Weapons of Mass Destruction and Nonproliferation

September 19th, 2006 - by admin

Paul F. Walker / State of the World 2005 Global Security Brief #4: – 2006-09-19 23:55:04


(May 1, 2005) — Weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—nuclear, chemical, and biological — have long been viewed as extremely dangerous, deadly, and indiscriminate means for killing large numbers of combatants and civilians, and for laying waste to vast territories. The two uses of nuclear weapons in combat, by the United States in August 1945, clearly demonstrated the enormous destructive potential of atomic bombs.

The 12.5- kiloton Hiroshima bomb, “Little Boy,” killed over 100,000 Japanese instantly, with many more killed or injured from radiation in subsequent years. “Fat Man,” dropped three days later on Nagasaki and estimated at 22 kilotons, killed more than 70,000 people and has left a much longer-term legacy of radiation death and injury.

Fortunately, no nuclear weapons have been used in combat since these two horrific cases almost sixty years ago. Nevertheless, the world has seen the number of nuclear powers increase from one (the United States) in 1945 to at least eight today. Nuclear weapons stockpiles have increased from a handful to the tens of thousands. And nuclear explosive capability has grown from kilotons to megatons — a thousand kilotons or larger, the equivalent of one million tons of TNT.

Chemical weapons, including phosgene, lewisite, mustard, and other deadly agents, were widely used on World War I battlefields in Europe, with serious consequences. Because of their indiscriminate nature, their use was banned by the Geneva Protocol of 1925. Unfortunately, their research, development, and production were not banned, and many nations moved forward with improved and more deadly agent development.

By the 1950s and 60s, hundreds of thousands of tons of advanced nerve agent weapons had been deployed by major powers, including the United States, the Soviet Union, NATO, and the Warsaw Pact countries.

Most recently, chemical weapons were used in the long Iran-Iraq border wars in the 1980s and by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against the Kurds in Halabja in the late 1980s. The Aum Shinrikyo terrorists in Tokyo also used nerve agent several times in the mid-1990s, with the 1995 Tokyo subway attack killing and injuring thousands of subway riders.

Biological weapons — the use of pathogens and disease to kill enemies — were also banned by the Geneva Protocol and have not been used in major warfare, but there has been active research, development, and stockpiling in the past decades, especially in the United States and the Soviet Union.

In the pre-World War II period, Japan disseminated plague-infected fleas in Manchuria, and in World War I, Germany attempted to infect animals with anthrax and glanders.

Most recently, the limited terrorist attack in the United States with anthrax in 2001 demonstrated the still-dangerous possibilities of biological weapons, while disease outbreaks have shown more widespread risks.

Fortunately, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons have all been subject to international agreements, both bilateral and multilateral, over the past century. These have restricted research, development, deployment, and use of these deadly and indiscriminate weapons. For example:

• The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), now signed by 188 countries, is the most critical international agreement inhibiting proliferation of nuclear weapons. Under the NPT’s “grand bargain,” the world’s non-nuclear nations agreed to forego nuclear weapons development in return for a promise by the five nuclear powers of the time (the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France, and Britain) to help with peaceful nuclear energy development. The nuclear powers also agreed to work towards full elimination of all nuclear weapons.

In follow-up conferences in 1995 and 2000, the nuclear powers agreed to work towards several important interim disarmament steps, including a comprehensive test ban treaty, a fissile material cutoff treaty, deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals, and a diminished role for nuclear weapons in global security.

• Nuclear weapons have also been limited by several Soviet-American bilateral strategic arms control agreements, including the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), and the START agreements. Most recently, the 2002 Moscow Treaty commits both Russia and the United States to reduce their arsenals to 1,700-2,200 nuclear warheads by the end of 2012.

The US is in the process of reducing its active strategic arsenal by some 3,800 warheads over ten years, or by under 400 warheads annually. The Russian reductions will be slightly larger.

• Under the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program and related nonproliferation programs, the U.S government has committed some $10 billion over the past twelve years to securing and demilitarizing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and materials in the Former Soviet Union (FSU).

This was expanded in 2002 by the G-8 Global Partnership Initiative, which includes some two dozen other countries also contributing to Russian demilitarization.

The program has helped secure and destroy thousands of nuclear weapons in the FSU, begun construction of a major nerve agent destruction facility in Siberia, and cleaned up and/or destroyed numerous former chemical and biological weapons sites and facilities.

• The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), now signed by 168 nations, entered into force in April 1997 and bans the research, development, production, and use of chemical weapons. It requires all six declared chemical weapons powers — the United States, Russia, India, South Korea, Libya, and Albania — to destroy their stockpiles, including precursor chemicals, by April 2007, and allows for one five-year extension. The US and Russia account for 98 percent of the total stockpile of 73,000 tons.

• Biological weapons were banned under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and today, no known biological weapons exist. The United States has stated that it destroyed all of its bioweapons by 1975; Russia has stated that its program ended in 1992.

Suspicions abound, however, concerning ongoing “counter-BW” research: limited samples of biological pathogens still exist in secure facilities in both countries, possibly elsewhere, and the BWC unfortunately has no inspection, verification, or enforcement powers.

The continuing danger of WMD has been brought home by recent overt threats from terrorist groups, most prominently Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and reported intelligence obtained in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can only imagine the extraordinary damage and carnage, and inevitable long-term socio-economic and environmental consequences that could result from the use of such weapons today.

