Friday, November 20, 2009

Ambassador Max Kampelman on Nuclear Disarmament

Ambassador Max Kampelman, the Democrat who became President Ronald Reagan’s arms control negotiator and who is argued to have initiated the new political momentum behind nuclear disarmament, addressed faculty and students at the Elliott School of International Affairs on November 9, 2009. Ambassador Kampelman recommended research and policy engagement by institutions of higher education to respond to the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Observing that “political scientists ought to know how to get things done,” he contended that academic research should include questions of how policy might shape political outcomes. He suggested additional research focused on how to build consensus domestically and globally around how the world “ought” to be and the steps necessary to move in that direction. He also suggested research into how the historic experience of arms control could inform policy to respond to today’s challenges. Noting an absence of institutional and coordinative mechanisms for resolving policy uncertainty related to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, Ambassador Kampelman emphasized the value convening and policy engagement to bridge different perspectives on the challenge of nuclear disarmament, as well as new research on how to advance toward this increasingly important policy objective. Watch the video of Ambassador Kampelman’s public remarks here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

T family values

Undersecretary of State for International Security and Arms Control Ellen O. Tauscher shared her perspectives on her current tasks and her career with students and faculty of the Elliott School of International Affairs on November 10 as part of the Elliott School's Distinguished Women in International Affairs event series.

Observing that organizational units in the State Department have "code" letters -- "we even have an M, although he's not a secret agent" -- and that her bureau is known as "T," Undersecretary Tauscher related that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked her to "resurrect the T family."

“T” could do with some resurrection. Under the leadership of John Bolton, famously hostile not only to arms control but also to the United Nations to which he later represented the United States, the bureau was "reorganized." These reorganizations appear to this outside observer to have significantly degraded the U.S. Government's capacity to lead and sustain international cooperation to prevent the spread or use of nuclear weapons.

Secretary Clinton's direction to Undersecretary Tauscher is thus much needed and reflective of the deep engagement and effective leadership both have shown over time on the challenge of nuclear weapons proliferation.

"Resurrection" is an important and complicated word in this context. Then Undersecretary Bolton's "reorganization" was structural -- it continues to constrain the function of the Bureau after his departure. So Undersecretary Tauscher's resurrection should be structural as well, creating new enduring capacity. A very welcome project to those who believe international law can be used to protect national and global security.

There is, however, an asterisk to this formulation in the mind of longtime observers of the organization of the U.S. Government for proliferation prevention. As the head of the "T family,” Undersecretary Tauscher is one of six undersecretaries. In contrast to the Undersecretary for Political Affairs, she has no foreign government “clients” – she represents only the U.S. Government’s commitment to promote international security through diplomacy.

Sometimes the requirements of effective global nonproliferation align with the requirements of strong bilateral relations with U.S. friends and allies. Sometimes this alignment is more difficult to achieve. In this latter class of cases, it is crucial that the requirements of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons have a strong champion, like Undersecretary Tauscher, to ensure that they are not drowned out by a host of bilateral diplomatic concerns, sometimes with significant economic implications.

This is a major challenge, worthy of the talents of a proven leader like Undersecretary Tauscher. But it used to be a little easier.

From 1961 until 1997, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was legislatively established as independent of the State Department. This meant that whenever conflicts arose among the various Undersecretaries of State, the requirements of prevention of proliferation or use of weapons of mass destruction could be raised by the ACDA director one-on-one with the Secretary and, if necessary, the President. The ACDA director had his (sadly, the ACDA directorship no longer exist for Ellen Tauscher to break the male monopoly) own seat on the National Security Council reflecting the extraordinary danger weapons of mass destruction pose to U.S. national security. In observing that these dangers persist, we should think carefully about the future structure of the U.S. Government to effectively face them.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Contribution of the Global South to Nuclear Nonproliferation

A talk I gave at a FLACSO Conference on “The Nuclear Challenge” Santiago, Chile on September 4, 2008:

I would like to begin by thanking FLACSO and the organizers of this conference for the opportunity to address you here today; as I will discuss in some detail, I believe the inclusion of the global south and Latin America in particular is a vital step toward a more stable nuclear nonproliferation regime and the ultimate goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons. I am also grateful to Dr. Bonnie Jenkins and the Ford Foundation for her ongoing support of innovation and global inclusion in the field of nuclear nonproliferation. I would also like to thank my fellow panelists and conference participants for your effort in service of global human security. The views I express today are mine alone.

I am pleased to speak with you today about the contribution of the global south to nuclear nonproliferation. The history of this contribution is both long and characterized by innovation, but the recognition of this rich tradition is often undermined by the differences of context in which nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states consider security and stability as well as technological and commercial issues. Today I will briefly discuss the global south’s tradition of contribution, the challenge of today, and the future potential of a more inclusive global conversation on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

A Tradition of Contribution

The global south has contributed significantly and innovatively to the cause of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. An international legal commitment to a nuclear weapon-free zone was first incorporated into the Antarctica Treaty in 1959 and the Treaty of Tlatelolco established the first nuclear weapon-free zone in a densely populated region in 1967. The states of Latin America and the Caribbean established a model for subsequent nuclear weapon-free zones in the South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia; created a unique regional implementing body in the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean; and in overcoming significant challenges to the full implementation of the Zone through the Quadripartite Agreement and unprecedented cooperation between potential nuclear rivals.

Four decades since its inception, the spirit of Tlatelolco has contributed significantly to global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Mun acknowledged in Mexico City last month:
Today, the regional or territorial approach to disarmament covers most of our planet. Virtually the entire southern hemisphere is now nuclear-weapons free…[and]…two thirds of the world’s States are signatories to nuclear weapon-free zone treaties… [1]
The Secretary-General went on to observe contrast with the global north, where “the majority of the world’s population still lives in countries that possess nuclear weapons.” What challenges stand in the way of translating the positive nuclear nonproliferation experience of the global south into the northern hemisphere?

The Challenge of Today

Many of the arguments that may alienate states of the global south from more active participation in the nuclear nonproliferation regime are focused on Articles IV and VI of the NPT – understood by many to constitute “half” of a “bargain” between the non-nuclear weapons states and the nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT. The idea is simple – the NPT includes an obligation undertaken by non-nuclear weapons states not to acquire nuclear weapons which can be understood to be “balanced” by obligations undertaken by the nuclear weapons states to share the peaceful benefits of nuclear technology consistent with Article IV and to work toward the ultimate goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons under Article VI. This way of understanding the NPT as a “balance of obligations” or a “bargain” is simple, but not stable.

