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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 54, February 2001

US Congressional Testimony

I. CIA Director

'Worldwide Threat 2001: National Security in a Changing World', Remarks by George J, Tenet, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to the Senate Intelligence Committee, February 7, 2001.

Note: on February 23, the CIA released its latest six-monthly 'Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions,' covering the period from January 1 to June 30, 2000. The report is available on the Agency's website, at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/bian/bian_feb_2001.htm.

'Transnational Issues

Usama bin Ladin and his global network of lieutenants and associates remain the most immediate and serious threat. Since 1998, Bin Ladin has declared all US citizens legitimate targets of attack. As shown by the bombing of our Embassies in Africa in 1998 and his Millennium plots last year, he is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning. ...

International terrorist networks have used the explosion in information technology to advance their capabilities. The same technologies that allow individual consumers in the United States to search out and buy books in Australia or India also enable terrorists to raise money, spread their dogma, find recruits, and plan operations far afield. Some groups are acquiring rudimentary cyberattack tools. Terrorist groups are actively searching the internet to acquire information and capabilities for chemical, biological, radiological, and even nuclear attacks. Many of the 29 officially designated terrorist organizations have an interest in unconventional weapons, and Usama bin Ladin in 1998 even declared their acquisition a 'religious duty.' ...

Proliferation

I would like to turn now to proliferation. A variety of states and groups continue to seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. First, let me discuss the continuing and growing threat posed to us by ICBMs.

We continue to face ballistic missile threats from a variety of actors beyond Russia and China - specifically, North Korea, probably Iran, and possibly Iraq. In some cases, their programs are the result of indigenous technological development, and in other cases, they are the beneficiaries of direct foreign assistance. And while these emerging programs involve far fewer missiles with less accuracy, yield, survivability, and reliability than those we faced during the Cold War, they still pose a threat to US interests.

For example, more than two years ago North Korea tested a space launch vehicle, the Taepo Dong-1, which it could theoretically convert into an ICBM. This missile would be capable of delivering a small biological or chemical weapon to the United States, although with significant targeting inaccuracies. Moreover, North Korea has retained the ability to test its follow-on Taepo Dong-II missile, which could deliver a nuclear-sized payload to the United States. Iran has one of the largest and most capable ballistic missile programs in the Middle East. Its public statements suggest that it plans to develop longer-range rockets for use in a space-launch program, but Tehran could follow the North Korean pattern and test an ICBM capable of delivering a light payload to the United States in the next few years. And given the likelihood that Iraq continues its missile development work, we think that it too could develop an ICBM capability sometime in the next decade assuming it received foreign assistance.

As worrying as the ICBM threat will be...the threat to US interests and forces from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles is here and now. The proliferation of MRBMs - driven largely though not exclusively by North Korean No Dong sales - is altering strategic balances in the Middle East and Asia. These missiles include Iran's Shahab-III, Pakistan's Ghauri and the Indian Agni-II. ... [We] cannot underestimate the catalytic role that foreign assistance has played in advancing these missile and WMD programs, shortening their development times and aiding production. The three major suppliers of missile or WMD-related technologies continue to be Russia, China, and North Korea. Again, many details of their activities need to remain classified, but let me quickly summarize the areas of our greatest concern.

Russian state-run defense and nuclear industries are still strapped for funds, and Moscow looks to them to acquire badly needed foreign exchange through exports. We remain concerned about the proliferation implications of such sales in several areas.

  • Russian entities last year continued to supply a variety of ballistic missile-related goods and technical know-how to countries such as Iran, India, China, and Libya. Indeed, the transfer of ballistic missile technology from Russia to Iran was substantial last year, and in our judgment will continue to accelerate Iranian efforts to develop new missiles and to become self-sufficient in production.
  • Russia also remained a key supplier for a variety of civilian Iranian nuclear programs, which could be used to advance its weapons programs as well.
  • Russian entities are a significant source of dual-use biotechnology, chemicals, production technology, and equipment for Iran. Russian biological and chemical expertise is sought by Iranians and others seeking information and training on BW- and CW-agent production processes.
Chinese missile-related technical assistance to foreign countries also has been significant over the years. Chinese help has enabled Pakistan to move rapidly toward serial production of solid-propellant missiles. In addition to Pakistan, firms in China provided missile-related items, raw materials, or other help to several countries of proliferation concern, including Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

Last November, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement that committed China not to assist other countries in the development of ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. Based on what we know about China's past proliferation behavior...we are watching and analyzing carefully for any sign that Chinese entities may be acting against that commitment. We are worried, for example, that Pakistan's continued development of the two-stage Shaheen-II MRBM will require additional Chinese assistance.

