July 18, 1996

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM, DIRECTOR, U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND
DISARMAMENT AGENCY, REMARKS TO A REGIONAL TOWN MEETING
SPONSORED BY THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COUNCIL AND THE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

"United States Leadership for a World in Transition"

I'm pleased to be here and doubly pleased to see all of you here -- proving there is a constituency for America's continued leadership and engagement in the world. To our sponsors, hosts, and cooperating organizations, my thanks and congratulations for all you have done to bring our world closer, one person at a time.

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The Berlin Wall is shattered into rubble and memorabilia. The Soviet Union is long gone. Communism is a failed doctrine with a shriveling base. What a great opportunity to stop wasting resources on international affairs -- and put aside "Cold War relics" like arms control. Right?

To the contrary, President Clinton has forcefully reaffirmed the need for U.S. leadership abroad -- which means in part, as he has said, pursuing "the most ambitious agenda to dismantle and fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction since the dawn of the nuclear age."

With good reason.

Last year we saw chemical weapons terrorize civilians in Tokyo's subway. We've witnessed the horrors of the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City bombings. And in light of last month's truck bombing in Dhahran, we're facing anew the vulnerability to terrorism of even the world's mightiest military. Such travesties have underscored the imperative of keeping even primitive nuclear, chemical or biological weapons out of the wrong hands.

Yet . . .

Meanwhile we still have unfinished strategic arms control business with Russia -- the one country that could inflict overwhelming nuclear devastation on the United States. And as treaties are kept and weapons dismantled, Russia also becomes central to solving the "loose nukes" problem -- the possibility that the expertise and materials to make nuclear weapons could leak out to rogue states or terrorist groups.

These old and new challenges in my field, as in many others, call for intensified American leadership for a world in transition. For the United States for more than 40 years has been in the forefront of thought and action on building security by controlling weapons.

Indeed, thanks to President Kennedy's initiative, with the support of President Eisenhower, the United States has a small, specialized independent agency, known as ACDA, dedicated entirely to that cause. We negotiate and implement agreements, such as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties with Russia and the global Chemical Weapons Convention. We promote regional arms control and confidence building, including the limitations agreed to as part of the Bosnia settlement. We provide arms control and nonproliferation policy advice directly to the President and the Secretary of State, unimpeded by layers of bureaucracy and unconstrained by competing missions. And despite the end of the Cold War -- and in some ways because of it -- we are literally busier than ever before.

This evening I'll speak to some of the issues ACDA knows most about, but to underscore a broader message -- that America will suffer if we retreat into isolation, or treat foreign policy mainly as a platform for political showmanship at home.

Admittedly, politics for some time now has been venturing past the water's edge -- and troubling the Executive's conduct of foreign policy is by no means an invention of today's Congress. But now an especially exuberant brand of partisanship, and new echoes of isolationism, threaten to erode our national security profoundly.

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One of our most important national security tasks today is to realize the benefits of the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START II. It will bring former U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear weapons down to one-third of their peak levels. Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin have agreed that it will open the door to talks on further limits.

START II makes a compelling case for arms control as threat control: In the 1970s and 1980s, some experts were alarmed about a U.S. nuclear "window of vulnerability" to a Soviet first strike, led by more than 300 Soviet SS-18 heavy land based missiles, each with 10 independently-targetable warheads.

An American weapon system designed to knock out the SS-18s would, optimistically, cost many billions of dollars, and could do the job only with limited confidence -- and only in the midst of a nuclear war. But under START II those SS-18s are on their way to total extinction -- certainly, verifiably, without a shot being fired.

START II, however, is in jeopardy. Such limits on strategic offensive arms have long been related to limits on defensive arms, as established in the 1972 ABM Treaty. The reason is clear. As the number of offensive weapons on one side is reduced, the importance of each defensive weapon on the other side grows, to the point where the first country might worry about its capacity to deter attack. Following this reasoning, the Russians, who have not yet ratified START II, have always linked it to the continued viability of the 1972 ABM Treaty. Indeed, when they ratified START I -- which eliminates the first half of the SS-18s -- they made clear even that was dependent on the ABM treaty.

Yet some members of Congress have chosen this sensitive time -- in the early days of formally implementing START I, and in the midst of a push for Russian ratification of START II -- to require that the ABM treaty be summarily junked, and that we start immediately to build a multi-site national missile defense.

I suspect that political opportunism may be at work here -- for there are polls showing most Americans think we already have such a defense, and would like one. The justification presented publicly is not polls, of course, but the proposition that we need to answer long-range missile threats; not from Russia, now, but from rogue states like Iran, Iraq or North Korea. That's a potential danger, but the intelligence community says any threat to, for example, Kansas City is at least 10 to 15 years away. As a hedge, the United States is developing appropriate defenses that could be ready as soon as 6 years from now if we see the threat beginning to emerge.

But forcing a national missile defense now makes no military, diplomatic, economic or security sense. It would lock us into today's technologies, and lock out more advanced and efficient approaches that will continue to emerge. The Congressional Budget Office says it would add as much as $60 billion to the budget. And, as I've said, it would jeopardize all that the last three Presidents have gained in achieving actual reductions in strategic offensive arms.

This plan is called the "Defend America Act." It might as well be called the "Russian Heavy Missile Preservation Act." For in the name of defending against dangers that might someday come to pass, it would perpetuate existing dangers we could otherwise take down.

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Let me turn to a second area where Congressional interventions are even harder to explain -- relating to North Korea's nuclear weapons potential.

North Korea is an isolated, insecure, militarized, increasingly impoverished and hungry nation. What would our security look like if North Korea had nuclear weapons? What if they had enough to sell nuclear materials or even weapons themselves to other states such as Iran or Libya -- or directly to terrorist groups?

