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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2005

Applying the Bush Administration's Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction to Today's Challenges

Robert G. Joseph, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Remarks to the Fletcher School Conference on the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Medford, MA
October 21, 2005

(As prepared)

I am very pleased to have been asked to address this conference – a conference on perhaps the most vital subject for international peace and security: as the President has said, ensuring that the world’s most dangerous weapons are kept out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous people. My remarks are intended to lay out what we as an Administration said we would do to meet this preeminent threat, what we have actually done in the non- and counterproliferation areas, and how we envision the most significant weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation challenges that lie ahead of us.

First: What We Said We Would Do

I believe that the Bush Administration has done more than any previous administration to develop a comprehensive approach to counter the full range of WMD threats. Through presidential speeches and the publication of formal strategy documents, we have laid out a clear road map for action. This was important for two reasons: first, because of the importance of gaining wide support both within the executive and congressional branches, as well as from the broader national security community; and second, because of our confidence in the power of ideas, and the need for new ideas to transform our thinking about the threats that face our nation. Just one example early in the Administration was the transformation of the decades-old debate surrounding the (Anti-Ballistic Missile) ABM Treaty, which I believe we won both on an intellectual basis and in diplomatic practice.

When we first came into office, we inherited an approach to proliferation expressed in presidential guidance that was based on promotion of universal arms control treaties and export controls. This was a reflection going back many years of perceiving proliferation more as a political challenge than a security threat. Almost immediately upon assuming office, President Bush emphasized that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was the preeminent security threat of the 21st century, requiring an entirely new, comprehensive strategy. In his first major speech on security issues, given at the National Defense University on May 1, 2001, the President said:

"…this is still a dangerous world, a less certain, a less predictable one. More nations have nuclear weapons and still more have nuclear aspirations. Many have chemical and biological weapons. Some already have developed the ballistic missile technology that would allow them to deliver weapons of mass destruction at long distances and incredible speeds. And a number of these countries are spreading these technologies around the world.


"Today’s world requires a new policy, a broad strategy of active nonproliferation, counterproliferation and defenses. We must work together with other like-minded nations to deny weapons of terror from those seeking to acquire them. We must work with allies and friends who wish to join with us to defend against the harm they can inflict. And together we must deter anyone who would contemplate their use."

Follow-on speeches at West Point and the Citadel, as well as a return engagement at the National Defense University in February 2004, show a clear evolution of the Administration’s thinking about how to deal with the full spectrum of complex and dangerous threats from WMD – from countries like North Korea and Iran, as well as from terrorists who seek WMD capabilities not as weapons of last resort, but as weapons of choice. In these speeches, the President called for new concepts of deterrence and defense, and new capabilities to deal with today’s threats.

Beginning in the fall of 2002, following the terrorist attacks on our country the previous September, the Administration published a series of official strategy papers on how we intended to counter the WMD proliferation threat. In both the National Security Strategy of the United States and the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, the President expanded on the requirements to meet today’s threats and on the tools we would marshal against them. Last year, the President issued Biodefense for the 21st Century, which fleshes out the overall strategy for combating the particular threat from biological weapons.

The National Strategy to Combat WMD is the first of its kind – a broad, truly national strategy uniting all the elements of diplomacy, intelligence and power needed to counter WMD. As the first pillar of the strategy, the Bush Administration recognized the continuing importance of prevention and launched dramatically expanded U.S. efforts to prevent acquisition of WMD, related materials and delivery systems by rogue states or terrorists.

At the same time, the strategy recognized that prevention will not always succeed. Therefore, it placed new, and necessary, emphasis on protection or counterproliferation – to deter, detect, defend against, and defeat WMD in the hands of our enemies. Further, as the third pillar, the National Strategy also focused on consequence management, to reduce as much as possible the potentially horrific consequences of WMD attacks at home or abroad.