A nuclear detonation in New York City, for example, could obliterate all of Manhattan. A nerve agent released during a major sporting event could kill tens of thousands of people in a few minutes. And the release of a biological agent, such as on an aircraft by a single individual infected with smallpox, could spread the disease globally before countermeasures could be implemented.

There is widespread national and international agreement that weapons of mass destruction must never be used, that serious efforts must be undertaken to limit possible WMD threats, and that WMD nonproliferation must be a central tenet of national security policy. Unfortunately, diplomatic rhetoric has not always matched national policy, resulting in less than optimal national, foreign, and military policy options.

To minimize threats and proliferation of WMD, the following policy options need to be addressed in the near future:

• 1. Secure all existing WMD and related materials in the United States, Russia, and elsewhere. This includes ensuring continuation of the G-8 Global Partnership Initiative, as well as allowing for limited use of Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) funds outside of the Former Soviet Union, as was done in 2004 to help Albania secure and begin destruction of its sixteen tons of chemical weapons.

Similarly, in August 2002, the US secretly transported some 100 pounds of fissile material from a Serbian research reactor to Russia for reprocessing.

Funding requests for these and other nonproliferation programs need to be supported, including President Bush’s request for $415.5 million in CTR funds as part of the FY 2006 defense budget and funding requests for related programs in the US Departments of Energy and State. The US Agency for International Development and other G-8 foreign aid agencies must also be provided funds to complement demilitarization projects in Russia.

• 2. Implement deeper and faster reductions in Russian and US nuclear weapons. Despite reductions required under the 2002 Moscow Treaty and earlier agreements, both Russia and the US are allowed to retain all deactivated nuclear warheads in reserve storage for what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has called “safety and reliability” reasons, and to have additional weapons “in the event they’re needed.”

Yet it is difficult to imagine any need for more than a few hundred nuclear warheads as a strategic deterrent force today, or the need for any new weapons, particularly while advocating a global nonproliferation policy.

Specifically, Presidents Bush and Putin should announce at their forthcoming summit that the Moscow Treaty reductions be implemented by 2007, not 2012, thus doubling the speed of annual reductions.

And the US Congress should refuse funding for new nuclear weapons development — such as the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” and the “Reliable Replacement Warhead” — proposals that are both unnecessary and in conflict with our nonproliferation goals.

• 3. Support the third five-year review of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, in New York this May. The nuclear powers, especially the US and Russia, should announce a timeframe for fulfilling their prior NPT pledges, which could include a comprehensive test ban treaty, a fissile material cutoff treaty, and deeper nuclear reductions. These implementation processes should be reported annually to the NPT parties.

The nuclear powers should reiterate their support for helping non-nuclear states with peaceful nuclear processes under expanded inspection and verification auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This helps resolve the problem of Iranian nuclear technology today.

Additionally, the NPT parties must condemn the sudden removal of IAEA inspectors from North Korea and the withdrawal of North Korea from the NPT, and to commit to working through peaceful, diplomatic means to bring it back into the NPT regime. The Review conference also needs to note the importance of bringing the nuclear powers of India and Pakistan, as well as the undeclared nuclear state of Israel, into the NPT regime.

• 4. Work towards full and timely implementation of the international Chemical Weapons Convention. While four of the six declared CW states will likely meet the 2007 deadline, the United States and Russia will not.

The US Defense Department even recently proposed slowing destruction of the nation’s remaining 23,000 tons of chemical weapons until 2018 or later. Both countries must fully fund their chemical weapons destruction programs in order to meet the 2012 CWC deadline and reduce proliferation and terrorist risks of the 63,000 tons of weapons remaining in their borders.

They must do this while keeping public health, environmental protection, and safety as primary goals. The CWC parties and their implementing organization, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, must actively seek to bring in the remaining 26 non-signatory and non-member states — most importantly Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, North Korea, Somalia, and Syria.

• 5. Establish an effective inspection and verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention. The most recent five-year review of the BWC, in 2001, failed to establish an implementation regime to strengthen the agreement. While an Ad Hoc Group had carefully negotiated a verification Protocol agreement, this proposal was rejected primarily due to US-raised questions about the intrusive nature of inspections on civilian and military biological research.

A new international consensus needs to be established for the next five-year review in 2006, in order to implement a strict and verifiable nonproliferation regime globally.

Since the end of the Cold War more than fifteen years ago, most countries recognize the diminished role for all weapons of mass destruction — nuclear, chemical, and biological — in global affairs. Both chemical and biological weapons have now been banned globally, while nuclear weapons continue to hold some political weight in international relations.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons to both India and Pakistan over the past decade, and the current threat of further spread to North Korea and Iran, has again raised the importance of nonproliferation policy. Sub-national terrorist threats to use WMD in recent years have also rung the alarm bell in many capitals.

It is long overdue for all weapons of mass destruction to be made truly taboo. This will necessitate eventual global abolition, with effective inspection and verification regimes, as has happened with the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

This political commitment also requires specific steps in the control of nuclear weapons today, far bolder than those the nuclear powers have been willing to implement to date. Only with a single, global, and nondiscriminatory standard of WMD abolition will we be successful in implementing an effective nonproliferation regime and a safer world for us all.

Dr. Paul Walker is Legacy Program Director with Global Green USA, the US affiliate of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross, in Washington, DC. He manages the international Legacy Program with Green Cross colleagues in Switzerland and Russia to facilitate and advocate the safe and environmentally sound demilitarization of weapons stockpiles. He is a former Professional Staff Member of the Armed Services Committee in the US House of Representatives and contributed the section, “Chemical Weapons,” to State of the World 2005 (pp. 142-43).