ROSE-ROTH SEMINAR AT 40
"NON-PROLIFERATION AND ARMS CONTROL: THE AGENDA FOR THE 21ST CENTURY"
4-6 May 2000
International Secretariat, June 2000
This Secretariat Report is presented for information only and does not necessarily represent the official view of the Assembly.
- The 46th Rose-Roth seminar, held in Portoroz (Slovenia), on May 4-6, brought together approximately 50 parliamentarians from NATO and Partner countries from Central and Eastern Europe and an equal number of international security experts, government and NATO representatives, and observers from the international media. At the core of the debate were the non-proliferation challenge and the future of arms control. The seminar was also an opportunity for the Slovenian hosts to spell out their views on future NATO enlargement.
- There were few issues on which the experts and participants present unanimously agreed. Among them was the fact that, despite the thaw in international relations brought about by the end of the Cold War, weapon-related threats had not disappeared: many countries are still developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or their delivery vehicles, and readying them for use; neither the security of WMD nor of conventional arsenals is ensured; and the multiplication of ethnic and civil conflicts has significantly increased the threat to people - as opposed to the threat to states. Another area of agreement was that arms control, if at all, now has to take place in a very different environment to that of that of the Cold War out of which it was born some 30 years ago. As articulated by arms control specialist Jack Mendelsohn, this is so for two main reasons: first, because, following the end of bipolar confrontation, public opinion (at least in Western countries) expects to be able to live free of the threat emanating from major nuclear or conventional arsenals, and second, because much more than before, security is a global affair: in the space and communication age, security has no borders, technology has erased geography.
- Beyond that minimal consensus, however, there was little agreement. The debate pitted those, like Jack Mendelsohn and Trevor Findlay (from the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre in London) for whom arms control must remain the defining paradigm of international security policy against others, most prominently represented by David Gompert from the Rand Corporation (but also tacitly by François Heisbourg, a well-known French security expert) who argued that the new international environment called for a new policy carefully balancing arms control, defence, and an active multilateral diplomacy.
- The virtues of arms control were spelled out by Dr. Mendelsohn and Dr. Findlay who argued that negotiated bilateral and multilateral agreements can: 1) contain the extent of the threat (as in the case of the NPT); 2) actually eliminate major portions of the threat (as in the case of the INF and CFE Treaties); 3) introduce elements of transparency in military plans and movements; 4) build a framework of norms of international behaviour putting moral pressure on states to conform, and legitimising a response in the event of treaty violation.
- Looming in the background, explicitly or implicitly, was the US decision, expected to be taken during the summer by President Clinton, to deploy a limited national missile defence (NMD) system. In the eyes of its advocates, such a plan would protect the United States against small scale attacks from ill-intentioned states - the most frequently mentioned such aggressor being North Korea; in the views of its opponents, it would fundamentally upset the mutual vulnerability paradigm which, coupled with arms control, had prevented war throughout the long years of the Cold War.
- NMD has become central to the debate on international security in general and to relations within the Alliance in particular. Indeed, the potential for Alliance division was highlighted by many of the speakers, as much as the need for further discussions and consultations to avoid such damaging outcome. Broadly, concerns and misgivings expressed by the European allies on NMD relate to: 1) the assessment of the threat, and in particular the assumption that the oft-mentioned North Korean threat justifies the measure; 2) the technical feasibility of the system; 3) the risk of transatlantic "decoupling"; 4) the impact of NMD deployment on the US-Russian strategic balance, in particular if that deployment were to be done unilaterally, without concurrent re-negotiation of the ABM Treaty; 5) the broader implications of NMD on world-wide missile proliferation.
- Apart from Dr. Mendelsohn, who unambiguously condemned the plans to deploy NMD, the three other experts who addressed the issue expressed more nuanced views. First of all, Dr. Gompert made it clear that the political momentum in the US was such that some form of NMD would be deployed, whatever the reactions of Russia or the Allies. His point was that, basically, the US public would not understand anyone telling them "You may not protect yourselves" - assuming the technical capability exists to do so. Dr. Konovalov, from the Moscow Institute for Strategic Assessment responded, not without irony, that if the US, the only remaining superpower was not secure, then "who could feel secure"?
- Without endorsing Dr. Gompert's "voluntaristic" approach ("we can do it, so we should"), Dr. Heisbourg and Dr. Konovalov nevertheless refrained from taking a dogmatic attitude in the defence/offence debate. Rather, the gist of their comments was in warning the United States against the temptation of unilateralism. Such unilateralism, Dr. Findlay reminded the audience, had already been evidenced in the US Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) last fall, and could have damaging consequences on global proliferation. The point that the US could not shun international rules was also strongly made by Dr. Mendelsohn who argued that "Peace, security and stability cannot be successfully pursued by one state alone; for better or for worse, security is a multinational affair _ even for the US." This point was also emphasized by Dr. Heisbourg who said that a US breakout, following the CTBT decision, would represent a "world without rules".