Those prospects had to be considered not just possible but likely until late 1994 -- when we signed an Agreed Framework to avert a North Korean material potential for making over a dozen nuclear weapons a year. Every day since, the Framework has kept North Korea's program frozen in its tracks. The proliferation-prone reactor is shut down, and construction of two bigger ones has stopped. The reprocessing line that could extract weapons-usable plutonium from spent fuel is closed, and the spent fuel is being sealed in canisters for shipment out of the country. All of this is being done under continuous international surveillance.

Yet this agreement, too, is in danger.

The essence of the 1994 bargain was to replace lost energy. Over time, two light water reactors that are not suited for making weapons material will replace those that North Korea has shut down. In the interim, heavy fuel oil will be supplied to take up the slack.

Japan and South Korea together will contribute over $4 billion to build the new reactors. The United States, by comparison, will contribute a much smaller amount for heavy fuel oil, amounting this year to roughly $25 million. Yet this summer, Congress has been at work cutting that modest contribution nearly in half -- to $13 million.

I cannot explain why the Framework Agreement remains a magnet for such mischief -- why so many who weren't there are so confident they could have negotiated a better deal. But even they would feel hard pressed in calling upon Japan and South Korea to keep their bargain -- or insisting that North Korea live up to its obligations -- if we can't keep ours. And if this agreement should unravel, and we are visited again by the dangers of a nuclear-armed North Korea, I wonder if the authors of that $12 million cut will want to step forward and claim credit for the great savings they achieved.

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We have just recently had a close Congressional call on another important goal -- a comprehensive ban on any further nuclear explosive testing, by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

President Eisenhower was our first president to seek such a treaty. President Clinton has finally brought it within reach -- by not only supporting the test ban in principle, but making it negotiable in fact, supporting a truly comprehensive treaty, with no exceptions, treating all countries the same.

The test ban will help avert the dangers and costs of any further qualitative arms races, and erect another barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries. But today the question is not whether the test ban is in our interest but whether it is in our grasp.

After two and a-half years of hard work, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, known as the CD, is past the end of its end game. It was to complete its work before its most recent session ended June 28th. That deadline was not met. Now, unless member countries return July 29th prepared to agree promptly on the text, the Comprehensive Test Ban could be lost for this year, and probably for many more years to come.

There have been many contentious issues in the negotiations, including our insistence on a sound verification regime, with both on-site inspections and the right to draw on national technical means -- satellites and other technologies -- to monitor compliance. Others have been more concerned with defending against verification. Some non-aligned countries have pressed to grossly overload the treaty with a requirement to eliminate all nuclear weapons by a date certain, and in the meantime to outlaw steps other than explosions that are necessary for the safety and reliability of stockpiles. Procedures by which the Treaty would enter into force remain in dispute. It has been, in short, challenging work in Geneva.

At the height of all this, there appeared in the U.S. Senate in June an amendment to authorize the United States to resume nuclear tests beginning this fall. It could not have been better timed to undercut our credibility in the negotiations.

Fortunately, in this case the right thing happened, and in the right way. A bipartisan majority -- led by such Democrats a Senators Exon and Nunn, and Republican Senators Hatfield, Chaffee and Kassebaum -- voted the amendment down. The test ban's long-time champions prevailed in the Senate, and so will deserve much of the credit when and if we succeed in Geneva. Stay tuned.

* * *

We have fared less well on our wherewithal to pursue arms control and nonproliferation. U.S. leadership in these causes is endangered by Congressionally-imposed incapacity.

President Clinton and Secretary Christopher revitalized the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to be the tip of the spear for U.S. arms control and nonproliferation efforts. Last year we faced a congressional attempt to break us off -- to eliminate the Agency completely. We've survived that, so far.

But now we face an ongoing effort to dull the spear -- by denying us the resources we need to do the work the President has assigned. For several years ACDA's real budget has been declining, while our work has grown. We operated for much of this year at a permitted spending rate 53 percent below the President's request.

But my concern goes well beyond ACDA's own budget. As a small Agency, we share with some 37 others a heavy reliance for our voice abroad on the State Department's embassies and missions. On issues calling for sustained bilateral diplomacy such as the North Korea framework agreement -- the State Department often leads, with ACDA providing technical and policy support. So it also concerns me deeply that funding for international efforts overall, including the State Department, is now just half of what it was 12 years ago, in constant dollars. Yet some proposals in Congress would cut a third more over the next 5 years. That would effectively shatter our diplomatic structure.

Hans Morgenthau, no Wilsonian idealist, observed that the quality of a nation's diplomacy is "the most important" component of its international power. You don't have to agree with that entirely to see grave danger in the notion that we can get by in world affairs with little more than a swagger.

* * *

I would be less insistent if this work had marginal effects. But our arms control and nonproliferation efforts have been making great headway. Besides issues I've mentioned:

In short, our goals are important -- and despite great obstacles, we are taking long strieds to meet them. This is no time to retreat.

Conclusion

The overriding reality is that we still live in a dangerous world -- one still bristling with the overarmament of the Cold War, and facing new dangers of proliferation, convulsive nationalism, terrorism, environmental degradation, drug trafficking, and many others that directly affect us. In such a world, we cannot afford to let either isolationist meanderings or political acrimony compound our huge tasks. To borrow from the familiar Chinese curse, the times we live in are already interesting enough.

Rather, we must look to internationalists like those assembled here -- and serious internationalist leaders of both major parties -- to join, even when our government is divided, to fashion the kind of unified foreign policy that befits a great power in a perilous world. Then, and only then, we will keep the tide of history running strongly our way -- toward democracy, development, and peace.