The U.S. Strategy for Nuclear Proliferation

Published: Fri 18 Nov 2005 10:44 AM
Effective Multilateralism: The U.S. Strategy for Dealing with Global Nuclear Proliferation
Andrew K. Semmel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Nonproliferation
Address to the National Strategy Forum
Chicago, Illinois
November 14, 2005
Thank you very much for the invitation to address the National Security Forum and for the opportunity to visit Chicago and to discuss with you an issue of the utmost importance to us all.
On December 2, 1942, beneath the University of Chicago's football stadium, Enrico Fermi and co-workers demonstrated the first controlled nuclear fission "chain reaction." Since that dawn of the nuclear age, we have faced the recurring dilemma of nuclear energy: that is, how to exploit its peaceful and productive potential, while preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Nuclear proliferation has been a concern from the beginning of the nuclear age, but for too long it was treated as a political problem, amenable to traditional tools. That has changed, as the world has recognized that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), particularly but not exclusively nuclear weapons, is the preeminent threat to international peace and security.
Addressing the threat posed by nuclear proliferation is a key priority of President Bush and his Administration, and today I'd like to discuss three related aspects of the Administration's approach to nuclear nonproliferation. I will first sketch out our overall strategy for meeting the threat posed by proliferation. Then, I'll detail several of the President's specific proposals to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime. And, finally, I will consider the status of efforts to keep nuclear material safe and secure worldwide.
Meeting Proliferation's Challenges: Effective Multilateralism
The Bush Administration has constructed a comprehensive strategy against proliferation that was outlined in the December 2002 National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction. The three pillars of that strategy are: proliferation prevention; counterproliferation; and consequence management. To prevent proliferation, the Administration has launched dramatically expanded efforts to prevent rogue states and terrorists from acquiring WMD, their related materials, and delivery systems. Counterproliferation recognizes that prevention does not always succeed and that we must have the capabilities to deter, detect, defend against, and defeat WMD and those who would use them for malevolent purposes. Consequence management aims to reduce the consequences or tragic effects of a WMD attack at home or abroad.
A central element of all three pillars of the Administration's strategy against proliferation is a commitment to "effective multilateralism," to confronting the real problems that we face with realism and determination in league with our international partners. Effective multilateralism is integral to our approach to proliferation prevention, counterproliferation and consequence management.
The prevention of nuclear proliferation is the piece of the strategy for which I am most responsible and one for which effective multilateralism has had significant ramifications. In the prevention of nuclear proliferation, effective multilateralism has meant strengthening existing tools and developing new ones. Before turning to some specific Administration proposals for strengthening nuclear nonproliferation, let me outline for you some of those tools.
One essential tool is the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons or NPT. The NPT, the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, has created an international norm against nuclear proliferation and established the legal basis for actions against those that violate this norm. I would argue that the NPT and the associated system of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards involving international inspections and verification procedures designed to protect against the diversion of nuclear material from peaceful to non-peaceful weapons programs have had more success than setbacks in 35 years of attempting to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Setbacks over the years have brought innovations. Based on the lessons learned about gaps in the then existing safeguards system that was learned from the discovery of Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program in the 1990s, committed members of the nonproliferation regime negotiated the Additional Protocol, which aims to strengthen the international safeguards system to better detect such clandestine nuclear weapons programs, and it does so via expanded access to more facilities and to more information. It allows international inspectors to verify so-called "undeclared activities" not just those activities a state has declared open for inspections.
Another tool includes multilateral export control regimes: principally the forty-five member Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee. To make a nuclear weapon, a country must possess separated plutonium or high enriched uranium. These export control regimes seek to establish guidelines to prevent a country from acquiring the technology needed to obtain either of these. These voluntary bodies promote awareness among suppliers of nuclear technologies and materials of the need for strong national export controls on commodities that could, if misused, support proliferation. They also establish a set of common export standards to which all nuclear supplier countries agree to abide.
