How to Stop Nuclear Terror Author(s): Graham Allison Source: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 2004), pp.

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How Nuclear

to Stop Terror

Graham Allison


PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH has singled out terrorist W. nuclear
attacks on the United States as the defining threat the nation will

facein the foreseeable future. addressing specter, has asserted In this he that Americans' "highest fromacquiring priority is tokeep terrorists of mass destruction." far,however,hiswords have not weapons So
been matched by deeds. The Bush administration has yet to develop

a coherent strategyforcombating the threatof nuclear terror. Al though ithasmade progresson some fronts, Washington has failed to take scoresof specificactions that would measurablyreducethe risk to the country. Unless it changescourse-and fast-a nuclear
terrorist attack on theUnited States will be more likely than not in

the decade ahead. inaction ishard to understand.Its behav The administration's iordemonstratesa failureto grasp a fundamentalinsight:nuclear
terrorism is, in fact, preventable. It is a basic matter of physics: without fissile material, you can't have a nuclear bomb. No nuclear bomb, no nuclear terrorism.Moreover, fissile material can be kept out of thewrong hands. The technology for doing so already exists: Russia does not lose items from the Kremlin Armory, nor does the United States from Fort Knox. Nascent nukes should be kept just
GRAHAM ALLISON isDouglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. From 1993 to 1994 he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy and Plans.


as secure.If they are, terroristscould still attempt to create new supplies,but doing sowould requirelargefacilities, which would be visible and vulnerable to attack. Denying terrorists accessto nuclear weapons and weapons-grade material is thusa challengetonations' willpoweranddetermination, not to their technicalcapabilities. Keeping these items safe will be
amammoth undertaking. But the strategy for doing so is clear.The solution would be to apply a new doctrine of "Three No's": no loose

nukes,no new nascentnukes,andno new nuclearstates.

A FEWNUMBERS starklyillustratethe scaleof the problem the
United States now faces in trying to control the spread of nuclear

materials. eightcountries-China, France,India,Israel, weapons Just Pakistan, Russia, theUnited Kingdom, and theUnited States-are known to havenuclear estimatesthat weapons. In addition,the CIA
North Korea has enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons.

And two dozen additional states possess researchreactors with uranium(HEU) build at leastone nuclear to enoughhighly enriched
FOREIGN AFFAIRS January/February2004 [65]

GrahamAllison bomb on their own. According to best estimates, the global nuclear inventory includes more than 30,ooo nuclear weapons, and enough

HEU plutoniumfor240,000more. and weapons arecurrently storedin conditionsthat Hundredsof these leave themvulnerableto theft by determinedcriminals, who could
then sell them to terrorists.Even more "nascent nukes" (the HEU and plutonium that are the only critical ingredients for making nuclear bombs) are at risk.Almost everymonth, someone somewhere is appre hended trying to smuggle or steal nuclear materials orweapons. Last

AlexanderTyulyakov-the deputydirectorof August, for example,
Atomflot (the organization that carries out repairwork for Russian

Mur nuclearicebreakers nuclearsubmarines)-was arrestedin and
mansk for trying to do just that.The situation is so bad that three years ago, Howard Baker, the current U.S. ambassador to Japan and the former Republican leaderof the Senate, testified, "It reallyboggles my mind that there could be 40,000 nuclearweapons, ormaybe 8o,ooo in

the formerSovietUnion, poorly controlledand poorly stored,and
that theworld is not in a near-state of hysteria about the danger." Inmaking his case against Saddam Hussein, President Bush argued, "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of ura nium a little bigger than a softball, it could have a nuclearweapon in less What the president failed to mention is thatwith the than a year." same quantity ofHEU, alQaeda, Hezbollah, orHamas could do the same. Once built, nuclear weapons could be smuggled across U.S. borders with little difficulty. Of the seven million cargo containers thatwill arrive at U.S. ports this year, for example, only two percent will be opened for inspection.And once onU.S. soil, thoseweapons would likely be used. Prior to September n, 2001,many experts argued that terrorists were unlikely to kili large numbers of people, because they sought not tomaximize victims but towin publicity and sympathy for their causes. World Trade Center, how After the attacks on the Pentagon and the ever, fewwould disagreewith President Bushs warning that if alQaeda gets nuclear weapons, itwill use them against theUnited States "in a heartbeat." Indeed,Osama bin Laden's press spokesman, SulaimanAbu Ghaith, has announced that the group aspires "to kill4 million Ameri million children," in response to casualties supposedly cans, including 1 inflicted onMuslims by theUnited States and Israel.
[66] FOREIGN AFFAIRS Volume83No.i

