Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Submission from Paul Ingram, Executive Director and Malcolm Savidge, British American Security Information Council


  This submission reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the present non-proliferation regime. It then looks critically at various proposals seeking to enforce non-proliferation on the non-nuclear weapons states [NNWS], while avoiding the nuclear weapons states' [NWS] commitment to disarm.

  In contrast, there is a growing international consensus that only a major initiative by the NWS to fulfil their disarmament obligations can make revival and vital improvements to the non-proliferation regime possible. There is an urgent need to make real progress before and at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2010 [NPT 2010]. There is close correlation between proposals coming from the Nuclear Security Project which might be favoured by the new US administration, and the thirteen steps agreed at NPT 2000, which are widely supported by the NNWS.

  Relations between the USA and Russia will be crucial to success and there are other problematic issues to be confronted.


  The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) is an independent research organisation that analyses government policies and promotes public awareness of defence, disarmament, military strategy and nuclear policies in order to foster informed debate. BASIC has offices in London and in Washington and its governing Council includes former US ambassadors, academics and politicians.

  We look to a world free from the dangers posed by nuclear weapons; we engage with policy makers and opinion shapers in a constructive manner, and serve as a trusted source of information for politicians, government officials and other decision-makers to promote effective strategies toward nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. We facilitate opportunities for transatlantic dialogue on multilateral nuclear disarmament to flourish and promote active partnerships within the network of international NGOs in order to develop practical alternative approaches and strategies that can achieve progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament.

1.  The current situation

  1.1.  Our common security improved dramatically with the end of the Cold War and its associated nuclear arms race.[207] International collaboration to tackle common security threats strengthened around that period.

  1.2.  As the National Security Strategy says: "While the global stockpile has reduced since the Cold War, large arsenals remain" and, "Nuclear weapons remain potentially the most destructive threat to global security".[208] This submission will focus on nuclear weapons.

  1.3.  The nuclear arms control regime, particularly The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has been far more successful than most experts predicted when it was first negotiated.[209] Only 3-4 additional states have acquired nuclear weapons and the Treaty otherwise has universal membership.

  1.4.  With the exception of North Korea, today every state without a nuclear arsenal is locked into the Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state with legally enforceable commitments, and those with civil nuclear power programmes have a Comprehensive Safeguards arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

  1.5.  The experience in Iraq after 1991 demonstrated that strong containment, inspections and destruction measures could force an unwilling state to disarm. Pressure and diplomacy have persuaded Libya to abandon its attempt to obtain nuclear weapons. Other countries such as Brazil have abandoned past military programmes while developing sophisticated civilian operations, and several countries such as Ukraine and South Africa have voluntarily renounced nuclear weapons which had already been developed and deployed.

  1.6.  Nuclear Weapon Free Zones have been established in a number of regions since the signing of the NPT in 1968, and if an African Treaty is successfully established, there will be zones free of nuclear weapons throughout and beyond the southern hemisphere.

  1.7.  There have been more disturbing developments:

    —  9/11 highlighted the danger that certain absolutist/apocalyptic terrorist groups could seek to kill on a vast scale and might therefore resort to nuclear terrorism.

    —  The A Q Khan network revealed the potential for a sophisticated international black market ready to trade to states and non-state actors in nuclear materials, components and knowledge.

  1.8.  Despite its successes, the NPT faces significant challenges:

    —  The "dual use" nature of the technology was underestimated by the drafters of the Treaty. Exactly the same enrichment process used to manufacture low-enriched uranium for civilian use can be used to further enrich the uranium for military use. Plutonium is a by-product of reprocessing.[210]

    —  The growing number of "latent" or "threshold" nuclear weapons states could yet make the political decision to convert civil nuclear programmes to weapons production.

    —  There are insufficient security measures to prevent theft or subversion of nuclear materials to terrorists or "rogue states".

    —  There remain three non-signatory nuclear-armed states (NAS).[211]

    —  The problem of states cheating or leaving the Treaty.

    —  Discrimination between five recognised Nuclear Weapon States and the Non-Nuclear Weapon States is not sustainable indefinitely.

    —  The non-nuclear weapon states' (NNWS) perception that the nuclear weapon states (NWS) have shown insufficient progress on, and will to achieve, nuclear disarmament, particularly in the failure to follow through on the commitments made in the "13 steps", in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference.[212]

  1.9.  If the predicted expansion of nuclear energy occurs without additional safeguards, more countries will become threshold states. The UN Secretary General's High-level Panel (2004) warned: "We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation."[213]

  1.10.  Soon after this warning the 2005 NPT Review Conference and the 2005 UN Summit failed to achieve any agreement on this issue.

  1.11.  The Conference on Disarmament has been moribund.

  1.12.  The US-Russian relationship has deteriorated particularly over Georgia, yet is absolutely central to progress on disarmament and non-proliferation.

  1.13.  The United Nations, which is integral to non-proliferation, has been weakened by differences within the Security Council, not least over the conflict in Iraq.

2.  Some agendas for change

  2.1.  For Richard Perle, writing on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, this was a desired side-effect of the conflict

    "What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions." [214]

  2.2.  Killing the patient seems too drastic a remedy for the current ills of the nuclear proliferation regime even for other neo-conservatives such as the Center for Security Policy [CSP][215] and the Heritage Foundation[216] in their recent submissions to the US Congressional Strategic Posture Review Commission [SPRC].

  2.3.  CSP calls on the US to preserve "existing nuclear weapons platforms and capabilities", modernise its "outdated arsenal" and develop and test new nuclear weapons. It claims that "over the last several decades, the NPT has been distorted by the preoccupation of its stewards with nuclear disarmament, rather than with preventing proliferation" [their italics], claiming that the Treaty enshrines the inequality of possession, and "places no restriction whatsoever on the five NWS as regards designing, testing, producing and deploying nuclear weapons". It calls on the US government to prevent proliferation by enforcement action "unilaterally, or in coalition".