However, continued proliferation by rogue states and networks has made clear that strong supplier commitments and solid national control lists do not automatically translate into prevention of illicit exports associated with WMD. We require multilateral action to enforce those standards. The disruption of the A.Q.Khan supply network and the subsequent decision by Libya to abandon its WMD and longer-range missile programs, would not have been possible without effective multilateral action, based on strong intelligence, close cooperation, and active interdiction. Central to those successes was the Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI, which had been proposed by President Bush only a few months before.
PSI has transformed how nations act together against proliferation, harnessing their diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence assets in a multinational, yet very flexible, fashion. Over 70 states now support PSI and its Statement of Interdiction Principles, and the number is steadily increasing. Participants are applying laws already on the books in innovative ways and cooperating as never before to interdict shipments, to disrupt proliferation networks, and to hold accountable the front companies that support them. PSI is not a treaty-based approach. Instead, it is a true partnership designed to act proactively in enforcing national and international legal authorities to deter, disrupt and prevent WMD and missile proliferation from getting into the wrong hands.
The PSI-type approach involving like-minded countries is now expanding to cut off financial funding that fuels proliferation. In July, the G-8 Leaders called for enhanced efforts to combat proliferation through cooperation to identify, track and freeze relevant financial transactions and assets. This cooperation has already begun within the Egmont Group, a worldwide network of governmental financial agencies originally set up to combat money laundering. For our part, President Bush issued in June a new Executive Order that authorizes the U.S. Government to freeze assets and block transactions of entities and persons engaged in proliferation activities and support. Currently 16 entities -- 11 from North Korea, 4 from Iran, and one from Syria -- have been designated under the Order. And the effort is working.
Another tool in our nonproliferation arsenal includes programs to secure and eliminate nuclear weapon-related facilities and materials and to redirect scientists and scientific communities involved in these projects into civilian sectors. The United States has been engaged in such programs since the launch of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program by Senator Lugar -- my former boss in the U.S. Senate -- and Senator Nunn in December 1991, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and has worked cooperatively with the Russian Federation and other former Soviet states since that time on nuclear, as well as chemical and biological threats.
Strengthening Nuclear Nonproliferation
President Bush has articulated an ambitious agenda in the prevention of nuclear proliferation to strengthen these existing tools and develop new ones. He has put a strong emphasis on compliance with NPT nonproliferation obligations. He has called for strengthening the IAEA safeguards system by creating a special IAEA committee on safeguards, universalizing the tougher and more demanding Additional Protocol, and making implementation of the Protocol one of the conditions countries must meet to be eligible for nuclear supply. He proposed a United Nations Security Council Resolution to criminalize WMD proliferation. He proposed that there be a complete ban on the export of sensitive uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technology to all countries not now having full-scale plants and that those countries that forego these fuel cycle programs have access to reliable nuclear fuel at prevailing market prices. He has proposed increased international engagement on cooperative threat reduction activities beyond Russia and the FSU. And, he has proposed a new partnership with India on nonproliferation.
We have seen progress on many of these fronts. In June of this year, the IAEA Board of Governors agreed to establish the new Committee on Safeguards and Verification to examine measures to strengthen the Agency's ability to ensure that nations comply with their international obligations. The Committee met for the first time last week. Likewise, we have seen an increase in the number of NPT parties with Additional Protocols. So far 104 NPT parties have signed Additional Protocols, and seventy of these are in force.
We are working with the G-8 and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to establish effective controls on enrichment and reprocessing, and thus to prevent states from pursuing nuclear weapons in the guise of supposedly peaceful nuclear energy -- as Iran has done. We are also working with the other nuclear fuel suppliers and the IAEA to develop a mechanism for alternative nuclear supply arrangements in the event of problems with the commercial market. To enhance those efforts, Energy Secretary Bodman announced a week ago that the United States will convert more than 17 metric tons of high-enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU), and hold it in reserve to support fuel supply assurances. The results of this action will be doubly positive: it will mean more assured fuel supply which will make is unnecessary for states to develop their own fuel making capacity; and a significant reduction in the amount of weapons-related material -- enough for almost 700 nuclear warheads. We encourage other supplier states to create such reserves as well.
