Eliminating Nuclear Threats

A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers



GARETH EVANS and YORIKO KAWAGUCHI CO-CHAIRS                    Commission Members

18. Medium Term Action Agenda: To 2025 – Getting to the Minimization Point


BOX 18-1

The Medium Term Action Agenda – To 2025

  • Progressive achievement of interim disarmament objectives, culminating by 2025 in a “minimization point” characterized by:

    • low numbers: a world with no more than 2,000 nuclear warheads (less than 10 per cent of today’s arsenals);
    • agreed doctrine: every nuclear-armed state committed to no first use;
    • credible force postures: verifiable deployments and alert status reflecting that doctrine.
  • Progressive resolution of parallel security issues likely to impact on nuclear disarmament negotiations:

    • missile delivery systems and strategic missile defence;
    • space-based weapons systems;
    • biological weapons;
    • conventional arms imbalances.
  • Development and building of support for a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention to legally underpin the ultimate transition to a nuclear weapon free world.

  • Complete implementation (to extent already not achieved by 2012) of short-term objectives crucial for both disarmament and non-proliferation:

    • Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in force;
    • Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty negotiated and in force, and a further agreement negotiated to put all fissile material not in weapons under international safeguards;
    • Measures to strengthen the NPT regime and the IAEA agreed and in force;
    • Nuclear security measures in force, and cooperative threat reduction and associated programs fully implemented;
    • Progressive implementation of measures to reduce the proliferation risks associated with the expansion of civil nuclear energy.

Defining Medium Term Objectives

18.1     The central objective of the minimization phase to 2025, as described earlier in this report, is to take really major strides on the disarmament front – in delegitimizing nuclear weapons, dramatically reducing their numbers and perceived role in international security, and drastically limiting the risk of their accidental, miscalculated or deliberate use. The aim is to create thereby a platform, the “minimization point”, from which it will be seriously possible to take the final step to elimination, albeit only after a number of difficult further geopolitical and technical conditions are satisfied. The other objective is to complete, as soon as possible within this period, any unfinished business on the world’s non-proliferation agenda, recognizing that a number of the short-term objectives that we targeted for achievement by 2012 might not, realistically, have been accomplished by that time.

18.2     There are three specific disarmament targets we identify for the minimization point. The first is that there would be, worldwide, no more than 2,000 nuclear weapons (compared with 23,000 today, a reduction of over 90 per cent). This would be achieved by U.S. and Russian reductions to a total of 500 nuclear weapons each, and at least no increases (and desirably significant reductions) in the arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states. Secondly, all nuclear-armed states would embrace a “no first use” doctrine. And, thirdly, every nuclear-armed state’s force deployments and readiness arrangements would be verifiable, consistent with that no first use commitment, and give credibility to it.

18.3     The numerical component of this target is ambitious for the U.S. and Russia – involving over a 95 per cent reduction in their current arsenals – and may not be achievable by 2025. But when measured against the time taken in the past to reach and implement arms control agreements, and rates of weapon dismantlement previously (if not currently) achieved, it is by no means impossible.

18.4     The more encouraging consideration is that while the measures needed to advance this medium term action agenda will certainly require substantial political will and sophisticated, proactive diplomacy, they do not require the transformation of the existing international relations system to the extent that seems likely to be necessary to achieve the ultimate objective of a nuclear weapon free world. They can be undertaken in the framework of existing international institutions and practice, generally run with the grain of the existing system, and be characterized as an exercise in principled pragmatism rather than anything more confrontational. The nuclear-armed states other than Russia and the U.S. would have to foreswear adding to their nuclear arsenals – by not producing additional fissile material for weapons, and not converting existing stockpiles of fissile material into new weapons. Negotiated multilateral reductions would be highly desirable, but very difficult to achieve and not strictly necessary to hold the line at the overall total we propose. The process, and achievement, of getting to the minimization point would put at risk no fundamental state interests or perceived interests, including the security interests of states relying on extended nuclear deterrence from their nuclear-armed allies.