On the nuclear front, Chinese entities have provided extensive support in the past to Pakistan's safeguarded and un-safeguarded nuclear programs. In May 1996, Beijing pledged that it would not provide assistance to un-safeguarded nuclear facilities in Pakistan; we cannot yet be certain, however, that contacts have ended. With regard to Iran, China confirmed that work associated with two nuclear projects would continue until the projects were completed. Again, as with Russian help, our concern is that Iran could use the expertise and technology it gets - even if the cooperation appears civilian - for its weapons program.

With regard to North Korea, our main concern is Pyongyang's continued exports of ballistic missile-related equipment and missile components, materials, and technical expertise. North Korean customers are countries in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. Pyongyang attaches a high priority to the development and sale of ballistic missiles, equipment, and related technology because these sales are a major source of hard currency.

Mr. Chairman, the missile and WMD proliferation problem continues to change in ways that make it harder to monitor and control, increasing the risk of substantial surprise. Among these developments are greater proficiency in the use of denial and deception and the growing availability of dual-use technologies - not just for missiles, but for chemical and biological agents as well. There is also great potential of 'secondary proliferation' from maturing state-sponsored programs such as those in Pakistan, Iran, and India. Add to this group the private companies, scientists, and engineers in Russia, China, and India who may be increasing their involvement in these activities, taking advantage of weak or unenforceable national export controls and the growing availability of technologies. These trends have continued and, in some cases, have accelerated over the past year. ...

Iraq

... Saddam Hussein has grown more confident in his ability to hold on to his power. ... High oil prices and Saddam's use of the oil-for-food program have helped him manage domestic pressure. The program has helped meet the basic food and medicine needs of the population. High oil prices buttressed by substantial illicit oil revenues have helped Saddam ensure the loyalty of the regime's security apparatus...the few thousand politically important tribal and family groups... There are still constraints on Saddam's power. His economic infrastructure is in long-term decline, and his ability to project power outside Iraq's borders is severely limited, largely because of the effectiveness and enforcement of the No-Fly Zones. His military is roughly half the size it was during the Gulf War and remains under a tight arms embargo. He has trouble efficiently moving forces and supplies - a direct result of sanctions. ... Despite these problems, we are likely to see greater assertiveness - largely on the diplomatic front - over the next year. Saddam already senses improved prospects for better relations with other Arab states. One of his key goals is to sidestep the 10-year-old economic sanctions regime by making violations a routine occurrence for which he pays no penalty. Saddam has had some success in ending Iraq's international isolation. Since August, nearly 40 aircraft have flown to Baghdad without obtaining UN approval, further widening fissures in the UN air embargo. Moreover, several countries have begun to upgrade their diplomatic relations with Iraq. The number of Iraqi diplomatic missions abroad are approaching pre-Gulf War levels, and among the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have not reestablished ties.

Our most serious concern with Saddam Hussein must be the likelihood that he will seek a renewed WMD capability both for credibility and because every other strong regime in the region either has it or is pursuing it. For example, the Iraqis have rebuilt key portions of their chemical production infrastructure for industrial and commercial use. The plants he is rebuilding were used to make chemical weapons precursors before the Gulf War and their capacity exceeds Iraq's needs to satisfy its civilian requirements. We have similar concerns about other dual-use research, development, and production in the biological weapons and ballistic missile fields; indeed, Saddam has rebuilt several critical missile production complexes. ...

North Korea

... Pyongyang still believes that a strong military, capable of projecting power in the region, is an essential element of national power. Pyongyang's declared 'military first' policy requires massive investment in the armed forces, even at the expense of other national objectives. North Korea maintains the world's fifth largest armed forces consisting of over one million active-duty personnel, with another five million reserves. While Allied forces still have the qualitative edge, the North Korean military appears for now to have halted its near-decade-long slide in military capabilities. In addition to the North's longer-range missile threat to us, Pyongyang is also expanding its short and medium range missile inventory, putting our Allies at greater risk. ...

China

... Perhaps the toughest issue between Beijing and Washington remains Taiwan. ... The election last March of President Chen ushered in a divided government with highly polarized views on relations with Beijing. Profound mutual distrust makes it difficult to restart the on-again off-again bilateral political dialogue. In the longer term...cross-strait relations can be even more volatile because of Beijing's military modernization program. China's military buildup is also aimed at deterring US intervention in support of Taiwan. Russian arms are a key component of this buildup. Arms sales are only one element of a burgeoning Sino-Russian relationship. Moscow and Beijing plan to sign a 'friendship treaty' later this year, highlighting common interests and willingness to cooperate diplomatically against US policies that they see as unfriendly to their interests-especially NMD. ...

