Getting to Zero Update

In this issue:

Commitments to disarmament and arms control

Browne speech to CD

UK Defence Secretary Des Browne announced to the Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in Geneva on February 5 that “The United Kingdom is determined to have a world free of nuclear weapons” and called on all governments to take specific steps to create an international environment more conducive to substantial disarmament. The Defence Secretary also spoke of a “virtuous circle” in which disarmament and counter-proliferation, while not contingent upon each other, could reinforce each other. He added that the Nuclear Weapons States had an obligation to take multilateral action on disarmament to avoid accusations by the Non-Nuclear Weapons States that they “are failing to fulfil their disarmament obligations.” He warned that if the NWS do not act, then “some states” would use this as an “excuse for their nuclear intransigence”.

He also offered to host a technical conference of nuclear laboratories from the P5 to explore the verification of warhead disarmament before the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Browne explained, “The aim here is to promote greater trust and confidence as a catalyst for further reductions in warheads – but without undermining the credibility of our existing nuclear deterrents.”

Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office released its new Strategic Framework. Counter terrorism, weapons proliferation and their causes was the top of four policy priorities, and disarmament was included within this goal.

US Global Security Priorities Resolution

US Rep. James McGovern (Democrat, Massachusetts) and Rep. Daniel Lungren (Republican, California) are planning to introduce a bill to the House of Representatives that urges the President to enter into negotiations with Russia and other nuclear weapon states to reduce the two countries’ arsenals to 1000 deployed warheads each and cap the total number of warheads at 3000 by 2015. The bill proposes that the savings be used to fund disarmament initiatives by globalizing cooperative threat reduction and programs directed at families and children to alleviate the causes of terrorism.


On January 29, Colombia became the 144th country to ratify the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. Colombia is also one of 44 “Annex 2” states whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force. Out of those “Annex 2” states, only three countries have not signed the CTBT: India, North Korea, and Pakistan. Six other countries have signed, but not yet ratified, the CTBT: China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and the United States.

See also: Resurrecting the Test-Ban Treaty, Michael O’Hanlon, Survival, Volume 50, Issue 1 February 2008.


Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar (Republican from Indiana), called upon the United States and Russia to forge a follow up agreement to START I, which will expire in 2009. On January 30, Senator Lugar’s office released a statement titled, “Lugar says arms control has suffered significant setbacks” along with a link to a full presentation that the senator had made the same day at a conference sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the US Air Force and the USAF Counterproliferation Center. Senator Lugar argued that a legally-binding and verifiable agreement would be necessary, beyond the Moscow Treaty, and lamented:

The Departments of Defense and State told Congress that they recognized the integral role of START in the Moscow Treaty and that START therefore would be improved before it expired in 2009. Congress was also told that efforts would be launched to add verification mechanisms to the Moscow Treaty. Unfortunately, Administration policy today does not match the commitments made to Congress in 2002 and 2003.

The senator also listed a series of other arms control inadequacies, including the inability to reach agreement on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and the “failure of the Bush Administration to complete ratification of the IAEA Additional Protocol for more than a year after Congressional passage.” President Bush only issued an Executive Order directing US agencies to administer the Additional Protocol on February 4th. This allows IAEA greater access to non-military nuclear facilities in the United States, seen by some as a gesture to back up its demands that Iran adopt more intrusive versions of the Additional Protocol. It is unclear when the President intends to submit ratification to the IAEA.


Five countries: Chile, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden, and Switzerland have combined forces to issue a statement on de-alerting on February 19 at the Conference on Disarmament. The five successfully introduced a de-alerting resolution to the First Committee (124-3-34) and the General Assembly (139-3-36) – the United States, Britain and France voted against. Swedish Ambassador Dahlgren emphasized that de-alerting is one of the commitments agreed to at the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, and he looked forward to constructive dialogue.

Further reading

Germany Outlines Multiparty Approach to Nuclear Fuel Cycle
IAEA Staff Report, February 18, 2008 (includes summaries of other proposals).

Remarks by the National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, to the Center for International Security and Cooperation
Stanford University, California, February 8, 2008. (Presentation focused on the threat of nuclear weapons.)

