1. For Bush and Putin, Trust Remains a Bedrock of Efforts to Control Nuclear Programs
(for personal use only)
President Bush's meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin this weekend probably will be their last while Putin is still president. Once again, controlling the threat of nuclear weapons is circling back to American and Russian leaders.
This time, the immediate issue in that minefield is expanding U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Bush argues that bases in Poland and the Czech Republic serve the defense of many nations, including Russia. Putin suspects the defense is aimed at Russia.
As an inducement, the United States is prepared to promise not to activate the new sites unless Iran proves to be an imminent threat to Europe by test-flying a missile capable of reaching the continent.
"Look, I'm going to meet with President Putin to make it clear to him the Cold War is over and Russia is not our enemy, and that there's common ground," Bush said Wednesday in Bucharest at a new conference with Romania's president.
"I've got some convincing to do, but he needs to understand the missile defense system is aimed primarily at rogue regimes coming out of the Middle East that could hold us all hostage," Bush said. "And it's a good chance for me to sit down and have yet another heart-to-heart with him. And I'm more than happy to do so."
An agreement may emerge, one that joins the United States and Russia again in controlling the pathway of the nuclear age.
A Kremlin spokesman said Tuesday that officials on both sides were working on a document setting out a "strategic framework" for relations beyond their time in office.
"We proceed from the assumption that we will succeed in completing the work and that it will be adopted in some form," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press in Moscow.
What Bush and Putin decide to do would have only a tangential impact on the worrisome nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. But their two nations sit atop the world's most massive nuclear arsenals. Their cooperation, based highly on trust, seems essential.
Under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the United States and Russia are limited to no more than 6,000 nuclear warheads each. Both nations are believed to be way below those totals.
In 2002, Bush and Putin agreed on a treaty that sets as a target 1,700 to 2,200 deployed strategic warheads by 2012.
Abandoned by the Bush administration from the outset was the longtime methodical process of negotiating the smallest details of nuclear reductions as well as verification procedures to guard against cheating. And setting a target is something less than a concrete agreement.
In the meantime, the START treaty is due to expire at the end of next year, and Russian and American officials have been unable to chart an agreement for a successor pact.
It is not certain whether Bush and Putin, meeting at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, will come to terms on either missile defense systems or reductions in strategic arms.
But if their meeting is marked by good will and relations have overcome the bumps that followed Bush's initial positive impression of Putin, a course toward a solution could be set.
That first meeting, in June 2001, stirred hopes of a positive relationship when Bush said he had looked into Putin's eyes and "was able to get a sense of his soul."
Putin steps down as president next month. By all accounts, though, he will remain a driving force in Russian policy after his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, takes over.
Bush has met with Putin some 20 times, according to an unofficial White House count, more often than with any other foreign leader except Britain's Tony Blair. "Both have invested a lot in this relationship, but they haven't had a big payoff," said Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"I think they would like to reverse that trajectory," Kuchins said in an interview.
The notion that they would make headway on a broad strategic framework, extending the START treaty and on verification measures should not be ruled out, Kuchins said.
"What drives me to be optimistic is that fundamentally we are not a threat to Russia and Russia is not a threat to us," he said.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the private Arms Control Association, faults both Bush and Putin for "failure to overcome the rivalry and Cold War attitudes of their predecessors." He noted in an interview they will leave behind enormous nuclear missile stockpiles.
The next president of each country will have a responsibility to negotiate a new agreement and framework to verifiably slash each nation's arsenal, Kimball said.
"Failure to replace START would leave behind an atmosphere that will perpetuate Russian concern about U.S. strategic nuclear capabilities and could diminish U.S. capability to chart what Russia is doing," he said.
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said Sunday that he believes Iran is still pursuing a nuclear bomb, even though the U.S. intelligence community, including his own agency, reached a consensus judgment last year that the Islamic Republic had halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003.
Asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether he thought Iran was trying to develop a nuclear weapon, Hayden said, "Yes," adding that his assessment was not based on "court-of-law stuff. . . . This is Mike Hayden looking at the body of evidence."
He said his conviction stemmed largely from Iran's willingness to endure international sanctions rather than comply with demands for nuclear inspections and abandon its efforts to develop technologies that can produce fissile material.
