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Nuclear News - 02/23/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 23 February 2000

A. Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

    1. A Nuclear Crisis, Jimmy Carter, Washington Post (02/23/00)
B.  Russia - Iran
    1. Senate Takes up Iran Sanctions Bill, Associated Press(02/23/00)
C.  Loose Nukes
    1. Two Russians Arrested Over Radioactive Sell-Off Bid, AgenceFrance Presse (02/23/00)
    1. News Brief [HEU], Uranium Institute (02/22/00)
E.  Nuclear Power Industry
    1. News Brief [Nuclear Power Industry], Uranium Institute(02/22/00)
    1. Strange Phase In Russo-American Relations - Do We Need ToHustle Start-II Ratification? Sergei Rogov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta [translationby RIA Novosti] (02/08/00)
    2. Russian Govt Wants Start-2 Ratification-Ivanov, Itar Tass(02/19/00)
G.  Arms Control – General
    1. Abbot and Costello Nuclear Policy, Robert Manning,

A. Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

A Nuclear Crisis
        Jimmy Carter
        Washington Post
        February 23, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Every five years, the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) comes upfor reassessment by the countries that have signed it. This is the treatythat provides for international restraints (and inspections) on nuclearprograms. It covers not only the nuclear nations but 180 other countriesas well, including Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya. An end to the NPTcould terminate many of these inspections and open a Pandora's box of nuclearproliferation in states that already present serious terrorist threatsto others.

Now it is time for the 30-year-old NPT to be reviewed (in April, byan international assembly at the United Nations), and, sad to say, thecurrent state of affairs with regard to nuclear proliferation is not good.In fact, I think it can be said that the world is facing a nuclear crisis.Unfortunately, U.S. policy has had a good deal to do with creating it.

At the last reassessment session, in 1995, a large group of non-nuclearnations with the financial resources and technology to developweapons--includingEgypt, Brazil and Argentina--agreed to extend the NPT, but with the provisothat the five nuclear powers take certain specific steps to defuse thenuclear issue: adoption of a comprehensive test ban treaty by 1996; conclusionof negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, and "determined pursuit"of efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals, with the ultimate goal of eliminatingthem.

It is almost universally conceded that none of these commitments hasbeen honored. India and Pakistan have used this failure to justify theirjoining Israel as nations with recognized nuclear capability that are refusingto comply with NPT restraints. And there has been a disturbing patternof other provocative developments:

* For the first time I can remember, no series of summit meetings isunderway or in preparation to seek further cuts in nuclear arsenals. TheSTART II treaty concluded seven years ago by presidents George Bush andBoris Yeltsin has not been seriously considered for ratification by theRussian parliament.

* Instead of moving away from reliance on nuclear arsenals since theend of the Cold War, both the United States and NATO have sent disturbingsignals to other nations by declaring that these weapons are still thecornerstone of Western security policy, and both have re-emphasized thatthey will not comply with a "no first use" policy. Russia has reacted tothis U.S. and NATO policy by rejecting its previous "no first use" commitment;strapped for funds and unable to maintain its conventional forces of submarines,tanks, artillery, and troops, it is now much more likely to rely on itsnuclear arsenal.

* The United States, NATO and others still maintain arsenals of tacticalnuclear weapons, including up to 200 nuclear weapons in Western Europe.

* Despite the efforts of Gens. Lee Butler and Andrew Goodpaster, Adm.Stansfield Turner and other military experts, American and Russian nuclearmissiles are still maintained in a "hair-trigger alert" status, susceptibleto being launched in a spur-of-the-moment crisis or even by accident.

* After years of intense negotiation, recent rejection by the U.S. Senateof the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was a serious blow to global nuclearcontrol efforts and to confidence in American leadership.

* There is a notable lack of enforcement of the excessively weakinternationalagreements against transfer of fissile materials.

* The prospective adoption by the United States of a limited "Star Wars"missile defense system has already led Russia, China and other nationsto declare that this would abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,which has prevailed since 1972. This could destroy the fabric of existinginternational agreements among the major powers.