18.5     Important preconditions for achieving the medium term targets we identify are strengthening of the legal and institutional underpinnings of the NPT treaty regime, with no further erosion in the form of significant signatories removing themselves from its disciplines; ratification and bringing into force of the CTBT, important legally, symbolically, practically and politically if the prospect of achieving major reductions in weapons levels is to be taken seriously; negotiation of a verifiable FMCT (banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons), and a subsequent agreement not to turn existing stocks of these materials into weapons. For these targets to be met, the likely renaissance in the peaceful use of nuclear energy also would have to unfold in a safe, secure and safeguarded manner, reinforcing rather than undermining the non-proliferation regime and efforts towards nuclear disarmament.

18.6     There is a mutually reinforcing relationship between the achievement of the disarmament components of the minimization point and both non-proliferation and industry objectives. Improvements in the non-proliferation regime, and confidence in the secure management of peaceful nuclear industry, are part of what is required to make nuclear-armed states willing to significantly reduce the numbers of their weapons: conspicuous acts of proliferation in East Asia or the Middle East would pose severe challenges to our medium term program of disarmament action. Conversely, achieving minimization objectives would significantly assist non-proliferation, undermining claims of double standards by demonstrating the readiness of nuclear-armed states powers to play their part in reducing the nuclear danger, and establishing firmer controls on nuclear materials, systems and command and control.

18.7     Equally, targeting and achieving the minimization point should enhance international cooperation in developing peaceful nuclear industry by reducing the spectre of nuclear weapon dangers. The more unambiguously peaceful the atomic energy field becomes, the more readily its benefits can be shared. Vendors of nuclear reactor technology understand that an accident, security breach, or proliferation incident anywhere would undermine the industry everywhere. Industry, in selecting where and when to cooperate in assisting additional countries to acquire nuclear reactors, will favour markets where non-proliferation bulwarks are strongest and risks slightest.

18.8     A timetable for stepping down to the minimization point? It will become clear from the discussion which follows that continuing to make major progress in deep U.S.-Russia cuts, and ensuring an end to nuclear arms racing in other countries (by banning production of new fissile materials for weapons and new weapons from existing materials) will be a multi-phased and extremely complicated process, requiring not only great technical and political skills to carry through, but an international security environment, both globally and in the more volatile regions, that continues to evolve in a more cooperative and less confrontational direction. There is no escaping the linkage between progress in nuclear disarmament and progress in resolving security problems and dilemmas more generally.

18.9     The Commission would like to have been able to identify a time-line, with benchmarks along the way, for the achievement of all the objectives we have proposed for the medium-term period through to 2025, but we have found ourselves simply unable credibly to do so. There are just too many variables and uncertainties in play. But we hope we have done enough to at least broadly map the action path required, and to make the case that none of the obstacles that are bound to be encountered along the way are manifestly insurmountable.

Reducing Weapon Numbers

18.10     Definitional issues. A threshold issue in any discussion of reducing nuclear weapon numbers is determining what it is that is actually being counted, and has to be verified. Is it just warheads themselves, or the missiles and planes that deliver them? Is it just strategic weapons, or sub-strategic (medium-range, theatre and tactical or battlefield) nuclear weapons as well? Is it just deployed weapons that should be taken into account, or those in storage and capable of being deployed? Should those awaiting dismantlement, but not yet so destroyed and thus also capable of being deployed, be part of the count? And how should each of these terms – “deployed”, “strategic” and the rest – be defined? These questions not only make life exceedingly difficult for non-specialists trying to wrestle with the policy issues involved, but divide, and often confuse, specialists themselves.

18.11     The crucial need as this debate proceeds is to win general acceptance for a single unit of account, under which “a nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon”. To date U.S. –Russia arms control agreements have focused on deployed strategic weapons, and placed as much, if not more, emphasis on counting and verifying numbers of delivery systems as on the warheads themselves. For other nuclear-armed states, who have not yet entered into any such agreements – and who for the most part have been less transparent about the make-up of their arsenals – the counting issue has barely arisen. No doubt delivery systems will continue to play a prominent part in negotiations, and may need over time to be the subject of parallel agreements, not least because of Russian and Chinese concerns about the U.S.’s capacity to deploy conventionally armed long-range precision-guided missiles, promoted as a weapon against terrorists and outlaw states, but also seen as a new potential threat to deterrence and strategic stability. Moreover, the reduction of delivery systems through verifiable dismantlement is important to making disarmament irreversible, by excluding reconstitution of nuclear force levels through returning warheads from storages to missiles and bombers. But what ultimately matters for present purposes is the distinctive, and alarming, destructive capability of the nuclear weapons mounted, or capable of being mounted, on those delivery systems. The objective must remain to ultimately rid the world of every last one of them, whatever their size and wherever they happen to be located. And if the “minimization point” objective is to be a world with no more than 2,000 nuclear weapons, that must mean all such weapons, not some sub-class of them.

