Reductions in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons Are Underway
Demand For Nuclear Weapons Is Growing
Chemical and Biological Weapons Offer Advantages to Potential Proliferators; Missiles Are The Delivery System of Choice
Mulilateral Regimes Are Creating Norms Against WMD Proliferation
Regimes To Control Exports of WMD Technology Are Helpful, But Not Watertight
The implementation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the two START agreements has resulted in the first real reductions in the nuclear forces of the U.S. and Russia.
President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in December 1987 at the Washington Summit. This agreement prohibited the United States and the Soviet Union from developing and deploying ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5500 km. As a result, the United States eliminated its Pershing and Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) and the Soviet Union destroyed its SS-20, SS-12 and SS-23 missiles. While the total numbers of INF weapons were small compared to strategic forces, the treaty was important for two reasons. First, it represented the first time both sides had actually agreed to eliminate nuclear weapons, rather than just control their growth. Second, it created an intrusive verification regime that led to a high degree of confidence on both sides, thereby paving the way for the deep cuts in strategic forces contained in the START agreements.
At the July 1991 Moscow Summit, after years of posturing and negotiating, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev signed the START I agreement. In expectation that the treaty will be implemented fully by the parties, the U.S. and Russia have begun the elimination of strategic nuclear weapons. All parties have signed and ratified START I.
On the other hand, neither the U.S. Senate nor the Russian Duma has begun consideration of the START II agreement. This treaty, signed by Presidents Bush and Yeltsin in January 1993, limits the two sides to between 3,000 and 3,500 strategic weapons and, most significantly, eliminates all MIRVed ICBMs, including the heavy SS-18. Although the future of this agreement is open to question, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed in September 1994 to pursue the prospect for accelerated implementation of the START II reductions. The U.S., for its part, is keeping its future strategic force posture consistent with START II limitations.
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On the demand side, the trend toward further proliferation is decidedly negative, with a few notable exceptions. The relative discipline and general predictability of the bipolar Cold War relationships have been replaced in several key regions of the world by the expansion of regional arms races, including the aggressive pursuit of WMD and missile delivery capabilities. In several regions, for example the Persian Gulf and Northeast Asia, there appear to be no limits on the ambitions of unstable actors to acquire the most advanced and deadly weapons available, either through internal or external sources. Increasingly, the currency of power for these countries is a WMD capability. These weapons are perceived as both a status symbol and an instrument of political and military power for the pursuit of hegemonistic objectives.
In some regions, however, the trend is positive. Argentina and Brazil have apparently resolved their security concerns and abandoned their nuclear programs. South Africa has agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and the six nuclear weapons it already possesses, and to join the Nonproliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state.
Despite these successes, at least twenty countries have or are seeking the capability to produce and deliver nuclear weapons. These states can be divided into several distinct groupings, listed more or less in the order of how advanced their nuclear weapons programs are :
States With Undeclared Nuclear Capabilities. Several states are judged to possess either fully developed nuclear weapons or the capability to assemble and deliver such weapons in short order. Israel is in the first category, and is believed to possess a large and sophisticated stockpile of nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan are in the second category, with both believed to possess relatively crude weapons, but to be acquiring greater capabilities over time. All three countries have or are acquiring the ability to deliver WMD warheads with ballistic missiles; in the cases of Israel and India, these missiles are developed and produced domestically.
Instant proliferators. The dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in the creation of three de facto nuclear weapons states in addition to Russia: Belarus, Kazahkstan, and Ukraine. In these three countries, proliferation was not the result of a determined effort to acquire weapons. Following independence, both Belarus and Kazahkstan expressed their intention to de-nuclearize and join the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states. Ukraine, on the other hand, pursued a more ambiguous course. While allowing the return of "non-strategic" nuclear weapons to Russia, Kiev resisted the transfer of strategic forces (SS-19s, SS-24s, and air-launched cruise missiles), pending some special security assurances. By the fall of 1994, Kiev had received the necessary assurance and all three countries had ratified the NPT.
States With Established Nuclear Weapons Programs. Several states, including Iraq and North Korea, have established nuclear weapons programs that can produce weapons-grade fissile material. Although the Iraqi program has clearly been dealt a major setback by Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War and the imposition of U.N. inspections, few believe the program has been permanently abolished. The leadership has not changed, and Iraqi nuclear expertise remains intact. The fact that the Iraqi nuclear weapons program was discovered to be much more advanced than had been believed prior to the Gulf War sounds a cautionary note for those seeking to evaluate the status of similar programs, such as North Korea's.
