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Arms Control Reviews Will Conclude Within a Year

Arms Control Reviews Will Conclude Within a Year

Mr. Owen Sheaks, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance says that "all programs that have to do with weapons of mass destruction are under review." Source: Washington File (EUR421), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., March 29, 2001.

A key State Department arms control official says the Bush administration's multiple reviews of arms control and nonproliferation positions will be completed in the coming year on the biological weapons, nuclear testing, and strategic nuclear agreements.

In a March 9 interview with Washington File Security Affairs Correspondent Jacquelyn Porth, Sheaks said the Verification and Compliance Bureau's job is to "establish rigorous processes that sort through information to answer the real questions about our arms control concerns." This may involve conducting demarches and other diplomatic activities. It involves what he describes as "compliance diplomacy" to try to collect information about U.S. concerns regarding various arms control commitments and agreements.

Sheaks said the 1992 Open Skies Treaty is receiving close attention these days because it will soon enter into force -- a decade after it was signed by the States Parties. "We're waiting for Russia to ratify. The Ukraine will follow them. They claim it is very close -- within a month or two of being ratified." Open Skies was negotiated between members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the former members of the Warsaw Pact to establish a program of unarmed aerial observation flights extending from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The confidence-building treaty is designed to promote security and stability among participants through greater transparency and openness of military forces and activities.

Asked if the issue of verification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is dormant, the assistant secretary said: "No, it's not. In fact, right now the really critical question relates to the fact that we are paying $20 million a year to the CTBTO (CTBT Organization in Vienna http://www.ctbto.org/), which is putting together an International Monitoring System."

He said his Bureau is working "very closely with the intelligence community to see what the benefits are of the utilization of the International Monitoring System to collect data which is relevant to nuclear testing monitoring."

Asked if his Bureau's opinions had been solicited regarding possible future modifications to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), Sheaks said, "In fact, yes....Since we are, by law, required to do compliance judgment on both U.S. and foreign behavior with respect to the treaty, we will be engaging in the process of determining what is compliant with the ABM." If an ABM verification regime were required in the future, he said, "we would be designing and working on that."

Following is the transcript of the Sheaks interview: (begin transcript)

QUESTION: The Bureau of Verification and Compliance (VC) is one of the newer bureaus organized under the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. How did the Bureau's creation come about behind the scenes, politically and structurally?

SHEAKS: Two years ago there were four bureaus of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), one of which was called the Intelligence Verification and Information Management (IVI) Bureau. When the State Department reorganization moved ACDA into State, the decision was made that of those four bureaus, three would be formed. The old IVI Bureau was put under a deputy assistant secretary of state (DAS) within the Arms Control Bureau.

Politically the question has always been, at what level should there be an independent voice describing the verification and compliance aspects of arms control and nonproliferation agreements. The level of that voice is important to Congress, mostly the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Members of both committees from both parties sent letters to the president and the secretary of state that said we think verification and compliance is so central to arms control and nonproliferation agreements that we believe the voice that speaks for VC should be at least at the assistant secretary level. So verification and compliance was then established, by authorizing legislation [in February 2000], as an independent bureau within the State Department with certain mandates.

There has also been a question about compliance. Treaties are not always specific. There are a lot of ambiguities. Even though treaties are suppose to be legally-binding, there are many details you can't accommodate in treaty text at the time of signing. You put those details aside until after entry-into-force (EIF) and then as things come up, you negotiate on more or less new arrangements under the treaty that were not clarified before entry-into-force.

So there is an ongoing compliance and verification process. Maybe 90 percent of the work we do after treaties enter into force has to do with verification and compliance.

Q: How many arms control treaties do you oversee and what is the scope of topics?

A: There are four strategic treaties right now that are entered into force: START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty); START II is pending. It hasn't been finished yet. There is the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty and the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty. In addition, there are new treaties coming up like, potentially, START III.

