Getting to Zero Update

In the run up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (3-28 May), there have been a number of critical developments. Russia and the United States have signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the Obama Administration just released its Nuclear Posture Review, and Washington is about to host one of its largest summits ever, on nuclear security. BASIC has been following all of these developments (see below) and will continue coverage as their impact unfolds.

In This Issue:

BASIC and Getting to Zero (GTZ)


BASIC in the News

BASIC Publications

  • Considering NATO’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons after
    the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review
    Chris Lindborg, BASIC Backgrounder, 7 April 2010

Commitments to Disarmament and Arms Control

Russian and U.S. Leaders agree on “New START”

Russian and American negotiators agreed on terms for a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)—which expired on 5 December 2009. The negotiations for the treaty had encountered challenges over verification procedures and Russian objections to U.S. missile defense plans in Europe. This newest agreement would reduce the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 (down from the 1,700-2,200 limit of the current Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, SORT) while further reducing each state’s arsenal of strategic delivery vehicles to between “800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons,” and “700 for deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons.” The verification requirements are to be more streamlined compared to the original START. However, the agreement allows for both sides to monitor and verify the loadings of actual warheads, which was not done as part of the previous START verification regime. President Dmitry Medvedev and President Barack Obama signed the 17-page treaty and the 165-page protocol in Prague on 8 April even though the annexes of the agreement will probably not be completed until the end of April. After the treaty’s completion, both the Russian Duma and U.S. Senate must consider and approve the treaty before it may enter into force; a process which could take until the end of the year.

As for a future agreement with Russia on further reducing nuclear warheads, including tactical nuclear weapons, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said that “it certainly is an ambition of the President and Secretary Clinton to begin to have conversations” when asked if such an agreement was part of the United States’ nuclear disarmament agenda. However, the discussions were unlikely to happen before the new START agreement is ratified on both sides.

Global Zero

Global Zero is collecting support for its petition, being handed to world leaders on 12 April 2010 in Washington. The petition says: “We the undersigned, believe that to protect our children, our grandchildren and our civilization from the threat of nuclear catastrophe, we must eliminate all nuclear weapons globally. We therefore commit to working for a legally binding verifiable agreement, including all nations, to eliminate nuclear weapons by a date certain.”

Further Reading

  • Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms
    Signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama, 8 April 2010
  • Protocol to the treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms
    Signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama, 8 April 2010
  • The NPT Review Conference as Viewed from Vienna
    Ambassador Susan F. Burk, U.S. Special Representative of the President
    for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Roundtable Discussion, Vienna, 16 March 2010

Country Reports

United States

Obama Administration releases Nuclear Posture Review

The Obama Administration released its Nuclear Posture Review on 6 April. The NPR, which was led by the President and the Secretary of Defense, but included input from various departments, was released amid much speculation that the document would reflect the President’s long-term agenda of a world without nuclear weapons. The Review establishes that the “fundamental role” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to prevent a nuclear assault on the United States and its allies. The document intends to “better align our nuclear policies and posture to our most urgent priorities—preventing nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation.” The NPR pledges that the United States would not employ nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states, which is a departure in policy from the Bush Administration’s stance that allowed for a nuclear response to a biological or chemical strike—however, does not apply to “outliers like Iran and North Korea” that violate their commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or have withdrawn from it.

The Obama Administration’s NPR also distanced itself from the one of the Bush Administration by emphasizing multi-lateral approaches. It specifically announced that the United States would seek to engage both Russia and China over plans for their nuclear arsenals with the aim of increasing transparency and to better understand their strategic intentions. The report also devoted a section to reassuring allies about U.S. commitments to extended deterrence, noting the continuity of nuclear deterrence but also increasing efforts in missile defense and conventional weapons. The text stipulated that NATO as a whole would need to decide how to move forward over the increasingly controversial deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that are based in Europe, although suggests that discussions over this arsenal might be done in conjunction with engaging Russia over its tactical nuclear arsenal—a point that President Obama reaffirmed during his remarks at the signing of the New START Treaty in Prague. In the Asian theater, the NPR noted that the United States plans to retire within the next few years its nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In an effort to alleviate concerns that the United States will pursue a program like the Reliable Replacement Warhead, the NPR report says that the United States “will not develop new nuclear warheads” and that programs designed to maintain existing nuclear systems will “use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs” and “will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.” The White House and the Defense Department believe that instead of developing new weapons, the United States “ha[s] other means of deterrence that we can increase our reliance on, such as missile defense, such as non-nuclear strike capabilities.”