"Why would the Iranians be willing to pay the international tariff they appear willing to pay for what they're doing now if they did not have, at a minimum . . . the desire to keep the option open to develop a nuclear weapon and, perhaps even more so, that they've already decided to do that?" he said.
However, a sweeping assessment from the intelligence community issued in December concluded Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons work in 2003, soon after the United States invaded Iraq, and appeared not to have restarted it.
The CIA director is the latest senior Bush administration official to question the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate, which was widely seen as a setback to efforts by the United States and European nations to step up international pressure on Tehran.
Soon after the report was released, President Bush argued that it should not be seen as a sign that Iran was backing away from its pursuit of the bomb.
"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said in a Dec. 4 news conference.
In an interview with ABC News last week, Vice President Dick Cheney alleged that Iran was "heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels." International inspectors have not found evidence of such an effort.
Iran has said its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful energy purposes, to generate power. In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' watchdog group, said that Iran's uranium enrichment operations at its Natanz plant are yielding material useful for civilian reactors, but far below the 80% or 90% grade needed for weapons production.
Still, the United States and other Western nations fear that Iran's pursuit of dual-use nuclear technologies will eventually enable it to develop nuclear weapons.
The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran represented a startling shift in the intelligence community's views of Tehran's nuclear activity. The report, issued after years of warnings that Tehran appeared bent on building a nuclear bomb, begins by saying that U.S. spy agencies had concluded "with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."
The finding was cited as evidence that Tehran was susceptible to diplomatic pressure. It was subsequently attributed to new intelligence that had surfaced in the summer of 2007, including journals kept by senior Iranian officials that documented the decision to suspend the program.
But the report also notes that Tehran "at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons" and has not ceased civilian uranium enrichment activities that could possibly be converted to weapons development purposes.
The nation's top intelligence official, J. Michael McConnell, testified last month that he "probably would change a few things" if given a chance to redo the report, suggesting that its conclusions had been misinterpreted.
The document includes a footnote that specifies that Iran is believed to have stopped only its "weapon design and weaponization work," not the uranium-enrichment work that is widely considered the biggest obstacle to constructing a bomb.
Hayden acknowledged Sunday that U.S. estimates on such matters were now viewed with greater skepticism because assertions about Iraq's alleged stockpiles of banned weapons had been proven wrong.
The U.S. intelligence community "has additional burdens to carry because of the Iraq NIE, in which we got so much of that estimate wrong," he said.
A US envoy has urged North Korea to act fast to end deadlock over the nuclear deal, as South Korea told the communist state to tone down its rhetoric.
Speaking after talks in South Korea, US negotiator Christopher Hill said he was seeking action from Pyongyang "in the next few days".
South Korean officials, meanwhile, told Pyongyang that its "moves to raise tensions" were not helpful.
On Monday, North Korea called the South Korean president a traitor.
North Korea agreed in February 2007 to give up its nuclear weapons in return for aid, in a six-nation deal with the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
But the deal is currently stalled over Pyongyang's failure to provide a complete declaration of its nuclear activities by the end of last year.
The two sides are apart on two key issues - whether or not North Korea has a secret uranium enrichment programme and whether it has transferred nuclear technology overseas. Mr Hill said that he was "very concerned" that time was passing without movement.
Differences on the declaration had narrowed, he said, but whether they had been resolved would not be apparent until a final document was produced.
"So we'll have to see whether we can hear anything new from the DPRK (North Korea) on this, really in the next few days," he said.
Mr Hill's visit to Seoul comes with relations between the two Koreas increasingly tense.
Conservative President Lee Myung-bak, who took office in February, says he will link the huge quantities of aid Seoul gives to Pyongyang to progress on the nuclear issue and human rights.
This has angered North Korea. Last week it expelled South Korean managers from a joint economic zone and test-fired several short-range missiles off its west coast.
State-controlled media also hit out at Mr Lee in an article on Monday, calling him a pro-US traitor and warning that his stance could have "catastrophic consequences".
In a faxed statement to the North Korean military, the South Korean Defence Ministry asked Pyongyang to end such statements.
