Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘proliferation’

P-5 Met in Paris on Nonproliferation; Not Much to Report

Posted by K.E. White on July 4, 2011

The permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) met to discuss non-proliferation matters last week.  The meeting was held as “the first follow-up meeting of the 2010 NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] Review Conference with the 5 nuclear powers recognized by the NPT.”

Shockingly, the conference reaffirmed the importance of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  Here’s the U.S. State Department’s press release on the meeting.

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Global Zero’s Flawed Attempt at Being Relevant to America’s Young People

Posted by K.E. White on March 8, 2011

Valerie Plame pushes Global Zero, pleading for young people to jump on board with the group’s nonproliferation agenda.  A question for readers under 30:  do you spend your nights (a) wondering about how to achieve nuclear abolition, (b) your school debt/employment prospected, or (c) your next vacation destination–as funded by Mommy/Daddy dearest?

I’m guessing (b).

Writing for the Huffington Post, Valerie Plame endorses Global Zero–a group of over 300 political, faith, business, and military leaders worldwide “working for the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide.”  In fact, Plame–along with Jordan’s Queen Noor–will soon launch Women for Global Zero.

But I question the main thrust of her article:  her call on young people to join Global Zero’s call to action, which–coincidently–is the aim of Global Zero’s April 8-10 Global Zero D.C. Convention.  With gas hitting $4/gallon, and youth employment prospects as bright as a black hole, I’m thinking her intended audience–America’s ‘progressive’  youth–are more worried about the rent than nonproliferation.  But wait, the convention’s in DC–so with enough transportation-subsidization and swag, I’m sure they’ll get a good-sized group of whiny distinguished NYC/DC undergrads looking to score with one another.  Try holding the convention in Cleveland….actually wait:  do hold the convention in Cleveland–it’d be a welcome change of pace and, frankly, a small–but real–economic infusion to the city (that not only offers the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but a fantastic–and seldom crowded–international airport).

Don’t get me wrong, I wish Global Zero well.  But wouldn’t it be better to coalesce this movement with other groups advocating policies a bit more relevant to today’s political discourse?  How about teaming up with some liberal group for  cutting the federal budget responsibly, or even just teaming up with the well-established human rights and international justice movement.  But again, you’re not a ‘real’  group if you can’t throw your own ‘real’ convention.

Global Zero having a stand-alone convention is like me throwing my own surprise birthday party:  no matter how nice the decorations, my plead to be relevant only proves the opposite.

And it’s not like there aren’t better ways to spend the money.  How about sending accomplished speakers to graduate schools, law schools and undergraduate programs, and then link up interested young adults with opportunities to write or research on getting to global zero, diffusing other conflicts world-wide, and global development.  While there’s no big self-congratulatory party, in 5-10 years there will be a network of community leaders nationwide ready to push nonproliferation at a time when the American mind isn’t filled with fears of the double-dip, crushing debt, or Charlie Sheen’s latest antic.

But perhaps the convention will be a smash, proving to everyone–from the victims of the golden handcuffs to my hair-stylist Renee, that you’re not a zero if you’re in Global Zero.

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Big Oil + Military Junta + N. Korea = Nuclear Burma?

Posted by K.E. White on July 5, 2010

First there are worries that North Korea has exported nuclear and missile technology to Burma, Iran and Syria.

And now there’s this report detailing a potential source for Burma’s alleged nuclear activities.

From the Korea Times:

Three oil companies, Total, Chevron and PTTEP, have provided Burma’s military junta with half of their revenue, worth nearly $5 billion earned from the Yadana Natural Gas Project, an environment watchdog claimed Monday.

If confirmed to be true, this suggests that part of the cash could have gone to North Korea which reportedly exported nuclear and weapons technology to Burma (Myanmar).

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Blog-on-Blog: Kroenig Explores Why Do Countries Export Nuclear Weapons

Posted by K.E. White on June 30, 2010

PONI offers a crisp summary of a recent CATO featuring Matthew Kroenig’s new book Exporting the Bomb.

