see that the man who has to make the declaration is Assad, or at least his government.  So we ought to expect this fellow to be around a lot longer than would otherwise perhaps have been the case.

In any situation like this, I always ask what are the elements of this proposal, and to what extent is each capable of being verified?  Verification matters, even more so in the Syrian context.   As the use of CW has been the theory underlying the argument for use of SLCM strikes on Syria (at a minimum), then the verification of any proposal involving the destruction, removal or safeguarding of any precursors, weapons, production and storage facilities, and all sites and locations related thereto, is also just that much more important.

It would be our shame to let Assad make a mockery out of this process, too.



March 10, 2013, marked the 35th anniversary of entry into force of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, Public Law 95-242.  Warren H. Donnelly was a Senior Specialist in the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy division of the Congressional Research Service (CRS).  During his tenure he produced some of the most concise, thoughtful and well-regarded reports on the nonproliferation debates of the 1970s.  Of particular note is a report he wrote in October 1978 called “The Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, Public Law 95-242:  An Explanation.”  Worthy of reproduction are these paragraphs on “The Ideal Use of Nuclear Energy”:

U.S. legislation for dealing with the relation between nuclear power and nuclear weapons implies a vision of an ideal future use of nuclear power.  By reference to [the Nuclear Non-proliferation Act of 1978] and some reading between its lines—which is always an uncertain undertaking—it is possible to arrive at the following features for this ideal.

Ideally, international commerce in and domestic production of separated plutonium, highly enriched uranium, and separated uranium-233 would be avoided, at least for decades to come.  World nuclear power would be confined to use of natural or slightly enriched uranium, with terminal storage of their unreprocessed spent fuel in international facilities, or at least in national facilities under international auspices and inspection.  Plutonium would not be used as a nuclear fuel.  Nuclear supplier and user nations would have agreed upon common restrictions on nuclear trade, with no transfers of plant and equipment for enrichment or reprocessing.  They would agree to impose sanctions on nations that violate their nonproliferation commitments.  All nations would have ratified the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and, accordingly, except for nuclear-weapon states, all would permit International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to be applied to all their nuclear activities.  Nuclear-weapon states would voluntarily place their civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  Uniform and effective standards for physical security of nuclear materials and facilities would apply throughout the world.  Nuclear supplier nations would keep control over what is done with equipment, materials, fuels and technology that they provide, and user nations would have to get permission to transfer, to enrich, or to reprocess supplied nuclear materials, and approvals for storage of spent fuel.

The main incentives for nations to adhere to such non-proliferation commitments would be an assured, reliable supply of nuclear power plants and equipment by supplier states and of nuclear fuel by an International Nuclear Fuel Authority which might also store spent fuel.  Nations would be committed not to build new enrichment and reprocessing plants on a national basis and would place existing facilities under international auspices and inspection.  If and when reprocessing were needed, it probably would be provided by a facility under some kind of international management and control.  Nuclear safeguards of International Atomic Energy Agency…could provide timely warning of diversion.

National and international research and development would concentrate on perfection of nuclear fuel cycles that recover more of the potential energy of uranium and thorium resources while not increasing the risks of proliferation beyond that posed by the light water reactor fuel cycle with terminal storage of spent fuel.

On the whole, this ideal nuclear future would emphasize use of natural uranium or slightly enriched fuel cycles for some decades to come, with emphasis on improved fuel efficiency, and would discourage fuel cycles that involve easily accessible plutonium, U-233 or highly enriched uranium.  Commercial deployment of the plutonium breeder and of reprocessing would be deferred into the more distant future when safeguards might be improved enough to offset the proliferation risks associated with present approaches to the fast breeder reactor.  (Report 78-198 S, October 25, 1978, at pp. 1-3.)

Plus ça change? 

Donnelly’s description of an ideal nuclear future has not yet come to pass.  In the main, the features he described 35 years ago bear resemblance to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the IAEA safeguards system and U.S. policy regarding enrichment and reprocessing (ENR), with some exceptions which I will address in an additional post later this week on ENR.



For some odd reason, all comments have closed on my post on the ROK 123 agreement extension.  Since I happen to firmly believe in debate and discourse, please see my colleague Ted Jones’ comments below (italics) on the the matter and in reaction to a talk I gave on May 17.  You can see and read what I think thanks to Elaine Grossman’s piece.  I know some folks don’t agree with Ted and some folks don’t agree with me:

It is a valid point that South Korea’s commitments stand in the way of its enrichment and reprocessing (E&R) activities, though it is doubtful that South Korea considers the 1992 Joint Declaration the major impediment. In any case, I would take issue with the description of South Korea as a “gold standard state.”

Clarity and consistency about what the “gold standard” means is important for understanding its limits as a policy and its consequences for U.S. interests. The term is generally taken to mean a state’s renunciation of E&R technologies on its soil, and its acceptance of other commitments – within the context of a U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement. By this common understanding, the UAE remains the only gold standard country. The United States has never asked South Korea to accept the gold standard because it is an advanced nuclear country and a close strategic ally. It is highly unlikely that South Korea would have agreed to renounce its E&R rights, if the United States had asked.

