Current U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
This chapter's treatment of current U.S. nuclear weapons policy is divided into two parts. The first part, on the U.S.-Russian nuclear interaction, discusses the recent history of—and current problems and opportunities presented by—the nuclear weapons relationship between the two countries, including issues of deeper reductions, nuclear operations (alert levels and targeting), and ballistic missile defenses. The second part, on nuclear weapons policy and nonproliferation, covers the global nonproliferation regime, U.S. positive and negative security assurances and guarantees, and counterproliferation policy.
THE U.S.-RUSSIAN INTERACTION
Six years have elapsed since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although many uncertainties remain about the role that Russia will assume in the world, the era of Soviet Communism has ended. The Russian presidential election in the summer of 1996 demonstrated that the Russian people have moved beyond the Soviet period. Russia could falter in its quest for constitutional democracy and instead become a nationalist dictatorship, an oligarchy, or a failed federal system. All of these would be serious setbacks for Russia and would pose varying degrees of risk to the security of the West. But Russia is not seeking to resume its position as the political and ideological leader of an anti-Western camp in what Marxist-Leninists used to call the clash of two opposing social systems.
Russia is no longer trying to develop a closed economic, political, and security system based on the superiority of its ideology and instead is attempting to transform itself into an open society. The Cold War world, characterized by a potentially violent East-West standoff, is being replaced by a world in which
Russia seeks to be an active member of the global economy. The fundamental economic imperatives driving Russian reform are especially important to creating the impetus for Russia to cooperate with the international community.
Although less certain, considerable military and political cooperation also may develop. The regional security challenges of the Middle East, South Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Europe no longer reflect the old Cold War context. Nuclear weapons still remain a key element of Russia's political and military status, but they will not determine its success or failure as an international actor. That will be defined mainly by the country's overall economic success.
Russia's desire for economic advancement is more clearly established than its political and strategic position. The prospect of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe has triggered deep-seated Russian concerns about its future security that have been easily exploited by extreme nationalists and antidemocratic groups. The rhetoric differs sharply, however, from the past seven decades, since it is no longer animated by a hostile ideology.
The United States and its allies have recognized the desirability of close engagement with Russia, despite the uncertainties inherent in its continuing transition. The reduction and destruction of the vast nuclear arsenals developed during the Cold War are among the most important domains of such collaboration. Substantial progress has already been made in adapting the nuclear forces of the United States and Russia to the post-Cold War environment. The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), the last Cold War arms agreement, was signed in 1991. It is now being implemented by both countries and will reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads from about 11,000 for Russia and 13,000 for the United States to about 8,000 on each side.1 START II, signed in 1993 and ratified by the United States in early 1996 but (at this writing) not yet ratified by Russia, would further limit the actual number of deployed strategic warheads to 3,000 to 3,500 on each side (see Box 2.1). Through unilateral actions, the United States has reduced the number of its deployed nonstrategic warheads by 90 percent, from over 10,000 to about 1,000 warheads, all of which are bombs to be carried on dual-purpose aircraft. In reciprocal initiatives, Russia has made substantial (but less quantifiable) reductions in its nonstrategic warheads.
In addition to reducing their arsenals, both sides have undertaken a number of other measures. They have ended nuclear testing, and for the first time since World War II the United States is developing no new types of nuclear weapons or nuclear delivery systems.2 The United States has taken all of its strategic bombers off alert and its airborne military command posts no longer fly continuous-alert missions. The United States and Russia have agreed not to target their missiles against each other on a day-to-day basis as a precaution against the consequences of an accidental launch. Production of weapons-grade fissile material has stopped in the United States and is continuing to a small extent in Russia only until such time as the reactor cores in three dual-purpose plutonium production reactors have been converted.3
BOX 2.1 Accounting for Warheads Under the START Treaties
The term ''accountable" weapons refers to the number resulting from application of counting rules in START I, which are based on counting deployed delivery vehicles and assigning an agreed number of warheads to each type of vehicle. While the START I counting rules assume ICBMs and SLBMs to be armed with the maximum number of warheads with which the various missile types have been tested, these rules substantially undercount gravity bombs and short-range attack missiles (SRAMs) inasmuch as bombers not armed with cruise missiles are counted as if they contained only one warhead regardless of how many bombs and SRAMs they might actually carry.
The terms "active," "operational," or "deployed" as applied to nuclear weapons/warheads are synonymous; they all refer to the portion of a country's nuclear bombs and warheads that could be delivered by that country's operational delivery systems. In the present study the term "deployed" is used to denote this category. The term "inactive" refers to intact bombs and warheads beyond those that could be delivered as just indicated. These are often characterized as "spares" or "reserves." "Strategic" nuclear weapons/warheads are those intended for delivery on missiles or bombers with ranges over 5,500 kilometers; "nonstrategic" are those to be delivered by shorter-range systems.
START II allows the United States and Russia to keep 3,500 deployed "strategic" nuclear warheads each. START II does not limit nondeployed strategic warheads and the United States plans to keep up to 5,000 of them in various levels of readiness. START II also does not limit the number of nonstrategic warheads—active or otherwise—although these have been reduced through reciprocal unilateral initiatives. When nonstrategic and inactive nuclear warheads are included, this means that, even under START II, the United States and Russia will continue to possess some 10,000 total nuclear weapons each—even though only 3,500 can be deployed in strategic delivery vehicles.
These reductions and other arms control measures are important: the United States and Russia have unambiguously halted and reversed their bilateral nuclear competition. Yet as notable as these reductions and other measures are, they have not sufficiently altered the physical threat to either society. The reduced forces could still inflict catastrophic damage on the societies they target or could target. Much more can and should be done. Even if both START agreements are fully implemented, the level of nuclear forces will remain much higher than needed to meet the core deterrent function. Moreover, the START process has not yet
addressed the many thousands of nonstrategic warheads and nondeployed strategic warheads that both sides would retain, which worsens the risks of breakout or theft and unauthorized use. The basic structure of plans for using nuclear weapons appears largely unchanged, with both sides apparently continuing to emphasize early and large counterforce strikes. And despite reductions in numbers and alert levels, both countries remain capable of rapidly bringing their nuclear forces to full readiness for use. This operational availability unnecessarily exacerbates the small but significant risk of erroneous or unauthorized use. Finally, some U.S. ballistic missile defense programs threaten to impede the arms control process by making uncertain the stability of deterrence at lower force levels.