* There is no public effort or comment in the United States or Europecalling for Israel to comply with the NPT or submit to any other restraints.At the same time, we fail to acknowledge what a powerful incentive thisis to Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to join the nuclear community.

* The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) has been recentlyabolished, removing an often weak but at least identifiable entity to explorearms issues.

I believe that the general public would be extremely concerned if thesefacts were widely known, but so far such issues have not been on the agendain presidential debates.

A number of responsible non-nuclear nations, including Brazil, Egypt,Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden have expressed theirdisillusionment with the lack of progress toward disarmament. Thenon-proliferationsystem may not survive unless the major powers give convincing evidenceof compliance with previous commitments.

In April, it is imperative that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treatybe reconfirmed and subsequently honored by leaders who are inspired toact wisely and courageously by an informed public. This treaty has beena key deterrent to the proliferation of weapons, and its unraveling wouldexert powerful pressures even on peace-loving nations to develop a nuclearcapability.

All nuclear states must renew efforts to achieve worldwide reductionand ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. In the meantime, it requiresno further negotiations for leaders of nuclear nations to honor existingnuclear security agreements, including the test ban and anti-ballisticmissile treaties, and to remove nuclear weapons from their present hair-triggeralert status.

Just as American policy is to blame for many of the problems, so canour influence help resolve the nuclear dilemma that faces the world.

Former President Carter is chairman of the Carter Center in Atlanta.
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B. Russia - Iran

Senate Takes up Iran Sanctions Bill
        Associated Press
        February 23, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate is taking up legislation that would strengthen the hand of the president in punishing Russia and others thataid Iran's  weapons programs. Senators said they hoped the bill wouldhelp Iranian  reformists who triumphed in recent elections.

The Clinton administration opposes the bill, which it says complicatesnonproliferation efforts, but Democrats said enough changes had been madeto avoid a presidential veto.

The White House threatened a veto last September when the House passeda similar bill by 419-0. A Senate vote is scheduled for Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he hoped the legislationwould help the reformers against those bent on harming the United States.

He said that despite the reformists' election advances, the situationis still "quite scary. Iran's leaders now and in the future would be inthe possession of nuclear-tipped ICBMS capable of reaching Washington orLos Angeles or New York."

The legislation would require the president to submit reports to Congressevery six months identifying those providing Iran with material promotingIran's missile and weapons systems.

The president would have the option of cutting off arms sales or economicaid to those nations helping Iran's weapons programs. He could also waivesanctions for national security reasons.

The bill also states that the United States could only make paymentsto the Russian Space Agency for its role in building the InternationalSpace Station when the president determines that Russia is actively opposingproliferation to Iran.

The bill "is not anti-Russian," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. "Butwe are manifestly anti-proliferation. We will not tolerate vicious andvenal persons plunging the world into a new Cold War."

The bill "sends a message to our friends in Russia about the intensityof our concern about their part in helping Iran develop weapons of massdestruction," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.

The president in 1998 vetoed legislation that, unlike the current bill,would have required the imposition of sanctions against those helping Iranbuild missiles.

Heading off a possible veto override, Vice President Al Gore shortlythereafter announced sanctions on seven Russian entities suspected oftransferringweapons technology to Iran. In 1999 three more Russian groups were addedto the list.

But legislators said the administrative action, while needed, did notgo far enough. Lott said that Russia, as well as China and North Korea,have not sufficiently opposed the clandestine transfer of materials toIran. The administration strategy "has failed to slow the flow of thisdangerous technology," he said.

Lott and others pointed to CIA warnings earlier this year that Iranmay be closer than previous believed to amassing a nuclear arsenal andthat Russia, already a top supplier of weapons to Iran, had agreed to sellIran more nuclear reactors for power generation.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The bill number is H.R. 1883.
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C. Loose Nukes

Two Russians Arrested Over Radioactive Sell-Off Bid
        Agence France Presse
        February 23, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Feb 23, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Russian police have arrestedan army officer and an emergency situations ministry official trying tosell radioactive strontium in China, the interior ministry said Tuesdayquoted by RIA-Novosti news agency.