18.12     It is particularly important in this context to end any counting distinction between “strategic” and “sub-strategic” weapons. As we have already noted in Section 2, whatever the formal definitions in treaties like START (which focus on the nature and range of various delivery systems rather than the yields of the warheads themselves), for practical military purposes the distinctions are extremely elusive: states living side-by-side do not think of “strategic” weapons just in terms of those mounted on intercontinental-range missiles. The use of “tactical” or “battlefield” weapons, designed for theatre operational combat tasks, will if used in densely populated areas be more or less indistinguishable in the havoc they cause from much bigger weapons, or those capable of being delivered over longer distances, and in any event carries the risk of escalation to such weapons. In humanitarian terms the distinction between them is effectively meaningless.

18.13     It is similarly important, for basic counting purposes, to put no weight on the difference between deployed weapons, those in storage or reserve, and those awaiting dismantlement. “Deployed” or “operational” or “operationally deployed” weapons are essentially those that are either mounted on combat-ready delivery vehicles – as warheads attached to missiles launched from land, sea or air; loaded on planes as gravity bombs; or able to be fired as shells from field artillery – or stored at armed forces’ bases and able to be coupled within hours to a delivery vehicle in the event of an alarm. “Reserve” weapons may be described as those in separate storage or transit, in process of manufacture or being kept as spares, which would normally take much longer – days or weeks – to be coupled with a delivery vehicle. A separate category of non-deployed weapons are those “awaiting dismantlement” pursuant to an arms control agreement or national decision, but which in practice still could also, with some delay, be coupled to a delivery vehicle. As will be discussed below, these distinctions remain very important in the context of force posture and alert status, but when it comes to basic counting, again “a nuke is a nuke”.

18.14     United States and Russia: Further Deep Reductions. If the “minimization point” target is to be met, it is crucial that the U.S. and Russia continue to lead the way with deep cuts throughout that period. If the world as a whole is to have no more than 2,000 warheads in total by 2025, the U.S. and Russia will have to greatly intensify their negotiations on reductions, the parallel security issues (discussed below) likely to impact on those negotiations, and confidence building measures like joint military operations. They have not yet negotiated agreements to account for and dismantle warheads. And while this is not a big problem with respect to strategic missile warheads (provided that the missiles themselves are dismantled), it may be a serious complication with warheads that can be carried by dual purpose fighter-bombers or short-range missiles. Our view is that priority should be put on the properly verified dismantling of weapons designed for delivery by aircraft, missiles and other vehicles likely to be retained in conventional forces.

18.15     If the 2009 negotiations for a START follow-on treaty, described in the last section, are successful in reducing each side’s deployed strategic warheads to 1500, that will – taking into account sub-strategic weapons, those not deployed but in reserve storage, and those awaiting dismantlement – still leave to be disposed of by 2025 some 13,000 warheads on the Russian side and 9,400 on the U.S. side. Managing the destruction, or dismantlement, side of that equation in the time available is by no means beyond the capacity of both sides when compared to the dismantlement rates achieved, on average, in the 1990s, of around 1200 per year for the U.S., and 1500-2000 for Russia, although present Russian dismantling capacity is lower now due to the closure of two out of four nuclear munitions plants and it will take both time and money to reconstitute it. It is just a matter, always, of the political will being summoned and resources allocated. Our minimization point envisions a total of 500 Russian and U.S. weapons each, and if the dismantlement process should happen to lag, then all other weapons beyond those limits would have to be at least reduced to the status of unuseable surplus awaiting dismantlement (with unuseability established by such means as the verifiable destruction of firing mechanisms).

18.16     What is likely to prove more difficult than any physical or technical issue of this kind is meeting other security and political concerns that will arise bilaterally in the period ahead: the treatment of tactical and other sub-strategic weapons, and a set of parallel security issues: ballistic missile defence, and conventional weapons prominent among them. If reductions are to be achieved in nuclear-armed states other than the U.S. and Russia, as should certainly be sought and hopefully will prove possible, questions will arise about how and when these other states can be brought into the play, the issues of asymmetry and proportionality that will become prominent when they are, and the general problem of ensuring stability at low numbers. All of these issues are addressed below.

