Issues: James B. Steinberg Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairsremarks to Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Washington, D.C. June 9, 1997
I want to begin by saying a few words about the nature of the nonproliferation challenge we face in the wake of the end of the Cold War and on the threshold of this new century. As my good friend Mitchell Reiss has remarked, there is a "Tale of Two Cities" quality to today's proliferation environment: It is the best of times and yet the worst of times.
On the positive side, you've heard Sandy describe some of the remarkable accomplishments: the end of the Cold War also ended the nuclear arms race between Washington and Moscow and created unprecedented opportunities for nuclear arms control -- including a potential START III, which would cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals 80% from their Cold War heights, eliminate warheads for the first time, and increase transparency. Last year we successfully concluded a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which President Clinton plans to submit to the Senate for ratification in the very near future -- and we are committed to trying to achieve the Treaty's envisioned entry into force by September 1998. The CTBT is a landmark achievement in a remarkable period, which has seen the indefinite and unconditional extension of the NPT, and the entry into force of the CWC -- with the United States as an original party. After decades of hard work, much of it by many of the people here today, it is fair to say that we have put in place the essential building blocks for an international normative structure against the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and we are elaborating new, more sophisticated multilateral mechanisms for controlling the spread of dangerous technology.
The Cold War's close also freed up diplomatic, institutional, and financial resources which we can now devote to meeting the challenge of proliferation. We are better positioned than ever to give non-proliferation the priority it deserves in our national security policy.
There is also good news on the regional front. Political developments in Latin American and Africa have made it possible for Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa to give up their nuclear weapons programs and ballistic missile programs, and to join the international regime. Today, there are fewer countries on the watch list for nuclear proliferation than at any time since President Kennedy's famous warning more than thirty years ago.
At the same time, the collapse of the Soviet Union has presented a new set of risks.
American diplomacy helped avert the most serious threat, by persuading Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus to join the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states and helping them transfer nuclear weapons from their territory to Russia for dismantling. This is a signal accomplishment when you consider the potentially destabilizing consequences of additional nuclear powers in Central Europe.
But a longer term concern -- and in some ways much harder to address -- is the danger that Russia and the NIS could become sources of materials, equipment, and know-how for would-be proliferators. In a world where barriers are coming down and control systems are imperfect, the risk of smuggling goes up -- thus raising the chance that a rogue state or even a terrorist group could obtain the materials necessary to build a bomb.
Even more dangerous, the global diffusion of technological capability and scientific knowledge is eroding technical barriers to proliferation and threatens to outpace multilateral control efforts. Compounding the problem, some key countries are not fully participating in these efforts. Thus, while we strengthen our efforts to solve the supply side of the proliferation equation, we must continue to focus on the demand side as well.
In particular, persistent regional conflicts and the ambitions of rogue states create an all-too-thriving market for destabilizing WMD systems and technologies, especially in the Gulf, South Asia, and the Korean peninsula. The horses of low-tech proliferation -- chemical and biological weapons and short-range ballistic missiles -- are virtually out of the barn. And the relative accessibility of chemical and biological weapons increases the danger they could be used in a terrorist attack.
Clearly, there is no single policy, no silver bullet, that can tackle today's complex and varied proliferation challenges. But President Clinton has made clear that we have no higher priority.
I would like to focus today on the three primary elements of our strategy. First, establishing and strengthening international treaty regimes; Second, dealing with the supply side of the problem through multilateral mechanisms to control the spread of proliferation-related technologies, equipment, and material; and finally, addressing the demand side by designing and implementing regional approaches to reduce incentives for proliferation.
Our first line of defense is international treaties, which establish both the normative and legal structures to address the proliferation threat. As I have said, the past four years have capped a remarkable, decades-long effort to put in place the key elements of a global framework -- the NPT, CWC, and BWC. The challenge now is two-fold: first, to ensure the widest possible membership in these regimes; and second, to design and implement effective verification and enforcement systems.