Read the summary, and  track down a copy.  But, for me, the value of this book comes in how it helps policy makers pressure nations to not spread their nuclear weapons?

On this score I’m not sure the book helps (but I’ll have to read it first):  by looking retroactively behind, Kroenig may be imposing a pattern on what are really sui generis instances.  For example, will this model derail once Iran gets the bomb and (may) begin freely exporting nuclear technology to other ‘have nots’?  Furthermore, would one instance of a dirty bomb cause all nations to reassess the strategic gains of proliferation?

Hence, I am not sure Kroenig can get away from the problem that those who study the demand-side for nuclear weapons:  1) lots of variables and 2) thresholds/triggers that remain in persistent flux—reacting to crises. technological changes and the current state of geo-politics.

From PONI’s blog:

Professor Kroenig began by outlining a logic to supply-side nuclear proliferation. Rather than economic benefits, it is strategic calculus that Kroenig believes drives proliferation. Relatively powerful states often face greater negative consequences due to nuclear proliferation that weaker states due to a number of factors, including deterrence of military intervention, a weakening of military coercion, the risks of being pulled into regional nuclear crises, dissipation of states’ strategic attention and assets to cover one more security development, and threats to the cohesion of alliances. As it constrains more powerful actors, weaker states will often benefit from nuclear weapons proliferation.

From this, Kroenig derives three propositions for the conditions under which states chose to provide sensitive nuclear assistance to others. The less powerful a state is relative to the recipient, the more likely it is to provide assistance. Common enemies are another condition that can spark nuclear assistance between states. Third, the less dependent a state is on a superpower patron, the more likely it is to undertake illicit transfers, as it will not have to weigh the costs of losing security guarantees against the perceived benefits of proliferating.

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Proliferation Flashback: Sen. Bobby Byrd Speech–June 27, 2003

Posted by K.E. White on June 28, 2010

Sen. Robert Byrd, age 92, passed early this morning.  The West Virginia Gazette offers an excellent memorial.

Byrd, America’s longest serving Senator, influenced all aspects of American policy-making.  But, in particular, Byrd played an significant role in arms control.  A vocal critic to the Bush administration’s proliferation policies regarding Russia and India, and a key consensus-maker on Obama’s New START treaty, Congress has lost a key supporter of ‘traditional’ arms control approaches.

Below is a small representation of Bryd’s immense Senate career relating nuclear proliferation–specifically, the 2003 Moscow Treaty:

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Morning News Round-Up

Posted by K.E. White on December 23, 2009

Well, I’ll just underline the reason to be alarmist. If the rest of the world sees that North Korea can keep its nuclear weapons, they see that Iran is capable of defying United States and getting nuclear weapons, they see Hugo Chavez still completely unplugged and growing closer and closer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran — let’s not forget Venezuela has its own uranium deposits — then the lesson, I think, for would-be proliferators around the world is clear. You can get nuclear weapons, and the United States and others will not act to stop you.

And if those constraints don’t have any force, then I think we’re going to see a lot more countries with nuclear weapons, and I think that raises the risk of global instability by an enormous factor.

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Blog-On-Blog: Obama’s Missile Defense Shift

Posted by K.E. White on September 18, 2009

Nukes of Hazard and PONI offer fresh analysis on Obama’s bold move to scrape missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Both blogs show how the move isn’t that drastic. Nukes of Hazard emphasizes that Poland and the Czech Republic face no greater susceptibility to Russian aggression owing to Obama’s missile shield shift. PONI, on the other hand, emphasizes the alternate methods America holds to provide missile security to Poland and the Czech Republic. Both are, in effect, saying ‘chill out’ to critics who see Obama’s shift as abandoning Eastern Europe to menacing Russian designs. (And so is the White House, releasing their four-phase plan for European missile defense)

While I agree with tboth blogs, neither pay much attention to the greatest consequence of Obama’s missile shield shift. The Bush administration pursued a policy of nuclear dominance, pushing for American arms superiority as the best way to promote American security. The Bush White House viewed other powers security interests chiefly determined by their own needs, not contingent on US actions. As such any attempt to scale back nuclear superiority only put American security in the untrustworthy hands of nuclear rivals.

