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THE IDEA: America’s most acute national security threat is a catastrophic attack with
nuclear weapons. Yet the United States has lacked a coherent and vigorous strategy to
prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to states and terrorist groups. Unmet priorities
include bolstering leadership and funding for threat-reduction programs and negotiating
a new bargain to close the loopholes within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
which must be substantially strengthened to meet today’s challenges. To accomplish
these goals, the nuclear weapons states must revive the old bargain embodied in the
NPT: leveraging deep and verifiable cuts in existing arsenals to achieve more stringent
controls on nuclear materials and technologies.

It is no accident that the administration initially based its case for war against Iraq on
Saddam Hussein’s alleged nuclear program and regularly evoked the image of the
mushroom cloud,1 or that during a contentious September 2004 presidential debate, the
one issue on which the candidates agreed was that nuclear proliferation posed “the single
most serious threat to the national security of the United States.”2 The use of a single
nuclear weapon on American soil could kill hundreds of thousands of people and would
forever change the way we live and the liberties we enjoy.

This reality makes nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists or hostile states the single
greatest threat to America’s security. Yet when it comes to preventing the spread or use
of these weapons, Washington’s engagement has been sporadic. After September 11 the
president had an opportunity to galvanize domestic and international support to accelerate
threat reduction programs with the former Soviet Union and extend them to other at-risk
states. Instead, existing threat reduction programs were permitted to drift forward at the
same pace and scope—in five years the administration requested a mere 5 percent
increase in the budget it inherited.3 Progress by these programs has been steady, but far
too slow, and their total budgets comprise one-quarter of one percent of defense
spending.4 In a national security budget of half a trillion dollars it should be a priority to
close this critical breach as soon as possible.5

There is substantial public support for making the nuclear threat a top priority. When
Americans were asked to prioritize the “most important foreign policy goals” from a list
of thirty, the top response was “keeping nuclear weapons away from countries and groups

The Century Foundation conducts public policy research and analyses of economic, social, and foreign policy issues, including
inequality, retirement security, election reform, media studies, homeland security, and international affairs. The foundation produces
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that are hostile to the U.S. and our allies.”6 Two other nuclear concerns made the top five,
while many goals prioritized by the foreign policy establishment (such as protecting oil
supplies, establishing a stable and secure government in Iraq, and spreading democracy)
failed to crack the top ten.7 Vigorous action to address these threats would find
substantial political support.

Despite rhetoric about the urgency of controlling nuclear proliferation, the
administration’s efforts to prevent a nuclear attack have lacked coherence, leading to
delays in securing Russian weapons material and paralysis in addressing nuclear
programs in Iran and North Korea. The current national security strategy—which
highlights the utility of nuclear arms, advocates developing new weapons systems, and
calls for a broad array of missile defenses—has alienated both allies and competitors and
has contributed to the erosion of multilateral efforts, including the collapse last year’s
non-proliferation review conference. The net result: America is today more vulnerable to
a nuclear attack than at any point since the end of the Cold War.8

The challenge facing America can be boiled down to three distinct, but ultimately
inseparable, problems:

1. the vast quantities of nuclear materials, especially in the former Soviet Union, that
remain vulnerable to theft and diversion;

2. loopholes in the international non-proliferation regime that, unless mended, could
lead to a world awash in nuclear-armed states; and

3. the hard cases, Iran and North Korea, that appear determined to acquire nuclear
weapons even in the face of high costs.

In response to this multifaceted challenge, the current administration has focused almost
exclusively on the last problem, which it has defined as “rogue” regimes defying an
international consensus against proliferation. This approach shines the spotlight on the
activities of Iran and North Korea, with little attention on the broader problems posed by
illicit arsenals in India, Pakistan, or Israel; the tens of thousands of weapons in Russia,
the United States, France, Britain, and China; or the potential for dozens of states to go
nuclear should the security climate change.

The current approach manifests itself in narrow and tactical measures rather than a
coherent strategy to repair structural problems within the nonproliferation regime. The
Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), for example, usefully facilitates efforts among
sixty countries to share intelligence, coordinate export controls, and interdict illegal
shipments, but to be sustainable it must be better integrated into international law and

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existing institutions.9 The administration’s nuclear deal with India, which is pending
approval in Congress, may provide bilateral strategic benefits—but at the cost of
facilitating a larger Indian arsenal and encouraging Russia and China to offer similar
packages to other states. Missile defenses might provide a hedge against nuclear attack,
but will spur countries to develop countermeasures, either by enhancing or enlarging their
arsenals. The invasion of Iraq ensured that Saddam Hussein would not acquire nuclear
weapons, but has proved deeply counterproductive and prohibitively expensive.

These narrow fixes might work if the nuclear status quo were sustainable. Unfortunately
there is not a single nuclear crisis, or even several crises—there is instead a flawed
nuclear system that seems ordained to spin off crisis after crisis, indefinitely. Iraq and
North Korea are two manifestations of the nuclear problem, but they will not be the last.
So too are terrorist networks and criminal syndicates, which have tried with increasing
frequency and sophistication to attain nuclear arms. These crises, which involve the
world’s most dangerous weapons, demand zero tolerance for error.

