1. "A Dangerous Step Backwards" Why Has President Bush Cut Funding To Combat Nuclear Proliferation In Russia, And Will Congress Be Able To Bring It Back?
May 16, 2001
(for personal use only)
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, it's been hard to keep tight watch over all 7,000 warheads and all 650 tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium still spread out across Russia. Talented Russian weapons scientists live in a seriously depressed economy, uncertain if they'll receive another paycheck or be able to feed their families.
For years there's been a broad bipartisan consensus that the combined problems of "loose nukes" -- weapons and materials that aren't adequately secured -- and the "brain drain" of Russian scientists -- some of whom are being lured by governments like Iran and Iraq to make those nations nuclear powers -- pose the greatest threat to national security that the U.S. faces.
That's why there's now bipartisan alarm at President Bush's decision to cut $100 million from highly successful federal programs that keep tabs on Russia's nuclear weapons and material and prevent those materials from falling into the hands of hostile states and terrorists.
The cuts are part of the administration's 2001 budget, which was approved by Congress last Thursday. Many in the security field are particularly distressed by the cuts to the Department of Energy's Nuclear Nonproliferation Office, which oversees a variety of programs dealing with both the "loose nukes" and the "brain drain" problems, in Russia especially.
These programs have traditionally received widespread bipartisan support -- so much so that in the past, Congress has allocated more than the agency has requested. Now it will face cuts of more than $60 million to its programs in Russia alone, just as those in the field say those programs are most needed and gaining momentum.
Cuts to these programs come at the same time that Bush is trying to sell allies on a multibillion-dollar missile defense system to combat nuclear ballistic missile attacks. On Monday the administration reaffirmed that it would construct a missile defense, despite a chilly response from Russia. Russian officials complain that such a system would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the hallmark agreement of arms control, and have threatened to stop reducing their own nuclear stockpile if the U.S. pursues such a plan.
Furthermore, intelligence reports indicate that the most likely form of nuclear attack the U.S. could face would not involve ballistic missiles, but would likely come under the radar of such a defense system.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the Budget Committee chairman and key founder of the Department of Energy's nonproliferation programs, is expected to fight to restore the cuts. "The whole idea of cutting programs before policy reviews are completed is of great concern," Domenici said in a public statement last Friday.
The New Mexico senator says he is "very hopeful" that such a review will show that increasing funding for the programs is "not only appropriate, but urgently needed." At a conference of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management in Washington on Wednesday, Domenici will call for restoring at least some of the cuts.
But it won't be an easy task. Nonproliferation programs will have to vie for part of the same pie that will be split among all of the Department of Energy's programs -- cleanup of nuclear sites within the U.S., scientific research at the national laboratories -- not to mention efforts to deal with the nation's energy crisis. No matter how grave the national security issues involved may be, the issue arises at a time when the most pressing energy concerns facing the public are high gas prices and the West Coast electricity outages.
In a country where poverty makes entrepreneurship a necessity, those with access to Russia's more than 100 nuclear sites face constant temptation. Nowhere is that temptation greater than in Russia's 10 closed nuclear cities. Built in secret during the Cold War, not officially on the map, they produced nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Now cities like Sarov, Lesnoy and Ozersk are virtual ghost towns. Those who could leave did leave, mostly during the early '90s. But a few remain there -- specialists who used to be pampered by the Soviet government and given free housing, but who now find it difficult to find any work at all. The average monthly wage is less than $100 in most of these cities, and in some it is less than $50.
In 1998, workers at the Sarov nuclear lab were charged with selling nuclear documents to Iraq and Afghanistan. That same year, the Russian Federal Security Service caught staff members at a nuclear weapons plant in Chelyabinsk trying to steal 18.5 kilograms of weapons-usable nuclear material, about enough to make a bomb. According to Russian authorities, there are at least 100 suitcase-sized bombs currently missing from storage.
While she served on the National Security Council from 1993-1996, Jane Wales saw some potentially terrifying lapses in security that were caught and stopped by authorities. "There was one case where a janitor who hadn't been paid in a long time, who didn't know what kind of future there was for his family, took highly enriched uranium and put it in a mitt and took it home and put it in his refrigerator. Then it occurred to him that he didn't have any notion of how one sells highly enriched uranium on the market. You can't exactly take out a classified ad. So finally, after struggling with his situation, he chose to return it and admit that he had done this."