18.17     “Tactical” and other sub-strategic weapons. These include, in the bilateral U.S.-Russia context, battlefield nuclear weapons, B-61 bombs deployed on the territory of allies for extended deterrence purposes (in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey), and nuclear-tipped anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missiles (e.g., the Gazelle ABM system around Moscow). As noted above, the numbers of such operationally deployed weapons are estimated at more than 2,000 in Russia and some 500 in the case of the U.S. These weapons, together with those of their kind held in reserve, could as a technical matter easily be eliminated much earlier than 2025, but this presupposes significant doctrinal changes in Russia, and within NATO, where the removal of weapons from Turkey in particular could, if the strategic situation in its region deteriorates, lead to some pressure to reconsider its choice to renounce national nuclear endeavours. Disarmament in the area of tactical nuclear weapons would be greatly facilitated by movement on NATO–Russia conventional arms issues and, more generally, confidence building and security cooperation in Europe and elsewhere.

18.18     Ensuring No New Production of Fissile Materials and Weapons. As a political reality, the U.S. and Russia will argue that it makes little sense for them to go through the difficulty and expense of accounting for and eliminating thousands of nuclear warheads if neither they nor other states agree not to make new stocks of military fissile materials or weapons. If dismantlement is occurring in one facility, but additional weapons were being made in others, what would be the gain? Similarly, the minimization phase depends on all other nuclear-armed states agreeing not to add to their arsenals of fissile material and weapon stockpiles. Two measures are required: a verifiable treaty banning new production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons (an FMCT, as discussed in Section 12) and, negotiated subsequently, an agreement to put under international safeguards all fissile materials not in weapons. The latter would be a way to effectively achieve an agreement not to add to nuclear arsenals.

18.19     Multilateral disarmament. To reach the “minimization point” target by 2025 will require not only that the U.S. and Russia reduce their arsenals to no more than 500 each, but – at the very least – that none of the other nuclear-armed states increase their arsenals. It would be very desirable, and important, to go beyond that and have all the other nuclear-armed states contributing to a multilateral disarmament process during the minimization phase which would actually reduce their arsenals and not just maintain them at their present levels. We have recommended, in Section 17, that steps be taken immediately to prepare the ground for such a process, with all nuclear-armed states conducting relevant studies, engaging in strategic dialogues with the U.S., Russia and each other, and commencing a joint dialogue within the framework of the Conference on Disarmament work program.

18.20     That said, we acknowledge that choreographing the stepping down process between all the competing interests will clearly be nightmarishly complex, with considerations not only of absolute numbers but their relative proportions looming very large for all the players. It would appear politically and strategically not feasible that all of the nuclear-armed states would agree to reduce to the same low number, say, 100. Some nuclear-armed states seek to deter more than one other nuclear-armed state, and also have obligations to extend their deterrence for non-nuclear-weapon allies. These states may insist on retaining more nuclear weapons than others, and to the extent that their case has some rational foundation (rather than being based simply on assertion or hegemonic recalcitrance), this should not be an insurmountable negotiating obstacle. Relevant states have been satisfied to this point with very asymmetrical forces, e.g. China against both the U.S. and Russia, and India as against China.

18.21     The suggestion has been made that if the U.S. – and Russia – were to reduce their total arsenals to around 500 each, China in particular might be tempted to “race to parity”. But it is not likely that Washington or Moscow would go down to this level without being confident that China would not seek to increase its nuclear arsenal. If the necessary combinations of states are satisfied that they could maintain effective deterrence with uneven numbers, a question may still arise whether continued disparities will be acceptable to relevant political constituencies. It may be helpful in this respect to place the emphasis in negotiations on ratios rather than absolute numbers, recognizing that these will increase for those with smaller inventories as the major powers’ inventories come down by larger numbers.

18.22     Ensuring stability with low numbers. Apart from the question of parity with others, other questions arise as numbers of weapons are dramatically reduced, and each individual warhead tends to acquire greater significance for a variety of actors. Among these will be allies wondering about the worth of defence guarantees, scientific personnel concerned to ensure the reliability of their remaining forces, and military personnel anxious about survivability of those forces in the event of attack and their credibility in the face of strategic missile defences. How low can any state’s arsenal go while still preserving its deterrent credibility? And, more generally, is it the case that low numbers are inherently destabilizing?

