G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass DestructionJohn S. Wolf, Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation
Interview with Leonard Spector, Deputy Director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies
August 28, 2002
On August 28, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation
On August 28, Assistant Secretary of State for NonproliferationJohn Wolf spoke with Leonard Spector, Deputy Director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies [CNS], regarding the agreement reached at the June 26-27 Kananaskis G-8 Summit to launch a Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The interview provided important new information about the background and substance of the initiative. A transcript of the interview appears below.
CNS:What did you find to be the most important accomplishments at the summit in terms of nonproliferation and the Global Partnership?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: It was very important that the leaders themselves endorsed this initiative, that our other G-7 partners and Russia have agreed that they will help make up 10 of the $20 billion, and that we have a shared vision of a genuine partnership. I think it is also important that the Partnership will not focus only on Russia or the former Soviet Union, but has possibilities to expand beyond that starting point.
This is going to begin with Russia because that is where our biggest, highest priority problems are. But as we look around the world and look at ways that we can deal with dangerous materials wherever they are, there is a great deal of utility in having a G-8 concept in place that we can employ rapidly, as we go forward.
CNS: So hypothetically, if there were a need, let's say, for modern nuclear power plant security in India or Pakistan or to help with management of fissile materials in such a country, that mechanism might be used?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Well, I do not think that your hypothetical is what I would foresee, but if there were radioactive sources, other dangerous materials, including chemicals or biological agents, that need safe storage, we would want to find a way to respond quickly with any needed resources. This would augment the work that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is doing on nuclear safety and nuclear terrorism, and that of other relevant international organizations.
CNS: Which programs are likely to get earliest attention through the Partnership?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: All of those listed at the end of the White House press release are potential recipients of funds under the Partnership1. Out of the starting gate, plutonium disposition, chemical weapons destruction, to name just two, ought to be the first things commanding our time and attention, because if you look at the 34 tons of plutonium that will be eliminated that is a source of enormous concern. We all worried about the 48 kilos of highly enriched uranium that we moved to Russia last week from Yugoslavia, and rightly so. But just compare that to 34 tons of weapons material that we will be eliminating under the Plutonium Disposition program and you will appreciate how important that program is. Another priority for us will be to shut-down the plutonium production reactors in Russia.
CNS: Looking at the overall G-8 statement, is it the "Principles," would you say, that were the leading edge accomplishment or the Guidelines? How would you read those?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: I think they are both important. The Principles set the framework for international cooperation, but frankly, unless Russia is prepared to implement the Guidelines, then this thing's going to be stillborn. And, not only for new projects, but also for a number of projects that are already underway. I have in mind the submarine destruction initiative that the Japanese have been supporting, but not moving on, because of problems that match the Guidelines, and also Plutonium Disposition, where we have on-going negotiations with Russia over some of the Guideline issues that need to be resolved for our funding to move ahead and for additional G-8 money to be provided.
CNS: If you read the Guidelines closely, they're framed in somewhat loose language, phrases like, "new projects will be decided taking into account international obligations and domestic laws of the participating partners and appropriate bilateral and multilateral frameworks that should, as necessary, include the following elements...." So, while the phrasing of the Guidelines, standing alone, is clear about Russia's obligations, it seems to me that this preamble gives Russia quite a bit of flexibility.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Let me just see if I can rephrase what I just said. If Russia doesn't go along with the Guidelines, and find a way to conform its national laws as necessary to those Guidelines, then these projects aren't going to go forward and they're going to be kicking $20 billion off the table.
CNS: Let's look at the Kananaskis meeting, itself. Press accounts have suggested that Africa, rather than nonproliferation, was going to be the lead issue at the Summit. In fact, as of May, I believe, a report of a Sherpas meeting said that Africa was the leading matter. When did the changeover take place to bring the Global Partnership to the fore?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: There were a lot of things discussed during the two days of the Summit. If newspapers chose to put the headlines on our activities regarding the Global Partnership, that was their decision. This is not inconsistent with the international cooperation that has developed since September 11th on an enhanced new effort to deal with the problems of proliferation, which the press has followed closely.
