Arms Control

Instruments Nuclear Arms Control
Cooperative Threat Reduction
Conventional Arms Control
Confidence- and Security-Building Measures
Export Controls


Before the end of World War II, arms control had not experienced significant success. Modern arms control had its roots in the nuclear age, when the technology of war advanced to the point where humanity possessed the means to destroy itself. At the start of the Cold War, the focus was on eliminating dangerous weapons, e.g., the Acheson-Lillienthal Report calling for eliminating nuclear weapons. This attitude persisted, resulting in the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). But during the middle of the Cold War, the theory of arms control rested in large part on the notion that adversaries could cooperate in creating force postures that would place less pressure on political leaders to use their forces or lose them. Hence the emphasis was on preventing a first-strike posture with nuclear weapons, and on measures to reduce the risk of inadvertent conventional conflict as well as to complicate the task of military planners who might see some advantage in a surprise military attack. At the end of the Cold War, the emphasis shifted back to eliminating weapons, even whole classes of weapons, which was the centerpiece of the two Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) treaties and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, signed in 1989-92.

A fundamental question for arms control is what the disappearance of the special circumstances that prevailed during the Cold War will mean for the theory and practice of arms control. One open issue is to what extent control of their respective weapons will remain an important part of the U.S.-Russian relationship. Another important question will be how to develop arms-control mechanisms for volatile regions, or for the globe as a whole, when the underlying political situation is more complex and multisided than in the relatively straightforward East-West Cold War confrontation.


Nuclear Arms Control

By the middle of the Cold War, U.S. thinking about arms control had moved from an emphasis on reducing numbers of weapons to a focus on stabilizing the U.S.-Soviet strategic relationship. In 1969, bilateral negotiations began between the superpowers on limiting the delivery systems of strategic nuclear weapons. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) were conducted on the premise that a "first-strike" posture should be eschewed in favor of a "second-strike" posture. The resulting SALT I Interim Agreement, the first negotiated limitation on strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, entered into force in October 1972, essentially freezing strategic offensive ballistic missile systems at their then current levels for five years.

The United States continued to seek a stable force posture through the negotiation of the SALT II Treaty, which was signed in 1979 but never ratified. This treaty implemented the 1974 Vladivostok Accord, in which the United States and the Soviet Union agreed on the principle of equal aggregate limitations on strategic offensive-delivery vehicles, that is, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers. Both the SALT I Interim Agreement (beyond its five-year term) and the SALT II Treaty were observed through an informal arrangement until 1986, when President Reagan discontinued this observance in response to Soviet violations.

U.S. Secretary of Defense and Russian Defense Minister Grachev watch the destruction of a U.S. Missile site.

President Reagan shifted the U.S. approach to arms control back in the direction of disarmament, proposing to cancel the deployment of U.S. intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in exchange for the elimination of similar Soviet weapons, and opening the Strategic Arms Reductions Talks (START). The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed in 1987, eliminated an entire class of nuclear-weapons delivery vehicles--ground-launched missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. This treaty also contained a precedent-setting verification regime, allowing for short-notice, on-site inspections that had previously been unacceptable to the Soviets. The INF Treaty was the first agreement that provided for the actual elimination of existing nuclear-weapons delivery systems.

In September 1991, President Bush offered to destroy all U.S. nuclear artillery shells, stand down ICBMs scheduled for elimination under START I, end the twenty-four-hour runway alert status for nuclear bombers, and remove nuclear weapons from U.S. surface ships, land-based naval aircraft, and attack submarines. As a result of this initiative, 90 percent of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons have been eliminated. Soviet President Gorbachev responded within a week with a similar initiative, promising to destroy Soviet nuclear artillery shells, take USSR bombers off alert, confine mobile missiles to their garrisons, and cancel several new weapons programs. Both countries also committed themselves to significant cuts in their strategic nuclear arsenals, pursuant to the conclusion of the START Treaty--which mandated reductions in the total number of deployed warheads to 6,000 each--on July 31, 1991.

In the wake of the Soviet Union's dissolution, Presidents Bush and Yeltsin signed the Joint Understanding on Reductions in Strategic Offensive Arms, which obligated both sides to cut their strategic nuclear forces below START I levels. The ensuing START II Treaty will, when ratified and implemented, reduce each side's nuclear warheads to between 3,000 and 3,500. START II also places eliminates heavy ICBMs and Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) on land-based missiles, promoting stability by focusing on weapons that lend themselves to first-strike use. Once START II is in force, the United States and Russia have pledged to consider further reductions in strategic forces.