United States National Nuclear Security Administrator addresses Conference on Disarmament
UN Website, February 7, 2008.

The 1997 IAEA Additional Protocol at a Glance
Arms Control Association Fact Sheet, January 2008.

Country updates

United States

B-52 Bomber incident

The US Senate Armed Services Committee received testimony on Air Force Nuclear Security on February 12. Testimony focused on the flight of a B-52 bomber from North Dakota to Louisiana with six nuclear warheads loaded by mistake at the end of August 2007. Two investigations found that the Air Force’s level of nuclear expertise has declined after the Cold War. One, by the Defense Science Board Permanent Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Surety, blamed the error on the merger of nuclear with non-nuclear organizations and warned that the Air Force could face worse incidents in the future. An internal Air Force review, conducted by Maj. Gen. Polly A. Peyer, concluded that though there was room for improvement, there was no fundamental problem.

Follow up to GAO calls for review of program funding former-Soviet scientists

On January 23, the Committee on House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to examine the findings of the Government Accountability Office, which has raised questions about the handling of some aspects of Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention programs. In particular, the chairmen of the committee and subcommittee requested that the Energy Department report back with information on whether US aid for Russian scientists has been going to research groups linked to Iran’s nuclear program.


The Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh met with IAEA officials on February 18 to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. The New York Times reported on February 15 that the United States reversed course and is permitting the IAEA to share some US data on Iran’s nuclear program with Iran. The Bush Administration says the documents, which the Administration had been reluctant to hand over – citing the sensitivity of the information – supported its case that Iran had been pursuing the development of nuclear weapons as recently as 2003, but then Iran apparently stopped the program. The Chief US Delegate to the IAEA, Thomas Schulte, said on February 15, that Iran must confess to its having pursued a nuclear weapons program before 2003, or the honesty of its cooperation with the IAEA would remain in question. On February 13, the Deputy Director of the US National Intelligence for Analysis, testified before the House Armed Services Committee that Iran still has the capability to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

Iran is reported to have received its final shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for its first nuclear reactor, that could be up and running by this summer. On February 4, Iran launched a test rocket that the government said would be used for launching satellite technology. However, France said that the rocket is incapable of navigating space, feeding speculation that the launch was really intended to test weapons technology. Two weeks later, diplomats charged by the IAEA to investigate Iran’s nuclear program said that Iran has started to run ten IR-2 centrifuges. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, chastised the Iranian government for its pursuit of rocket technology and uranium enrichment. The following day, on February 14, President Nicolas Sarkozy and other French officials pressed for a tougher stance against Iran during a meeting they held with ElBaradei in Paris. The IAEA is expected to report on Iran’s nuclear programme on or soon after February 22.

Further reading

Russia’s Subtle Shift on Iran
Andy Grotto, ArmsControlWonk, February 14, 2008,

Kay: Recent Iran NIE Recalls Erroneous 2003 Iraq Estimate
Gwertzman Asks the Experts, Council on Foreign Relations, February 11, 2008.

Mixed Signals on an Atomic Iran
Greg Bruno, Daily Analysis, Council on Foreign Relations, February 11, 2008.

Iran Installing More Advanced Centrifuges at Natanz Pilot Enrichment Plant: Factsheet on the P-2/IR-2 Centrifuge
David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), February 7, 2008.

Iran’s IR-2 centrifuge
Andreas Persbo, Verification Thoughts, February 7, 2008.

Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
J. Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, Statement for the record, Unclassified, February 5, 2008 (includes excerpts on Iran’s nuclear program).

Dial down the hostility toward Iran
Joe Volk, News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina, January 30, 2008.


India’s chief controller of the Defense Research and Development Organization announced on February 18 that India will for the first time test a submarine-launched ballistic missile that is capable of being tipped with a nuclear warhead. Meanwhile, the US-India nuclear deal remained in limbo while India was still working on the details of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. US Secretary of State Condoleezza told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 13 that the India-US nuclear deal would come under the purview of the Hyde Act, adding more tension to India’s internal political disputes over the agreement.

During Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to India at the end of January, the French President and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that France and India will sign off on a civilian nuclear energy arrangement after India reaches a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and receives exemptions from the Nuclear Suppliers Group for the pending US deal. Sarkozy elaborated on France’s plans in this interview with the Hindustan Times.