The nuclear regime has made the greatest strides forward. With the help of our leadership, the NPT is a permanent feature of the international framework and adherence is almost universal -- we are hopeful that Brazil will join us soon. The UN Security Council has created a solid precedent for taking action against countries that have violated the treaty, such as Iraq and North Korea.
The NPT's legal status is bolstered by the IAEA, and its comprehensive safeguards inspections. The international community received a sobering wake-up call when we discovered Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program. We responded by strengthening the IAEA's role and resources, culminating last month with the approval of the new model protocol. The protocol will substantially fortify the IAEA's authority and ability to detect secret nuclear weapons activities in NPT parties. President Clinton intends to submit this protocol for Senate ratification early next year.
The success of the global NPT regime is enhanced by regional nuclear weapons free zones, such as those in Latin America, Africa, and the South Pacific. The United States is now working with the parties to the Southeast Asia nuclear free zone to resolve issues that stand in the way of U.S. adherence, and we look forward to learning more about the proposed nuclear free zone in Central Asia. We also hope that discussions among appropriate parties for establishing nuclear free zones in South Asia and the Middle East can begin in the near future.
President Clinton has also called for negotiating a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty -- a treaty of special value in regions where destabilizing arms races are jeopardizing security and drawing resources away from social needs. We believe the negotiations should proceed without delay and on their own merits. No matter how attractive in theory, linkage to a timebound, comprehensive nuclear disarmament scheme simply isn't practical. And the stakes are too high to allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good.
In contrast to the nuclear regime, international efforts to prevent the spread of chemical and biological weapons are less well-developed. Now that the CWC has entered into force, we must ensure that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has the resources and the political support for implementation. CWC members will need to work together to expand adherence to the CWC. In particular, we hope that the Russian Duma will ratify the CWC as soon as possible.
In some respects, the BWC regime poses an even greater challenge. Although the treaty has been in force since 1972 and membership is nearly universal, the regime lacks any compliance or enforcement mechanisms. At the United Nations last year, President Clinton called on the international community to complete, by 1998, a legally binding protocol to the BWC that would establish tough compliance procedures, including appropriate on-site inspections. We look forward to working to achieve this objective when negotiations begin in Geneva next month.
Our second major nonproliferation tool is promoting cooperation among suppliers to control the export of technology, equipment, and materials that can contribute to the development of weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems. This is a challenging prospect. The new market democracies of Central Europe and the former Soviet Union are struggling to overcome economic hardship and create effective export control systems. And except for some very specialized technologies, a long-term strategy of technology denial has real limits. In today's increasingly open societies, it will become more and more difficult to regulate the transfer or indigenous development of the basic industrial infrastructure and technical know-how necessary for weapons of mass destruction.
Nonetheless, there are important steps the international community can and must take to address this challenge, both through national and multilateral mechanisms. Most Western suppliers have tightened domestic controls of dual use commodities and increased information sharing and law enforcement cooperation to fight the smuggling of dangerous technologies. Now, we need to expand membership and refine the multilateral export control efforts in the Zangger Committee, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group, and the MTCR. The 33-country Wassenaar Arrangement offers a unique vehicle for strengthening responsibility and transparency in the sale of conventional arms and dual-use goods, and for mobilizing international support for restraining trade to pariah countries.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of these multilateral efforts depends on the full participation of all potential suppliers. In particular, Russia and China are key to meeting the supply challenge.
We have a strong national interest in working with Russia to ensure that its future lies in closer relations with the West. The new NATO-Russia agreement is but one example of our broader strategy to increase Russia's political and economic integration. Nonetheless, there are economic and political fears stemming from Russia's loss of traditional markets that create pressure for developing a supply relationship with countries of concern. I want to mention, in particular, the issue of nuclear and missile assistance to Iran. While we value President Yeltsin's assurances that Russia will limit its nuclear assistance to Iran, we remain concerned that Iran will seek to exploit Russian construction of a nuclear power plant to acquire expertise and infrastructure that can support its nuclear weapons ambitions, even though President Yeltsin has made clear that this is not Russia's intent.