Nuclear Force Levels and the Need for Deeper Reductions
After implementation of START II, the United States would have about 3,500 deployed strategic warheads, as well as a few hundred deployed nonstrategic warheads. In addition, the United States could hold as many as 5,000 weapons in reserve. Russia also would have about 3,500 deployed strategic warheads, assuming that it is able to provide the resources required to meet that level under the terms of the treaty. In addition, Russia is expected to retain several thousand nonstrategic warheads in its active stockpiles, plus an unknown number of such warheads in reserve. Thus, it can be assumed that, before the March 1997 Helsinki agreement to seek START III, each country planned to retain roughly 10,000 nuclear warheads into the early part of the next century. These reductions represent a substantial drop from the total of 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. and Soviet warheads at the peak of the Cold War. Implementation of a START III accord would continue these reductions to lower levels, but even further reductions are both possible and important to the security interests of both countries.
In addition to the fundamental reasons for such cuts discussed in Chapter 1, the Helsinki agreement to undertake additional reductions should improve prospects for Russian ratification of START II and for continued improvement in U.S.-Russian relations. START II benefits both U.S. and Russian national interests: it achieves rough numerical parity in deployed strategic warheads, and by eliminating the attractive targets presented by land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with multiple warheads, it achieves the important goal of enhancing stability by making a counterforce first-strike attack less attractive. From an American perspective, these security benefits alone should be sufficient to persuade Russia to ratify the treaty in its existing form.
START II, however, presents Russia with political and economic problems that have caused strong resistance in the Duma to ratification. The treaty requires Russia to destroy far more delivery vehicles than the United States. As a result, to maintain parity with the United States under START II, Russian defense officials assert that Russia would have to build and deploy more than 500 new single-warhead ICBMs at the same time as it is destroying hundreds of existing
multiple-warhead missiles. But it makes no sense for Russia to spend scarce resources to build new nuclear weapons systems when smaller arsenals based on existing systems are more than adequate, even for existing nuclear missions.
Such a Russian nuclear buildup to meet START II levels would pose risks for the West by creating a serious domestic issue in Russia at a time of political uncertainty. In addition, even though these additional weapons would be permitted by the treaty, there could be calls in the United States to respond to what would be represented as a Russian program to field a new missile force containing the latest technologies. The framework agreement at Helsinki to seek reductions to a level of 2,000 to 2,500 deployed strategic warheads in START III is thus a welcome step.
Controls on Warheads
Although START II limits the number of warheads that can be mounted on strategic delivery vehicles, it does not limit the number or types of warheads that each side may possess. That is, under the terms of the treaty, each side can keep as many warheads as it desires—it is only limited in how many of those warheads may be mounted on long-range missiles or bombers, which are themselves limited by the treaty. It is therefore perfectly legal under START II to store and maintain for redeployment the warheads that must be removed from delivery vehicles to meet the treaty's limits. This failure to limit warheads, combined with the inherent capability of some delivery vehicles to carry many more warheads than START II permits, provides the possibility of rapid breakout. Russia or the United States could, for example, relatively quickly place additional warheads on land- and sea-based missiles and bombers. Indeed, Russian critics of START II have cited the breakout problem as a major reason for opposing its ratification.
Verifying limits on nuclear warheads is substantially more difficult than verifying limits on delivery vehicles. Current estimates of the total number of nuclear warheads in the Russian stockpile have a margin of possible error measured in the several thousands. This has been a key factor in discouraging efforts to establish warhead limits that are not associated with delivery systems. It is time, however, for the United States and Russia to step up to this challenge because deep reductions in nuclear weapons will be impossible unless the two sides lay a solid foundation today by agreeing to monitor warhead stockpiles and dismantling activities. It is encouraging that Russia and the United States agreed at the March 1997 Helsinki summit that initial efforts in this direction would be part of the START III agenda.
The very large numbers of nuclear warheads in today's nuclear arsenals leave little incentive to cheat, but as the numbers are reduced verification will become an increasingly important issue. Since nuclear weapons can be small and portable, and not easily detectable by technical means, a regime that would provide high confidence of locating a small number of hidden warheads would be
extremely difficult to achieve. Even an imperfect verification regime would greatly reduce the uncertainties in present U.S. estimates of the number of Russian warheads, and enable reductions to proceed further than otherwise.
An improved verification regime would include a series of detailed data exchanges on the number and location of all nuclear warheads, fissile material production sites and their specifications, as well as total inventories of all fissile material stocks. These declarations would be subject to multiple random and challenge inspections of activities relating to storage and deployment, as well as to the dismantlement of warheads and the storage and disposition of recovered fissile material. An expanded inspection regime would profit by improvements in physical protection and accounting for fissile material.
In addition, as part of a general program of increased transparency, all historical records relating to production of fissile materials and weapons should be made available for review. Drawing on all of this new detailed information, classical intelligence techniques, including human sources, could also provide information with which to assess declarations and provide leads on possible diversions. While information from such classical sources, which might reveal even very small diversions, would probably prove to be extremely useful in a verification context and a powerful deterrent to cheating, its contribution cannot be assessed quantitatively.
With this amount of access, including challenge on-site inspections, the problem of detecting new production activities should be less demanding. In this connection, recent developments do provide an improved basis for unilateral remote detection of reprocessing or enrichment activities that would be required to produce new supplies of fissile materials.4
Although no single measure would guarantee against cheating, taken together such measures would create a web of access points and data, so that it would be increasingly difficult and risky to hide a strategically significant cache of weapons. Significant advances in recent years in the technologies for remote and proximate sensing, tamper-proof labeling, information processing, and long-range communication would in principle allow immediately verifiable monitoring of all declared nuclear warheads and fissionable materials—if the U.S. and Russian governments unreservedly agreed to collaborate in the comprehensive application of these technologies. Limited experiments in cooperative monitoring have already been undertaken under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (Nunn-Lugar Act) and serve to demonstrate its basic feasibility.
Even a comprehensive monitoring arrangement would not immediately resolve all uncertainty, since retrospective accounting for material would invoke a certain inherent degree of uncertainty. Given this uncertainty, it would be difficult to prove that no clandestine cache of weapons or materials had escaped the system unless evidence of inconsistencies or actual falsification in the data, or information on actual diversions through national classical intelligence sources emerged. Over time, however, the operation of a comprehensive monitoring
arrangement can be expected to give either progressively improving confidence in its integrity or more specific reasons for doubt in the adequacy of the system in dealing with low levels of diversions or clandestine production. Without systematic cooperation and reciprocity, however, the effectiveness of monitoring will be severely limited.
Controls on Nonstrategic Warheads
Nonstrategic nuclear weapons generally have less sophisticated use controls and may be more vulnerable to theft and unauthorized use than strategic weapons, making an expanded program of reduction and control especially important for this class of weapons. START I and II address only strategic weapons; they contain no limits on the nonstrategic nuclear weapons beyond the ban on land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers imposed by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Even after the implementation of their reciprocal unilateral pledges not to deploy certain types of nonstrategic nuclear weapons and to dismantle some fraction of them, however, it is estimated that the United States will retain about 1,000 active and reserve nonstrategic warheads. The United States estimates that Russia will retain significantly more nonstrategic weapons. As noted in Chapter 1, Russia's abandonment of the Soviet Union's no-first-use pledge indicates a growing reliance on nuclear weapons, particularly nonstrategic weapons, at least in rhetorical terms.