The notion of a stable status quo is a myth. As the independent Canberra Commission
noted in 1995, the situation in which “nuclear weapons are held by a handful of states
which insist that these weapons provide unique security benefits, and yet reserve
uniquely to themselves the right to own them” is “highly discriminatory and thus
unstable; it cannot be sustained.” This vulnerability is accentuated by loopholes in the
NPT, which some states interpret as permitting them to come a screwdriver's turn from
the bomb. In the past, each state that has acquired nuclear weapons has done so to counter
another nuclear power or to gain an elite status symbol, a pattern that leads the Canberra
Commission to warn that “the possession of nuclear weapons by any state is a constant
stimulus to other states to acquire them.”10

Without a change in the current dynamics, we are headed toward a nuclear attack by
terrorists on American soil and toward a world of twenty or thirty nuclear states. These
futures may be preventable, but only by decisive action on a new strategy.

The United States needs a comprehensive strategy to address the three tiers of threats: a
more effective international effort to secure loose nuclear weapons and materials, a new
bargain to repair the NPT, and a new willingness to negotiate a comprehensive resolution
to crises in North Korea and Iran. Each of these goals requires tough engagement by
Washington with both allies and adversaries.

This Security and Opportunity Brief outlines each of the threats, and what the United
States can do to address them better.

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The theft and trafficking of nuclear materials is not a hypothetical threat but a
documented reality. In one three-year period, German authorities “reported more than
seven hundred cases of attempted nuclear sales, including sixty instances that involved
seizure of nuclear materials.”11 The Nuclear Threat Initiative maintains a list of
“anecdotes of insecurity” that offer sobering details from dozens of confirmed incidents
and hint at the breadth of possible threats.12

Today, fifteen years of cooperative threat reduction programs have reduced but not
eliminated the threat from Russia and the former Soviet republics, where tens of
thousands of weapons were produced in a vast nuclear infrastructure spanning ten
“closed” nuclear cities and at one time employing a million people.13 In securing these
risks, a 99 percent success rate could still mean catastrophic failure. With security
upgrades on only half of Russia’s nuclear buildings housing weapons-usable nuclear
materials, we are nowhere near that level of confidence.14

It would be a mistake, however, to focus entirely on Russia. It has been well documented
that Pakistan has engaged in multiple transfers of nuclear technologies and materials, and
that its intelligence services have ties to radical jihadists. What is less understood is
where Pakistan stores its weapons or fissile materials (which are dispersed to reduce
vulnerability to an attack by India) and what levels of security they receive.15 While
controls are better in the other nuclear states, “red team” exercises in the United States
suggest that no country’s arsenal is completely secure from well-organized terrorists.16

The threat of nuclear diversion is not limited only to states with nuclear weapons, either.
Each of the hundred or so research reactors operating with highly enriched uranium,
dispersed across forty countries, provides a proliferation threat. In many cases, as former
Senator San Nunn has noted, “the raw material of nuclear terrorism” is “secured by
nothing more than an underpaid guard sitting inside a chain-link fence.”17

The most effective way to prevent terrorism with nuclear, biological, or chemical
weapons is to secure materials at their source. Once they are in the hands of terrorists, it
may well be too late, since interdiction, law enforcement, and deterrence are far from
certain tools.18

Russia’s vast arsenals and infrastructure have not disappeared. Despite fifteen years of
threat reduction programs, by the end of fiscal year 2005, only “54% of the 230 buildings
in the former Soviet Union containing weapons-usable nuclear materials have had
comprehensive security upgrades.”19 At today’s rate, the United States may not secure
these weapons and materials as late as 2020.20

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Since their inception in 1991, U.S.-Russia bilateral programs, which include the Pentagon
“Nunn-Lugar” programs named after their congressional cosponsors as well as programs
at the Departments of Energy and State, have dismantled thousands of nuclear warheads
and missiles, secured dozens of Russian depots housing dangerous materials, provided
work for unemployed weapons scientists, and secured stocks of highly enriched

These programs, however, have not always had the full support of either government, and
have lurched forward in fits and starts. Impediments have ranged from inadequate
funding to poor interagency coordination to issues of liability.

None of these challenges is insurmountable, but each will require political will. Experts
have argued for several reforms that would accelerate the programs:

! Political leadership. Shortly after September 11, the president declared that
America’s greatest threat “lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and
technology.”22 Yet, as Graham Allison has noted, the administration’s attention
focused almost exclusively on one side of the equation—terrorist groups and the
states that harbor them—and “missed almost entirely the ‘supply side’ of this
challenge: neutralizing the means by which terrorists might mount a nuclear

Allison conjectures the contrast if the president’s speech to the joint session of
Congress on September 20 had included a page on fighting nuclear terrorism and
called for a $10 billion crash program to secure the most vulnerable weapons in
the Soviet Union in the next one hundred days, appointed a high-level
ambassador-at-large to head up the effort, and requested an infusion of threat
reduction funds.

The president never declared war on nuclear terrorism, and failed to make threat
reduction programs an urgent priority in discussions with foreign leaders and
members of his administration. Nowhere is this clearer than on the issue of
oversight. “Today, if the president asked, at a cabinet meeting, who is responsible
for preventing nuclear terrorism, six or eight hands in the room might go up, or
none,” Allison observes. This arrangement is unacceptable when the biggest
impediments to these programs have been bureaucratic and managerial.

The effectiveness of threat reduction programs depend on coordination between
the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State, each of which manages
overlapping components of the program. These agencies, despite their own
politics and priorities, must act in synchronicity: dismantling a nuclear weapons
research site does little to increase our security unless jobs can be found for its
scientists. Agencies must simultaneously coordinate with Congress, which
attaches certification requirements to funding, and with the National Labs and
intelligence agencies that offer verification expertise. Most contentiously, they

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must engage in negotiations with their Russian counterparts, some of whom
suspect that threat reduction programs are a cover for American espionage.