How toStopNuclear Terror

IF A TERRORIST nuclear attack did occur in the United States, the first questions asked would be who did it, and where did they get the bomb? Bin Laden would top the list of probable perpetrators. But the supplierwould be less certain; it could be Russia, Pakistan, orNorth Korea, but it could also be Ukraine orGhana. Russia would probably top the list not because of hostile intent but because of the enormity of its arsenal of nuclear material, much of it still vulnerable to insider theft. Pakistan would likely rank second due to the ongoing links between its security services and al Qaeda, and the uncertain chain of command over its nuclear weaponry. North Korea, themost promiscuous weapon proliferator on earth, has already soldmissiles to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia and sowould merit suspicion. As would Ukraine and Ghana, which operate Soviet-supplied re search reactorswith enough HEU for one or more nuclear weapons. would not have evenmade the top ten. Interestingly, Saddam-era Iraq To be fair,since September u, theBush administration has taken steps to reduce the danger of a nuclear attack by terrorists.It has attacked al Qaeda training bases inAfghanistan and around the globe and enlisted more than loo nations in a global effort to share intelligence, enforce antiterrorism legislation, and curtail the flow of terrorists' money. Bush has repeatedly declared that the spreadof weapons of mass destruction

would be "intolerable," (WMD) prompting similar declarations key from he a allies. Council resolution that Recently, alsoproposed UNSecurity would criminalize WMDproliferation promotedtheProliferation and
Security Initiative, an u-nation group that, stretching existing legal

will vehiclessuspected frameworks, search WMD oftransporting cargo on
the high seas.After initial skepticism, the administration has also em

bracedtheNunn-LugarCooperative ThreatReductionProgramto
secureand eliminate formerSoviet nuclearweapons and has enlisted other members of the G-8 group of leading industrialized countries tomatch Washington's $1billion annual commitment to theprogram over the next decade. And theUnited States has cooperated with Russia to extract threepotential nuclearweapons from Serbia and one fromRomania. But the list of actions not taken by the administration remains lengthy andworrisome. Bush has not made nuclear terrorisma personal FORE I GN AF FA IRS JanUarY/FebrUarY 2004 [67]

GrahamAllison priority for himself or those who report directly to him. And he has

Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.),former resisted proposals Senator by
Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), and others to assign responsibility for the issue to a single individual,who could then be held accountable. As a result, were the president today to ask his cabinet who is responsible for pre

either a dozen peoplewould raise their venting nuclear terrorism,
hands, or no one would. Bush has also not communicated his sense of urgency about nuclear terrorism to the presidents of Russia or Pakistan.Nor hasBush increased the pace of U.S. cooperationwith Rus sia in securing former Soviet nuclearweapons andmaterials. As a result, after a decade of effort, half of the Soviet arsenal remains inadequately secured. More generally, theBush administration has not acted to change the prevailing practice that allows states to decide for themselves how secureweapons and materials on their territorieswill be. More than loo potential weapons, such as those extracted from Serbia, stili sit in a dozen countries in circumstances that leave them vulnerable to theft. In this context, it is impossible to avoidmentioning Iraq.The Bush administration used the danger that Saddam might supply WMD to terrorists as its decisive argument forwar. The subsequent failure to find evidence of theseweapons has compromised the administration's credibility on the general subject of WMD, as well as the perceived

Moreover, during competenceof theU.S. intelligencecommunity.
the year and a half inwhich the United States sought to get other countries to support its Iraq policy, North Korea and Iranwere able to accelerate their own programs. Mounting a serious campaign now to prevent nuclear terrorism will thus be more challenging than it would have been before the Iraqwar.