Even if relations between Washington and Moscow remain cordial, arms control will remain an important instrument for promoting U.S. national interests as long as states retain nuclear weapons. Maintaining current treaties serves the interests of strategic stability: a unilateral change in any of these agreements would almost certainly destabilize the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship. In the future, the strategic nuclear arms control instrument may cease to be a U.S.-Russian monopoly and instead become multilateral with the inclusion of China, Britain, and France.

Cooperative Threat Reduction

The dissolution of the former Soviet Union had a dual impact on the arms control instrument of U.S. policy. On the one hand, it opened the door to the possibility that former Soviet nuclear weapons or weapons-usable material could fall into the hands of rogue states or terrorists. On the other hand, it created arms control possibilities that were impossible during the Cold War beyond the field of "traditional" strategic nuclear arms control. The opportunity exists to greatly enhance the national security of both the United States and Russia through cooperative measures, but there are no guarantees that this opportunity will last.

During the Cold War, the Soviets went to great lengths to protect their nuclear weapons and materials from loss, theft, or misuse. The demise of the former Soviet Union left nuclear forces and weapons-production facilities spread across new international borders, while the central government that had imposed stringent administrative control over these forces and facilities ceased to exist. Military morale and cohesion have declined, as have the living standards of former Soviet nuclear weapons scientists. Homeless military officers and nuclear physicists whose children are hungry struggle to maintain strict accountability for nuclear weapons and materials, but they are faced with diminished resources to perform this function and the lure of the significant economic benefits they could receive from selling weapons, material, and expertise to criminal elements. The possibility that nuclear weapons or weapons-usable material could fall into terrorist hands has increased. As a result, the United States may face a greater nuclear danger today, albeit of an entirely different type, than it did during the Cold War.

These new dangers have created the opportunity for a new type of arms control emphasizing cooperative efforts. The threat is different; the governments of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union share with the U.S. an interest in protecting the security of the nuclear weapons and materials in their territories. The U.S. can work with them in ways it could not work with the former Soviet Union. For example, Washington and Moscow are cooperating to enhance the security of nuclear weapons and fissile material, as discussed in the next chapter. Both sides are reducing their nuclear arsenals as quickly as possible. Transparency measures are being implemented to increase the confidence of both sides that the agreed reductions are taking place. Furthermore, steps will be taken to prevent unauthorized seizure of nuclear warheads or fissile materials by non-government entities. Measures under negotiation include declarations of quantities and types of warheads and fissile material, spot checks to confirm the accuracy of these declarations, and mutual inspections of dismantled warheads in storage facilities. Other measures to promote nuclear security focus on building a storage facility for dismantled warheads, improving the security of material in transit, tightening export controls, and improving the physical protection of--and accounting measures for--warheads and fissile material.

In the mid-1990s, the United States has implemented innovative cooperative measures to protect nuclear materials that would have been impossible during the Cold War, using both economic incentives and security arguments. For example, in Operation Sapphire, the U.S. government airlifted 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU), enough for dozens of bombs, from Kazakhstan to the United States for safe disposition. Similarly, Washington forged a deal with Russia to purchase 500 metric tons of HEU from dismantled weapons, blend it down into low-enriched uranium for use in reactor fuel, and ship it to the United States. The U.S., Russia, and Ukraine also negotiated a tripartite agreement for the commercial use of the nuclear material in Ukrainian weapons, which was central to securing from nationalist Ukrainian politicians the agreement that Kiev would give up its nuclear weapons. However, these latter two arrangements remain beset by problems, including economic worries (the U.S. uranium mining industry is concerned about the competition from cheaper Russian and Ukrainian materials, and there are worries that the deals may jeopardize the price Washington will get for selling the reprocessing company it owns). It is far from clear whether the U.S.-Russian partnership is solid enough to sustain the kind of cooperative effort that these measures require.

Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Inspection Team

CFE Article V Flank Limits on Former Soviet Union

Conventional Arms Control

The U.S.-NATO proposals on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions (MBFR) in 1973 sought to create equality between NATO and Warsaw Pact manpower in a narrow zone in central Europe. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) of 1990 was designed to regulate, in a verifiable way, the levels of key types of military equipment--including tanks, armored personnel carriers, attack helicopters, artillery, and fixed-wing combat aircraft--held by NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the Atlantic-to-Urals zone of application. Thus, the CFE Treaty limits the deployment of the kinds of equipment necessary for combined arms attacks. By providing for verification that these limits are being observed through intrusive, on-site inspections, CFE increases the confidence of its parties that no one is massing forces for an attack. The CFE and its implementing body, the Joint Consultative Group, provide an effective framework for stabilizing the conventional arms situation among its parties in Europe. Through the October 1994 deadline for achieving 60 percent of the total reduction called for in the treaty, more than 18,000 items of treaty-limited equipment had been destroyed, including 6,000 by Russia. The full reduction was required by November 1995, with an additional four months allocated to verify the residual levels, and then a review conference is to follow, probably in Vienna in May 1996.

Europe has changed dramatically since CFE was signed in 1990. Most notably, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the Eastern parties to the CFE regime, have dissolved. This complicates the treaty's application. For example, the CFE set ceilings for deployments in four subzones, which were to be reached by late 1995. Russia--and, to a lesser extent, Ukraine--want adjustments in some CFE provisions that limit deployments in the flank zones around the Black and Baltic Seas, claiming that the breakup of the former Soviet Union and instability in the Caucasus generate requirements unanticipated during the negotiations that shaped the treaty. As it had warned since September 1993, Russia did not meet the November 1995 original treaty requirements. Most of the various solutions proposed by Russia in 1993-95 would require a significant change to the CFE Treaty. Shortly before the November 1995 deadline, the CFE signatories agreed to a framework to ease the CFE flank caps, despite dissatisfaction by Norway and Turkey over allowing more Russian weaponry in the zones near their borders. While by no means a final deal, the framework agreement represented major progress towards resolving the dispute about CFE flanks. Failure to resolve the CFE Treaty compliance issue could complicate approval of START II by the Russian Duma and the U.S. Congress.

Missile Defense: Consensus and Controversy

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which entered into force in 1972, sought to prohibit deployment of large-scale strategic defenses. The ABM Treaty followed the premise that defensive systems are inherently destabilizing: if a country deploys effective defenses against ballistic missiles, it could launch a first strike with impunity because whatever retaliatory enemy forces survived the attack would be no match for the attacker's defensive systems. By limiting defensive systems, the ABM Treaty thus reduced the imperative for rapid growth in offensive systems necessary to overwhelm missile defenses.

During the 1980s, President Reagan's desire to provide for a space-based national missile defense through the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) led to attempts by his administration to reinterpret the ABM Treaty to allow for defenses based on "other physical principles" than those anticipated when the treaty was negotiated. The debate was rendered moot by the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

The military and political utility of theater-range ballistic missiles was demonstrated during the Gulf War, when Iraq launched SCUD missiles against targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Since that time, a strong consensus has been forged in the United States concerning the need for active theater missile defenses (TMD) to counter missiles with ranges up to 3,500 km. This consensus has been bolstered by the continued proliferation of ballistic-missile technology in Asia and the Middle East. U.S. policymakers have taken steps to improve the Patriot and system missiles for point defense, to develop Theater High Altitude Area Defense for wider-area defense, and to expand the AEGIS system for tactical missile defense from the sea.

While improving TMD capability is a priority shared by the Clinton administration, Congress, and the armed forces, the development of a national missile defense (NMD) is a far more divisive issue. The debate over NMD centers on differing perceptions of the threat to U.S. territory posed by nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and differing views concerning the utility of the 1972 ABM Treaty in the post-Cold War world. Illustrative of the controversy are the divergent approaches taken by the Bush and Clinton administrations on the NMD issue.

The Bush administration believed proliferation of NBC and missile capabilities to be a near-term threat to U.S. territory. In response, President Bush looked to strengthen active U.S. defenses against limited ballistic-missile attacks. The Strategic Defense Initiative of the Reagan administration was reoriented to deal with limited ballistic-missile threats. The new program, named Global Protection Against Limited Strikes, sought to create and deploy a limited, layered national missile defense without undermining the deterrent effect of the Cold War nuclear balance. The existing terms of the 1972 ABM Treaty, however, stood as an obstacle to the creation of a national missile defense. Describing the treaty as "an outdated relic of the Cold War," the Bush administration looked to amend the treaty's terms to correspond with what it believed to be the new security requirements of the post-Cold War world.

