Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Submission from Mrs Elizabeth Young (Lady Kennet)

  I am a second generation arms control enthusiast, my father, on retiring from the Royal Navy, having become Naval Advisor to the Disarmament Section of the League of Nations (1929-39). I joined the Institute of Strategic Studies shortly after its foundation and am also a long term member of Chatham House and of RUSI.

  It was for the ISS (as it then was) that in April 1969, I wrote an Adelphi Paper, No 56, on The Control of Proliferation: The 1968 Treaty in Hindsight and Forecast. Later, in 1972, I wrote a Pelican Special, A Farewell to Arms Control?

  The first pages of the Adelphi Paper, describe the situation as it was in the late 1960s. Nothing has very much changed since then: Governments continue to value their own state's interests above others' and above those of the international community. With Mr Bush's United States, it is almost as if other states' probable reactions to their own policies need not figure in their formulation.

  In practice, then—and since—National Interest was and has been the main motivator for proliferation. This started with the UK in 1945. President Truman—unilaterally—backed out of war-time agreements between Mr Churchill and President Roosevelt (the Montreal and Hyde Park memoranda) to continue atomic cooperation after the War. Prime Minister Attlee immediately decided the United Kingdom, particularly as the original source of the relevant atomic physics, should indeed continue to develop nuclear weapons, despite the American wish to secure a nuclear weapon monopoly. The Atomic Energy Authority was set up at Harwell in October 1945.

  Today, in a not entirely dissimilar situation, one principal motivator of the ill-feeling between the United States (ever eager to enhance its strategic posture) and Russia (equally eager to protect its own) is the US Missile Defence Programme. In 2002, President Bush withdrew, as unilaterally as Mr Truman in 1945, from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had been agreed in 1972, precisely to avoid a predictable arms race in missile defences.


  Despite the name, missile defences form part of an offensive posture: with a pre-emptive attack—and President Bush has announced pre-emption as an essential element in US strategy—you can reduce the effectiveness of your opponent's retaliatory force. When he does attempt to retaliate, you can hope to destroy the remains of a much attenuated force. Missile defences, in short, damage the doctrine of mutual deterrence which has in fact served us well since 1945.

  If the proposed American "missile shield" is indeed set up in Eastern Europe, TIT will certainly be followed by TAT. Strangely, in the West, this seems not to have been properly analysed. For instance, in the long interview in the October 2008 issue of the RUSI Journal with Lieutenant General Henry Obering III, Director of the US Missile Defense Agency, he shows no awareness that Missile Defences can indeed be seen as forming part of an offensive posture, and that this is how the Russians have always seen them, and that it is such that they are reacting to them now.

  And all American efforts to persuade the Russians that a Global Missile Defense System, including Russia, and able to defend against anything that Iran, North Korea, or any other irresponsible rogue might wish to deploy, could be a good idea, have failed: it would necessarily be under American control.

  A Russian—hardly serious—counter proposal for a system, making use of an existing Russian radar base, was rejected by the Americans.

  And the Czech and the Poles have, not surprisingly, rejected another Russian "compromise" proposal, which would have Russian personnel permanently stationed at the US bases.

  There cannot ever in fact be a satisfactory solution to the problems of the requisite Integrated Command and Control. All decisions to engage a presumed attack would have to be under exclusive US control, and then under some kind of virtually automatic control: there would be no time for consultation, even with superiors, let alone with "allies", with an "attack" on the way.

  To the Russians, and to many others, all this is the US seeking, not global peace or stability, but global hegemony: that Full Spectrum Military Dominance—Land, Sea, Air, Space, and Cyber Space, that United States officials so often mention in other contexts.

  In 1972, Nixon had signed the ABM Treaty with Brezhnev to

    "clos[e] off the possibility of a spiralling, potentially dangerous competition in anti-ballistic missile systems",

  [as it is put in the Kissinger Transcripts, p. 15.]

  Then in 1983, President Reagan attempted to have everyone accept his own great anti-missile idea: the Strategic Defense Initiative—"STAR WARS"…

  According to Helmut Schmidt, German Chancellor,

    "there was no allied consultation whatever before Mr Reagan publicly declared, on March 23rd 1983, that SDI was meant to "change the course of history"…and even make nuclear weapons obsolete" [A Grand Strategy for the West: the Anachronism of National Strategies in an Interdependent World, 1985, p61]

  Of that project, Yuri Andropov, Soviet Premier, said,

    "It is time they [Washington] stopped… search[ing] for the best ways of unleashing nuclear war… Engaging in this is not just irresponsible. It is insane". [Pravda, 27 March 1983].