- One basic conclusion on which all experts agreed was that a decision on NMD should not be rushed. Rather, it was necessary to buy time in order to:
- try to build a consensus among the Allies;
- try and find an agreement with Russia on the re-negotiation of the ABM Treaty;
- study carefully the technical feasibility of various forms of NMD and the accompanying battle management systems.
- More specifically, Dr. Heisbourg urged the Americans to consider the "opportunity costs" of NMD in several dimensions:
- the financial opportunity costs: spending US$ 28 to 60 billion on NMD (not an usual cost for a major weapons systems) means that less money will be available for force projection; has the trade-off been thought through?
- the political opportunity cost, which Dr. Heisbourg considered much more serious: 10 years after the end of the Cold War, can the US afford to concentrate the political capital of its relations with China and Russia on weapons issues, when economic questions, democratisation, and the two countries' role in their regional environment are the key to future stability? Dr. Heisbourg summarised his message in a snapshot: "Don't let the North Korean tail wag the American foreign policy dog!"
- the strategic opportunity costs, i.e. the impact of NMD on the US-Russian strategic relationship and on global proliferation;
- the opportunity cost in terms of relations with the Allies, which can be divided into three sub-components:
- decoupling: on this Dr. Heisbourg argued (finding wide agreement in the room) that it is not NMD per se which would have a decoupling effect, as there has always been different levels of security between the United States and its allies, but a decision to deploy in a context of widespread European hostility;
- the difficult position in which the British and Danish governments could find themselves, being squeezed "between a rock and hard place" if they had to grant the US permission to upgrade the Fylingdales and Thule facilities in a hostile environment;
- the impact on the French and British nuclear deterrents, the credibility of which could quickly be eroded by retaliatory Russian moves (notably the deployment of nuclear-tipped interceptors).
- Implicitly, Dr. Gompert, Heisbourg and Konovalov endorsed the principle of a "grand bargain" along the line currently envisaged by the Clinton Administration but with more ambitious goals, i.e. negotiate with Russia an amendment to the ABM Treaty in order to allow for the deployment of limited NMD against more significant reductions in strategic nuclear arsenals than currently envisaged by the START III negotiations, plus a series of verification measures.
- However, they and others (in particular Dr. Mendelsohn) also pointed out that current Administration policy was severely undermined by the attitude taken by the powerful Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jesse Helms, who has made it clear that whatever bargain was struck with the Russians by the Clinton government would not be endorsed by the US Senate. This, plus the technical uncertainties and the unease of the allies, was an argument to postpone a decision on NMD. The period during which a new Administration and Congress would be established should be used to develop a "framework" through dialogue with Russians and Europeans. This "framework" would define what kind of strategic architecture was needed, what mix of offence and defence would be appropriate, and on which systems it should be based.
- On the technological front, hopes that the development of sea-based systems or boost-phase interceptors, expressed respectively by Dr. Gompert and Dr. Konovalov, could provide adequate solutions, were met with some scepticism by others, in particular Dr. Heisbourg, who pointed out that such systems were nowhere near the stage of development to allow such a judgement. Dr. Konovalov did not take sides on whether a "grand bargain" or a "framework" would be acceptable to Russia, stressing instead that it was difficult to see, at this stage, who was actually making defence policy in the country. As far as the Europeans were concerned, the experts' advice was that it would be more helpful if they were gently prodding the United States to negotiate in good faith with Russia, and Russia to show flexibility by accepting a modification of the ABM Treaty, than by berating US policies or letting themselves be overwhelmed by "defenceless anguish". The hope was also expressed that the WMD Centre recently inaugurated by NATO (and represented at the conference by Dr. Roberto Zadra) could provide a useful forum for information exchange, thereby bridging some of the gap in the threat assessment among the Allies.
- Dr. Konovalov pointed out that because Russian territory was always at risk, proliferation was not the priority it was elsewhere. He emphasised the practical Russian interest in deep reductions, because of the degrading of their systems. Yet he noted that with a level of 1000 warheads even a limited BMD could cause anxiety; hence drawing attention to the offence-defence relationship, once defences were deployed quantity took on a new significance.
- The suggestion of co-operation in BMD was tantalisingly referred to yet never seriously explored.