And while the end of the Cold War convinced many Americans the Russian nuclear threat had been vanquished, "in many respects the nuclear danger has gone up, not down, since the end of the Cold War," Wales says. "We have lost the tight Soviet controls over their nuclear arsenal and over the expertise that supports it."
In just 10 years, the anti-proliferation programs have helped lead Russia to agree to close one of its four nuclear weapons assembly facilities (the U.S. has only one). And hundreds of tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium have been processed down so that they can't be used for nuclear weapons. One DOE program even recycles that uranium for use in American nuclear power plants, and has so far blended down 110 metric tons of the stuff as of last December -- the equivalent of 4,400 nuclear devices.
"This may be the single smartest investment in our security that we could be making," says Wales, who is currently the president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Northern California.
A top-level government report issued last year agreed. The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board task force on Russia programs, chaired by former White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler and former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, praised the Russia programs, saying they had shown impressive results so far.
But the bipartisan task force said the programs were moving too slowly because their funding was inadequate, and urged a $30 billion increase in funding for the programs -- in other words, it urged that the funding be quintupled. In that report, Baker called the proliferation dangers in Russia "the most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today."
Now, instead of increases, the programs face cuts. The International Materials Protection Control & Accounting Program (IMPC&A), which puts in place security measures at Russia's more than 100 nuclear sites, now faces reductions of nearly $40 million. The Nuclear Cities Initiative, which works to combat "brain drain" by creating civilian jobs for nuclear workers in the closed nuclear cities, was cut by $20 million. The Initiative for Proliferation Prevention faces cuts of only $2 million, but the cuts will affect Russian programs most severely, hindering the project's efforts to couple displaced weapons scientists with private companies doing research in their region.
So far the Department of Energy has been tight-lipped about the impact of the cuts. Sarah Lennon, a spokesperson for the DOE's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, would not discuss the budget issues except to say "None of our programs are being cut entirely. There has been a reduction in funding for some of the programs, but none of them are being phased out."
But anti-proliferation advocates say the cuts will have ripple effects, touching even nongovernmental programs that work on the same goals. The Nuclear Threat Initiative is a nonprofit organization founded by Nunn and Lugar, with a $250 million grant from CNN media mogul Ted Turner. Laura Holgate, the vice president of Russian nuclear programs at NTI, says, "These cuts are very concerning." She views the cuts as doubly severe considering that "this was the year when a lot of these programs were scheduled for some very major increases."
Holgate, who worked closely with the programs a few years ago when she was the director of the DOE's plutonium disposition program, says that the IMPC&A program in particular had been transitioning from "a Band-Aid approach of quick fixes for glaring problems" -- such as bricking up glass windows into nuclear vaults and putting fences around facilities -- to a much more systematic approach to help the Russians improve their security. It also aims "to really change their mindset to recognize the importance of the insider threat, which didn't used to be a problem in the Soviet Union. That takes a lot of effort and time and training. That process will be significantly slowed if these cuts persist."
The Bush budget slightly increases Defense Department nonproliferation programs, which were created by the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act, sponsored by Sens. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in 1991. But the DOE programs work closely with the Nunn-Lugar efforts, and both Nunn and Lugar have opposed the cuts, which Nunn called "a dangerous step backward."
Ironically, the cuts come at a time when missile defense is on the front page of newspapers across the globe, and there is much talk about the threat of nuclear attack from "rogue" states such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea, and from terrorist organizations. But none of these rogue states or terrorist groups have ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental U.S. The biggest threat to the U.S., experts say, may be a bomb made of black-market nuclear material, smuggled over the border in a briefcase, or hidden in freight headed straight for a major port city.
"I think that threat is very plausible," says Holgate. "Even if it doesn't work quite as it's designed to, [a nuclear weapon] can still make a lot of mess and bring a lot of terror and public panic, and create an environmental nightmare. The same goes for nuclear material, you can either make a real mess with it or, in the hands of a knowledgeable and talented proliferator, they may be able to transform weapons material directly into a bomb."
"The first thing you do to protect against the threat is the same," says Holgate, "whether you're worried about Iran or about Osama bin Laden, you have to protect the material where it is and make sure it stays put. So you don't really have to address the demand side as quickly if you're taking care of the supply side effectively."