States With Basic Expertise and Infrastructure. Potential proliferators such as Algeria, Iran, and Syria appear to be acquiring the basic expertise and infrastructure needed to provide a nuclear weapons option, often through the acquisition of nuclear power reactors for ostensibly peaceful purposes. While some countries have explored the nuclear weapons option and backed off--for example Taiwan and South Korea--others have decided to move forward on a weapons program. Even those that have not gone forward could quickly restart a weapons program if they believed their security interests demanded it.
States With the Necessary Expertise and Infrastructure. A number of non-nuclear-weapons states possess the necessary scientific and industrial infrastructure to initiate a weapons program and rapidly field an effective weapons system. Countries such as Germany, Japan, and Sweden are in this group. The only factor which prevents such states from acquiring nuclear weapons is the political decision to eschew nuclear weapons. Many have felt more secure without national nuclear forces, relying for their security instead upon regional alliances and the U.S. strategic deterrent force. Others, especially the neutrals, have judged the financial and security costs of going nuclear to far outweigh the perceived advantages.
In addition, concerns about nuclear weapons coming into the possession of terrorist groups and organized crime have intensified in recent years. The end of the Cold War has heightened fears that terrorists could acquire such weapons, threaten their use, and perhaps even be prepared to use them under certain circumstances. Moreover, as discussed in the chapter on transnational threats, concerns about a loss of control over the former Soviet Union's stocks of weapons-grade nuclear material have led to fears that organized crime elements could begin to traffic in nuclear materials as they have already done in other arms.
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Some potential proliferators are pursuing chemical weapons (CW) and biological weapons (BW) programs, often at the same time they are pursuing nuclear weapons. CW and BW offer a number of advantages over nuclear weapons for such states:
First, while nuclear weapons are very expensive, CW and BW provide a much cheaper route to WMD capability. Although the expense of producing and weaponizing large quantities of chemical weapons can be substantial, a small arsenal can be acquired relatively inexpensively. Biological weapons are also a relatively low-cost option, in part because their suitability for unconventional delivery can reduce the delivery cost. BW is much more lethal than an equal quantity of CW. A small stockpile of biological warheads can have a devastating effect across a broad area, provided the problem of fratricide can be resolved.
Second, almost all of the technologies and materials required to produce CW and BW are dual-use in nature, and are widely available for commercial purposes. For example, fertilizer production can be adjusted to produce chemical weapons, and pharmaceutical production techniques can be adopted to produce biological agents. Similarly, defensive CW and BW programs, which are allowed under the various conventions that seek to control such weapons, can be used as ready cover for offensive CW and BW programs.
Third, CW and BW programs are much easier to conceal from international inspectors, and are much more secure from airstrikes. Production facilities for CW and BW do not have the unique signatures of nuclear facilities, and can be concealed in relatively small spaces--perhaps within legitimate chemical or pharmaceutical industrial plants.
Finally, the majority of potential WMD proliferators see missiles, and especially ballistic missiles, as the delivery system of choice. More than a dozen of these countries have operational ballistic missile programs. Although the missiles possessed by today's proliferators are generally limited in range to about 600 km, much longer range missiles are being pursued. Iraq, for example, was able on its own to significantly increase the range of its Soviet-supplied SCUDs. North Korea is actively exporting longer range SCUDs, has flight-tested the 1,000 km NODONG, and reportedly has under development missile with a range of 3,500 km or more, the TAEPODONG II. Potential buyers for these Korean missiles are numerous. Similarly, as cruise missile technology becomes available with growing access to navigational aids such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), cruise missiles will become more attractive as a low-cost but highly effective WMD delivery system.
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NPT and IAEA: The primary international mechanism for addressing nuclear proliferation is the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and its associated monitoring arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since its entry into force in 1970, the NPT has been the basis of an agreement within the international community to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons: non-nuclear states voluntarily abstain from acquiring nuclear weapons, in exchange for assistance in peaceful nuclear technology applications and a pledge by the nuclear-weapons states to work toward disarmament. The NPT obligates nuclear-weapons parties not to transfer weapons, control over weapons, or weapons technology, while non-nuclear-weapons parties agree not to receive any such transfers and to accept safeguards on peaceful nuclear programs to prevent any diversion. The IAEA is a U.N.-sponsored organization charged with insuring compliance with the NPT through a series of safeguards and inspections. It is also chartered to facilitate the transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes to developing countries.
