When you gather into one room 300 people with titles like ambassador, general, commander, director, and senior analyst representing nations such as Russia, Kazakhstan, China, South Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, South Africa, and France, you can expect a weighty discussion of topics that influence the world’s ability to get along.
Such was the case last weekend at the 11th International Arms Control Conference in Albuquerque, sponsored by National Security Programs Div. 5000, where you could hardly throw a sweet roll without hitting someone with an embassy for an address, including 15 participating ambassadors.
Five panel discussions explored issues such as offensive versus defensive military postures, cooperative US-Russia threat-reduction efforts, biological weapons proliferation, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and homeland defense.
In an opening address, Amb. Abdallah Baali, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations, described successes at the 2000 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference, interpreting the new agreements reached there as having "underscored the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons — a task no longer described as just an ‘ultimate goal.’ "
Ballistic missile defense
Amb. David Smith of Global Horizons, Inc. spoke in favor of US proposals to develop a national missile defense system. "America should consult its allies, explain its missile defense plans, act transparently, and cooperate with any interested country," he said. "But our view of the ballistic missile threat to our country, our role in the world, and our consequent defensive response are not matters for debate . . . It is time to move from a strategy based on nuclear destruction to a more balanced strategy that includes defenses, which, after all, harm only attacking missiles."
Guillaume Parmentier of the French Center on the United States countered, calling for a more balanced approach to deterring and responding to aggression. "The geopolitical conditions of European countries, coupled with historical memories [of failures to contain aggression based on a defensive posture], create widespread skepticism of American plans in this respect. The illusion of vulnerability could create much misperception and be the cause for disastrous decisions. . . . Defense is seen in Europe as a supplement to offense and diplomacy. It is not and cannot be a substitute."
Jack Mendelsohn of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security warned of the potentially destabilizing effects on US-Russia-China relations if a US ballistic missile defense is developed. "Any national ballistic missile defense system that threatens the ability to retaliate will, in turn, stimulate a response to ensure that offensive forces retain the capability to deter."
In a keynote address, Amb. Wolfgang Hoffman, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, discussed ongoing measures to support the treaty. More than 250 people from 70 countries are working to develop an international monitoring system capable of detecting clandestine nuclear tests forbidden under the treaty, he said. The system should be operational by 2005.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Kuenning (ret.), Director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, detailed the "remarkable" achievements in US- Russian efforts to retreat from their Cold War defense postures. So far more than 5,000 warheads, 600 ballistic missiles, 360 silos, and 330 launchers have been eliminated through CTR programs, he said.
Victor Mizin, Russian Diplomat-in-Residence at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, cautioned against proposed US cutbacks in funding for CTR projects, which, he said, have from a purely pragmatic viewpoint "reduced the number of warheads and launchers aimed at the US" and reduced the "danger of the massive proliferation from the ex-USSR territory."
However, he said, Russian leaders sometimes take the cash flow for granted, and many Russian people misinterpret the program as US meddling in Russian security issues. "Russian officials . . . will do nothing if . . . lavish financial support is not assured," he warned.
In a session on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Piet de Klerk, Director of Policy Coordination at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that at no point has the IAEA been able to conclude that North Korea has complied with its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.
Gary Samore of the US Department of State said the Bush administration is in a Catch 22 regarding North Korea’s nuclear program. "On one hand," he said, "a strategy intended to undermine and ultimately replace the North Korean regime in order to eliminate its nuclear and missile programs would accelerate these programs in the near term and increase the danger of conflict on the peninsula . . . On the other hand, a strategy of carrot-and-stick engagement, which provides assistance and improved bilateral relations to North Korea in exchange for restraints on its nuclear and missile programs, helps prop up the regime with no guarantee that it will ever give up those capabilities in the end."
Seoksoo Lee (South Korea) of the National Defense University added: "It should be reminded that peace be created both by peaceful means and non-peaceful means. In order to cope with Pyongyang’s military adventurism, it is necessary but not sufficient to adopt diplomacy for nonproliferation. If diplomacy is not working, containment becomes the norm."
In a session on homeland defense, Amy Smithson of the Henry L. Stimson Center questioned the effectiveness of programs to respond to a mass-casualty terrorist attack on US soil. "In the years ahead, domestic preparedness must put as much emphasis on public health and hospital preparedness as on disaster-scene rescue capabilities," she said. "A sign of maturity in the program will be its transformation from an inside-the-beltway justification for a spending carnival to preparedness standards and capabilities that are institutionalized and sustained over the long term. . . . Bluntly put, an absurdly small slice of the funding pie has made it beyond the beltway."
Conference chair James Brown (5325) says, "This was a very successful two-day symposium that provided the venue that permitted the leaders of the arms control and nonproliferation communities to come together in an environment that allows the free ranging exchange of ideas. This in turn enhances the opportunities for better understandings and establishes valuable relationships among these national security and foreign affairs experts."