These three pillars – counterproliferation, nonproliferation and consequence management – do not stand alone, but rather come together as elements of a unified approach. Underlining that point, the National Strategy also identifies four cross-cutting functions that are critical to combating WMD: improved intelligence collection and analysis; research and development; bilateral and multilateral cooperation; and tailored strategies against hostile states and terrorists. What is meant by tailored or targeted strategies is that there is no cookie cutter approach to combating proliferation: Iran is different from North Korea, North Korea is different from Libya or Syria, and the terrorist WMD threat is different from that of state threats. While many non- and counterproliferation instruments are common to all these threats, each threat must be treated as unique.

Now Let Me Turn to What We Have Done

The Bush Administration has given vitality to the use of diplomatic tools to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. assistance to other states to eliminate weapons and prevent their proliferation has been at record funding levels. Moreover, with the formation in 2002 of the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, the United States successfully called on our foreign partners to contribute their share to the effort to meet what is a global threat to the international community.

While the bulk of U.S. nonproliferation assistance remains focused on the states of the Former Soviet Union, we have also expanded our efforts to address proliferation threats worldwide. Landmark programs include: the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to reduce fissile and radioactive material worldwide; the Second Line of Defense and Megaports programs to install radiation detection capability at major seaports, airports and border crossings; and redirection programs in Libya and Iraq to provide alternative employment for former weapons scientists and engineers.

The G-8 Global Partnership is an excellent example of the use of effective multilateralism to enhance our ability to prevent WMD and missile proliferation. Moreover, under U.S. leadership, even an economically-focused organization like APEC – the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum – has acted on the realization that proliferation presents a dire threat to economic well-being.

On the international level, the United States has spearheaded the effort for the United Nations Security Council to take on its responsibilities to maintain peace and security against modern threats. A major milestone was the passage in April of last year of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. In adopting 1540, the Security Council – for only the second time since its founding – invoked its Chapter VII authorities to require nations to take steps in response to a general, vice specific, threat to international peace and security. In particular, 1540 requires all states to criminalize WMD proliferation, institute effective export controls, and enhance security for nuclear materials. Much remains to be done to implement 1540 fully; and the United States stands ready to assist wherever and whenever it can.

The United States also has led the way to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) ability to detect, and respond to, nuclear proliferation. We instituted the successful effort to increase the IAEA’s safeguards budget. We submitted the IAEA Additional Protocol to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. We have called for universal adoption of the Additional Protocol and the creation of a new special committee of the IAEA Board to examine ways to strengthen the Agency’s safeguards and verification capabilities. We are pleased that the new special committee will meet for the first time this fall and begin its important work.

In addition to the President’s proposals to strengthen the IAEA institutionally, he challenged the international community to rectify the greatest weakness in the nuclear nonproliferation system: the ability of states to pursue nuclear weapons under the cover of peaceful energy programs. The lesson of Iran and North Korea is clear: some states will cynically manipulate the provisions of the NPT to acquire sensitive technologies to enable them to pursue nuclear weapons capabilities – the very capabilities the treaty is intended to deny.

To close this loophole, the President proposed that the ability to enrich uranium and separate plutonium be limited to those states which already operate such facilities. In return, he called on the world’s nuclear fuel suppliers to assure supply to those states which forego enrichment and reprocessing. While this proposal has been called discriminatory by some, the fact is that the only states which sought new enrichment or reprocessing capability in the last 15 years did so for weapons programs. The list is telling: Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Yet another, and perhaps one of the most important efforts of the Bush Administration to combat weapons of mass destruction is the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which shows the close interaction among nonproliferation, counterproliferation, and intelligence. PSI countries have put their diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence assets to work in a multinational, yet flexible, fashion. They are applying laws already on the books in innovative ways and cooperating as never before to interdict shipments, to disrupt proliferation networks, and to hold accountable the front companies that support them. PSI has now expanded to include support from more than 70 countries, and continues to grow. It is not a treaty-based approach, involving long, ponderous negotiations which yield results only slowly, if at all. Instead, it is an active partnership, to deter, disrupt and prevent WMD proliferation.