CNS: But I think the State Department and the White House presentations of the Summit itself also gave the Global Partnership the lead. It's not just the press. So this took precedence, did it not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: No. If I'm not mistaken, on the second day, there was substantial discussion of Africa. It's just a matter of where people chose to focus.
CNS: I heard there was quite a bit of last minute negotiations dealing with the Guidelines.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: It wasn't last minute, it was continuous.
CNS: But you didn't arrive on the scene with everything in hand?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: No.
CNS: So there was still work to be done?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Right. There were huge holes and part of that had to do with, somewhat, the inconsistency of various Russian pronouncements. This had been discussed in a number of places and, depending on whom the interlocutor was from Russia, we sometimes received differing views on what was and was not acceptable to Russia. In the end, President Putin's stamp on this says that this is where Russia is.
CNS: So that was considered a significant step forward -- to have a leader to embrace these principles?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Not just one leader, but the eight leaders have embraced the Guidelines, and I hope that's a clear message. We're having a meeting at the end of September where senior officials will sit down now to develop the Guidelines and the budget criteria further, as well as to look at some of the questions of funding that were left open.
CNS: Was it taxation and liability in particular that the Russians were holding out on? Privileges of immunity? What were the major stumbling blocks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Yes. The Guidelines were the stumbling blocks.
CNS: All of them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Taxation, liability were two, but the Guidelines were not agreed before Kananaskis.
CNS: Had the Principles been agreed to?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: In response to the September 11th terrorist attack and increased concerns about WMD proliferation, the G-8 Nonproliferation Experts Group (NPEG) developed a set of practical steps intended to counter the terrorist threat from WMD and missiles. At their Summit in Whistler, foreign ministers approved and referred these principles to leaders. At Kananaskis, leaders considered and released the principles.
CNS: This was a phrase that former Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar had put forward2. Was it a deliberate echo of ideas that had already been suggested by them or was it something that was generated internal to the Administration?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: I'm not sure whether the first person that suggested that title in the G-8 discussions had the senators in mind, but it reflects G-8 consensus that this is a global problem and that we need to share in developing the solutions.
CNS: The phrasing now says "up to $20 billion," so there's a bit of wiggle room there rather than a firm commitment to the full amount.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Right.
CNS: Is the dollar amount one of the unresolved issues coming from the summit?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Yes, that's still a subject for discussion.
CNS: But even the target?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Well, the target's $20 billion. What we would still like to see "10 plus 10 over 10." Our 10 plus their 10 over the next 10 years.
CNS: But what you implied was that getting that nailed down, even as a target, was...
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: That was part of the discussion right up and through the meeting.
CNS: And how did you arrive at the $10 billion plus $10 billion? Was this a sense of where the United States was going and that we wanted to see some matching from the other side?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Right. And that's where, if I had anything to critique in regard to your article from the other day [referring to the CNS Website Research Story of the Week for the week of August 12, 20023], it was the idea that somehow we're getting a free ride and we're asking everyone else to contribute. The implication that ours isn't new money would run afoul of a lot of Congressional concerns, because each year for us is a new adventure with the Congress, in terms of getting appropriations.
We don't have $10 billion; we have an intention to seek those funds over the next 10 years. It's all new money. It's not necessarily new projects and our expectation is that the Europeans and the Japanese and others would contribute a matching amount. The Russians should never be in a position of thinking that we owe them money or that they are somehow entitled to a certain amount from us. They aren't entitled to anything, unless they cooperate.
CNS: Let me go back to an initiative in the Clinton Administration. This was the $100 million initiative that came up after the economic troubles of the summer of 1998. At that point, the strategy was that there was a greater danger in this area of proliferation because of the new economic conditions, and there was also a desire to just put more money into the Russian economy at a time when there was a crisis. That package assumed a working level of anticipated budget requests into the future and then, on top of that, put in $100 million for new projects and new initiatives. It sounds to me as if the approach the Bush Administration contemplates is a pledge to continue the existing level of budgetary request and that's the commitment the Administration is making.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Right. To continue the augmented level of our Fiscal Year 2003 request, since we had a major ratcheting up between '02 and '03 in our requested levels. Looking back to last year, if you go request against request, our original request for FY '02, which we were being skewered for last summer, as the Russia Review was going ahead, was $800 million, but our new level of request is roughly $1 billion. And we anticipate approximately $10 billion in requested funds over the next 10 years.