"Your intentional slander and fostering of tension do not help ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and we urge you to immediately stop such activities," the ministry said.
After a long dry spell, the seeds planted by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985 and Reykjavik in 1986, appear to be bearing fruit. Their declaration in Geneva that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," set the stage for the historic Reykjavik meeting at which the two leaders came tantalizingly close to finally abolishing their nations' nuclear arsenals.
Ultimately, they set in motion a series of negotiations in which both of us participated and which led within three years to treaties that abolished intermediate range nuclear weapons and reduced strategic offensive weapons by 50 percent.
Yet, despite this promising beginning, the threat of nuclear war has metastized. Today, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have entered the ranks of nuclear powers, and Iran may yet join them. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), predicts that unless present trends are reversed, there will be more than 25 nuclear weapons states in a few years, many of them unstable and prone to takeover by extremists. The likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons would then be greater than at any time during the Cold War.
Recognition that the nuclear problem is still with us and in new and unsettling forms, has led a number of the most senior statesmen of the nuclear age to take a fresh look at the current situation ï¿½ and openly embrace the "zero option," the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. This reappraisal has been going on for some time.
In 1995, The Stimson Center here in Washington convened a panel of experts under the chairmanship of former NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, President Eisenhower's White House aide, to reassess the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security. Some leading postwar era defense strategists and practitioners, including Paul Nitze and Robert McNamara, participated.
They concluded that "U.S. national security would be best served by a policy of phased reductions in all states' nuclear forces and gradual movement toward the objective of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction from all countries."
A year later, in December 1996, Gen. Goodpaster and Gen. George Lee Butler, former commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command, issued a joint statement in which they noted that "As senior military officers, we have given close attention over many years to the role of nuclear weapons as well as the risks they involve."
They urged "exploring the feasibility of their ultimate complete elimination." Yet, despite growing support among experts and the public, the movement lost steam after Congress refused in 1999 to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
But in recent months, the movement has regained its vigor. This came to public notice in January 2007 and again last January, in a remarkable statement signed by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, William Perry and an impressive number of other public figures and experts in which they noted that "it is far from certain that we can successfully replicate the old Soviet-American mutually assured destruction with an increasing number of potential nuclear enemies worldwide without dramatically increasing the risk that nuclear weapons will be used." They called for specific measures to move towards the zero option. Since then, others have endorsed their viewpoint, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell, among 17 former Cabinet members, retired generals, scholars and politicians. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote, "Let me know how I can use my power and influence as governor to further your vision."
U.S. leadership is essential to achieving this goal. We cannot control what others may do with their own weapons, current or potential, but our urging can have a tremendous impact on their policies. We know that the nonproliferation regime is growing and sincerely trying to meet our moral as well as treaty obligation to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." This language is drawn from Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which we, along with 188 other states, have ratified.
The road from the world of today, with thousands of nuclear weapons in national arsenals to a world free of this threat, will not be an easy one to take, but it is clear U.S. leadership is essential to the journey and there is growing worldwide support for that civilized call for zero. The British foreign minister has publicly declared the government's commitment to that goal and the Norweigian government recently sponsored an international conference at which George Shultz opened the session by using the theme of nuclear weapons as the goal of the event.
The president of the United States, together, if possible, with the Russian president, should personally appear before the United Nations General Assembly and propose a resolution calling for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. We should plainly state our willingness to destroy all of our own nuclear weapons once we are absolutely assured the other current and potential nuclear powers share this vision and will implement the practical and concurrent steps necessary to achieving it.
The resolution should direct the U.N. Security Council to develop effective political and technical procedures to achieve this goal, including stringent intrusive inspections and severe, mandatory penalties of political, economic and cultural isolation to prevent cheating.
Ronald Reagan, consistent with early commitment by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, understood that progress on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons is linked by treaty and politics to the belief by non-nuclear states that those possessing such weapons would renounce and destroy them. He also understood that possession of nuclear weapons presents only the illusion of security. In the dangerous and unpredictable worlds in which we live, this is an illusion we cannot afford.