The Nuclear Posture Review recommended that the United States retain nonstrategic nuclear weapons in order to reassure its NATO allies of the United States commitment to the defense of Europe. In the committee's opinion, however, U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons are not necessary for this purpose. The original rationale for their deployment—to deter or halt a Soviet invasion of Western Europe—has vanished. The NATO alliance, with its modern conventional forces and greatly increased strategic depth in Central and Eastern Europe, no longer needs to resort to threats of nuclear use to deter or repel invasion.
The related view that U.S. nuclear weapons must be retained in Europe to keep Germany from acquiring nuclear weapons also is of dubious validity. Germany was a leading proponent of the indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and has been outspoken in its support for additional controls on nuclear weapons and weapons materials. In the changed strategic context of the post-Cold War world, the strategic nuclear forces of the United States, and to a lesser extent of the United Kingdom and France, should provide abundant reassurance to their European allies against nuclear coercion without U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons stationed in Europe.
The committee suggested in Chapter 1 that the United States, in full cooperation with its NATO allies, should give serious consideration to seeking an agreement with Russia and other affected states that would prohibit the forward deployment of nuclear weapons in Central Europe. Foreclosing such deployments
in a binding, reciprocal, and verifiable manner would be a clear signal that both Russia and NATO were committed to denuclearization of their relationship.
The situation in Asia in slightly different. As acknowledged when the weapons were withdrawn from South Korea in 1991 and removed from all naval vessels, U.S. military forces do not require nonstrategic nuclear weapons to deter attacks on U.S. allies in Asia or to defend those countries if attacked. North Korea, the only country in the region that is openly hostile to the United States, can no longer rely on Russian or Chinese support. Moreover, North Korea is covered by the most recent statement of U.S. negative security assurances to nonnuclear weapons states.5 Senior U.S. officials continue to emphasize the potential destructiveness of a second Korean War, which places a particular premium on deterring any attack on South Korea, as well as on the maintenance of robust combined capabilities in the event deterrence fails.6 The United States remains confident, however, that U.S. and South Korean conventional forces could defeat a North Korean attack, despite the destruction that such a war would entail.7
If the United States wishes to deter or respond to nuclear attacks on South Korea, Japan, or other Asian friends or allies, nonstrategic nuclear weapons would have no essential military advantages over strategic weapons, and the symbolic advantages historically attributed to nonstrategic weapons are outweighed by the political and security costs of the deployment of such warheads.
The presence of these weapons has provided allied countries with a basis for participating in nuclear planning and activity, which they regard as important to their security. Given this and the important symbolic role that forward-deployed nuclear weapons have played in the defense of U.S. allies throughout the world, the process of withdrawing nonstrategic nuclear weapons will require sustained high-level consultations.
Despite the end of the Cold War, both the United States and Russia maintain the technical capability, even during peacetime, to launch thousands of nuclear warheads on short notice. This is particularly true of the United States, which maintains two-thirds of its submarines and virtually all of its land-based missiles in a high state of alert. Alert practices make deterrent forces immediately responsive, but they also increase the chances of an unauthorized or even accidental detonation of a nuclear weapon and contribute to the possibility of triggering a war that neither side intends. Current U.S. and Russian doctrines for nuclear operations also provide for extremely rapid response to evidence of attack, which risks having the decision to launch a nuclear strike made in response to an error in judgment.
The technical ability of each side to launch massive nuclear attacks with little warning creates incentives for the other side to prepare for virtually instantaneous
decisions about a retaliatory strike before its nuclear forces or command system are destroyed. Russian military planners, for example, must still worry about the fact that accurate U.S. Trident and Minuteman (and, until START II is fully implemented, MX) missiles could destroy a large fraction of Russian nuclear forces and command-and-control systems with as little as 20 minutes warning of an attack, since only a small portion of the Russian submarine and mobile missiles are on patrol or positioned to survive a first strike. Especially troubling is that Russia, in protecting against the possibility of such a sudden attack, reportedly continues to rely on its capacity to launch ICBMs and pier-side submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on warning of a missile attack. According to some reports, the situation is exacerbated by the fragmentation and degradation of Russia's attack warning system. Thus, by deploying relatively large, lethal, and alert forces to deter the increasingly improbable circumstance of a deliberate surprise Russian attack, the United States may prompt Russia to adopt a posture that greatly increases the risk of erroneous or unauthorized launch. The strain on both countries would be relieved if neither had to worry about even the possibility of instant nuclear attack.
The issue is one of balancing risks. During the Cold War, reducing the risk of a surprise attack appeared to be more important than the risks generated by maintaining nuclear forces in a continuous state of alert. With the end of the Cold War, the opposite is now the more credible view, and this has important implications for U.S. nuclear policy, making dramatically reduced alert rates possible and highly desirable.
The United States and Russia have already taken some steps to reduce the alert status of their nuclear forces, but further action is needed. The challenge is to find ways not yet identified to further reduce or eliminate the capacity of nuclear forces to strike rapidly and with little warning without significantly decreasing their survivability or generating dangerous instabilities.
Targeting and Operational Doctrine
The 1994 U.S.-Russian detargeting initiative, which directed that the guidance systems of each country's missiles should no longer actively target the other, was a step in the right direction. But the missiles can be retargeted in a matter of minutes. With no indication to the contrary, the United States and Russia probably follow nuclear war planning procedures based on Cold War assumptions that emphasize the need for early massive strikes on nuclear forces and their command-and-control systems and attacks directed at national political and military leadership. This targeting doctrine was partially justified in the past under the general rubric of deterrence, which is said to depend on maintaining "forces of sufficient size and capability to hold at risk a broad range of assets valued by political and military leaders."8
Whatever may have been the rationale for this targeting doctrine during the
Cold War, its validity is dubious under current and near-term international security conditions in which the likelihood of all-out nuclear war is remote. Under these changed conditions, the arguments against attacking these targets take on much greater weight. Eliminating leaders and destroying communications would decrease opportunities to achieve early termination of hostilities; targeting policies calling for rapid destruction of nuclear forces and command centers create imperatives for the other side to launch vulnerable ICBMs and pier-side SLBMs before they are destroyed. As already noted, fear of such attacks encourages both sides to keep their nuclear forces at high levels of alert and could trigger a launch of nuclear forces in response to a false warning. A doctrine that provides for the rapid launch of nuclear forces cannot be justified in the foreseeable post-Cold War security environment, where the probability of an erroneous or unauthorized launch may be greater than the probability of a deliberate nuclear attack.