18.23     The number of nuclear weapons needed to maintain deterrent credibility has tended to be vastly exaggerated by U.S. and Russian military planners. One powerful answer was given in a study on a “limited” nuclear exchange published by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1979. This analysed in detail the impact of a conflict limited to the use by each of the U.S. and the Soviet Union of just ten missiles, carrying a total of 80 warheads, a tiny fraction of each state’s inventory, targeting only oil refineries. It concluded that the impact on both countries would be enormous. In the U.S., over five million people would be killed and 64 per cent of refining capacity would be destroyed, shattering the whole economy and permanently and irrevocably changing the whole society; in the Soviet Union, up to 1.5 million people would be killed, and 73 per cent of refining capacity destroyed. All this makes clear that rather fewer than 100 warheads is sufficient to inflict a wholly unacceptable level of damage on a continental-sized economy, and suggests that – even for the most enthusiastic proponent of nuclear deterrence – maintaining an arsenal at higher than that level is unnecessary.

18.24     Of course other worst-case factors have to be brought into the equation: the possibility, remote as it might be, of more than one nuclear adversary having to be confronted simultaneously; and the need to build in some redundancy to cover first-strike losses, technical failures and the possibility of the growing effectiveness of ballistic missile defences. But it is difficult to accept that these together require the retention of many hundreds of warheads, let alone thousands. It is instructive in this respect to note the relative degree of comfort with which all the other nuclear-armed states have until now lived with very much lower numbers, none of them – China, France, the UK, India, Pakistan or Israel – evidently worried that their arsenals (at the least numbered well under 100 and at the most around 300) would not constitute an adequate deterrent.

18.25     The argument is heard that low numbers are inherently destabilizing, essentially on the ground that they might leave a state vulnerable to a first strike, especially from one with a larger arsenal, thus putting it under pressure to use its arsenal earlier in a conflict, or emerging conflict, situation. But the historical experiences of states managing with low numbers, often asymmetrically with potential adversaries, suggest this is much exaggerated. Moreover, while one cannot avoid in this debate dealing with wholly worst case scenarios, there is reason for optimism that arms control and confidence building measures, and the general improvement in the atmospherics of international security cooperation, of the kind that would necessarily accompany any shift down to significantly lower levels would themselves be significant stabilizing factors.

18.26     Sharing the cost burden. Assuming that momentum continues to build for universal non-proliferation and for disarmament by the nuclear-armed states, the cost implications (of dismantlement, verification, disposition and the like) will become a significant consideration over the longer term, particularly for developing states. The sums involved are very large: the cost of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program to date, for example, has been over $6 billion; the cost to France of dismantling its Marcoule and Pierrelatte facilities will be over $8 billion; while dismantlement costs for the U.S. under the START I and INF treaties alone have been around $30 billion (leaving aside potentially much larger costs for environmental clean-up). Part of the costs involved can undoubtedly be met by the savings involved in maintaining an arsenal of reduced size – for the U.S., a reduction to 1000 total weapons would save over $20 billion a year according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments – but, overall, there are almost certain to be net increases in outlays all round.

18.27     It may be helpful to commission a detailed study on the calculation of disarmament and non-proliferation costs and ways of funding them. Available models for the financing of international organizations and initiatives run all the way from polluter-pays to sovereign equality. There is also a spectrum of compulsion, from voluntary to assessed contributions, and potentially extending as far as an internationally levied tax. Arguments can be made for each formula: for example, that an impost (per capita but at an infinitesimal rate), externally determined and ostensibly outside government control, may be easier in some societies for government to attribute to impersonal forces, whereas contestable voluntary contributions may all too readily be whittled away by competing national priorities. But it will be crucial to have the chosen formula in place before the implementation of non-proliferation and disarmament commitments becomes resource-intensive.