In April 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1540, establishing for the first time binding, i.e., mandatory, obligations on all UN member states to criminalize WMD proliferation, enforce effective export controls, and secure nuclear materials. Resolution 1540, if implemented as intended, will be an extraordinarily effective tool against the spread of nuclear and other dangerous materials to dangerous groups. It seeks to meet proliferators' lethal flexibility with the firm resolve of states to cut off the path to proliferation. UNSCR 1540 places a premium on establishment of legal and regulatory measures at the national level. It seeks to build capacity from the bottom up rather than attempting to impose it from above. We strongly support these efforts and have signaled our willingness to provide assistance to other governments to implement these obligations.
International engagement on cooperative threat reduction activities has greatly increased since the inauguration of the Global Partnership Against the Threat of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction by the G-8 in 2002. The United States provides about $1 billion annually for these programs for Russia and the FSU alone, and looks to our G-8 partners to fulfill their commitment to match that level. Russia and the FSU continue to be critical areas of focus, but we are addressing nuclear proliferation threats worldwide through assistance to other countries to strengthen their export and border control efforts to prevent illicit trafficking.
In July of this year, President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh announced a joint U.S.-India partnership that has the potential to yield important benefits for the United States, India, and the international community. Under this partnership, India has committed to a series of actions including implementing strong and effective export control legislation, adhering to the NSG Guidelines on exports, separating its civil and military facilities and placing all its civilian facilities and activities under IAEA safeguards, signing and adhering to an Additional Protocol, and maintaining its nuclear testing moratorium. In return, the United States will pursue the necessary changes to U.S. national laws and international regimes to allow full civil nuclear cooperation with India.
In a March statement on the NPT, the President stressed, "NPT Parties must take strong action to confront the threat of noncompliance with the NPT in order to preserve and strengthen the Treaty's nonproliferation undertakings. We cannot allow rogue states that violate their commitments and defy the international community to undermine the NPT's fundamental role in strengthening international security." We have faced Libyan, North Korean and Iranian noncompliance with their nonproliferation obligations and addressed each with a targeted strategy. Libya had a secret nuclear weapons program, but it made the strategic decision to renounce and transparently dismantle that program and return to full compliance with its NPT nonproliferation obligations. We expect North Korea to implement fully and promptly the commitment it made in the last round of the Six Party Talks to abandon its nuclear weapons and all nuclear programs, and we expect it to do so in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. Iran's clandestine nuclear program has stretched over two decades. As a result of Iran's pattern of deception and denial, lack of full cooperation with the IAEA, and pursuit of nuclear fuel cycle capabilities in defiance of the international community, the IAEA Board of Governors found Iran in formal noncompliance with its safeguards obligations on September 24, a decision which triggers a report to the UNSC. We continue to urge Iran to make the strategic decision to abandon its nuclear weapons pursuits. One lesson comes across clearly from all these cases: the NPT has established an invaluable norm against nuclear proliferation, but the NPT's ability to stem nuclear proliferation is only as strong as its parties' willingness to comply with their obligations and the resolve of compliant parties to hold others to those obligations.
In that context, let me mention briefly last May's 2005 NPT Review Conference. NPT parties convene every five years to look back on the events of the past five years and to consider ways to strengthen the Treaty's implementation in the years ahead. At this year's Review Conference, parties were unable to reach consensus on issues of substance. Many have read this as a sign of weakness in the Treaty and the larger regime. I disagree. This is a time of great change in the international system and of challenge to both the Treaty and the regime. While consensus on the way forward on nonproliferation would be helpful, it is not surprising that more than 180 states could not reach consensus in May. What is important is that most parties expressed their strong support for the Treaty and the regime, discussed the real challenges they face, and seriously debated ways to address these challenges.