will require a comprehensive PREVENTING NUCLEARTERRORISM strategy: one that denies access to weapons and materials at their source, detects them at borders, defends every route by which a weapon could be delivered, and addresses motives aswell asmeans. Aggressive offense to disrupt and destroy organizations and individuals that could attack theUnited States must bematched by robust defenses at home. Washington may still sometimes have to act unilaterally. [68] FOREIGN AFFAIRS VolumeNo.1 83

How toStopNuclear Terror But theUnited States will not be able to bully other nations into taking

multina counterterrorism requires steps.Successful all thenecessary For example, last tional intelligenceand localpolice enforcement.
summer's capture of al Qaeda's Southeast Asia mastermind resulted

Thai authorities neighbors, who informed froma tip fromsuspicious If foreign nationals encouraged, who, in turn,calledtheCIA. properly
and governments can play a huge role in trackingdown terrorists.If not, they become a sympathetic sea inwhich terroristscan swim and hide.

of terrorism campaign prevent to nuclear The centerpiece a serious
a strategy based on the three no's (no loose nukes, no new nascent be denying nukes, and no new nuclear weapons states)-should terroristsaccess toweapons and their components. After all, no nuclear weapons or material means no nuclear

terrorism;it's that simple. No nuclear weapons The firstpart of the strategy-no loose nukes-would requirerapidlysecuringall ormaterialsmeans nuclear weaponsorweapons-usable material no nuclear terrorism; underanew"International Security Standard" that would ensure that terrorists couldnot ifs that simple. acquire weapons or theircomponents. The
United States and Russia should develop such a standard together and act quickly to secure their own weapons andmaterials in amanner sufficiently transparent to give each other assurance that their stock piles could not be used by terrorists. Moscow and Washington should then go quickly to other nuclear-weapons states and demand that they too meet this new benchmark for nuclear security and be certified by anothermember of the club as having done so. If necessary,

technicalassistanceinmeeting these standardsshouldbe offered.
But theUnited States and Russia should also make clear that this is not a negotiable demand. Simultaneously, a "Global Cleanout Campaign" should extract all nascent nukes from all other countries within the next 12months. Since all research reactors in non-nuclear weapons states contain fissile material that came from either the United States or Russia, each has a sufficient legal claim to demand its return. Compensation and wrangling may be required. But the United States and Russia must not take no for an answer.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS 2004 January/February [69]

GrahamAllison A "no new nascent nukes" approach will require ensuring that all

especiallyIranandNorth Korea, stop producing nuclearaspirants, HEUand plutonium. This effort shouldbegin under the auspicesof and Treaty (NPT) the inspections mandatedby theNonproliferation including the NPT'S International Atomic EnergyAgency (IAEA), of more intrusive inspections suspected AdditionalProtocolthatallows
nuclear sites.But two other elements must also be added to the current system: a prohibition on the production of fissilematerial, and actual

enforcement mechanisms.Enforcementshouldbeginwith political
and economic sanctions for recalcitrant states but should also include threats and the use of military force if necessary, whether covert or

overt. Enhancedexportcontrols greatlystrengthened and intelligence capabilities humanagents)shouldfocuson preventingthe (especially
work of nuclear aspirants and stopping sales from potential suppliers. Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (which the Bush administration has rejected, despite support from four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Secretary of State Colin Powell) and the negotiation of a cutoff in production of fissile material in

this states would reinforce principle. currentnuclear-weapon
Iranwill be a decisive test of this strand of the new strategy.The ad ministration has declared that theUnited States "will not tolerate the construction of a nuclearweapon" by Iran and has elicited similar threats

to fromitsallies. the has Americanassertiveness galvanized IAEA demand
that Iranprove a frillaccount of past and present nuclear activity.Unless

will Council. Irancomplies,the IAEA referthecaseto theUNSecurity
Note the differences between the administration's current ap proach and the "no new nascent nukes" approach proposed. The administration has named Iran amember of the "axis of evil" and threatened itwith regime change. It has tried to persuade Russia to halt construction of Iran'sBushehr light-water nuclear power plant. And it has accepted verbal declarations of support from Iran's trading partners in Europe. The proposed strategy, in contrast, would focus on one objective only: denying Iran material from which nuclear weapons can be made. This would mean preventing Iranian enrich ment of uranium or reprocessing of spent fuel to produce plutonium. With Russian President Vladimir Putin as his partner, Bush would remind Iran that in signing the NPT, it forswore nuclear weapons, [70] FOREIGN AFFAIRS Vo/ume83No.1