The PSI approach is now expanding to cut off the financial flows that fuel proliferation. 1540 requires states to adopt and enforce effective controls on funds and services related to export and transshipment of WMD-related goods. In July of this year, G-8 Leaders called for enhanced efforts to combat proliferation through cooperation to identify, track and freeze relevant financial transactions and assets. This cooperation has already begun within the Egmont Group, a worldwide network of governmental financial agencies originally set up to combat money laundering. President Bush further augmented U.S. efforts when he issued in July a new Executive Order, which authorizes the U.S. Government to freeze assets and block transactions of entities and persons engaged in proliferation activities. Currently eight entities – four from Iran, three from North Korea, and one from Syria – have been designated under the Order, and we are working actively to designate additional ones.

Another key requirement of counterproliferation is to protect ourselves from WMD-armed adversaries. As President Bush made clear early in his first term, combating WMD requires both offensive and defensive capabilities. To be successful, we must bring a full range of defensive measures to bear. One element of the solution set is missile defense. Others are improved counterforce and passive defense capabilities. Still others are dual-use. Dual-use capabilities have long been considered proliferation problems, but dual-use capabilities can also be part of the solution. For example, the same disease surveillance and medical countermeasure responses required for public health protection against infectious diseases are critical for defending against biological weapons attacks.

Let Me Now Turn to the Results

The Bush Administration’s comprehensive approach to WMD proliferation has paid important dividends. The most dramatic success has been, of course, the destruction of the A.Q. Khan network and the elimination of Libya’s WMD and longer-range missile programs. Many elements of our comprehensive approach were required for those achievements: actionable intelligence; interdiction; effective deterrence; and new non- and counterproliferation tools.

Intelligence penetration of the A.Q. Khan network gave us knowledge of the shipment of thousands of centrifuge parts bound for Libya on the ship BBC China. PSI cooperation among the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Italy resulted in the diversion of the ship and the seizure of its deadly cargo. Interdiction of the BBC China, followed by cooperation from the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Malaysia, Turkey and several European countries led to the destruction of the Khan network and the on-going investigation, prosecution or imprisonment of many of its leading members.

In turn, just two months after the BBC China interdiction, Libya announced its historic decision to eliminate its WMD and longer-range missile programs. Several factors were at work: the revelation and disruption of Libya’s nuclear weapons ambitions; the potentially severe costs of proliferation, demonstrated by the resolve of the United States, the United Kingdom and our partners to counter WMD in Iraq; and the potential benefits from adhering to international nonproliferation norms. In the months after Libya’s decision, Tripoli worked with the United States and U.K. to disclose fully its nuclear, chemical and longer-range missile efforts, and to eliminate weapons and equipment, through destruction or removal. In return, the United States has lifted many economic and political sanctions on Libya that have produced benefits for the American people. We also are developing programs to provide alternative employment for Libyan scientists and engineers formerly involved in weapons of mass destruction programs. In taking these steps, Libya has been established as a second model for proliferators to follow – give up your weapons programs and receive the benefits of being in good-standing within the international community.

Now for the Challenges Ahead

While much has been accomplished in our fight against proliferation, much more remains to be done. I would highlight three challenges.

The first is to end the North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs. There should be no doubt that both countries have such programs. President Bush has made clear that all options are on the table to address these direct threats to our security. He has also emphasized that our strong preference is to counter them through diplomacy.

Despite our best efforts and those of our partners, both North Korea and Iran remain serious proliferation threats. In the Six-Party Joint Statement on September 19, North Korea committed to abandoning all its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. This was a significant development, but we still must agree on, and implement, the detailed requirements of North Korean denuclearization and its verification. That task proved a major one in South Africa, even though it had already abandoned its weapons program and was fully cooperative and transparent in allowing verification by the international community. In North Korea, it will certainly be far more difficult.

In some ways, the challenge Iran poses to the nuclear nonproliferation regime is even more daunting. Although the evidence – including Iran’s almost 20 years of hiding all its nuclear fuel cycle efforts – clearly indicates a weapons program, it continues to argue that its program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. On September 24, the IAEA Board of Governors found that Iran violated its safeguards obligations. This finding requires a report to the United Nations Security Council. The Security Council will not replace the IAEA effort, but reinforce it – for example, by calling on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA, and giving the IAEA new, needed authority to investigate all Iranian weaponization efforts. We continue to work with other IAEA Board members on the timing and content of the report of Iranian noncompliance to the Security Council. We also continue to support the efforts of the United Kingdom, France and Germany – the EU-3 – to bring Iran back to the negotiations.

