Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-35)|
5 NOVEMBER 2008
Q20 Andrew Mackinlay: Are both
of you satisfied with what South Africa had developed? Has the
security of that been accounted for? More difficult is the intellectual
property surrounding its programme. You said how Khan sold stuff,
which is obviously a major thing. What happened to the people
who were developing the programme in South Africa? What happened
to their information and the things themselves?
Mr. Fitzpatrick: South Africa
deserves a great deal of credit in two regards. First, its co-operation
with the International Atomic Energy Agency, when it disabled
its facilities, was so thorough that the IAEA was able to conclude
that, yes, everything had been disposed of. In terms of the intellectual
property, there were cases when people involved with the South
African programme then got involved with the A. Q. Khan network.
The second way that I would compliment South
Africa is that it took judicial action against those individuals
who got caught up in the Khan network, and imposed penalties more
severe than any other country imposed on people involved in the
Khan network. They were also very transparent in all this, with
regard to bringing all the evidence forward to the world. In this
case, other countries could take a model from South Africa.
Q21 Chairman: Can I go back to
the Pakistan and India question? What arrangements are there for
a hotline, consultation or crisis management between India and
Pakistan, so that we do not get the potential worldor nuclearwar
between them that we had a few years ago?
Mr. Fitzpatrick: Pakistan and
India have had several agreements over the years to try to create
such crisis management mechanismsto create hotlines and
to have procedures for the pre-notification of missile tests and
force deployments. But it is fair to say that these have not all
been implemented to the degree to which they were first proposed.
The case of 2002, when the two came so close to the possibility
of a nuclear exchange that certain embassies in New Delhi sent
staff home, out of the country, indicates that there is still
much more to be done. I am sorry; I do not have a very detailed
Chairman: If you have any information,
perhaps you could send us a note on it.
Clearly, it is a relevant issue for future stability, not just
for that regionthere are wider implications.
Q22 Mr. Horam: As you know, some
experts whom we have heard evidence from question the value of
arms control treaties and disarmament and the whole multilateral
rules-based approach led by international institutions. They say
that adversarial regimes will ignore all that anyway and that
benevolent regimes are not a threat. Do you see any value in that
Professor Chalmers: I think that
there is a point, but it can be taken too far. As I explained
in my submission, there is clearly a relationship between international
politics on the one hand and arms control on the other. To come
back to the first question that was asked by the Chairman, it
is not possible in current circumstances to envisage the abolition
of nuclear weapons. There is a co-dependent relationship between
politics and arms control. However, it is not the case that arms
control cannot help that political process or aid the reduction
of tensions between states that have a relationship that is somewhere
between total amity and total hostility.
I think that that characterises a number of
the relationships in today's world, so arms control can play a
role in increasing trust, but if you put too much weight on it
and do not address some of the fundamental underlying political
issues, there is a severe limit to how far you can go. India and
Pakistan are a good example of that. If you want to tackle the
India-Pakistan nuclear issue, you have to tackle the issue of
Kashmir and Pakistan's perception that it is a state under threat
of dismemberment by India, however justified or not that perception
Mr. Fitzpatrick: I would add that
a rules-based system is important for establishing norms. Even
with states that we might call adversarial or rule-breakers, it
constrains some of their abilities, and when they break rules,
there are consequences. However, any rules-based approach needs
to be supplemented by practical measures, such as those led by
the United States in the proliferation security initiativethe
PSIto improve the capabilities of respective nations to
be able to interdict shipments of illicit weapons when the rules
have broken down. I would not put all my emphasis on the rules,
but neither would I put it all on practical measures. A multi-layered
approach is the best way forward.
Q23 Mr. Horam: So you both think
that the present approach is correct? You would certainly use
that approach as part of your advance on this topic, but does
the present approach have real weaknesses? Are there things about
it that you would like to improve?
