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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2002

U.S. Approaches to Nonproliferation

John S. Wolf, Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation
Monterey Institute
Stockholm, Sweden
September 6, 2002

It is a great pleasure to be your guest at this meeting of the Monterey Nonproliferation Strategy Group. I want to extend particular thanks to the Monterey Institute sponsors -- Bill Potter, Sandy Spector, Amy Sands and Larry Scheinman -- for inviting me to participate in this Strategy Group discussion. My thanks as well to our SIPRI hosts, in particular Ambassador Alyson Bailes, Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, and Dr. Christer Ahlstrom, for their hospitality and generosity.

Sweden, through its institutions and its people, has a long history of determined support for non-proliferation. Ambassador Ekeus, in his chairmanship of the U.N. Special Commission is part of this tradition, as are Hans Blix, and of course, Sweden’s Ambassador to the United States, Jan Eliasson.

The United States has for over a generation worked to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. For the Bush Administration, this is a fight that is a cardinal objective of US foreign and national security policy. Last September’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, followed by the anthrax attacks the following month, dramatized the human dimension of these concerns. The heart-rending impact of these terrible acts on the lives of so many ordinary people has brought home what is at stake, for America and the world, if WMD are allowed to spread further or if they were to fall into terrorists’ hands.

In March of this year, President Bush stated:

"In preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, there is no margin for error, and no chance to learn from mistakes. Our coalition must act deliberately, but inaction is not an option."

I suppose it is natural at gatherings like this to pierce down into the workings of the various treaties and regimes that so many of you have worked to develop over a period of decades. And my country has long been at the forefront of advocacy for many of these treaties, and in most cases still is. But at the same time, we need to be aware that there are a host of issues – call it defiance of the norms and treaties – that pose real risks to the international community, and these problems are growing.

The facts are indisputable. New weapons programs and their delivery systems in the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia, have real, destabilizing consequences. Regional instabilities generate global ripples -- political, economic and social.

The ongoing air of confrontation and recurrent crisis in South Asia for example, pose risks well beyond the region. Far from stabilizing the situation or even strengthening individual nation’s security, nuclear weapons in South Asia have upped the ante in a way that places millions of ordinary people in far greater danger than ever before. South Asia is but one example of the dangers we must address. Other WMD wannabees have drawn the conclusion that acquisition of WMD weapons will enhance nations’ security. They’re mistaken, and the world is all the more dangerous for their mistake.

Our mission is clear: to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, missiles, and advanced conventional weapons. The proliferation problem is becoming worse. The number of demandeurs is up, there are more suppliers, due to increasing globalization, and the distinction between buyers and sellers has blurred. Proliferators’ links to terrorism open up a whole new dimension of concern.

President Bush spoke in his State of the Union address of an "axis of evil". While these words may be harsh, the linkages are real. Iraq, Iran and North Korea, by their continued hostility and their ties to terrorists, pose a direct threat to the United States, its allies and friends, and our deployed forces. North Korea continues to acquire more sophisticated WMD and missile expertise, and is prepared to sell missiles to any country that can buy them. And they have done so. Iran continues its WMD and missile development with help from North Korea, and entities in China and Russia. Iraq covertly diverts or smuggles in technologies that are helping it to reconstitute its WMD and missile capabilities, all in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, and with cynical indifference to the sufferings and deprivations of its own people. And it is now evident that these countries, plus others that have been covertly developing WMD and missiles, and importing technology and components, may now be exporting those same elements to others.

So the stakes are high and the challenges are great. But the news is not all bad. Over the past year, we have some important achievements to be proud of:

  • We achieved UN consensus for a new, more focused and credible export control regime for Iraq, which balances the legitimate humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people first, against firm guidelines to help stop the sale of technologies to be used for military purposes. (But, looking ahead, the real issues of Iraq is just ahead – the international community can not continue to tolerate Iraq’s continuing defiance of successive UN resolutions, its continuing efforts to acquire mass weapons, nor the threat all this poses to Iraq’s neighbors, its own people, and each one of us.
  • The G-8 has have laid the groundwork to pursue multilateral arrangements to support Russia’s program to dispose of 34 tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium, and we are building a new global partnership that can greatly accelerate work in Russia, the former Soviet Union and beyond to safeguard dangerous materials, destroy chemical weapons stocks, and redirect the work of thousands of former weapons scientist.
  • We secured a number of nations’ support, including that of Russian and Indian agreement to expand export control cooperation with us.
  • The first NPT Revcon Prepcom went relatively smoothly, but as Amb Salander said there are a number of hurdles on the road to 2005 – within the Revcon, but the really serious challenges come from events outside the conference room.
  • We are pursuing an international effort to increase the IAEA budget for nuclear safeguards, and we started the process of ratifying the U.S.-IAEA Additional Protocol.

Within recent weeks, we have seen cooperative efforts between the United States and other countries yield important results:

  • In partnership with Russia, the Yugoslav federal government, Serbia and the IAEA, we have removed into Russian safekeeping a significant quantity of weapons-grade uranium from the Vinca research reactor near Belgrade. This success offers a model for similar projects in the future, several of which are now under examination.
  • And China’s announcement of broad new export control regulations holds out promise of Beijing playing a more active and vitally important role as a full partner in nonproliferation. There are formidable challenges, and new rules are meaningless without a serious law enforcement effort, but this significant step lays crucial groundwork and sets the stage to work together on remaining issues.