In contrast, the Clinton administration's policies reflect a belief that the short-term possibility of a missile attack on the United States is highly unlikely. While TMD continued to garner attention, the Bush administration's priority of establishing a national missile defense was downgraded. Instead, President Clinton chose to preserve the existing terms of the ABM Treaty, calling it "the bedrock of strategic stability." The Clinton administration considered maintenance of the strategic nuclear deterrence provided by the ABM Treaty during the Cold War to be a crucial and sufficient hedge against post-Cold War uncertainties.

Following the 1994 mid-term elections, the political tide again turned on the issue of national missile defense. The "Contract with America" of the victorious congressional Republicans promised to speed development of anti-ballistic missile defenses on both the theater and national levels. With Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, 1995 witnessed congressional approval of funding for a national missile defense project. Congress also rejected language recommended by the White House stipulating that this NMD program would not abrogate the ABM Treaty as it is currently written. The Clinton administration has threatened to veto any legislation that breaks with the terms of the ABM Treaty.

The effectiveness of any military technology must be evaluated not only against the standard of its economic and opportunity costs but also in terms of likely countermeasures potential adversaries will develop. Effective defense of U.S. cities and troops abroad against WMD would be a massive benefit. National missile defense may be available only at significant cost. The establishment of an effective national missile defense could lead potential adversaries to circumvent such a system by delivering their weapons through unconventional means.

Parties to the NPT, BWC, CWC

Source U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Data are as of September 1995.

Conventional arms control on the model of CFE holds potential for increasing stability in regions of tension throughout the world. A particularly important application of the CFE's lessons is the Dayton accords ending the fighting in Bosnia, which set forth target dates for agreement on verifiable reduction in the same types of military equipment covered by CFE. The CFE holds lessons for the Korean Peninsula, where an effective conventional arms control regime would have to be an important part of any lasting package to replace the 1953 armistice agreement. Conventional arms control could also be used to make conflict less likely in the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America.

Confidence- and Security- Building Measures

Confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) are another instrument by which negotiations with potential adversaries can serve the U.S. interest to reduce the risk of conflict. They are used to clarify intentions rather than limit weapons. When neither side of a dispute wants war, it is possible to mutually enhance confidence that neither side will start a war by making the actions of both militaries more transparent. CSBMs aim to create less-threatening force postures in this manner. While such measures do not eliminate the risk of attack, they reduce the risk that precipitous incidents or inadvertent escalation will lead to war. CSBMs clarify the intentions of certain military operations (such as field exercises), enhance communications between potential belligerents, and establish guidelines concerning military operations susceptible to misunderstanding. Restraints on military operations may also play a role in confidence- and security-building regimes.

Like other arms control instruments, CSBM regimes depend on political will. All parties must agree that the agreement serves their interests. Thus, CSBMs can only be effective when none of the parties intends to launch an attack. If and when this necessary condition fails and military planners on one side prepare to launch an attack, they must choose between openly renouncing the regime or simply violating it. The unwillingness of CSBM regime members to fulfill their obligations acts as a trip-wire, alerting other members that the regime is failing and must be adjusted or abandoned.

Europe has been home to the most fully developed CSBM program since 1975, owing to the efforts of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)--now known as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Along with all European countries, the U.S. participated in the CSBM regime of Vienna Document 1999 and in the Vienna-based Forum on Security Cooperation. Over the last thirty years, however, CSBMs were first tested in the Middle East, in connection with the Israeli-Egyptian agreement on the Sinai. CSBMs of a sort are in place between Pakistan and India, and have been the subject of thus far fruitless discussions between North and South Korea. CSBMs can only be effective when all parties want them to work. When crises become acute, CSBMs have already failed.


Nonproliferation is the means by which countries are discouraged from acquiring certain types of weapons through negotiated agreements and the establishment of international norms in order to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery vehicles, as well as related dangerous technologies. Judging that it is in the vital interest of the United States to keep nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons out of the hands of additional countries as well as terrorists, the United States has aggressively pursued nonproliferation measures for several decades.

While now widely accepted, the international norm against nuclear proliferation did not spontaneously appear. Estimates in the mid-1960s were that there might be as many as thirty countries with nuclear weapons by the late 1970s. To forestall this possibility, the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was negotiated. The NPT struck a bargain between the nuclear weapon "haves" and "have nots." The non-nuclear weapons states pledged to forgo such weapons (Article II) and to accept internationally monitored safeguards on their nuclear programs (Article III). In return, the nuclear weapons states pledged to offer the non-nuclear weapons states assistance in the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy (Article IV) and to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control" (Article VI).