2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), U.S. Department of Defense, 6 April 2010

Further Reading

  • Obama’s Obsession with Reduction
    John R. Bolton, op-ed in the Washington Times, via the American Enterprise Institute, 23 February 2010


French offer to share nuclear-armed submarine patrols with United Kingdom

The French Government has offered to partner with the United Kingdom to combine sovereign nuclear deterrence through increased nuclear cooperation and communication, as well as to share submarine patrols. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, has been opposed to the proposal. Brown pledged further nuclear cooperation with France, but stated that “in a world that is so insecure, particularly with other countries trying to acquire nuclear weapons, we do not see the case for us withdrawing the independent nuclear deterrent that we have.” British and French nuclear-armed submarines collided in February 2009 and the incident may have prompted the proposal. Other motives suggested have included cost-savings, the establishment of a European deterrent, and greater cooperation that brings France closer into the NATO-fold without explicit weakening of its independence.

United Kingdom

Ex-Army Chief questions plans for Trident

General Sir Richard Dannatt, recently-retired Army Chief of the General Staff and currently defense advisor to Conservatives, questioned British plans to build a new platform for the submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system. General Dannatt argued that the United Kingdom’s policy of retaining the system should be reconsidered because U.S.-led efforts for global disarmament could make the system obsolete in several years. He said that he agreed with the government’s original decision to go ahead with renewal, but warned that the decision should be continually re-evaluated because of disarmament or proliferation pressures pulling in different directions.

Further Reading


Iran reacts strongly to new U.S. nuclear posture

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has railed against the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) a day after its release, saying in a speech that aired live on state TV, ”American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys. Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience.” On 6 April, President Barack Obama had alluded to Iran during a press statement on the NPR, proclaiming that “Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure.” The NPR declares that the United States will not plan to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are in compliance with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – a policy which U.S. leaders consider to keep open the option of using nuclear weapons against Iran, and gives added incentive to states to remain in compliance with their obligations.

IAEA issues report on Iran – the first under Director General Amano

On 1 March, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano lamented that Iran has been uncooperative with the Agency and said that he has been unable to verify the peaceful nature of Tehran’s nuclear activities. The remarks came a little over a week after the release of the Agency’s latest report on Iran’s nuclear program, which pointed to the “…possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” The Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, rejected the report, with Tehran defending its position in an “Explanatory Note.”

Fuel swap still in play

On 7 April, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki confirmed that Iran was still interested in reaching a deal to secure fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). The original proposal put forward in October 2009 would require Iran to export a majority of its enriched uranium at once for further enrichment up to levels sufficient for the TRR, and then returned to Iran in the form of fuel rods a number of months, possibly up to a year, later. Iran has submitted to the IAEA a letter explaining its “confidence deficit vis-à-vis some western countries on assurances of nuclear fuel supply,” based upon past experiences when contractual obligations were broken or severely delayed. Iranian leaders had demanded that the swap take place within Iran and that the fuel be exported in batches, but the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, suggested more recently that Iran might be amenable to exporting its fuel in one batch.


China has now apparently agreed to begin discussions over a new sanctions regime against Iran, but the issue has not been included in the Security Council’s agenda for April, suggesting a further delay. President Obama had welcomed this policy change on the Chinese side and urged China to “ratchet up the pressure” on Iran sooner rather than later. Although the other more reluctant member of the Permanent Five members of the U.N. Security Council (“P5”), Russia, seemed more open to imposing another round of sanctions, Moscow appeared headed for the completion of a deal with Tehran in which it would send S-300s to the country. The deal has been seen a controversial in part because the weapons could be used to combat an air attack from Israel or the United States. Russia was also receiving criticism from Washington over its intention to complete the construction of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

The Obama Administration has dismissed Iran’s plans to hold a two-day conference on nuclear disarmament in Tehran. According to State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, “If Iran is interested in strengthening the non-proliferation regime, it can start by looking in the mirror. There are specific actions that Iran needs to take and has failed to take which have brought us to the point where we need to evaluate potential sanctions.” (Note: BASIC’s Executive Director, Paul Ingram, will attend the conference in Tehran and present a paper, on 17-18 April 2010.)