- Amidst the concerned raised by NMD and its impact, it was useful to be reminded by experts such as Dr. Findlay and Dr. Graham Pearson (formerly from Bradford University), that proliferation and efforts to counter it have many other aspects than those involved in the US-Russian strategic relationship. Dr. Findlay stressed in particular the usefulness of the ongoing NPT review conference in reinforcing nuclear safeguards. Dr. Pearson, for his part, pointed to the need to strengthen the prohibition regimes in place for chemical and biological weapons. This includes improving the control of dangerous pathogens and chemicals (something that requires the co-operation of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries) as well as developing more efficient protective measures for troops and populations. While contingency plans have to be made, Dr. Pearson said that "we should be prepared, not scared". Although - in the context of the debate on NMD - experts such as Dr. Heisbourg remarked that it would be easier for a hostile state to use a terrorist group to smuggle a chemical or biological charge into the US than delivering them through a missile strike, Dr. Pearson argued that a major chemical or biological attack by terrorists on a US city was very unlikely. Biological weapons clearly presented the greatest danger because of their uncontrollability.
- A subliminal message of the conference was that the threat of WMD should not make us forget that in human history, including in the last few years, conventional weapons have killed many more people than their "exotic" siblings.
- Conventional arms control was broken down into three sub-topics. The first one was the Treaty on Conventional Arms Control in Europe (CFE Treaty). Ted Whiteside, from the Policy Planning Division at NATO, reminded participants of the basic structure and content of the Treaty, signed in 1990. A major stepping stone in the transition from the Cold War to the new European security era, the CFE Treaty was significantly adapted at the OSCE Istanbul Summit in December 1999, with its original, bloc-to-bloc structure being replaced by national and territorial ceilings. Despite the changed circumstances, Dr. Whiteside stressed, the CFE Treaty continued to provide a crucial framework for securing peace and stability in the Euro-atlantic region as it generated predictability in arsenals and unit movements. However, problem remained: there was uncertainty about the size and location of certain armament holdings in Armenia and Azerbaijan; Moscow had yet to implement its full withdrawal commitment from Georgia and Moldova; and the war in Chechnya was leading Russia to durably exceed its weapon ceilings in the North Caucasus.
- By contrast with the Europe-wide scene, arms control could not say to have had a major stabilising effect in the Balkans, according to General Carlo Jean, the OSCE officer in charge of implementation of the Dayton arms control provisions. This is not because these provisions have not been implemented - Article II and IV have been, although Article V is still under examination - but because arms control weighs too little in the balance compared with the many negative political factors affecting security developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Basically, the military as well as the secret services remain too involved in politics, each group controlling strong economic interests acquired during the war. General Jean was quite blunt in affirming that the agenda of local politicians remained quite different from that of the international community. This had many negative consequences: 1) the Standing Committee on Military Matters remained a token institution; as a result there was no national policy in the defence area; the same held true in the domain of domestic order; 2) efforts to improve democratic control over the armed forces were an uphill battle; 3) the professionalisation and de-politicisation of the armed forces still had to be accomplished. General Jean conceded that some of the Dayton provisions were an obstacle to the restructuring of the armed forces (presumably he was alluding to Dayton legitimising the existence of two armies, one in the Federation, and one in Republika Srpska).
- Another form of conventional weapons discussed, also of great interest to the region of south-eastern Europe, was small arms and light weapons. Dr. Owen Greene, from the University of Bradford and a leading world expert on the issue highlighted the complexity of the problem, due to the fact that small arms are everywhere; they are easy to transport, conceal and maintain; many countries produce them, at times in industrial and at times in small quantities; they can be procured through many supply lines, with second-hand markets playing a particularly important role; they are usually cheap; regulations pertaining to their possession and sale are often outdated; and finally, they are part of the cultural heritage of many countries (viz. the United States).
- Dr. Greene made it clear that unlike for chemical or biological weapons for example, the small arms non-proliferation agenda was not a world-wide ban, but multi-faceted efforts to keep them under control. He remarked that the United Nations was ahead of NATO, the OSCE or the EU, as it had already been confronted with the problem in several regions outside Europe for many years, whereas European institutions had only recently begun to tackle it. Among the measures that had to be pursued in priority, Dr. Greene identified:
- the need to seriously enforce laws on the legal transfer of small arms;
- the need to reinforce efforts to prevent the diversion of the legal flows towards illegal channels - a major source of proliferation;
- the need to review legal provisions related to the definition of small arms and light weapons and their sale, and concurrently the necessity of improving information exchange among countries as regulations vary greatly across borders;
- the need to pay greater attention to the safety of storage sites, which also means well-trained and well-paid guard or police or military units in charge of those sites;
- the need to be more creative in developing weapons buy-back programmes (for example tying them to development projects).
- Dr. Greene also stressed the need for both the supplier and the receiving countries to pursue "joined up" policies, i.e. to create co-ordinating structures bringing together the various government departments dealing with one aspect or the other of small arms transfers, such as commerce departments, the police and the military.