Parallel Security Issues: Missiles, Space, Biological and Conventional Weapons

18.28     Ballistic missiles and missile defence. There seems little prospect in the medium term for the global elimination of entire categories of ballistic missiles. Russia, the U.S., France and the UK have foregone the possession of medium-range missiles, but for China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea these are likely to remain a key component of their strategic forces. What is crucial to address again is the issue of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defence systems, in a way which would allow the development of theatre ballistic missile defence systems not to hinder negotiations over strategic offensive reductions. The comparatively muted debate which followed the U.S. withdrawal in 2002 from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (which had limited the U.S. and USSR to one defensive missile site each) is now coming to life again, with concern that the absence of restrictions could be generally destabilizing – or more immediately pertinent in the present context, block further reductions of offensive systems.

18.29     It is certainly the case, historically, that attempts to build up significant ABM defences against enemy missiles has played a major role in determining the number of nuclear warheads produced by countries facing such a challenge. During the Cold War, not only did the USSR and the U.S. engage in a massive build-up of strategic nuclear warheads on their ICBMs as they began deploying ABM systems; but the smaller nuclear powers, France and the UK, considering that they had to follow suit, multiplied up to six-fold the number of warheads on their submarine-based missiles. In the present environment, it seems unlikely that Russia will be willing to further significantly reduce its nuclear weapons if the U.S. does not agree to put some numerical and qualitative limits on its potential strategic ballistic missile defence capabilities, seen again as jeopardizing its own deterrent capability. And it is already clear that China is unlikely to be willing to undertake reductions if Washington does not stop developing and deploying systems that could negate a significant percentage of its nuclear arsenal.

18.30     Short of a fundamental transformation of strategic relations to the point that states no longer feel the need to be able to deliver nuclear arms against other states that possess ballistic missile defences – which we cannot be confident is achievable in our medium term framework – the only way forward in the near term appears to be to accept severe limits on strategic ballistic missile defences to facilitate multilateral reductions of nuclear arms, while promoting cooperation in research, development and the potential joint operations of defence systems in areas of mutual concern. In the longer term, on the other hand, if a world without nuclear weapons can be achieved, missile defences could play an important stabilizing role as an insurance policy against potential cheaters. In this respect, the U.S. and Russia would agree on the technical parameters which define strategic missile defence (as distinct from theatre missile defence and extended air defence), along the lines of the 1993-97 “delineation talks” between Moscow and Washington. Other states with missile defence capabilities could undertake similar commitments.

18.31     Weapons in space. In the same spirit, ongoing attempts to prevent an arms race in outer space (PAROS) at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, and work at the Vienna-based UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will, if successful, contribute to removing concerns about the vulnerability of smaller nuclear arsenals, notably to military activity directed against space-based command, control and information assets, or to space-based ABM systems. The Commission strongly supports this element of the CD’s work program and hopes that substantive progress on it can be made in the near term.

18.32     Biological weapons. Biological weapons are not a major threat, and should not be a seriously complicating factor in nuclear disarmament negotiations at present, but may well become more of an issue in the future. Efforts to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention failed in 2001, largely over efforts to develop an effective verification regime, and most attention since has been focused on building an effective public health response capability. The difficulties involved in crafting an effective verification regime for this kind of weapon – as distinct from chemical and nuclear weapons – are very great, given the very small scale on which laboratory experimentation can be conducted, but the issue needs to be revisited.

18.33     Possible ways forward on verification, partly suggested by the evidence of the positive impact of UN inspections in Iraq, include challenge inspections of facilities suspected of a treaty violation; monitoring exports of equipment and technology needed for the large scale production of biological weapons; field investigations of unusual disease outbreaks possibly associated with the covert development of biological weapons or an accidental leak from a clandestine development or production facility; and non-challenge clarification visits to declared facilities, which could be either routine or voluntary in nature, random or non-random. Certainly universalization of the Biological Weapons Convention, as with the Chemical Weapons Convention, should continue to be actively pursued, not least to help meet the concerns of those states who remain particularly anxious about being possibly targeted by such weapons and who remain inclined to believe that nuclear weapons may have some deterrent utility against them.

18.34     Conventional weapons. We have noted earlier in this report the concerns that have begun to be expressed in Russia, China and by other states that a world without nuclear weapons, or with their numbers dramatically reduced, would significantly accentuate already great U.S. conventional military advantages. The irony is that while this is a factor playing in favour of serious commitment to nuclear disarmament in the U.S., it is generating real caution elsewhere; a further irony often remarked upon is that the European fear of USSR conventional superiority which drove so much of the West’s nuclear armament during the Cold War has now become Russian anxiety about Western conventional capability.

