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The Problems and the Road Ahead
By George P. Shultz, Sidney D. Drell, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn
Hoover Institution PressCopyright © 2014 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
All rights reserved.
Reducing the Nuclear Threat: Lessons from Experience
George P. Shultz
American Nuclear Society Meeting
November 11, 2013
1. The existence of nuclear weapons poses an existential danger to everyone in the world.
2. As we consider future developments, we must be ever vigilant of our, and our allies', national security interests. We emphasize steps, such as getting better control of fissile material, as marking the way forward. We know that as long as there are nuclear weapons, the United States must have an arsenal that is safe, secure, and reliable.
3. Great progress has been made since 1986 in sharply reducing the number of nuclear weapons and in creating an atmosphere where further progress seemed likely — a golden moment.
4. Right now, and rather abruptly, that atmosphere has changed sharply, with new threats of proliferation and use. So the question I put before you is: What can we learn from the earlier positive experience? What has gone wrong and where do we go from here?
Let me start with a brief history.
Concern about the threat posed by nuclear weapons has preoccupied the United States and presidents of the United States from the beginning of the nuclear era.
President Truman introduced the Baruch Plan — a radical call for international control of nuclear weapons. The plan was stillborn with Soviet opposition.
President Eisenhower, in a 1953 address to the United Nations General Assembly, called for negotiations to "begin to diminish the potential destructive power of the world's atomic stockpiles." He pledged that the United States would "devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life."
At the end of the Eisenhower administration, the United States had 20,000 nuclear warheads and the Soviet Union 1,600. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy spoke eloquently in favor of a nuclear-free world. But at the time of his death, the United States had 30,000 nuclear warheads and the Soviet Union had 4,000.
President Johnson negotiated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and started what became the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). But as he left office, China had tested a nuclear weapon to become the fifth nuclear state, and the Soviet arsenal had increased to 9,000 weapons.
President Nixon succeeded in negotiating the first limitations on strategic offensive forces, but by the time he and his successor, President Ford, left office, the US arsenal had 26,000 nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union's arsenal had grown to 17,000.
President Carter, concerned about nuclear weapons, negotiated a second SALT Treaty but withdrew it from the Senate in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. By the time he left office, the Soviet Union had 30,000 nuclear weapons and the United States, 24,000.
President Reagan, early in his administration, asked the Joint Chiefs to tell him what would be the result of an all-out Soviet attack on the United States. The answer: it would wipe us out as a country. Would he retaliate? Yes. And he said many times, "What's so good about keeping the peace through an ability to wipe each other out?"
So Reagan decided on what was regarded as a radical and unachievable objective: he called for the elimination of intermediate- range nuclear forces (INF) (the Soviets had 1,500 deployed and the United States had not yet deployed any). He also called for cutting in half the number of strategic weapons on each side. He publicly advocated the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. In 1983, the INF negotiations failed and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) put into effect a prior decision to deploy intermediate-range weapons if negotiations failed. The Soviets withdrew from negotiations. Tensions rose. Talk of war filled the air. Reagan, early in 1984, spoke in a conciliatory way about prospects for a better world. Gradually, the situation settled down and arrangements were made for the resumption of the annual visit by Foreign Minister Gromyko to Washington at the time of the UN General Assembly, a practice that had been discontinued by President Carter after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Tensions began to subside and arrangements were made and successfully implemented in January 1985 to resume arms control talks. At this point, Mikhail Gorbachev came on the scene as the new general secretary of the Soviet Union. The first meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev took place in Geneva in November 1985. The main, and important, result was a change in atmosphere. The joint statement issued by Reagan and Gorbachev exclaimed, "A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought."
At the time, Soviet warheads outnumbered US warheads, and the total number of nuclear weapons in the world, including Great Britain, France, and China, came to about 70,000. Then came Reykjavik.
Reagan and Gorbachev met in a small room in Hofdi House for two full days of talks. I was privileged to sit with President Reagan and my counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, was beside General Secretary Gorbachev. Momentous developments were discussed and potential agreements identified. We were on the way to agreeing on the elimination of intermediate-range weapons and cutting in half strategic nuclear arms to equal levels on a satisfactory bomber-counting rule. At the end, they did not close any deal at that time because Reagan and Gorbachev disagreed about the issue of strategic defense. Nevertheless, we had seen the Soviets' bottom line and the agreements subsequently came into effect. Little noticed at the time, but of deep significance, was an agreement reached in an all-night session between the first and second days of the meeting, negotiated by Roz Ridgway with Sasha Bessmertnyk, that human rights would be a recognized, regular item on our US-Soviet meeting agendas. This was a signal, not well recognized at the time, that the Soviet Union was ready for deeper changes, as subsequently advocated by Gorbachev.
I went to the United Nations on December 7, 1988, to hear Gorbachev give an address. The headline from his statement was the withdrawal of Soviet conventional forces from Europe, but I thought the most important message was that, as far as he was concerned, the Cold War was over.