A policy of launching under attack poses unnecessary risks because it forces political and military leaders to make momentous decisions in a few minutes with incomplete information on the nature or origin of an attack. If both sides continue to maintain such options (and know that the other side does as well), this could increase the chance of miscalculation during a crisis.
The historical alternative to counterforce is countervalue targeting, in which the use of nuclear weapons is deterred by threatening to destroy concentrations of key industries, which are usually colocated with population centers, or by threatening to attack population centers outright. For its advocates the deterrent effect of countervalue targeting rests on the recognition that only a small number of nuclear weapons would destroy the cities, economy, and functioning society of even the largest country. For example, under certain conditions the detonation of as few as 20 nuclear weapons on Russian cities could kill 25 million people and destroy one-quarter of Russia's industrial output (see Box 2.2).
In addition to the moral objections to an explicit policy of targeting noncombatants, some have argued that countervalue targeting is not credible because destroying an opponent's cities would only result in destruction of one's own cities. A nation therefore might be deterred from retaliating against an opponent's cities. A nation therefore might be deterred from retaliating against an opponent's cities in some circumstances unless its own cities had already been destroyed. Moreover, under such a policy the threat to use U.S. nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack on U.S. allies might not be considered credible. (Chapter 3 describes a policy of "adaptive targeting" that minimizes the pitfalls of both counterforce and countervalue targeting.)
Ballistic Missile Defenses
Somewhat paradoxically, the revolution in the offense-defense relationship wrought by the destructiveness of nuclear weapons discussed in Chapter 1 is likely to be a positive development because it negates the opportunity for national leaders to think of "winning" a nuclear war. If nuclear retaliation cannot be
BOX 2.2 The Destructive Power of a Few Nuclear Weapons
A simple calculation illustrates the destructive power of a small number of accurately delivered nuclear weapons. About 25 million people—one-sixth of the entire Russian population—live in 12 cities with populations greater than 1 million. These cities have a combined urban area of about 2,500 square kilometers. Detonation of a single 475-kiloton W-88 SLBM warhead from the U.S. arsenal would destroy an urban area of 100 to 150 square kilometers. Detonation of only 20 such warheads therefore could completely destroy the 12 largest Russian cities and kill 25 million people. Note that this calculation considers only the direct blast and thermal effects of the explosions; millions of additional deaths might result from firestorms, radiation (especially if weapons are detonated near ground level), and from disease and starvation resulting from the destruction of food and water supplies, hospitals, and other urban infrastructure.
Russia's industrial output is closely correlated with urban population but is somewhat more concentrated in the largest cities. Since 23 percent of Russia's urban population lives in the 12 largest cities, the attack postulated above would also lead to the direct destruction of at least one-quarter of Russia's industry. Indirect losses would be much larger.
prevented, either by defenses or by a truly disarming first strike, the rational employment of a large-scale nuclear attack for aggressive purposes is foreclosed. Missile defenses that offered a substantial capability to defend national territories would prompt other countries to increase and modify their offensive forces to compensate for the defenses. If compensating offensive deployments could be accomplished more quickly, cheaply, and reliably than the defensive deployments that prompted them, instead of providing a nationwide leak-proof shield, or anything close to it, the deployment of such defenses ultimately would result in the same threat of destruction but at a higher level of offensive forces.
The desire to avoid this situation was the rationale behind the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which strictly limited the missile defenses allowed to the United States and the Soviet Union in order to prevent deployment of systems that would risk promoting arms races. In recognition of the continuing importance of this link between offense and defense, the Soviet side formally stated that U.S. withdrawal from, or material violation of, the ABM Treaty would be grounds for Soviet withdrawal from START I.9
The role that missile defenses can play for the United States is clarified by
examining the kinds of missile threats facing it and its allies. A number of nations possess shorter-range (less than 500 kilometers) ballistic missiles for tactical purposes, such as the Scuds employed by Iraq during the Gulf War. Since the late 1950s, the United States has pursued missile defenses designed to intercept such short-range tactical missiles, which can be expected to be armed with nonnuclear warheads. Although technically challenging, this is a much easier task than intercepting longer-range missiles. The Clinton administration is focusing on upgraded Patriot (PAC-3) missiles and the Navy's sea-based Area Theater Defense system. These capabilities offer important benefits to U.S. military forces without threatening strategic stability. In addition, the United States has had considerable success in its efforts to control the proliferation of ballistic missiles and technology through the Missile Technology Control Regime, which now has most potential suppliers as members or adherents.
Advocates of expanded ballistic missile defense programs point to the possibility of longer-range theater ballistic missiles in the hands of potentially hostile Third World nations. Yet the potential threat posed to the United States and its interests by such missiles is limited to a few countries. North Korea has fielded modified Scud missiles that threaten all of South Korea, and it has tested and is continuing the development of a missile that could threaten Japan. Iran and Syria have purchased modified Scuds from North Korea that could reach Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel; and Iraq might rebuild its missile program if international sanctions and monitoring were lifted.
All of these missiles have ranges of less than 1,000 kilometers. At present, the technologies required for longer-range missiles (multiple stages, powerful engines, special reentry vehicle materials, etc.) generally lie beyond the technical, although not necessarily financial, capability of these states to acquire and field them. A congressionally mandated independent panel, appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence to review a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and given full access to the relevant information, came to the following conclusion:
… the Panel believes the Intelligence Community has a strong case that, for sound technical reasons, the United States is unlikely to face an indigenously developed and tested intercontinental ballistic missile threat from the Third World before 2010, even taking into account the acquisition of foreign hardware and technical assistance. That case is even stronger than presented in the NIE.10
The panel's report also states that the estimate "should have assured policy-makers that this issue will receive continuing high priority, and that all possible technical alternatives will be investigated vigorously and that time to respond can be provided."11 The committee notes that the NIE was criticized by the panel on a number of counts, including insufficient attention to other types of missile threats, such as cruise missiles and sea-based ballistic missiles. The criticisms did not cast doubt on the central conclusion about indigenously produced ICBMs but did raise questions about other potential missile threats to the United States.
Despite these uncertainties regarding the threat, in recent years the United States has begun conducting accelerated research and development on theater missile defenses, designed to intercept missiles with ranges up to 3,500 kilometers. The Clinton administration is developing two such systems for possible deployment—the Theater High-Altitude Advanced Defense (THAAD) system and the Navy's Theater-Wide Defense system. The United States is trying to persuade the Russian government that THAAD and the Theater-Wide Defense system can be deployed under a liberal interpretation of the ABM treaty, provided that they are not tested against ICBMs. The two governments tentatively agreed that a system with the characteristics of THAAD would not violate the treaty. But Russia demanded that any agreement must resolve all of the broader demarcation issues, including the line between more capable theater systems and strategic missile defenses. At the Helsinki summit, the two sides announced that they had reached agreement on all demarcation issues and instructed their negotiators to put the agreement in final form.12
Agreement within the U.S. government on the broader questions of strategic defense is still elusive, however. President Clinton vetoed legislation from the 104th Congress supporting immediate deployment of a nationwide defense against limited ballistic missile attack, but as this study was completed similar legislation was advancing in the 105th Congress.