  2.4.  The Heritage Foundation submission is more sophisticated, seeking to position its policy of "Damage Limitation" as middle of the road. Where CSP concentrates on expanding the variety of types and yields of US nuclear weapons and of delivery systems, Heritage adds missile defence to the inventory. It does not hint, as CSP appears to, at counter-proliferation through war. However, both submissions call for strengthening the US nuclear arsenal while, expecting the NPT to prevent proliferation to other countries.

  2.5.  The flaw in their interpretation of the NPT is that it ignores half the bargain, which was that in return for the Non-Nuclear Weapons States [NNWS] not seeking proliferation, the NWS would pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith. That was stated originally in article VI, it was the basis on which the NNWS agreed to indefinitely extend the NPT in 1995, and it was reiterated at NPT 2000. It was reinforced by the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

  2.6.  Legalities aside, abandoning the disarmament pledge would not be practical politics. If the Treaty permanently enshrined inequality it could not survive; it would not command enduring respect within the NNWS.

  2.7.  In recent research for the Carnegie Endowment,[217] foreign ministries of sixteen key and diverse NNWS were interviewed; there was a uniform demand for the NWS to fulfil their disarmament undertakings.

  2.8.  As Mohamed ElBaradei said at the IAEA annual meeting on 30 September 2008:

    "How can I go with a straight face to the non-nuclear weapons states and tell them nuclear weapons are no good for you, while the weapon states continue to modernize and to say 'we absolutely need nuclear weapons'?"

  2.9.  In relation to military enforcement action to prevent proliferation "unilaterally, or in coalition", when Richard Perle spoke in Parliament in November 2002,[218] he dismissed the possibility of UN inspection, together with pressure and containment, ever succeeding in removing WMD from Iraq and advocated pre-emptive war. We know now that Iraq had been forced to destroy its WMD—probably by the mid-90s—and that war did not provide a simpler and better solution to proliferation than "international law administered by international institutions".

  2.10.  The answer to weaknesses in the non-proliferation regime is not to abandon it but to strengthen it. As previously stated, to achieve this with the urgency required, the NWS will have to move much more rapidly, not just towards nuclear disarmament, but towards reducing the importance—or "salience"—of nuclear weapons in their defence strategies.

  2.11.  A challenge to moving in that direction was issued by five former NATO commanders, including Field Marshal Lord Inge, in January 2008. They advocate maintaining a full range of options from diplomacy to nuclear attack—including nuclear first use and nuclear pre-emption in order to establish "escalation dominance".

    "Nuclear escalation is the ultimate step in responding asymmetrically, and at the same time the most powerful way of inducing uncertainty in an opponent's mind.

    "It is important, furthermore, to have dominance over the opponent's ability to calculate his risks. It is a very important element of strategy to keep things unpredictable for the opponent, who must never be able to know, or calculate, what action we will take."[219]

  2.12.  However, although strategies of flexible escalation, unpredictability and creating uncertainty for an opponent may be clever tactics in the conventional war manuals, it is surely questionable if they are wise in the nuclear age. In November 1983, there was a misunderstanding over the NATO exercise Able Archer 83, which the USSR feared was being used as cover for a pre-emptive nuclear attack. The United States and the Soviet Union became sufficiently concerned about how close they might have come to catastrophe that they then sought greater predictability, mutual understanding and confidence-building in their relations.

  2.13.  There is the real possibility that if a nuclear weapon is used in war, sophisticated theories of flexible escalation would break down, and a total nuclear exchange would rapidly ensue. If such policies of giving high salience to nuclear weapons are combined with steady proliferation could humanity really survive without disaster throughout the coming centuries?

  2.14.  In order to prevent proliferation urgent action is required now, not just to preserve the present regime but to strengthen it—and the lead needs to come from the NWS.

    "Our chances of eliminating nuclear weapons will be enhanced immeasurably if the Non-Nuclear Weapon States can see forward planning, commitment and action toward multilateral nuclear disarmament by Nuclear Weapon States. Without this, we risk generating the perception that the Nuclear Weapon States are failing to fulfil their disarmament obligations and this will be used by some states as an excuse for their nuclear intransigence."—Des Browne[220]

3.  Evolving mainstream opinion: vision and steps

  3.1.  Such an approach has been gaining strong currency internationally across the political spectrum. It has been led by the Nuclear Security Project (otherwise known as the Hoover Group or Reykjavik 2), made up of distinguished former US Secretaries of State and Defense, and diplomats.[221] This initiative calls for the nuclear weapons states to give new impetus to nuclear non-proliferation by taking their nuclear disarmament responsibilities seriously, working by short-term, medium-term and long-term steps towards the declared vision of a nuclear weapons free world.

  3.2.  This initiative is potentially significant in various ways. It is American, and the world's only superpower is essential to success. It is rooted in experience of the hard realities of pragmatic politics and has a strong academic and research base. It is bipartisan, and not only should these issues transcend party politics, practically if they do not, accusations of being "weak on defence" undermine progress. Its eminent and experienced sponsors have attracted powerful support from other experts, from across the political and defence—"hawk"/"dove"—spectrum. Endorsement by both presidential candidates, Barack Obama[222] and John McCain,[223] gave early indication that this would have the support of the next US administration.

  3.3.  The Nuclear Security Project (NSP) questions whether deterrence can work in the event of proliferation or against the threat of nuclear terrorism.[224]

  3.4.  Doubts may be felt about the possibility of a nuclear weapon free world, but:

    —  we are already legally and morally committed to such an objective in the NPT

    —  a reaffirmation is needed because of the crisis in confidence in the NPT

    —  the current situation is not sustainable

    —  efforts to move in the right direction have a stabilising and positive impact

  3.5.  The question of whether there is a realistic prospect of abolishing nuclear weapons was addressed in a thought provoking seminar by Sir Michael Quinlan at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, March 22, 2007,[225] which engendered a research study supported by the UK Government, resulting in the Adelphi Paper: "Abolishing Nuclear Weapons" by George Perkovich and James Acton.[226] This provides a valuable basis for further discussion of the technical challenges to be overcome, and can be supplemented by some of the research papers produced by the NSP Group.

