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Combating the Proliferation of WMDs

The Bush Administration Approach to Combating the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Robert G. Joseph, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Remarks to Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference
Washington, DC
November 7, 2005

I am pleased to have been asked to address this conference. Given this large and diverse audience, this is a good opportunity to describe the Bush Administration approach -- and particularly the use of innovative multilateral cooperation -- to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems.

As I describe our approach, I would invite you, and especially our foreign colleagues, to think about the characterization we sometimes hear that we have followed a unilateralist approach. To me, this label simply does not stand up to the fact that this Administration has undertaken more multilateral initiatives -- effective initiatives -- and more multilateral diplomatic efforts to stop and reverse proliferation than any previous administration. While we have clearly not solved all the problems, we are taking on the problems very directly, with realism and determination, and in league with our international partners.

When the President first came into office, we inherited an approach to proliferation that was primarily based on promotion of universal arms control treaties and export controls, with little regard to the consequences of noncompliance. With the important exception of Nunn-Lugar type programs, this approach was the result of a perception of proliferation more as a political or policy challenge than as a security threat.

Almost immediately upon assuming office, President Bush emphasized that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction required a new and comprehensive approach. Through a series of presidential speeches and the publication of formal strategy documents, beginning within the first months of the Administration, the President laid out a very clear road map for action.

The National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was published in December 2002, was really the first of its kind -- a broad, truly national and international strategy, which united all the elements of national power -- including diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, and military -- needed to counter WMD. As one pillar of the strategy, the Bush Administration fully recognized the essential requirement of proliferation prevention, and launched dramatically expanded U.S. efforts to prevent acquisition of WMD, related materials and delivery systems by rogue states or terrorists.

At the same time, the strategy recognized that prevention will not always succeed. Therefore, it placed new, and necessary, emphasis on protection or counterproliferation: to build the capabilities -- from missile defense to detection of chemical and biological agents in the field -- to deter, defend against, and defeat WMD in the hands of our enemies. Finally, the National Strategy established consequence management as the third pillar, to reduce as much as we can the potentially horrific consequences of WMD attacks at home or abroad, such as through disease surveillance and medical counter measures.

These three pillars -- counterproliferation, nonproliferation and consequence management -- do not stand alone, but rather come together as elements of a unified approach. Underlining that point, the National Strategy identifies four cross-cutting functions that are critical to combating weapons of mass destruction: improved intelligence collection and analysis; research and development; bilateral and multilateral cooperation; and tailored strategies against hostile states and terrorists. What is meant by tailored or targeted strategies is that there is no cookie cutter approach to combating proliferation: Iran is different from North Korea; North Korea is different from Libya or Syria; and the terrorist WMD threat is different from that of state programs. While many non- and counterproliferation instruments are common to all of these three threats, each must be treated as unique.

Effective Multilateral Action Against Proliferation

As one aspect of our commitment to effective multilateralism, the Bush Administration has given vitality to the use of diplomatic tools to prevent proliferation. U.S. assistance to other states to eliminate weapons and prevent their spread has been at record funding levels, totaling around $1 billion a year to the former Soviet states alone. The Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear material security work with Russia has been significantly accelerated, with upgrades now complete at 80 percent of the sites. DOE's total defense nuclear nonproliferation budget request for Fiscal Year 2006, at $1.6 billion, is double the Fiscal Year 2001 request.

Moreover, with the formation in 2002 of the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, the United States engaged our foreign partners to commit their fair share to the effort to meet this global threat. We expect our G-8 partners will fully implement that commitment -- matching the United States contribution of up to $10 billion in assistance through 2012.

While the bulk of U.S. nonproliferation assistance remains focused on the states of the Former Soviet Union, we have also, as you know, expanded our efforts to address proliferation threats globally. Landmark programs include: the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to reduce and secure fissile and radioactive material worldwide; the Second Line of Defense and Megaports programs to install radiation detection capabilities at major seaports, airports and border crossings; and redirection programs in Libya and Iraq to provide alternative employment for weapons scientists and engineers.