Those in our country who seek the most powerful office in the world, president of the United States, should also reflect and lead a national consensus of conscience and reason and proclaim that nuclear weapons have no place in a civilized world.
Humans love to suppress abstract dangers. They react only after they get their fingers burned. In handling nuclear risks, however, we can hardly get away with such childlike behaviour.
To begin with, the old system of nuclear deterrence, which has survived particularly in the US and Russia since the cold war's end, still involves lots of risks and dangers. While the international public largely ignores this fact, the risks remain.
To be sure, in the 1990's the US and Russia reduced their nuclear arsenals from 65,000 to approximately 26,000 weapons. But this number is still almost unimaginable and beyond any rational level needed for deterrence. Moreover, there are another 1,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of other nuclear states.
A second cause for worry is that the world is poised to enter a new nuclear age that threatens to be even more dangerous and expensive than the cold war era of mutually assured destruction. Indeed, the outlines of this new nuclear age are already visible: the connection between terrorism and nuclear weapons; a nuclear-armed North Korea; the risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran's nuclear program; a new definition of state sovereignty as "nuclear sovereignty", accompanied by a massive increase in the number of small and medium-sized nuclear states; possible collapse of public order in nuclear Pakistan; the illegal proliferation of military nuclear technology; the legal proliferation of civilian nuclear technology and an increase in the number of "civilian" nuclear states; the nuclearisation of space, triggering an arms race among large nuclear powers.
Important political leaders, especially in the two biggest nuclear powers, the US and Russia, know today's existing risks and tomorrow's emerging ones all too well. Yet nothing is being done to control, contain, or eliminate them. On the contrary, the situation is worsening.
Vital pillars of the old arms-control and anti-proliferation regime have either been destroyed - as was the case with the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty - or substantially weakened, as with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Responsibility for this lies largely with the Bush administration, which, by terminating the ABM treaty, not only weakened the international control systems for nuclear weapons, but also sat on its hands when confronted with the NPT's imminent collapse.
At the beginning of the 21st century, proliferation of military nuclear technology is one of the major threats to humanity, particularly if this technology falls into terrorists' hands. The use of nuclear weapons by terrorists would not only result in a major humanitarian tragedy, but also would most likely move the world beyond the threshold for actually waging a nuclear war. The consequences would be horrific.
Nearly equally worrisome is the nuclear redefinition of state sovereignty because it will not only lead to a large number of small, politically unstable nuclear powers, but will also increase the risk of proliferation at the hands of terrorists. Pakistan would, most likely, no longer be an isolated case.
An international initiative for the renewal and improvement of the international control regime, led by both big nuclear powers, is urgently needed to meet these and all other risks of the new nuclear age. For, if disarmament is to become effective, the signal must come from the top - the US and Russia. Here the commitment to disarmament, as agreed in the NPT, is of prime importance.
The NPT - a bedrock of peace for more than three decades - is based on a political agreement between nuclear and non-nuclear states: the latter abstain from obtaining nuclear weapons while the former destroy their arsenals. Unfortunately, only the first part of this agreement was realised (though not completely), while the second part still awaits fulfilment.
The NPT remains indispensable and needs urgent revision. However, this central pillar of international proliferation control is on the brink of collapse. The most recent review conference in New York, in May 2005, ended virtually without any result.
The essential defect of the NPT is now visible in the nuclear dispute between Iran and the United Nations Security Council: the treaty permits the development of all nuclear components indispensable for military use - particularly uranium enrichment - so long as there is no outright nuclear weapons program. This means that in emerging nuclear countries only one single political decision is required to "weaponise" a nuclear program. This kind of "security" is not sufficient.
Another controversial issue also has also come to the fore in connection with the current nuclear conflict with Iran: discrimination-free access to nuclear technology. Solving this problem will require the internationalisation of access to civilian nuclear technology, along with filling the security gap under the existing NPT and substantially more far-reaching monitoring of all states that want to be part of such a system.
Leaders around the world know the dangers of a new nuclear age; they also know how to minimise them. But the political will to act decisively is not there, because the public does not regard nuclear disarmament and arms control as a political priority.
This must change. Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are not questions of the past. They need to be addressed today if they are not to become the most dangerous threats tomorrow.
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.