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Nonproliferation and International Security: Options for the New Administration
November 15, 2000
Lewis Dunn, Science Applications International Corporation
Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Background and Assumptions:
The nonproliferation regime is an interlocking network of treaties and arrangements to prevent and reduce the WMD threat. Regional issues are often bilateral, but are best resolved through regime instruments. Treaties and arrangements are the best tools to approach regional issues. The partisan divide and the lack of US leadership have stalled progress on the nonproliferation regime. Hopefully, this election will resolve the partisan divide. The last time there was a tied congress was in 1988. It is likely that the Democrats will control the Senate in 2002.
The new administration will face ten key challenges, which are divided to regime and regional ones.
1. Nuclear reductions. This issue is ready for breakthrough under the new administration, and the next president will have the consensus to move on it. This is also the case with regard to CTR within Russia.
2. Missile defense. This issue can take root once the political pressure is taken off.
3. Nuclear test ban. The new administration is unlikely to make progress on the CTBT. If it is stalled, however, it will have severe effects on the nonproliferation regime.
4. BWC verification. The verification protocol is under negotiations in the CD.
5. Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty (FMCT).
1. North Korea. There is a possibility for a breakthrough on North Korea under the new administration.
2. Russia. Russia is the biggest threat to WMD proliferation. The new administration has to increase efforts to reduce the threat.
3. China. Many proliferation issues will depend on US-China relations.
4. South Asia.
Iraq and Israel are both challenges, but less urgent ones.
The new administration can pursue four key policies:
1. Forge a new strategic consensus for dramatically lower numbers of nuclear weapons and their reduced role in national defense doctrines. There is now a consensus on nuclear weapons reductions and the new president should seize the moment. Possibly, the president can set a new commission to look into that.
2. Secure independent technical evaluation of missile defense technologies to help build agreement on the feasibility, schedule and relative value of active missile defenses.
3. Expedite agreement with North Korea. The new administration should resolve the North Korean missile export issue. North Korea feeds the Iranian and Pakistani missile programs, and therefore we need to dry out the North Korean program.
4. Triple effort to secure nuclear materials in Russia. (For more on this, see the book Repairing the Regime: Preventing the Spread of Mass Destruction by Joseph Cirincione.)
Presidential Possibilities 2001-2004:
The numbers in the above table represent the impact of the President-Congress combination on the nonproliferation regime. Option one would have the most favorable impact. Historically, the combination of a Republican president and Democratic Congress has been the most favorable for the nonproliferation regime. (For more on this, see the issue brief Election Matrix by Joseph Cirincione.)
President Bush, Republican Congress:
A Republican Congress pulls the president rightward. Following a strategic review, we can expect deep cuts in nuclear weapons, unilaterally, and de-alerting of strategic weapons. Money and commitment to National Missile Defense (NMD) is likely to increase along with pressure to abrogate the ABM treaty. But the president will discover that there is nothing to deploy before 2007, and certainly not during his first term. Bush is not likely to abrogate the ABM treaty, but is more likely to modify it. The nuclear test ban is not likely to pass, and we can expect increased pressure by the Congress to test, which Bush is likely to resist. Overall, the regime will falter regionally and internationally. A policy reversal is possible if things get bad.
President Gore, Republican Congress:
In this combination we can expect the stalemate to continue, but with some improvement. The Senate will be more moderate than in the past. There will be less personal dislike of Gore in comparison with Clinton. The START negotiations will resume but with higher numbers, since the Congress is likely to attack Gore as being too weak on defense. The outcome of these negotiations is more uncertain. The struggles on NMD will continue. Gore will continue to receive pressure for NMD, probably the Alaska option, and will probably face more pressure to deploy than Bush would. The nuclear test ban is not likely to pass, and we can expect no tests. Overall, a slow progress in the nonproliferation regime is possible, but nations will start to hedge bets, for example, in South Asia.