Each side can view the absence of shared understanding of what constitutes compliance as an obstacle to cooperation imposed by the other – the examples of this phenomenon I am most prepared to describe come from my country, the United States. One expert observer has referred to the perennial clash over the meaning of nuclear weapons state compliance in the NPT Review Process as a “dialogue of the deaf.” Another has lamented the futility of communicating the substantial efforts undertaken by the U.S. Government to establish and communicate a strong record of compliance to the non-nuclear weapons states who, in that expert’s opinion, cannot be satisfied. A third expert has suggested that there are “two NPTs,” one that functions to identify clandestine efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and rally international opposition to stop these clear and present threats to international peace and security, and another, second NPT, that functions as a periodic and ineffectual international debating society about marginal and ephemeral issues. While I am less familiar with the state of political discourse about the future of the nuclear nonproliferation regime in the global south, I suspect that that similar arguments may surface here. Without assigning blame or attempting to adjudicate the validity of accusations on either side, I would argue that the past performance of the NPT as a mechanism to promote shared meaning and a stable, shared appreciation of what constitutes compliance and “good” nuclear nonproliferation behavior is constrained by these mutually exclusive perspectives.

The NPT is unequal in its obligations, but it did not create two classes of states, it recognized that two classes of states existed in an effort to slow the translation of scores of nuclear weapons “have nots” into “haves.” While this international legal rule has helped maintain this disparity, the diffusion of technology and political challenges including the dissolution of a nuclear weapon state and the emergence of “proliferation rings” and “second-tier” suppliers of nuclear or dual-use materiel have eroded the context that gave rise to this difference. Others have very ably observed that it is increasingly difficult to prevent a determined nuclear proliferator.

At the same time, globalization has widened the group of nuclear weapons stakeholders. Those who feel threatened or who believe they have been adversely affected by nuclear weapons testing, development, and production and more able to communicate with each other. Independent studies suggest the potential for global climate effects of the use of multiple nuclear weapons. Ease of transportation and communication make the suffering of people anywhere difficult to ignore for people everywhere as greater awareness of global poverty and challenges to health and sanitation underscore.

In this context, it is easy to understand the traditional role some governments of the global south have adopted – as an advocate for those who, having no nuclear weapons themselves, are merely potential victims. From this perspective, consistent pressure for greater nuclear weapon state compliance with Articles IV and VI may seem sufficient. This criticism of the nuclear weapons states may be argued to have a legal basis and has been offered consistently in demands for a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a fissile material control regime, strong negative security assurances, a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament, and greater cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

While it may not be possible for the nuclear weapons states to meet any of these demands at a given moment in time, it is possible at any time for the nuclear weapons states to respond to each of the concerns that underlie these demands working toward a more inclusive global conversation on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. This was, to some degree, achieved during the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. However, this possibility can be easily derailed and legitimate expressions of concern marginalized by strident rhetoric or reluctance to acknowledge progress and legitimate obstacles and constraints to earnest compliance efforts. The result can be measured not only in failure to achieve incremental progress toward the objectives identified by the non-nuclear weapons states but also in their greater alienation from the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. This is an unnecessary risk at a moment in which the nuclear nonproliferation regime faces grave challenges, not the least of which is the fact that the presumed “leverage” of the non-nuclear weapons states does not seem likely to generate compliance “concessions” from the nuclear weapons states. The “leverage” model is not working.

The Potential of the Future

While it is reasonable to ask what the non-nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT receive in exchange for giving up their sovereign “right” to nuclear weapons through the NPT “bargain,” it is also reasonable to recognize that international leadership is itself a significant benefit with significant attendant global prestige. Just as China benefits from hosting the Olympics and the World’s Fair, Japan benefits from Director General Koichiro Matsura’s leadership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and Canada derived prestige from its sponsorship of the “Ottawa Process” culminating in the ban on anti-personnel landmines, states in the global south aspiring to regional and international leadership can garner prestige by building on their tradition of introducing innovative and constructive ideas into global diplomatic discourse on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, by testing these ideas and the processes and technologies they will require regionally to demonstrate their feasibility, and exploring the constraints and obstacles the nuclear weapon states will face in the application of these new ideas in ways that foster cooperation and sidestep the difficulties inherent in arms reductions negotiations among the nuclear weapon states. This is a future worthy of the spirit of Tlatelolco.

I have referred to this approach elsewhere as a “fusion of obligations” in which all states parties consider themselves equal partners in the fulfillment of shared obligations to prevent nuclear proliferation, share in peaceful benefits, and move toward the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. This approach has a basis in the text of the NPT which clearly specifies that Articles IV and VI are not merely half a bargain but shared obligations among all states parties. Articles I, II, and III, while directed alternatively at nuclear weapon states parties and non-nuclear weapons states parties, are each increasingly relevant to the other type of states parties in ways hard to imagine in 1968 as the diffusion of technology makes the cooperation of non-nuclear weapons states more relevant in preventing the transfer of nuclear or dual-use materiel and as nuclear weapons states increasingly accept international safeguards over their non-weapons activities. In this way, the apparent structural flaw of inequality in the NPT can be mitigated, leveling this foundation document to allow for increasingly equal obligations to be built upon it. While the NPT is for all practical purposes formally unamendable, state practice can render it more equitable just as state practice has been understood to nullify the Article V endorsement of peaceful nuclear explosions.

What specific contributions could the global south make to leveling the NPT playing field in this way? From the other hemisphere, it is hard to imagine the specific potential of the experience of the global south to contribute to this “fusion of obligations.” It is easy, however, to imagine areas in which action by the global south would reinforce the compliance efforts of the nuclear weapon states and I will list a few of these as examples:

Taking careful note of what the nuclear weapons states are able to do and acknowledging when the nuclear weapons states change their behavior is crucial to promoting an effective and inclusive global dialogue about what constitutes compliance with the NPT. This need not mean being satisfied with less, but rather showing greater sensitivity to obstacles and helping to overcome them.

