Getting to Zero Update

In this issue:

Commitments to disarmament and arms control

US and Russian negotiators met in Geneva on November 21 to discuss a replacement agreement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires at the end of 2009. A follow-up agreement would seek to retain the verification procedures and look to further reduce the strategic nuclear weapon stockpiles possessed by both countries. The talks concluded without substantial agreement, but were said to lay the groundwork for the resumption of negotiations after the Obama Administration takes office. The US Representative gave a special statement outlining the shared assumption that the meeting met the requirements of the Treaty and that the parties now until the expiration of the Treaty on December 5th, 2009 to agree a follow-on.

From November 10 to 14, managers of the International Monitoring System (IMS) – the group that directly controls a network of sites designed to remotely detect the signs of a nuclear detonation – met in Vienna to discuss means of maintaining or improving the robustness of their program. Forty seven member states contributed inspectors to the conference, which will work on means of enhancing the 300-plus global monitoring stations that are used for verifying the enforcement of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Further reading

Five steps to a nuclear-free world
Ban Ki-moon, Guardian, November 23, 2008

No nukes
Drake Bennett, Boston Globe, November 23, 2008

Monitoring station operators from all over the world gather in Vienna
CTBTO Preparatory Commission, November 14, 2008

Bush administration seeks breakthrough with Moscow
Desmond Butler, USA Today, November 6, 2008

Canada asks first committee to imagine ‘utopian’ picture of disarmament machinery; urges alternative solutions where progress in traditional machinery has stagnated
UN General Assembly, October 29, 2008

Nuclear disarmament must shift from aspiration to reality, Ban says
UN News Centre, October 24, 2008


Country reports

United States

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke on “Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in the 21st Century” at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC at the end of October. He lauded the possibility of deeper reductions in the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia through negotiating a follow-up agreement to START and for the United States to ratify the CTBT on the condition that verification measures meet the expectations of US leaders. Secretary Gates also issued his support for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program.

In mid-November, US Air Force officials announced that a recent nuclear inspection the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana discovered faults in a unit that oversees approximately 150 ICBMs, including failure to provide sufficient protection of the nuclear weapon storage area.

Barack Obama has chosen his senior foreign and security policy team to include Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State, to retain Bob Gates as Defense Secretary, and Gen Jim Jones as National Security Adviser. His transition website (current as of December 1st) posted brief summaries of his position on foreign policy issues, including nuclear weapons. Subheadings have included “Secure Loose Nuclear Weapons from Terrorists,” “Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” and “Move Toward a Nuclear Free World.”

Further reading

Gen Kevin Chilton: Sounding the nuclear alarm
Melanie Kirkpatrick, Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2008

Missile tour full of irony
Mark Johnson, News & Observer, November 16, 2008

Danger Room debrief: Lead by example on nukes, Mr President-Elect
Noah Schatman with Joseph Cirincione, Wired, November 14, 2008

Orienting the 2009 Nuclear Posture Review: A roadmap (PDF)
Andrew Grotto and Joe Cirincione, Report from the Center for American Progress, November 2008

Abolishing nuclear weapons: Why the United States should lead (PDF)
George Perkovich, Foreign Policy for the Next President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2008



Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has talked of plans to “neutralize” the proposed Eastern European-based US missile shield. He has announced Russian intentions to install short range ballistic missiles in Russia’s Baltic enclave. The Iskander missiles would be stationed in Kaliningrad in response to the decision to station interceptor missiles and the radar station in Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively. President Medvedev stated that these plans would not be carried out if President Obama were to delay or cancel the missile defense plans. Following talks with Moscow, the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, has also pledged his support for the placement of advanced Russian Iskander missiles in his country, though this may be unlikely.

Russian plans to expand its tactical nuclear missile force in western Russia have been strongly criticized by prominent European and American officials. The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, described the Kremlin’s behavior as an exercise in “cold war rhetoric.” The US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, also described President Medvedev’s actions as “misguided.” The Russian President’s speech outlining these plans, delivered within hours of Senator Obama’s election, has been interpreted as an effort to intimidate Mr. Obama into withdrawing plans for a European missile defense system. The Russian Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, confirmed that Moscow’s threats were in fact an attempt to make Obama reconsider the project. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, also stated that there are unlikely to be any final decisions made until after Obama’s inauguration. Although it is unclear whether the President-elect and President Medvedev discussed missile defense during a recent telephone conversation, the two leaders did express an intention to create a “constructive” and “positive” relationship and agreed that they should arrange to meet soon after Obama takes office.