The Cold War died, but died hard in the United States, as debate raged between President Reagan and me, observing that change was taking place in the Soviet Union, and others like former President Nixon and CIA Director Robert Gates, who thought we were wrong and naïve, and that the Soviet Union could not change. Our point of view prevailed in the end.
A golden decade or so followed, and by 2006, nuclear weapons had been reduced to about 30 percent of their numbers at the time of Reykjavik.
Following a conference at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry, Sam Nunn, and I wrote an op-ed calling for a world without nuclear weapons and identifying steps needed to get there. The op-ed was received positively throughout the world. Prominent statesmen signed on. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the creation of the conditions that would lead to a world without nuclear weapons. Yes, there were objections, but the trend of opinion was clear. And in the campaign for the 2008 presidential election, both candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, agreed on the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, and both have continued their advocacy of this objective.
But something has gone wrong. The atmosphere has changed. Proliferation and the potential use of nuclear weapons have once again come to the fore as primary concerns.
So now I ask you two questions. What can we learn from observing the forces that led to the golden moment when huge reductions in nuclear arsenals took place? Can we identify the key ingredients for a road ahead that can lead us toward a world free of nuclear weapons?
Here are some lessons from the golden moment.
First of all, there was in place a long and deep sense of unease about the devastating capabilities of nuclear weapons. In an odd way, the Chernobyl accident reinforced this feeling. I was impressed that in my first meeting with Gorbachev after Chernobyl, I found he had asked the same question I had put to my colleagues in the United States: What is the relationship between the vast damage we see at Chernobyl and what would have been produced by a weapon? The answer: A weapon would be far more devastating. Fukushima is causing some similar anxiety, but it is easy for people to go to sleep on the issue. So the problem of danger, unfortunately all too real, needs to be kept in public view.
Second, there needs to be some leverage in the picture that helps the argument. In an odd way, President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative provided some leverage. Consider this statement: In a lengthy letter from Reagan to Gorbachev on July 25, 1986, after the Geneva meeting but before the Reykjavik meeting, he wrote:
Significant commitments of this type with respect to strategic defense would make sense only if made in conjunction with the implementation of immediate actions on both sides to begin moving toward our common goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Toward this goal, I believe we also share the view that the process must begin with radical and stabilizing reductions in the offensive nuclear arsenals of both the United States and the Soviet Union.
Third, we need people at the top of key countries who can think big, act boldly, and carry their constituencies with them. This is difficult and takes a leader who will stand up to fierce opposition from a respected source. I remember vividly coming back to Washington from Reykjavik and practically being summoned to the British ambassador's residence where my friend Margaret Thatcher "handbagged" me. She said, "George, how could you sit there and allow the president to talk about a world free of nuclear weapons?" I said, "But Margaret, he's the president." "Yes, but you're supposed to be the one with his feet on the ground." "But Margaret, I agreed with him."
The idea was probably too bold for immediate implementation, but it was out there and some down payments emerged. The vote in the US Senate to ratify the INF Treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear weapons was 93 to 5.
Finally, and the real key, is the change in atmosphere. Beginning with Reykjavik and gradually rolling on, the Cold War came to an end, so whatever were the justifications for nuclear weapons diminished. People even began to look at the financial costs and think about how the money spent on nuclear weapons could be better used.
So what does this tell us about the road ahead?
First of all, we must have the ideas in place that can help us reach our goal, step by step. The ideas are there. They need to be publicized. For example, huge progress has been made in the ability to verify. Work is going on to get better control of fissile material. Agreements on verification are being reached, such as in the breathtaking arrangements for on-site inspection in the most recent US-Russia Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). And progress is being made in other dimensions, such as the material on the Open Skies Treaty developed by Sid Drell and Chris Stubbs.
Second, there obviously needs to be hard work done on proliferation by Iran and North Korea and on sources of great tension such as those between Pakistan and India.
Third, we need to face the fact that the great post — World War II activation of a global security and economic commons is deteriorating badly, and we now find ourselves in a world awash in change. The uncertainty generated by this deterioration causes people to hang onto whatever they rightly or wrongly think will give them security.
The serious problem of governance right now is that diversity, long in existence but suppressed, is asserting itself as never before in a world of transparency — a world dominated by the information and communications revolution. We need to get back to the stability of a global economic and security commons, and that means learning how to govern over diversity in an age of transparency.
Finally, and of immense importance, is continued advocacy. At this point, religious leaders are coming together, based on the broad conviction that weapons of mass destruction are inhumane and incompatible with the basic principles of any religion. Other voices are being heard. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) has produced a compelling video documentary on nuclear weapons, and an effort is under way to organize influential groups in every part of the world. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty still needs ratification by the US Senate. We all need to keep ourselves informed and make ourselves heard in a sustained and often focused way.