Threat reduction programs have on occasion ground to a halt over these issues.
Most recently, liability was the issue: as initially negotiated, the program held
Russia liable for any catastrophes that might occur, even if they were caused by
American contractors, a provision Russia has sought to terminate. This
disagreement was permitted to fester, with the entire framework salvaged only by
a last minute compromise in June, 2006.

As a first step, the president should
appoint a senior coordinator for Box 1. FY 2007 budget request, in billions
threat reduction, most likely seated of dollars:
at the National Security Council,
! All nuclear threat reduction programs:
who can resolve interagency
differences and provide executive
attention to the issue when ! Missile Defense Budget Request for FY
needed.24 This organizational move 2007: $11.1ii
will not solve the problem, but it is
a necessary measure to elevate the ! Operating, maintaining and modernizing
threat reduction agenda. nuclear bombers, missiles, and
submarines: $11iii
! Transfer funds to threat reduction.
! Department of Energy nuclear weapons
The threat reduction budget has
activities, including R&D: $6.4iv
only seen modest increases since
September 11, and continues to ! Military operations in Iraq: $60
constrain the scope of programs.
The administration should request, i
and Congress should deliver, an ii
infusion of funding for threat version.cfm?documentID=3301
reduction. These funds could be iii
made available by a transfer from %7BE9245FE4-9A2B-43C7-A521-
any number of programs within the 5D6FF2E06E03%7D/KORBREPORT_9-22.PDF
half-trillion dollar Pentagon budget iv
(see Box 1 for some context).

American threat reduction programs with the former Soviet states cost about $1
billion in 2006 and have averaged $600 million per year since 1992.25 Compared
to other defense and homeland security spending, this modest expenditure
constitutes a bargain—and perhaps the most efficient security investment in the
budget. Yet the Bush administration’s support for the program has been
inconsistent. The president, in fact, proposed cutting $41 million (9 percent) from
the 2001 Pentagon threat reduction budget.26 Today’s modest increases from pre-
September 11 funding—a total of 19 percent over five years—have only occurred
because of congressional action (the president requested a 5 percent increase
during that period).27

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Security upgrades have been slowed by funding uncertainties. In 2001, a
comprehensive bipartisan review of threat reduction programs headed by Howard
Baker and Lloyd Cutler emphatically called for a major boost in threat reduction
funds, to $30 billion over eight to ten years.28 Last year, an assessment of the
Baker-Cutler commission’s goals, found that “the United States has failed to
dramatically hasten efforts” as Baker-Cutler had urged, and that at the current
rate, the United States may not reach its goal of securing Russia’s weapons and
materials until 2020–2030.29

Even if funding were increased from $1.1 billion to $3 billion per year—which is
what Baker-Cutler and other assessments say is needed30—the investment would
be a bargain compared to our other nuclear-related programs, such as the $17
billion requested this year to maintain America’s oversized nuclear arsenals or the
$11.1 billion for ballistic missile defense.31 It would be far less than the $5 billon
the United States spends per month in what was billed as a counterproliferation
effort, the invasion and occupation of Iraq to ensure it would not have weapons of
mass destruction (WMD).32

Why do these programs receive incomplete support at home? There is a deep
suspicion among some conservatives that these funds are wasted by corrupt
officials or that they permit Russia to free up funds to strengthen its military.
Skeptics include Vice President Dick Cheney, who opposed starting the program
when he was secretary of defense in 1991.

While it is undeniable that Russia has been an imperfect partner in threat
reductions, this does not change the fundamental reality: these weapons will not
be secured without Moscow’s consent and participation. Congress has a fiduciary
responsibility here, but certainty of every dollar spent will be little consolation if a
Russian weapon finds its way to an American city.

! Globalize threat reduction: In 2002, the United States and its G8 partners pledged
$20 billion over ten years, including $10 billion from the United States, for a new
“Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass
Destruction.” But the initiative, as noted by Harvard’s Securing the Bomb report,
“has nothing global about it except its name, and only a dribble of non-U.S. funds
in the Global Partnership have so far been focused on improving nuclear security

Building a fully multilateral program, following the model of the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the Nuclear Suppliers Group, has some clear
benefits. First, it assuages Russia’s anxiety that the real goal of the program is its
disarmament at the hands of its Cold War adversary. In addition, a multilateral
model allows the export of threat reduction to other at-risk states. Bunn and Wier
note that “Cooperation with states with small nuclear weapons arsenals, such as

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Pakistan, India, China, and Israel, is likely to be especially difficult. For all of
these states, nuclear activities take place under a blanket of almost total secrecy,
and direct access to many nuclear sites by U.S. personnel is likely to be
impossible in the near term.”34 A multilateral model would allow each nation to
design its own nuclear security system with support—in the form of technical
expertise, funding and standards—from an international agency backed by broad
international consensus.

! Avoid linkages: Both the administration and Congress must recognize threat
reduction as a critical goal in its own right, rather than a means to achieve other
ends. In the past, each has sought to use non-proliferation funding to Russia to pry
concessions on other goals such as human rights reform.

The idea that making this aid conditional could be a sufficient lever to, say,
reform human rights in Russia is fanciful. In fact, Russian leaders tend to care far
less about these programs than do their American counterparts, especially since
many believe that the true aim of the program is to gather intelligence on Russia’s
arsenal. Placing conditionality on funding is deeply counterproductive—and
hardly the way to address the most fundamental threat to America’s security.

None of these reforms alone—from internationalization to increased funding to enhanced
presidential attention—is sufficient to deal with the scope of these problems, but each is
necessary if we are to hasten progress.