Five countries had openly developed nuclear weapons before the NPT was negotiated, but after the NPT came into force in 1970, this trend stopped abruptly. India tested a nuclear device (euphemistically called a "peaceful nuclear explosion") in 1974, Israel developed a nuclear arsenal of at least several dozen weapons, and it is likely that Pakistan has the capability to constitute nuclear arsenals on short order. However, even these three nuclear threshold states, who have never signed the NPT, have not openly deployed nuclear arsenals. South Africa clandestinely built a small nuclear arsenal, but dismantled it and joined the NPT. Other states have taken actions that indicate an interest in a nuclear weapons option, but none has gone as far as the four mentioned above. The NPT attached a political cost to nuclear proliferation, even for countries not party to the treaty. It also established incentives not to proliferate, like peaceful nuclear cooperation for treaty parties and enhanced confidence that neighboring states are not developing nuclear weapons.

The international nonproliferation environment changed with the end of the Cold War. The end of the superpower arms race increased the relative importance of smaller nuclear threats just as the nonproliferation discipline the superpowers had imposed on their client states was evaporating. This change was highlighted after the Gulf War, when Iraq's program for developing WMD was discovered to be of much greater scope than previously believed, despite monitoring of the Iraqi program. In response, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)--the body responsible for monitoring safeguards on civil nuclear programs to prevent diversion to weapons programs--upgraded its safeguards program and became more aggressive in its pursuit of information, reaffirming its right to conduct special inspections wherever it chose.

One of the great post-Cold War successes of U.S. nonproliferation policy was the persuasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus to return the nuclear weapons on their soil to Russia and to join the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states. If these states had not renounced the former Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories, significant strategic nuclear arsenals would have remained in their possession, which might someday have threatened the United States. Further, if these states had chosen to retain nuclear weapons, START I could not have been brought into force, and further strategic arms reductions between the United States and Russia would not be possible.

Examining Scud missile remains northwest of Riyadh

When the NPT was negotiated several countries were unwilling to accept a permanent treaty, demanding instead a review conference after twenty-five years. In May 1995, the nearly 180 parties to the NPT met in New York and decided to extend the NPT indefinitely. The treaty called only for a majority of the parties to decide, but the United States and its allies had engaged in a global diplomatic campaign to gain widespread support for the treaty, which resulted in a consensus decision to extend the NPT without conditions. A limited extension had been suggested by many developing states as a way to lever further arms control progress from the nuclear weapons states.

Next Steps on Nuclear Nonproliferation. In addition to indefinitely extending the NPT, the 1995 conference endorsed the IAEA's "9312" plan for strengthened safeguards and increased cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It also set forth a series of goals on continued reductions in nuclear arsenals in the direction of ultimate abolition, pursuit of an agreement on the termination of production of fissile material for weapons purposes, pursuit of the creation of more nuclear weapon free zones, and achievement of a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) by the end of 1996.

The United States no longer produces fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes and has placed a significant quantity of nuclear material under IAEA safeguards. President Clinton has urged that a fissile material cutoff treaty be negotiated by which other countries would commit to do the same under an international verification regime. Such a treaty would cap the amount of material available for nuclear explosives. More important it could bring the nuclear programs of non-NPT states--specifically, India, Israel, and Pakistan--under international safeguards for the first time. These states, which refuse to sign the NPT in part because of the perception that it is discriminatory (allowing some states to possess nuclear weapons while forbidding others), may be more willing to sign a cutoff treaty that applies to all states.

The United States is party to one nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ), the one in Latin America established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco. The five nuclear-weapons states are party to its protocols, in which they pledge to observe the nuclear-free status of the zone by not deploying nuclear weapons within it and promising never to use nuclear weapons against a state (a negative security assurance) that is a party to the zone and is in compliance with its treaty obligations. The 1986 Treaty of Raratonga established a nuclear-free zone for the South Pacific and included a pledge not to test nuclear weapons in the zone. Thus far, only Russia and China, among the five nuclear weapons states, are parties to this treaty. French nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll within the zone have sparked severe international protests.

Completion of a CTBT in 1996 is considered by many a litmus test of the compliance of the nuclear weapons states with their NPT extension commitments. In August 1995, President Clinton decided that, rather than seeking to conduct very small nuclear tests which might have been allowed under a CTBT, the United States would seek a zero-yield CTBT. The President made this decision based in part on a report by the JASONs, a group of senior scientists and nuclear weapon designers, which determined that a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of the U.S. arsenal could be maintained in the absence of nuclear testing through a sophisticated, science-based stockpile stewardship program. This decision was made with the caveat that the U.S. could withdraw from a CTBT if this level of confidence could not be maintained, a development that President Clinton views as very unlikely.