  Precisely to remove all restraints placed on US policy President Bush, unilaterally, withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002. Ever since, he has given enthusiastic support to his Missile Defense Agency, and to the relevant parts of the Military Industrial Complex, against whose blandishments President Eisenhower had warned. Less enthusiasm from the Congress has followed, but enough funding to keep things going. (And cooperation with Israel has also been enthusiastic and continuous.)

  Secret negotiations with the Czech Republic and with Poland followed, for bases in those countries, radar and missiles respectively. Strangely, other NATO countries were not consulted, although they were obviously legitimately concerned. (At some point, the United Kingdom must have been consulted, because the US radar base at Fylingdales was enhanced to become part of the US Missile Defense System. This, Des Browne announced just before the 2007 summer recess.)

  President Bush's Missile Defense plans for Eastern Europe Did soon become public knowledge and the Czech and Polish governments have each actually reached agreement with the US. The texts have not yet been ratified by the respective Parliaments and with some 70% of the people in each country reported in polls to be opposed, they may not be. As one Czech newspaper has put it,

    "Public opinion and political elites in the Czech Republic and Poland are ambivalent about the US radar and missile defence bases. This is understandable—we had an army of one superpower in this region for 40 years, so why should those from the other side of the world be here now, after all?"

  The Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, on the other hand, having secured promises of US assistance in updating the Polish military in return for agreeing to a base for US Missiles, was reportedly annoyed by M. Sarkozy's 14 November remark that the US missile defence plans were misguided: missile defence, said Mr Tusk, was a matter strictly between the United States and Poland and did not involve France or any other "third parties". (Did he mean Russia?) It has now been reported that "Patriot" missiles—short-range anti-missile missiles will arrive in Poland in 2009—part of the military assistance the US has agreed.

  The Russian view has remained consistent.

  The President of the Russian World Foundation, Vyacheslav Nikonov, has recently pointed out:

    "The conflict field between Russia and the USA is quite big but the problems that have significance for the Kremlin can be counted on the fingers of one hand:.. NATO enlargement, the acceptance of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, and the anti-missile defence system".

  And on 4 November, just as Barak Obama was being elected, President Medyedev announced that if the US, under the new President, continued with President Bush's plans to deploy elements of his Missile Defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia would deploy certain missiles in Kaliningrad, capable of taking them—and much else—out. TIT following TAT…

  None of which is in the least surprising, and can hardly be news to the State Department, or even the Pentagon, if they have done the appropriate thinking.

  Slightly new proposals are said to be now emerging from Washington, but in these last days of the Bush Presidency, the Russians are not willing to enter into any agreement at all on missile defences. The only purpose they see behind the new proposals is to rule out future discussion—ie with President Obama.

  What they see is the Bush administration

    "intent on putting the new U.S. president in a hopeless situation, so that he should take responsibility for what they concocted without him,…something that had been designed without his involvement."

  Or, of course, ours.


  Responses to Missile Defences can take a great many forms, of which a new deployment of short-range missiles in Kaliningrad is only one. Others—all "proliferatory"—include: more warheads on existing missiles; improved warheads on existing missiles; multiple war-heads; bigger, less vulnerable warheads; disguised warheads; the earlier deployment of announced missiles or warheads; failure to adhere to existing arms control agreements regarding missile number reductions; and so on, ad infinitum.

  Nevertheless, General Obering is hoping to persuade President-elect Obama to continue with the programme:

    "Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on a bullet with a bullet,"

  he recently told reporters.

    "Hitting a bullet with a bullet" is hardly the point when the problem remains how to identify the "bullet"; how to determine if, indeed, it is a "bullet", and if so, of what kind, and what the results of releasing its unknown contents might be.

  The "militarization of space" is bound to follow the US deployment of missile defences. Space systems already provide most of the information about missile-launchings, etc., and, next, sending up weaponised satellites will look quite reasonable. The US reaction to the Chinese destruction of one of their own worn-out weather satellites showed the kind of alarm to which the US—is prone, faced with even unsurprising reality. Just what the consequences of US-Japanese cooperation in missile defences may be is of course another matter to keep sight of. How will China respond?