The important lesson of U.S.-ROK nuclear cooperation is that a Section 123 agreement without the “gold standard” can nonetheless be an essential instrument of U.S. influence on international nuclear security and nonproliferation. The most powerful source of U.S. influence over South Korea’s E&R policies and activities is the U.S. consent right, contained in the current Section 123 agreement, over South Korea’s reprocessing of U.S.-origin fuel. The long-term successor agreement will extend this consent right to used fuel from non-U.S. reactors, and to South Korea’s enrichment and storage of plutonium or highly-enriched uranium. These consent rights, plus 8 other nonproliferation assurances and guarantees, are required in a “standard” Section 123 agreement. It is also important to note that the extensive U.S.-ROK commercial partnerships enabled by the agreement have significantly enhanced U.S. influence over nuclear energy both in South Korea and in markets, such as UAE, supplied by ROK in partnership with U.S. companies.

As the United States resumes negotiations of the long-term successor agreement with South Korea, plus 6 other renewal agreements set to expire by 2015 and new agreements with Vietnam, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, it is crucial that the consequences of tying U.S. nuclear cooperation to acceptance of the gold standard are clearly understood. Among the 10 agreements, only Taiwan has indicated its willingness to forswear E&R in a Section 123 agreement. Given that Taiwan committed to the United States decades ago never to acquire E&R, its willingness to incorporate its existing commitment into a Section 123 agreement represents little change. Vietnam and Jordan have made clear that they are not interested in negotiating Section 123 agreements that would require them to forfeit E&R rights. Negotiations with both countries began in 2010. Talks with Saudi Arabia began last year, and it is doubtful whether Saudi Arabia will accept the U.S. request to forswear E&R.

When the United States refuses to conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement because a country declines the gold standard, it forfeits 9 nonproliferation assurances and guarantees from that country, including consent rights that other nuclear supplier countries do not require. It also precludes U.S. companies from participating in the country’s development of nuclear energy. But withholding U.S. nuclear cooperation does not prevent the country from gaining nuclear energy technology. Both Vietnam and Jordan have already moved ahead with their nuclear energy development plans in partnership with other countries – none of which seeks the renunciation of E&R. If remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia – which has cooperation agreements in place with France, China, South Korea and Argentina – will follow in their path.

Insistence on the gold standard has broader negative implications for the global nonproliferation regime. Countries such as South Korea, Vietnam, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are reluctant to accept the gold standard for legitimate reasons that have nothing to do with intentions to proliferate nuclear technology. As non-nuclear-weapon states, they have already forsworn nuclear weapons; as a matter of principle, they are loath to renounce also the right to make nuclear fuel. Some countries, such as Vietnam, take this position despite having no dreams of acquiring E&R capabilities. These states properly consider E&R to be within their rights to peaceful nuclear technology as provided in Article IV of the NPT. If the United States demands that they renounce E&R rights as a condition of U.S. nuclear cooperation, it will be vulnerable to charges of undermining the NPT.

The focus of recent years on the gold standard has also had the effect of exaggerating the proliferation risk posed by legal, as opposed to clandestine transfers of E&R. Only a few countries possess E&R technology and legal transfers have occurred only rarely, and with strict oversight. Since the establishment of the NSG in 1974, no NSG member has transferred E&R technologies to a state that did not already have E&R capabilities.

The case of South Korea demonstrates the limits of the gold standard as a universal policy, and the tremendous benefits to U.S. nonproliferation interests of a standard Section 123 agreement. If certain countries, such as Taiwan and UAE, readily agree to renounce E&R in a Section 123 agreement, then the United States would be foolish not to incorporate that commitment within the agreement. But if a country declines the gold standard, South Korea also illustrates the multiple benefits to U.S. national interests that may be lost by foregoing U.S. nuclear cooperation.


Over at our Proliferation Prevention Program blog, you can see what my boss and I wrote regarding “The Dog That Didn’t Bark: Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation at the US-ROK May 2013 Presidential Summit.”

The first result of the decision to delay for most in my former line of work is likely to be relief.  But two years is not that far away.  And in terms of difficulty, may not be enough time to agree on a longer-term, 30- or 40-year agreement if the South keeps pushing on the enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) door.  Congress has a role, and while it may be an imperfect place, our Constitution and our laws give us no other for adjudication of such matters.

It’s incumbent on the Administration to submit proposed language allowing this “extension” to come into force, and on Congress to examine it.  At a minimum, the cognizant Committees ought to hold a hearing to establish clear legislative history, just in case we find that in 2015 we see another extension of this agreement being considered along side other, tough 123 agreements.

So far, only  Voice of America has covered this matter.  Note to Jack Spencer over at  What exactly is “proliferation-resistant used-fuel-management technology”?  What makes it resist proliferation?  And if it’s so good, why don’t we let everyone use it?





During a panel at today’s Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Acting U/S for Arms Control and International Security Gottemoeller flatly stated “We are not modernizing.”  She may have meant warheads, or something else, but it was succinct.  And damaging.  It’s damaging because it needs urgent clarification–if this budget cycle shows further degradation of the modernization commitments made in 2010, it will kill arms control.

