Getting to Zero Update

Although implementation of the New START nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States was moving along, disagreement over missile defense continued to pose a serious blockage in the relationship. Diplomatic efforts around North Korea were at an uptick, and India and Pakistan have managed to revive stalled peace talks.

The Latest from BASIC
Commitments to Arms Control and Disarmament
Country Reports

Missile Defense
Additional News and Resources

Latest from BASIC

BASIC and the Arms Control Association led on a letter to NATO Secretary General Rasmussen from a number of senior analysts and former officials, urging progress on the nuclear issue in the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review. BASIC was represented in Brussels for the EU meeting on a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East and at the Second International Conference on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in Tehran. (See more coverage below)



This Week – from BASIC:

Media Hits

Commitments to Arms Control and Disarmament

Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East

The European Union hosted a two-day meeting (July 6 – 7) in Brussels to discuss the prospects for a 2012 conference on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Although the meeting featured senior delegates from Israel and Iran, and nearly all Arab states (except Libya and Yemen), “there wasn’t much substance,” a delegate said. Notable was the absence of Gary Samore, White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism, who was scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

The principal conveners of the 2012 conference – the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia – informed delegates that they had drawn up a short-list of potential host countries – Finland, the Netherlands and Canada – which are now being submitted to the region for consideration. It is to be hoped that a decision on host government and facilitator will be taken by September.

Further Reading

New START, Russia and United States

On June 1 the U.S. State Department released a fact sheet displaying the aggregate numbers of strategic arms held by the United States and Russia as of February 5, 2011, when New START entered into force. Russia is shown to already be below the treaty’s limits of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles, and close to the 800 limit on launchers. While the United States had 1,800 deployed strategic warheads and 882 deployed delivery vehicles, Russia had 1,537 and 521, respectively.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Washington July 12 – 14 for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during which they exchanged diplomatic notes on the U.S. Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, bringing into force a protocol committing both countries to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium on each side (the equivalent of some 17,000 nuclear weapons).

Further Reading

P5 Talks in Paris

The P5 – United States, United Kingdom, China, France and Russia – held a closed meeting in Paris (June 30 and July 1) to discuss their disarmament commitments under the NPT and to review progress since the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Official statements coming out of that meeting addressed the recommendations laid out in the Action Plan agreed in the Final Document of the Review Conference, and the universalization and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Some of the major issues discussed included transparency, mutual confidence, and verification. The meeting also discussed how to move forward within the framework of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

The five countries agreed to continue talks between technical experts on verification issues in London this year, and to meet in Vienna in May 2012 when the next NPT review cycle begins. There was also a side event prior to the official meeting involving leaders of the five delegations meetings with NGO representatives, to field questions about the process.

Further Reading

Conference on Disarmament

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea assumed the presidency of the Conference on June 28. Canada is boycotting the Conference to protest against North Korea being named its chair. The Conference will resume the first week of August after a month long break.

Country Reports

United States

The U.S. Defense Department is conducting a review of the prospects for arms reductions beyond the caps set by New START. The evaluation assesses U.S. deterrence requirements, and could potentially advocate changes in targeting requirements and force posture. It is unclear whether further reductions will necessitate any radical change in nuclear strategy. The initial results of this nuclear guidance review will most likely be delivered to President Obama by this fall.

The future of the 12 SSBN(X) submarines slated to replace the current fleet of Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines is facing scrutiny because of the program’s potential to overwhelm the Navy’s budget. Construction of the first new sub is currently estimated to cost around $7 billion, and every subsequent submarine would cost about $5 billion if current plans are met. While Congress recently approved a Defense Appropriations Bill that includes $1.3 billion for the new sub, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, the outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on July 14 suggested to the Defense Writers Association that deterrence in general should be addressed in the context of future security threats to help make decisions about the nuclear triad. Cartwright also acknowledged that he and others are looking beyond the additional $400 billion in cost savings President Obama has asked the Pentagon to find, indicating that they are open to examining a number of options across programs. This has led some to speculate whether this could open up consideration of possible savings to be made by reducing the size of the submarine missile and adapting existing Virginia-class designs.

Another program facing an uncertain future is the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP), still under design. The current cost estimate for completion of the LEP by 2022 is about $4 billion. The new variant of the B61 bomb (mod 12) is to be coupled with a nuclear version of the F-35 jet. This program in itself has seen a series of cost overruns, the most recent putting production estimates at $771 million and a further $1 trillion for operating and supporting the plane over its lifetime. Senators have questioned the feasibility of continuing support for the F-35, with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) describing the program as “a train wreck.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives on July 15 approved legislation cutting nearly $1 billion in funding for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons and nonproliferation programs. These will face cuts of $498 million and $428 million, respectively. The Senate is not expected to take up its version until after the August recess.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced the United States conducted subcritical nuclear tests at a Nevada underground test site in December 2010 and in February of this year.