Further reading

Rice’s Pledge to Make Global Rules on Nuclear Trade with India “Consistent” with US Law Requires Shift in US Policy
Arms Control Association Press Release, February 14, 2008

A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army’s New Limited War Doctrine
Walter C. Ladwig III, International Security 32 3 (Winter 2007/08): 158-190.

Left slams ‘US pressure’
Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, February 11, 2008.


Pakistan test fired its Ghaznavi missile on February 13 for the third week in a row. The short-range missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. On January 26, the government announced that during the past six months, the military has increased security around its nuclear weapons installations. Officials claimed that there had been no specific new threats to the security of the arsenal. President Pervez Musharraf has been defending the security record of Pakistan’s arsenal in recent months in face of heightened concerns caused by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, reports of safe havens for Al-Qaeda near the border with Afghanistan and questions about the overall stability of the government. The position of the President himself appears unstable, as newly-elected Parliamentarians consider coalitions. The US Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence on February 5 iterated that there were still some “vulnerabilities” in the Pakistan government’s control of the arsenal.

See also Perilous Pursuit: With missile defense, India turns the thumbscrews on unsettled Pakistan, Madhusree Mukerjee, Scientific American Magazine, March 2008.

North Korea

A US non-governmental delegation that includes former US ambassador to South Korea, Donald Gregg and former Defense Secretary William J. Perry plans to meet with North Korea’s nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, in the last week of February in the People’s Republic. Earlier in February, another US non-governmental delegation, headed by Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and now co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, met with senior officials from the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Yongbyon nuclear plant. The delegation echoed other recent reports, saying that North Korea has slowed down the removal of fuel rods from the Yongbyon nuclear reactor because it believes that other parties to the February 2007 agreement have not kept their part of the deal, including the delivery of one million metric tons of fuel oil and the removal of North Korea from the US list of states that sponsor terrorism.

During testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 6, US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said that the United States would be willing to establish full diplomatic relations if North Korea undergoes “full denuclearization”. He also said that the United States still had problems with any possible uranium enrichment program and that North Korea is still required to declare all of its nuclear programs. He noted, however, that some of the aluminum tubes that were suspected of contributing to such a program have since been used for other programs, suggesting that North Korea may have dropped any uranium enrichment program.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Christopher Hill will visit South Korea, China and Japan to discuss the Six-Party Talks the last week of February.

Further reading

U.S. Envoy Says North Korean Uranium Program Remains Stumbling Block
Interview with US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, The Capital Interview, Council on Foreign Relations, February 15, 2008.

Statement of Christopher R. Hill
Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Status of the Six-Party Talks for the Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula,” February 6, 2008.

In North Korea, Process Over Progress
Michael Gerson, Op-ed, Washington Post, February 1, 2008.

Samore: North Korea May Delay Nuclear Treaty Implementation Until 2009
Interview with Gary Samore, Gwertzman Asks the Experts, Council on Foreign Relations, January 25, 2008.

Missile defense

On February 1, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski of Poland said that his country had agreed in principle to the missile defense system proposed by the United States after US officials said that they would assist Poland with other defense requests. Specifics on the requests were not available, although previous reports suggested that Poland was interested in bolstering its short and mid-range air defenses. Sikorski’s announcement came only weeks after the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, expressed his desire to proceed cautiously and suggested that Poland could wait for another US administration if necessary. The Czech government has been more eager to reach a deal, despite considerable domestic opposition to the missile defense plans. The Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said on February 9 that he is anxious to finalize an agreement on the system before President Bush leaves office and even hopes to conclude a deal this spring. The Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, will meet with President Bush in the United States on February 27.

At the end of the informal meeting of defense ministers on February 2, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that he hoped agreements on European missile defense would be reached by the time of the Bucharest NATO Summit in April.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a major policy speech on February 8 that “a new arms race has been unleashed in the world”, because of the US insistence on establishing a missile defense system in Central Europe. The remarks were made the same day that Polish Prime Minister Tusk and Foreign Minister Skiroski met with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow and discussed missile defense plans. No major agreement was apparent.