If attempts to negotiate a mutually acceptable interpretation or revision of the ABM treaty were to fail and the United States unilaterally deployed systems perceived to be capable of intercepting Russia's missiles, Russia would probably take measures to ensure that its missiles could penetrate the defenses. Assuming that Russia had ratified START II, it could refuse to continue implementing the treaty; it would then be possible to maintain or deploy the multiple-warhead ICBMs that START II bans. Russia's ability to penetrate a U.S. defense could also be improved by increasing alert rates, which in combination with its reported plans to launch silo-based ICBMs and pier-side SLBMs upon warning of attack would increase the risk of an erroneous or unauthorized launch. It is also conceivable that Russia would deploy an ABM system in response that would force modification and expansion of the U.S. strategic forces. The collapse of START and the ABM treaty would undoubtedly mean a return to a more confrontational Russian military posture, making it more likely that such countermeasures would be taken—and needlessly increasing the risk of conflict between the United States and Russia.
The reactions of China, whose relatively small missile force is far more vulnerable to attack than that of Russia, also must be considered. China would undoubtedly see the prospect of even limited nationwide defenses as a threat to its deterrent, particularly if Russia responded to the U.S. initiative by deploying additional missile defenses. China, moreover, has stated that it would consider U.S. assistance to Japan in the deployment of a theater defense as providing Japan with a nationwide defense that would change the strategic balance in East Asia.13
China could respond with a significant expansion of its nuclear forces, which would increase the perceived threat to the United States, Russia, and India.
In short, deploying missile defenses outside the bounds of the ABM treaty could greatly diminish prospects for further reductions in nuclear weapons. The ABM treaty remains an essential part of the foundation of nuclear arms control. The United States and Russia will not continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals unless they are confident of the capabilities of their remaining deterrent forces. A possible strategic defense against a small number of nuclear warheads bought at the price of foreclosing further reductions in offensive nuclear arms—thus locking into place thousands of warheads capable of being aimed at the United States—would be a very poor investment.
THE OTHER NUCLEAR WEAPONS STATES: CHINA, FRANCE, AND THE UNITED KINGDOM
The nuclear forces of the three other declared nuclear weapons states, China, France, and the United Kingdom, have been in the range of 1 or 2 percent each of the weapons holdings of the United States or the Soviet Union/Russia (see Appendix B). Furthermore, with the end of the Cold War, British and French nuclear forces are making a transition to deploying almost all of their nuclear-armed ballistic missiles on nuclear submarines. China, with a much larger territory than the United Kingdom or France and with less tradition and capability in modern submarines, has maintained most of its nuclear warheads on land. Of these, only a few have intercontinental range; as for intermediate-range missiles, China possesses more than 60 land-based DF-3s, about 10 DF-21s, and one submarine with 12 missiles.14 Presumably there are hundreds of bomber-delivered nuclear weapons.
NATO's two European nuclear powers, the United Kingdom and France, have already restructured their nuclear forces in response to the profound change in military threat. There is no reason to believe that rational defense planning and budget pressures would not keep these forces at the level of a few hundred warheads even if the United States and Russia chose not to achieve reductions from the START I levels. Similarly, Russian nuclear weapons that might be taken as threatening China have been very much reduced (and, in the case of the SS-20 intermediate-range missile, eliminated worldwide), and there is no theater nuclear threat other than by Russia that would seem to inspire China to expand its current nuclear capabilities.
The signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by all nuclear states—including China, France, and the United Kingdom—is an indication that they have no intention of proceeding with qualitatively new systems. But over the decades China's announced policy has been transformed from a willingness to reduce its own forces when the United States and the former Soviet Union reduced theirs by perhaps half, to a promise that China would join in worldwide
discussions after U.S. and Russian holdings are greatly reduced. Thus far the three other nuclear powers have not led in a movement to reduce the hazards posed by nuclear weapons, but achieving lower levels of nuclear forces will require their participation in the interests of stability and transparency.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICY AND NONPROLIFERATION
Current U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy can be loosely divided into three overlapping areas: (1) maintaining and strengthening the formal nonproliferation regime, (2) reassuring nations that foregoing nuclear weapons will not jeopardize their security, and (3) preparing to respond if additional proliferation occurred. The Clinton administration has shown leadership in consolidating the overwhelming support for the indefinite extension of the NPT and in achieving the CTBT. U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy, however, could be made stronger in all three areas.
The absence of change in U.S. nuclear posture and practice to reflect the dramatically altered post-Cold War conditions weakens the credibility of U.S. leadership on nonproliferation efforts.
The uncertainty in U.S. positions regarding what assurances it will offer nonnuclear nations if they are threatened or attacked with nuclear weapons impedes efforts to constrain proliferation. The parallel U.S. failure to provide unambiguous assurances to nonnuclear states that they will not be subject to threats or employment of U.S. nuclear first use further weakens the nonproliferation regime.
Counter proliferation policy, which mixes the problems of nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile proliferation and suggests additional roles for U.S. nuclear weapons in deterring so-called ''weapons of mass destruction," enhances the potential appeal of nuclear weapons to others facing similar threats.
The Nonproliferation Regime
Proliferation of nuclear weapons was recognized as a major hazard to international security early in the nuclear age. The NPT, signed in 1968, sealed a complex bargain. It recognized the five countries that by that time had tested nuclear weapons (the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China) as nuclear weapons states. All other countries signing the treaty would do so as nonnuclear weapons states and would agree not to develop or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons. The treaty forbade transfer of nuclear weapons technology and materials from the nuclear weapons states to the nonnuclear weapons states and enjoined the nonnuclear weapons states from accepting them. In return, the nuclear weapons states agreed not to transfer nuclear weapons to their nonnuclear weapons state allies and acknowledged the rights of
the nonnuclear weapons states to enjoy the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear energy under strict safeguards. The nuclear weapons states agreed to assist them in these peaceful activities provided that they did not undercut the underlying nonproliferation objectives of the treaty. The NPT also obligated the nuclear weapons states to proceed in good faith with efforts to reduce their nuclear arsenals, with the eventual goal of complete nuclear disarmament.15 This provision was agreed to under strong pressure from some nonnuclear weapons states in order eventually to erase the treaty's discriminatory nature.