Further Reading

North Korea

Update on stalled Six-Party Talks

Recent speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il might visit China near the end of April has raised hopes for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, which are intended to end his country’s nuclear program. Five of the six members of the six-nation nuclear negotiation group have agreed to attend a preparatory meeting to restart the talks. The full group includes China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia, and the United States, but North Korea pulled out in April 2009 and later conducted a nuclear test.

So far, North Korea has refused to rejoin the talks until it is granted peace treaty discussions with the United States and U.N. Security Council sanctions are removed. The United States has said that it will hold meetings on North Korean nuclear disarmament at the preparatory talks but will only participate in bilateral talks with Pyongyang on the condition that they will lead directly to North Korea’s return to the multilateral discussions. Earlier this month, however, China suggested holding additional meetings between the United States and North Korea, followed by a six-nation preliminary discussion before returning to the Six-Party Talks. While North Korea has not responded to this offer, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun claims that the United States has accepted China’s plan to reengage North Korea.

Nevertheless, North Korean officials were voicing their discontent on 5 April – warning that because the nuclear talks have stalled, any remaining bodies of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War would be “washed [away] and lost” and threatening to inhibit a program that searches for those still missing. In addition, Pyongyang recently sentenced Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American who had entered North Korean territory, to eight years of hard labor. The sentence raised speculation that North Korea would release him if and when the Six Party Talks resume.

Further Reading


U.S.-India nuclear deal overcomes hurdle

India and the United States struck an agreement to overcome a key obstacle that has been holding up a two-year-old bi-lateral deal to permit U.S. assistance to India’s civilian nuclear program. Negotiations had been stalled over the number of fuel storage and reprocessing facilities and their security: earlier negotiations decided that India would set up one dedicated reprocessing facility for fuel from the United States and other countries under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, but India later requested permission to establish multiple facilities – which the United States has now accepted. India’s parliament must pass the Civil Nuclear Liabilities bill before business can be conducted under the deal. The 2008 arrangement was also drawing attention lately because of an intensified, but unsuccessful, push by Pakistan to secure a similar deal with the United States.

Further Reading

  • Arrangements and Procedures Agreed Between the Government of the United States and the Government of India, Pursuant to Article 6(iii) of Their Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
    29 March 2010


Japan elaborates on policies toward U.S. nuclear weapons

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada affirmed that the United States could harbor nuclear weapons in Japanese ports, in the event of a future security crisis. He made the remark during a speech to Japanese lawmakers on 16 March. He added that Japan would not allow the production, possession and/or presence of nuclear weapons on its territory. This announcement came a week after Tokyo formally acknowledged a “tacit agreement” between Japan and the United States dating back to 1969, which permitted the entry of U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons. This agreement appeared to become irrelevant, however, after the United States decided to withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. ships in 1991.

Further Reading

Missile Defense

Missile defenses are noted only briefly in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which was signed by the Russian and U.S. Presidents on 8 April. The Preamble of the New START agreement acknowledges the “existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.” Ahead of the signing of the new START agreement, Russian leaders were saying that although defensive systems would not be an integral part of the new treaty, they would seek a separate arrangement with the United States. Both sides had disagreed over approaches to missile defense during the START follow-on negotiations, with Russia repeatedly expressing concerns that the United States’ pursuit of missile defense could eventually interfere with its offensive strategic systems. U.S. officials denied such intentions, saying that the primary reason for the ongoing development of U.S. missile defense systems has been for the purpose of preparing for other threats, especially from the Middle East.

A week earlier, during an international forum in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, noted the potential for partnering with Russia within emerging missile defense plans for Europe, “We need a missile defense system that includes not just all countries of NATO, but Russia too. One security roof, that we build together, that we support together, and that we operate together. One security roof that protects us all.”

Further Reading

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