CNS: The way these Guidelines and these arrangements are set up, it appears that the $10 billion could also be a ceiling, since we've only pledged to match what the others do. You really haven't pledged to do $1 billion a year for 10 years. You've pledged only to put up as much as the other G-6 parties would.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: We think that the programs we fund in Russia and the former Soviet Union are in our interest and there are good reasons why we fund those programs. But neither Russia nor our partners should ever be in a position of assuming that we will do all of these things irrespective of their commitments, including Russia's commitments. And I'm not talking simply about cooperation on the Guidelines issue, but also their own financial contribution, because, if you look at it, the Russia of 2002 is financially quite different than the Russia of 1998. They have 50-something billion dollars in the bank.
CNS: So when we talk about the $10 billion non-U.S. contribution, you are anticipating some contribution from Russia as part of this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Yes.
CNS: And also the EC, which is not strictly a part of the G-8?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: The $10 billion, indeed the Global Partnership, is designed to include others beyond the G-8.
CNS: Are there any new projects that are contemplated? I think Senators Domenici and Lugar have proposed accelerated blend-down of high enriched uranium, to pick-up the pace of the blend-down. Another possibility would be ending the extraction of plutonium from civilian nuclear power plant fuel. Are there any new initiatives of that kind in store, or are you right now more "steady-as-you-go?"
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: We're going to talk about the projects, among other things, and where we might go with this, at the meeting in September.
CNS: And at that meeting there will be a discussion of U.S. programs? I mean you already have your budget request in, so you have a vision of what you are going to be doing in the coming year. So that sounds as though you will be looking for characterizations from the other parties as to what they're going to be doing during that period.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Right. Some have signaled that it might simply be a need to see a reenergizing of projects that have been stalled for a long time.
CNS: Again, as I read this, any money that is spent henceforth counts toward our $10 billion and their $10 billion.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: I don't think it would be good to simply look at this as a two-entry bookkeeping accounting exercise. What we're basically saying is that there's an international interest, among the States, the G-8 countries and Russia, in moving forward in a cooperative way to eliminate a variety of threats to all of our national security, whether it is in increased material protection, plutonium disposition, different kinds of blend-down, or chemical weapons destruction. Perhaps for some, it may be nuclear submarine destruction, for some it may be things related to reactor safety. So there will be a variety of opportunities under discussion. What we have seen in the decade of the '90s is that we were doing multiples of what the rest of the world was doing combined. The good news in the Global Partnership is that the rest of the world is saying, "We understand we need to do more, too," and that's what we think it should be. We think they should be able to be do about $10 billion worth, instead of whatever it was -- a little over $500 million from Europe -- over the last 10 years.
CNS: And the take-away from the Summit was an expectation that this is going to unfold and the Partnership declaration wasn't just a throwaway declaration to get the Americans off their backs?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: We're having a meeting on the 26th of September and we expect to move things forward.
CNS: What about the new Nuclear Safety and Security Group? Is that going to replace the G-8 Nonproliferation Experts Group, the NPEG?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: There is a G-8 Nonproliferation Experts Group and a G-7 Nuclear Safety Group as well. There are two different groups.
CNS: I noticed that it only deals with nuclear safety and security, but the initiative deals with biological weapons, chemical weapons, radiological sources...
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: This new G-8 Group will cover the civil nuclear safety issues currently dealt with by the G-7 Nuclear Safety Working Group (NSWG), and consider radiological concerns and physical security issues at nuclear power plants.
CNS: So this will replace the nuclear group?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: There is a G-7 Nuclear Safety Group. At Kananaskis, leaders recommended that this group be a G-8 group. The details have yet to be worked out.
CNS: So the nonproliferation group will cover a larger set of issues.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: The G-8 Nonproliferation Experts Group already addresses the range of WMD and missile nonproliferation issues. At Kananaskis, leaders recommended that a mechanism be established to coordinate cooperation for the Global Partnership in order to avoid duplication and overlap and to resolve implementation problems as they arise.
CNS: Is there any thought about a centralized nonproliferation fund that would be administered jointly by the G-8 in some fashion?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: No.