With its associated arrangements (such as the London Suppliers Group, which established voluntary nuclear export controls), the NPT has been a great success story. Forecasts of the 1950s and 1960s that predicted a world with dozens of nuclear powers before the end of the century proved wrong. These forecasts failed to appreciate that most countries would support nonproliferation because they recognize that their security is better served without nuclear weapons in the hands of their neighbors and possible adversaries. Some very difficult cases remain, but international sentiment in favor of the multilateral nonproliferation regime was again expressed in the spring of 1995 by the overwhelming support for indefinite extension of the NPT.
A major proliferation concern stems from the so-called "undeclared" nuclear powers—India, Israel, Pakistan, and (until recently) South Africa. These four states developed their limited nuclear capabilities during the Cold War but for reasons largely detached from the global East-West confrontation. The rationale for nuclear arsenals in each of the four undeclared nuclear powers was roughly the same: each perceived severe and persistent security threats on its immediate borders. Israel, India, and Pakistan have all refused to sign the NPT.
The worrisome problem of the undeclared nuclear powers notwithstanding, in recent years some notable instances of nuclear restraint and actual denuclearization have shown the effectiveness of nonproliferation efforts. New civilian governments in Brazil and Argentina ended years of preparations for nuclear weapons by agreeing in 1990-1991 to renounce such weapons and establish a bilateral inspection regime to verify this decision. In March 1993, South African President Frederik W. de Klerk admitted the existence of a nuclear weapons program but declared that the stockpile of six bombs had been dismantled before Pretoria joined the NPT in 1991. After extensive inspections with full cooperation by South Africa, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) subsequently accepted the declaration.
Of particular importance, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus joined START I and the NPT as nonnuclear weapons states, giving up forever their claims to the nuclear weapons of the old Soviet arsenal located on their territories. All of the nuclear warheads originally located in these newly independent states have now been returned to Russia. Had they retained these weapons, Ukraine and Kazakstan would have become the world's third- and fourth-largest nuclear weapons states respectively.
During the Cold War, South Korea, Taiwan, and Sweden, among others, considered developing nuclear weapons. That they did not do so is a testament to the effectiveness of a U.S. policy of judicious application of security assurances and guarantees. It is also the result, in no small part, of far-sighted regional leaders, bilateral nonproliferation efforts by the nuclear powers, and an increasingly robust international nonproliferation regime based on a growing worldwide aversion to nuclear weapons.
The international community has also demonstrated its strong commitment to nonproliferation in cases where signatories violate their NPT pledge not to develop nuclear weapons. When it was revealed after the Gulf War that Iraq had a massive clandestine program to produce nuclear weapons even while it was a member of the NPT and subject to full-scope IAEA safeguards, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution that required intrusive measures to uncover, and authority to destroy, all vestiges of the Iraqi nuclear program, and instituted an indefinite monitoring program to provide continuing assurance that such activities had not restarted. The IAEA subsequently launched a program to improve the reach and efficiency of its safeguards, particularly in discovering undeclared activities and facilities.
The IAEA was soon tested when it uncovered evidence, supported by information from U.S. national technical intelligence, that North Korea had probably given a false declaration regarding its production of plutonium. For the first time in its history, the IAEA requested a special inspection of an undeclared site. North Korea responded by giving the required three-month notice that it would withdraw from the NPT. In the ensuing 18-month crisis, the United States managed a multinational diplomatic effort that culminated in a North Korean agreement to freeze its nuclear program and, over time, to dismantle its indigenous nuclear facilities in exchange for the acquisition of two safeguarded light-water reactors. Although this agreement was criticized in some quarters as bribery, it demonstrated, far better than sanctions or military action would have in this case, the commitment of the United States and the international community to prevent further nuclear proliferation.
Despite strong international support for the NPT, however, fundamental tensions remain embedded in the nonproliferation regime that could erode its effectiveness in the long run. Failure to continue progress on further nuclear reductions in support of Article VI could, over time, undermine the existing NPT consensus.
The Comprehensive Test Ban. The CTBT, which bans all nuclear weapons tests or other nuclear explosions, was formally opened for signature on September 26, 1996. Over the years the CTBT had become the primary litmus test of the sincerity of the nuclear weapons states' commitment to meet their Article VI obligations. As evidence of the strong international support for the treaty, by the
end of 1996 a total of 138 countries, including the five nuclear weapons states, had signed it.
In addition to its political impact, the CTBT will serve as a barrier to further proliferation, albeit not a completely insurmountable one. Some types of fission weapons can be and have been developed successfully without tests, as demonstrated by the U.S. bomb dropped on Hiroshima (an entirely different design from the device tested by the United States in the world's first nuclear explosion in July 1945) and by the former South African weapons development program. The test ban, however, puts technical as well as political obstacles in the way of most states initiating and carrying out a program to develop simple fission weapons, and it will probably preclude development of boosted fission or thermonuclear weapons by threshold states. In addition, it places a high barrier in the way of development and production of new types of nuclear weapons by the nuclear weapons states.
The CTBT still faces a substantial hurdle before it is legally binding. In order for it to enter into force, all 44 countries with nuclear weapons programs or nuclear reactors must ratify it. India, which is one of the 44 states, has formally declared that it would never become a party to the CTBT because the treaty does not provide for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and because it makes India's signature mandatory. This effectively blocks the treaty's entry into force and the activation of its extensive verification regime.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZs). Efforts to ban all nuclear weapons from specific regions or environments have helped to build the nonproliferation regime and to limit the perceived utility of nuclear weapons. NWFZs constitute a useful complement to the NPT by further reducing the concern that potential adversaries in a zone might develop nuclear weapons, that nuclear weapons would become a symbol of national prestige in the region, or that nuclear weapons might be introduced into the region by outside nuclear weapons states.
The earliest successful NWFZ agreement was the 1959 Antarctic Treaty; other agreements put sea beds and outer space off limits to nuclear weapons. The first NWFZ in an inhabited area was the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco, which covers Latin America and the Caribbean. Tlatelolco was in large measure a response to the shock of the Cuban Missile Crisis, just as the 1986 Rarotonga Treaty, which covers the South Pacific, was spurred by anger over French nuclear testing in the region. In December 1995, 10 Southeast Asian heads of state voted to create a NWFZ to cover their countries. The most recent NWFZ agreement is the Pelindaba Treaty, which covers the continent of Africa. Opened for signature at a ceremony in Cairo in February 1996, the agreement builds on the lessons of Tlatelolco and Rarotonga, and proponents hope it will serve as a model for other agreements. When all the existing and new free-zone treaties take effect, nuclear weapons will be banned from all of the southern hemisphere except the open oceans and also from portions of the northern hemisphere.