Russia

[Y]et another state driving for recognition as a Great Power is Russia. Let me be perfectly candid. There can be little doubt that President Putin wants to restore some aspects of the Soviet past-status as a great power, strong central authority, and a stable and predictable society-sometimes at the expense of neighboring states or the civil rights of individual Russians. ...

Moscow also may be resurrecting the Soviet-era zero-sum approach to foreign policy. As I noted earlier, Moscow continues to value arms and technology sales as a major source of funds. It increasingly is using them as a tool to improve ties to its regional partners China, India, and Iran. Moscow also sees these relationships as a way to limit US influence globally. At the same time Putin is making efforts to check US influence in the other former Soviet states and reestablish Russia as the premier power in the region. He has increased pressure on his neighbors to pay their energy debts, is dragging his feet on treaty-mandated withdrawals of forces from Moldova, and is using a range of pressure tactics against Georgia. ...

South Asia

... I must report that relations between India and Pakistan remain volatile, making the risk of war between the two nuclear-armed adversaries unacceptably high. The military balance in which India enjoys advantages over Pakistan in most areas of conventional defense preparedness remains the same. This includes a decisive advantage in fighter aircraft, almost twice as many men under arms, and a much larger economy to support defense expenditures. As a result, Pakistan relies heavily on its nuclear weapons for deterrence. Their deep-seated rivalry, frequent artillery exchanges in Kashmir, and short flight times for nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and aircraft all contribute to an unstable nuclear deterrence.

If any issue has the potential to bring both sides to full-scale war, it is Kashmir. Kashmir is at the center of the dispute between the two countries. Nuclear deterrence and the likelihood that a conventional war would bog down both sides argue against a decision to go to war. But both sides seem quite willing to take risks over Kashmir in particular, and this - along with their deep animosity and distrust - could lead to decisions that escalate tensions. ...

Last year I told you I worried about the proliferation and development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction in South Asia. The competition, predictably, extends here as well and there is no sign that the situation has improved. We still believe there is a good prospect of another round of nuclear tests. On the missile front, India decided to test another Agni MRBM last month, reflecting its determination to improve its nuclear weapons delivery capability. Pakistan may respond in kind. ..."

Source: Text - CIA's Tenet on Worldwide Threat 2001, US State Department (Washington File), February 7.

Russian Reaction

'Concerning the Statement of CIA Director George J. Tenet in the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,' Statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Document 218-09-02, February 9; unofficial translation.

"The CIA Director, George J. Tenet, spoke in hearings in the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence a few days ago. Among other subjects, he also touched upon relations with Russia, though - unlike US President George Bush - he chose to put the Russian theme not in the context of international cooperation, but on the list of 'threats' to United States security. Of course, remembering the specifics of the CIA, which flourished exactly during the period of the Cold War, it would have been difficult to expect of its chief any thoroughly thought out assessments with regard to us. But, even despite this, a number of pronouncements made by Tenet cause, mildly speaking, bewilderment.

Take, for example, his assertion that Russia is trying to counteract US interests on a global scale. Of course, in our approaches to a number of major international issues there are differences of opinion, including ones of a serious character. But in our policy we have proceeded and continue to proceed from the assumption that Washington is our important partner in the joint maintenance of international security and strategic stability, and that Russia and the US no longer threaten each other, nor do they regard each other as opponents. As we understand, the new US leadership also shares this fundamental approach.

We are also surprised by the forced attempts of Tenet to paint Russia as one of the culprits of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Of all people, the CIA director should well know that it is Moscow that has fully ratified START II and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, thus decisively facilitating the preservation of the cornerstone Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and that the President of the Russian Federation proposed on November 13, 2000, a coherent program for real nuclear disarmament and the strengthening of all key non-proliferation regimes, including that for control over the spread of missile technologies. By the way, it has been precisely in this sphere that a structure and machinery for Russian-American cooperation were set up and have been operating quite efficiently - including with the participation of the intelligence communities of the two countries - thanks to which we have jointly achieved concrete results. Practice shows that what's needed is not empty exhortations and groundless accusations, but painstaking and delicate work on the strengthening of bilateral and multilateral dialogue on these questions, in which the CIA, unfortunately, has not always shown itself at its best.

On the whole, the 'dark revelations' of George J. Tenet about Russia and our relations with the United States may play up to the 'hawkish' sentiments in the US Congress and help increase the CIA budget, but they in no way correspond to the real state of affairs or the priorities of Russian-American cooperation as defined by the presidents of Russia and the US at this particularly crucial period of development of relations between the two countries."