Professor Chalmers: There have
been weaknesses. There was an opportunity lost at the end of the
cold war, when the political dynamic between the US and the Soviet
Union ended. There was a dramatic transformation in the relationship
between NATO and the then Warsaw pact conventional forces in Europe,
but there was not a similar transformation in relation to nuclear
weapons. Now, 18 years after the end of the cold war, one of the
things that is quite remarkable is that the US and Russia still
have thousands of nuclear weapons on five or 10 minute-alert to
destroy the silos and cities of the other, as if nothing has changed
politically. There is a disconnect between the military side and
the political side.
We are now in a phase in which relationships
with Russia have taken a turn for the worse, but they are not
back to cold war times. I think that we would be in a better position
politically with Russia today if we had taken the opportunity
in the '90s to push much further with dismantling the nuclear
infrastructurenot ending it, but getting it down to levels
more suitable to a relationship between countries that are not
the sort of ideological adversaries that they had been since 1917.
Q24 Mr. Horam: Do you think that
it was feasible to do so, given that old enmities were still quite
strong? It is hard to expect people to change so rapidly and see
possibilities quite so quickly, is it not?
Professor Chalmers: Well, counterfactual
history is a wonderful thing, but I think that the explanation
for the relative lack of progress, although there clearly was
some progress, had to do partly with the mindset of those involved
in nuclear weapons. One got to the stage, in the early years of
the George W. Bush Administration, where things went further backwards
and the Administration argued that it was no longer necessary
to verify US-Russian strategic treaties, because of the high level
of trust. That sounds a bit dubious nowadays. If there had been
a push forward with the comprehensive test ban treaty, a verifiable
fissile material cut-off treaty and strategic reductions by the
US and Russia, I think that we would be in a better position.
It would have made some difference to the Russian mindset. We
are now seeing the Russians, increasingly and very regrettably,
deploying a nuclear card in international rhetoric in a way that
deeply concerns other Europeans.
Q25 Mr. Hamilton: I am well aware
of the provisions of the non-proliferation treaty regarding the
nations that had nuclear weapons when it was signed, but can either
of you comment on the view that weGreat Britain and other
nuclear nationswould have a little bit more moral authority
in persuading Iran and others who are trying to develop their
own independent nuclear weapons facilities if we were not attempting,
as the United Kingdom is, to renew the delivery vehicles for our
own independent nuclear deterrent?
Professor Chalmers: That is a
very good question. Clearly, there is an inevitable double standard
at the heart of the non-proliferation regime. The NPT seeks to
address that in article VI and the commitment of the five recognised
nuclear weapon states to pursue the goal of ultimate disarmament,
but it does not specify what should be done in the meantime. That
meantime could be a long one.
In the case of the UK nuclear force in particular,
although I think that this applies to all five, the nature of
the nuclear weapons systems is such that they do not last forever.
Submarines wear out, in the case that you refer to. A decision
never to replace those submarines no matter what happens to disarmament
negotiation would effectively be a decision to give up that capability
at some stage in the future, which is not something asked for
in the NPT. What it means for the UK and other nuclear weapon
states is that they have a responsibility, if they do have to
maintain their delivery systems in the way that the UK has, to
do so in such a way that they are not seen to be increasing their
capability qualitatively or quantitatively.
That is what the UK Government did, to their
credit, in the White Paper. One can argue whether they could have
done more, but that was basically what they did. Much more so
than other nuclear weapon states, the UK went out of its way to
explain to non-nuclear weapon states and others why it was going
down that route and why, if it becomes possibleif nuclear
disarmament makes progress over the next 20 yearsit might
not be necessary to continue the programme, but we are not there
Q26 Mr. Hamilton: Do you know,
Mr. Fitzpatrick: I do not think
that there is any lack of moral authority in calling on states
to adhere to their commitments. Iran signed up to the NPT not
to pursue nuclear weapons. The evidence suggests that it did have
a nuclear weapons development programme. If one believes the US
intelligence agencies, Iran had such a weapons development programme
until 2003 and then put it on hold. Whether or not Iran resumed
that programmemaybe it did not resume itapparently
it had such a programme, in addition to Iran's violations of its
safeguards agreement over 18 years in 14 different ways. There
is no reason not to call it to account for that programme. In
answer to Mr. Horam's question about the weaknesses of the present
system, if the issue is the weaknesses of the NPT, then the weakness
is in enforcing the NPT, and bringing countries to account for
their violations is one of the major weaknesses.