Each of these agreements contains protocols intended to ban or limit the activities of the nuclear weapons states in the relevant region and to obtain commitments from them not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the parties to the agreement. After a long delay, in 1981 the United States finally ratified Protocol II of Tlatelolco, which obligates all of the nuclear weapons states to apply the treaty to their territories in the region. In the case of the United States this includes Puerto Rico, Guantanamo Bay, and the Panama Canal Zone, where there are major U.S. military bases. In late 1995 the United States announced its willingness to support Rarotonga and signed the treaty's protocols jointly with the United Kingdom and France, although it has not yet ratified them. In 1996 the U.S. government formally agreed, "without any reservations," to the key protocols of the Pelindaba treaty governing the African nuclear-free zone, but these are also awaiting ratification.16 Regarding Southeast Asia, some in the U.S. and other governments are reportedly concerned about the loss of naval transit of nuclear weapons across the zone, which was initially an issue for Tlatelolco as well.
Controlling Fissile Materials. The difficulty of acquiring fissile materials—highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium—constitutes the principal technical barrier to the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. Fulfilling the goals of current arms control and keeping alive aspirations for much deeper reductions will depend on achieving much tighter controls on these materials.
Proposals for a global ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons have existed since the beginning of the nuclear age. Such a ban would serve both nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. A verified ban on production would cap or constrain the programs of the undeclared nuclear weapons states, which as non-NPT parties are not otherwise restrained, without requiring them to acknowledge or roll back those arsenals immediately. A cutoff would strengthen the nonproliferation regime by subjecting fissile material production facilities in all states to international inspection, thus removing another discriminatory aspect of the current regime. It would also help make the world safer for deep reductions by preventing any further legal accumulation of fissile materials for weapons purposes by the nuclear weapons states.
In addition, efforts to control fissile materials must address the problems presented by civilian use of fissile materials, particularly plutonium. In principle, virtually all mixtures of plutonium isotopes can be used to make nuclear explosives, and this committee's study of plutonium management concluded that the isotopic mixture produced by typical commercial power reactors is not much more difficult to use for bomb-making than is "weapons-grade" plutonium.17 Thus, there is a tension between the rights implicit in Article IV of the NPT—which guarantees access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy to nonnuclear weapons states—and the underlying nonproliferation objectives set forth in Articles I and II, particularly as they relate to the dual-purpose technology of plutonium
reprocessing. The NPT permits plutonium separation for nonnuclear weapons states, provided the separation facilities are subject to full-scope safeguards. A comparable dual-use issue applies to the rights to enrichment technology, since facilities that produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) for civilian nuclear power can be operated to produce HEU for research reactors—or nuclear weapons. These critical problems of dual-use technology demand increased attention to improving the safeguards and physical security for all civil plutonium and HEU.
Protecting Friends and Allies Who Forego Nuclear Weapons
The question of whether and how the United States and the other nuclear powers would provide for the security of countries who choose not to acquire nuclear weapons has been an issue since the 1950s. With the end of the Cold War and the demise of the bipolar international system, the question has acquired new prominence. The eagerness of Central and Eastern European states to join NATO reflects, in part, their anxiety about living alone in a nuclear-armed neighborhood. More broadly, some nonnuclear weapons states made the question of what assurances the five nuclear powers were prepared to provide an issue in the NPT extension conference. Positive and negative security assurances and guarantees (including no-first-use pledges) can work to decrease incentives for other countries to acquire nuclear weapons.
There are two basic types of security assurances and stronger security guarantees. Discussions of security assurances and guarantees sometimes confuse the two concepts. Positive assurances represent pledges from the nuclear weapons states that they would come to the aid of a nonnuclear weapons state if it were attacked or threatened with nuclear weapons. Negative assurances represent pledges that nuclear weapons states will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear weapons state.
Positive security guarantees have usually meant that a nuclear weapons state would consider an attack on its ally, the recipient of the guarantee, to be an attack on its own territory, thus calling forth the use of its conventional and possibly nuclear forces in defense of the aggrieved party. From the U.S. standpoint, NATO is the premier example of treaty-obligated positive security guarantees. During the Cold War, the United States would have come to the defense of its NATO allies in Western Europe if the Soviet Union or any member of the Warsaw Pact had attacked them. The United States remains committed to such a response, including with nuclear weapons, if NATO members were attacked.
Japan and South Korea also enjoy positive security guarantees through bilateral treaties, which have played a major, some would say decisive, role in forestalling nuclear weapons proliferation in these countries. The United States has not given formal positive security guarantees to Israel, but the strength and endurance of the U.S. commitment suggests that that country is within the circle of full U.S. guarantees.
With the exception of the new entrants expected to join the NATO alliance over the next few years, it appears unlikely that the United States will extend new legally binding positive guarantees to other nonnuclear weapon countries in the foreseeable future. This does not mean, however, that the United States will be uninvolved in the security problems of the countries with which it develops significant cooperation, as it has with Israel. Although Ukraine sought but did not receive explicit guarantees from the United States in return for giving up its claims to the Soviet nuclear weapons left on its territory, the United States has pursued intense involvement in the development of Ukraine's relationship with the security system in Europe, through both bilateral defense cooperation and NATO's Partnership for Peace.
Negative security assurances have frequently taken the form of unilateral statements and other nonlegally binding instruments. There is a trend developing in the context of the NPT and the treaties on NWFZs to strengthen such assurances by recording them in the form of legally binding instruments. Current U.S. policy—first enunciated by the Carter administration in 1978 and most recently reiterated by President Clinton in April 1995 in connection with extension of the NPT—assures all nonnuclear weapons states that belong to the NPT that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against them except "in the case of an invasion or any attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State."18 The issue has been confused by the suggestion of some U.S. officials that nuclear weapons might be used to retaliate against the use of chemical and biological weapons, even if these are not perpetrated by a country "in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State."19 Assuming the U.S. position is eventually not only clarified but transformed into an unambiguous posture of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, as the committee recommends in Chapter 3, the pattern of U.S. positive and negative security assurances in relation to nuclear attacks will include most of the countries of the world under its umbrella.
In the past, both China and the Soviet Union offered negative security assurances in the form of no-first-use pledges; that is, these nations declared that they would never use nuclear weapons first. As noted earlier, Russia has now backed away from that doctrine to something akin to the "first-use-if-necessary" policy that the United States and NATO maintained throughout the Cold War and still maintain today.
Counterproliferation: Preparing to Respond if Proliferation Occurs
From the beginning, U.S. policy to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons has acknowledged that the United States should be prepared to deal with instances of proliferation wherever they might occur. Current U.S. counter
proliferation policy includes efforts to achieve improved counterforce capabilities, active and passive defenses, improved intelligence, more effective export controls, support for various arms control agreements and the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, enhanced counterterrorism capabilities, and changes in doctrine and declaratory policy to reflect new threats.20 Certain aspects of the current policy, however, are likely to pose problems for efforts to constrain the role of nuclear weapons and to achieve greater arms reductions.