II. Secretary of Energy

Statement of Spencer Abraham, Secretary of Energy, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 8, 2001; Federal News Service transcript.

"As each of you are intimately aware, more than two-thirds of the Department of Energy's budget is funded from defense accounts. ... Let me begin with the programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration. First, I will say that I fully supported the establishment of the NNSA when I was in the Senate and continue to support it today. I voted for the Domenici-Kyl amendment and for the Defense Authorization Act which created the NNSA. [NNSA Director] General [John] Gordon and I have established a very productive working partnership and I am confident that this new entity will be successful.

... [T]he most sobering and important responsibility vested in the Secretary of Energy is the duty to certify to the President each year that the US nuclear arsenal is safe, secure and reliable. I can assure the members of this Committee that nothing I do will be higher on my priority list than ensuring the safety and security of our nuclear deterrent.

The DOE weapons program is continuing to implement new methods of certifying the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of US nuclear warheads in the absence of underground nuclear testing. This requires expensive and technically complex new experimental facilities and capabilities. Not all of these facilities and capabilities are operational yet, but the Department is continuing to make progress in this area. We must establish these new facilities and capabilities as rapidly as possible.

I believe that we would want to pursue most of these new capabilities even if we were in a testing environment. I hope to work with you and the other members of Congress in the coming months to ensure that these programs are adequately funded and supported.

In addition to establishing these new science-based certification tools, DOE is also in the process of evaluating our critical production capabilities - such as tritium gas production, uranium processing, and plutonium pit production. Again, these capabilities may require expensive, new facilities and technologies and in the future, I hope to work with you to ensure that any needs which we may have are successfully met.

The Department also plays a critical role in threat reduction, by addressing the challenge of nuclear weapons proliferation. This nation has an acute interest in accounting for and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons materials, technology, and expertise. The Department has had many past successes in this arena... I believe that the recent Baker-Cutler report [note: see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 53] will serve as a useful tool to help frame the debate on these critical issues, and I look forward to working with you to address these challenges. ..."

Questions and Answers

"Question (Committee Chair Senator John Warner, Republican): '[I]n the course of the Senate's advise and consent review of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, this Committee initiated a series of...very thorough hearings regarding the present and future status of our nuclear stockpile... The distinguished directors of our laboratories, in whom we place the trust to make periodic evaluations of our inventory, gave their testimony. And that testimony was in true fashion professional and not political. I feel that it was the absolute bedrock of fact that directed the Senate not to give its advice and consent on that treaty at that time, because in their professional opinion they could not give the assurance to the Committee - indeed the Senate as a whole and to the country - of a timetable within which this nation could complete the design and installation of a series of technical, very complicated devices, largely computers, which would provide substitutes for live testing, our nation having decided under previous presidents not to continue live testing. ... As a consequence of their inability to give us what I believe were some very specific parameters regarding the ability to substitute for live testing, the Senate decided not to accept that treaty. ... Can you give us an update with regard to the current evaluation of these very distinguished laboratory directors, all of whom will eventually come before this Committee? ...'

Secretary Abraham: '... I have only had a chance to have extensive discussions with one of the lab directors to this point. I am looking forward to visiting all the facilities in the course of my first months in this job... I was a member of the Senate when the treaty was rejected, and voted 'no' on that occasion. Obviously a lot of concerns were raised with respect to issues that had to do with their verification as well as exactly where and how long it would be before we could be comfortable with certification in the absence of a testing environment. But the President in his campaign and since has made it clear he intends to continue the moratorium, and we are committed at the department to trying to move forward on the various science-based stockpile stewardship programs that will give us as much information as we can acquire through them to be able to certify the safety, security and reliability of the stockpile. My views are these: Clearly we know that the lab directors and others have said that it will take some time before we can be certain that science-based testing, separate from actual testing, will work. The timeframe that they have indicated to me is a timeframe that can be as short as six years and perhaps as long as 20... But I think that the results of the most recent process, which was just completed in January, enjoys the full confidence of the lab directors and the certification that just took place by my predecessor and the immediate past Secretary of Defense, another one of our former colleagues, is one that I have high confidence in.'

Question (Senator Warner): 'I'd like also to receive from you your evaluation of where the United States is today, and where in your judgment and that of the President it should be in the future, regarding the investment of dollars and research in perhaps future development of a new series - if that is necessary - of...nuclear weapons. It's my understanding there was very little done on that under the previous administration, and it is my hope and expectation that this administration will begin to review the stockpile and the normal periods of time within which these weapons have to be replaced...'