By identifying particularly difficult political obstacles that constrain cooperation among the nuclear weapon states, the governments of the global south could work to imagine the technologies and procedures that would be necessary to move forward once these obstacles are overcome. For example, while political circumstances have not yet allowed for warhead-level verification of nuclear arms reductions between the United States and Russia, this is likely to be an important step on any realistic path toward deeper reductions and the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. Cooperation among the governments of the global south and perhaps in separate, parallel tracks with the nuclear weapons states could make this path easier to follow when political circumstances allow. In truth, this approach could be seen simply as an attempt to extend the model of preferred behavior offered by the Tlatelolco parties into new areas.

The post-Soviet transition created unimagined opportunities for cooperation in nuclear threat reduction. The work led by the United States in this area has been impressive, but has also encountered significant challenges. It might be constructive for the governments of the global south to pay explicit attention to this work to imagine what a future global standard for cooperative efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation might require in terms of domestic laws and bureaucratic structure. The ABACC experience of Argentina and Brazil may prove valuable in this regard.

In the wake of revelations regarding the AQ Khan network, it seems possible that future nuclear nonproliferation success will increasingly depend on a combination of traditional diplomatic tools with law enforcement tools such as criminal prosecutions and alternative legal instruments, possibly including civil lawsuits. These challenges overlap with other challenges faced in the global south including trafficking in drugs, arms, and human beings. Creating responsive laws and modes of international cooperation is another area of potential leadership for the global south.

International networking of legislators, prosecutors and judges to prepare them for their role in addressing emerging nuclear proliferation challenges might be accomplished, for example, through OPANAL with efficiencies impossible in regions that do not have their own nuclear weapons-free zone implementing body.

These are just a few examples of areas where the global south might choose to innovate in support of universal compliance with the NPT. These may not be the right suggestions and no one expects that these proactive compliance measures by non-nuclear weapons states will reduce the obligation for compliance by the nuclear weapon states. But the global south’s tradition of nuclear nonproliferation leadership suggests that innovative ideas and exemplary behavior can strengthen the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.
[1] Ban Ki Mun,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Global Zero World Summit -- student opportunities

The following is posted at the request of Claire Morelon from Global Zero. If you are a GW student, of course, I'm also interested in knowing if you're planning to apply.

Seeking Student Representatives at the Global Zero World Summit in Paris, February 2010Global Zero, a new international campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons, is looking for a handful of smart savvy, entrepreneurial university students to attend the Global Zero World Summit in Paris this coming February as representatives of a growing youth-led movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.Applications are to be submitted online and are due by 11:59PM on Monday, 30 November 2009.

English-language application:

French-language application:

Applications will not be considered complete until applicants submit a CV/resume and a short writing sample via email with the following subject line: "Paris Application - Writing Sample" to Claire Morelon (

Global Zero is spearheaded by a group of over 200 world leaders – including President Jimmy Carter, Queen Noor, Sir Malcom Rifkind, Mikhail Gorbachev, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others, The campaign’s work includes a world summit in 2010, a comprehensive plan for zero authored by Global Zero Commissioners, a global online and grassroots campaign, and a major documentary from Academy-Award winning producers.Global Zero is looking for a handful of smart savvy, entrepreneurial university students to attend the Global Zero World Summit in Paris this coming February as representatives of a growing youth-led movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. A small group of applicants who have demonstrated commitment to the mission of Global Zero as well as potential to be strategic movement organizers will be selected to attend the Global Zero World Summit in Paris in February 2010. At the Summit, these Global Zero Student Leaders will work alongside other students from around the world and Global Zero signatories to chart a course toward a world without nuclear weapons. Travel, room & board, and training will all be provided. Exact dates and a complete agenda are TBD - please check the website for updates.The application form can be found by clicking or pointing your web browser to the link below:

There is also a french language application available here:

There is a growing consensus among world leaders that the only way to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and end the threat of nuclear terrorism is to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Recent efforts by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, as well as a summit-level United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, give us an unprecedented window of opportunity to act.We are looking forward to meeting the next generation of leaders for zero! Interested individuals should complete and submit the application by Monday, 30 November

Friday, September 11, 2009

LT in the FT

Leonor is quoted in Wednesday’s Financial Times story “Split on the atom” by Ed Crooks and James Blitz:
"The world will be a much more dangerous place if more countries acquire enrichment and reprocessing facilities, because then we will have more potential nuclear weapons states."
This is a pedestrian post for such an important date of remembrance, but it is also true and reflective of a pressing problem for the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Newsweek misrepresents nuclear weapons scholarship

Jonathan Tepperman’s thesis in his September 7th Newsweek article “Why Obama should Learn to Love the Bomb” that “a growing and compelling body of research suggests that nuclear weapons may not, in fact, make the world more dangerous” badly misrepresents the state of scholarship on this crucial topic.

First, Tepperman references a handful of scholars to make his argument while dismissing the majority who disagree with him. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn opposed this view in two op-eds in the Wall Street Journal and other leading scholars and practitioners participated in a 2007 conference at Stanford University, now memorialized as a 500-page volume, Reykjavik Revisited. Scores of experts are summarily excluded from Tepperman’s article.

Second, Tepperman suggests a robust understanding of how deterrence relates to today’s challenges where none exists. Nuclear deterrence scholar Sir Lawrence Freedman observed a “lost generation” of nuclear weapons specialists in remarks at the Elliott School of International Affairs this spring and Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, General Kevin Chilton, observed this summer “we have allowed an entire generation to skip class, as it were, on the subject of strategic deterrence.” More scholarship is needed to translate “nuclear optimism” and other Cold War concepts into the Twenty-first Century.

Third, in over 2,700 words on deterrence, not one of them is “accident.” This is a catastrophic flaw in characterizing scholarly debate on nuclear weapons. Kenneth Waltz, cited by Tepperman as “the leading nuclear optimist” underlines this point by co-authoring a book titled The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed with Stanford University’s Scott Sagan who has done decades of careful scholarship to demonstrate the relevance of accidents to nuclear deterrence.