Iran and North Korea, India and Pakistan,
Israel and Libya: these exceptions are not Box 2. Article VI of the NPT
unanticipated anomalies. Each tear in the
Each of the Parties to the Treaty
fabric of the non-proliferation regime
undertakes to pursue negotiations in good
reveals the tensions under which the
faith on effective measures relating to
system strains.
cessation of the nuclear arms race at an
About forty states possess the dual-use early date and to nuclear disarmament,
materials and technologies necessary to and on a Treaty on general and complete
build nuclear weapons should they decide disarmament under strict and effective
to do so.35 Moreover, the proliferation of international control.
international networks that trade in illicit
goods, of which the A. Q. Khan network is only the most notorious, make it increasingly
possible for states or groups without advanced nuclear programs to procure weapons

Far more stringent nuclear controls are needed, but they will not be achieved in the
current climate of rancor and distrust. As was starkly demonstrated at the 2005 NPT

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Review Conference, asking for concessions from non-nuclear weapon states will require
a show of good faith by nuclear weapon states on their commitments to the NPT.

The NPT was negotiated in 1968 as a bargain between nuclear and non-nuclear states.
Non-nuclear states agreed to forgo nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful
nuclear technologies and a promise that nuclear weapons states would “pursue
negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms
race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”36 In subsequent years, nuclear-weapon
states have focused on the articles of the treaty that prevent further proliferation, while
non-nuclear weapon states have focused on the disarmament clause. Because the treaty
contains specific measures to prevent new states from acquiring nuclear weapons but
contains no enforcement mechanism or timeline by which nuclear states must give up
their weapons, it is widely seen as enshrining a system of “nuclear apartheid.”

A more sustainable nuclear regime cannot be achieved without the United States leading
the way. Yet Washington’s actions over the past decade have deeply undermined its
credibility. The Bush administration’s December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review called for
a “a range of options” not merely to deter but “to defeat any aggressor” using nuclear
weapons, while the National Nuclear Security Administration (the Energy Department
agency in charge of stockpile stewardship) launched a Readiness Campaign “to revitalize
the nuclear weapons manufacturing infrastructure.”37

Meanwhile, the Washington repudiated the thirteen-step roadmap for implementing
Article VI that had been unanimously endorsed the 2000 NPT Review Conference.38
These policies suggested to other states that the United States had no intention of ever
eliminating its weapons, that it sees nuclear weapons as legitimate to use in conflicts
(unlike chemical and biological weapons), and that it in fact intends to strengthen and
expand its nuclear capabilities.

The Bush administration asserts that it has made deep cuts in the U.S. arsenal, citing its
2002 agreement with Moscow to reduce its nuclear arsenal by 2012.39 However, the
Washington-Moscow pact is a sharp departure from the START treaties that it replaces. It
contains none of the verification measures that are the backbone of arms-control treaties,
excludes tactical nuclear weapons, and requires no destruction of warheads, only their
removal from delivery systems. Moreover, it expires the day it comes into effect, legally
permitting each nation to immediately redeploy its stockpile. In short, the pact shifts the
bilateral nuclear framework onto new track where verification does not exist and the
destruction of warheads is optional—a track to nowhere.

The current administration has increased America’s reliance upon nuclear arms to
achieve political and security objectives. The usual rationale for retaining nuclear
weapons is not that they can be used effectively, but that they provide can provide a
“strategic ambiguity.” By refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons (for example, in
response to attacks involving biological or chemical weapons), nuclear weapons

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presumably serve as a deterrent against non-nuclear aggression. In reality, however, it
strains the imagination to conjure up a scenario where American interests would be
served by the use of a nuclear weapon. The Kosovo and Iraq air wars demonstrated that
America’s conventional airpower is sufficient to achieve every deterrent aim for which a
nuclear weapon would be considered.

The remaining role ascribed to nuclear weapons is their utility in destroying deeply
fortified underground bunkers. Yet the notion that a nuclear “bunker buster” could be
used surgically is a myth. “Current experience and empirical predictions indicate that
earth-penetrator weapons cannot penetrate to depths required for total containment of the
effects of a nuclear explosion,” a National Academy of Sciences study noted, calculating
that civilian casualties from an attack in or near urban areas “can range from thousands to
more than a million.”40 Other critics note that a bunker buster would still require high,
and possibly unrealistic, precision in target selection, have a low likelihood of success,
and result in devastating fallout.41

Any use of nuclear weapons would shatter the sixty-year nuclear taboo, blackening
America’s image in the world and inviting future asymmetrical retaliation. Nuclear
weapons have no utility in today’s world other than the deterrence of other nuclear arms.

A nuclear-weapon-free world would benefit all nations, but especially the United States.
The United States is among the most likely targets for nuclear terrorists. Moreover,
nuclear weapons may not have military utility for America, but they certainly do for its
adversaries. They can raise the risks of intervention, allowing a dictator such as Kim Jong
Il with a handful of weapons to hold in check all of America’s might.

Washington should reverse its march toward a more aggressive nuclear posture and usher
in a nuclear stance in line with its international obligations, its non-proliferation
objectives, and common sense. This decision is central to America’s national interest: the
non-proliferation regime cannot be saved without bold and decisive action. The United
States should take the following steps:

! Declare that nuclear weapons are no longer central to U.S. security: Starting
with a bottom-up Nuclear Posture Review, the next administration should declare
that it no longer holds nuclear weapons as central to its security strategy, and that
their only legitimate purpose is to deter other nuclear weapons.