The G-8 Global Partnership is an excellent example of the Administration's use of effective multilateralism in existing organizations to enhance our ability to prevent WMD and missile proliferation. But it is by no means the only one. The G-8 have dramatically increased their focus on, and concerted action against, proliferation generally. Under U.S. leadership, even an economically-focused organization like APEC -- the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum -- has acted on the realization that proliferation presents a dire threat to economic well-being.

On the global level, the United States has spearheaded the effort for the United Nations Security Council to take on its responsibilities to maintain peace and security against modern threats. A major milestone was the passage in April of last year of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. In adopting 1540, the Security Council -- for only the second time in its history -- invoked its Chapter VII authorities to require nations to act against a general, as opposed to a specific, threat to international peace and security. Thus, 1540 requires all states to criminalize WMD proliferation, institute effective export controls, and enhance security for nuclear materials. Much remains to be done to implement 1540 fully, and the United States stands ready to assist wherever and whenever we can.

The United States also has been at the forefront of efforts to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) ability to detect, and respond to, nuclear proliferation. We instituted the successful effort to increase the IAEA's safeguards budget. President Bush submitted the IAEA Additional Protocol to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification, and welcomed the Senate's approval in March of last year. The President also called for universal adoption of the Additional Protocol and the creation of a new special committee of the IAEA Board to examine ways to strengthen the Agency's safeguards and verification capabilities. Working closely with the IAEA Director General, we are pleased that the new special committee is going to begin its important work later this week.

The United States is also working with others on the IAEA Board to restore the essential role of the UN Security Council in addressing noncompliance with safeguards obligations, as that role was embedded in the IAEA Statute almost 50 years ago. For almost 20 years, Iran has systematically violated its IAEA safeguards and Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations by hiding its nuclear fuel cycle efforts and conducting a covert program aimed at nuclear weapons. This September, as you know, the IAEA Board found Iran in formal noncompliance with its safeguards obligations -- a finding which requires a report to the Security Council -- and also found that Iran's nuclear activities raise questions concerning international peace and security that are within the competence of the UN Security Council.

In the U.S. view, the Security Council should not supplant the IAEA effort, but should reinforce it -- for example, by calling on Iran to cooperate with the Agency and to take steps the IAEA Board has identified to restore confidence, and by giving the IAEA new, needed authority to investigate all Iranian weaponization efforts. We continue to work with other IAEA Board members on the timing and content of the report of Iranian noncompliance to the Security Council. We also continue to support the efforts of the United Kingdom, France and Germany to re-establish suspension of Iran's enrichment related activities and bring Iran back to the negotiations on the basis of the Paris agreement of November 2004.

Let me be clear about the Iranian regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran has pursued numerous routes to acquire an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capability to provide it with fissile material for weapons. Iran is going down the plutonium route through construction of a heavy water research reactor and a heavy water plant. It has conducted experiments to separate and purify plutonium. Iran also has pursued the ability to begin enrichment, thereby going down the uranium route to a bomb. It is building facilities to convert and enrich uranium. All of these efforts involved a dizzying array of cover stories and false statements. Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is real -- an issue the Bush Administration takes -- and believes the international community takes -- very seriously. And let us not forget that the leader of this regime recently called for the State of Israel to be "wiped off the map."

One clear lesson from the Iran case is that some states will cynically manipulate the provisions of the NPT to acquire the sensitive technologies to enable them to pursue nuclear weapons capabilities -- the very capabilities the Treaty is intended to deny. To foreclose that proliferation avenue, President Bush challenged the international community to rectify the greatest weakness in the nuclear nonproliferation system: the ability of states to seek nuclear weapons under the cover of peaceful energy programs.

In February 2004, at the National Defense University, and in the context of seven proposals to strengthen the NPT regime, the President proposed that the ability to enrich uranium and to reprocess plutonium be limited to those states which already operate such facilities. In return, the President called on the world's nuclear fuel suppliers to assure supply to those states that forego enrichment and reprocessing.

The United States is now working with major supplier states and the IAEA to develop a mechanism for alternative supply arrangements in the event of problems with the commercial market. To enhance those efforts, Secretary Bodman announced that the United States will convert up to 17 metric tons of highly-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium, and hold it in reserve to support fuel supply assurances. The results of this action will be doubly positive: more assured fuel supply; 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.

