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'There Certainly Remains Room For Arms Control. But...': Interview With Stephen Rademaker, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, March 4

'Interview with Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker', interview conducted by Jacquelyn Porth, Washington File Security Affairs Writer, US State Department, February 20; interview published by The Washington File (http://usinfo.state.gov/products/washfile), March 4.

Question: What are your primary areas of responsibility?

Assistant Secretary Rademaker: My primary areas of responsibility are the implementation of existing arms control agreements and consideration of possible new agreements.

Question: You mentioned possible new agreements, is there something under consideration?

Rademaker: This is on my mind, in part, because I just returned from the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, which is a permanent UN-affiliated body that looks at possible arms control agreements, and there are a number of issues that are before the CD. There is one in particular, the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, or FMCT, that the US favors negotiating - if a way can be found to agree on a mandate for an ad hoc group to negotiate it within the CD.

Question: What is preventing the successful conclusion of a FMCT?

Rademaker: We haven't even begun the negotiation of a FMCT, and the reason for that is there has been an inability in Geneva for the past six years to agree on the mandate for the ad hoc committee that would negotiate it. The principal sticking point is the linkages that have been established by certain other delegations where they take the position that they would not be prepared to agree to the initiation of negotiations on a FMCT unless there were also agreement within the CD to commence negotiations, or at least a discussion of other proposed arms control agreements. There are three such agreements, in particular, that have been linked, in one way or another, to the initiation of a FMCT negotiation. They are the so-called PAROS [Prohibition of an Arms Race in Outer Space] agreement, another having to do with nuclear disarmament and a third that concerns negative security assurances for non-nuclear weapons states.

Question: What are they looking for in terms of nuclear disarmament?

Rademaker: The proposal that's been on the table for several years would be to establish an ad hoc group with a mandate to discuss possible steps that could be taken in the direction of nuclear disarmament, and there has been resistance to that not just from the United States, but from a number of the nuclear weapons states under the NPT.

Question: Do you think arms control is still viable in the 21st century?

Rademaker: Well, clearly, we just negotiated a major arms control agreement with Russia, in the form of the Moscow Treaty, which provided for the largest reduction ever in deployed strategic nuclear warheads, so there certainly remains room for arms control. But the approach of the Bush administration has been to proceed cautiously because we don't share the attitude that you can find elsewhere that any agreement in the area of arms control has to be a good thing. And that means that we are not prepared to sign up to negotiations just because the process of negotiating is a good thing. We don't accept the notion that process is more important than substance. And I think you do find that [there are] many other countries that have a strong devotion to the process of arms control. Often times, for example, we want to talk about compliance because there is a whole raft of existing arms control agreements and we think it's important that all the parties to existing agreements live up to their obligations. Discussions about compliance become very uncomfortable because as you engage in such a conversation you eventually come to the point of having to make accusations and then you might, perhaps, have to even confront the question of how to penalize violators. And that becomes very awkward and there are a lot of countries, we find, that would prefer not to address that. They just want to go on and negotiate new agreements without doing the hard work of making sure that the existing ones are complied with.

Question: Do you think most of the world has been slow to address the potential threat of nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological weapons, or perhaps naïve about possible use?

Rademaker: We have existing agreements that limit nuclear weapons to five countries, that prohibit chemical weapons, and that prohibit biological weapons. We don't have an international agreement about radiological weapons. On the other hand, we have no country that today deploys radiological weapons so that seems to have been a less pressing issue in the past. I don't think the world has been remiss in addressing these arms control challenges through the negotiation of international agreements. Where the world has been, perhaps, remiss is in ensuring that there is global compliance. Today, we have the NPT that speaks to nuclear non-proliferation and the NPT is in trouble, not because the NPT as an agreement doesn't work, but because some countries are moving in the direction of violating it - particularly North Korea which has a nuclear weapons program and has now announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty. So, the solution to that is not to go negotiate another NPT, it's for the international community to figure out how we can persuade North Korea to come back into compliance with the existing NPT. And we see similar problems in the area of chemical and biological weapons where the problem is not the existing prohibitions; the problem is the degree to which all countries are living up to their existing obligations.

Question: Has any progress been made since the G-8 announced last year its partnership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, or do you expect a progress report this June when they meet again?

Rademaker: Given the potential of that initiative, I'm sure that it will be discussed in June. Under Secretary of State [John] Bolton is going to Moscow at the end of February to continue discussions with the Russians on this issue. The basic problem that we've encountered is that to carry out these programs in Russia, there have to be understandings reached about some practical details of implementing the programs. And we are not prepared, for example, to spend a lot of money to establish assistance programs only to have to pay taxes or import duties and pay fees in order to do what we think enhances our security as well as Russia's security. This has been a recurring problem, not just for the global partnership, but also for programs that have been in existence for years. And it's been a problem not just for the United States, but also for Japan, Germany, Canada, and the other countries that have been serious about these kinds of issues.