Obama has—to some degree—rejected nuclear dominance as a workable approach to America’s security concerns. Instead he seems to see cooperation with nuclear rivals like Russia and China key to preventing further nuclear proliferation and WMD terrorism. As such, placing bounds on America’s power projection—to allay Chinese and Russian security concerns—is actually in the interest of the United States. Why? Because we can’t have it all: without convincing—i.e. brokering a deal—with other nuclear powers (read: China and Russia) to isolate nations (read: Iran and North Korea) pursuing nuclear programs, stopping these nuclear aspirants will be impossible.

Now, of course, Obama isn’t ushering in complete restrictions on America’s nuclear hand. (Just like Bush didn’t simply reject international cooperation, as shown by PSI) Obama still supports the US-India nuclear deal, and is still willing to push back on creeping Russian influence in Eastern Europe. But he is making it clear certain U.S. actions are off the table.

Will this foster great power cooperation on today’s global dangers? Or merely be used to scale back American influence while yielding no progress towards nonproliferation? Only time will tell.

From Nukes of Hazard:

While supporters of the European proposal are attempting to characterize the Obama administration’s decision as a sign of a slackening U.S. commitment to Eastern European allies or NATO, this is false. First, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen labeled the Obama administration’s decision “a positive first step.” The U.S. relationship with its NATO allies is crucial for European security, restraining Russian aggressiveness, and retaining support for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States is not abandoning missile defense in Europe; it is restructuring capabilities to better counter threats that currently exist.

Second, while Poland and the Czech Republic sought the system in order to secure U.S. support in the face of recent Russian assertiveness, the system was not designed, and the Bush administration reiterated over and over again that it was not intended, to defend these countries against Russia. The United States pledged earlier this year to provide Poland with a Patriot missile battery that will help defend against Russia. The United States also has agreed in recent years to provide Poland and the Czech Republic with F-16 fighters and unmanned aerial vehicles, a sign of Washington’s commitment to their security.

And from PONI, who just unveiled a snazzy new website:

Therefore, the effect of Obama’s decision on our alliance commitments is still up in the air.  If Russia becomes more assertive and bullies our allies (as described in the Reuters article above), without any response from the US, then certainly, our commitment to defending allies will be questioned.  However, if Obama takes other actions to show that the US is committed to the defense of Eastern European allies, it could easily reverse the perception.  This won’t be an easy task…

US commitments to reestablish assurance are underway.  First, Obama’s speech mentioned that the US would continue to work on advancing NATO missile defenses. In the future, this could include NATO capabilities placed in countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.  Second, the United States is not withdrawing all missile defense systems…

According to Lukasz Kulesa of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, these are the types of commitments that the US has to make to assure Poland that we are committed to their defense:

From the perspective of Central Europe’s, the greatest danger…would be to create the impression that NATO has somehow gone soft where its primary function of defending the territories of the member states is concerned…Therefore, such a move it is – if it is agreed within the alliance, would probably need to be somehow balanced by a set of decisions giving credible reassurances on the value of Article V…it’s about putting the physical infrastructure of the alliance within the member state…some of the allies would most probably expect the United States to increase its presence on their territory, though not necessarily by building new bases or new installation. I think the arrangements might be made between Poland and the United States on the nonpermanent deployment of the Patriots anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in Poland… is an example of such an approach of seeking additional U.S. presence

Kulsea also argues that shifting control of missile defense to NATO could reduce the stigma attached to the system and reduce Russian objections.

The US could make similar commitment [Patriot anti-aircraft] to the Czech Republic or explore other options such as NATO exercises or temporary deployments of US troops that would provide tangible evidence of our commitment to their defense.