Having played a bit part in the work that lead to the Senate’s resolution of advice and consent to the New START Treaty, I think it would have been nice to know where we are now, then.  Particularly given what we were told in 2010.

The seven major laboratories and production plants, plus the Nevada Test Site, must be able maintain a responsive, sustainable capability to support modernization and sustainment of our nuclear warheads in the absence of nuclear testing.  Likewise, we must maintain credible and effective warhead delivery capability for the warheads the weapons complex sustains.

In 2008, citing concerns from the directors of our national laboratories, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, and the Commander of Strategic Command, Kevin Chilton, stated in a letter to the then-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces that “The United States is the only nuclear weapons state not currently modernizing its nuclear capabilities and supporting infrastructure.”

 They made that statement in 2008, following several years of contentious, political and rarely useful debate over funding our nuclear weapons complex.  Starting in 2009, this tide began to change.  The credit goes first to the bipartisan Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, chaired by former Defense Secretaries Schlesinger and Perry, which noted in its final report that

So long as modernization proceeds within the  framework of existing U.S. policy, it should encounter minimum political difficulty.

Then, in a speech in September 2009, Secretary Gates made clear his views on how modernization should proceed, and its explicit linkage with arms control.  He stated we needed to increase our investments in our national nuclear labs and that we did not seek new capabilities but rather a credible way forward on existing weapons.  He summarized the critical link between modernization and the New START Treaty:

 I also believe that these capabilities are enablers of arms control and our ability to reduce the size of our  nuclear stockpile.  When we have more confidence in the long-term viability of our weapons systems, then our       ability to reduce the number of weapons we must keep in the stockpile is enhanced.  So I see this modernization  effort, if you will, as a vehicle and an enabler of arms  control and stockpile reduction.

Republicans were/are assured of $85 billion over the next 10 years for the Complex, and for delivery vehicles, $100 billion over the next decade.  Lifetime extensions for our warheads were funded and plans were on the table for modernization of delivery vehicles.

In the cover letter to the April 2010 NPR, Secretary Gates stated that, with regard to planning, programming and budgeting for the Nation’s nuclear weapons complex,

These investments, and the NPR’s strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear      infrastructure and support our Nation’s deterrent. They will also enable further arms reductions by allowing us to hedge against future threats without the need for a large non-deployed stockpile.

The Directors of the Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories wrote in 2010 that:

[W]e believe that the proposed budgets provide adequate support to sustain the safety, security, reliability and effectiveness of America’s nuclear deterrent within the limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads established by the New START Treaty with adequate confidence and acceptable risk.

They also said that the plan as laid out:

clearly responds to many of the concerns that we and others have voiced in the past about potential future- year funding shortfalls, and it substantially reduces  risks to the overall program.

Now, we understand that plans are on the table to rid ourselves of almost all of these commitments.

We are now come to the critical years.  With problems in each leg of the American Triad, an un-self-effacing Prague agenda in the Oval Office, and modernizing nuclear powers the world over, our extended and basic deterrent is threatened.  At present rates, and given the failures of the B-61 Lifetime Extension Program, we are approaching a deterrent cliff:  Most delivery systems now in the force will face maximum operating lives within the next two decades—and they will take decades to replace.

To date, we have no ICBM follow-on and we now apparently view a future Triad to include the B-61, but no ALCM.  Allowing American ICBMs and ALCMs to disappear does not reduce any risk of war.  Indeed, such actions may add to risks. If a majority of American nuclear weapons continue to be deployed on submarines, then we may expect not just atrophy of the alliances based on visible nuclear weapons but also increased anxieties from likely targets of a Trident SLBM. By 2030, this now looks to be the likeliest outcome.

This Administration does not even have a consistent position on future negotiations to limit or reduce certain types and kinds of American nuclear weapons, a comment on which I would be happy to expound in discussion.  There also appears to be no controlling the requirements-generation processes for any aspect of the nuclear weapons complex, again, something on which I would he happy to further comment.

President Obama, in a letter to Senator Lamar Alexander wrote in December 2010 that “nuclear modernization requires investment for the long-term, in addition to the [promises made in 2010]. That is my commitment to the Congress—that my Administration will pursue these programs and capabilities for as long as I am President.”

Or at least until today.

Maybe someone should ask Gottemoeller to clarify her remark, and maybe we should read the budget more carefully than ever before.


I look forward to working on the questions raised in all my posts, and indeed in those of my colleagues, in my new capacity as Deputy Director of (and Senior Fellow with) the Proliferation Prevention Program at CSIS.

Having been the beneficiary of many patient and knowledgable folks over the years, I view the term “expert” as a sobriquet, finding more merit in the appellation “student.”  I will try not to take myself too seriously and look forward to new lessons.

I have enjoyed Jeffrey’s invitation to blog and am grateful.  Having now blogged, I am also on Twitter (@ThomasCSIS).  Twitter could be an experience, too.