Washington should take several long-overdue steps to convince others that it is
serious: affirming that it will never use nuclear weapons first, or use them against
non-nuclear states; endorsing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for
ratification; prohibiting the development of new nuclear weapons; and reducing
the alert status of its arsenals.42

The United States should also engage in negotiations for a new nuclear weapons
treaty to succeed the Moscow pact—negotiations that would culminate in a treaty
to control tactical nuclear weapons and verifiably reduce both countries’ strategic

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arsenals to around 500 deployed warheads. Defense analyst Larry Korb calculates
that “shifting to a deployed arsenal of 600 warheads with another 400 in
reserve—an arsenal fully capable of deterring known threats and hedging against
unforeseen contingencies—would generate $13 billion in savings” per year.43

! Reaffirm America’s commitment to
Article VI: The United States has Box 3. From the IPSOS-Public Affairs
backed away from its commitment Poll, March 21–23, 2005
to nuclear disarmament, arguing
that because the clause places “Which statement comes closest to your
nuclear disarmament in the context view? . . .” %
of general disarmament that nuclear
weapon states are under no legal “No countries should be allowed to have
obligation to reduce their arsenals nuclear weapons.” 66
(though it argues that its recent
“Only the United States and its allies
reductions are nevertheless
should be allowed to have nuclear
consistent with the spirit of Article
weapons.” 13
VI.)44 This position is deeply
divisive and counterproductive. “Only countries that already have nuclear
weapons should be allowed to have
The president should reaffirm that them.” 11
America, like all states parties to
the NPT, is legally bound by each “Any country that is able to develop
of its Articles and remains nuclear weapons should be allowed to
committed to entering into good have them.” 5
faith negotiations toward complete,
verifiable, and irreversible “Only the U.S. should be allowed to have
disarmament. nuclear weapons (vol.)” 1

A statement affirming the goal of Unsure: 4
disarmament would take
international pressure off America
and put the spotlight on the other nuclear weapons states, which have generally
stood back and allowed America to bear the heat. This position is consistent that
of the American public, which overwhelmingly supports the principle that no state
should have nuclear arms (see Box 3).45

Nuclear arms can never be “uninvented,” but there are many sound proposals on
how to verifiably place the world’s arsenals into a state of latency. To show that it
is serious about this initiative, the United States should propose and fund a high-
level “track-two” disarmament panel to examine the potential paths to

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! Tighten nuclear controls: The U.S. negotiating team arrived at the 2005 NPT
Review conference with a plan for tightening nuclear controls, including
universalizing adherence to the Additional Protocol and making it a condition of
nuclear supply, closing an NPT loophole by restricting enrichment and processing
technology, and creating a safeguards committee on the IAEA Board of
Governors.46 These plans were dead before they were announced, however,
because of the rift between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states over their
respective NPT commitments. A recommitment by the United States to its Article
VI obligations could create new opportunities for stringent measures against

! Support the IAEA’s effort to prohibit use of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) in
civilian reactors: The NPT permits all states access to peaceful nuclear
technology, a right which many states claim extends to all aspects of the nuclear
fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. But the
right to uranium enrichment is not self-evident within the Treaty.

The NPT should be supplemented with a protocol to spell out that no state has an
inherent right to uranium enrichment. A new multilateral regime must be
established to ensure the secure provision and removal of nuclear fuel, at below
the national cost of production, to each state that forswears enrichment and
reprocessing and submits to stringent safeguards.47 To address verification
concerns, the U.S. must support stronger inspection mechanisms and the
establishment of an internationally monitored fuel bank under the IAEA.

This measure will require a concerted diplomatic push, which the United States
could only credibly conduct with its house in order. The benefits would be
immense: it would close the loophole that Iran and others have sought to exploit
and would, according to Mohammad El Baradei, Nobel laureate and head of the
IAEA, solve “at least 80 percent of the problem.”48

! Bolster funding for the IAEA: The IAEA is our first line of defense against
proliferation, and U.S. funding for the agency, leveraged by others, is one of
America’s best investments. In recent years, the agency’s responsibilities have
expanded dramatically (especially with the Additional Protocol, which permits
rapid inspections) while its base of resources ($273 million for all its activities in
2006) has increased too modestly.49 Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment
has argued that the agency’s safeguards budget requires an increase of $50 million
per year over the next three years, and that an “investment endowment” is needed
to permit longer horizon projects “to improve efficiency and make better use of
new technology.”50

Skeptics of the nuclear control regime often dismiss it as unverifiable. This is
largely inaccurate: IAEA monitors have been quite effective at detecting and
deterring illicit programs, as Iraq’s inability to gain WMD has demonstrated.

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Nevertheless, technical gaps remain. The United States should work with its allies
to bolster non-proliferation research, both at its domestic weapons labs and
through the IAEA, focused on technical innovations in monitoring nuclear
programs. Today the national labs at Los Alamos and Livermore perform some
non-proliferation research, but their mission should be further transformed to
focus on America’s top nuclear concerns: the prevention of nuclear terrorism and
the verification of arms-control measures.

Bold steps are needed to adapt the NPT to today’s challenges. The 2005 NPT Review
Conference demonstrated that non-nuclear states will be reluctant to accept additional
restraints without assurances that the nuclear states are acting in good faith on their
disarmament commitments. Since it is today the United States that has most
provocatively disavowed those commitments, only a bold recommitment by the U.S. can
resolve this impasse.