The U.S. approach to nuclear fuel supply assurances is yet another example of the Bush Administration's effort to bring new vitality to multilateral nonproliferation efforts. For more than three decades, a series of IAEA and UN committees have discussed international fuel cycle issues and the possibility of fuel supply assurances, with no concrete result. The United States now is working instead with the supplier governments, industry and the IAEA -- those that can make something happen -- to put in place a fuel supply back-up mechanism, drawing on ideas that have been talked about -- but only talked about -- for more than 30 years.

The United States has taken a comparable approach to international efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). For years, a committee of the BWC States Parties labored to produce a verification protocol for the Convention. It simply did not succeed -- despite the best efforts of its chairman and many of its members. The traditional arms control verification approach -- which served the international community well for strategic and conventional weapons -- simply would not work for biological weapons. The draft protocol would not have made the BWC effectively verifiable, and it would not have deterred those who would seek to violate the Convention. Instead, it might have produced a false confidence, while deadly offensive biological warfare efforts continued.

Rather than continuing to pursue an ineffective verification protocol, the United States -- in an act of leadership more than unilateralism -- proposed that the BWC States Parties adopt a far more constructive approach to strengthen the global regime against biological weapons. The BWC work program of the past three years has reflected those ideas, aimed at promoting common understanding and effective action on a series of measures to combat the biological weapons threat. These include: necessary national measures, including criminalization, to implement the BWC prohibitions; national mechanisms to maintain security and oversight of dangerous biological materials; international capabilities to respond to suspicious or deliberate disease outbreaks; national and international means for surveillance, detection, diagnosis and combating of infectious diseases; and scientific codes of conduct.

Through these measures, the current BWC work program has provided a constructive agenda to advance the fundamental aim of the Convention to protect the world from the scourge of biological weapons -- and to highlight the requirement for effective national efforts to combat the biological threat.

The U.S. position on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) also departs from past practice. After extensive study, the Administration concluded that an FMCT could not be effectively verified even with intrusive measures that would impinge on important national security equities. However, the Administration has not chosen to abandon pursuit of an FMCT. Instead, we seek an agreement without verification measures that could be negotiated readily, and would prohibit the production of fissile material for weapons purposes worldwide. We welcome India's support of an FMCT in the July statement by the President and Prime Minister Singh, and hope that negotiations can begin soon. In the interim, the United States will continue to honor our voluntary moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons or other explosive purposes, and we call on other states to adopt and abide by similar moratoria. As Secretary Bodman announced today, the United States is going even further, and will remove 200 metric tons of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) from the weapons stockpile.

The innovation and creativity which has characterized the Bush Administration approach against WMD proliferation are most evident, I think, in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). In just two and a half years, 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, involving long, ponderous negotiations that yield results only slowly, if at all. Instead, it is a true partnership to act proactively in enforcing national and international legal authorities to deter, disrupt and prevent WMD and missile proliferation.

The PSI-type approach 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 we are working to designate additional ones. And the effort is working.

Thus, the international community is moving from the creation of international export control standards to their active enforcement -- through enhanced national legislation, through interdictions, through international law enforcement and financial cooperation. We have shut down the world's most dangerous nuclear proliferation network. We have steadily reduced the opportunities available to proliferators. But we must continue to expand and deepen our efforts -- using all available national and international authorities and, where necessary, creating new ones -- until we have put all proliferators out of business.


In conclusion, the strategic approach to combat WMD proliferation that the President laid out over four years ago continues to provide an essential guide for action. Our strategy, and the new measures we have adopted to implement it, are flexible and dynamic. They are suited to the changing nature of the proliferation threat. Multilateral cooperation is a hallmark of our approach a cooperation which is broader, deeper, more innovative, and effective than the traditional tools of nonproliferation diplomacy alone. Not only have these efforts produced dramatic successes in the cases of Libya and shutting down the A.Q. Khan network, but equally important we have positioned ourselves to fight more effectively the key challenges of nuclear terrorism and disrupting the trade in proliferation. These efforts have also positioned us in a better posture to take on the two major state threats to nuclear nonproliferation: North Korea and Iran.

Meeting the threats from WMD proliferation, in the face of continuous, complex and dangerous challenges, will continue to require new ways of thinking and acting together. This is a responsibility not just for the United States, not just for a few close allies, but for the entire international community.


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