The basic problem is that time is not on our side. We can hope and pray that we don't have to wait for the reality of the use of a modern nuclear weapon to realize how unacceptable these weapons are.CHAPTER 2
Challenges to Maintaining Trust in the Safety and Security of the Nuclear Enterprise
Sidney D. Drell
American Nuclear Society Meeting
November 11, 2013
When I speak of the global nuclear enterprise, I include both nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. It first moved out from the limited domain of nuclear scientists onto the world stage with the shock at the death and destruction caused by the two primitive atomic bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each released more than a thousand times the explosive energy of the largest conventional bombs used in the devastating air raids during World War II, and they themselves have since been superseded by the thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bombs that release another factor of a hundred or so more destructive energy.
We have learned that these weapons can kill and destroy on an unprecedented, almost unimaginable scale. The existential threat of nuclear weapons to our civilization, as discussed by Secretary Shultz, has moved senior US leaders to call for efforts to free the world from living under their unparalleled danger of global destruction. And numerous religious leaders, statesmen, and scientists have echoed these words around the world.
We have also learned that the potential value of nuclear reactors to supply clean and safe energy is enormous. But they too can cause severe and unpredictable consequences to life in the event of an accident. But, it is unfortunate and dangerous that there is far too little public understanding of the realistic physical limits on the consequences of such accidents. This is evident in the global reaction to the Fukushima meltdown. Although the major part of the death and destruction was caused by the tsunami, created by an earthquake, Fukushima bears a grossly exaggerated blame in the eyes of the public. And the ongoing fumbling by the Japanese officials — both nuclear and governmental — unfortunately, but understandably, has further sullied the reputation of the nuclear enterprise. It is harmful for the future of the nuclear enterprise when an unprepared citizenry is so shocked by such events, and the leaders reveal inadequate preparation and commitment to deal with them.
In the twenty-seven years since the meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the Soviet-era Ukraine, the nuclear power industry, both here and abroad, has strengthened its safety practices. And we can be proud of our positive record on safety. Over the past decade, growing concerns about global warming and energy independence have actually strengthened support for nuclear energy in the United States and globally. Yet despite these trends, the civilian nuclear enterprise remains fragile. Since Fukushima, opinion polls have given stark evidence of the public's deep fears of the invisible force of nuclear radiation. It is not simply a matter of getting better information to the public, but of actually educating the public about the true nature of nuclear radiation and its risks. Of course, the immediate task of the civil nuclear power component of the enterprise is to strive for the best practical safety and security record. The overriding objective could not be more clear: no more Fukushimas. Trust is fragile; once broken, trust is hard to regain!
We can also be proud of the positive record of safety and security of the nuclear weapons enterprise in the United States. We have built, deployed, exercised, and dismantled roughly 70,000 nuclear warheads, and there have been accidents involving nuclear weapons, but none that led to the release of nuclear energy. This was the result of a strong effort and continuing commitment to include safety as a primary criterion in new weapons designs, and also in careful production, handling, and deployment procedures. The key to the health of today's nuclear weapons enterprise is maintaining justifiable trust and confidence in the safety of its operations and in the protection of special nuclear materials — that is, fuel for bombs: plutonium-239 plus highly enriched uranium — against illegal sales or theft. One can imagine how different the situation would be today if one of the two four-megaton bombs that fell from a disabled B-52 Strategic Air Command bomber on airborne alert over Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 had detonated (four megatons is approximately 260 times the explosive energy in the Hiroshima bomb). In that event, a single switch in the arming sequence of one of the bombs, by remaining in its "off" position while the aircraft and its electrical circuits were disintegrating, was all that prevented a full-yield nuclear explosion (see Figure 1). A close call, indeed. Fortunately, the strong and effective effort to improve the safety and security of our nuclear arsenal over the past fifty years—and continuing—has removed that and many other vulnerabilities to accidental detonations. It is disturbing, however, that incidents that occurred recently give evidence of a weakening security culture in elements of the nuclear military, such as the mistaken transfer of six nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles from Minot, North Dakota, that were carried airborne to Barksdale, Louisiana, with the absence of those nuclear warheads undetected for nine hours. In the past five years, several failures in security procedures were discovered at two Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases, at Minot, in North Dakota, and Malmstrom, in Montana. Maintaining high security is complementary to, but equally important with, safety.
Excerpted from Nuclear Security by George P. Shultz, Sidney D. Drell, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn. Copyright © 2014 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Excerpted by permission of Hoover Institution Press.
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Table of Contents
1 Reducing the Nuclear Threat: Lessons from Experience,
2 Challenges to Maintaining Trust in the Safety and Security of the Nuclear Enterprise,
3 Nuclear Risk: The Race between Cooperation and Catastrophe,
4 The Gipper's Guide to Negotiating,
5 What a Final Iran Deal Must Do,
6 Is it Illogical to Work toward a World without Nuclear Weapons?,
About the Authors,