Iran and North Korea pose two imminent threats to the non-proliferation regime. If Iran
were to acquire nuclear weapons, it would discredit the non-proliferation regime and
create incentives for Saudi Arabia and Egypt to advance programs of their own. The
international community has missed its opportunity to prevent North Korea from
acquiring nuclear weapons, but its challenge today is equally critical: preventing
Pyongyang from producing more weapons and dissuading it from exporting them.

A full analysis of the challenges posed by these two states is beyond the scope of this
brief, but they merit passing mention.

! Containing North Korea: For six years the Bush administration has been
paralyzed and internally divided on how to address North Korea. The current plan
has crystallized around the idea of using pressure from North Korea’s five
neighbors to force the regime to abandon its weapon program or collapse. China
is the lynchpin to this a strategy, and its $2 billion of annual trade and investment
in North Korea give it significant leverage.

Yet to imagine that Beijing will coerce Pyongyang is unrealistic. China opposes
sanctions, claiming they will cause instability and undermine Korea’s market
reforms, and sees North Korea as a useful wedge against U.S. hegemony in the
region. Moreover, Beijing-Pyongyang relations are marked by acute mistrust and
ideological differences, leading the Crisis Group to recently conclude that
“expecting China to compel North Korean compliance will only waste more time
and give Pyongyang longer to develop its nuclear stockpile.”51

The Century Foundation’s Security & Opportunity Agenda: Page 13
Reversing the Spread of Nuclear Weapons
The fundamental problem is that
nothing Washington is willing to Box 4. Recommendations:
offer is sufficient, while none of its
threats are credible. Even hawks Reducing the threat of loose nuclear
have quietly taken the military
and biological weapons
option off the table, and sanctions
are meaningless without China’s ! Appoint a high-level coordinator
participation. As for regime change, ! Double threat reduction funding
none of the likely outcomes are ! Internationalize threat reduction
desirable. Those who have called programs and expand them to
for the collapse of Kim Jong Il’s new countries
regime should be careful what they
wish for: repugnant as the current Reduce America’s reliance on nuclear
government may be, the likely arms
alternative is chaos, a failed state
awash in arms both nuclear and ! Conduct a bottom-up review of
conventional. the role of nuclear weapons in
America’s security
Taken in isolation, the nuclear issue ! Reaffirm America’s commitment
is beyond resolution. The solution to Article VI
is a comprehensive package that ! Announce bilateral efforts with
goes beyond quid pro quo on Moscow to verifiably reduce
nuclear issues and offers arsenals below SORT levels
Pyongyang genuine incentives for
genuine change. Michael O’Hanlon Strengthen the NPT
and Mike M. Mochizuki have
argued that an oversized military ! Prioritize measures to close the
and a moribund economy is a major fuel-cycle loophole
factor in Pyongyang’s behavior, ! Press for U.N. action to prohibit
and that a comprehensive package HEU in civilian reactors
of deep conventional arms cuts on ! Bolster the IAEA safeguard’s
the peninsula and economic budget
assistance for the North could ! Tighten multilateral export
transform the dynamics of the U.S.- controls
North Korean relationship.52 A deal ! Initiate and fund international
that verifiably disarms North non-proliferation research centers
Korean and integrates it into the
region could hardly be termed Iran and North Korea
appeasement. Libya’s decision to
abandon its weapons programs ! Cease trying to address the
demonstrates that serious nuclear issue in isolation
negotiations, backed by the
appropriate carrots and sticks, can
yield results even with unsavory

Page 14 The Century Foundation’s Security & Opportunity Agenda:
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! Preventing Iran: Iran has violated its IAEA safeguards agreement by engaging in
a clandestine pilot program to enrich uranium and has developed, through legal
and illicit activities, capacities that could lead to nuclear-weapons. Its apparent
readiness to move to weaponization is a major challenge to the non-proliferation

Tehran is at least four years from acquiring a nuclear weapon, offering a window
for diplomacy.53 Until very recently, however, the administration has seemed
implacably set against negotiation. In the past four years, Iran has sent no fewer
than three separate invitations to open back-channel talks, and was each time

As in the case of North Korea, it is hard to imagine a solution emerging from a
narrow focus on the nuclear question, the tack that recent negotiations have tried
to take. Instead, the United States should enter into multilateral but direct talks
aimed at a comprehensive resolution that addresses a fuel-cycle agreement,
economic and political relations, unfreezing of Iranian assets, security assurances,
and ending Iran’s support for terrorism.

The administration’s approach of half-steps and tactical adjustments has not reduced the
nuclear danger. Neither have costly investments in missile defenses, which provide an
uncertain answer to missiles from rogue states and no answer whatsoever to nuclear
terrorism. Unless the United States makes profound changes in its non-proliferation
strategy it could soon face a terrorist group with nuclear arms or a world of a dozen or
more nuclear states.

Bold diplomacy is needed to revive the bargain embodied in the NPT, trading deep and
verifiable cuts in existing arsenals for more stringent controls on nuclear materials and
technologies. Bold negotiation is needed to accelerate and globalize the threat reduction
programs that serve as our only reliable line of defense against nuclear terrorism.

The change begins with the recognition that loose nuclear materials, in the words of the
Baker-Cutler report five years ago, still pose “the most urgent unmet national security
threat to the United States.”55 It also requires recognizing that nuclear weapons have no
role in today’s world, except perhaps to deter other nuclear weapons. This reality is
understood by the dozens of generals, admirals, and political leaders who have
recognized that nuclear weapons are morally abhorrent and politically useless.56 They are
gripped as a hedge against some unspecified threat, but their existence perpetuates the
risks they are purported to counter. The only long-term solution to the nuclear dilemma is
the elimination of all nuclear weapons, a position that resounds with two-thirds of the
public and could anchor a progressive foreign policy vision.