  3.6.  The Group strongly believes that progressive steps combined with vision, will create a process that deepens cooperation and confidence that will in itself overcome some of the obstacles to eliminating nuclear weapons that today look insurmountable.

    "In some respects, the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons is like the top of a very tall mountain. From the vantage point of our troubled world today, we can't even see the top of the mountain, and it is tempting and easy to say we can't get there from here. But the risks from continuing to go down the mountain or standing pat are too real to ignore. We must chart a course to higher ground where the mountaintop becomes more visible."[227]

  3.7.  The NSP approach has been enthusiastically embraced by the British and other governments. The then-Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, warmly welcomed the initiative in a speech at the Carnegie conference in Washington on 25 June 2007 and outlined the government's initial contributions—commissioning studies into the verification of warhead dismantlement and of the steps required to achieve zero nuclear weapons.[228]

    "The moderate majority of states—our natural and vital allies on non-proliferation—want us to do more. And if we do not, we risk helping Iran and North Korea in their efforts to muddy the water, to turn the blame for their own nuclear intransigence back onto us. They can undermine our arguments for strong international action in support of the NPT by painting us as doing too little too late to fulfil our own obligations."

  3.8.  A similar point had already been expressed in a more forthright manner in 2004 by the Secretary General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei:

    "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security—and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use."[229]

  3.9.  The Government declares a clear and welcome intention in the National Security Strategy:

    "In the run up to the 2010 NPT review conference, we will lead the international effort to accelerate disarmament among possessor states, in pursuit of our objective of a negotiated elimination of all nuclear weapons"[230]

  3.10.  This agenda has significant cross party support in both Houses.[231]

4.  The key steps

  4.1.  The 2010 NPT Review Conference is possibly the most important foreseeable watershed for the wider non-proliferation regime, so much so that the then Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett identified it over a year ago at her Carnegie speech on 25 June as key:

    "By the time that is held, we need the international community to be foursquare and united behind a global non-proliferation regime. We can't afford for that conference to be a fractured or fractious one: rather we need to strengthen the NPT in all its aspects."

  4.2.  The UK Representative at the previous 2005 NPT Review Conference pointed out before the failure to reach agreement on a final document: "the NPT is a treaty for us all; it is a treaty from which there can be no turning back, no evasion of our responsibilities—all our responsibilities."[232]

  4.3.  The UK needs to consider now what success at the 2010 Review Conference would look like. An agreed final document may indicate improvement on the 2005 experience, but if it is achieved by avoiding the structural weaknesses in the regime it will be a pyrrhic victory. Success in 2010 will require determined action between then and now.

  4.4.  The most important early initiatives will rest with the United States and Russia because of the size of their arsenals and the need to conclude the follow-on to START during negotiations in 2009. If they can move significantly beyond the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions [SORT] in terms of total numbers (in the range of 1000-1700 warheads each), timing, irreversibility, monitoring and verification, then the other NWS should consider joining the negotiations. However, there are additional unilateral measures that all of the NWS individually and collectively should consider to assist in kick-starting the process.

  4.5.  All NWS should seriously consider deferral of any major modernisation programmes. These programmes signal grave doubts by NWS of the prospects of mutual nuclear disarmament, and undermine willingness of NNWS to cooperate in shoring up other critical aspects of the regime, which include more extensive controls and safeguards of materials and technology.

  4.6.  There is substantial consensus on early steps to be considered, as outlined in the table below:
Program[233] NPT2000Canberra BlixUN HLG NSP
Commitment to complete nuclear disarmament XXXX X
Ratification of CTBTX XXXX
Fissile material cut-off[234] XXX XX
Implement existing treatiesX XXX X
Tighter verification linked to treaties XXXX X
Increase warning and decision-times to reduce the risks of accident XXX XX
Resolve problems over missile defenceX XXX X
Reduce and eliminate tactical nuclear weapons XXX X
Irreversibility of disarmament measures XXX X
Early deep cuts in arsenalsX XX X
Increase transparencyX XX
Establish NPT disarmament bodyX X
Reduce role of nuclear weapons in posture XX
No "first use" pledge XX
Unilateral cutsX
Excess material under IAEAX

  Table compiled by Jeff King, BASIC.

  4.7.  Particularly significant is the agreement between the NSP agenda, which is likely to influence the new US Administration,[235] and the 13 steps adopted by all NPT members within the Final Document at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, which are viewed as particularly important by key NNWS.[236] It could be valuable for the NWS to frame proposals with reference to the 13 steps.

  4.8.  The preamble to the NPT speaks of working towards "the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between states in order to facilitate … the elimination … of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery …" As Sir Michael Quinlan has argued, success with disarmament proposals depends on creating suitable political conditions.[237] In parallel with arms control, then, improved international understanding, regional conflict resolution and tension reduction are crucial to minimising risks of nuclear war, dissuading proliferation and moving towards nuclear disarmament, particularly in key trouble areas.

  4.9.  Positive signals from the new Administration on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will be welcomed by the NNWS, though progress on final ratification will depend upon the new Senate. US ratification could be followed by China, and other states, but this will require a major and concerted diplomatic offensive. The CTBT is important in formalising and significantly strengthening the de facto moratorium on nuclear testing, valuable in itself and as an important impedance to the development of nuclear arsenals; a CTBT in force would also deepen the effectiveness of the CTBTO's established global monitoring network.

