Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for the ‘Nonproliferation’ Category

Libya: The Nuclear Disaster That Wasn’t

Posted by K.E. White on March 5, 2011

Two articles show the huge dividends successful non-proliferation efforts offer to global security and stability.

First there’s David E. Sanger’s piece on the Libyan nuclear threat that never was:

“Imagine the possible nightmare if we had failed to remove the Libyan nuclear weapons program and their longer-range missile force,” said Robert Joseph, who played a central role in organizing the effort, in the months just after the invasion of Iraq.

And Joe Cirincione provides some helpful (and readable) wonkish background on the 2003 deal where Libya committed to ending their weapon’s program.

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Globe Editorial: How to Beat Back the “Deadly Current” of Nuclear Proliferation

Posted by K.E. White on March 17, 2010

James Carroll offers a skillfully concise piece reviewing the opportunities and pit-falls facing the Obama administration’s goals on nuclear non-proliferation.   Carroll argues that certain critical events in the coming months may set-off a new nuclear arms race.

While perhaps employing too dire a tone, Carroll’s editorial does make clear that the months may make or break Obama’s ambitious nonproliferation and counter-proliferation goals.

From Carroll’s editorial (with slight formatting changes and editing) in Monday’s Boston Globe:

  • The US-Russia Treaty

Negotiators in Geneva are late in reaching agreement on a nuclear arms treaty to replace START, which expired last December. Obama is threading a needle, having to meet Russian requirements (for example, on missile defense) while anticipating Republican objections in the US Senate (for example, on missile defense). Warning: Bill Clinton was humiliated when the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999. Republicans’ recalcitrance on health care is peanuts compared to the damage their rejection of a new START treaty would do.

  • The Nuclear Posture Review

…the Congress-mandated report on how the administration defines nuclear needs today. This, too, is overdue, probably because the White House has been pushing back against the Pentagon on numerous issues. Are nukes for deterrence only? Will the United States renounce first use? Having stopped the Bush-era program to build a new nuclear weapon, will Obama allow further research and development? What nations will be named as potential nuclear threats? Warning: The 1994 Nuclear Posture Review was Clinton’s Pentagon Waterloo. It affirmed the Cold War status quo, killing serious arms reduction until now.

Although usually considered apart, the broader US defense posture has turned into a key motivator for other nations to go nuclear. The current Pentagon budget ($5 trillion for 2010-2017) is so far beyond any other country, and the conventional military capacity it buys is so dominant, as to reinforce the nuclear option abroad as the sole protection against potential US attack. This is new.

  • April’s Nuclear Summit in Washington DC

… but both nuclear haves and have-nots will be taking positions based on the US-Russia Treaty (and its prospects for ratification) and the Nuclear Posture Review. Warning: if China sees US missile defense as potentially aimed its way, a new nuclear arms race is on.

  • Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference

In May, the signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty will hold their eighth regular review session in New York. Since the nations that agreed to forego nuclear weapons did so on the condition that the nuclear nations work steadily toward abolition, the key question will be whether Obama has in fact begun to deliver on his declared intention. If not, get ready for the cascade.

Posted in Nonproliferation | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Two Nonproliferation Press Notes: Syria Gets IAEA-OK for Nuclear Plant; S. Korea and Brazil Kick Off Nonproliferation Events

Posted by K.E. White on November 28, 2008

Interesting update from Syria, courtesy of the LATimes:

The International Atomic Energy Agency approved a contested Syrian bid for assistance in planning a nuclear power plant Wednesday after being assured that the effort would be closely monitored.     

The United States, Canada and Australia had led Western efforts to freeze the project while allegations of covert activity that could lead to nuclear weapons were investigated. But the U.S. and its allies finally joined a consensus in favor of the aid since they could not have won a vote, diplomats in the closed meeting said.

Syria’s request for the power plant aid, something rubber-stamped for many nations, degenerated into a political tug of war after an agency report suggested Damascus might have tried to build a nuclear reactor in secret…
And I want my tickets to Jeju Island and São Paulo, as any seriously aspiring non-proliferation should–at least this week.
From Brazzil Maganize’s coverage of two United Nations Conferences aiming to focus world-wide attention on WMD proliferation:

São Paulo, BrazilIn the Brazilian city of São Paulo, UN’s Office for Disarmament Affairs has organized a week-long workshop on implementing Security Council resolution 1540. That resolution, adopted by the Council in 2004, focuses on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The workshop aims to enhance national capacities for the management of export control processes at a practical level as well as to improve information and experience-sharing between national expert control and enforcement authorities.

Meanwhile the seventh annual Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-proliferation issues, organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and South Korea, is taking place on Jeju Island.

This year’s conference will focus on such concerns as revitalizing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) process, the nuclear renaissance, a multilateral assurance mechanism for nuclear fuel supply, and non-proliferation challenges in North-East Asia.

Jeju IslandSome 40 representatives of governments, international organizations, academic and research institutions, as well as civil society are expected to participate.

The annual event, which has been hosted by South Korea since 2002, is a forum for dialogue and the exchange of views on pressing security and disarmament-related issues facing the international community, addressing particular disarmament and non-proliferation concerns in the Asia-Pacific region.

Acknowledging that obstacles to nuclear disarmament are daunting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month that it is more imperative than ever to make it a reality given the twin economic and financial crises the world is currently facing.