18.35     The time seems ripe, accordingly, to revisit some of the issues addressed in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) which was negotiated during the last years of the Cold War and adopted in 1999, establishing comprehensive limits on key categories of conventional military equipment in Europe (from the Atlantic to the Urals) and mandating the destruction of excess weaponry. It is clearly the case that without wider-ranging efforts to resolve underlying security dilemmas and introduce some greater balance in non-nuclear military capabilities (with qualitative considerations being as important as quantitative ones in this respect), the U.S. and Russia and China will be unable to agree on substantially minimizing – let alone abolishing – nuclear weapons. Similar considerations will weigh in the regional contexts of South Asia and the Middle East.

18.36     A particular concern of Russia and China is the expansion of U.S. strategic systems (ballistic and cruise missiles) with precision guided conventional munitions, which are suspected of amounting to a disarming strike capability. This concern should be addressed at START negotiations limiting such weapons as well as through specific new agreements and confidence building measures. The development of more cooperative approaches to conflict prevention and resolution may well prove more productive in this context than focusing entirely on arms limitation measures.


Recommendations on Parallel Security Issues: Missiles, Space, Biological and Conventional Weapons

61. The issue of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems should be revisited, with a view to allowing the further development of theatre ballistic missile defence systems, including potential joint operations in areas of mutual concern, but setting severe limits on strategic ballistic missile defences. It should be recognized that while, in a world without nuclear weapons, strategic missile defences could play an important stabilizing role as an insurance policy against potential cheaters, they now constitute a serious impediment to both bilateral and multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. [18.28–30; see also 2.30–34, 17.18]

62. International efforts to curb missile proliferation should continue, but continued failure to multilateralize the INF should not be used as an excuse for either present party to withdraw from it. [2.35–37]

63. Ongoing attempts to prevent an arms race in outer space (PAROS) at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, and work at the Vienna-based UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, should be strongly supported. [18.31]

64. Continuing strong efforts should be made to promote universal adherence to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to develop more effective ways of defending against potential biological attacks, including – for all its difficulties – building a workable Convention verification regime.[17.29; 18.32–33]

65. The issue of conventional arms imbalances, both quantitative and qualitative, between the nuclear-armed states, and in particular the relative scale of U.S. capability, needs to be seriously addressed if it is not to become a significant impediment to future bilateral and multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, including by revisiting matters covered in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). The development of more cooperative approaches to conflict prevention and resolution may well prove more productive in this context than focusing entirely on arms limitation measures. [18.34–36]

Nuclear Doctrine and Force Postures: Consolidating Change

18.37     As stated in Section 17, it would be extremely helpful to have significant early movement, if only from the U.S., on nuclear doctrine, with “sole purpose” or “no first use” declaratory statements visibly reducing the role of nuclear weapons in national defence and security systems. To the extent that those declarations have not been made before 2012 – and it is extremely unlikely, given the scale of present differences, that any kind of common position could occur so quickly – achieving them, and in particular getting agreement on strong “no first use” positions will be a major task for the medium term.

18.38     Similarly with changes to force posture – the physical arrangements for the location and handling of nuclear weapons – that must precede or accompany such declarations, and be wholly consistent with them, if the doctrinal changes are to have credibility. The crucial need, as stated in the last section, is for nuclear forces to be deployed in a way – and seen by others to be so deployed – that makes clear their essential function is intended to be retaliatory rather than potentially aggressive. That means essentially having weapons systems which can demonstrably survive a disarming first-strike (thus diminishing any incentive to “use or lose” them), though not so many of them that they are perceived themselves as constituting a significant first-strike threat; having the majority of weapons stored in reserve and uncoupled from their delivery systems (with a significant lead time needed to assemble and actively deploy them); and generally maximizing the decision time required to launch those weapons that are deployed. Again it will be a task for the medium-term to 2025, but hopefully accomplished much sooner, to achieve changes – including, most urgently, to launch decision time – which have not been put in place by 2012.

Other Elements in the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Agenda

18.39     There are a number of other changes we identified as short term objectives that may not, realistically, be achievable in that initial period to 2012, in particular those listed and cross-referenced below. Momentum for both disarmament and non-proliferation needs to be generated and sustained on multiple fronts, and that means completing any such unfinished business as early as possible in the medium-term framework. A further important project for the medium term, noted below and discussed in detail in Section 20, is to develop and build support for the comprehensive legal regime that will need to accompany the final move to elimination.