  4.10.  Clear progress on disarmament measures by the NWS will improve the prospects of the NNWS agreeing to greater safeguards and controls in relation to civil nuclear energy. Achieving this in 2010 is particularly important, in view of the predicted expansion of nuclear energy. Successful negotiation is likely to be easier before states have developed new capacities.[238]

  4.11.  There have been a number of supplier proposals to establish an international facility for the provision of uranium fuel for reactors worldwide. Such a measure will be essential if the spread of nuclear power generation, deemed essential by many countries to address their energy security, does not lead to the spread of dual-use technologies and a weakened non-proliferation regime. There are three features of such a facility, currently under-developed, that are essential if they are to receive the support of recipient states:

    —  Negotiations will require participation of recipients and suppliers, right from the start. Otherwise, recipients will see it simply as a tool for continued discrimination and the withholding of technology essential to an independent energy industry.

    —  Suppliers will need to agree with the principle that this is a first step to a non-discriminatory uranium supply system, which will require them to eventually acquire all their own uranium from the same system. Just as the government talks of the need to combine vision with the steps towards a nuclear weapon free world, so the establishment of a supply system needs to incorporate the vision of non-discrimination in the longer term.

    —  It will require credible guarantees that supply will not be unduly influenced by the principal suppliers. It is no surprise the Iranian government is able to convince its people that they cannot rely upon external suppliers, when such suppliers have pulled the plug with Iran on a number of occasions in the past.

  4.12.  Greatly improved verification will be required for military and civil facilities. Useful initiatives to develop these have already come from Norway and Britain, but above all there is an urgent need to expand and increase the resources of the International Atomic Energy Authority [IAEA]. As William Hague vividly expressed it:

    "As routes to proliferation multiply and become more difficult to detect, the task allotted to the IAEA grows. It is extraordinary that 650 IAEA inspectors guard against illicit nuclear activities in 900 nuclear facilities around the world. By comparison, as was recently pointed out, Walt Disney World employs more than 1,000 security personnel to protect its amusement park".[239]

5.P5 negotiations

  5.1.  HMG recognises that the NWS have a particular responsibility to break the deadlock and achieve progress in advance of the 2010 Review Conference, presenting a critical watershed for progress. It was a significant step for the P5 states to have issued a joint statement near the end of the 2008 Preparatory Committee, opening up a precedent for further and more substantial statements at later NPT meetings.

  5.2.  The former Defence Secretary, Des Browne, has proposed P5 states get together for a technical conference to discuss establishing the technology and procedures necessary to move forward on the disarmament agenda. This proposal is evolving in discussions between the states, but it is important to achieve some progress on this soon.

  5.3.  Progress is also going to take some concerted, high-level diplomatic discussion amongst the P5 dedicated to nuclear disarmament to overcome the obstacles to progress and focus on concrete steps. Relying upon brief discussions on the margins of an already packed agenda at general P5 meetings will not achieve the progress necessary.

6.  NATO strategic posture and tactical nuclear weapons

  6.1.  NATO will hold its 60th Anniversary Summit in April 2009 and is expected to start a review of its Strategic Concept. As part of this review, NATO will consider the role of nuclear weapons in its doctrine, and the issue of nuclear sharing. This presents an opportunity for NATO to consider the means of expressing solidarity and "common commitment" to security in ways that do not rely upon expensive and out-dated measures that harm its own security.[240]

  6.2.  Tactical nuclear weapons have no military utility in current or future NATO operations, and present an opportunity cost to more critical requirements, such as stabilising Afghanistan. European host countries are soon to face procurement decisions involving billions of dollars for the next generation of dual-capable aircraft, at a time of increasing US demands for greater European contributions to collective military operations, and poor economic outlook.[241] NATO unity may be strengthened if states were released from costly obligations that are in no-one's interests.

  6.3.  NATO's nuclear sharing arrangements in Europe today are legacies from a past overwhelming Soviet conventional superiority and the threat of a massive invasion that no longer exists and shows no sign of returning. They simply serve to increase Russia's sense of threat without contributing to NATO's own security. It would be irrational to simply hold on to these weapons to punish Russia's "intransigence". At the very least, the removal of these weapons will take away a crucial self-justification for Russia's own tactical arsenal, and improve the possibilities of a follow-up to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

  6.4.  NATO states could rid themselves of this extra resource burden, reduce the risk of nuclear theft, and achieve a crucial diplomatic non-proliferation goal by implicitly tying the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the expressed expectation of clear reductions in Russia's tactical arsenal.

  6.5.  Perhaps most importantly, the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe would signal the sincerity of individual NATO members' commitments to nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT. The withdrawal of the weapons would also reassure NNWS that NATO members honour their international obligations under NPT Articles I and II, and improve prospects for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and be a symbolic starting point for more bold measures on the road toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

  6.6.  Eliminating short-range nuclear weapons from Europe will require delicate consultation within NATO following the Ossetia crisis, but could ultimately provide the basis for negotiating an NWFZ across most of the continent.

  6.7.  A key reason for lack of movement is fear on the part of European allies that a request to review the situation would signal a weakening of their commitment to the Alliance and its nuclear posture, and fear on the part of the Americans that it would be seen as weakening of their commitment to Europe. Britain has unquestioned commitment to both, and is in a strong position to initiate a review of NATO's tactical nuclear weapons without undesirable political signals being read into their position. It could play the role of the bridge to which British spokespeople so often allude.

  6.8.  NATO's summit in 2010 is likely to discuss the review of the Strategic Concept, possibly including the role of tactical nuclear weapons, and comes just a few weeks before the NPT Review Conference. NATO could have an impact upon the review conference conclusion.

7.  Relations between US and Russia

  7.1.  The relationship with Russia is central to non-proliferation and disarmament efforts for five reasons:

    —  Along with the United States, Russia possess by far the largest nuclear arsenals, and possibly the arsenal still most vulnerable to theft or accident;

    —  A new Cold War must be avoided;

    —  Russia is a leading global supplier of nuclear technology, and other energy sources;

    —  Russia is a key permanent member of the UN Security Council, charged with policing the non-proliferation regime, that exercises an assertively independent perspective from the United States;

    —  Russia is a member of both the P5+1 Negotiations with Iran and the Six-Party Talks with North Korea.