An enquiry has been launched into how the two men, arrested in the easterncity of Ussuriysk, got hold of the sealed container holding some 21 gramsof the metal, which is worth an estimated $400,000.

Police are still seeking a third suspect who was thought to be actingas an intermediary in the transaction.
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News Brief [HEU]
        Uranium Institute
        February 22, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[NB00.08-4] US: The deadline for comments on the proposed amendmentto the Russian suspension agreement has been extended until 25 February,the Department of Commerce announced. The amendment would allow the matchingof 2.5 pounds of Russian uranium for each pound of newly produced US uraniumunder the agreement’s matched sales agreement. (Nuclear Market Review,18 February, p2; see also News Briefing 00.05-10)

[NB00.08-8] US: A review of USEC’s financial situation is being plannedby the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The move follows Standard& Poor’s downgrade of the company’s long-term corporate credit ratingafter USEC reported its results for the second quarter of fiscal 2000.The NRC will determine whether the downgrade indicates that USEC may nolonger be an economical source of supply. The NRC will also study whethersafety at USEC’s gaseous diffusion plants will be affected by its recentdecision to lay off 850 workers.  (FreshFUEL, 21 February, p1; seealso News Briefing 00.06-3)
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E. Nuclear Power Industry

News Brief [Nuclear Power Industry]
        Uranium Institute
        February 22, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[NB00.08-9] Ukraine and Russia have signed a nuclear fuel supply contract.Under the deal, nuclear power plants in Ukraine will be supplied with fueldirectly from TVEL Concern of Russia, rather than through a third party,thereby saving 30% on fuel charges. Ukraine said it will pay for the fuelin cash, instead of the previous barter arrangements. TVEL has also agreedto a deferred payment scheme. (NucNet News, 60/00, 22 February; see alsoNews Briefing 99.07-14)
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Strange Phase In Russo-American Relations - Do We Need To HustleStart-II Ratification?
        Sergei Rogov
        Nezavisimaya Gazeta [translationby RIA Novosti]
        February 8, 2000
        (for personal use only)

[The author is the Director, Russian Academy of Sciences, Instituteof USA and Canada]