The United States is seeking a CTBT for several reasons. First, it would make nuclear proliferation more difficult by imposing a verifiable international ban on nuclear testing. Secondly, it would support the global nuclear nonproliferation regime by demonstrating the good faith of the nuclear weapons states. Thirdly, the United States has already conducted over a thousand nuclear tests, and it is questionable if further testing would be worth the political costs.

U.S. and Soviet/Russia Warhead Levels, 1974-1994

Biological and Chemical Weapons. The U.S. is one of 175 signatories of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which entered into effect in 1974. The treaty sought to eliminate a type of weapon thought, at the time of the treaty's signing in 1972, to be militarily useless because of its unpredictability, and therefore suitable only for terrorists. However, with advances in research, this assessment may be changing. Thus, an ongoing international effort strives to enhance the BWC's verification provisions.

Nearly 160 states have signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). It will come into force once it is ratified by sixty-five states. The United States has not yet ratified the CWC, and many other nations are waiting to see what Washington will do before proceeding with ratification. Through the ratification of this treaty, the United States will gain a prohibition on the so-called poor man's atomic weapon. However, there is concern about the cost, excessive intrusiveness of inspections in the United States, and the ultimate effectiveness of inspections.

Export Controls

Controls over exports of arms and military equipment are administered by the Department of State, whereas controls over exports of "dual-use" items--that is, commodities and technology primarily of a civilian nature but with some military applications or possible use in the development of weapons of mass destruction (i.e., nuclear, chemical, biological, or missiles)--are administered by the Department of Commerce.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and rising concerns over the future economic prosperity of the U.S. have resulted in substantial changes in the administration of the controls on dual-use items. The regulatory authority under the Export Administration Act (EAA) was not extended by Congress before it expired in 1995, and these controls are administered under the provisions of the International Economic Emergency Powers Act (IEEPA).

Although the terms under which Congress will ultimately renew the EAA are still uncertain, no one seriously questions the need for continuing to impose export controls on dual-use items or the justification for changing the manner in which these were administered during the Cold War. In short, in 1995, these controls were in a state of transition, with many changes already in effect, others in process, and some hinging on future congressional decisions.

In response to the emergence of regional stability concerns as presenting the most likely threats to world security, emphasis has shifted from controls primarily designed to restrict conventional military buildup of communist nations to those primarily designed to curtail the proliferation of WMD in Third World nations. Export controls alone cannot prevail against a state determined to build or obtain WMD. Such controls can, however, make proliferation more costly, time-consuming, or visible. By raising the political and economic costs of proliferation, export controls can complement diplomatic efforts to discourage proliferation. By slowing or exposing would-be proliferators, export controls can buy time for counterproliferation efforts.

Safeguarding Nuclear Technology

Distinguishing between a peaceful energy program and one that can produce nuclear weapons is often a difficult task. The responsibility for ensuring that NPT parties' nuclear activities are subjected to safeguards and are directed toward peaceful purposes lies with the IAEA. IAEA safeguards are a comprehensive system of accounting and reporting procedures, on-site inspections, nuclear material measurements, and containment and surveillance techniques. As a result of the discovery of the wide scope of Iraq's nuclear weapons development program, the IAEA strengthened its safeguards system. The new safeguards enhancements, known as the "9312" program, require increased access for IAEA inspectors and reaffirmation of the IAEA's right to conduct "special inspections" of undeclared sites, more information provided to the IAEA on nuclear activities, environmental monitoring to detect nuclear materials and facilities, increased cooperation by states, and greater use of advanced technology, including unattended surveillance and measurement instruments and remote transmission of data.

Reactor Technology. The most common type of nuclear reactor is the light-water reactor (LWR). LWRs use ordinary water as a moderator (a component of nuclear reactors that slows neutrons, increasing their chances of fissioning) and as a coolant (a substance circulated through a reactor to remove or transfer heat), and use LEU as fuel. Light-water reactors must also be shut down to be refueled, which makes it easier to ascertain that no materials have been diverted for military purposes.