CNS: I don't know how much you can say on the following, but Secretary Bolton has taken very strong positions on certain issues. I'm not sure that he's been observed to speak forcefully on nonproliferation assistance programs for the NIS, but my impression was that he was a fairly active player, in fact was leading at the Summit. Is this the case?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: He was the pivotal person.
CNS: It sounds to me as if when you take on that responsibility, you must be embracing these programs with some enthusiasm.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Absolutely. He's an enthusiastic supporter of these. Like I say, the CTR [Comprehensive Threat Reduction] programs we do in Russia and the former Soviet Union are programs that are abundantly in the U.S. national interest. We had a review of them in 2001; the President endorsed them. We are determined to move forward. We think our friends and allies ought to be similarly engaged in terms of dealing with some of these threat reduction-type programs. They benefit our allies just like they benefit Russia or us. They are of international importance, and we think our friends and allies need to pony up and they haven't ponied up particularly up to now. In the decade of the 90s, that may have been understood, because they were dealing with economic security issues, more than we were. But the economic stabilization of Russia and the former Soviet Union is a less critical issue now. That war has been largely won. Nonproliferation issues and threat-reduction issues are still a decade or more ahead of us.
CNS: Are you an enthusiast of debt relief or debt swaps? Does that have appeal or is that too complicated?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: I think different countries will approach the funding stream differently. It is our vision that a debt program could be part of the program, but there is no universal buy-in. It's a national decision.
CNS: Has any country spoken enthusiastically about it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: We are looking at it very actively.
CNS: We have about $3 billion in debt, I think; that is not so large.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: This may or may not be the way we go.
CNS: Well, I would say that covers a lot of the waterfront for us. The next thing we will be watching for is the meeting in September and perhaps we can interact with your office after that takes place and provide additional information on it to our readers. I imagine there will be statements and press releases about that event, too.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: Oh, I don't know about that. It depends how much meeting of the minds there is. If there are a lot of pledges on the table... I read in your Research Story of the Week that the UK was going to put up $750 million; Germany at one point $1.5 billion-something; Japan a paltry $200 million; Canada $600-650 million, depending where the Canadian dollar is. This will be good news.
CNS: That's based on press reports from those countries, so we're hoping that we're hearing it right.
Let me ask about the multilateral and trilateral environmental clean up agreements to address submarine and spent sub fuel in Russia's north. Do these have a better chance of moving forward because Russia has pledged to deal with some of the outstanding issues through the G-8 Guidelines?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOLF: The sub-reactor program? This is mostly a Northern European-led initiative. But that's the kind of thing I'm talking about. To get countries moving forward, the Russians are going to have to do something to make sure that their treatment of the projects corresponds to the Guidelines, because all of the countries involved in the Partnership have said that these are sine qua non's for successful implementation.
CNS: This has been a very informative exchange. Thank you for taking the time to provide this valuable background on the Global Partnership.
1The White House press release on the Global Partnership states, with respect to U.S. initiatives:
U.S. Nonproliferation Assistance: The G-8 Global Partnership builds on, and expands, a decade of cooperation between the United States and former Soviet states to reduce and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, starting with the Cooperative Threat Reduction (Nunn-Lugar) program in FY1992. From FY1992 to FY2002, the United States allocated approximately $7 billion for this purpose. In the President's FY2003 budget request, he has proposed about $1 billion in nonproliferation and, threat reduction assistance to former Soviet states, the highest single-year request ever made for these projects.
Key ongoing U.S. nonproliferation and threat reduction projects in Russia and other former Soviet states, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, will be enhanced under the Global Partnership. These include:
See, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Fact Sheet: G-8 Summit -- Preventing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, June 27, 2002, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020627-7.html.
2See, Richard Lugar, "NATO After 9/11: Crisis or Opportunity?" Address to the Council on Foreign Relations, March 4, 2002 (available as of May 13, 2002 at http://www.senate.gov/~lugar/030402.html); Sam Nunn, "Building Global Cooperation for Threat Reduction," Address to the Wilmington World Affairs Council, Wilmington, Delaware, March 11, 2002 (available at http://www.nti.org/c_press/c_index.html#speeches).
3"The 10 plus 10 over 10 Initiative: A Promising Start, But Little Substance So Far," August 12, 2002, http://www.cns.miis.edu/.