Restoring cuts to the DOE's programs now depends on two things: the National Security Council's review of those programs, still underway, and the final stage of the budget process. In the next couple of weeks, appropriations money will be divvied up and budget priorities will be set into law. And Domenici, who also chairs the appropriations subcommittee on energy, is firmly committed to restoring the programs' funding, according to a spokesperson for his office.
Holgate says she is hopeful that the budget can be adjusted. "There is consensus that there is a big problem out there," noting that bipartisan effort created both the DOE programs and her own organization. "There is a very obvious common ground that all sides of the question come to, and say, 'Whatever you think about missile defense down the road, or whatever you think about the future of Russia -- wherever the partisanship differences occur -- the bottom line is that this material should be protected, you don't want the scientists going to places that they shouldn't be, and you don't want these facilities to continue to operate with their excessive capability."
Even if funds are restored later this year, Domenici expressed fear that programs could lose critical staff. "We are sending an unfortunate message to our own program workers, to say nothing of the Russians with whom we are cooperating."
Wales says she witnessed an impressive level of cooperation on the part of the Russians while working for the NSC. "What stood out for me in this experience was the fact that folks who hadn't been paid in a long time, who really felt at risk and who had the opportunity to benefit, either by selling their knowledge or potentially by diverting materials, chose not to. By and large the people working at these sites were patriots first, who did not want to be part of spreading proliferation, and they chose to do the honorable thing.
"But you can't rely on that forever," she cautions. Scientists who are finding it hard to make a living "would find it quite easy to be employed if they were willing to turn their backs on their own country and on the international community. That's a huge temptation for people, no matter how honorable, over a sustained period of time." return to menu
B. Nuclear Waste
1. Ecologists To Protest Nuclear Waste Talks Between Russia, West
May 15, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW - Russian and German environment activists are planning a series of protests to undermine negotiations on importing nuclear waste from Western Europe to Russia, the Ecodefense group said Tuesday.
Russian nuclear energy officials and their German, French and British counterparts plan to hold talks on importing thousands of tonnes of waste to Russia during an international forum due to open in Dresden on Tuesday, the ecology group said.
"During the three days of the forum we will do all we can to inform the German people of the crime their own nuclear industry intends to commit, and hopefully undermine the work of this cabal," German ecology activist Karsten Enders said.
"(The) Russian nuclear energy ministry's plan to turn Russia into a waste dump may cause accidents that will be far worse than the Chernobyl explosion," the world's worst nuclear accident, Ecodefense's leader Vladimir Slivyak warned.
Last month the Russian parliament backed a controversial bill that paves the way for importing nuclear waste into Russia, ignoring the fierce protests and gloomy forecasts by the ecologists.
The plan will earn Russia some 21 billion dollars over the next 10 years, according to official figures.
However, the processing centre in which Russia is proposing to treat huge quantities of imported nuclear waste does not meet European safety norms, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Walstrom warned. return to menu
DRESDEN - The opening day of the Annual Meeting on Nuclear Technology 2001 at the Kulturpalast in Dresden was disrupted Tuesday by several hundred German and Russian anti-nuclear activists protesting Russian plans to import nuclear waste. The protests of the three day meeting are continuing today.
Nuclear power in Russia tops the list of topics being discussed at the meeting which is organized by the German Atomic Forum in collaboration with the German Nuclear Technology Society. The annual event attract the international nuclear industry including German, Russian, British, French and other companies.
Protests, organized by the Russian anti-nuclear organization EcoDefense!, Greenpeace Germany and the German group Anti-Atom Network of Saxony, were targeted at disrupting the opening of the meeting. Activists believe closed door negotiations aimed at the dumping of international nuclear waste in Russia will be taking place here. Several activists climbed the roof of the Kulturpalast to display banners reading, "No nuclear waste to Russia!" and "Conference of nuclear mafia." Others blocked doors of the Palace making what the activists called "a noisy drums party" to greet arriving nuclear officials.
In the evening, about 50 activists disrupted the cultural tour through Dresden offered to the participants of Nuclear Technology 2001 by organizers. The tour was cancelled shortly after it began, and participants were advised to return to their hotel.
Russia will build six new nuclear power units by 2010, Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Yurievich Rumyantsev announced Tuesday at a roundtable debate on energy industry problems in the Russian parliament, known as the State Duma.