The Century Foundation’s Security & Opportunity Agenda: Page 15
Reversing the Spread of Nuclear Weapons
See, for example, Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s statements on September 7, 2003. “CNN Late Edition
with Wolf Blitzer,” Aired September 7, 2003, available online at
Transcript, The First Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate, September 30, 2004, available online at
From FY2001 to FY2005, appropriations increased by 19 percent, but “most of the increases in U.S.
nonproliferation funding came at the initiative of Congress, not the administration. If Congress had simply
approved President Bush’s requests without change for FY 2002–2005, total threat reduction funding
during the period would have been only 5% higher.” Anthony Wier, William Hoehn, and Matthew Bunn,
“Threat Reduction Funding in the Bush Administration: Claims and Counterclaims in the First Presidential
Debate,” Managing the Atom Project and RANSAC, October 6, 2004, available online at
The Bush administration has requested $1.077 billion in fiscal year 2007 for programs to control nuclear
weapons, materials, and expertise around the world, or approximately one quarter of one percent of defense
spending. Matthew Bunn and Anthony Wier, Securing the Bomb 2006, Nuclear Threat Initiative, July
2006, available online at
This year America will spend over half a trillion dollars on defense, significantly more in real dollars than
it spent in any year over the 1980s, when it was engaged in the Cold War. See “The Long-Term
Implications of Current Defense Plans and Alternatives: Detailed Update for Fiscal Year 2006,”
Congressional Budget Office, Congress of the United States. Available online at The United States will spend
more than the three times the combined military spending of China, Russia, Iran, Libya, North Korea,
Sudan, Cuba, and Syria. See “U.S. Military Spending vs. the World,” Center for Arms Control and Non-
Proliferation, February 6, 2006, available online at
“American Attitudes toward National Security, Foreign Policy and the War on Terror,” Security and
Peace Institute, April 13, 2005, available online at
In addition, a 2003 poll found that 40 percent of Americans “often worry about the chances of a nuclear
attack by terrorists” while an even greater number, 53 percent, “often worry about the chances of nuclear
war.” “Two Years Later, the Fear Lingers,” Pew Research Center, September 4, 2003, available online at
Nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons are often grouped together as Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WMD). This terminology masks the orders of magnitude that separate nuclear and certain
biological weapons from their less potent counterparts. This paper will focus primarily on the threat posed
by nuclear weapons, though a case could be made that certain biological weapons can pose just as
catastrophic a risk.
Joseph Cirincione, “A New, Effective Non-Proliferation Strategy for the United States,” Testimony
before U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, March 30, 2004.
“Report of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons,” January 30, 1997,
available online at
Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe (New York: Times Books,
2004), p. 71.
Matthew Bunn, “Anecdotes of Insecurity,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, last updated on January 16, 2004.
available online at The Center for
Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies maintains a more

Page 16 The Century Foundation’s Security & Opportunity Agenda:
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comprehensive public database: “NIS Nuclear Trafficking Database,” Center for Nonproliferation Studies,
last updated June 30, 2006, available online at
Allison, Nuclear Terrorism, p. 73.
Bunn and Wier, Securing the Bomb, 2006. Figures are from unpublished data provided by Department of
Energy, May 2006.
Allison, Nuclear Terrorism, p.78.
Allison, Nuclear Terrorism, p. 83–86.
Remarks of Former Senator Sam Nunn in London, January 20, 2003, “Preventing Catastrophic
Terrorism,” January 2003, available online at
For example, only five percent of the millions of shipping containers entering the United States each day
are scanned. See Susan E. Martonosi, David S. Ortiz, and Henry H. Willis, “Evaluating the Viability of 100
Per Cent Container Inspection at America’s Ports,” in The Economic Impacts of Terrorist Attacks (Santa
Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2006), available online at
Bunn and Wier, Securing the Bomb, 2006. Figures are from unpublished data provided by Department of
Energy, May 2006.
Brian D. Finlay and Andrew J. Grotto, “The Race to Secure Russia’s Loose Nukes,” Center for American
Progress, September 13, 2005, available online at
“Nunn-Lugar Report, 2005,” August 2005, available online at
“President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point,” White House news release, June 1, 2002,
available online at
Allison, Nuclear Terrorism, p. 132.
See recommendations from: John P. Holdren, “The Threat from Surplus Nuclear-Bomb Materials,”
testimony to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Europe, 104th Congress, 1st
Session, August 23, 1995; John Deutch, chair, Combating Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Report from the Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat the
Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington, D.C.: Deutch Commission, July 1999),
available online at; and Howard Baker
and Lloyd Cutler, co-chairs, A Report Card on the Department of Energy’s Nonproliferation Programs
with Russia (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, January
10, 2001), available online at
Amy F. Woolf, “Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet
Union,” CRS Report for Congress, updated June 26, 2006, available online at The total includes $415.5 million for the Cooperative
Threat Reduction (CTR) Program at the Department of Defense, $530 million for nonproliferation
programs at the Department of Energy, and $71 million for programs at the State Department.
Philipp C. Bleek, “Bush Seeks Cuts in Pentagon Threat Reduction Programs,” Arms Control
Association, September 2001, available online at
Anthony Wier, William Hoehn, and Matthew Bunn, “Threat Reduction Funding in the Bush