Secretary Abraham: 'Well, I will certainly be happy to keep the Committee informed as to evaluations that are made as the Secretary of Defense and I are called upon to begin that kind of process of evaluation. ... But what I would just point out [is] that some of these decisions would be ones that are primarily driven by the Defense Department. ...'

Question (Senator Carl Levin, Democrat): 'On the stockpile stewardship program, without getting into the pros and cons of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, there is no current requirement to resume testing. There is a moratorium, as you have indicated. I disagree with our Chairman as to the reason why that treaty was defeated at the time that it was. Actually there were many more Senators who had urged that we not even vote on that treaty at that time until there was a greater opportunity for further hearings into the treaty than there were Senators who voted against the treaty itself. ... My question is this, however, going back to the Chairman's comments about the lab directors. Their testimony was that they could not give us assurance that testing would never be necessary. And I think that was solid advice, and that is the reason why the treaty itself had a supreme national interest clause in it, and why the ratification resolution itself had a provision that if testing ever became necessary to assure the safety and reliability of our stockpile, that in fact we would use that supreme national interest provision and withdraw from the treaty. ... The Secretary of State, our current Secretary of State, supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and I would hope that before you reach your own conclusion on whatever new material you gather, current material on this subject, that you would include discussions with Secretary...'

Secretary Abraham: 'I'd be happy to. And I also would give the Committee the assurance that...one of the priorities that General Gordon and I have already talked about is to move forward with the various...new science programs and others related to the stockpile...'

Question (Senator Jack Reed, Democrat): '... [W]hat is preventing us from getting to the point where our stockpile program can be relied upon without testing? ... This six-year to 20-year gap, what's causing the delay?'

Secretary Abraham: '... My understanding is that a lot of factors are involved. Obviously...on a regular basis we take apart our warheads to determine their content, any degradation that might have happened. ... Another step in the process is developing new scientific equipment that can try to emulate in a laboratory setting the sorts of activities that go on when a nuclear explosion takes place. That's led us in the direction of the development of the National Ignition Facility, NIF. That's not developed yet; it's in the developmental stages. And as you know, the costs of that have been questioned because the projections are apparently too low; whether that's because of bad projections or because of other factors, I haven't yet been able to determine... But we don't know, once that facility is fully functional, assuming that happens, whether or not we can create sufficiently similar conditions to be able to determine certain kinds of scientific conclusions with respect to the performance of weapon systems. ... [M]y sense is that they [the lab directors] don't feel they can come to Congress or to the Secretary of Energy and say with certainty that they can certify with complete confidence in a future point - not today; I think they feel very comfortable about the recommendations that were made in January. But when they're asked, can you also make that same high-level of confidence recommendation or certification in 20 years, I think what they're saying is they aren't able to tell us with certainty they will be able to do that until some of these steps have been taken.' ...

Question (Senator Warner): '... [A]ny development of a new warhead...is dependent on the ability in the course of development to test it. And at the moment, we're going to continue the moratorium, rely on the substitute test program, and we're nowhere near there. So, basically, any thought of trying to come forward with a new system at this point in time has to be timed in relationship to when we can test it. But in the interim period, there's a very interesting report out by [Stephen] Younger [Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear Weapons at Los Alamos] - are you familiar with that? It's the report issued by Los Alamos [Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century - see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 50], and I'll just acquaint you with it briefly. The approach being that perhaps we can, as we move towards a new generation, do it in such a way that we can develop something that would enable us to bring down considerably the current size of inventory, which has a direct impact on your burden to revitalize the infrastructure which supports the current inventory. ... And also, it touches on the possibility of working in the conventional area to replace the deterrence that we now rely on through the strategic system. So I was...'

Secretary Abraham: 'Senator, is that sometimes referred to as the mini-nuke case? I think I've heard it referred to that way. ... I...am familiar with Mr. Younger's [report]... I have not had the chance to study it in detail. ...' ...

Question (Senator Levin): '... The DOE is getting ready to begin a multi-year life extension program for several different warhead types, and the DOE facilities are not up to the task of the work that has to be performed on these warheads in order to extend their life. And will you support an effort to upgrade some of the facilities that would be used in that life extension program?'

Secretary Abraham: '... I have great concerns...about the infrastructure capabilities and potential that we have today. So I do support and will be supporting efforts to address that aspect of it. There's also...concerns about our capacity to maintain certain components of the warhead, to produce plutonium pits, for example. And we'll be monitoring that aspect of this as well...'"

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.