Further Reading


On July 1, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced that the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) will go into serial production after a successful launch from the Yuri Dolgoruky, the first Borei class submarine, on June 28. There are plans to perform another test launch from the Alexander Nevsky, the second Borei class nuclear-powered submarine, later this year. The Bulava missile will be capable of reaching targets at ranges of 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) and can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. The Bulava, along with the Topol-M land-based ballistic missile, is expected to form the core of Russia’s nuclear triad.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also announced Russia will spend $730 billion by 2020 to upgrade and re-arm its military, including the purchase of eight missile-carrying strategic submarines equipped with Bulava missiles.
Further Reading

United Kingdom

U.K. Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced on June 29 that the program for implementing the reductions in the number of U.K. nuclear warheads, as laid out in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), has begun and that the first submarine patrol with 40 warheads, reduced from 48, had just commenced. Dr. Fox further reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to fulfilling its obligations under the NPT, and expects the reduction of the United Kingdom’s total stockpile to no more than 180 warheads will be completed by the mid-2020s.

Former British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has said the United Kingdom should be able to continue its policy of continuous at sea deterrence (CASD) with one fewer of its planned four Trident submarines because the next generation of reactor did not require mid-life overhaul. She also questioned the necessity of CASD.


The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on June 24 announced stronger guidelines on sharing sensitive enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies, a move which India interpreted as a challenge to the waiver from NSG rules that the country was granted in 2008. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao consequently suggested that Delhi might consider buying nuclear reactors only from countries who agree to the transfer of ENR technologies. Companies from France, Russia, the United States and Japan are all competing for a share of the $175 billion that India plans to spend on nuclear reactors.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the second round of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi on July 19. Clinton said the new NSG restrictions will not detract “from the unique impact and importance of the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement or our commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation.” The agreement, signed in 2008, allows U.S. companies to export nuclear materials and technologies to India in exchange for admitting IAEA inspectors to its civilian atomic installations, but without Delhi joining the NPT.

The United States is, however, continuing to pressure India to ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for Nuclear Damage, since it maintains India’s current nuclear liability laws disproportionately burden sellers of nuclear technology with compensation payments in the case of a nuclear accident. Although India maintains its laws are in accordance with international standards, they have dampened American companies’ enthusiasm to construct reactors.

On July 18, India began constructing two heavy water reactors at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan. A day later, it was discovered that a uranium mine in southern India may contain much greater reserves of the material than was once believed. No details have yet been released on the quality of the substance, which in the past has been imported

Further Reading


The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers met in Delhi July 26-27 to discuss cross-Kashmir and nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs). Peace talks have essentially been stalled since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which some said were indirectly linked to Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the ISI.

Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) met on July 14 to review global and regional security developments and their implications for Pakistani foreign policy. The NCA expressed Pakistan’s commitment to meeting non-proliferation goals and its desire to join four multilateral nuclear export control regimes, but only “on the basis of equality and partnership with the international community.” Pakistan refuses to sign up to the NPT and the CTBT, which it views as discriminatory as long as the United States and India are not full members. At the meeting it was also decided that Pakistan will continue to pursue its policy of “credible minimum deterrence”.

A recent publication in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimates Pakistan currently has 90-110 nuclear warheads and possesses the world’s fastest growing nuclear stockpile. Four new delivery systems and two plutonium production reactors currently under development may compound this growth, meaning Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could grow to 150–200 warheads in a decade.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said he is confident about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. He commended the country’s steps in recent years to improve security, which include strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programs. He added, however, that there is a limit to U.S. knowledge about the arsenal.

Further Reading


Russia has proposed a phased, “step-by-step” approach to engaging Iran about its nuclear program, under which Tehran could address IAEA questions and concerns and be rewarded with a simultaneous and gradual easing of sanctions. Iran’s official news agency reported Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemed open to the idea. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi will visit Moscow to discuss his country’s nuclear program with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

On June 8, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, said Iran plans to triple its production of 20% enriched uranium. Iran also announced it was installing two more advanced models of centrifuges used to refine uranium, possibly at the Fordow underground bunker in the Qom province. This could significantly shorten the time needed to produce fissile material.