Given President Bush’s insistence that halting proliferation must be a central element of U.S. foreign policy, we are focusing on a number of specific policy initiatives:

  • We aim broadly to diminish the worldwide sources of supply for rogue-country WMD and missile programs, even as we work also to put in place the disincentives that could limit demand.
  • We can reduce the flow of sensitive technologies by raising the bar further in the four export control regimes. This means getting partners’ agreement to stay ahead of the curve in defining and protecting the technologies and products proliferators need.
  • But it also means getting better at disruption of proliferators’ efforts.
  • Getting Russian cooperation to curb WMD technology flows from Russian entities to Iran is one of our highest priorities. And allow me, if you will, to make several additional points on this issue:
    • Our dialogue with Russia on this point stretches from my level, all the way up to the two Presidents. The Presidents seem of one mind concerning the threat that a nuclear and missile equipped Iran would pose, in the region, to Russia, the US and our friends. And the Russians don’t argue that Iran is sparing no effort to acquire such weapons. Where we differ is the role Russian entities play. The facts are troubling.
    • There can no logical explanation for a country like Iran, so rich in oil and natural gas, to spend billions of dollars to establish an entire nuclear fuel cycle. The gas they flare annually is worth considerably more than the price they are paying for Bushehr, and that’s but one of the nuclear efforts under way. We’re confident of our intelligence, which shows conclusively that Iran’s objective is early acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. Resolving the profound contradiction between President Putin’s statements and the facts on the ground will be an important factor in determining whether Iran’s efforts are successful, and it will be an important factor the degree to which US Russian relations can grow into new areas related to nuclear development and space.

Make no mistake about our resolve. We will make every effort, and use all means possible, to cut off Iran’s access to those who would supply their nuclear weapons program. This includes the use of sanctions against entities and governments that assist Iran’s efforts.

  • We also aim to see China do what it has said it will do -- enforce controls that will stop the flow of WMD and advanced weapons technologies to countries like Iran, Iraq and Libya;
  • South Asia is a special case. They have weapons. We won’t be successful in pressing them to beat them into plowshares, but we need to be more inventive in getting them to understand much better how to manage the dangers that the weapons pose. There are a variety of confidence building measures they could take bilaterally and unilaterally.
  • We will press hard to keep newly advanced states like the East Europeans or India from becoming the next WMD shopping centers for would-be proliferators.
  • North Korea is a complicated situation, a supplier and a buyer. Both must stop or be stopped.
  • We are making clear in the marketplace that companies have a choice: sell technologies to proliferators, or in the United States; but not both. Where official controls fail, and where companies make the wrong choice, there must be consequences. One consequence is sanctions.
  • Another tool is interdiction. It is not a panacea, but properly planned and executed, interdiction can enable us to intercept critical technologies en route to dangerous end users, and lengthen the time that proliferators will need to acquire new weapons capabilities.

Stopping proliferation is the ultimate multilateral activity. And the United States is an active partner - in fact the most active partner - in multilateral regimes designed to prevent dangerous goods and know-how from getting to people with bad intentions. In these efforts, no organization plays a more critically important role than the IAEA. We are working to ensure that the IAEA has enough money and resources for effective safeguards, and the tools it needs for vigorous action in countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea.

We also want to reinforce the NPT boundaries dented by the 1998 South Asia nuclear tests; (as we discussed yesterday) there are many hurdles along the path to a successful 2005 NPT Review Conference. The treaty and the norms it provides are our best protection against a world unspeakably more dangerous if we allow others to move across the nuclear threshold. That issue, in my mind, dwarfs all others.

Another key element of our nonproliferation policy is the nuclear threat reduction assistance programs. They provide a cost effective force multiplier by enabling our partners to take more effective measures against proliferation, to stem dangerous exports, secure dangerous materials and redirect WMD expertise into peaceful, valuable work. This serves the international community, strengthening in very tangible ways the consensus against proliferation, even as it builds better foundations for future cooperation.

  • We are looking at ways to broaden our programs beyond the Former Soviet Union, as in the G-8 Global Partnership.
  • We are considering ways we, and partners could help tighten national legal regimes; design and implement inventory controls, and provide for better tracking of dangerous nuclear, biological, and chemical materials in domestic and international commerce.
  • We see this effort as one to pursue bilaterally and multilaterally. We have already begun outreach to industry groups, and will shortly begin to survey national laws and regulations worldwide, as a first step in designing international outreach efforts to upgrade export controls.
  • But beyond such technical efforts, President Bush has made clear, most recently at Kananaskis, that he wants to use the G-8 Global Partnership to accelerate and expand programs with Russia and the other former Soviet states. This includes speeding up the negotiations on plutonium disposition and plutonium reactor closure, and expanding programs like bio-engagement and the science centers. The guidelines agreed at Kananaskis are crucial –- both for assuring that funds already committed are disbursed more quickly, and a context for major new commitments.


  • The attack on the United States nearly one year ago has served to focus attention on a danger that we have all been aware of for some time. These are not dangers just for the United States; they are a direct challenge to the world as we all know it. These are real world threats; we need to fashion real world responses that work. We won’t solve problems overnight. It will take great perseverance, skill and resources to forge an effective global partnership against the nexus of proliferation and terror. This is the President’s goal. We will pursue it on many fronts, with many tools. We will build international partnerships where we can, involve the private sector where we can… but we will act wherever and whenever we must.

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