  7.2.  The prospects for arms control negotiations with Russia currently look bleak, following events surrounding the territorial dispute in Georgia. The EU suspended talks on a strategic pact with Russia on 2nd September,[242] and President Medvedev appeared to welcome this stance.[243] There even appears to be some discussion in Moscow of deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad as a response to ballistic missile defence facilities in Poland.[244]

  7.3.  Russia has lost status, and many Russians feel they have been humiliated in recent years. Although Russia retains more warheads, technically the US has substantial nuclear superiority. Even before the crisis of summer 2008 , some in Russia perceived relations with NATO as a "zero-sum" game, with any gain of influence (or of former satellites) by NATO a direct affront to Russia's power.[245] Several factors in the last ten years have deepened suspicions, including:

    —  Russian responses to rapid NATO enlargement eastward;

    —  U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty;

    —  U.S. proposals to station radar and missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic;

    —  NATO support for the break up of Serbia and the independence of Kosovo;

    —  Russian suspension of its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty; and

    —  Russia was offended by the summary dismissal of its proposals for closer partnership with NATO.

  7.4.  It is by no means clear in what future direction relations with Russia will turn. The view amongst many western analysts is that recent high oil and gas prices mask a continuing decline in the capacity of the Russian economy, caused by severe social and structural weaknesses. The global economic whirlwind of recent weeks, with falling prices and emerging recession, has exposed these weaknesses and led to drastic economic policy responses in Russia.

  7.5.  Whilst Russia's behaviour in Georgia demands a response from the international community, targeting agreements that are clearly in our own interests is a grave error.

    "This drift toward confrontation must be ended. However appropriate as a temporary device for showing our concern, isolating Russia is not a sustainable long-range policy… We believe that the fundamental interests of the United States, Europe and Russia are more aligned today—or can be made so—even in the wake of the Georgian crisis, than at any point in recent history. We must not waste that opportunity."—Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, Washington Post, 8 October 2008.

  7.6.  Arms control, weakened by a sceptical Administration in Washington these last eight years, is all the more important if relationships are strained. Russia is already upgrading its nuclear arsenal to penetrate the yet-to-be-installed missile defence system in eastern Europe, and decisions look likely to be made to expand their tactical nuclear deployments in western Russia, unless new diplomatic initiatives are opened up.

8.  Missile Defence

  8.1.  The National Security Strategy statement "we welcome US plans to place further missile defence assets in Europe to provide cover for allies" [4.68], contrasts with the cautious agnosticism with which the Government responded to the extremely sceptical conclusions of the FAC Report on "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in 2000. The Government's conversion to enthusiastic advocacy of missile defence, which appeared to start early in 2001, may have been driven less by serious strategic analysis than by Downing Street's over-riding concern with getting fundamentally close to the Bush administration.[246]

  8.2.  The FAC Report in 2000 used the criteria, which President Clinton had set, to assess missile defence: whether the threat warrants deployment, technical feasibility, cost and impact on strategic stability. They remain a rational basis for current re-assessment.

  8.3  The FAC Report cited evidence that the threat from so-called "rogue states" had been exaggerated, driven by ideological and commercial interests.

  8.4.  In retrospect, experience in Iraq provides clear support for that view. The Iraq Survey Group [ISG], which was appointed by President Bush, confirmed that—in contrast to all the claims made before the invasion:

    —  In relation to capacity, Iraq had abandoned all its nuclear and other WMD programmes, destroyed all WMD, and had only limited missile and delivery vehicle resources;

    —  In relation to intention, though the ISG suggested Saddam would have wished to resume WMD programmes in the future, they based that wholly on regional rivalries in the Middle East, not on any objective of attacking the USA or Europe.

  8.3.  It would be wise to be wary of "threat inflation" (often by the same people and organisations) in relation to the alleged dangers posed by other "rogue states".

  8.4.  One of these, Libya, has since negotiated an end to its programmes.

  8.5.  Negotiations with Iran will be difficult, but the unanimous judgement of the USA's sixteen intelligence agencies in the latest National Intelligence Estimate [NIE][247] is that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than previously thought and would be "guided by a cost benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs".

  8.6.  The Six-Party Talks with North Korea will not be easy either, but news of a positive response on 12 October 2008 to the US decision to remove North Korea from its terror list is very encouraging. The nuclear explosion the DPRK achieved does not mean they are near producing a deployable nuclear weapon, any more than their failed attempts at testing longer-range missiles mean that they are near to producing an ICBM. Both may be designed primarily as bargaining chips for blackmailing countries into giving them financial assistance and other concessions.

  8.7.  If negotiations fail, neither Iran nor North Korea is likely to be able to develop the capacity to launch a nuclear missile attack on the USA for several years. The only realistic reason either would attempt to attain such a capacity would be to deter a US attack—not to deliberately provoke devastating US retaliation. Repressive regimes care about self-preservation and can therefore be deterred.

  8.8.  The National Security Strategy maintains the view the Government has consistently expressed for over a decade that no state has or will have in the foreseeable future the capacity and intention to launch such an attack on the UK.[248]

  8.9.  The National Security Strategy does mention the possibility of non-state actors being able to threaten with ballistic missiles.[249] Although the risk of nuclear terrorism cannot be discounted, the possibility of such groups obtaining or developing a nuclear ICBM, constructing a launch pad undetected and successfully firing the weapon, presumably without prior testing, is remote. Why should they want to, when a nuclear weapon smuggled in a van would have the advantages of greater prospect of success, accuracy, surprise and concealing its point of origin?

  8.10.  Despite lengthy and colossally expensive experimentation, there is still tremendous scepticism about missile defence, because of failures, artificial test conditions and the suspicion that secrecy is being used to conceal the fallibility of the system. It is still thought that counter-measures such as metallic decoy balloons could easily overcome any late-phase system.

  8.11.  There is the possibility that a system that might fail under real attack could have the double danger of creating a false sense of security in the US about risking conflict, while because strategists in, say, Russia or China would assume on "worst-case analysis" that it might work, provoking responsive military programmes.