Another type of reactor that is in widespread use is the heavy-water reactor (HWR). It uses water that contains more than the natural proportion of heavy hydrogen atoms (also known as deuterium) to ordinary hydrogen atoms as both a moderator and coolant. Heavy water absorbs fewer neutrons than normal water, making a chain reaction easier and allowing the use of natural uranium as fuel. The most popular type of HWR is the CANDU (Canadian deuterium-uranium reactor). These reactors do not need to be shut down in order to be refueled, which makes it more difficult to determine if materials have been diverted. Fortunately, the IAEA has developed safeguards that allow such diversions to be detected, and since the CANDU uses natural rather than enriched uranium, the danger of materials being used for weapons purposes is somewhat lessened.

A third reactor type, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs, or gas-cooled reactors--GCRs), uses graphite as a moderator and helium rather than water as a coolant. HTGRs use HEU for fuel, which makes them more efficient than reactors that use LEU or natural uranium, but also makes them an obvious source of nonproliferation concern.

Another type of reactor, the breeder reactor, uses plutonium as fuel and actually produces more plutonium in its operation than it consumes. The large amounts of plutonium that would result from a commercial breeder reactor program have serious consequences for any attempts to stem proliferation. In 1995, only Japan had plans to use breeder reactors on a large scale.

The greatest dangers of proliferation come from enrichment and reprocessing facilities. As noted above, uranium enriched to various levels is often used as fuel in reactors. Some states have built their own means of enriching uranium rather than rely on outside sources of fuel. This raises the worry that in addition to producing only LEU for use in reactors, these states could also produce HEU or plutonium for weapons purposes. There are four different enrichment techniques in use or being researched: gaseous diffusion, gas centrifuge, aerodynamic, and laser. Gaseous diffusion was developed in the 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project. It requires huge plants and enormous amounts of electric power to operate, making it unlikely that it would be used to covertly develop material for use in a weapon. Gas centrifuge technology, on the other hand, requires only a fraction of the power and can be built in a much smaller facility. This makes it efficient for use in the nuclear power industry, but also lends itself to clandestine development of weapons. Aerodynamic methods (the two primary being the "Becker Nozzle" and "Helikon") require less space than the gas centrifuge process, allowing them to be easily hidden, but demand even more power than gaseous diffusion plants, making them an unattractive means for secretly developing weapons. A new technique using lasers to separate isotopes is being experimented with that would consume very little energy and could be carried out in a single step, requiring only a small facility in which to operate. The laser enrichment process could easily be adapted for covertly producing weapons-grade material, but the complex and difficult technology needed to build it represents a significant barrier.

Reprocessing plants are designed to recycle the residual U-235 and plutonium from spent fuel, usually through chemical means. Several countries operate reprocessing plants because it provides an alternative to storing nuclear waste. Reprocessing is cause for great concern in regards to proliferation because it produces uranium and plutonium that are highly purified and in convenient chemical forms. Although the purified uranium would not be weapons grade, any plutonium emerging from a reprocessing plant would be suitable for direct use in nuclear weapons.

With the growing concerns over maintaining economic security as a large component of national security, the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee's National Export Strategy led to the elimination of restrictions on exports of many commodities, particularly in the sectors of chemicals, software, computers, and telecommunications equipment. The strategy focused on the adverse economic impact on U.S. firms and industries of denying export authorizations. It called for expediting procedures to ensure prompt insurance of the licenses, simplifying Export Administration Regulations to make these more user friendly, and reducing the fragmentation of administration responsibilities among several U.S. government agencies.

During the Cold War, Congress allowed the executive branch broad authority to administer export controls on dual-use items. The trend is clearly moving toward limiting this discretion. Whereas in the past, export control decisions have always been exempt from judicial review, under the pending bills to renew the EAA, including the administration bill, the exporter would be afforded the right of redress in the courts.

The spread of high technology across the world makes unilateral controls less effective than before, and these are particularly damaging to U.S. exporters. Accordingly, unilateral controls are being eliminated, except in limited circumstances (such as with Iran), while the U.S. takes the lead in increasing the effectiveness of multilateral controls.

Principal export control regimes and groups are:

* NPT Exporters Committee, or Zangger Committee, as it is often referred to, was created to coordinate implementation of the NPT's Article III.2. This article requires each NPT party to ensure that IAEA safeguards are applied to their exports to non-nuclear weapons states of source or special fissionable nuclear material and "especially designed or prepared" equipment and material. One of the main activities of the Zangger Committee since its creation has been to produce and clarify the control list, often called the "trigger list." Membership of the NPT Exporters Committee consists of twenty-nine states, whose representatives meet twice a year.

* Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was created to coordinate nuclear export controls in a multilateral forum not directly tied to the NPT. NSG guidelines require that a recipient non-nuclear weapons state accept safeguards on all its nuclear activities, not just the exported item, as a condition for the supply of nuclear material, equipment, and technology. The guidelines also emphasize the importance of exercising restraint in the export of sensitive commodities and technology, such as enrichment and reprocessing, and call for consultation in cases where such exports might increase the risk of conflict or instability. The NSG meets several times a year and has thirty-one members.

* "Australia Group" is an informal forum of states, chaired by Australia, whose goal is to discourage and impede CW and BW proliferation by harmonizing national export controls on CW precursor chemicals, BW pathogens, and CBW dual-use production equipment; sharing information on CBW proliferation developments; and seeking other ways to curb the use of CBW. The group has established common export controls for CBW and has issued an informal "warning list" of dual-use CBW precursors, bulk chemicals, and CBW-related equipment.

* Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The purpose of the MTCR is to arrest missile proliferation worldwide through export controls on missiles and their related technologies. It is neither a treaty nor an international agreement; rather, the MTCR is a voluntary arrangement among twenty-seven countries that share a common interest in stemming missile proliferation and controlling exports of missile-related items in accordance with common guidelines and a technology annex. The MTCR originally controlled missiles and unmanned air vehicles capable of carrying a 500 kg payload to a range of 300 km; it has since been extended to cover missiles capable of delivering any weapon of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, or chemical) of any weight to any range.

* Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) was a multilateral export control regime established in 1949 to maintain common controls on items that could enhance the military capabilities of the then Communist Bloc nations. Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed at the Vancouver summit to eliminate export control relics of the Cold War and to establish in their place a partnership between the East and West in this area. COCOM formally ended on March 1994, but members agreed to keep national controls on former COCOM-controlled items until the new regime is established. On the basis of a September 1995 meeting in the Hague, the "New Forum" post-COCOM regime is scheduled to come into existence in January 1996, with Russia and several East European states among the twenty-eight founding members. It is based on the principle of exchanging information about the transfer of arms and sensitive dual-use goods and technologies.

In addition to stopping the transfer of technology with military applications to potential adversaries or aggressive states, U.S. export control policy also aims to monitor technology flows that are acceptable in themselves but that need to be tracked to prevent diversion and to ensure that U.S. forces recognize the military capabilities they might face in any given region. Occasional attempts have been made to control the conventional arms trade, the most recent being the 1991 agreement among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to notify each other of arms sales to the Middle East. This agreement collapsed in the wake of China's withdrawal after the United States announced that it would sell F-16s to Taiwan in 1992.


While successful arms control agreements can limit the spread and reduce the number of weapons and otherwise enhance security and stability, standing alone they seldom prevent a state that is determined to acquire such weapons from doing so. They can, however, raise the political or economic costs to such a degree that many states will forgo the use or acquisition of these weapons. In this regard, the NPT is a shining example of the effectiveness of U.S. arms control efforts. It has codified and strengthened the international norm against nuclear proliferation such that no state has been willing to openly violate the treaty, and very few states have attempted to skirt it even covertly.

Whereas arms control agreements at the height of the Cold War were designed to cap or limit buildups and modernizations, the post-Cold War role of arms control agreements is to manage weapons reductions that are already underway, because countries are cutting spending in what they perceive as a less threatening environment.

Despite the end of the Cold War, Russia remains indispensable to successful arms control on such issues as dismantling the nuclear weapons legacy of the Cold War and working out new arrangements for European security to supplement the CFE Treaty. A major issue is adjusting Cold War-era agreements to retain their arms control accomplishments while permitting responses to the changed post-Cold War threats, e.g., permitting defenses against rouges with missiles within the framework of the ABM Treaty and promoting stability in the Caucasus while preserving CFE limits on conventional forces.

In zones of regional conflict, the pressing arms control problem is to prevent the spread of advanced weapons technology. Global regimes to contain or roll back weapons of mass destruction are more or less in place, with the exception of a comprehensive test ban treaty and confirmation of signed treaties. Progress has been made to safeguard nuclear technology and material, as well as to limit the spread of missile technology. Efforts are underway to supplement these agreements with cooperative security-building measures. But the success of these regimes may depend on progress towards resolving regional conflicts, such as those in Northeast Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia.

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