Posted in IAEA, Nonproliferation, Nuclear, proliferation, Syria, United Nations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Nonproliferation Notable News: Sam Nunn’s Interview, and Past Press on His Russia Trip

Posted by K.E. White on September 3, 2007

Sam NunnThe Atlanta Journal Constitution offers this interview with Sam Nunn (D-GA), a former Senator and leading voice for nonproliferation efforts. Hot off a trip to Russia with current Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) he talks about America’s capability to react to a nuclear terrorist attack, Russia’s nuclear stockpile, and presidential candidates he has briefed on nonproliferation issues.

For those interested in that last issue, the article reads:

(Nunn said he has discussed the issue with former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.; Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; Sen. Barak Obama, D-Ill.; Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.; and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn, and that he is scheduled to meet on the subject with former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.) “As far as throwing my own hat in the ring, as I’ve said, it’s possible but not probable. At this stage I am completely consumed with my present activities and not making presidential moves.

For more coverage on his Russia trip, check out these two news clips.Zbigniew Brzezinski

While Nunn might not be endorsing any of the Democratic candidates, Carter-era national security guru Zbigniew Brzezinski has picked Obama.

Posted in Arms Control, Nonproliferation, nuclear terrorism, Sam Nunn, Zbigniew Brzezinski | Leave a Comment »

American Strategy in Pakistan: How Should America Perceive Pakistan’s Overlapping Proliferation and Terrorism Dangers?

Posted by K.E. White on May 23, 2007

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state currently seething with unrest, presents a profound challenge to American and global security. Pakistan is a terrorist hotbed, possibly offering international terrorists a new homebase. And Pakistan comes with a nuclear punch: What happens if one of these groups acquires a nuclear weapon?

But before crafting solutions, U.S. policy must prioritize its strategic goals toward Pakistan.

Is stabilizing the Musharraf regime to be gained at all costs? Should concerns over nuclear weapon leakage outweigh combating terrorist operations in the state? Naturally all these goals should be accomplished: But what goal should set American policy towards Pakistan?

Two recent publications point to the ‘Pakistan divide’ among the non-proliferation community.

Alex Stolar argues that fear of nuclear leakage obscures the greater problem facing Pakistan: Musharraf failing to consolidate the state. Even the most likely WMD-related threat facing Pakistan—a radiological device detonated in Pakistan—demands the state authority be strengthened.

Here is a portion of Stolar’s Stimson Center article:

…Today, the military’s Strategic Plans Division devotes over 8,000 men, mostly undercover, to protecting Pakistan’s weapons and fissile material. The Pakistani military is a highly capable and professional force. It is highly improbable that it would hand over its crown jewels to individuals or organizations that it cannot control during this period of unrest.

It is equally unlikely that terrorist would be able to steal Pakistani nuclear weapons or fissile material. It is true that the fiat of the Pakistani state is being challenged throughout Pakistan, and especially in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. In the most troubled regions, police and military forces are struggling to maintain order. However, the installations that house Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fissile material, as would be expected, are heavily guarded and among the most secure facilities in all of Pakistan.

Similarly, fears that the current unrest could lead to a takeover of the Pakistani government by extremists are also misplaced. Religious parties are an important element of Pakistani society, but their political clout remains limited. It is unlikely that religious parties could engineer a takeover of the Pakistani government, as they lack both the popular support and the military power that would be required. The political power of religious parties would be further diminished if General Pervez Musharraf would remove the shackles from the two major political parties in Pakistan that do not define themselves in religious terms.

Unfortunately, unfounded fears about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have obscured more pressing threats. Radiological terrorism in Pakistan, as elsewhere, is possible. To conduct an act of radiological terrorism, extremists would need to fashion a radiological dispersal device (RDD) which consists of little more than conventional explosives and radiological materials that can be found in laboratories and hospitals. Though an RDD would cause few deaths, it could contaminate a large swath of land and stretch Pakistan’s emergency response capabilities.

The implications Stolar’s argument are two-fold:

1) Push Musharraf to make the political accommodations necessary to stabilize Pakistan (i.e. presumably have open/contested elections and relinquish his grasp over military control).

2) Push aside concerns of an illusory nuclear leakage threat and put American efforts into ensuring a stable state apparatus

But Daniel Byman offers a different take in his PSQ article:

The country that deserves the greatest attention today is Pakistan. Pakistan hosts of large domestic jihadist presence and significant numbers of foreign jihadists while possessing a nuclear weapons program that it has demonstrated it does not, or will not, control. The possibility of leakage is more than plausible, and the results could be catastrophic for the region and for the United States. Unfortunately, the United States will have to make trade-offs between working with Pakistan to fight terrorism and its efforts to stop proliferation.

In Pakistan, several assassination attempts on Pervez Musharraf appear to have involved military officials linked to jihadists. Each component, by itself, is important, but together they present an exceptionally dangerous combination.

…Pakistan stands out as an exceptionally dangerous combination of high levels of corruption and a high risk of terrorist penetration, with at best a medium-level security force. Other countries that are corrupt and do not have highly competent security forces do not have a grave risk of terrorist penetration.

America’s first priority, according to Byman, should help Pakistan secure its nuclear supplies directly—even if this hurts general non-proliferation efforts.

Should American energies first go to pushing Musharraf or securing nuclear arms? While a tactical (and somewhat overlapping) discussion, it rests of two very different views of Pakistan and the challenges it poses.

And when the possibly catastrophic costs of choosing the wrong policy, this discussion is one of the most urgent in the crosscutting nonproliferation and American foreign policy establishments.

Posted in Alex Stolar, Daniel Byman, Musharraf, Nonproliferation, Nuclear, Pakistan, Political Science Quarterly, Stimson Center, Terrorism | 6 Comments »