  8.12.  Missile defence has already cost over $100 billion. It may be suggested that this is solely a concern for US tax-payers. If, however, the UK is expected to buy into the system, it could entail extravagant costs for unproven technology against a threat which the Government does not believe exists or will exist in the foreseeable future. The exorbitant cost also fuels the fears of other major states that the system is not really directed against "rogue states".

  8.13.  The Bush administration's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty also breached one of the Thirteen Steps agreed at NPT 2000 and, together with a number of other decisions, gave the impression that the sole remaining superpower had scant regard for international law and treaties.

  8.14.  The National Security Strategy expresses the hope that Russia could be included within the missile defence architecture, but whatever the prospects of the US genuinely sharing the system with Russia before, the chances of the two countries attaining that level of trust in the aftermath of Ossetia seem poor.[250]

  8.15.  Even if Russia and the USA could work jointly on missile defence, there is the risk that that could seem threatening to China. Primarily in response to missile defence, China has started to increase and upgrade its relatively small nuclear arsenal. In a disturbing development the US International Security Advisory Board has suggested that the US should respond by developing new weapons systems and pursuing "missile defense capabilities, including taking full advantage of space". This is a worrying return to arms racing.

  8.16.  There is a powerful Washington lobby for whom missile defence is part of a plan for US military dominance. Shaping "a new century favorable to American principles and interests"[251] is to be achieved by further military expansion so that US military forces can "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;" "maintain nuclear strategic superiority" and achieve full spectrum dominance of space including "global missile defenses … to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world".[252]

  8.17.  In the modern world military and technical superiority cannot bring lasting unilateral national security. Sustainable safety can only be based on the common security of all nations in an equitable, rules-based international order.

  8.18.  The colossal political and "military industrial complex" vested interests in the missile defence programme mean however that currently there is no realistic possibility of its suspension. There might be a possibility of a moratorium on the most sensitive construction in the Czech Republic and Poland. There is no reason to rush ahead with deployment against a remote threat which may never emerge, if it undermines the prospects of early progress on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

  8.19.  The UK Government should re-assess the strategic implications of missile defence; how far the threats it is designed to meet can be resolved by "diplomatic persuasion, arms control, deterrence and other defensive measures",[253] which do not destabilise arms control and disarmament. It should consider whether it should be encouraging the new US administration to rush ahead with this project, or advising restraint.

9.  Non-signatory nuclear armed states (NAS)

  9.1.  All the while there continue to be states outside the NPT developing their own nuclear arsenals, there will be simmering resentment towards their freedom to threaten regional security, and a motivation within neighbouring states to respond.

  9.2.  This has been seen in very concrete terms when Arab states initiated a process during the Review and Extension Conference in 1995 aimed at bringing Israel into the regime and establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. The resolution passed on the Middle East, proposed by the United States, United Kingdom and Russia, called upon Israel to disarm, join the NPT and accept full scope safeguards. Its last point was particularly telling:

    "Calls upon all States party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and in particular the nuclear-weapons States, to extend their cooperation and to exert their utmost efforts with a view to ensuring the early establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems."[254]

  9.3.  Few efforts have been made to encourage Israel to join discussions on establishing a framework, leading some within the region to speculate that this was all simply a ploy to achieve indefinite extension of the NPT. As a direct result, Egypt played a central role in blocking any further agreement on strengthening non-proliferation measures at the 2005 Review Conference until the issue was addressed. Egypt, with some support from like-minded states, has said that it will resist any suggestions of a compulsory or universal application of strengthened Additional Protocols by the IAEA until the international community deals directly with the issue of Israel's nuclear weapons. This all casts doubt over the possibilities of a breakthrough at the Review Conference in 2010.

  9.4.  Although the ambiguity over Israel's nuclear status may have reduced some of the regional pressures of proliferation, it has also blocked any developments that might bring Israel closer in to the non-proliferation regime. While this situation may appear a prickly but necessary reality to some within the international community, it is a source of extreme frustration within the region and an indicator of hypocrisy behind the international regime. Hasty declarations that expose Israel's position would be a mistake, but serious attempts to open negotiations around a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction are urgent. Israel itself has signed up to such suggestions, as recently as July 2008 at President Sarkozy's Union for the Mediterranean summit. Britain could raise this issue with the new US Administration within the context of a revived Middle East peace process. Ignoring the problem risks damage to the NPT.

  9.5.  The passage of India's Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver in August and September 2008 was widely criticised for giving India the benefits of NPT membership (access to nuclear technology) without the responsibilities. While the US-India deal brings India into closer involvement with the non-proliferation regime, some believe it is tantamount to formally accepting their de facto nuclear weapons status. It is urgent that states consider strengthening incentives for non-nuclear weapon states to stay within the regime—it will take more than just talk of an international fuel bank or equivalent.

  9.6.  India is committed to negotiating in good faith towards a fissile material treaty. Supplier states could also collaborate to strengthen diplomatic requests for India to formalise their de facto test moratorium and sign up to and ratify the Comprehensive test Ban Treaty once the United States and China do so.

  9.7.  Pakistan's nuclear programme has been a significant source of global proliferation, and the state itself is unstable. Whilst reassurances have been forthcoming, and apparently confirmed by western intelligence sources, that the nuclear forces are insulated from political instabilities, Pakistan's arsenal will remain a primary concern.

  9.8.  Kofi Annan's proposal that there should be a special UN conference on nuclear disarmament to directly involve the NAS merits serious consideration.

  9.9.  There is a strain of thought—particularly within the US—that some or all of the NAS should be treated more favourably than other countries. Indeed some argue that other US allies, which are regarded as stable democracies or "reliable", could be designated as "responsible stewards", and could be permitted or even encouraged to develop nuclear weapons.