The point is that there are still options for assurance.  Obama is already starting to make commitments to make up for the “scrapped” installations.  In the next few weeks and months, Obama must continue to take concrete steps.  The US will need to make other tangible commitments and prevent Russian bullying.  If Obama follows this course, the US will appear as resolved as ever.

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Obama Administration Pushes UN Nonproliferation Resolution

Posted by K.E. White on September 15, 2009

Setting the stage for next May’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference, the Obama administration has circulated a UN resolution on nonproliferation. The draft resolution reaffirms the core tenants of the NPT, itself a marked departure from the last administration. The proposal thus reflects the administration’s desire to approach nuclear proliferation–especially in regard to North Korea and Iran–from a multinational perspective and recommit all nuclear-weapons states states to nuclear disarmament.

Symbolic and practical purposes lay within the proposals jargon. Symbolically it shows the United States acknowledging the interests of non-nuclear states and seeking their input in dealing with the thorny issue of nuclear proliferation. Practically the proposal ups the ante of the 2010 treaty conference and reflects the Obama administration’s push to enshrine a ‘norm’ against proliferation that applies to nuclear and non-nuclear states alike. This stands in contrast to the Bush administration that signaled its privilege for counter-proliferation–keeping weapons from ‘bad’ regimes–over the general goal of eliminating these weapons all-together, nonproliferation.

Strategic considerations related related to Iran’s nuclear activities rest behind the US proposal. Two sections in particular stand out (and can be read below). First, the proposal calls on NPT nuclear weapon states–America, Russia, Britain, France and China–to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament.” The Obama administration seems intent on ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to eventual disarmament, a key clause of the NPT. No doubt it hopes that such action would reinvigorate American credibility on nonproliferation, which then could be parlayed into isolating Iran.

The proposal also seeks to make the right of NPT members to develop civilian nuclear programs contingent on meeting their other NPT obligations–another clear message to Iran. By seeking to limit the scope of the NPT’s nuclear benefit clause, the United States seeks to stop countries from hiding illicit nuclear weapons production (read: Iran and North Korea) behind this NPT nuclear benefits clause.

Politico offers excellent coverage that includes the proposal’s text and expert commentary. From Politico:

Washington nonproliferation experts describe the draft U.S. resolution as important, including in signaling the Obama administration’s return to some international non-proliferation commitments that the Bush administration had walked back from. In particular, they note the proposal’s endorsing that world nuclear powers pledge to not attack non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons, as well as a passage that would make a nation’s “right” to pursue peaceful nuclear energy contingent upon being in compliance with other obligations spelled out in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“What Obama is doing here, is, as he said in Prague, recommitting the United States to action on disarmament,” the Arms Control Association’s executive director Daryl Kimball said Monday. “He is reiterating U.S. and P-5 support for some things that the Bush administration walked back from.” Among them: the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT), which bans the testing of nuclear weapons (and which the U.S. has signed but the Senate not ratified), and what are called “negative security assurances” – guarantees by nuclear weapons states not to attack non-nuclear weapons states with nukes, Kimball said.

“This resolution is a solid piece of work, the best one could expect from the UN resolution process,” said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Plougshares Fund, which advocates nonproliferation goals. “It’s significant in several aspects,” he added, naming in particular the draft’s reaffirming a pledge that nuclear states would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states – a U.S. position up until the Bush administration, he said. “This could be very important later on,” Cirincione said, in making the case that the sole purpose of having nuclear weapons is to deter other states from using them.

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U.S. Teasury Goes After North Korea’s Proliferation Funds

Posted by K.E. White on July 1, 2009

Yesterday the U.S. Treasury Department clamped down on two firms suspected of funneling funds North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs: Iranian-based Hong Kong Electronics and North Korean-based Namchongang Trading Corporation.

From Michael O’Brien’s blog at TheHill.com:

The Treasury Department took aim at North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on Tuesday, freezing the assets of an Iranian firm suspected of financing the Korean regime’s [proliferation] efforts.