How toStopNuclear Terror and he would demand that Iran verifiably dismantle any emerging

capabilityforenrichmentor reprocessing. To win Moscow's support, Washington should acceptRussian
completion of the Bushehr reactor, confirm Russia's role as fuel sup plier to the reactor, initiate joint Russian-American research on new

proliferation-resistant power nuclear plants, agree Russia and that become the securedepository for international spent fuel.Fuel suppliedat
favorableprices toBushehr would be owned andmanaged by Russia and withdrawn at the end of the fuel cycle. (Russia's minister of atomic en ergy has even expressed a readiness to form a jointU.S.-Russian venture to supply this fuel.) To force Iran'shand, theUnited States and Russia would show Tehran that they are ready to do whatever is necessary to prevent it from acquiring the ability to produce its own fissilematerial. The "no new nuclear weapons states" part of the strategy would draw a bright line under the current eight nuclear powers and say un

"no F. ambiguously, more."Fourdecadesago,PresidentJohn Kennedy
predicted that by the end of the 1970s, 25countries would have nuclear weapons. His pessimistic forecast reflected a presumption then gen erally accepted: that as states acquired the scientific and technical ability to build nuclearweapons, theywould do so.Thanks to far-sighted

international efforts,however,includingtreaties, security assurances,
and overt and covert threats, most nations have renounced nuclear weapons instead. Through the NPT, first signed in 1968 and extended indefinitely in 1995, 184 nations agreed to eschew suchweapons, and existing nuclearweapons states pledged, in effect, to sharply diminish the role of nuclearweapons in international politics. But aswith the nascent nukes,

theproblemhasbeen enforcement.
During the Cold War, rival


served as the


enforcers,preventingnuclear proliferation within theirspheres
of control. Thus the United States scotched South Korean and Taiwanese aspirations, and the Soviet Union dis suadedNorth Korea.When the Soviet Union disappeared in December 1991, FOREIGN AFFAIRS January/February 2004 [71]

GrahamAllison leavingweapons inUkraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, intense U.S. Russian cooperation was able to eliminate these, too.All 4,ooo nuclear warheads were returned to Russia for dismantlement, and the newly

independent states were compensated with nuclearfuelfor theircivil
ian reactors. But the United States and Russia then failed to devise a common strategy for dealing with nuclear weapons elsewhere. As a result, Pakistan and India both tested nuclear weapons during the 1990S and declared themselves members of the nuclear-weapons club. The test case for a "no new nuclear weapons states" policy will be North Korea. That country remains, as former Secretary of Defense

William Perrycalledit, "the most dangerous

Already, the challenge spot on earth." If it follows its current course, North Korea will soon be able to produce fromPyongyang has dozens of such weapons annually. Should it becomemore dangerous achieve this, South Korea and Japan will likely also go nuclear before the end of the than itwas when Bush decade. Taiwan could follow suit, risking war with China. And Pyongyang, already the took office.
world's leadingsupplier missiles, couldbe of weapons towhoever could come a sort of Nukes"R"Us,supplying will historians Should thathappen, future pay-including terrorists. condemn today'sleadersfor theirnegligence. justifiably
Already, the challenge from Pyongyang has become lessmanage able andmuch more dangerous than itwas when President Bush took

have reportedly office. Indeed,somemembersof his administration
concluded that the problem isbeyond the point of no return and have started focusing on how to accommodate North Korea and avoid blame.

with anunambiguous would begin by The proposedstrategy, contrast,
stance on this question: no nuclearNorth Korea. Itwould focus solely on this objective and subordinate all others, especially regime change.

the North Korea's regime, United Stateshashigher Howeverdespicable
priorities than getting rid of it. The administration should start to

evidently Its of recognizetheurgency thisthreat. mantraof"no crisis,"
chosen to avoid distraction from Iraq, has served U.S. interests poorly. Bush must also get Putin and President Hu Jintao of China to contemplate the consequences of a nuclearNorth Korea for theirown countries.Active cooperation in stopping Pyongyang should be amajor
[72] FOREIGN AFFAIRS* Volume83No.i