Q27 Mr. Hamilton: When we were
in Iran a year ago, we asked that very question. You will not
be surprised to learn that the response we got from people was
that it was quite un-Islamic to weaponise this technologytheir
religion would not allow it. Anyway, in their own self-interest,
they recognised that, had they got those weapons, they would be
open to immediate destruction by anybody they cared to point them
at, without Iran even firing them, so why would they develop them?
It is complete nonsense to suggest that they would. I am not suggesting
that I believe every word of that argument, but it is plausible,
is it not?
Iranians look to the UK and they say, as some
of our interlocutors did indeed say, "Well, you are just
extending the life of your own nuclear weapons." We recognise
that that extension is allowable within the NPT, but do you not
think that that shows a bit of a double standard?
Mr. Fitzpatrick: With regard to
the religious prohibition, as I understand it, the fatwa against
the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons
was issued by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, in 2005.
One might ask the Iranians this question: if there was a religious
prohibition that preceded that, why would they develop these plans
and designs for nuclear weapons, missiles and nuclear test facilities
and so forth? Previous Iranian leaders are on record talking about
nuclear weapons development. I do not underplay the utility of
having such a religious prohibition; I think that it establishes
an important norm. However, fatwas can change. They could say
that the circumstances are different. Therefore, I think that
holding Iran to the requirements of the Security Council and new
international law to suspend the programmes that create concern
is a reasonable approach to take.
I do not think that Iran would change based
on what the United Kingdom does with its own nuclear policy; Iran's
pursuit has nothing to do with the United Kingdom.
Professor Chalmers: I would just
like to add briefly to what Mark said, which I agree with. I think
that the audience for steps towards nuclear disarmament by the
existing nuclear weapons states is more the broader international
community of the vast majority of NPT members who are in good
standing and are not developing nuclear weapons, to show them
that we are in compliance with the treaty and that it is Iran
that is not in compliance, rather than to influence Iran's decision
Q28 Sir John Stanley: Professor
Chalmers, a few moments ago you made a very important but little
publicly known point about the extraordinary anomalyin
my view, a grossly irresponsible anomalywhereby on the
one hand we have ended the cold war and on the other hand we have
literally thousands of US and Russian nuclear weapons pointed
at each other on hairline warning times, measured in minutes.
Are you aware of the important work and contribution that has
been made by a former Senator, Sam Nunn, in this field? I am sure
that you are. Would you like to give the Committee your views
on his proposals to extend significantly the warning times at
which both American and Russian nuclear weapons are held?
Professor Chalmers: Yes, I would
be delighted to do so. I think that that is a very important area,
and one in which quite significant progress could be made rather
rapidly. The dangers created by having very short alert timesa
situation in which US and Russian forces could be used within
10 minutes of an order being givenmean that there are real
dangers, for example, from cyber-attack. One of the things that
states do to disrupt other states' nuclear weapons programmes
is seek to subvert their communications systems, but that is something
that terrorists and hackers could do, given the increasing dependence
of states on information technology in relation to these systems.
What Sam Nunn and his group of distinguished elder statesmen and
associated experts in the United States have proposed is that
the US and Russia take their nuclear forces off that hair-trigger
There are various technical ways that one can
think about doing that. One could certainly take the vast majority
of systems off that sort of alert. In that respect, I think that
submarines are more stabilising, because even if there is, for
example, intelligence that your own country has been attacked
by nuclear weapons, you can take the time to find out whether
that is actually, clearly, the case before a retaliatory strike
is authorised. However, you need to have the procedures in place
for your submarine or missile field commanders or for your bombers
to ensure that time is available.
The other point I would make is about a world
in which countries, including the US and Russia, say that they
want to move forward on nuclear disarmament, but have so little
confidence in the process that they maintain such a large number
on very high levels of alert. There is a certain contradiction
there, which suggests that they have little faith in the process.