Russia has also successfully tested its next generation Bulava intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missile last week, which it intends to enter into full-scale production in 2009. The Russian Strategic Missile Force Chief, Col.-Gen Nikolai, has also stated that the country’s missile arsenal will be upgraded in order to counter any future US missile defense installations. The measures will include the deployment of RS-24 intercontinental missiles.


Further reading

NATO says still backs plan for US missile shield
David Brunnstrom, Reuters, November 17, 2008

Sarkozy backs Russian calls for pan-European security pact
Ian Traynor and Luke Harding, Guardian, November 15, 2008

Belarus president seeks to deploy Russia missiles
Alan Cullison, Wall Street Journal World, November 14, 2008

US, Russian diplomats seek to ease tensions
Matthew Lee, Newsweek, November 9, 2008

President Dmitri Medvedev orders missiles deployed in Europe as world hails Obama
Tony Halpin, Times, November 6, 2008

Russian missiles near Poland to ‘offset’ US shield – NATO envoy
Novosti, November 5, 2008


North Korea

Officials from South Korea, China and the US met to advance progress in the Six Party Talks. President George Bush made a special appeal to President Hu Jintao during the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) on November 21 to help with facilitating discussions on verifying North Korea’s nuclear dismantlement. Six Party Talks are scheduled to resume in China on December 8, during which US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice hopes that the protocol for verifying disarmament will be signed.

According to South Korea’s defense minister, Lee Sang-hee, North Korea is constructing a new missile base near its border with China, capable of launching larger missiles than those positioned at the older Taepodong facility.


Further reading

China, DPRK meet over six-party nuclear talks, November 14, 2008

The North Korean conundrum: Change you can believe in or policy status quo?
John Feffer, Tomdispatch, November 13, 2008

North Korea ‘building new missile base’
Haroon Siddique, Guardian, November 4, 2008

Rice says verification key for North Korea nuclear disarmament
Agence France Presse, November 26, 2008



Western and American diplomats have expressed their concern over the International Atomic Energy Agency’s offer to help Syria in assessing its ability to construct a civilian nuclear power plant. The proposition came from the Agency at a time when the country is being investigated for attempting to build a reactor capable of producing fissile material for nuclear weapons, subsequently destroyed in an Israeli military operation. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei reiterated on November 25 that an IAEA-supported reactor in Syria would not create any additional danger of nuclear weapons proliferation, if Syria agreed to “maximum transparency“. Although a senior Syrian official last week declared that further IAEA visits were unthinkable due to national security implications, ElBaradei has since said that steps can be taken to ensure the protection of Syria’s interests.


Further reading

IAEA Report to the Board of Governors: Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic (PDF)
Available via the Institute for Science and International Security, November 19, 2008

In US defeat, UN agency approves Syria nuclear aid
George Jahn, Associated Press Writer, November 26, 2008

ElBaradei prods Syria to open up to nuclear probe
Mark Heinrich, Reuters, November 27, 2008



The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, issued the latest report on Iran’s nuclear program on November 19. The Agency said that no progress had been made in talks with Iran to establish further details of their program. Iran is set to add an additional 3,000 centrifuges to expand its uranium enrichment capability by early 2009, and according to the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, is currently operating 5000 centrifuges.

Representatives from the P5+1 met in Paris earlier in November to consider future action on Iran, but continued to disagree on whether to levy additional sanctions. In a speech in Abu Dhabi on November 24, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the “prospect of a nuclear armed Iran” one of the greatest challenges facing international security, but emphasized that UK policy toward Iran is not an attempt at “regime change.” The Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, afterwards warned Britain not to associate with President Bush’s “failed” policy towards Iran.