The second challenge is to end proliferation trade by rogue states, individuals and groups, and to ensure that it does not return. As I have described, we have made substantial progress over the last few years. We have moved from the creation of international export control standards to their active enforcement – through enhanced national legislation, PSI interdictions, international law enforcement and financial cooperation. We have shut down the world’s most dangerous proliferation network. More and more states are endorsing PSI and its Statement of Interdiction Principles.

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Central Asia to secure broader support for and participation in the PSI. Central Asian states now almost unanimously have endorsed the PSI and are prepared to take action to ensure their airspace will not be abused by proliferators. Given their geographic location as a crossroads for proliferation activity, the strong stance by these governments will serve as a deterrent to proliferators.

Similarly, we are working with Singapore, Japan and Australia to broaden PSI participation in Asia. I listened carefully to Singapore’s Minister of Defense at the start of its recent PSI exercise, Operation Deep Sabre, which I attended in August when he said: "Singapore is highly sensitive to the dangers of proliferation – perhaps more so than most countries – given our size and vulnerability. This is why counter-proliferation is one of our core security priorities." PSI participants like Singapore, a key transshipment hub, not only understand the global dangers posed by proliferation, but also have internalized the need to participate in PSI for their own national and economic security.

In his address at National Defense University (NDU) in February 2004, President Bush called for the expansion of our PSI efforts, including through law enforcement. We are working with our partners to dismantle the infrastructure of proliferation, especially its financing sources. Our efforts have had success, steadily reducing the opportunities available to proliferators. But we must continue to expand and deepen our efforts – using all available national and international authorities and, where necessary, creating new ones until the proliferation trade has been effectively ended.

The third challenge that I would emphasize is the need to prevent terrorist acquisition and use of WMD, and especially of biological and nuclear weapons. Deterring terrorists from using WMD is a problematic challenge. If terrorists acquire them, they are likely to employ them, with potentially catastrophic effects. The acquisition routes to biological and nuclear weapons are quite different, requiring different approaches to proliferation prevention, counterproliferation and consequence management. Deadly pathogens are widespread – most exist in nature – but it is difficult to weaponize them successfully. With nuclear weapons, in contrast, any well-organized terrorist group with some technical expertise could probably create a crude nuclear device – provided it has access to the weapons material.

Many of the tools we have in place to combat proliferation by rogue states are just as relevant against WMD terrorism. A few examples are reducing the global stocks of fissile material and securing those which remain; improved nuclear and biological detection capability; and the interdiction of illicit traffic in nuclear and biological materials. A key difference, however, is one of scale. We cannot rest as long as enough material for even one nuclear weapon remains unsecured or can evade detection or interdiction.

While many of the tools are the same, preventing WMD terrorism requires different approaches from those we have followed against state WMD programs or against conventional or non-WMD-related terrorism. Intelligence collection and action against the two have in the past been quite different, with anti-terrorist intelligence focused on individuals and groups, and anti-WMD intelligence focused on state-based programs. We are working hard to close any gaps in our intelligence collection, analysis and action on WMD terrorism.

We also require sustained strategic approaches – national, multilateral, and global – to combat WMD terrorism. In reorganizing the State Department nonproliferation and arms control structure to deal better with today’s threats, one important step has been to create a new office of WMD Terrorism. This office will work with our international partners to harness all the relevant collective resources to establish more coordinated, effective, and interoperable capabilities to prevent, protect against, and respond to the global threat of WMD terrorism.

Let me conclude by noting that the strategic approach to combat WMD proliferation which the President laid out over four years ago continues to provide a guide to action against this paramount threat. Our strategy, and the new measures we have adopted to implement it, is flexible and dynamic, suited to the changing nature of the proliferation threat. We have accomplished much, but we must also continue to heed the warning which the President gave in the National Security Strategy document:

"The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed. … History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action."

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