  And, given the extent to which missile defences are dependent on their cyber-connexions, and the vulnerability of these to hackers of all kinds, these systems are not those on which it would be sensible to rest the security of one's country.

  Here, in the UK, we were (rather) surreptitiously inserted into the US Missile Defense System, when Desmond Browne announced, in July 2007, that the US Radar base at Fylingdales was being brought up to Missile Defence standards. At the time he promised full-scale national debate, but that has not happened. None of the three major think-tanks—RIIA (Chatham House); Royal United Service Institution; the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies)—have had open meetings to discuss the matter. A few PQs have been asked, and Lord Wallace had a debate in the House of Lords, but there has been no general excitement about what should be a major public issue.

    "…and the FCO's policy goal on countering weapons proliferation

  There could be a lot to be said for "countering weapons proliferation", but there is a very strong urge among governments to see the arms industry and the arms trade as useful tools of economic policy. Clearly, as President Eisenhower foresaw, the "unwarranted influence" of both the "military industrial complex" and of the "scientific-technological" elite, has been there, in Washington, powerful and dangerous as never before, with a militarily and scientifically illiterate American President.

  And we ourselves need to think about our arms industry, our arms trade, differently from how we think about other exports: the globalising world requires us to engage in "peacekeeping", but the uncontrolled export of arms is—usually—peace-destroying. And in the UK such "control" as there is, is quite inadequate in a Government Department that is intended vigorously to promote "trade": trade that includes the arms trade. Which in turn promotes Proliferation.

US President-elect Barack Obama

  We now have in the United States a President-Elect, of whom Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said that Russia

    "regards statements made by the headquarters of newly elected US President Barack Obama as a favourable background for Russian-American relations."

  And Obama's staff are quoted as saying that he

    "will seek real and verifiable reductions in all US and Russian nuclear weapons, and work with other nuclear powers towards significant reductions in nuclear arsenals by the end of his presidency"

  Which is good. And Obama himself stated in July that he would welcome a "world free of nuclear weapons". But he also said that as long as others had nuclear weapons, he would always see to it that the United States had sufficient deterrent forces.

  The point here is that whatever agreements are reached with who-ever it may be, there will never be certainty that ALL nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology have been abolished. A report just published by a Harvard unit urges

    "a global campaign to lock down every nuclear weapon and every significant stock of potential nuclear bomb material worldwide as rapidly as that can possibly be done."

  And while that is sensible, it is very different from "a world free of nuclear weapons".

  Would the US ever totally disarm? Would France, or Britain, or Israel or Russia or India? Why should Iran commit itself, when it is actively threatened by Israel, and even by some elements in the United States?

  We managed during the Cold War—eventually—to recognize that the other party's interests were as real as our own, and settled for Mutually Assured Deterrence—MAD.

  And—its unacceptability to the Russians—is why there is no point whatever in the missile defence system that President Bush is bequeathing to his successor—and to the rest of us: every response to it is proliferatory.

  The causes of Proliferation are obvious: TIT for any suspected TAT. It is a response to the military activities or acquisitions of others that could amount to a threat to one's own country or its interests.

  "Worst case analysis" is central, and no hypocrisy will remain unsuspect. Thus there is no way any United States President can persuade Russia—or indeed anyone else—that the proposed "missile shield" is a harmless plan aimed at protecting us all from the weapons that Israel's, or the United States own, nuclear weapons have probably inspired.

  If we wish our views on Proliferation to be taken seriously we have to explain to ourselves, and to the world at large, how it is that we have for so long tolerated Israel's nuclear weapons—Israel's not unreasonable nuclear deterrent—and India's, and Pakistan's—and then announce that any of Iran's would be no less than "unacceptable". Iran is already surrounded by states with nuclear weapons; Israel threatens her; the United States refuses, in negotiations, to take the "military option" off the table. Would Iranian nuclear weapons necessarily start up any new arms races?

  Most desirable, would be a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East. Should we not make that our anti-proliferation policy for the region, rather than concentrate on what Iran is doing, which has not yet exceeded what is allowed by Article 4 of the Non- Proliferation Treaty?

November 24th 2008

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