However, you can make a lot of progress relatively quickly in
the process of de-alerting, whereas the process of disarmament,
in terms of verifiably destroying warheads, will inevitably take
much longer. One of the things that Sam Nunn, people at the Hoover
Institute and others have talked about is that this is a first
step towards that longer-term goal.
Whether it is wise to take all forces off some
degree of alert is debatable. Some de-alerting proposals can increase
vulnerabilities. That is a live debate in the case of the UK,
but you can go an awfully long way down that road without creating
Q29 Sir John Stanley: Can I turn
to a couple of other areas? First, in the well publicised dirty
war threat, one of the most worrying nuclear proliferation possibilities
is clearly that the huge arsenal of fissile material within the
former Soviet Union could get into non-stateterroristhands.
Indeed, members of the Committee visited the location, which I
shall not name, of a civil nuclear reactor being used for research
purposes, where the external security was patently and seriously
inadequate. The internal security was better, but there was no
question but that the external security was seriously inadequate.
Against that background, what is your assessment of the contribution
that the Global Partnership has made, since the agreement was
made at the G8 meeting in 2002, to improving the security of WMD
materials in generalit applies to chemical as well as nuclearheld
inside the former Soviet Union?
Mr. Fitzpatrick: I am not in a
position to give a detailed answer, but I think it is clear that
much more remains to be done. The efforts that a number of nations
have taken, both within the Global Partnership and bilaterally
with Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union, have
made some real strides in securing the most insecure areas. The
weapons themselves and the fissile material that could be used
for nuclear weapons should be the top priority. The material that
could be used in dirty bombs also needs to be secured, but it
will not create a threat to mankind in the same way. The threat
of dirty bombs is more economical and psychological: they are
not weapons of mass killing.
Q30 Sir John Stanley: I note your
evidence. All I can say is that all the information I had, including
that contained in the useful BBC documentary, which dealt with
a purely fictitious scenario and demonstrated the consequences
of the detonation of two dirty bombs in London, suggested that
apart from the catastrophic economic consequences, the loss of
life, both immediate and in the long term, through radiation,
would have been substantially greater than occurred in the 9/11
attack or in the terrorist attacks in London.
I turn to the non-proliferation treaty. This
Committee is here, above all, to examine the policy of the British
Government. I ask you both to say, first, what realistic objectives
might be achievable for the British Government from the non-proliferation
treaty; and, beyond that, what objectives would you like to see
achieved, but might not be so easily achievable? It is important
to separate out what is within the realm of realistic possibilities,
as opposed to hopes for the future.
Professor Chalmers: Perhaps I
can start. For a few years, the UK Government have been rather
a lone voice in their position on taking article VI of the NPT
seriously. However, given the statements of Senator Obama and,
to be fair, his Republican rival, the United States will be taking
the issue much more seriously in the run-up to the 2010 review.
That is reinforced by the work of Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, George
Schultz and Bill Perry to create an emerging bipartisan consensus
in the US that there needs to be a much more active policy in
that area, if the NPT is to be strengthened and some of the dangers
that we have been talking about are to be averted. That is creating
an expectation of progress, which it will be difficult in the
short term for western Governments to fulfil, for lots of different
reasons. As Nunn and Kissinger and their colleagues have emphasised,
it is therefore important to have shorter term progress on several
different fronts. I put the comprehensive test ban treaty high
on the listNo. 1. I have already commented on that: there
is a real chance of significant progress in perhaps not immediate
entry into force, but in reducing the number of hold-outs to one
or two countries within the next couple of years.
Secondly, there is potential for real progress
in US-Russia discussions. There are lots of different formulae
out there. There is now a recognition by both Russia and the incoming
US Administration that the verification provisions of the strategic
arms reduction treaty should be extended beyond the end of 2009.