18.40     It is also important to set real constraints on the ability of nuclear-armed states to easily reverse course on any of these fronts: the achievements of the minimization phase should so far as possible function as ratchets in the nuclear disarmament process, making further forward movement possible while preventing backsliding. Of the issues check-listed below – all of which are discussed in detail elsewhere in this report, in the cross-references given – the most significant contributors to securing the irreversibility of gains made are likely to be the first two, the CTBT and FMCT.

18.41     Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. (See Section 11, “Banning Nuclear Testing”.) It is crucial that this come into force sooner rather than later to consolidate the informal moratorium that has been in place and observed by all states other than North Korea since 1998. It would also be highly desirable that its impact be further consolidated in the medium term by a “CTBT-Plus” agreement by all relevant parties to dismantle existing nuclear test sites, as has been done with the decommissioning of the French facilities in Mururoa and Fangataufa. Although this dismantling can be done unilaterally, there would be virtue in making this a common commitment, with agreed verification procedures. Under such a regime, CTBT signatories would commit themselves not to undertake new test site construction work: visible from outer space, this would lend itself to challenge inspection.

18.42     Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. (See Section 12, “Limiting the Availability of Fissile Material”.) The negotiation and coming into force of a treaty banning the production of high enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, with strong verification provisions, has long been regarded as one of the highest priorities on both the disarmament and non-proliferation agendas. Current divergences of interest between nuclear-armed states which have a surfeit or sufficiency of fissile material (U.S., Russia, France, UK) and those which apparently want to build-up their stocks (China, India, Pakistan) make it unlikely that there will be rapid progress in the Geneva Conference on Disarmament-based negotiating process begun in 2009, but intense focus must be maintained on getting a strong outcome as soon as possible.

18.43     The issue of managing existing stocks of fissile material, including all that now in nuclear weapons, will be even more difficult to resolve, and an enforceable regime may have to await the final elimination stage, but ways of progressively advancing this objective (including a Fissile Material Control Initiative) have been proposed and ought to be part of parallel discussions from the outset. If existing stocks are not, as is likely, covered by the FMCT, it should be immediately followed by negotiation of a Fissile Material Treaty to be ready for the commencement of the final elimination stage.

18.44     Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency. (See Section 9, “Strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty”, and Section 10, “Strengthening Non-Proliferation Disciplines Outside the NPT”.) Complete implementation (to extent not already achieved in the short term) of measures to strengthen the NPT regime and IAEA, and also to reinforce the many significant non-proliferation mechanism outside the NPT, must be high priorities for early in the medium term.

18.45     Nuclear security. (See Section 13, “Sustaining an Effective Counter-Terrorism Strategy”.) There must be complete implementation as soon as possible (again to the extent this has not already been achieved in the short term) of the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the objectives of the cooperative threat reduction and related programs, designed to secure dangerous nuclear weapons, materials and technology worldwide.

18.46     Nuclear energy management. (See Section 14, “Responsible Nuclear Energy Management”, and Section 15 “Multilateralizing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle”) Progressive achievement of multilateralized nuclear fuel cycle arrangements, proliferation-resistant technologies, and other measures designed to reduce the proliferation risks associated with the expansion of civil nuclear energy should be a high priority for policymakers throughout the medium term.

18.47     Nuclear Weapons Convention. (See Section 20, “Mobilizing and Sustaining Political Will’.) An important project for the medium term will be to develop, refine and build international understanding and acceptance of the need for a Nuclear Weapons Convention – a comprehensive international legal regime to accompany the final move to elimination. Much work has already been done by civil society groups in producing a model convention prohibiting the development, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, and that draft has been circulated to member states in October 2008 by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a possible basis for multilateral negotiation. There is no reason why detailed further work on such a convention should not commence now, and with government support, but its implications are so wide-reaching that there is, realistically, little chance of it becoming the subject of formal negotiation until the disarmament process is much further advanced, which is why the Commission identifies developing and building support for a Nuclear Weapons Convention as a medium rather than short term objective.


Next: 19. Longer Term Action Agenda: Beyond 2025 – Getting to Zero