Question: Are there any practical arms control issues that the US is working on within NATO?

Rademaker: We coordinate closely with our NATO allies on arms control issues, and particularly conventional arms control issues in Europe, which is the area of NATO's responsibility. For instance, there is the Adapted CFE [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] Treaty, which we hope to bring into force. We are working very closely with our NATO allies on that, consulting regularly on the steps that need to be taken for the Treaty to be submitted to parliaments for ratification.

Question: What are the obstacles and is there a timeframe for the Adapted CFE accord?

Rademaker: The basic obstacle to ratification and entry into force of the Adapted CFE Treaty is the so-called Istanbul commitments. These are commitments made by Russia in Istanbul in 1999 when the Treaty was signed. And, with regard to the countries of Georgia and Moldova, they were commitments by Russia to withdraw their forces from deployments in those countries. In the case of Georgia, it involves two bases that Russia has not yet agreed to close as required by the Istanbul commitments. And in the case of Moldova, it requires the withdrawal of their forces, but in order for them to withdraw their forces there is a large amount of ammunition that has to be withdrawn, and there have been some practical problems encountered regarding ammunition withdrawal. So until those two issues are worked out, the understanding within NATO is that no NATO country will proceed to ratify. We are also still working within NATO on missile defense issues. This is not really an arms control issue, although there is an important arms control dimension to it. This has become an issue that NATO is paying increasing attention to.

Question: Can you explain why it would be politically reprehensible to the United States for Iraq to assume the presidency of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament through an automatic rotation?

Rademaker: This was an issue that was resolved February 14 when Iraq provided notice to the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament that it would not seek to assume the presidency, but prior to receiving that notice we were concerned about the potential harm the Iraqi presidency might do to the Conference on Disarmament. Iraq is a country, as you know, that has for 12 years been under mandatory sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council because of its failure to disarm. And to allow such a country to assume the presidency of an institution called the Conference on Disarmament, in our view, threatened to make a mockery of the Conference on Disarmament. Coming on the heels of Libya's election as chairman of the Human Rights Commission, our feeling was that it frankly threatened to jeopardize public support in the United States for some of these UN institutions that we think need US support in order to succeed.

Question: With respect to the Chemical Weapons Convention, how has the US been working recently to strengthen implementation?

Rademaker: Over the past year, we became concerned about the leadership of the OPCW, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons - the administering agency of the CWC. And we worked with other countries that were also concerned to replace the previous leadership of the organization with a new Director-General. The campaign took a great deal of effort to succeed, but it did ultimately succeed and there is now a new Director-General that is doing an excellent job. Shortly after his election, we chose to make a voluntary contribution of about $2 million to the OPCW to demonstrate our continued strong support of the organization and its work. We've also recently decided to upgrade the status of our representation to the OPCW. We're in the process of sending an ambassador to the OPCW. We have not had in the past a resident ambassador to the OPCW in The Hague. On a practical level we will continue our close cooperation with the OPCW. We're working with the new Director-General to assist him and strengthen the management there and enhance the stability of the organization.

Question: Is the United States grateful that countries like Guatemala continue to ratify the CWC?

Rademaker: Yes we are. It is our view that treaties like the CWC and the BWC should be universally subscribed to, and so we actually make it a practice to encourage countries that have not yet acceded to the treaties to do so. Just within the last two months, I personally met with the President of Palau and urged him to consider acceding to both treaties. And the response was favorable. Just a few days ago [February 3] Palau acceded to both of those treaties. This is something that we encourage and we hope that eventually every country in the world will be a party to these treaties.

Question: And what issues does the US hope will be addressed at the April Review Conference in The Hague?

Rademaker: We are still in the process of working with the other States Parties to determine how we are going to structure the Review Conference, but we are working toward a thematic approach to the major issues that are before the OPCW. The idea would be to review the progress that has been achieved in those areas, such as inspections and the types of activities that are the focus of inspections and how to achieve consensus on how to carry forward the work of the organization over the next five years.

Question: You were talking earlier about the NPT. Is the United States concerned that the regime might unravel if additional nations decide to unilaterally withdraw from it?