  9.10.  Such concepts are dangerous. In considering national foreign policy, sensible judgements may be made about other Governments and there may be "favoured nations"—though "reliable" regimes can change for the worse. Stable international treaties, however, cannot be based on distinctions which will often seem to be arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory, influenced by current national interest. International law must be equitable. Furthermore, as a matter of practical politics, if "responsible stewards" develop nuclear weapons, that will be seen as an incentive for neighbours and potential adversaries to follow their example.

  9.11.  As the Government states in the National Security Strategy:

    "We oppose all proliferation, as undermining our objectives of de-escalation and multilateral disarmament, and increasing the risk of instability in the international system and ultimately the risk of nuclear confrontation."[255]

10.  Iran

  10.1.  Iran has been focused on its domestic fuel cycle, until 2003 in secret, causing suspicion internationally that its principal purpose is to acquire a nuclear weapon capability. In the last five years it has been forced to be more open in its activities, and to accept intrusive safeguards operations by the IAEA, but continues to improve its enrichment facilities (under safeguards), and is said by several intelligence agencies to be only a few years away from possessing a weapons capability. Such a capability could cause neighbouring Arab states to develop their own.

  10.2.  It appears the current strategy of sticks and carrots has not been persuasive with the Iranians. More extensive sanctions or forceful strategies do not attract the full support of the Security Council, and in any case could well be counter-productive.

  10.3.  If the new US administration engages more directly in negotiations with Iran, it may improve the prospects of success.

  10.4.  In the long run, States need to agree to the early establishment of some form of international fuel bank (such as proposed by HMG) with guarantees of access credible to all customers. In the short run, the international community needs to prevent break-out by Iran. We may need to live with Iran's civil fuel cycle under significantly strengthened safeguards and inspections, ideally involving an international consortium [ref John Thomson] to reduce the change of diversion of materials, technology or know-how undetected.

  10.5.  From an Iranian perspective, the NWS cannot credibly deny Iran a full civil nuclear programme if they embark on their own nuclear renaissance and modernise their nuclear arsenals.

11.  Recommendations

  11.1.  HMG influence on the new US Administration in 2009 could be the most important contribution it can make to strengthening the non-proliferation regime. It could use its position within several international fora, such as the EU, the Commonwealth, and the group of seven states (Norwegian initiative) to develop the agenda linking nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It could collaborate closely with its NATO partners and communicate to Washington that the United States has the support of its allies in pursuing this agenda.

  11.2.  The UK needs to consider now what success at the 2010 Review Conference would look like. An agreed final document may indicate improvement to 2005, but if it is achieved by avoiding the structural weaknesses in the regime it will be a pyrrhic victory.

  11.3.  HMG policy accepts the close connection between non-proliferation and disarmament. With a change in administration in Washington, today's government could pick up on its previous diplomatic agenda that had so successfully influenced the outcome of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. It needs to work with other possessor states to devalue nuclear weapons in their doctrines with a view to negotiating them away. This requires HMG and our fellow NWS to adopt a plan involving key steps that have been outlined by the Hoover Group, in several recent commissions, and to which they are already committed in the 2000 Final Document.

  11.4.  HMG's proposals to establish a P5 technical conference to discuss disarmament are evolving, and look likely to expand to include political discussions. This is a positive development, and adequate time and resource need to be devoted to creating a forum to share concerns and solutions.

  11.5.  HMG could provide leadership within NATO at a critical juncture to review its Strategic Concept, and remove the remaining redundant tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. Britain is in a unique position to do this, when its allies' room for manoeuvre is limited.

  11.6.  All NWS should seriously consider deferral of any major modernisation programmes.

  11.7.  HMG needs to involve all relevant states—suppliers and recipients—early in the process when considering a fuel bank and other proposals for the international supply of nuclear fuel for reactors. This is a critical component of the non-proliferation project, and is likely to demand important compromises on the part of suppliers to reassure recipients and provide them with sufficient comfort to forgo their own domestic options. HMG should provide leadership in raising the budget and capacity of the IAEA, as part of the agenda to roll out strengthened universal safeguards practices.

  11.8.  While it would not be appropriate for HMG to block the export of nuclear technologies in general, not least because such a provision is at the heart of the NPT bargain, Britain should be ready to provide, and on occasion subsidise, the transfer of technologies associated with other energy sources to address energy security concerns in a manner that does not unintentionally assist proliferation of sensitive technologies.

  11.9.  The downturn in relations with Russia must not be allowed to undermine progress on arms control and the transformation of the longer-term strategic relationship. It has implications for progress on arms control globally, and is increasingly important for its own sake, as Russia modernises its arsenal and considers redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the West.

  11.10.  The Select Committee may wish to re-assess missile defence, with a view to informing Government opinion on the relative advisability of encouraging rapid deployment in Europe, or of urging caution on our US allies.

  11.11.  A successful NPT Review Conference will require evidence that the international community is doing more to resolve the issue of Israeli possession of nuclear weapons, the Middle East peace process and the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

  11.12.  Particular attention will need to be given to ensure that India's waiver by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to receive nuclear materials and technology, while still being outside the NPT, does not lead to proliferation elsewhere. It would help if HMG and its allies pressed India to sign up to the CTBT, particularly if the United States and China ratify the treaty.

  11.13.  Consideration should be given to the proposition of a special UN Conference on Nuclear Disarmament to involve the Nuclear Armed States outside the NPT.

  11.14.  Treaties must be equitable, and all proliferation must be resisted; there can be no special status for favoured nations because they are "responsible stewards".

