New START-- Nuclear arms specialist says disarmament, containment have been successful

By John Minnis

Legal News

Disarmament and containment of nuclear materials between the United States and the former Soviet Union countries are a "great success story," according to Jeffrey Pryce, an arms control expert who recently addressed Wayne State University Law School students and faculty.

"There is no higher priority than to make sure these weapons and nuclear material don't fall into the hands of actors who cannot be deterred," he said.

The Wednesday, Oct. 13, lunchtime lecture, "The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia," was hosted by the Wayne State University Law School Program for International Legal Studies and the International Law Students Association in the law school's Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium.

"These are the great untold stories we have to talk about," Pryce said. "If you think about the dissolution of the Soviet Union, you have all these thousands of nuclear weapons lying around. That, I think, is a great success story."

Pryce, now an attorney with Steptoe and Johnson LLP in Washington, D.C., served during the Clinton administration as a senior official in the office of the Secretary of Defense, where he was the lead negotiator or member of the negotiating team for the successful conclusion of nuclear disarmament agreements with Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. His current law practice focuses on international litigation and arbitration. He also teaches international investment law at Georgetown University Law Center. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Byron White.

After an introduction by Wayne Law professor Gregory Fox, director of the Program for International Legal Studies, Pryce said he was pleased to be in Detroit and at Wayne State University.

Arms control is "one of the most important issues of all," Pryce said, "and deserves more attention than it gets."

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on April 8. The treaty, if passed by the U.S. Senate, would substantially reduce each side's nuclear arsenals. However, Senate Republicans argue that the treaty may require dangerous cuts in U.S. missile defense and that Russian compliance cannot be adequately verified. The Senate is expected to vote on the START treaty in November.

"The New START treaty would create the lowest levels in history," Pryce said.

The arms specialist iterated how nuclear weapons are the product of the culmination of World War II. He explained how nuclear weapons quickly grew in strength (3,500 times that dropped on Hiroshima) and number (19,000 warheads and 4,500 launchers) during the Cold War with the USSR. These were days of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction.

"The purpose of these weapons was to deter the other side from using them," Pryce said. "They were not intended to be used."

Not only was the U.S. nuclear arsenal used to deter the Soviets from a nuclear attack aimed at the United States, it was also linked to deterring a conventional attack on Western Europe, where a huge conventional arms imbalance favored the Soviet Union.

Previous decades have seen some efforts toward disarmament. The Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963 prohibited all aboveground testing of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, effective in 1970, limited the spread of nuclear weapons.

Under SALT I during the Nixon administration in 1972, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to freeze the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles they would deploy.

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972 limited the United States and Soviet Union to ABM interceptors at two sites; in 1974, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to deploy an ABM system to one site only.

SALT II in 1979 limited the Soviet Union and the United States to an equal number of launchers and heavy bombers. Limits were also placed on MIRVs (Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles) carrying nuclear warheads.

The delicate nuclear standoff was thrown out of whack by President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, known colloquially as Star Wars.

"This was of great concern for the Russians," Pryce said. "They were afraid it would eliminate their deterrent capability. The early part of the 1980s was a time of intense relations."

The Soviet Union's position was further weakened by turnover at the top.

"Basically from 1982 to 1985, we saw three premiers die within a five year period."

In 1987, Soviet President Gorbachev and Reagan signed a landmark agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that created a global ban on short- and long-range nuclear weapons systems and provided for an intrusive verification regime.

"Then INF Treaty in 1987 set the stage for the modern nuclear defense negotiations," Pryce said. "You have very intrusive verification and elimination of weapons."

Following on the heels of the INF Treaty was the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) that was signed 1991 and ratified in 1994. START I limited long-range nuclear forces in the United States and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to 6,000 warheads on 1,600 ballistic missiles and bombers.

"On July 31, 1991, START I was signed," Pryce said. "In August there was a coup, and in December you had the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Consequently, you had the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union under the control of four separate countries, the Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russian."

To gain control of the loose nukes, Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar sponsored legislation that created the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program "to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their associated infrastructure in former Soviet Union states." In effect, former Soviet nuclear scientists and engineers were hired to dismantle weapons and ship the material back to Russia to be secured.

"The last thing you want is people who can build nuclear weapons wandering around without work," Pryce said. "They're actually growing sunflowers on a nuclear site in the Ukraine."

START II, which limited the United States and Russia to no more than 3,500 warheads by December 2007 and prohibited multiple warheads on ICBMs, was signed 1993 but never put into force.

A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with 181 state signatures and 148 state ratifications was signed in 1996 but is not yet in force. The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions in all environments. Even without the treaty being in force, Russia has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1990 and the United States has not since 1992.

The SORT (Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty), or Moscow Treaty, was signed in 2002 and is among the shortest treaties ever recorded. "It is very brief," Pryce said. "It is literally a 1-page treaty."

The brief amendment to START II called on Russia and the United States to reduce their "strategic nuclear warheads" to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012.

On Dec. 13, 2001, President George W. Bush gave Russia notice of U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had been in effect for nearly 30 years. The following day, Russia withdrew from the START agreements. U.S. withdrawal was to allow the Bush administration to create the Missile Defense Agency in order to test and build a limited National Missile Defense to protect the United States from nuclear blackmail by a rogue state.

When Russian President Medvedev and Obama signed the New START Treaty in April in Prague, it was the largest gathering of international leaders since the formation of the United Nations.

Obama's goal, Pryce said, is to have a world free of nuclear weapons, even though the U.S. president acknowledged it would not happen within his lifetime.

At the signing of the New START agreement, Russia's strategic nuclear forces comprised 620 delivery vehicles (missiles, bombers and submarines) and 2,787 warheads. In contrast, the U.S. had 851 delivery vehicles and 2,200 warheads. Under the New START pact, if ratified, those numbers would be reduced to 700 delivery vehicles and 1,550 warheads.

One of the criticisms of the New START reductions is that they may be too drastic. In fact, Pryce said, the smaller U.S. nuclear arsenal would be on par with France and China.

Still, Pryce felt the New START would enhance national security and provide stability for military planners. Without the treaty, Pryce said, generals would have to plan for unknown capability with no verification process.

One student asked about the likelihood of Iran becoming a nuclear power.

Pryce pointed out that a nuclear bomb is "slide rule technology." The real challenge is getting the weapon to the target.

"The delivery system is so much more sophisticated today," he said.

Interestingly, Pryce pointed out that Iran's nuclear efforts have suffered a setback caused by a malicious computer worm called Stuxnet that infects Siemens systems. It is thought to have gotten into Iran via an infected USB stick.

Computer experts have discovered a biblical reference embedded in the code of the worm that implicates Israel as the origin of the cyber attack. The code contains the Latin word "myrtus," which translates into the Hebrew word Hadassah, the birth name of Esther, Jewish queen of Persia.

"Let me give you a caveat," said Pryce, referring to his detailed Powerpoint presentation. "Everything you see here, I got from the Internet. I do not have a security clearance."

Published: Mon, Oct 25, 2010

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