Rademaker: It's been a concern with the NPT for a long time that if countries began to develop nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT that would lead other countries to conclude that they needed to do the same in order to defend themselves - that they could no longer rely on the NPT for defense against nuclear-armed neighbors and some would say they need to resort to developing their own nuclear weapons. And even today you read in the press speculation that if the North Korean nuclear problem is unresolved then Japan or South Korea may feel compelled to develop nuclear weapons. In fact, in Japan now, some politicians are starting to talk about how that might be something that Japan might be required to do. So that's the kind of unraveling that people have long been concerned about. We naturally don't want to see the NPT unravel and so the best way to avoid that is to ensure that the NPT's norms of behavior are adhered to by all countries, including North Korea. We're gratified that the IAEA last week [February 12] voted to refer the North Korean matter to the UN Security Council. This is a threat to international peace and security that warrants consideration by the Security Council.

Question: Do you think the United States and Russia have been given sufficient credit for reducing nuclear weapons under the 2002 Moscow Treaty? And are arms control proponents making the connection between the bilateral treaty and obligations under Article VI of the NPT?

Rademaker: We make the point that in negotiating the Moscow Treaty we were taking significant steps in accordance with Article VI of the NPT, but I'm not sure that everyone wants to give us credit for that because I do hear complaints that we haven't done enough. I think a two-thirds reduction from the existing levels - which is what is provided for under the Moscow Treaty - has to be considered progress by any measure, so we will continue to make the point that we're moving in the direction required by the NPT. We can't force other countries to give us credit for that, but I think the facts speak for themselves.

Question: When do you expect the Senate to take up the Moscow Treaty and do you see Senate action as pro forma, or do you anticipate any contentious issues to crop up?

Rademaker: As you know the Treaty has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously and our understanding is that it will be on the floor of the Senate as soon as the end of February. There is the possibility of amendments being offered and we've not seen the text of any amendments. We understand that there may be one or two amendments that are offered to the resolution of ratification. It's not possible to amend the Treaty, but it is possible to seek to amend the resolution of ratification. So, we'll have to address that. We're satisfied with the text of the resolution as it was reported by the Committee, so the administration doesn't favor amendment to the Senate resolution on the floor.

Question: What is the US position with respect to the draft treaty that is currently being negotiated in Central Asia to ban nuclear weapons there?

Rademaker: There are a number of Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones around the world, and in the past the United States has worked with Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones and on occasion provided binding negative security assurances. So we are waiting to see what emerges in Central Asia and once it is clear we'll have to consider how to apply our policy to this new zone.

Question: Generally speaking, are you looking with favor on it?

Rademaker: The Bush administration has not previously confronted the question of what to say to or how to respond to Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones, so I think once this issue ripens it may force us to look at the question as an administration for the first time. We haven't begun the process of looking at it. And I'm not even sure what they are going to ask of us, so until we see it, it's premature for me to tell you what precisely we are going to do.

Question: Does the US view the IAEA as en effective international mechanism for curbing nuclear non-proliferation?

Rademaker: The IAEA tries very hard to police the nuclear non-proliferation regime. They've had some success, as in North Korea, and they've had some failures as in Iraq prior to the Gulf War. It's my impression they've learned from the failures and are trying hard. [IAEA Director General] Mohamad ElBaradei is on his way to Iran today [February 20] to talk about their nuclear activities, so the IAEA is working hard and has our support as it goes about its business.

Question: Is the US doing anything either to strengthen it or boost its budget?

Rademaker: Absolutely. First of all, in the past year the Bush administration submitted to the Senate the so-called "Additional Protocol," which is an enhanced inspection arrangement. That Protocol is awaiting Senate action. The reason we did this is to demonstrate to other countries that this is an important step that we would hope they would take as well. Frankly, the Additional Protocol doesn't make a whole lot of sense by itself for the United States because the point of the Additional Protocol is to provide for enhanced inspections to ensure compliance with the NPT and as a member of the NPT we admit that we have nuclear weapons. There isn't much to be done under the Additional Protocol other than to confirm that we are what we say we are, which is a nuclear weapons state. But it is an important thing for other countries to do. So, as a demonstration of our support for the Additional Protocol, we signed it and submitted it to the Senate. With regard to the IAEA budget, the United States is the largest contributor to the IAEA both in terms of assessed contributions and also with regard to voluntary contributions. Quite honestly, if you speak to supporters of the IAEA I think you would find some that actually would not want the US to give more money to the IAEA because if we were to do so it might become harder to refute the notion that the IAEA is an extension of the US government, which is a charge that the North Koreans and others have made.

Question: When do you think the Senate might take up the Additional Protocol?

Rademaker: I don't know the answer to that.

Question: Does the United States have to ratify it first, before other nations do so?

Rademaker: No, we don't have to go first. A number of other countries have signed and ratified. The intention is to try to get every NPT adherent to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol.