A group of officials from the Russian Ministry of Atomic Power (Minatom) attended the Dresden meeting hoping to conclude agreements on the commercial import of nuclear waste to Russia. According to Minatom statements, the agency believes Russia can make up to US$20 billion by importing nuclear waste during next decade.
The Duma has not yet passed the final resolution needed to change Russian law to allow the import of nuclear waste, but two preliminary resolutions have been approved by the deputies.
A parallel demonstration is taking place in Germany against the transport of spent nuclear fuel from German nuclear reactors to Cogema, the French state owned nuclear reprocessing facility at La Hague. The transports started again this year after a three year pause due to safety concerns. "There will be a strong resistance across the country if German companies want to dump their waste in Russia," said Carsten Enders of EcoDefense! Dresden at a press conference today. "Germany should not solve its waste problems this way, with the help of Russia. Protests will be continued until nuclear officials leave the city."
"Minatom must understand it's better to give up plans to import nuclear waste from Germany or any other country," said Vladimir Slivyak, council member for EcoDefense! in Russia. "Making an international dump site for nuclear waste in Russia is a crime against the nature and next generations of Russians and may result in new accidents larger than Chernobyl," Slivyak warned. return to menu
C. Brain Drain
1. The Nuclear Brain Drain Continues
May 15, 2001
(for personal use only)
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly a decade ago, the West has been rightly concerned about the fate of Russia's vast stockpile of nuclear weapons, materials and expertise. Specifically, the West worried that the disintegration of the Russian economy would make that nation's nuclear scientists and experts vulnerable to temptation by rogue states seeking the expertise and material necessary to develop their own nuclear weapons and missiles.
To avert or manage this threat, Western programs were begun to provide financial support and alternative employment for the skilled experts and technicians needed to maintain Russia's nuclear industries and weapons. These efforts have been largely successful in engaging portions of Russian weapons experts, but the risk of brain drain remains.
While few have actually fled their country or tried to profit by stealing fissionable material, fewer still are being attracted into the field. The net result poses a new danger for Russia: that there will soon be no one left with the requisite skills needed to maintain the safety and security of its nuclear materials.
A new study shows this to be especially true among those living in what were once known as the "secret cities." In these isolated communities, the economic strain has been so severe that it's nearly impossible to attract new scientists and experts to fill the necessary positions.
A recent survey of five Russian nuclear cities and three Russian missile enterprises makes the reasons clear enough. The results in the nuclear cities show that more than 62 percent of employees earn less than $50 per month; 89 percent of experts report a decline in living conditions since 1992.
Life for those working at missile enterprises is equally glum: 67 percent report a slight or severe decline in economic conditions since 1992; 25 percent of those surveyed would like to emigrate to another country.
It wasn't always this way.
After World War II, the Soviet Union applied enormous effort to the development of its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, which was viewed at the time - and still today - as a key component of its political and military status. Tens, if not hundreds, of enterprises were built, making it possible for Moscow to achieve a rough nuclear parity with the United States by the early 1970s, although at the price of significant overtaxing of the nation's resources.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the "closed" nuclear cities were developed far away from major cities and were almost totally isolated from the surrounding areas. It was possible to visit or relocate there only with specially issued passes, and the residents of the cities had to get official permission to leave these sites.
These cities were not shown on maps, had no names, and were referred to by the names of the nearest administrative centers plus a postal code; for example: Chelyabinsk-45 or Krasnoyarsk-26. As a practical matter, however, they had nothing in common with these centers and often were located tens or even hundreds of kilometers from them.
As compensation for their remote location, the populations of the closed cities enjoyed significant privileges and advantages. A much better selection of foods and consumer goods was available than around the country as a whole, and at reasonable prices.
Workers received higher pay and generally received free housing. This higher standard of living made it possible for the nuclear and missile enterprises to attract highly qualified specialists, including the top graduates from the country's most prestigious universities.
The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union put an end to the relatively comfortable existence of those in the nuclear-missile complex. A sharp reduction in government funding substantially reduced the standard of living in the nuclear and missile cities.
Despite Western assistance programs, nuclear experts regularly went months or longer without receiving any pay. Work orders declined, job satisfaction decreased and the relative benefits that city residents once enjoyed all but vanished without any real prospect for finding new jobs in their current locations.
These circumstances create two potential security concerns. First, they give rise to fears that these highly trained and now disenfranchised workers might be tempted or even compelled to sell whatever is close at hand - or themselves - simply in order to make ends meet. Despite this potential danger, there has been only one known incident: In 1992 a large group of missile experts from the missile city of Miass tried to leave the country. At the last minute, they were removed from an airplane setting out for Pyongyang, North Korea, from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.
The threat of the unauthorized use of nuclear materials attracted most of the attention during the '90s, and there were several recorded cases of theft, which led to a significant but arguably underfunded effort to improve the security of and accounting for nuclear materials throughout the former Soviet Union.
The second significant security concern caused by the collapse of Russia's nuclear program is that the country's economic and strategic hard times are crippling its ability to maintain the human and technical capabilities necessary to keep up its modern nuclear arsenal and its nuclear power stations. Just as the United States is facing potential problems as its nuclear work force ages - and fewer top experts are interested in entering the field - Russia is already facing a notable degradation in the skills of its nuclear experts.
Without the needed investment in facilities, education and living standards, Russia might face serious problems with the safety and reliability of its nuclear arsenal and nuclear power plants in the years ahead. And, of course, this has serious implications for Russia's perceived security and for international strategic stability generally. The risk that a brain drain could also lead to additional global proliferation sparked early attention from the United States and its international partners. In 1991 and 1992, Western countries moved to engage and employ the elite of the ex-Soviet nuclear, chemical, biological weapon and ballistic missile complex through the International Science and Technology Centers, which were described at the time as technical "dating services" between Western government grants and ex-Soviet experts. The expectation was that the Russian economy would, within a reasonable amount of time, develop to the point where it could provide alternative employment for these specialists.
This expectation, however, has proved very wrong and almost a decade later the economy is still unable to provide the necessary conditions for job creation to adequately employ this vast network of experts. Although the science centers and a variety of other unilateral and multilateral projects have made important progress toward employing ex-Soviet experts, the situation in the cities remains a serious concern and a threat to international peace and security.
Without concerted and prolonged assistance to these locations, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. For its own security, it is critical that the West understands the changes going on in the Russian military complex and develop effective responses to deal with the serious challenges posed by those developments. return to menu
D. U.S. - Russian Relations
1. Bush to Meet With Russian President
May 16, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to appeal directly to President Bush next month to reconsider his inclination to scrap a 1972 major arms-control agreement and build a U.S. anti-missile shield.
The two leaders have agreed to meet in Europe, most likely in mid-June at the end of a four-nation trip by Bush, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The trip will be the most ambitious overseas venture by far of Bush's young presidency. Among high points are meetings with NATO allies in Brussels, Belgium, and leaders of the European Union in Goteborg, Sweden.
The session with Putin, to be followed by another in July at an eight-nation economic summit conference in Genoa, Italy, is apt to rival the others in importance.
Until now, Bush has focused on tax reductions and other domestic items while getting his bearings in foreign affairs.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has worked for weeks with Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, on a convenient time and place for a Bush-Putin meeting. Ivanov is to see Bush and Powell on Friday in Washington. The official announcement of the presidential session could come then.
Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the two leaders wanted to meet in Europe in June and that only logistics need to be worked out.
At the top of the agenda would be Bush's intention to build a defense against missile attack and Russia's opposition to the program.
On Monday, the administration again affirmed it would construct a defense against missiles, if one is needed, whatever Russia or other nations may think of the idea.
Bush and Powell are expected to make that point when they talk to Ivanov. They also are likely to tell the Russian foreign minister the administration wants to negotiate reductions in offensive nuclear arsenals, long a Russian goal.
Russia is opposed to a national missile defense system. Such a program is outlawed by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Bush has declared an irrelevant relic of the Cold War.
On Tuesday, American envoys ended a two-week mission to Russia and other far-flung points to sound out government officials about a U.S. anti-missile system.
In Ottawa, the final stop as the consultation tour ended, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said the delegations found mixed reactions to the idea.
"There was some positive reaction and a sense of, `Yes, this is doable,"' said Quigley, speaking for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a driving force behind the administration's effort to build a missile defense. He said positive reactions came in Australia and Poland but admitted others were skeptical.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who led the delegation to Germany, told reporters in Berlin the Germans exhibited an "openness and willingness to discuss, but very, very serious questions were asked of us."