The Treasury targeted Hong Kong Electronics — an Iranian firm — for funneling money to a North Korean bank and mining company suspected of facilitating the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The State Department also targeted a North Korean trading company under Executive Order 13382, which reezes the assets of designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with them.

“North Korea uses front companies like Hong Kong Electronics and a range of other deceptive practices to obscure the true nature of its financial dealings, making it nearly impossible for responsible banks and governments to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate North Korean transactions,” said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Jay Soloman delves a little deeper in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The U.S.’s sanctioning Tuesday of Namchongang Trading Corp. and Iran-based Hong Kong Electronics is intended to choke off funds for two firms charged with being at the center of Pyongyang’s attempts to export its nuclear and long-range missile technologies, said U.S. officials.

The U.S. sanctions bar any American firms from conducting business with Namchongang and Hong Kong Electronics. The designations also freeze any assets the firms may have in the U.S. Treasury Department officials intend these actions to cause non-American companies to also scrutinize any dealings with these North Korean-linked firms.

U.S. officials say Namchongang played a direct role in helping Syria start construction of a nuclear reactor near the Euphrates River that Israeli jets destroyed in 2007. Syria denied it is developing a nuclear program.

The company has also aided Myanmar’s arms industry and was importing centrifuge equipment that North Korea is using to develop a uranium-enrichment capability, U.S. officials say. Uranium, when enriched to a weapons grade, can be used to build atomic weapons.

Namchongang is headed by Yun Ho Jin, a former senior North Korea diplomat who served at Pyongyang’s mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s atomic watchdog. He’s also believed to be closely aligned with senior members of North Korea leader Kim Jong Il’s government. Mr. Yun and Namchongang couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Susan Burk Returns As U.S. Representative to the High Stakes 2010 NPT Review Conference

Posted by K.E. White on April 23, 2009

Update: Susan Burk’s confirmation is still held up after Sen. DeMint’s May 5th ‘hold’ on her nomination.

Summary: Obama has made it clear he sees the “sound” Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as critical to stemming nuclear weapons proliferation. So what will Obama’s bold nuclear moves-warming up to Russia on a new START treaty, calling for eventual nuclear weapons abolition, and bringing focus back to the NPT-yield? It’s too soon to tell. But the nomination Susan Burk as Special Representative reflects the high aims Obama has for the 2010 meeting. Below is a review of Burk’s testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and discussion of NPT 2010 meeting’s significance to Obamaland foreign policy.

Two key-if little noted-nominees for diplomatic roles in the Obama White House testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.  Ivo Daalder has been tapped for U.S. Representative on the NATO Council, and Sarah Burk has been nominated for U.S. Representative to the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

President Obama’s recently announced commitment[i] to revitalizing the NPT to stem nuclear proliferation brings Burk’s likely role special significance.

Burk, if confirmed, will play a major role in the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Held every five years, these meetings bring together the 188 treaty members to discuss nonproliferation and disarmament issues. With Iran inching closer towards nuclear weapons capability and North Korea reneging on its pledge to disarm, this meeting may be the last chance to exert multinational pressure on these rogue states.

NPT meetings have had a erratic track record. In 1995, with Susan Burk heading up Clinton’s delegation, the NPT treaty was renewed permanently. But the 2000 conference was marked more by what was avoided (fears of collapse in the wake of 1998 nuclear tests of Pakistan and India), and 2005’s has been considered “a near total fiasco.”[ii]

Iran, as a member of the NPT, holds a unique test for the treaty regime. While Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have developed nuclear weapons since the treaty’s ratification, none were members of the NPT (North Korea left the organization before developing its limited nuclear weapons capability). Iran crossing the nuclear line would represent the treaty’s largest failure-and call into question its grand bargain of nonproliferation in return for peaceful nuclear technology sharing and eventual nuclear weapons disarmament.

Susan Burk’s opening statement offers a concise review of the Obama administration nonproliferation policy aims and the challenges it faces as it heads into the 2010 NPT Review Conference. The administration has an ambitious agenda, calling for:

continue reading article

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