Barack Obama has committed himself to a more or less immediate
reduction in strategic warheads to the lower limit of the strategic
offensive reductions treaty of 1,700, and an agreement between
the US and Russia to come down to something significantly below
that is possible over the next couple of years. Areas in relation
to de-alerting could be involved.
The third area in relation to disarmament where
some progress could be made, although perhaps on a longer time
scale, is finding ways in which to develop transparency and verification
measures between the five recognised nuclear weapons states. It
is something that the UK Government have argued for, for which
the French President has argued for and for which President-elect
Obama has also argued. The western members of the P5 have argued
for progress in that area and, indeed, as Russia is already part
of transparency measures in START, there may be ways in which
that could be extended to the P5 more generally. That will be
hard, but if we are going to get into a situation where we are
talking about nuclear disarmament by existing nuclear weapons
states beyond the two former superpowers, you first need a baseline
from which to work and a high degree of confidence that you know
how much fissile material and how many warheads states produce.
That will be difficult to achieve.
The caveat to that relates particularly to China,
but it might also relate to other small nuclear weapons states:
precisely because they have relatively small arsenals, they may
be more reluctant than others to reveal where they are and how
big they are. Nevertheless, it is an area where I think progress
can be made.
All of this is important, but there is also
a real risk in relation to Iran, which we have to be very aware
of. If Iran gets into a situation of weaponisation, the political
climate for progress in these other areas will be put at risk.
Q31 Sir John Stanley: Thank you.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, do you want to add to that?
Mr. Fitzpatrick: I think these
steps on disarmament are important in and of themselves, but they
are also very important as a way of leveraging to get more in
the area of non-proliferation. It would be ideal if the non-nuclear
weapons states were ready to adopt stronger measures in the non-proliferation
area as a kind of quid pro quo for these disarmament steps, but
it is going to be very difficult to get that because at the NPT
review conference everything is done by consensus. At the last
one, Iran was one of the three countries that really prevented
consensus. Iran might even be the chairman of the next conferenceit
is in line for it.
I think there are some ways that the non-proliferation
steps can be improved. One of these would be strengthening the
withdrawal clause, so that we do not have another situation like
North Korea, where a country violates, pulls out and still retains
the capabilities it acquired while it was supposedly a member.
I would not have too high expectations for the review conference,
but some practical steps like this are something that the UK Government
Chairman: Thank you. I am very conscious
of time and that we have another witness waiting. We are not going
to be able to ask all the questions that we had hoped to ask.
I am going to get a quick question in about India from Eric Illsley
and then I am going to go to John Horam for questions about the
Q32 Mr. Illsley: One of the issues
in non-proliferation at the moment that is quite controversial
is the US-India deal. Some people support it and say that it brings
India within the international regime and we can check what India
is doing; other people oppose it on the basis that it is a bit
hypocritical to be trying to persuade India to come into the NPT
at the same time as doing deals with it and "rewarding"
it for obtaining a nuclear weapon. Do you have a view on that?
Do you think that the US-India deal strengthens or weakens the
Mr. Fitzpatrick: I think the deal
weakens the NPT regime for a number of reasons. I would be happy
to provide some further evidence in written form.
In a way we are crying over spilt milkthe
deal is done. The Nuclear Suppliers Group ratified it and it is
going forward. The question is how can we make butter out of the
spilt milk? The best outcome would be if India took seriously
the commitment it made when the deal was first agreed in principle
between President Bush and President Singh. India undertook to
seriously pursue a fissile material cut-off treaty to stop the
production of more fissile material. Perhaps it will be hard to
get such a treaty in Geneva, where it has been languishing for
the last 10 years, but India could take steps unilaterally to
stop the production of more material if it decided that it had
enough for its deterrence capabilities. That would help to persuade
Pakistan to stop. This is the area where diplomacy might be best
applied to try to persuade India to make this a non-proliferation
Mr. Illsley: We would welcome further
material on that.
Chairman: One quick question on ballistic
missile defence from John Stanley, and then we will go to John
Q33 Sir John Stanley: I should
be very grateful if you could help me on an angle of American
policy that totally bemuses me. Perhaps the next Administration
will make it a change of policy and I will understand the rationale.