The Century Foundation’s Security & Opportunity Agenda: Page 17
Reversing the Spread of Nuclear Weapons
United States Department of Energy, “A Report Card on the Department of Energy’s Nonproliferation
Programs with Russia,” January 10, 2001, available online at
Finlay and Grotto, “The Race to Secure Russia’s Loose Nukes.”
See also Lawrence J. Korb and Robert O. Boorstin, “Integrated Power: A National Security Strategy for
the 21st Century,” The Center for American Progress, June 7, 2005, p. 33, available online at Also Vladimir Orlov,
“Cooperative Threat Reduction: A New Paradigm for Disarmament?” Strengthening the Global
Partnership, November 18, 2003, available online at
Total threat-reduction spending: Woolf, “Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance.” Missile
defense request: “Missile Defense Budget Request for FY 2007,” Center for Defense Information, February
8, 2006, available online at Total
nuclear spending: “about $11 billion a year will go to operating, maintaining and modernizing the bombers,
submarines, and missiles that carry the 6,000 operational nuclear weapons in the American arsenal, with
the remaining $6 billion going towards maintaining the warheads. During the Cold War, the United States
spent less than $4 billion a year on average on these nuclear weapons activities.” Miriam Pemberton and
Lawrence Korb, “Report of the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget for the United States, 2007,”
International Relations Center, May 3, 2006, available online at
Of the administration’s $72.4 billion supplemental, submitted in February 2006, approximately $60.8
billion is for the Iraq War (this includes military and nonmilitary spending). See “Iraq Cost of War
Counter”, National Priorities Project, available online at
Bunn and Weir, Securing the Bomb 2006, p.23.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty lists forty-four nuclear-capable states in its Annex II. The United
Nations General Assembly, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), adopted September 1996,
available online at
U.S. Department of State, Statement by Stephen G. Rademaker, “U.S. Compliance with Article VI of the
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” February 3, 2005, available online at
U.S. Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review Report, January 8, 2002. Available online at Christopher Paine,
“Weaponeers of Waste,” Natural Resources Defense Council, April 2004, available online at “Our Hidden WMD Program: Why Bush Is
Spending So Much on Nuclear Weapons,” Slate, April 23, 2004, available online at
The 2000 Review Conference Final Document included thirteen practical steps for systematic
implementation of Article VI of the NPT, and of Paragraphs 3 and 4(c) of the 1995 Decision on “Principles
and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.” See The United Nations, “Final
Document 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons,” May 2000, available online at
Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker argues this point in his statement at
the 2005 NPT Review Conference, UN General Assembly, May 2, 2005: “The United States remains fully
committed to fulfilling our obligations under Article VI. Since the last review conference the United States

Page 18 The Century Foundation’s Security & Opportunity Agenda:
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and the Russian Federation concluded our implementation of START I reductions, and signed and brought
into force the Moscow Treaty of 2002.” Available online at
National Research Council of the National Academies, Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other
Weapons (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2005), available online at
Robert W. Nelson, for example, makes some of these points in “Nuclear Bunker Busters, Mininukes, and
the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile,” Physics Today 56, no. 11 (2003): pp. 32–37.
Reducing alert status would have the additional salutary effect of making accidental nuclear war less
likely. See Bruce G. Blair, The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (Washington: Brookings Institution Press,
Pemberton and Korb, “Report of the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget.”
Rademaker statement, 2005 NPT Review Conference.
Associated Press/Ipsos Poll, conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs, March 21-23, 2005, available online at
Rademacher statement at the 2005 NPT Review Conference.
Ashton B. Carter and Stephen A. LaMontagne. “A Fuel-Cycle Fix,” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
(January/February 2006): 24–25, available online at
“IAEA Chief Promotes Nuclear Fuel Plan,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, October 6, 2005, available online
International Atomic Energy Agency, “The Agencies Programme and Budget, 2006–2007,” July 2005,
available online at
Jon Wolfsthal, “Promote Multilateral Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts” in Restoring American
Leadership (Security and Peace Initiative, 2005), available online at
“China and North Korea: Comrades Forever?” International Crisis Group, February 1, 2006, available
online at
Michael O’Hanlon and Mike M. Mochizuki, Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: How to Deal With a
Nuclear North Korea (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), pp. 16–21.
In August 2006, reporter Steve Coll writes “I gather that in private briefings the Bush Administration’s
intelligence analysts focus on a five-to-seven-year window.” Steve Coll, “Blueprints for Disaster,” New
Yorker, August 2006, available online at
Korb and Boorstin, “Integrated Power.”
Howard Baker and Lloyd Cutler, “A Report Card on the Department of Energy’s Nonproliferation
Programs with Russia.”
For one example see “Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals,”
December 5, 1996, available online at

The Century Foundation’s Security & Opportunity Agenda: Page 19
Reversing the Spread of Nuclear Weapons
The Security and Opportunity Agenda is an initiative that consists of a series of short,
engaging publications putting forward policy ideas for addressing the most serious
challenges facing the United States. Each brief provides an overview of the nature of the
problem to be confronted, a summary of public opinion data about the issue, an
explanation of the proposed solutions and evidence that they will work, and an estimate
of the costs involved. The series is intended to offer journalists, policymakers,
congressional staffers, and others concerned with current policy debates a concise guide
to the issue and a clearly stated idea for a solution. Other briefs in series will include:

• Helping Children Move from Bad Schools to Good Ones
• Improving Voter Participation
• Strengthening the Economic Security of Americans
• Getting More Bang for Each Health Care Dollar
• Making the Tax System Fair and Simple
• Fixing the Federal Budget
• Extending Preschool to Everyone
• Restoring America’s International Credibility
• Preventing the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction
• Renewing the Middle East Peace Process
• Reducing America’s Oil Dependence