We have made important progress, but there is much more that needs to be done to thwart proliferation by state and non-state actors. Recently, the Secretary of State announced changes at the Department of State to allow us to better address today's threats. The Bureaus of Nonproliferation and Arms Control have been merged into a single Bureau called "International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN). The new Bureau will bring together the talents of two communities into one entity that can best utilize their combined strengths and experience, while redirecting focus to our most urgent priorities -- preventing WMD terrorism and advancing counterproliferation initiatives.
Nuclear Material Security
Let me now offer a few remarks regarding our efforts to secure nuclear materials worldwide. The United States is aggressively committed to improving the physical protection of nuclear weapons and materials though a number of nonproliferation assistance programs. Through a variety of State, Energy, and Defense Department programs, the U.S. is working with states around the globe to better secure and prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. We believe that the best odds for prohibiting the spread of nuclear materials to dangerous states or terrorists lay with strong and effective prevention at their source.
The Department of Energy launched the Global Threat Reduction Initiative or GTRI in 2004. The GTRI has given new emphasis to programs to secure HEU fresh and spent fuel for research reactors and to convert those reactors to LEU fuel, as well as programs to secure radiological sources that could used for "dirty bombs." Along with IAEA programs and other international initiatives to secure radioactive sources, a strong foundation to address nuclear terrorism is being built.
President Bush and Russian President Putin took a major step in this effort at their February meeting in Bratislava. We achieved substantial gains in agreements with the Russian Federation for security upgrades of nuclear facilities and for transportation of nuclear warheads slated for disposal. We are also working closely at many facilities to replace high-enriched uranium, which can be used in a nuclear explosive device, with low enriched uranium, which cannot. These efforts will ensure that large quantities of materials will be removed as a potential terrorist target. Anytime or anywhere HEU fuel is made secure or repatriated back to Russia or the U.S., anytime a nuclear reactor anywhere that uses weapons-sensitive HEU is converted to LEU, or anytime another nuclear facility is placed under reliable physical protection, the world is made a safer place.
Multilaterally, the United States is deeply committed to strengthening international frameworks and regimes. The United States is the leading supporter of the IAEA's Nuclear Security Plan, donating over twenty five million dollars to it since September 11th, 2001. The Plan provides assistance to states in the physical protection of their civil nuclear materials and facilities, prevention of illicit trafficking, and security of radioactive materials.
In July, a diplomatic conference of over eighty-five States Parties to the 1979 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) adopted a crucial Amendment that significantly strengthens that Convention to address illicit trafficking in nuclear and non-nuclear radiological material and the potential for malevolent use. The Amendment is intended to accomplish three purposes:
* to achieve and maintain worldwide effective physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities used for peaceful purposes; * to prevent and combat offences relating to such material and facilities worldwide; and * to facilitate co-operation among States Parties to those ends.
In sum, it provides a treaty-based anchor for an international regime for the physical protection worldwide of nuclear material and facilities used for peaceful purposes.
In conclusion, the United States is working daily, effectively, and multilaterally to prevent proliferation, to counter proliferation, and to prepare for possible consequence management. I have presented today an amalgam of program and initiatives designed to make the world safe from the scourge of weapons of mass destruction. More than any other country, the United States has taken the leading role in fashioning a set of tools to prevent, protect, deter, interdict and prohibit the spread of WMD, their associated materials and technology from acquisition and use by terrorists and those who support them. We have witnessed some truly impressive successes in our efforts, but much more needs to be done. Success can be fleeting as new challenges or threats arise. We must be as agile and aggressive in preventing and countering proliferation as those who seek these deadly capabilities.
Success requires active collaboration with others, vigilance, and commitment. It is what we are calling "effective multilateralism." The task is simply too big, too important and too complex for any one nation, for any one tool, for any one international organization or voluntary arrangement to tackle alone. The United States will continue to do its part to develop and improve solutions that work.
Thank you.

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