President Bush, Democratic Congress:
This is the most favorable combination for the nonproliferation regime. It is likely to happen in 2003-2004. The Congress will pull the president to the left. We can expect deep cuts in nuclear weapons, unilaterally, and de-alerting of strategic weapons. There will be tough talk on NMD, but no deployment. The test ban is not likely to pass in the first two years, and we can expect no tests. Overall, this combination will have a positive impact on the nonproliferation regime, particularly regionally.
President Gore, Democratic Congress:
We can expect resumed negotiations on START III, with uncertain outcome and timetable. There will be very slow progress on NMD. It is possible that the CTBT will pass, with hard work. There may be some progress on the FMCT. Overall, this combination will have a positive impact on the nonproliferation regime, particularly on international negotiations.
There are three routes to think about the nonproliferation options for the new administration:
1. Speculate what may happen.
2. Think about what the next administration should do.
3. Think about what they should be prepared to deal with.
There are two ways to think about what the next administration should do: talk about the major challenges and talk about the political context in which it will have to operate.
- Restarting the process of nuclear reductions.
- Accelerating the enhancement of nuclear weapons and material control in Russia.
- Dealing with problem countries, including convincing Iran that they don't need nuclear weapons, getting inspectors back to Iraq, dealing with the North Korean missile sales, and avoiding a nuclear war in South Asia.
- Restoring nonproliferation cooperation with key countries, such as Russia and the European countries.
- Avoiding the erosion of the nonproliferation regime.
The Broader Context:
Since there is a political division and no bi-partisan cooperation, the emphasis is likely to be on turning inward, on domestic problems. This is a way for the new president to get public support and acceptance. Therefore, there will be less emphasis on international issues. In addition, individuals' agendas will have the ability to influence the process. Finally, the new administration will operate in a bureaucratic context that is reluctant to think differently and does not favor changes.
In principle, the new administration should not pick any political fights over nonproliferation. Rather, it should look for areas of consensus and for initiatives below the political radar screen. Specifically, the new administration should do the following:
- Resume START talks, as well as work on nuclear reductions by other means. In other words, parallel to START talks, it should take unilateral actions by making a creative use of the CTR and the MPC&A.
- Finesse the NMD issue. Technically, politically and conceptually this is not right. We need a high level of review of this issue along the lines of a new look on the relationship between offense and defense in the 21st century.
- Appoint an ambassador at large for nonproliferation. This is necessary to rebuild a working relationship with Russia and have some relationship with China.
- Perform a 10-year US-Russian Nunn-Lugar assessment in order to identify areas for accelerated cooperation, and increase the funding.
- Focus on enhancing deterrence for CBW use. Think about shifting to a policy of holding leaders accountable for use of these weapons.
- Improve political relationships with Iran and the DPRK.
- Contingency planning for problems ahead. The next administration should be prepared to confront nonproliferation choices. For example, when Russia decides to move ahead with unilateral nuclear reductions, what should the US do? In such a scenario, the US cannot stay where it is today because it will send the wrong signal of nuclear dominance. We also need to think about how to prevent nuclear use in South Asia and what actions need to be taken to convey this to India and Pakistan. We need to have a plan for what can we do in case of a crisis in that region.
- The new administration needs to spend more time thinking about the contingency of BW proliferation and particularly use. BW use is likely to occur in the next term and it will be a salient event like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were. The response to such use will shape the conceptions of cost and effectiveness of BW use. The US needs to lead consultations with its allies and friends on how to send a signal after such use, which will convey that this is not acceptable.
Questions and Answers
Q. There is a lack of consensus within the parties and within the administration, for example, about the use of export controls, sanctions, and engagement. How can a consensus be built internally?
Cirincione: There are indeed disagreements on some key issues. Bush is more likely to rely on export controls. He will also have a greater consensus regarding creating working relations with China. The view of Gore and the Democrats on these issues is more fuzzy.
Dunn: Internal disagreements and lack of consensus are a given. The problem is building consensus with the key players such as Russia and China. Also need to think about a possible crisis over Taiwan.