So we would look at all of those strategic treaties. There were a couple of side agreements on ABM -- although they have never been submitted to Congress and they may not ever be because this is a new administration.

There is the Chemical Weapons Treaty. There were other earlier chemical weapons activities -- a bilateral agreement with the Russians and other minor agreements, but basically, the structure of chemical weapons is now under the CWC, Chemical Weapons Convention.

We looked at the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), another major treaty, and there's an ongoing negotiation presently on a new protocol on compliance for BWC.

There are three (nuclear) testing treaties that we look at. There is a Limited Test Ban Treaty. It prevents explosions in the atmosphere and space. There is the Threshold Test Ban Treaty with the Russians that prohibits explosions over 150 kilotons and there are the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) negotiations.

Then there is the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. We look at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) documents that have to do with confidence-building measures: the Vienna Documents Agreements.

Open Skies is another treaty that we are looking at closely; it is about to enter into force, we think, after 10 years. We're waiting for Russia to ratify. The Ukraine will follow them. They claim it is very close -- within a month or two of being ratified.

Another treaty we look at is the Antarctica Treaty, on which we work with OES (Office of Environmental Security). In fact, we just got back from a joint inspection with OES of some of the bases in Antarctica. It was the first treaty that had on-site inspection provisions. We continue today to do both joint arms control and environmental inspections. It's the oldest arms control treaty where we have on-site inspections.

We also, by law, are required to report on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There are new upgrades of protocols for safeguards that we look at because the safeguards form the verification structure for the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It's run by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In addition, there are a number of other agreements that the last administration got into, like Plutonium Disposition for Nuclear Warheads.

Q: And that relates primarily to Russia?

A: These are agreements with Russia. Under that rubric of nuclear agreements, there is the IAEA-U.S.-Russia trilateral agreement that has to do with putting material that comes out of weapons -- at least a portion of that material -- under a safeguards regime.

There is a treaty on HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) that comes from weapons: a blend-down agreement where we purchase, basically, LEU (Lightly Enriched Uranium) that has come from highly enriched uranium that's spent for weapons and the Russians are no longer using for weapons. We look at the verification regimes for that.

By law, we are required to report on compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). That's actually very loose, it's not a legally-binding treaty. Each country agrees to abide by certain norms of behavior. Each country decides on its own, but we are asked to look at how we think countries are living up to their commitment to abide by the norms that the MTCR documents set out. It's a little different kind of commitment than we've looked at in the past, but the Congress wanted us to look at that. So they included that in the legislation.

Q: Is it possible to verify treaty compliance with a 100 percent degree of certainty?

A: Absolutely not. In fact, for most treaties that's a dream. INF is probably the best example of a treaty that is more easily verified because it was a very simple treaty. It got rid of an entire class of missiles (Russian SS-20s and U.S. Pershing IIs and ground-launched cruise missiles). And START is a little like INF, although it's more complicated, with broader scope, and a lot more provisions.

But with what we call non-proliferation agreements, like the CWC and the BWC, it becomes even more difficult to verify because of the dual-use nature of the technology; bio material is used for pharmaceuticals as well as for (toxic) agents. The same thing is true for the chemical industry.

When you get into things that are not so clear cut, it becomes very difficult to have a high degree of confidence in your compliance judgment. It's very hard to get information, particularly when programs are designed to keep you from getting information. It's called "denial and deception." The Libyans and Iraqis undertake methods of covering up their programs so that you can't find them or won't even know that they have them.

A lot of the time people will say we don't have any information that Iraq is violating their chemical commitments. We respond, yes, because they're really good at covering it up. It doesn't mean they don't have it. So absence of information is not always an indication that you should give them a clean bill of health. A lot of it depends on the history of a program.

Q: What are some of the current arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament initiatives either underway or about to be launched?

A: Big questions in this administration are, right now, the Biological Weapons Convention Protocol and compliance. That's been an ongoing negotiation. It's nearing conclusion. The viability of that negotiation is under review right now.

Several in this administration have been on record opposing the CTBT. We will be in a process of reviewing the administration's views on the future of CTBT. That's a big one.

For strategic agreements, there is a huge review going on right now sponsored by the NSC (National Security Council), but all agencies are participating in what our strategic future should be. What types of agreements should we have? Should we do unilateral reductions? Should we continue with the agreements that we have like ABM? Should we try to renegotiate the ABM Treaty or just say that it's no longer a valid treaty?

All of these questions in the strategic area are under review and there is no indication of where they're going. They may stay the way they are. Most likely they will change somehow. We don't know. That review is supposed to be completed within a few months.

Certainly, over this next year, working these new ideas will be important in this administration.

Q: So there is a series of reviews that are going on simultaneously?

A: Yes, they are all going on more or less simultaneously with limited staff and resources, and they're trying to get them all done as soon as possible. That's why I'm saying over the next year I think you will see this administration's position coming out on the BWC, on strategic agreements, and on testing agreements. Those are the three big areas.

Of course, there is a whole assortment of other nonproliferation activities we're doing with the Russians involving Comprehensive Threat Reduction (CTR) money, ISTC (International Science and Technology Centers), and MPC & A (Material, Protection, Control, and Accounting). Those are exercises we have going on with Russia where we are paying to help make their weapons systems more secure.

All programs that have to do with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are under review in this administration -- not to say that they necessarily will be changed, but they are under review.

Q: What are the arms control threats that worry you most from a verification and compliance standpoint? And how are they best addressed?

A: I think the highest level is strategic, because when you are defining your own policy on how many weapons, warheads, missiles, defenses are needed, you have to make assumptions about the other side. You need reliable information about what the other side's forces are.

Legally-binding agreements -- or even agreements that have information about what the other side is doing that you can rely on to make your assumptions -- can help set the limits that you need in order to accommodate what you think the other side has.

But the concept of verification is not just what we get in an agreement. It's about any source of information that we can use to measure the progress of other countries against the norm that we have established. If the norm is getting down to lower levels of strategic forces, we have to have information about the other side's strategic forces. You can provide that type of information. It's not difficult to find. So that's something that allows for verification, either through open source information, through intelligence, or through legally-binding arrangements.

The bio-terrorism threat is real, as is the threat from infectious diseases coming into the United States. I think those are important issues that we may not be able to get at through treaties, but we need to get at through information sources about what the threat really is and whether or not a treaty environment, like the BWC, is the right environment to handle that.

The chemical weapons threat by terrorists, of course, is also there. Nuclear testing limitations are also important because that's part of our strategic dialogue in order to understand the types of weapons on the missiles that other countries have. You look at testing operations. That's where we first get information about the types of nuclear weapons other countries may have.

We look at testing practices -- the types of tests and the types of yields of tests. So getting information on the countries that could be or would be conducting tests is very important, either under a CTBT, if they decide to go that way, or outside of a CTBT.

Q: You have been a participant in the field of arms control for over 20 years now. What are some of the lessons you've learned?

A: I guess I've learned that things aren't always what they seem. Some things seemed innocent when they weren't and some things seemed not innocent when they were.

So what I've learned, and why I like my job, is that we try to establish rigorous processes that sort through information to answer the real questions about our arms control concerns. Is it a real concern or not? If we can't tell, how do we go about getting information, mostly through diplomatic activity, that will help resolve that concern?

We do demarches on our own. And so we have a new effort in "compliance diplomacy," is what I call it, trying to collect information about concerns that we have on various commitments and agreements.

Q: With which countries does the United States share verification or compliance data?

A: We have a very close relationship with the United Kingdom because we are both nuclear weapons states. Then there are the Canadians and the Australians. We have very close relationships with them. Then, of course, the Europeans and the Japanese, the OECD Forum and EU countries. We're building stronger bridges to Asia -- with South Korea, in particular, and Indonesia. In verification of technology, South Korea is a leader. They actually have a verification unit there. So we talk to them, routinely.

We have, in the past, had discussions with China on verification technology, but the last few years they've been dormant, mostly because of the security problems at the U.S. national weapons laboratories.

We have close connections with the Russians on technology discussions; particularly, how it relates to verification treaties. A lot of the technology we use in verification involves consensus-building between the Russians and us.

We work closely with international organizations like the IAEA and the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). We work with them on the technology that the inspectors use to do the chemical weapons inspections.

We have a number of bilateral relationships in which we're working on IT -- with the Japanese and the Canadians and the Australians and the European Union.

Q: You touched on this, but how much international outreach does your office do to inform or educate counterparts about the breakthroughs in verification -- or the successes?

A: I think we will do more of that in the future. We have some limited discussions, mostly with our closer allies. But as we have multilateral treaties like the CWC being implemented, we need a broader understanding of compliance and technologies relevant to compliance and how you gather information. With Asia, with South Korea, and with Japan -- maybe even with Russia -- I think there does need to be a dialogue as we expand the types of commitments, and not just arms control and nonproliferation agreements, but other agreements that have to do with areas like environmental monitoring.

We might want to have more open dialogue on verification and compliance. These are things for the future. The past has seen very limited discussions about compliance, and mostly in closely-held circles where we're trying to focus on WMD issues, which are sensitive from an information perspective. So we have to be careful with whom we share information about our sources and methods.

Q: How much involvement did your office have in the issue of CTBT verification, and is the effort dormant?

A: No, it's not. In fact, right now the really critical question relates to the fact that we are paying $20 million a year to the CTBO (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization), which is putting together an International Monitoring System. We're working very closely with the intelligence community to see what the benefits are of the utilization of the International Monitoring System to collect data which is relevant to nuclear testing monitoring.

They are separate exercises. The intelligence community has its own set, but the International Monitoring System is another set of data which is validated. It's high-standard data that does have some validity. And the question is what would happen if CTBT went away and you lost the International Monitoring System? What impact would that have on the United States' ability to collect that information about nuclear testing worldwide? That's a study that's under way right now.

What the International Monitoring System does is give everyone the same data. They may not analyze it like we do, and if they don't, we just say: "Look at this little glitch here that happened at this time yesterday, that we think is a nuclear test and here's why we think it's a nuclear test." So it provides information that we can take action on a compliance concern or a concern about use of WMD somewhere. So international information is good because it doesn't have to be sanitized. It generally is not as good as our intelligence, but it may be good enough. Or, we can point to it and say: "See that little squiggle there, we've got other sources of information about that, but trust us, that was a nuclear test." A dialogue like that is useful.

It provides an open-source bit of information that we can use as we try to bring the world community together to address the compliance concerns.

Just knowing about it is only one step. What you try to do is fix it somehow. And usually it's going to take lots of discussions with allies and friends, and trying to get international attention focused on that concern. That is why open source data is very helpful and that's what treaties do for you. They provide open source data to allow you to address compliance concerns more readily.

Q: Has your office been asked to render any opinions about possible future modifications to the 1972 ABM Treaty?

A: In fact, yes. Since we are, by law, required to do compliance judgment on both U.S. and foreign behavior with respect to the treaty, we will be engaged in the process of determining what is compliant with the ABM. We would also look at any verification regime. If there were to be a modified agreement on ABM, and it was decided that a verification regime would benefit both the United States and Russia, we would be designing and working on that. We would be principle players in any verification regime that may come out of a future ABM agreement.

Q: How has advancing technology aided the mission of arms control compliance and verification over the past decade?

A: It's absolutely essential. Without technology you can never measure progress against the norm, which is what I call verification.

Even inspectors, when they show up and can see things, have to take pictures of what they see. You have to take measurements about what you see. So the measurement technologies and the sensing technologies are absolutely the foundation of all arms control agreements and commitments.

(end transcript)

Related Link:

- Open Skies Treaty


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).