19 October 2008

207   Although the threat then may have seemed less complex, the consequences of major conflict would have been absolutely catastrophic. As the Cuban missile crisis showed, the risks were far too great. The probability of war occurring through accident, misunderstanding or design was too high to provide indefinite security. Back

208   Para 3.10 Back

209   In March 1963, President J F Kennedy expressed concern that by the early 1970s there might be "15 or 20 or 25" nations with nuclear weapons. While retrospectively in 2004, George Bunn, one of the US negotiators of the original NPT, claimed that without the Treaty "30-40 countries would now have nuclear weapons." Back

210   M. MccGwire, "The rise and fall of the NPT: an opportunity for Britain", International Affairs 81, 1 (January 2005), pp 115f. Back

211   Nuclear Armed States is a term used by George Perkovich and James Acton, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, (Adelphi Papers, 48: 396, 2008), referring to all states with nuclear weapons. Back

212   Are New Nuclear Bargains Attainable?, Deepti Choubey, Carnegie Report, October 2008, available online at: Back

213   "A more secure World", Report of the High-level Panel to UN Secretary-General, p39, para 111. Back

214   Richard Perle, "Thank God for the Death of the UN", Guardian, March 21, 2003. Back

215   CSP, Towards a New Deterrent, Back

216   The Heritage Foundation: Baker Spring, Congressional Commission Should Recommend a "Damage Limitation" Strategy, (Heritage Foundation, August 14, 2008). Back

217   Are New Nuclear Bargains Attainable?, Deepti Choubey, Carnegie Report, October 2008, available online at: Back

218   He spoke to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-proliferation Back

219   General John Shalikashvili, General Klaus Naumann, Field Marshal Peter, Lord Inge, General Henk van den Breemen, and Admiral Jacques Lanxade, Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World, (Lunteren: Noaber Foundation, 2007) 96f. Back

220   Then Defence Secretary, speech to the Conference on Disarmament on 5th February 2008. Back

221   Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn, A World Free of Nuclear Weapons, (Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2007) and other articles in Shultz, Drell and Goodby, passim. See also Back

222   Barack Obama, A New Strategy for a New World, July 15, 2008, Washington D C. Back

223   John McCain, Speech, University of Denver, May 27, 2008. Back

224   Even Harold Brown, a former Secretary of Defense and critic of the Nuclear Security Project, points out that deterrence relies upon internal stability, rational decision-making, command and control, and that today's relationships do not fit the criteria. Harold Brown, New Nuclear Realities, Washington Quarterly 31, no.1 (Winter 2007-8), p.18 Back

225   The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons: Time for Serious Examination? Published as Michael Quinlan, Abolishing Nuclear Armouries: Policy or Pipedream? (Survival, 49 ,4; 2007), 7-15. Back

226   George Perkovich and James Acton, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, (Adelphi Papers, 48: 396, 2008). Back

227   Shultz, Drell and Goodby, 82. [WSJ, January 15, 2008]. Back

228   See above, para 3.5. George Perkovich and James Acton, Abolishing Nuclear WeaponsBack

229   Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency, published in International Herald Tribune, 13 February 2004 Back

230   National Security Strategy, para 4.19. Back

231   Letter in the Times: Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind, David Owen and George Robertson, "Start worrying and learn to ditch the bomb", 30 June 2008. Also, Early Day Motion 2053 "Nuclear Security Project", 16 July 2008, originally sponsored by Margaret Beckett and now by James Arbuthnot, with other co-sponsors Menzies Cambell, Michael Ancram, Michael Howard, John Reid and Adam Ingram. As of 16 October this had 29 Conservative, 121 Labour, 27 Liberal Democrat and 10 other signatories. Back

232   Ambassador John Freeman, 7th NPT Review, para 3. Back

233   NPT2000: Commitments made by all NPT member states in the Final Document to the NPT Review Conference 2000, commonly known as the 13 steps
Canberra: Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons; 1996
Blix: The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, June 2006:
UNHLG: Report of the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Dec 2004
NSG: Nuclear Suppliers Group, January and October 2007, January 2008 

234   Refers to any proposal designed to cut off fissile material production, or more specifically, the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Back

235   As mentioned above, both Senators Obama and McCain have endorsed the approach. Back

236   Are New Nuclear Bargains Attainable?, Deepti Choubey, Carnegie Report, October 2008 Back

237   Quinlan 10f. Back

238   For a useful discussion on this whole subject see Perkovich and Acton, especially pp69ff. Back

239   William Hague, Meeting the Challenge of Nuclear Proliferation in the 21st Century, Address at IISS, July 24, 2006. Back

240   NATO Alliance Strategic Concept, Press Release NAC-S(99)65, April 24, 1999, quoted in Diakov et al (2004), p. 37. Back

241   Olivier Meier, "News Analysis: An End to U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe?" Arms Control Today, July/August 2006, available at:, accessed on 15 September 2008. Back

242   EU leaders act against Russia with freeze on strategic pact talks, Ian Traynor in Brussels and Luke Harding in Moscow, The Guardian, 2 September 2008 Back

243   Russia Shrugs Off EU "Punishment", Jessica Le Masurier, Sky News reporter, 2 September 2008 Back

244   Russia Considers Siting Nuclear Arms in Kaliningrad, September 7th, 2008, online report at: 

245   Gunnar Arbman, Charles Thornton, "Russia's Tactical Nuclear Weapons, Part I: Background and Policy Issues," Swedish Defence Research Agency (November, 2003), p. 39. Back

246   According to one leaked extract posted on Amazon, the US-based bookselling website, Sir Christopher was told by Mr Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell: "We want you to get up the arse of the White House and stay there." "Conflict over Meyer Book Deal", The Guardian, 6 July 6 2006 "The IoS Interview: Sir Christopher Meyer-No regrets. No apologies", Independent on Sunday, 13 November 2005 Back

247   NIE, Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, (Washington: 2007). Back

248   National Security Strategy, paras 3.11, 3.25; cf., FAC, WMD, 2000, p xiv, 36 Back

249   National Security Strategy, para 3.12 Back

250   National Security Strategy, para 4.68 Back

251   Project for the New American Century, PNAC, Statement of Principles, 1997. Back

252   Thomas Donnelly, Principal Author, Rebuilding America's Defenses, (Washington: PNAC, 2000) Back

253   FAC, WMD, [2000], p xviii, para49. Back

254   The resolution is available online at:£4 Back

255   National Security Strategy, para 3.10. Back

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