What I find almost incomprehensible, having looked at this area
quite closely over many years, is why, for the sake of a minimal
degree of ballistic missile defence in Europeabsolutely
minimal in terms the scale of the deploymentsupposedly
against the Iranians, it is judged worth while to cause such an
enormous amount of ruction with the Russians. I simply do not
understand the logic of the policy. Can you help me please?
Mr. Fitzpatrick: I used to have
to defend that policy when I represented the US Government. I
do not represent them any more, so I respectfully decline to try
to defend it. I share your sentiments, sir.
Professor Chalmers: My judgment
is that the US decision to have a third interceptor site was taken
in relation to the possibility of a missile threatperhaps
overstatedfrom Iran or countries in that region, not from
Russia. The decision to site the interceptor and radar in eastern
Europe, in countries that are new members of NATO, was taken largely
because those countries, for reasons that have nothing to do with
Iran, were prepared to take those sites when other members of
NATO were not. Once the decision that they were to be located
in Poland and the Czech Republic had been announced, it became
an issue in relations with Russia. It then became very difficult
for the US, in terms of its relations with new members of NATO,
to withdraw. That is where we are now.
The US is exploring two proposals which may
produce some way through this unfortunate situation. The first
is to have some facility for Russian verification of what is happening
at these sites, perhaps with personnel on the ground or remote
verification. That is helpful. Secondly, the US can and indeed
should make it clear that it would not activate the interceptors
in Poland until there was clear evidence that Iran had the capabilitythat
it had tested ballistic missiles capable of reaching western Europe,
which of course it does not have now. It would be better if we
did not have to think about such measures, but I think that the
politics of the situation within NATO and relations between the
US and its east European allies would make it very hard for it
to stop the programme altogether, rather than freeze it in the
way Secretary Gates and others have suggested.
Chairman: Thank you. We may revisit this
question early next year.
Q34 Mr. Horam: As the Chairman has
said, our focus is fundamentally on whether the UK Government
are doing all they can to make progress. In so far as you are
aware of the institutional arrangements inside Government to handle
the NPT and so forthin the Cabinet Office, which is co-ordinating
it, and in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which has a minor
roledo you have any comments on whether those arrangements
Professor Chalmers: The only comment
I would makereiterating what I said earlieris that
for some time now the UK has been well ahead of the US and France
in the seriousness with which it has addressed its disarmament
obligations. We may now be moving into a period in which the US
is much more active in that area, which means the UK has an opportunity
to be more active in a way which does not leave it isolated.
Q35 Mr. Horam: How can it do that?
Professor Chalmers: As you know,
the UK has floated some interesting proposals for the UK to be
more of a disarmament laboratory. Some of those proposals require
resources, work and people to think through the ideas. A good
example, which has a lot of potential, is that to be serious about
nuclear disarmament we have to find ways of verifying warhead
dismantlement. We do not have proven ways right now. There are
all sorts of sensitivities, because you do not want people without
knowledge of warhead technology finding out what those technologies
are. If the UK were to put some resources into testing methods
of warhead dismantlement, perhaps in co-operation with other nuclear
weapon statesthere would be various optionsthat
could be a real, practical contribution to the process.
Mr. Fitzpatrick: In comparison
with the way in which many other countries arrange their institutions
to deal with non-proliferation and disarmament issues, the UK
has the best that I have seen. In comparison with my own country,
where the arrangements have been dysfunctional at times, they
seem to be functioning well here.
Chairman: Thank you, gentlemen, for a
very useful session. We are grateful to you. We might pursue several
matters in writing, but this evidence session was certainly extremely
valuable and we are pleased to have had it. We will now pause
for two minutes before beginning the next section of this session
with the new witness, who has been patiently listening to us.
2 Note by witness: For further information see
Asia-Pacific Review, Vol 15, Issue 1, May 2008 Back
Note by witness: For further information see Asia Pacific
Review, Volume 15, Issue 1 May 2008, pp 76-85. Back