Q. The 107th Congress will not be able to make decisions on domestic issues, so is it possible that they will do more on nonproliferation?
Dunn: The president will look inward, and nonproliferation is not likely to be high on his agenda. But it is not clear what the Congress will do.
Cirincione: This Congress will not lead on nonproliferation. It may do so rhetorically by condemning some countries and taking some negative actions regarding other countries. Any president is likely to move forward on nuclear reductions because there is consensus on this issue, but Bush is likely to have more support.
Q. The trend seems to be more bilateral than multilateral. Is this a positive one?
Dunn: We will see more creative use of all instruments in the future. Treaties will be just one tool. It will be more of a "mix and match" approach.
Q. How would the matrix apply to regional issues, and would a Republican administration do more on regional issues?
Cirincione: Regional issues are harder to predict, especially for a Bush administration, because there is a split within the Republican party and it is hard to know who will win.
Dunn: The mainstream of the Republican party will be strong on alliances and will see alliances as the most important nonproliferation measure. In addition, the Bush administration will be strong on consultations with allies and friends.
Q. Can you elaborate on the creative use of the CTR, MPC&A, and ambassador-at-large ideas?
Dunn: We can expect new unilateral measures and use of CTR-type procedures. For example, providing verification by practice rather than by treaty. The ambassador-at-large will be a focal point within the administration on a day-to-day basis.
Q. How do we deter the possible use of BW and what would be a good response for such use?
Dunn: Deterrence will be done as a mixed posture. It needs to rely on threat to respond in an overwhelming matter and threat to hold the leadership accountable. We need to be prepared to use force and, if possible, bring the leader to justice. It is necessary to consult with our allies in order to reach an agreement on the fact that BW can be used in the next 3-4 years. We also need to agree that it will be a major event. Then we need to get a consensus that we will have to do something in case of use. The specific response will depend on the situation. It can vary from military response to complete isolation to using special operations capabilities. The response will shape how we live with BW. It may be too late with regard to CW because of the weak response during the Iran-Iraq war.
Q. What would be a good response for BW use by a non-state actor? Why isn't Bush with a Republican Congress more favorable to nonproliferation?
Dunn: With regard to the first question, the response to BW use by non-state actors depends on the ability to attribute the attack. In other words, knowing that BW was indeed used and knowing who used it. A possible response would be to hold the attackers responsible, similar to what Israel did after the Munich Olympic, i.e. track them down and kill them.
Cirincione: Historically, a Republican president with a Democratic Congress was better for nonproliferation because the Congress pulls the Republican president to the left, whereas a Republican Congress pulls the president to the right. Bush is a compromise for the Republican right and this is why it is least favorable. Last time we had a Republican Congress and president was in the early 20th century.
Q. How can the US convey a sense of responsibility as a leader of nonproliferation, for example in South Asia?
Cirincione: The president needs to convey to India that no new nuclear tests will be acceptable. This will effect India's calculations. The Congress does not play much into the equation.
Dunn: The president needs to send a signal to India and Pakistan to freeze their nuclear programs. But they are not likely to do so, especially Pakistan.
Q. There is a great opportunity for innovation on foreign policy. Both candidates did not commit publicly to foreign policy issues. Doesn't it give other countries leverage on our foreign policy?
Cirincione: The EU countries don't feel that they have much impact on our foreign policy, and they are pessimistic about their ability to shape US policy.
Dunn: Our allies and friends can have an impact, more on Bush than they did on Clinton.
Q. How would the different administrations deal with issues related to the CTBT?
Cirincione: Gore will try to keep the hope alive and try to convince enough senators to agree to it. Bush will face a dilemma. The Republicans strongly opposed it in the past, so it is not clear how they will handle it.
Dunn: Bush will put the CTBT in long-term storage. There will be no tests under any administration. Both presidents will commit more money to the Stockpile Stewardship program.
Compiled by Merav Zafary
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