French Defense Minister Alain Richard said more details are needed. Sweden's defense minister, Bjorn von Sydow, said whatever kind of missile defense is built should be within the bounds of an international treaty.
Tuesday in Ottawa, Marc Grossman, Canada's undersecretary of state, expressed willingness to listen: "The world in 2001 is not the world of 1972. The Cold War is over and Russia is not our enemy." Prime Minister Jean Chretien made clear, however, that convincing remains to be done. "We are engaged in a dialogue," he said. "I don't know exactly what it's all about. They don't know exactly what it's going to be. I'm not going to take a position on something if I don't know what that means."
Russia's reaction has been cool. On Monday, Igor Sergeyev, an adviser to Putin, said the U.S. delegation headed by Wolfowitz failed to convince Russian officials. "We did not hear coherent arguments in favor of Washington's plan to deploy a national missile defense system," Sergeyev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Asked Monday if the United States would ignore such views if Bush and his senior advisers were to opt for a missile shield, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "The secretary has made clear, the president has made clear that we intend to proceed with defense, and defense is part of our ... strategic framework."
Russia has threatened to stop reducing its 7,000-warhead arsenal if the United States quits the treaty. China says fielding missile defenses in Asia, which the Bush administration said it would consider, could escalate tensions over Taiwan. return to menu
2. U.S. Bureau For Europe To Include Ex-Soviet States
May 16, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has decided to fold a State Department bureau that covered former Soviet states into his European bureau, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday.
"There are sound policy reasons for doing so, 12 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and nearly a decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union,"
Elizabeth Jones, nominated to take the post of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said in a confirmation hearing.
"Our goal remains to support the transitions under way in the states that once made up the USSR and to strengthen their links to European and Euro-Atlantic institutions," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Jones, who is expected to be confirmed in her post, will be responsible not only for European affairs but states covered under the Clinton administration by the Office of the Special Adviser for the New Independent States (NIS), a bureau last led by Ambassador Steven Sestanovich.
Washington was well-placed to promote its interests, Jones said, through policies including a bigger NATO, deeper EU ties, a stronger Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, maturing relationships in the Caucasus and Central Asia and "a broad, ambitious policy agenda with Russia and the Ukraine."
Powell's decision, which had been expected, to fold NIS into European Affairs, mirrored a similar move by White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at the National Security Council. return to menu
E. Tactical Nuclear Weapons
1. Rein In Nuclear Weapons
Alistair Millar and Brian Alexander
May 17, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The Cold War ended more than a decade ago, yet U.S. nuclear doctrine and targeting plans still call for thousands of nuclear warheads poised to launch at a moment's notice.
The Bush administration is conducting a congressionally mandated review of U.S. nuclear posture and is studying possible deployment and eventual use of low-yield nuclear weapons. The latter study would require abandoning a provision in the fiscal year 1994 defense authorization bill prohibiting nuclear laboratories from research and development that could lead to a low-yield nuclear weapon.
Several recent policy papers, some the product of key members of President Bush's national security team, carelessly advocate greater reliance by the United States on these weapons.
It is important to develop measures to control and reduce the vast arsenals of U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons (a class that includes the proposed mini-nukes), not develop new ones. Any suggestions for plans to develop U.S. tactical nuclear capabilities, which advocate or signal an intention to use these kinds of weapons, lowers the nuclear threshold and blurs the line between conventional and nuclear weapons.
U.S. weapons laboratories are pushing the idea that "highly accurate" low-yield nuclear weapons would "minimize collateral damage" and that such weapons could be useful. But there have been recent conventional wars in which "highly accurate" bombs often have missed their targets.
Now is not the time to increase the role of tactical nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Rather, the United States should explore meaningful controls and greater international cooperation for these weapons.
Incredibly, there are no formal treaties relating to currently deployed tactical nuclear weapons even though up to 30,000 of them exist, mostly in the poorly supervised and maintained Russian arsenal.
U.S.-Russian cooperation would have a positive ripple effect. Other nations would be less compelled to go down the path toward greater reliance on nuclear weapons and another nuclear arms race could be pre-empted.
Such an effort at cooperation could occur shortly when preliminary results of the national policy review on U.S. nuclear posture are expected to be ready in time for the United States to consult with its European allies at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Budapest, Hungary, beginning May 29. return to menu