The first of these problems is that the policy reinforces an inappropriate linkage among the three categories of weapons—nuclear, chemical, and biological—commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction. These weapons do share the capacity to provoke powerful fears and revulsion, which presumably have contributed to the constraints on their use since World War II. But nuclear weapons are in a class by themselves: they have an energy release roughly 1 million times that of conventional explosive for a given size and weight of munitions; they cause immense damage to the physical infrastructure of society as well as mass fatalities; their damage is immediate; their use leaves an unmistakable signature; and they have long-term radioactive effects, producing casualties at great distances over an extended period of time. As noted earlier, defenses against nuclear weapons are generally ineffective and may be counterproductive.
Weight-for-weight, chemical weapons (CW) are far less effective than nuclear weapons in causing fatalities and lack their immense physical destructiveness. Under certain circumstances, biological weapons (BW) might cause human casualties over a period of time comparable to those that would result from the use of nuclear weapons of equal size and weight, but in other situations might prove largely ineffective. In no event would BW produce the devastation of a target's physical infrastructure associated with nuclear weapons or, for that matter, with massive conventional attack. The effects of both CW and BW are much less predictable and much more subject to countermeasures than are the effects of nuclear weapons. For example, air filtration, as provided by gas masks, shelters, and vehicular systems, can provide protection against both CW and BW. Depending on the agent, various medical measures may be effective for prophylaxis and therapy.
Thus, chemical and biological weapons have limited value as weapons of war both because of their relatively unpredictable effects and because of the potential for defenses against them. If a terrorist group contemplated using chemical or biological agents again as a terror weapon, it is unlikely that nuclear weapons would be either a deterrent or a tool of choice in responding to such action.
The difficulties associated with designing, producing, and delivering the three types of weapons also vary substantially. Lumping them together blurs important distinctions that should guide policies to deal with the threats each poses and encourages both nuclear and CBW proliferation.
A second problem with counterproliferation policy has to do with the activities
of aggressive states and terrorists. Some argue that, based on past behavior, one group of such states—Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea—would be more willing to use these weapons and less affected by the traditional policies the United States has applied to deter such use by other countries. This leads to suggestions that preemptive actions may be necessary if these states are discovered to be close to acquiring a nuclear, chemical, or biological arsenal. Yet there is little historical evidence to suggest that the leaders of such countries are irrational in the sense of not having a cause-and-effect logic that shapes their decisions. One can be completely rational and still make catastrophic errors of judgment, as for example Saddam Hussein did by remaining in Kuwait in the apparent belief that the coalition forces would not take military action. Such leaders are thus not necessarily less susceptible to deterrence than others.
State-sponsored terrorism is a complicated case of the aggressive state problem. Any U.S. response would require confidence that one had the right sponsor, and calibrating that response to an appropriate level of force—especially if significant time passes before one is sure of the sponsor—could be extremely difficult. The use of CW, BW, and even nuclear weapons by truly independent terrorist groups is a genuine threat, as the Aum Shinrikyo chemical attacks in Matsumoto and the Tokyo subway illustrated. Such terrorism is often nihilist and indigenous, however, and the U.S. nuclear arsenal is largely irrelevant to combating it.
A third and final problem facing the architects of U.S. counterproliferation policy is the role of missile defenses, which have become a central element of current U.S. strategy. The issue has already been discussed in this chapter as it relates to U.S.-Russian relations. But it is the supposed threat posed by missiles in the hands of aggressive states—especially those with nuclear, CW, or BW capabilities—that has been the driving force behind much of the current U.S. interest in improved missile defenses. Missiles can have serious and destabilizing political and military effects and, as the Gulf War showed, powerful psychological impact. Some U.S. friends and allies, as well as U.S. forces overseas, could be vulnerable to missiles with ranges up to 1,000 kilometers, but they would also be at risk from other, more readily available means of delivery, such as aircraft, ships, or even land transport across borders.
Perhaps unintentionally, current U.S. counterproliferation policy suggests an almost complete reliance on U.S. unilateral action and exacerbates doubts that U.S. conventional military predominance will be sufficient to deal with threats posed by the proliferation of CW, BW, or nuclear weapons. Combined with hints that nuclear weapons might be used to respond to the use of CW or BW, this is a powerful message to weaker, more vulnerable nations about the apparent value of nuclear weapons—as well as the value of chemical and biological weapons. U.S. interests will be ill served by any policy that enhances the status of nuclear weapons, or that of CW and BW, and thereby increases incentives for their proliferation.
The United States has accomplished much to lay the foundations for stricter controls on and dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons, as well as fundamental changes in nuclear operations. But much more needs to be done by the United States and Russia, as well as by the other nuclear powers. The world looks to the United States, as the sole remaining superpower, for leadership. The agenda prescribed in succeeding chapters is ambitious and will not be accomplished quickly, but the time has come to intensify the effort to achieve it.
effective BMD system would give them a destabilizing combination of a shield and a potential nuclear sword.
International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1996/97 (London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1996), p. 179.
The text of Article VI reads as follows: ''Each of the parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to 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" (U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements: Texts and Histories of Negotiations, U.S. ACDA, Washington, D.C., 1990, p.100).
At the same time, however, an administration spokesman said that Protocol I of the treaty "will not limit options available to the United States in response to an attack by an [African nuclear free zone] party using weapons of mass destruction," which suggests a major reservation to the nonuse component of the treaty (White House, Text of Daily Press Briefing, April 11, 1996). The issue of using nuclear weapons to deter the use of chemical and biological weapons is discussed in detail in Chapter 3.
National Academy of Sciences, Committee on International Security and Arms Control, Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1994).
Warren Christopher, "Statement Regarding A Declaration by the President on Security Assurances for Non-Nuclear-Weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., Office of the Spokesman, April 5, 1995.
As legal justification for such a position some U.S. government officials cite the international law doctrine of "belligerent reprisal," which under certain circumstances justifies a "proportionate" military response that violates a treaty if the enemy has violated another treaty. Since first use of biological or chemical weapons is forbidden by the 1925 Geneva Protocol, a first use of chemical weapons by a country such as Libya might, under this argument, justify a response that violates another legal obligation—that is, the negative security assurances protocol of the African NWFZ. For a critical discussion of this issue, see George Bunn, "Expanding Nuclear Options: Is the U.S. Negating Its Non-Use Pledges?," Arms Control Today, May/June 1996, pp. 7-10.
William J. Perry, Annual Report to the President and Congress (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense, March 1996), pp. 53-62. The 1993 Defense Counterproliferation Initiative was part of the effort to reorganize the Defense Department's forces and plans in the wake of the Cold War. To date, most of the department's effort has focused on increasing active and passive defenses for military forces subject to nuclear, chemical, or biological attacks.