Question: Can you talk about what has been going on behind-the-scenes since the 5th Review Conference on the BWC was held in Geneva in November?

Rademaker: We're preparing for two meetings that will take place this year in accordance with the decisions that were reached at the Review Conference. There will be an Experts Meeting for two weeks in August this year and a meeting of the States Parties in November. Internally, we are developing papers and we're focusing a lot of energy on trying to give substance to the elements of the work program that are the subject of this year's meetings: national implementing legislation for the BWC, and enhanced security for biological pathogens.

Question: What is the issue with the pathogens?

Rademaker: The issue is how does a country protect anthrax and other pathogens, like smallpox, that exist in laboratories or medical facilities, and how does a country ensure that those pathogens that are needed for research and medical purposes are kept out of the hands of people who might try to turn them into biological weapons? So that is one of two elements of this year's work program and the idea is to convene the States Parties to talk about what we are all doing individually to enhance the security of such pathogens in our countries. A big part of what we're trying to do is identify what States Parties have already done, and the idea of the meeting will to compare notes and maybe come to some understandings about what we think the best practices are in this area and suggestions about what other countries should do.

Question: You've talked a bit about missile defense in the NATO context, but what kind of cooperation is taking place with countries like Japan, the UK, and Israel?

Rademaker: We're working with a wide range of countries, including Russia, on missile defense issues. The President, on December 17, outlined the initial deployment that he envisions for a missile defense system to protect the United States and our allies. This is just the initial phase of it, but even the initial phases require some cooperation by our allies. There are radars on territory controlled by the UK and by Denmark that we hope to upgrade as part of the initial missile defense deployment. Also, there are issues between the United States and Canada that have to do with NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and its role in missile defense. So with those three countries, in particular, we look toward close cooperation in the initial phase. As we look at additional steps that are going to be taken further down the road, we see allies in both Asia and Europe as increasingly important. In the case of Japan, we are already engaged in joint research activities to develop technologies that we hope to incorporate into the system.

Question: What are the Russians saying? Are they seeking shared information, are they wanting to do research?

Rademaker: We are still in a dialogue with them about exactly how we will work together in this area under the CGSS, the Consultative Group for Strategic Security, that was set up at the last US-Russian Summit in Moscow. There is a working group that focuses on missile defense issues that has been meeting over the past year. There is some joint research that we are trying to do with the Russians to develop technologies that can have applications in the missile defense area. The RAMOS [Russian-American Observation Satellite] program that we have worked on for a number of years is a major research program that is under way. There is the Joint Data Exchange Center which is, in the first instance, a mechanism for exchange of early warning data on missile launches, but it could also, over time, evolve to have missile defense applications.

Question: Is there any serious thought being given to introducing a proposal in the Conference on Disarmament, or elsewhere, to restrict the global export of non-self-destructing anti-personnel landmines?

Rademaker: Yes. We proposed such an initiative last week at the CD in Geneva.

Question: What kind of a reception did you receive?

Rademaker: It was in the context of a long speech so I'm not sure that everyone at the CD focused on it immediately. But it was our hope that given the gridlock that still exists in the CD where there are these four issues that have been basically bundled together: FMCT, PAROS, nuclear disarmament, and negative security assurances - if those four issues remain wedded to one another and no progress is possible on one of them without progress on all of them -- which has meant over the past six years no progress at all - our idea was to see if we could put an idea forward that, perhaps, could be worked on independently of these things that have been tied together. That was the spirit in which we made a proposal on non-self-destructing landmines. Whether it is possible in today's Conference on Disarmament to initiate any negotiations on anything without addressing these other four issues is something that remains to be seen.

Question: Were there any follow-up queries about it?

Rademaker: There were a few follow-up queries at the time and we promised to provide some additional information about what we have in mind.

Question: Is anything active right now on Confidence and Security Building Measures [CSBMs]? For example, is there any hope for any CSBMs in the context of the Middle East Peace process or is anything happening in Latin America?

Rademaker: The notion of CSBMs has achieved its greatest success in Europe with the CFE Treaty and the Vienna Document. There are periodic efforts to try to model CSBMs in other regions along the lines of what has been achieved in Europe. For instance, there was a conference last week in Miami to talk about confidence building measures that could be agreed on within Latin America. It was sponsored by the OAS [Organization of American States] with State Department participation. One of the innovations of the Bush administration with regard to policy on the Korean Peninsula was to call for some progress in the area of conventional arms control so we have been looking at these types of measures in the context of Korea, but that work has been overshadowed now by the breakdown of the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea. But CSBMs are something that remain under active consideration in a worldwide context.

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