The NPT is widely regarded as the cornerstone of the international nonproliferation regime, and is the basis on which many arms control and anti-proliferation agreements are built. However, some key nations have not signed the NPT. For example, India rejects the NPT bargain struck between weapons and non-weapons states as discriminatory, and has therefore refused to join the NPT--as have Israel and Pakistan, two other states widely reported to possess nuclear weapons. Not only does the non-participation of such nations in itself undermine the treaty, but it adversely affects current NPT members. Israel's lack of participation causes Egypt's support for the indefinite extension of the NPT to waver. This in turn enhances the possibility among security planners elsewhere that the NPT will ultimately fail, and that they must conduct worst-case planning, always keeping the WMD option open. Also undermining the NPT are the actions of such countries as Iraq and North Korea, who are NPT signatories but nevertheless appear to be engaged in violations of their pledged commitments.
Moreover, a 1994 U.S. agreement with North Korea that essentially provides money and oil in return for stopping plutonium production (without requiring IAEA inspection access) has the unintended side effect of appearing to reward intransigence.
The CWC and BWC: The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention (BWC) are the codification of international efforts to stem the development of these two types of WMD.
The CWC, opened for signature in July 1993, is the latest international treaty addressing WMD. It has now been signed by over 155 nations. While several nations have ratified the treaty, the majority of the global community is waiting for the U.S. to ratify the CWC before they embrace the treaty. The U.S. Senate held ratification hearings on the treaty in 1994, but had not voted on it at this writing. By agreement, the treaty will enter into force after 65 countries ratify it, but no sooner than January 1995.
The CWC bans the production, use, possession, and transportation of chemical weapons, and requires states possessing CW to declare their stocks of chemical weapons and precursor/dual-use chemicals, storage locations, and production facilities. Finally, the CWC obligates all participating parties to destroy their chemical weapons within ten years of the treaty entering into force. The CWC will be verified by neutral third-party inspection teams in a series of routine, intrusive inspections of declared CW facilities, both private and government. Additionally, short notice challenge inspections of sites suspected of illegal activities are allowed. The CWC is one of the most intrusive arms control agreements negotiated to date, reflecting an increasingly broad-based desire for greater transparency in arms control.
The 1972 Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention (BWC) comprehensively bans biological weapons and their associated technology and infrastructure. It has been signed by most of the countries of the world. However, Washington considers the treaty to be inadequate owing to a lack of effective verification procedures. As agreed by the BWC states at the third review conference in September, 1991, an ad hoc group of experts reported on possible measures to enhance verification at a special conference in September, 1994. The experts reported that additional verification measures could be useful in enhancing confidence, primarily through transparency. However, the protection of sensitive commercial and national security information is an ongoing concern. After considering twenty-one potential verification measures, the experts concluded that reliance cannot be placed on any one measure, but some combination of measures could improve the possibility of resolving ambiguities about compliance.
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On the supply side, the diffusion of advanced technologies has become exceptionally difficult to control, despite the strengthening of export control regimes directed at preventing WMD and missile proliferation. The emergence of alternative suppliers, the development of greater indigenous capabilities, and the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union make it unlikely that those countries determined to acquire such weapons can be stopped.
Many of the technologies and materials used for WMD production are also used for legitimate non-weapons purposes. Such dual-use technologies are increasingly available on the open market and, where they cannot be openly bought or bartered, appear to be increasingly available through illicit channels. In this context, the exponential growth of organized crime in Russia and the possible leakage of formerly tightly controlled nuclear weapons materials are indicative of a larger problem. While a decade or more might be needed to acquire nuclear weapons, a determined leadership with sufficient resources is likely to succeed. For chemical and biological weapons, the time and costs are significantly less.
The majority of industrial nations have actively supported the establishment of multilateral export control regimes designed to deny potential proliferators access to sensitive technologies and materials needed for WMD and missiles. These include the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group for chemical and biological weapons, and the Missile Technology Control Regime. Washington has also sought to re-orient the former COCOM, which was designed to prevent the transfer of strategic technologies to the Eastern bloc, to a nonproliferation mission. Domestically, the U.S. has enacted national legislation to control trade with, and provide sanctions against, proliferators and those who support their programs. Under such legislation, Washington has imposed sanctions against Russian and Indian firms, and more recently against China for its assistance to Pakistan's missile program.
The strengths and weaknesses of export controls were vividly illustrated in the case of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Clearly, export controls succeeded in delaying and increasing the cost of this program. Nevertheless, post-Gulf War discoveries about Iraq's nuclear program revealed it to be much more advanced than most analysts had suspected. Iraq acquired critical dual-use components both on the open market and through illicit trade with companies from states that are members of export control regimes. As with arms control treaties, export controls are an important nonproliferation tool but, by themselves, will not stop determined proliferators.
In sum, while control regimes can be helpful in retarding and raising the costs of the development of WMD, states with strong motivation to proliferate and at least moderate resources will, in time, probably succeed.