At an unpublicized meeting in June, influential Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal (former head of intelligence and Ambassador to London and Washington) suggested that if Iran comes close to developing nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would likewise develop its own program. Turki warned senior NATO officials that Saudi Arabia would be compelled “to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences.” These statements echo similar comments made by Turki in a 2009 leaked (Wikileaks) diplomatic cable, and lend weight to another 2008 cable in which the Saudi King Abdullah expressed fears over Iran’s nuclear program. Concerns about burgeoning Saudi nuclear intentions are amplified by the country’s refusal to publicly give up the right to uranium enrichment even though it is exempt from IAEA monitoring.

Iran began a 10-day military drill, code-named Great Prophet 6, on June 27. Also, the Iranian media displayed, for the first time, an underground missile silo in a secret location said to be loaded with medium-range Shahab-3 missiles. The Great Prophet 6 drills follow Iran’s second successful domestic satellite launch on June 15. The launch of the satellite, onboard a Safir rocket, is a move that seems to be in violation of U.N. sanctions that restrict activities relating to ballistic missiles. The satellite is intended to be used for topography missions and high-resolution mapping, according to Tehran. The United States has indicated it will bring Iran’s alleged violation before the U.N. Iran sanctions panel.

Further Reading

North Korea

U.S. Amb. Stephen Bosworth will meet with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan in New York on July 28 and 29. The announcement comes shortly after the ASEAN Regional Forum, a gathering of 27 countries from the Asia-Pacific zone, held its 18th annual meeting in Indonesia July 16 – 23. Diplomats from North and South Korea held an informal closed-door meeting that could pave the way to higher-level bilateral talks. North Korean top nuclear envoy, Ri Yong Ho, said both sides agreed to “joint efforts to reopen the six-party talks as soon as possible”. North Korea stands to gain aid and other concessions if it agrees to resume negotiations.

Despite the recent movement on talks with North Korea, the United States and South Korea maintain a tough posture toward North Korea, following an expansion of U.S. sanctions against North Korea and talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her South Korean counterpart, Kim Sung-hwan, in June. The countries maintain that inter-Korean dialogue is a prerequisite for the resumption of the Six Party Talks that have stalled since 2009. Although South Korean officials have said they would be willing to address last year’s deadly border incidents at another meeting separate from the nuclear talks, North Korea has since June shown reluctance to engage with Lee Myung-Bak’s administration.
Further Reading


The IAEA reported to the U.N. Security Council on Syria’s suspected nuclear activities in a closed-door meeting on July 14, and drew the conclusion the country had a secret nuclear plant at Dair Alzour before it was bombed by Israel in 2007. The issue may not be discussed again until September.

Further Reading

Missile Defense

Following the Russia-NATO Council meeting in Sochi on July 4, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he felt dialogue on the missile defense system in Europe “is not proceeding as easily as we expected after the Lisbon summit” in November 2010, when NATO and Russia decided to cooperate on the shield. Comments from Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s NATO ambassador, suggested that Russia could drop out of New START if it felt its objections over the system were not taken seriously. NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, downplayed these remarks, attributing them to political posturing ahead of negotiations.

Russian proposals for a joint zonal system – as opposed to the independent systems suggested by NATO – have apparently been scrapped entirely for now after NATO’s lack of enthusiasm for the idea. Russia maintains NATO’s proposal would undermine its nuclear deterrent and wants legal guarantees that the system would not be aimed against Russian nuclear weapons.

The Czech Republic has decided to opt out of American plans for the missile defense system in Europe. Prague is said to be reacting negatively towards Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach because it scraps Bush’s earlier plans to install a radar facility on Czech territory. The radar would have cost around $100 million, whereas under Obama’s plan a facility costing $2 million would be built instead.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Turkey the weekend of July 16, where she discussed a possible deal to place an X-band radar on Turkish territory to monitor Iranian missile launches. Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on July 15 wrote to Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seeking “written assurances” that data from the radar “will be made available, in real time” to U.S. ally Israel. Turkey has issued its discomfort with sharing the data. The Senators also pushed for placement of the radar in Georgia or Azerbaijan instead of Turkey.

A French parliamentary committee endorsed a domestic missile defense program July 12 urging the French administration to ensure the country would be a major contributor to Europe’s missile defense shield. The committee recommends investing $2.2 billion in missile defense. Although France has previously resisted pressure to emphasize missile defense in Europe, the committee’s report stresses the financial opportunity it represents. The report points to the technological, industrial, and commercial benefits that would come with France’s investment in a sector historically dominated by the U.S.

Further Reading

Additional News and Resources

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