Tepperman’s “iron logic” of deterrence is undermined by a more unstable plutonium logic that can only be understood by the combined lights of physics, engineering, political science, economics, and at least more than a dozen other disciplines that James Doyle of Los Alamos National Laboratory argues constitute “nuclear security science.” The nuclear future ahead of us is long, imperfect, and badly in need of more research and more informed public debate.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nuclear Umbrella: Pick 40

Defense News recently ran an editorial arguing that the United States should build new nuclear weapons or run the risk of losing the skills necessary to build these weapons, and:
“That's simply unacceptable for a nation whose nuclear protective umbrella covers some 40 nations.”
The number 40 captured my imagination. I thought immediately of the 28 members of NATO. Then it occurred to me that this includes the United States itself, which is a provider of the extended deterrent usually referred to as the “nuclear umbrella” and thus might not be counted toward the 40. And, of course, the United Kingdom and France have their own independent nuclear deterrents, so 25 in NATO properly under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” But then I decided that coming to agreement about this will require a more cooperative spirit, so 28.

Japan is an oft-cited (if increasingly complex) case, and South Korea leaps to mind, but I started running out of steam in my effort to count to 40.

Then it occurred to me I might have the whole thing the wrong way round. I began again: 192 members of the United Nations, now subtracting:
  • 33 members of the Latin American Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,
  • 13 parties to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone,
  • 10 parties to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,
  • 53 signatories to the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, and
  • 5 parties to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone
    And, of course,
  • 28 NATO members previously mentioned

This should leave 50 UN members not in NATO or an explicit nuclear weapon free zone agreement, right?

Of course, the devil is in the details, with Taiwan probably relevant and Niue party to Pelindaba and Brunei party to Bangkok all without seats in Turtle Bay – but building on the collaborative spirit referenced above, let’s say this is all part of a round 30, leaving 10 states to be named later under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” from among (more or less) the follwing 53: Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Qatar, Moldova, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Plus, the Holy See.

This list certainly includes some of my favorites, but the point is that the who the United States has pledged to defend is potentially important at a moment when our negative security assurances (not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) will again be discussed critically at the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The stakes may not seem what they once were in extending our deterrent largesse in this way, but exactly which states we have pledged to defend with nuclear weapons under what conditions remains a worthy topic of public debate because it has implications for the effectiveness of our nonproliferation policy.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Renew Article IV with Renewables

Forty-two years since the conclusion of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the world has changed substantially. Nuclear power generation has provided enormous quantities of electricity, fueling growth over decades and clarifying challenges that were dimly understood in the 1960s. Germany, for example, may be changing course away from indefinite reliance on nuclear power while even the United States may be as much as a generation away from a permanent solution for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste. In light of these changes, state practice in compliance with NPT Article IV commitments related to peaceful uses of nuclear energy has changed as well, and could change still further, potentially to the benefit of the NPT regime and international peace and security.

Clearly, the peaceful benefits -- and challenges -- of nuclear energy have become more diffuse and complex than they were in 1967. These peaceful benefits today include the advantage of historical perspective on varied international experiences with nuclear power generation and the more informed policy choices this perspective enables.

Nuclear power may not be suitable for every state, particularly in the context of increasing Non-Nuclear Weapon State sensitivity to each state’s own responsibility to comply with Article VI, as Professor Scott Sagan recently suggested at an event sponsored by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

In this context, Non-Nuclear Weapon States should have the option to embrace assistance in the research, development, and deployment of renewable energy resources, distributed generation capacity, and energy efficiency as constitutive of Nuclear Weapon State compliance with Article IV. In some cases, these technologies may be more appropriate to the needs of Non-Nuclear Weapon States than nuclear power generation; assessment of this possibility should specifically include plans for future global growth in these technologies.

A view of Article IV compliance inclusive of non-power generation cooperation has a substantial history in the NPT regime. In the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency’s January 1995 publication NPT Article IV: The Human Dimension, non-power cooperation is emphasized specifically as constitutive of U.S. compliance with Article IV (p.2):

“U.S. support for the technical assistance programs administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has enabled many nations to make great strides in the application of nuclear techniques to a wide range of non-nuclear power disciplines. These techniques are used for such purposes as diagnosing and treating human and animal disease, optimizing soil fertility and crop production, reducing industrial pollution and improving the efficiency of industrial operations, to name just some. Many of the Agency’s programs are tailored to the needs of individual countries. Others are undertaken on a region-wide, or international basis. A closer look at some of them reveals the enormous benefits that many nations have realized in terms of an improved quality of life for their citizens.”
and (p. 18):

“The United States’ wide-ranging bilateral and multilateral technical assistance activities underscore its firm commitment to the goal enshrined in Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of promoting ‘the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials, and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy…with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.’”
The arguments – and this specific document – were an organic part of the global discussion leading up to the successful indefinite extension of the Treaty in 1995.

One danger of moves in this direction is that they could be seen by some Non-Nuclear Weapon States as an attempt to buy out an “inalienable right.” This is a legitimate concern as a key objective of the process of strengthening the NPT is increasing the perception of universal equity among its states parties. However, careful alignment of efforts at “renewable” Article IV compliance with “the needs of the developing areas of the world;” efforts to strengthen global compliance with other Articles – particularly I, II, and III; and the responsibility of aid recipient states to comply with Article VI could mitigate and balance these concerns. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution – but neither are the other proposed solutions, including internationalization of the fuel cycle or the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. We may be years away from the right idea about the future of Article IV compliance, so we should definitely keep an open mind about the future of the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and potential linkages to renewable energy, distributed generation, and energy efficiency.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Imagining Iran

Like millions around the world, we are moved by the reports and images of Iranian citizens demanding effective democracy and resisting violent oppression. We are reminded of earlier instances when heroic leadership led to dramatic political change.

This vital national drama plays out against a backdrop of global significance. The Iranian Government’s refusal to fully align its nuclear behavior with its international legal commitments and the directives of the United Nations Security Council threatens international peace and security.

Today, Iran is a singular problem in terms of compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its actions threaten the global norm against the spread of nuclear weapons. New prospects for progress toward a nuclear weapon-free world are precariously balanced on a prudent and coordinated response among many states, each with its own security and political equities to service. The Iranian Government ‘s rejection of the emerging multilateral effort to move toward the global abolition of nuclear weapons and contrary national development of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies are disproportionately shaping our common human future much for the worse.