How toStopNuclear Terror test of their security relationshipswith Washington. That said, the ad ministration should drop its objections and immediately acceptNorth when Korea's proposal for bilateral negotiations. North Korea is correct it claims that only theUnited States can address its security concerns. Direct talkswill allowWashington to test its presumption that, above all else, Kim Jong I1 is committed to his own survival. The United States should offer him a deal: survival in exchange for nuclear disarmament. This deal would offer big carrots and threaten a big stick. IfNorth Korea is prepared to visibly and verifiably forgo nuclear weapons and dismantle its nuclear weapons production facilities, the United States should publicly pledge to abandon any attempt to change North Korea's regime by force. It should also arrange for generous economic assistance from South Korea and Japan,which they stand ready to provide ifNorth Korea forgoes its nukes. If, however, North Korea refuses to verifiably relinquish nuclear weapons and persists in its current efforts, theUnited States should threaten to use allmeans, including military force, to stop it.Horrific as the consequences of a preemptive attack on North Korean nuclear facilities would be, the prospect of a nuclear North Korea willing to sell itsweapons to al Qaeda and other terroristswould be worse.



As THE PRECEDING DISCUSSION suggests, the United States cannot undertake or sustain itswar on nuclear terrorism unilaterally. Fortunately, it need not try.All of today's great powers share an interest in the proposed campaign. Each has sufficient reasons to fear nuclear weapons in terrorists' hands, whether they are al Qaeda, Chechens, or Chinese separatists. All great powers can therefore be mobilized in a new global alliance against nuclear terrorism, aimed atminimizing this risk by taking every action that isphysically, tech

nically,and diplomatically possible to preventnuclear weapons or materials frombeing acquired terrorists. by
Construction of this alliance should begin with Russia, where the

close personalrelationship betweenPresidents Bush andPutinwill
be amajor asset. Russia will be flattered by the prospect of standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States-especially on the one
FOREIGN AFFAIRS January/February 2004 [73]

GrahamAllison issue on which it can still claim to be a superpower. Americans and Russians should also recognize that they have a special obligation to address this problem, since they created it-and since they still own 95 percent of all nuclear weapons and material. If they demonstrate a

new seriousnessabout reducingthis threat,theUnited States and
Russia will also be able to credibly demand thatChina likewise secure itsweapons andmaterials. China could sign up Pakistan. And the rest of the nuclear club would quickly follow. Objections will surely be raised about the unfairness of aworld in which some states are allowed to possess nuclearweapons while others are not. But that distinction is already embedded in the NPT, towhich all non-nuclear weapons states except North Korea are signatories. Although the treaty also nominally commits nuclearweapons states to eventually eliminate their own weapons, it never set a timetable, and no one realistically expects that to happen in the foreseeable future. The United States and its allies alreadyhave the power to define and enforce new global constraints on nuclearweapons. To make this order acceptable, however, they should undertake a concerted effort to elimi The nate nuclearweapons and nuclear threats from international affairs. United States and Russia should accelerate current programs to reduce their arsenals. Moreover, theBush administration should drop its current plans to conduct research for the production of new "mini-nukes."

For Is the course actionoutlinedaboveconceivable? perspective, of
consider the leap beyond the conventional box that the American president took in enunciating the "BushDoctrine."With that strategy, the administration unilaterally revoked the sovereignty of states that provide sanctuary to terrorists.Declaring that "thosewho harbor ter rorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves," the president ordered American military forces to topple theTaliban regime inAfghanistan. Of course, this new principle has yet to be enshrined in international law. It has, nonetheless, already become a de facto rule of inter national relations. Any government that knowingly hosts alQaeda or its equivalent knows that it is inviting attack. True, the move beyond the current war on terrorism to a serious war on nuclear terrorism based on the three no'swould be ambitious. But the leap involved would be no greater than the distance already traveled since September 11.0
[74] FOREIGN AFFAIRS Vo/ume83No.i

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