Lt. General Henry Obering, head of the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), elaborated on the need for a mobile X-band radar facility closer to Iran required to make the proposed European-based missile defense system work. This might be positioned in southeastern Europe, the Caucasus or the Caspian Sea region and he mentioned Turkey as a specific possibility. President Bush has asked Congress for $719.8 million, as part of the total $9.3 bn MDA request for FY 2009 to start installing the 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic.

President Bush ordered the Navy to launch an Aegis-LEAP missile defense system interceptor to shoot down a defunct US National Reconnaissance Office satellite, named USA 193. The intercept occurred on the night of February 20 over the Pacific Ocean. The Administration had said that the intercept was for safety reasons and not to protect US secrets or to showcase missile defense and anti-satellite technologies. The satellite was said to have contained hydrazine fuel, which can be fatal if inhaled. However, skeptics were arguing ahead of the launch that the satellite was unlikely to land on a populated area and that the Administration had other motives for the intercept. Some fear that the US interception had parallels with one by China last year and that it could help fuel an eventual arms race in space.

Further reading

An Initial Look at MDA’s FY 09 Budget Request: A Morass Becomes Murkier
Victoria Samson, Center for Defense Information, February 8, 2008.

Long-Range Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe
Steven Hildrith and Carl Ek, Congressional Research Service Report, January 9, 2008.


The Greatest Threat to Us All
Joseph Cirincione, New York Review of Books, March 6, 2008.

NASA’s Flimsy Argument for Nuclear Weapons: Nukes will not be needed to guard against dangers from space
Thomas Graham Jr. and Russell L. Schweickart, Scientific American, March 2008.

A world free of nuclear weapons – a dream?
Hiroki Sugita, Japan Today, February 18, 2008.

My Conversation with Jonathan Schell
Video excerpt from the Charlie Rose Show, Posted February 13, 2008. (Discussion about Schell’s book, The Seventh Decade of Nuclear Danger.)

South Africa court sentences Swiss man in nuclear case
Reuters via Star Online, February 5, 2008.

An issue that needs airing: Presidential candidates must address how the world will keep nuclear materials out of the hands of those bent on slaughter
Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (US Senate Foreign Relations Committee), Philadelphia Inquirer, February 4, 2008.

Living with Ambiguity: Nuclear Deals with Iran and North Korea
Robert S. Litwak, Survival, Vol. 50, No. 1, February 1, 2008.

Toward True Security, Ten Steps the Next President Should Take to Transform Nuclear Weapons Policy
Federation of American Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, February 2008.

The Threat of Nuclear Terrorism: Overblown or Understated?
Event – New America Foundation, January 30, 2008.

The Limits of Zero: How the Rush to Abolition May Not Make us More Secure
Brian Finlay, The Henry L. Stimson Center, January 22, 2008.

Update on BASIC Getting to Zero project

Hoover Group in Oslo next week

Principal participants within the Hoover Group are discussing next steps with prominent Europeans, including Yevgeny Primakov in Oslo, Norway at the end of February. Sam Nunn and George Shultz are addressing a meeting of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation (clerked by BASIC) on February 28, and the BASIC Washington office is planning a briefing to include some of the participants on their return to the United States.

OpEds published

A World Without Nuclear Weapons, by Ambassador Robert Barry, The Guardian, January 22, 2008. Also see NATO First-Strike Doctrine Exploded, by Ian Davis, letter in The Guardian, January 23, 2008.

Blog launch

BASIC launched its GTZ blog this month, and invites update subscribers to comment and to subscribe to blog alerts. Topics covered in the first two weeks include:

Amb. Robert Barry

  • A World Without Nuclear Weapons: Nice, Necessary or Practical?.
  • The Greatest Threat – review of several recent books

Paul Ingram

  • Comment on Des Browne’s speech
  • Success with Iran requires moves towards Disarmament
  • US TV commercial heightens awareness over nuclear terrorism

Chris Lindborg

  • Congressmen, Reagan Administration Policy Experts, and Activists Call for Reducing U.S. Nuclear Arsenal
  • Global Security Priorities – report of a DC briefing

Adam Pitman

  • Prospects for non-proliferation under John McCain

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard