February 12, 1996

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM, DIRECTOR
U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
REMARKS TO THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
ON NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION, SPONSORED
BY THE CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT

First, my thanks to Sandy Spector for orchestrating a conference that every year seems to grow in size and significance ... and for commanding the attention of policymakers the world over by shining a persistent spotlight on proliferation.

This entire audience is so prominent that I could spend all of my time singling out the distinguished diplomats, decisionmakers and scholars here tonight. Suffice it to say I am grateful for all of your attendance and attention.

And not only because it saves me the jet lag -- and ACDA the cost -- of travel to your capitals.

You are addressing the central nuclear proliferation issues -- horizontal and vertical -- of our time. My colleagues throughout the government will benefit from the insights presented here, especially as to regional challenges in the Middle East-Persian Gulf region, on the Korean Peninsula, and certainly in South Asia, a region poised on the brink of an arms and missiles race.

But I would like to concentrate on a particular subset -- picking up your focus on the millennium ... which, of course, is also the time-frame for the first enhanced Review Conference under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT.

As you know, the NPT conference last May in New York set forth the NPT's animating Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. They serve as a rolling report card on the world's efforts to live up to the bargains struck in the NPT and since reaffirmed.

Within those Principles and Objectives, I want to focus on and discuss candidly here the three items in the New York Conference "program of action" that are specified as important "in the full realization and effective implementation of Article VI," dealing with disarmament.

It is important to do that not only to assess progress, but because we are in a fundamental debate about how best to pursue disarmament. And that debate needs to be directly joined -- because some prominent options threaten to derail the greatest part of our efforts on disarmament and nonproliferation.

After reviewing where we stand on the Article VI program of action, I'll return to that basic question.

One of the three items is the pursuit of "systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons."

That is linked, of course, to the pursuit of all states of "general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." But I'll focus here on the nuclear side.

Progress is dramatic. United States and former Soviet nuclear arsenals today continue to decline even faster than they grew in years past. Reductions under the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are more than two years ahead of schedule. Both countries are already well under the overall limits that were to have been met by December of 1997, and have cut nuclear delivery vehicles below the limits set for December 1999.

Most recently, the United States Senate in January approved START II, which will take total United States and Russian strategic arsenals below one-third of their peak levels. The vote was 87 to 4.

This should help spur the ratification process in Russia. For Russia, START II will, among other things: first, provide true numerical equality, as opposed to the START I counting rules that favored the United States; second, set forces at attainable levels, so there can be actual and not just theoretical equivalence; third, avoid the brutal economic costs of building up to START I levels as weapons become obsolete; and fourth, open the door for consideration of further limits and reductions, as the two Presidents have agreed. START II is manifestly in Russia's interests, as well as ours and the world's.

Let no one diminish what all this means: These are real arms reductions -- not pie in the sky, but weapons on the ground literally being sliced to pieces. Nuclear disarmament, thought utopian for so many years, now is being practiced in a major way, in the real world.

A second element in the NPT program of action is completing a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty ("CTBT") no later than 1996 -- this year. The United Nations General Assembly has since advanced the target, to have the CTBT be open for signature before the 51st General Assembly convenes in September.

Today in Geneva the Conference on Disarmament is at last closing in on this long-sought, hard-fought goal.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged for a third time to deliver a message from President Clinton to the CD's opening session. The President said the test ban "will help fulfill our mutual pledges to renounce the nuclear arms race and move toward our ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear arms."

Practically speaking, the UN date requires that the test ban be very close to completed when the Conference breaks at the end of March -- barely six weeks from now -- so that during the intersessional period and the seven week meeting beginning May 13 it can wrap up final details. Given over 1,000 pairs of brackets in the rolling text, that's a daunting task.

The UN date can be met, for all those brackets sort themselves out into a relatively few core issues. Whether the date will be met depends on matters not of technical complexity but of political will. As President Clinton told the CD, now "urgent national political decisions" must complement the work of Geneva delegations. That means decisions, for example, to adjust positions taken to make a point rather than reach an agreement; decisions to drop concepts, such as China's proposal for exempting so-called "peaceful nuclear explosions," which have no support; decisions, in other words, to come to closure on common ground.

We are practicing what we preach. Last January, for example, President Clinton directed that we drop a United States position for a tenth year right of withdrawal because no one else favored it. And in August -- after the NPT had been extended -- the President directed that we pursue a true zero yield comprehensive test ban.

Now, in my view, the remaining decisions in capitals can be advanced by two basic precepts. The first is a renewed look at what the test ban really is today -- at heart an arms control measure. Certainly it is another barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons. But as the President said in his State of the Union address, a truly comprehensive test ban treaty will "end the race to create new nuclear weapons."

Before the moratorium, weapons experts had pursued a number of new technologies -- the so-called "nuclear shotgun," enhanced electro-magnetic pulse weapons, microwave weapons, and new "mini-nuke" and "micro-nuke" concepts. Such technologies will be pushed beyond reach by a ban on nuclear explosive tests.

The CTBT is in the United States interest for that reason, as well as for nonproliferation. Any new qualitative arms race could reverse what has been accomplished in strategic arms control and leave us less secure and financially drained. We should cement this constraint while we can.

Yet the commitment of the nuclear weapons states to a test ban has had a perverse effect in some quarters -- the notion that if we're now for it, it's not worth it. So it bears repeating that the comprehensive test ban applies no new constraints on the 176 countries that are non-nuclear members of the NPT. It is, fundamentally, a limit only on countries that have nuclear weapons or hold open the nuclear option -- and most particularly, on the five nuclear weapon states. We are in Geneva to say, in effect, "join us in limiting our nuclear weapons programs."

The second precept to be grasped if the CTBT is to succeed is that the strategy of "linkage" -- to hold up the test ban for the sake of other goals, such as a timebound framework for complete nuclear disarmament -- is a strategy of failure.

It will fail because it pits against one another objectives that should reinforce one another. It should fail because it suggests that the remedy to five nuclear weapon states is to threaten a sixth, or a seventh; that the answer to a world of too many nuclear weapons is a world of more nuclear explosions.

The CTB can either bring an end to nuclear explosive testing for all time, or it can be twisted into a misshapen and ineffectual pry-bar for other goals. But if we burden it with both tasks, it will fracture and do neither.

If countries recognize these basic principles, then we will have a comprehensive test ban in 1996. If not, we could see this historic goal pushed back for still more years, perhaps still more decades. That is the choice for capitals around the world in the coming weeks.

The third part of the NPT program of action is a ban on production of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices.

The fissile cutoff will limit the building of more nuclear weapons, by cutting off any unsafe-guarded production of the necessary highly enriched uranium and plutonium. It will restrain nuclear weapon states and threshold states alike. And it will be of special value in regions with the slimmest margins of error for escalating arms races.

But, even more than the test ban, the fissile cutoff is endangered by linkage -- holding even the beginning of formal negotiations hostage to other agendas.

A Treaty so clearly needed will not be so easily denied. The United States will continue working vigorously for the fissile material cutoff -- on two tracks. First, we will keep pushing for promises to be kept and for the CD's 1995 mandate to be re-established. Second, we are working methodically with other countries to build support for the cutoff and its key elements. This "grassroots" work will help us hit the ground running when formal negotiations begin.

The fissile material cutoff is not going away. We intend to see that it doesn't.

With this partial report as backdrop, let me now return to the question posed so insistently these days in Geneva and elsewhere -- how best to achieve the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear arms.

Two distinct propositions are on the table. One is that strategic arms negotiations should be moved to a global forum -- specifically, that the Conference on Disarmament should now undertake negotiations to abolish the arsenals of the nuclear weapon states. The second then tells the CD what to decide -- on an imposed deadline, or time-bound framework, for all nuclear arms to disappear.

Both, I suggest, are ways to stall, not propel, the disarmament effort.

Before going to the merits, it is proper to note that the commitment to pursue the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons is part of the NPT bargain, and therefore runs specifically to NPT parties. It is ironic that those most adamantly seeking to enforce, and indeed embroider, that obligation remain outside the NPT, and thus have no standing to invoke it -- least of all to pose it as an obstacle to other, broadly-shared arms control goals.

Still, these ideas enjoy some favor. They require answers.

As to negotiating strategic arms control in the CD, I submit -- as a staunch advocate for the CD -- that it would be an unwieldy forum taking up an unamendable subject. Climbing down from Cold War peaks of nuclear weapons has been an intricate process, involving careful bilateral trade-offs, specialized verification, and a constant and shifting menu of sensitive national security calculations. There is no practical prospect that the nuclear weapon states will entrust such negotiations to the CD -- or that the CD could do it.

Nor should true friends of disarmament want that. For if it were subject to CD consensus rules, further disarmament could easily suffer the fate, for example, of the fissile cutoff negotiations -- with all progress halted by one or a few countries' demands for other concessions. Perhaps nuclear arms control would be held hostage to progress on conventional arms control -- another endeavor mandated in the NPT, as I've noted, and one where the CD's record boasts precious little.

Last year's NPT conference itself recognized the practical realities. The program of action declares that the test ban and the fissile cutoff should be completed by the CD. But it says efforts to reduce nuclear weapons should be pursued "by the nuclear weapon states." The NPT members in New York made precisely the right assignments.

The timebound framework for complete nuclear disarmament makes even less sense. For it would overturn all we have come to know about what really works in arms control, and revert to the long, barren time when all the world's disarmament efforts yielded mainly debaters' points.

We have seen that arms control and disarmament can make real gains step by step, according to what is possible at a given moment. And contrary to intuition, but for very good reasons, progress is greater and faster when we aim for practical increments rather than great leaps. For disarmament is and will remain a matter of security, not altruism. And each forward step creates a new security reality . . . and so changes security thinking . . . and so generates possibilities unthinkable before.

In that way the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty helped pave the way for START I, which in turn opened the door to START II. Now, just a few years later, the reality is that nuclear weapons play a smaller role in our national security strategy than ever before -- a conclusion not of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, but of the U.S. Department of Defense.

My own view is that we have not yet fully grasped all the implications of that, or moved to seize all the possibilities -- for fundamental doctrines rarely change overnight. We do know, however, that a step to prevent advanced new weapons has become possible. And the CTBT, in turn, will produce a new reality of its own.

At the same time, and in the same way, a permanent NPT is yielding a clearer picture of a secure future, in which further nuclear reductions can confidently be pursued. At each step up the ladder we can see better and further, and so do more.

So this really boils down to a debate not about "how," but about "whether." In contrast to reaping what is possible, the timebound framework for complete disarmament is a search for what is not possible. It is a way to overload the decisionmaking circuits and close down the system. It is not just a slight alteration of direction, but an interruption of travel. It says, in effect, instead of continuing to move forward, let's stop where we are and just argue.

What is most mystifying to me is this: We are in a time of historic advance in arms control and disarmament. Why on earth would we choose to abandon step-by-step progress just when it has, in fact, become stride-by-stride -- when we are, at long last, taxing the capacity of the machines that dismantle nuclear weapons.

So I do not dismiss this time-bound plan lightly. I take it seriously -- as a threat to disarmament. I hope others will weigh it carefully too, as a policy, not just a slogan.

Let me make clear what I am not saying here. Is it wrong to be impatient? Absolutely not. For we are working to take down weapons of terrible power. They deserve no indulgence. Is this the business only of the nuclear weapon states? On the contrary, the five have made themselves specifically answerable for their progress in the NPT review conferences. No doubt we will be called to account elsewhere, as in the UN First Committee.

All I ask is that we take great care to nurture and grasp our opportunities as they arise -- that we do not tie ourselves up in a forum that cannot work or a strategy that cannot succeed -- that we instead keep our eye on the prize, and keep advancing steadily toward it.

Perhaps we might focus less on what one group of countries owes another, and more on what we all, together, owe to our posterity and our planet.

Then we will reach our ultimate goal.