On November 12, the Iranian military announced a successful test of what it describes a new generation of solid-fuel surface-to-surface missile. With a range of 1,900 km (approximately 1,200 miles), the new missile’s range is slightly shorter than Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, but still capable of reaching Israel and US installations in the Persian Gulf. Iran continued to flex its missile capabilities by launching a Kavosh 2 rocket on November 26.

Iran has also pitched the idea of jointly pursuing civilian nuclear power sources with neighboring Arab countries. The proposition, voiced by the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has so far provoked little response.


Further reading

IAEA report on Iran: Enriched uranium output steady, centrifuge numbers expected to increase dramatically; Arak reactor verification blocked (PDF)
David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan, ISIS Issue Brief, November 19, 2008

Iran test-fires new missile, Israel within reach
Zahra Hosseinian, Reuters, November 12, 2008

Iran warns US not to violate Iranian airspace
Edmund Blair, Iran Focus, November 5, 2008

Iran signals nuclear work expansion, rules out halt
Parisa Hafezi and Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, November 26, 2008

Iran proposes nuclear plants
Associated Press, November 30, 2008


Missile defense

A spokesman for Barack Obama confirmed that the US President-elect recently held talks with the Polish President, Lech Kacyzynski, in relation to a planned US missile interceptor base in the country. Mr Obama made no promise that the installation would ever be constructed, emphasizing that the system for Eastern Europe should be proven before it is deployed. The system is to include ten missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

France has expressed its opposition to the proposed US missile shield for Eastern Europe and has backed President Medvedev’s plans for a new pan-European Security Pact at the conclusion of a Russia-EU summit in the South of France last week. President Sarkozy, the current chair of the EU, described missile defense as a setback for European security. However, elsewhere in Europe, Czech and Polish ministers met in order to reaffirm their support for the missile project. NATO has responded to French criticisms by pledging its commitment to the project.


Further reading

Missile Defense Agency completes change of responsibility ceremony (PDF)
MDA News Release, November 21, 2008

Stakes rising on Prez-elect’s first test
Peter Brookes, Heritage Foundation, November 19, 2008

US accuses Russia of Cold War intimidation over missile threats
Bruno Waterfield, Telegraph, November 14, 2008

Will Obama alter Bush administration’s stance on missile defense?
Fox News, November 14, 2008

Inside the Ring: Missile defense working
Bill Gertz, Washington Times, November 13, 2008

Obama adviser: No commitment on defense shield
CNN, November 8, 2008

Congress chides US missile defense management
Elaine M Grossman, Global Security Newswire, November 3, 2008

Pentagon study lambasts Missile Defense Agency
Victoria Samson, October 21, 2008

Russia to start producing new Bulava ballistic missiles in 2009
Sebastian Alison, Bloomberg, 1December

Report: Russia to upgrade missile
Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press Writer, 1 December, 2008

Russia to deploy new missile from 2009
Military Staff writers, Moscow Staff Writers, Moscow (AFP), 28 November, 2008


Other publications

Understanding and preventing nuclear terrorism
Travis Sharp and Erica Poff, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, November 14, 2008

Unprecedented projected nuclear growth in the Middle East: now is the time to create effective barriers to proliferation (PDF)
David Albright and Andrea Scheel, ISIS Report, November 12, 2008

A new paradigm: Shattering obsolete thinking on arms control and nonproliferation
Christopher A Ford, Arms Control Association, November 2008

Strategic collapse: The failure of the Bush nuclear doctrine
Joseph Cirincione, Arms Control Association, November 2008

Securing the bomb 2008 (PDF)
Matthew Bunn, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, November 2008

Nuclear security in Pakistan after Musharraf (PDF)
Kenneth Luongo, Partnership for Global Security, October 29, 2008

Are new nuclear bargains attainable?
Deepti Choubey, Carnegie Report, October 2008


BASIC and Getting to Zero (GTZ)

Improving nuclear security in 2009 and beyond: Transatlantic options for the new administration. Event sponsored by BASIC and Women in International Security. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, 6 November 2008.

Seizing the moment: Breakthrough measures to build a new East West consensus on weapons of mass destruction and disarmament, The event was hosted by the EastWest Institute in cooperation with BASIC and other NGOs. United Nations, New York, 24 October 2008.

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