But what if they weren’t? Witnessing the courage of ordinary Iranians, we recall the challenges faced by leaders including Washington, Gandhi, and Mandela and the transformational changes their heroism made possible. Today, the hope for such leadership sparks interesting possibilities for international security and world peace, as well as for the people of Iran.

Next spring, the NPT will be reviewed by its states parties. Many expect Iran to play a cynical and destructive role in the proceedings, but there is a precedent for another alternative. When the NPT was made permanent at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, the revolutionary leaders of South Africa’s new multi-racial democracy played an important role in rallying the world behind the then-hotly contested option of indefinite extension. They had the authentic claim to leadership of a state that had renounced and destroyed its nuclear arsenal under international verification as well as President Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary moral authority and they played an important and positive global leadership role.

What sort of leadership could a transformed Iranian diplomacy offer the world at the 2010 NPT Review Conference? Full compliance and openness to verification is obviously a first step, but South Africa did not stop there and there is no reason Iran could not go further. Aligning its longtime assertiveness on Article IV and “peaceful uses” more closely with international law and global expectations through acceptance of some type of internationalization of its nuclear fuel cycle could be a second important step. A third step might be to explore how global confidence could be maximized in the compliance of NPT states parties with their Article VI disarmament obligations, for instance through cooperative efforts to develop non-nuclear energy alternatives in cooperation with other states parties, new technologies and practices for detecting nuclear materials and processes, and nonproliferation and disarmament education practices to align national pride with global leadership for peace and security rather than the development of nuclear technology. We are indebted to Professor Scott Sagan for his recent observation (in an exchange with Ambassador Lewis Dunn at an event sponsored by The Nonproliferation Review of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies) that non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT should all make explicit efforts to comply with the disarmament provisions of Article VI.

We realize that democratization alone will not solve the nuclear proliferation problem, as Ambassador Jack F. Matlock observes in his chapter “Regional Animosities and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation” in George P. Shultz, Steven P. Andreasen, Sidney D. Drell, and James E. Goodby’s pivotal Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons (Hoover/NTI, 2008):
“even a democratically elected government in Iran might well continue the Iranian program unless the external political environment is altered (p 406)…In Iranian eyes, since the other states seem to have accepted Pakistan’s nuclear status (even with its record of proliferation!), what valid motive could they have for denying Iran that capability other than a desire to make it vulnerable to military intervention, as the lack of nuclear weapons made both Serbia and Iraq vulnerable to military attacks even though they had not threatened the attackers? Such would be the rationale of the current Iranian leaders – and the likely rationale of any, more democratic, replacement regime faced with the same geopolitical configuration (p. 411).”
But heroic actions inspire us to imagine a future different than today, and a transformed Iran would have the capacity to exercise an important leadership role toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is the bomb boring you?

James MacPherson of the AP reported yesterday that:

"The Air Force discharged three North Dakota ballistic missile crew members who fell asleep while holding classified launch code devices, the military announced Tuesday. Officials said the codes were outdated and remained secure at all times."
This story reminded me of an observation made by Bruce Blair in his chapter “Alerting in Crisis and Nuclear War” in Ashton Carter, John Steinbruner, and Charles Zraket’s iconic 1987 tome Managing Nuclear Operations (p. 85):

“The normal peacetime level of alert permits crew members to sleep while on duty. Depending on the time of day, a DEFCON 3 message literally might awaken the Minuteman launch crews, an obvious precondition for the rapid firing of forces."
The editors of Managing Nuclear Operations remind us that (p. 3):

"In its forty years of existence the command system has had direct experience of only one operational state -- peacetime."
We should all be grateful that since that writing, this period has been extended more than half again. We should also be respectfully critical and vigilant about the challenges of the next sixty years of nuclear operations.

Nukes on a Blog would like to thank Joseph Grieboski for passing on the AP story.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Global Zero Seeks Young Leaders

Parsa Bastani at Global Zero forwards the following opportunity for undergrads:

On July 22, we're launching the Global Zero Student Summer - a 3-week program for students in Washington, DC to meet Global Zero commissioners and participate in organizing and media trainings with top practitioners in their fields.

We're looking for some smart, savvy, and entrepreneurial young people - current college students, incoming freshmen, or students on a gap year - who will embrace the once in a lifetime opportunity to sit down with Global Zero Commissioners Dr. Tony Lake, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and Ambassador Richard Burt to hear why they believe we can achieve global zero. In the fall, participants in the Global Zero Student Summer will deploy back to their campuses to start local Global Zero chapters, leading our growing grassroots movement for global zero.
Apply Now> for the Global Zero Student Summer (July 22-August 7, 2009 in Washington, DC)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Global Zero roles forward

The Global Zero Commission announced an “Action Plan,” a “step-by-step process to achieve total elimination of nuclear weapons,” today in press conference at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. ahead of the scheduled Moscow Summit between President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev.

The Commission is comprised of experts from seven states that maintain nuclear arsenals, as well as Japan and Germany.

Global Zero Commission member and former U.S. Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiator Ambassador Richard Burt explained that the Global Zero Commission does not have all the answers or the only possible solution and looks to be collaborative with others engaged in the work of nuclear disarmament, but that today’s plan adds something different to this discussion because it is focused on the long-term development of a multilateral process for getting to zero nuclear weapons. Ambassador Burt and other Commission members emphasized that their effort was realistic, practical and pragmatic and that the:
“risks of nuclear weapons outweigh any stabilizing effect of nuclear weapons…We’re at a point where nuclear weapons will no longer be a weapon of the strong, they will increasingly be a weapon of the weak.”
Ambassador Burt carefully observed that testimony provided to the Commission suggests that governments and intelligence agencies have in every case been able to provide clear indication when and in what countries nuclear weapons development was underway. Former Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, Russia, and India Thomas Pickering explained that the Global Zero Commission’s plan extends over fourteen years for the negotiation of the various constituent agreements and another seven years to complete dismantlement of existing nuclear arsenals.

Former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Ambassador Shahryar Khan affirmed that “Pakistan has absolutely no reservations” about going forward on the Global Zero path, and that with Pakistan’s leadership, most other Islamic countries would follow suit.

Former Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations, Ambassador Jianmin Wu, observed that:
“the threat is felt not only by developed countries, but also by developing countries."
The Commission will convene again in the fall (probably in Moscow) to more thoroughly flesh out the plan, while continuing to consult with governments and reach out the public. A “Global Zero Summit” is planned for January of next year in Paris.

We applaud this effort and agree that the prompt creation of an inclusive global dialogue about the future of nuclear weapons that engages governments not yet involved in the nuclear arms reduction process as well as international civil society and the global public is extremely important.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Planning a generation of research on abolition

Over the weekend I finished the late Sir Michael Quinlan’s ultimate contribution to public discourse on nuclear weapons, Thinking About Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Problems, Prospects (Oxford, 2009). I will be wrestling with the breadth of his important insights for some time, but one observation stood out to me immediately: the specific scale of time over which those who support (and those who contest) the nuclear disarmament enterprise need to be thinking:

“Neat prediction is plainly impossible, but few informed commentators would be likely to rate at better than fifty-fifty the changes of [existing nuclear armouries] being entirely dissolved before, say, the centenary in 2045 of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki catastrophes.” (page 166)

The figure of 36 years isn’t shocking, but the act of suggesting a specific date brings the need to plan, institutionalize, and establish a sustainable tempo for the project of nuclear disarmament into clearer focus – perhaps comparable to the specific challenge established by the Millennium Development Goals in creating a fifteen-year timeframe for reducing poverty. Quinlan identifies new research as am important early step:

“The aim of study would be in the first instance not to establish or advocate a program of action or to inaugurate a negotiation, but simply to lay a better foundation of understanding upon which debate about prospects, options, and possible path-clearing work might be advanced.” (page 164)

He also observes that this research:

“needs to be tackled whether or not one believes in the realism of [nuclear weapons abolition] – optimists and sceptics can find common ground.” (page 166).

Aligned with these important insights, I offer a piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists today:

“The trade-offs between uncertain paths forward should be explicitly debated both by today's experts and tomorrow's nascent explorers. These tensions of zero--institutional transformation, universality, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and deterrence--will never be cleanly resolved. But if we're lucky, we will be managing them long after the legal abolition of nuclear weapons. Learning to do so effectively is the work of a generation, and we are a generation behind in preparing our best and brightest for this work.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Post-event attribution of nuclear explosions

On April 22, 2009, the Program on Nonproliferation Policy and Law hosted a workshop on the "attribution" of nuclear explosions after the fact -- referring to efforts to identify the source of the nuclear explosive design and/or material used to create a nuclear explosion -- after the fact. This important event brought diverse perspectives to bear on this important question.

Dear friend and mentor of the Nukes on a Blog team, Professor Anthony Clark Arend, posts video from this important event here:

The Program on Nonproliferation Policy and Law is a collaborative effort of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Institute of International Law and Politics at Georgetown University supported by the Advanced Systems and Concepts Office of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The President and the Four Statesmen

The President of the United States met today with former Secratary of State George Shultz, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn, and Former Secretary of Defense William Perry to talk about movement toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Watch C-Span's video here:

Friday, May 8, 2009

The importance of being Frank with Japan

Vice President of the Cohen Group and longtime senior U.S. official with responsibility for nuclear weapons policy, serving in the U.S. National Security Council and Office of the Secretary of Defense, Frank Miller spoke this morning to the Congressional Breakfast Series sponsored by the National Defense University Foundation and the National Defense Industrial Association.

Mr. Miller made many interesting, important, and thoughtful comments on the future direction of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. One of his more predictable comments was that:
“our friends and our allies will continue to look to us to provide a nuclear umbrella, and if we don’t some if not many of them will build their own nuclear weapons.”
This argument has long struck the Nukes on a Blog team as too open-ended. Never having heard clarity about the specific circumstances or U.S. actions that might lead U.S. allies to reconsider their nonproliferation commitments, we are unable to imagine productive debate about how such dangerous circumstances might be avoided or mitigated in the context of prudent efforts toward nuclear disarmament in compliance with our shared obligations to Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the political requirements of stable nuclear nonproliferation more broadly. Nukes on a Blog recidivists will recall that Leonor questioned the requirements of extended deterrence and their relationship to allied nuclear proliferation with Mr. Miller in October 2007, with less than fully satisfying results.

The Japanese case is one of a small number at the center of this topic. Professor Michael Mochizuki sheds interesting light on the Japanese nonproliferation commitment in a July 2007 article for The Nonproliferation Review. Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione recently shared his concern with a capacity audience at the Elliott School of International Affairs that this argument could be used to block movement toward further deep cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals:
“you should watch this debate…this is one of the new arguments for doing nothing…I think it’s nonsense; I think there are some Japanese officials using this for their own purposes and I don’t think it’s true.”
These arguments suggest to us that there are multiple important and interrelated factors that bear on the nonproliferation commitments of U.S. allies, particularly including Japan; that a careful understanding of the conditions necessary for the stability of these commitments must be part of any effective strategy to prevent nuclear proliferation globally; and that the emerging historic opportunity to make prudent and effective progress toward the abolition of nuclear weapons suggest that greater and more inclusive consideration of these topics is urgently needed in dialog with our allies -- again particularly including Japan.

We are pleased to discover seeming agreement with Mr. Miller on needed next steps in this regard, as he explained today:
“We need to work with the Japanese Government and open up a very rich dialogue with the Japanese Government…”
like that we have had with our European allies about the requirements of extended deterrence;

“that is a dialogue that is desperately needed.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

2053 is Enough

The Preparatory Committee of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has posted a fascinating new piece of artwork by Isao Hashimoto to their website that helps viewers understand nuclear explosive testing as a global pattern. We encourage you to view it here:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Role of Higher Education in Transforming Nuclear Weapons Policy

“The one thing we know about policy windows is that, as sure as they open, they close. If you think change is permanent, you don’t understand change…If we miss this moment, we fail.” -- Joseph Cirincione, President, The Ploughshares Fund
Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione gave a rousing and incisive presentation to an audience of fifty at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs last night on the topic of “Barack Obama’s New Nuclear Policy.”

Highlighting the importance of what the New York Times editorial page had earlier in the day called a “Watershed Moment on Nuclear Arms,” Mr. Cirincione described the extraordinary political momentum in the United States and internationally, the activity of new and important validators (including George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, and Bill Perry) of moving toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, the agenda and team that the Obama Administration has put in place to lead a transformation of U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and the challenges this transformation will face in the window of a year or two in which the conditions remain right to make it happen. On nuclear weapons policy, he observed, “this Administration is going to be characterized as a struggle between the transformationalists and the incrementalists.”

Mr. Cirincione offered specific thoughts about the role that universities can and should play in the debate over the future of nuclear weapons policy, nonproliferation, and disarmament. First, he observed the extraordinary contribution of Stanford University, where faculty members George Shultz and Bill Perry have convened an ongoing discussion among scholars and practitioners about “Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” under the heading of “Reykjavik Revisited,” recalling the summit meeting between then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in October 1986. Mr. Cirincione pointed out that “this whole movement was hatched at a university.”

Universities “change the paradigm; you change the way people are thinking about this,” argued Mr. Cirincione, who also encouraged universities to support scholars with breakthrough ideas and to do serious research in the area of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. He emphasized that universities should provide fora for public debate on nuclear weapons policy, including opposing viewpoints, and also provide venues for U.S. Government officials to connect with the public.

Finally, Mr. Cirincione included students specifically in his call to “get involved” and make political leaders care about nuclear weapons policy. He encouraged students to use the newer media – including blogs, Facebook, and twitter – to tell others what they’re thinking and “demand that your professors organize more meetings….join Global Zero…there are a hundred things that you can do about this.”

In closing, Mr. Cirincione reflected on the late President John F. Kennedy’s observation upon banning explosive testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere: “if I’d known it was so popular, I would have done it a long time ago.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

Joseph Cirincione to Speak at GW

Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, and a leading expert on nuclear weapons policy and nonproliferation will discuss the Obama Administration’s new nuclear policy.

“Barack Obama’s New Nuclear Policy”
Wednesday, March 25th at 6:10 p.m.
Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University
1957 E Street., NW room 505
rsvp to

Thursday, March 19, 2009

CTBT: Chu's mouth to open?

Thanks to the inimitable John Isaacs, Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World, and Ben Smith at the Politico for reporting that Damien LaVera, Deputy Communications Director at the Democratic National Committee will soon become Director of Public Affairs at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Nukes on a Blog team congratulates Mr. LaVera, who worked tirelessly and effectively with us a decade ago at the Lawyers Alliance for World Security, before earning a M.A. in Security Policy Studies from GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs and joining the staff of General John M. Shalikashvili (USA, ret.), who was then serving as Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In transmitting his final report on the CTBT to President Bush in January 2001, General Shalikashvili wrote that:
“The nation's nuclear arsenal is safe, reliable, and able to meet all stated military requirements. For as far into the future as we can see, the U.S. nuclear deterrent can remain effective under the Test Ban Treaty, assuming prudent stockpile stewardship -- including the ability to remanufacture aging components. While there are steps that should be taken to better manage the long-term risks associated with stockpile stewardship, I believe that there is no good reason to delay ratification of the Treaty pending further advances in the Stockpile Stewardship Program as long as we have a credible mechanism to leave the Treaty should a serious problem with the deterrent make that necessary. I fear that the longer entry into force is delayed, the more likely it is that other countries will move irrevocably to acquire nuclear weapons or significantly improve their current nuclear arsenal, and the less likely it is that we could mobilize a strong international coalition against such activities.”
One may wonder if some of this carefully developed expert perspective may have rubbed off on Mr. LaVera, and we find in his 2004 retrospective for Arms Control Today on the U.S. Senate’s rejection of the CTBT that he views this vote as:

“one of the most self-defeating moments in the U.S. Senate’s history of involvement in international arms control”
and in response to those who argue we need to keep the option of resumed nuclear explosive testing open:
“the only realistic reason the United States would need to resume nuclear testing would be to confirm a new design."
Mr. LaVera concludes:
"The Senate’s vote against ratification of the CTBT was one of the lowest moments in the history of international arms control. Although the principal arguments presented by critics of the treaty have been shown to be incorrect, entry into force remains out of reach. Nonetheless, considerable progress has been made in implementing and universalizing the treaty. If the international community continues and expands on these efforts, it will be well prepared to bring this crucial treaty into force when the prevailing climate changes."
Perhaps his arrival is a sign of this sort of change in the political climate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Nuclear allies should talk more

The United States sees its nuclear arsenal as playing a vital role in constraining further nuclear proliferation among its allies through robust extended deterrence. General Kevin P. Chilton, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command testified today before the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, explaining this point:

“In my opinion, a stockpile modernization strategy and nonproliferation efforts should be considered complementary, not mutually exclusive, means to the same safer world. Modernization could provide a unique opportunity to introduce enhanced safety and security features that would render our weapons undesirable terrorist targets. It can be argued that the effort also strengthens the confidence numerous allies derive from our extended nuclear deterrent umbrella, allowing them to forgo indigenous nuclear programs. Should these allies (many of whom have the resources and technical ability to develop their own nuclear weapons) come to believe the United States is unwilling or unable to protect their interests through the full use of our assets, I believe global nuclear proliferation could increase, a clearly unacceptable prospect for U.S. or global security interests.”
A recurring argument on the American side against verified and legally-binding agreement to bilateral deep cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons has been that – regardless of matching Russian reductions – U.S. reductions would erode the credibility of the U.S. extended deterrent, leading key allies (often Germany and Japan) to question the reliability of the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” and seek their own nuclear weapons. General Chilton extends this familiar numerical argument as a rationale for modernization.

My concern about this argument is that it is both extremely important and completely resistant to contrary or mitigating information (as Franklin Miller clarified for Leonor in October 2007 when she questioned it at an event sponsored by the Center for a New American Security, explaining to her “that’s just not the way the world works”). Its correctness assumed, this argument can be extended to embrace any specific numerical force requirement, deployment pattern, use doctrine, modernization program, etc.

The Lawyers Alliance for World Security made a stab at illuminating allied perspectives on this argument in the late 1990s, featuring visits to numerous capitals by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the late Senator Alan Cranston, Major General William Burns (USA-ret.), former Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr. and other (including the Nukes on a Blog team). We found wide diversity of opinion, including some strong support for more circumspect extended deterrence policy from the United States (particularly including “no first use”) and no clear evidence that nuclear weapons reductions discussions with Russia were approaching any sort of “trigger” or “threshold” of allied nuclear proliferation. This experience left us skeptical of the “one size fits all” assertion that anything from failure to modernize U.S. nuclear weapons, to cuts below 1,000, to declaration of a “no first use” policy, to ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would undermine the commitments of U.S. allies to nuclear nonproliferation.

Also today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives us one more reason to be skeptical in a London speech on nuclear energy and proliferation today arguing, in part:
“We must begin by reducing the number of nuclear weapons still out there in the world, and between them the US and Russia retains around 95%. The START Treaty, the mainstay of their bilateral arms control effort, will expire later this year and I welcome their commitment to find and work for a legally binding successor which I hope will pave the way for greater reductions to come. For our part, as soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included in a broader negotiation, Britain stands ready to participate and to act.”
If Britain sees itself playing a strong supporting role in creating the context for and leading the participation of the other nuclear weapons states in successful multilateral negotiations on nuclear weapons reductions, does this mean that U.S. reductions and allied reductions are complementary? If so, what does this mean for allies who rely more exclusively on extended deterrence? Does the German commitment not to build nuclear weapons grow weaker as the British nonproliferation commitment grows so strong as to allow dismantlement of nuclear weapons already deployed? The answer is at least as far from affirmative as it is from clear.

It is possible to imagine a synthesis of today’s remarks by Prime Minister Brown and General Chilton, but doing so takes enough energy and care to suggest that this should be a matter of active negotiation amongst the allies complementing the U.S.-Russian talks about nuclear weapons reductions.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oh, Canada (I wish thee stood on guard for us)

The Canadian Press reports that Canadian Minister of International Trade and Minister of the Asia-Pacific Gateway Stockwell Day announced in Mumbai that Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding to sell nuclear technology to India as the Indian and Canadian Governments close in on an agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation.

When Nik Cavell originally proposed the idea of transferring Canadian nuclear technology to India in March 1955, then Minister of External Affairs (later to be Nobel Peace Laureate and Prime Minister) Lester Pearson thought is would be:

“a most important gesture, the effects of which might be very great indeed.” (as referenced by Duane Bratt in The Politics of Candu Exports, page 89).

Of course, he was right. While Article III of the agreement that transferred the Canadian-Indian Research U.S. (CIRUS) reactor to India the following year specified that:
“The Government of India will ensure that the reactor and any products resulting from its use will be employed for peaceful purposes only.” (Ibid., page 95)
The Indians were left entirely to their own devices with regard to verifying compliance with this provision. While Canadian negotiators pressed for safeguards, the Indians resisted effectively, as Bratt recalls the Canadian side concluded:
“India was going to acquire nuclear technology without safeguards, so Canada might as well be the supplier.”
In the wake of India’s “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974, Bratt observes that Canada may have had second thoughts about being the first to supply a reactor to India:
“Canada’s own domestic view of itself, as well as its international prestige, had taken a severe beating with the 1974 Indian explosion.” (Bratt, page 157)

And that:

“By the end of 1976, the threat of nuclear proliferation had become the dominant foreign policy goal related to CANDU exports, overriding any commercial interests.” (Bratt, page 150)

Unfortunately, this hard lesson and Canada’s history of leadership in taking prudent action to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons seems forgotten three decades later in a race to the bottom begun by the U.S.-India agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation. This is a dangerous development at a time when new leadership is desperately needed to mend a broken bargain in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, manage a presumed nuclear renaissance, and respond to the Cold War’s legacy of nuclear dangers. We can hope that the Obama Administration will set a better global example on these important issues, but Canada did not serve the cause of a peaceful world in following the U.S. lead in this case.

Canada, India, and the United States each have important emerging responsibilities in the prevention of the spread or use of nuclear weapons. Leadership in defining and meeting these nonproliferation responsibilities should precede and form a necessary foundation for any further commercial steps related to the global expansion of nuclear power.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Proliferation Security Initiative: Neither fish nor fowl (but perhaps a vehicle)

Proponents of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) are fond of explaining that it is “an activity, not an organization.” The presumption seems to be that international organizations are cumbersome and prone to bureaucratic pathologies, while activities are, by definition, outcome-oriented. A slippery distinction that might be supposed to undermine important efforts to codify verifiable and legally-binding rules related to nonproliferation.

On the other hand, PSI’s emphasis on “voluntary” cooperative activities recalls David Mittrany’s “functionalism,” in which a peaceful world society is:
“more likely to grow through doing things together in workshop and market place than by signing pacts in chancelleries” (as quoted by Professor Inis Claude, Jr., Swords into Plowshares, 4th edition, 1970, page 380).
Over time, such voluntary patterns of cooperation among states may become more familiar, reducing the risks and costs of cooperative transactions, perhaps leading to more transformational effects, as Professor Claude suggests:
“Internationalism will well up from the collaborative international contacts of officials in labor, health, agriculture, commerce, and related departments, eventually endangering the citadels in which diplomatic and military officials sit peering competitively and combatively at the world outside the state.”
(Swords into Plowshares, 383-4)
How do these obscure theoretical points relate to the PSI experience? On October 3, 2008, former Undersecretary of State for International Security and Arms Control Bob Joseph provided an interesting gloss on this question at a Security Policy Forum event at the Elliott School of International Affairs, recalling the response of two European states to an opportunity for cooperation to intercept the BBC China carrying proliferation-sensitive materials to Libya:
“the German response was ‘we are a member of the PSI, we will do this.’ The Italian response a day later was exactly the same.”
Wade Boese correctly observes that this interception cannot be so easily credited as a PSI achievement and that both Germany and Italy:
“had stopped proliferation in transit prior to PSI’s launch. The initiative does not legally empower or obligate countries to do anything that they previously could not do.”
The PSI is certainly open to criticism that it is intangible and has few specific successes concretely attributable to it. Certainly the German assertion of “membership” signals the elusive character of this phenomenon which is adamantly “not an organization” in the minds of its framers. But if Mr. Joseph is right and this understanding has been relaxed in the minds of key PSI partners, the PSI could become a means to more systematic and identifiable cooperation through the existing PSI mechanisms of communication and coordination. Ultimately, it might not even be the United States that takes the next step and, for example, proposes a charter. But John Bolton and friends have built the world a decidedly internationalist resource and it behooves the international community to think creatively about how it might be adapted to greater effectiveness.