During her recent visit to Moscow Madeleine Albright said that relationsbetween the USA and Russia are entering "a strange phase."
Indeed, the current stage of Russo-American relations reveals two basicdistinctions.
Firstly, the "buddy Boris - buddy Bill" epoch is over. In 1993 the"buddies" proclaimed a strategic partnership between Moscow and Washington,but proved to be either unwilling or unable to translate political declarationsinto tangible accomplishments. The issue, however, is not the individualattitudes of the persons involved, but the catastrophic policy pursuedby the Russian leadership, the policy which transformed Russia from a globalsuperpower into a weak country bogged down in a permanent crisis. As aresult, Russo-American relations have grown massively lopsided. The UnitedStates can no longer regard politically unstable, economically weak andinternationally isolated Russia as an equal partner whose interests theyought to take into serious consideration. In fact, the pronounced partnershipturned into "the leader and the led" pattern of relationship, with theUSA attempting to shape major trends of Russian domestic and foreign policy.Yet this pattern fell apart after the financial collapse in August 1998.Yeltsin's resignation brought an end to that epoch.
Secondly, the late nineties revealed considerable differences betweenMoscow and Washington in almost every major area - economic, political,military. The catalogue of these differences looks quite impressive andincludes overseas debts and loans, economic sanctions and quotas, NATOexpansion, Kosovo, Iran, Iraq, Caspian pipelines, weapons control, etc.Developments in Chechnya have shown that Russo-American relations are ina deep crisis. Should the current situation hold, a totally new patternof relationship will take root to bring forth mutual alienation as thebest option, and all-round confrontation in the worst case scenario.
Thirdly, both we and the US are about to enter the presidential electionrace. The atmosphere of election campaigns (notwithstanding vast differencesbetween such campaigns in Russia and in America) is inevitably fraughtwith excessive pre-election rhetoric which does not exactly encourage diplomatsto look for compromises. Moreover, the change of leaders in both countries(first in Russia, then in the US) will spell not only a new personal stylebut also correction of strategic approaches.
In this light, the speech made by the US Secretary of State MadeleineAlbright at the Diplomatic Academy during her recent visit to Moscow givesample food for thought regarding the nature and configuration of theRusso-Americanrelationship in the foreseeable future. She proclaimed the end of thetransitionalperiod in international affairs and announced the beginning of a "new era."To give her credit, the US Secretary of State dismissed the "defeatistsentiments" and made quite an optimistic forecast. "I am certain," shesaid, "that the United States and Russia share enough common intereststo overcome the existing differences and jointly work out balanced approachesto the major risks and contingencies that we are likely to face in thenew century."
Unfortunately, today this scenario looks somewhat too optimistic. Russia'sdisengagement from the crisis and restoration of the country's economicmight hinge to a large extent upon the terms of our integration into theworld economy. It is no secret that the US-led West establishes major prioritiesregarding the configuration of the global market. The necessity to playby new rules on the world's political and economic arena has proved tobe a tough trial for the Russian Federation.
The nineties witnessed Russia saddled with heavy debts it owed to itsmore efficient competitors. Boris Yeltsin, when signing the BelovezhskayaPushcha Agreement on the disintegration of the Soviet Union, acknowledgedall the debts the USSR had amassed during the cold war era. Those werepromptly augmented by new debts on loans borrowed from the IMF and theWorld Bank throughout the past decade. Additional loans from various foreignlenders and the issue of eurobonds further aggravated the situation. Allin all, Russia received from the West less than $50 bln. in the nineties,and paid off over $80 bln. However, our total debt has leapt 50 percentto reach $165 bln. which is tantamount to the Russian GDP in dollar termsat the official rate of exchange.
Suffice it to say, that after the August 1998 financial collapse,impoverishedRussia received less than $1 bln. in Western loans but paid off $10 its creditors. In the first quarter of this year alone we are to repayanother $3 debt redemption. The more we pay, the bigger the debtbecomes.
For the time being, thanks to the oil price hike, we are somehow managingto meet our debt obligations, albeit not all of them, for example, debtsto members of the London Club of Creditors have been delayed. But the currentoil prices will not last long. In all likelihood, the USA will soon useits mighty clout to slash the oil price, otherwise the uniquely long periodof American economic growth, associated with President Clinton, may wellend up in a replication of the 1929 stock  market crash.
What are we going to do in case the oil prices go down? Are we goingto follow suit of the Bolsheviks who in 1918 flatly refused to pay debtsto the imperialists?
At present the West is unwilling to hold any serious talks with Russiaon debt restructuring. In the summer of 1997 at the G-7 Summit in CologneYeltsin was given promises that such talks should start shortly... onlyfor the promises to be discreetly hushed up later on. In 2000 one thirdof our federal budget (or about 4 percent of GDP in dollar terms) willhave to be spent on foreign debt payments, which is a heavy burden eventaking into account the facts that we have unilaterally stopped payingthe Soviet Union's debts, and that the West intends to give us additionalloans to the amount covering half of the payments due.

However, during Mrs. Albright's stay in Moscow both the IMF managingdirector Michel Camdessus and the World Bank president James Wolfensohnmade it quite clear that the release of the above loans would be suspendedfor economic as well as political (Chechnya) considerations.
Can Russia break the vicious debt circle it has been stuck in overthe past years? Honestly, this is going to be an insurmountable challengeunless our creditors agree to meet us halfway and show willingness to takeinto account at least some of  Russia's interests.
If Washington were truly willing to give due regard to legitimate Russianinterests, President Clinton might have suggested to his Western alliesthat a long-term (say, 20-year-long) program for Russia's debt restructuringbe worked out. It is evident that the other G-7 members will subscribeto such a large-scale initiative only on condition of strong Americancommitment.However, neither the US Secretary of State, nor Secretary of the Treasury,nor the US President himself has shown any particular interest in addressingthis issue.
About a year ago President Clinton declared that by June 2000 he wouldmake a decision on the deployment of the national missile defence system,irrespective of the progress made at the Russo-American talks on adjustmentsto the 1972 ABM treaty. Mrs. Albright did not forget to recall this planduring her recent stay in Moscow. Thus, the US is openly threatening toenforce a unilateral review of the rules hitherto practised in the sphereof strategic weapons, disregarding the national security interests of Russia.
Does it mean that Washington intends to bring about gradual renunciationof the existing parity in the area of nuclear weapons because there isno parity with Russia in all other areas? Mrs. Albright is giving assurancesthat the Clinton Administration harbours no such intentions, but who canguarantee that the next US Administration will stand by the present statusquo? It is pertinent to note in this respect that the Republican Partyhas declared the deployment of the federal missile defence system to bethe cornerstone of its national program. And the Republicans stand a goodchance to make it to the White House in November, 2000.
At the same time, the US is insisting on prompt ratification of STARTII (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), giving indications that such aratificationwould determine Washington's attitude to Putin. A statement to this effectwas made during Mrs. Albright's stay in Moscow by an American diplomatwho spoke on conditions of anonymity. Undoubtedly, this Treaty ought tohave been ratified a long time ago, but Yeltsin lost precious time refusingto discuss the issue with the State Duma. However, when the Duma had finallygrown ready for the ratification, the USA twice thwarted its vote by savagebombing of Iraq (in December 1998) and then Yugoslavia (in March 1999).Apparently, Washington has ceased to regard the START-II ratification asa major priority significant enough to justify, say, a two-week delay inexecuting another punitive action. Every American expert is certain thatin ten years' time financial difficulties will lead to the Russian nucleararsenal shrinking to a level far lower than the one stipulated in the START-II.
Why then is the Clinton Administration trying so hard to push theratificationthrough as soon as possible? Probably, because following the blocking ofnew treaty on the comprehensive ban of all nuclear weapons tests by theUS Senate, President Clinton does not want to end his tenure in officewith a history of failed efforts. He would like to have at least one majorarms control treaty in eight years successfully brought into force.
We cannot, however, rule out the possibility that the US wants to makesure that economic tribulations have rendered Russia pliant enough to makeconcessions in the area of strategic arms, including the ABM Treaty. Rememberhow many times Yeltsin bluffed the West with threats stretching just shortof starting the third world war in retaliation for expansion of NATO, bombingIraq or aggression against Serbia. Yet in the end, he always gave in to"buddy Bill."
I have been advocating the immediate ratification of START-II for sevenyears. If it had taken place in 1994 or 1996, we would have now had START-IIIeffectively in operation, with no inroads being made into the existingABM Treaty. Today, however, I think that we should take our time and thoroughlyweigh up the cons and the pros. What would happen if in response to theDuma's ratification of the ill-fated treaty the Republican-dominated Senaterejected the 1997 Protocols on the extension of START-II and demarcationbetween tactical and strategic missile defence systems? What would happenif in June or July President Clinton did give the go-ahead to his planof deploying the national missile defence system in contravention of theexisting ABM Treaty?
The hasty ratification of START-II (which is certainly going to berigidly tied to continued observance of the ABM Treaty) may in a few months'time leave us facing an uneasy dilemma: either to admit that we had beenbluffing all along and surrender at discretion, or run the risk of openconfrontation with the USA.

In the first case, we will demonstrate to the world that Moscow is tooweak to protect its national interests and humbly resigns to Washington'sdictate. In the second case, the whole system of strategic arms control(START-I, START-II and ABM Treaty) will fall apart and all hope for a compromiseon foreign debt payments will vanish into thin air.
At the same time, in the event that the third test launch of the Americaninterceptor-missile scheduled for this April goes amiss, President Clintonis most likely to announce that further deployment of the national missiledefence system will be suspended for logistical reasons. Furthermore, shouldthe current US economic boom keep its momentum, the Republicans' chancesfor presidency will diminish and the Democrats will be less vulnerableto criticisms from their opponents. Unfortunately, Washington's courseis going to be much more contingent on such factors as US domestic politicsand military equipment performance than on the State Duma's voting procedures.
The urgent ratification of START-II makes sense only if President Clintonsuspends his decision on deploying the national missile defence system.In this case we should not only ratify the treaty but must immediatelystart talks on START-III and the ABM Treaty. In all likelihood, these talkswill be still in progress when the White House becomes home to the nextAmerican leader. And it is with this new leader and his Administrationthat we will most likely have to discuss our financial difficulties. Naturally,we will have to make serious concessions, but reciprocity should lie atthe root of each compromise we agree on.
In the event President Clinton does announce the deployment of thenational missile defence system in July, the unratified START-II will allowus much more space for manoeuvring in steering the most suitable policyfor effective diplomatic and military responses.
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Russian Govt Wants Start-2 Ratification-Ivanov
        Itar Tass
        February 19, 2000
        (for personal use only)

WASHINGTON, February 19 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian leadership wants theState Duma lower house of parliament to ratify soon Start-2, or strategicarm reduction treaty, Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanovsaid here on Friday.

He is visiting Washington at the inviattion of Samuel Berger, the USpresident's national security advisor.

Ivanov told reporters that the government wants the State Duma to ratifyStart-2 to open a way for Russia and the US preparing Start-3, a treatyon further reduction of nuclear weapons.

He added that "all this is possible with retention of the Anti-BallisticMissile Treaty" of 1972.

Russia is bluntly opposed to revision of the ABM treaty sought by theUS.

By urging Russia to agreee to modification of the ABM treaty, the USadministration wants a leeway for the United States' deploying a nationalanti-missile defense system.

Ivanov said implementation of these plans could "undermine the entiresystem of international agreements on weapons control".

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who has visited Moscow recently,was positive on her discussion of the ABM problem with acting PresidentVladimir Putim.

US experts concluded from this that Russia opened the door for a compromise.

Ivanov said in a comment: "In order to say whether doors are openedor not, it is importrant to clearly understand what it is done for andwhat concretely the Americans propose".

With US officials saying that they want only minor modifications ofthe ABM treaty while planning the national anti-missile defense system,"these things simply do not fit into each other", Ivanov said.

If, however, the US wants to move interceptor missiles from North Dakotaor any other stationing area, "this is a quite different statement of thequestion", Ivanov said.

He said the issue remains to be discussed and the Russian side "is readyto continue discussions".

Ivanov's talks in Washington also addressed non-proliferation of massdestruction weapons and missile technology.

He said the Americans did not question Russia's compliance with thenon-proliferation regime, but mentioned some of issues that cause theirconcern.

Ivanov said he had made exhaustive explanations. "It seemed to me thatthe Americans were satisfied with these explanations and began to feelmore trust. We ourselves are interested that nuclear and missile technologiesdo not drain from Russia and do not appear in volatile regions, much lessthose close to its borders," he said.
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G. Arms Control - General

Abbot and Costello Nuclear Policy
        Robert Manning
        February 17, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Was I the only one who noticed? For the past decade since the Cold Warended, U.S. policy toward Russia has been to get rid of as many Russiannuclear weapons as possible. Yet in late January, when the Russians proposedeliminating up to 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads more than currentarms-controltalks have considered, the Clinton administration said no.

What is going on here? It is a bit like the old Abbot and Costello comedyroutine "Who's on First?" that goes in circles.

Cold War thinking in a new world

When faced with the opportunity of more or less nuclear warheads inRussia, the Clinton administration simply said it needed the 2,000 to 2,500warheads that would remain if a START 3 treaty now under discussion isrealized. But Moscow wanted to go lower, to 1,500. At times it has hassuggested perhaps going down to 1,000, and Russia's defense minister hassaid that by the end of the next decade, Russia could not afford to havemore than 500 warheads.

The United States does not want to match Russia's proposal because weneed these weapons for nuclear deterrence, according to State Departmentspokesman James Rubin. But whom exactly are we deterring? China, a countryClinton has called a "strategic partner," has a grand total of 20 strategicwarheads that could hit the United States. Nuclear wannabes like NorthKorea, Iran and Iraq would have only a handful if they did manage to succeedin joining the nuclear club.  Russia, which has perhaps 5,000 or morestrategic warheads, is no longer an adversary.

During the Cold War, it was not hard to envision a conventional warin Europe escalating into nuclear conflict. But today it is difficult tospin a plausible scenario where the United States and Russia escalatehostilitiesinto a nuclear exchange. Russia has no Warsaw Pact and not much of aconventionalforce. Yet U.S. nuclear planners still base their targeting plans on prospectiveRussian targets, though no one will say so.

If the United States wants to reduce the Russian nuclear arsenal, whynot go lower? Nuclear weapons are still important to deterrence, but thiscan be achieved at more manageable levels, worth doing if it benefits U.S.interests. You do not have to be an anti-nuker to argue that in light ofU.S. conventional military capabilities, particularly advances inprecision-guidedmunitions used in the bombing of Yugoslavia and the end of the Cold War,we can rethink the role of nuclear weapons in American defense strategy.

That leads many serious strategic hard-liners to conclude that we mightbe more secure with fewer nuclear weapons if it means fewer Russian weapons,and perhaps at some point, fewer Chinese weapons. China is modernizingits nuclear arsenal, and U.S. and Russian nuclear behavior will affectthe shape of China's future nuclear arsenal.

If truth be told, the administration's position boils down to the realitythat a beleaguered Russia no longer can afford the mythology of the ColdWar, while U.S. policy appears burdened by Cold War baggage. (Recall thatthe Russians insisted on a U.S. commitment to START 3 before its Duma ratifiedSTART 2.) In a strategy-free White House, bureaucratic inertia often guidesnational security policy.

Thus, we need 2,000 warheads because that is what our operations planssay. We need 'em because we need 'em. Nobody at the top on nucleardecision-makingwill pose the fundamental questions: Where do nuclear weapons fit intoour defense policy, and how many do we need?

At the end of the Cold War, President George Bush unilaterally eliminatedtactical nukes without any arms-control lawyers; Soviet leader MikhailGorbachev later reciprocated. If we want to eliminate Russian nukes, whyeven be hung up START 2? Why not just jump ahead and go down to 1,500?

Another unflattering legacy for Clinton

What's more, we are contemplating building national missile-defensesystems. Fine. But every Russian nuke we get rid of is one less likelyto be launched, accidentally or any other way.

The Clinton administration has been trying to reach a "package deal"with Moscow, where Russia would agree with revision of the Anti-BallisticMissile Treaty and we would agree to START 3 and sweeten it with othercooperative ventures. Rejecting the Russian overture may make a deal moredifficult to reach.

The U.S. failure to fundamentally rethink the role of nuclear weaponsis one of Clinton's grand strategic failures. Clinton's legacy may be asquandering of the opportunity to de-emphasize nuclear weapons and insteadinadvertently fostering a revaluing of nukes.

Certainly Russia, whose conventional military forces have degraded enormously-- in Chechnya, Russians are having trouble invading themselves -- hasrevalued nuclear weapons. In January, Moscow published a new national securitydoctrine that lowered the threshold of nuclear use.

A previous Russian doctrine statement called for use of nuclear weapons"in case or a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation." The newstatement says nuclear weapons can be used "in the case of the need torepulse an armed aggression, if all other methods of resolving the crisissituation are exhausted."

Ceding the high ground

Actions have consequences. The danger is that the window of opportunitythat the end of the Cold War opened to reconsider nuclear weapons may beclosing.

With it, the possibilities of capitalizing on the U.S. and Russian nucleardraw-down to lead by example and strengthen non-nuclear norms may be evaporatingbefore we have had a chance to see if the momentum of build-down couldtranslate into a world where nuclear dangers are reduced.

Robert A. Manning, a contributing editor to,is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. These views arehis own, not the council's. His e-mail address
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