We are also troubled by recent reports that Russian entities are providing assistance to Iran's long range ballistic missile program. Obviously, it is not in Russia's long term interests to help create a missile force that could threaten Russia itself. President Yeltsin has stated that Russia opposes such assistance, and we will continue to work closely with the Russian government to ensure the implementation of that policy.
China also presents a mixed picture. On the one hand, China has played an increasingly helpful role in supporting the international regimes, including adoption of the CTBT and extension of the NPT, and working with us to resolve specific nonproliferation concerns, such as the North Korean nuclear threat. On the other hand, we remain deeply concerned about some of China's weapons supply relationships and the limitations of its inadequate, although improving, system of export controls to prevent unauthorized sales.
Over the past year, we have made some progress in dealing with these issues. China has curtailed its nuclear cooperation with Iran -- especially in areas that might contribute to Iran's nuclear weapons capability -- and China is taking steps to fulfill its pledge not to assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. By putting in place an effective export control system, China can help establish a basis for activating the 1985 Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between our two nations.
At the same time, problems remain. We recently imposed sanctions against several Chinese individuals and private companies for contributing to Iran's chemical weapons program. We are also concerned by continued reports of Chinese missile-related exports to Pakistan and Iran. We will continue to use all the tools we have -- cooperation, persistent diplomacy, targeted sanctions when appropriate -- to encourage improvements in China's nonproliferation efforts. We believe China must increasingly come to see that it is in China's own interest not to aid the spread of dangerous weapons or to fuel instability in its own neighborhood.
The third major component of our nonproliferation strategy is to address the underlying conflicts and tensions that drive proliferation in three key regions: the Korean peninsula, the Middle East, and South Asia. In these regions, the international treaties and multilateral export control agreements may help to slow proliferation, or at least create barriers that deter countries from openly challenging nonproliferation norms. But substantial progress will require a change in the security calculation of the states in question.
On the Korean peninsula, the 1994 Agreed Framework has frozen North Korea's program to produce nuclear material and established a plan for eventual North Korean compliance with IAEA safeguards, removal of nuclear materials and dismantling of North Korea's nuclear facilities. At the same time, the Agreed Framework is potentially vulnerable to political pressures and regional tensions. Moreover, we remain concerned by North Korea's chemical weapons capabilities and missile program, including exports. To meet these threats, our broader security strategy in the region includes maintaining a strong alliance with South Korea and beginning the four-party talks to establish a permanent peace on the peninsula, as well as our direct contacts with North Korea on missile and CW issues.
In the Middle East, proliferation is driven by the strategic rivalry between Iran and Iraq for supremacy in the Gulf and by the absence of a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors. Our strategy has three main elements: First, we must remain vigilant about Iraq's efforts to revive its weapons programs, by maintaining Security Council restraints on Iraq's military capabilities and supporting the intrusive inspection regimes conducted by UNSCOM and the IAEA. Second, we are seeking to strengthen the international effort to deny Iran the means to develop nuclear and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Finally, we remain deeply committed to continuing an active role to helping to reduce tensions and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, which would allow regional arms control and security talks to resume and ultimately remove incentives for proliferation.
In South Asia, India and Pakistan have acquired nuclear and missile capabilities and continue to expand their programs, although each side has avoided acknowledging its capabilities and deploying such weapons. A near term political solution to proliferation in South Asia is unlikely.
But there are hopeful signs that the new governments in Delhi and Islamabad are genuinely interested in pursuing dialogue and improving bilateral relations, which may reinforce the de facto restraints that both sides are observing. The United States will continue to encourage India and Pakistan to settle their differences at the negotiating table. We also continue to urge both sides to move in the right direction on CTBT and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, and to freeze and eventually eliminate their nuclear and missile arsenals.
I know the focus of your conference this week is to enhance the tools we need to meet the varied threats we face that we outlined today. Our administration will continue to look to all of you to help us make these truly the best and not the worst of times. And I hope we can continue to work together in the coming years as we take on the proliferation challenges of the next century.