International Security Studies

Events

The Shape of the Threat from Nuclear Proliferation

April 27, 2005 // 12:00am

This meeting, jointly sponsored by the Center's Division of International Studies and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was another in the ongoing Nonproliferation Forum series.

Robert Gallucci served in the U.S. government for over twenty years before retiring in 1996 to assume the deanship at Georgetown. He rose to the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs and was the chief American negotiator on the "Agreed Framework" of October 1994 that ended the U.S.-North Korean nuclear standoff in the early 1990s.

In surveying the current environment, Dean Gallucci identified four key challenges whose resolution requires American leadership and resources.

The first is the continued rivalry between India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers that have fought several wars since the end of British colonial rule. The primary concern is that a regional conventional war over the disputed Kashmir region could escalate to the nuclear level. Gallucci stated that U.S. engagement on this issue has been episodic. The United States should work in a more vigorous and sustained way both to prevent conflict through the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and to freeze the two sides' nuclear capabilities. The latter objective presents a difficult tradeoff between legitimizing their nuclear status and providing cooperation that would make their nuclear stockpiles more secure and less susceptible to accidental or unauthorized use.

The second challenge is the role of Russia and Pakistan as suppliers of nuclear technologies. Since the end of the Cold War, Washington, under successive administrations of both political parties, has never made nuclear material control the highest U.S. foreign policy priority. Russia has contracted to sell a nuclear reactor to Iran, while the A.Q. Khan network in Pakistan was a conduit for blackmarket sales of nuclear materials to Iran, Libya, and elsewhere. Gallucci doubted that either country would transfer nuclear technologies to a non-state actor as a deliberate decision of state policy, but he is greatly concerned about the danger of "leakage" through inadequate security. He raised the highly controversial idea of a new doctrine of "expanded deterrence" under which the country that is the source of the fissile material used in any nuclear detonation would be held responsible – although without specifying what the U.S. counter-response would be. The underlying motivation in this proposal is to create a powerful incentive for countries, such as Russia and Pakistan, to completely secure their nuclear materials to prevent leakage.

The third challenge is the twin nuclear crises with North Korea and Iran. These are traditional proliferation challenges, but the new fear is that either state might transfer or sell nuclear capabilities to a non-state actor, such as Al Qaeda. North Korea poses a more acute threat because its capabilities are far more advanced than Iran. In both cases, the U.S. administration is highly ambivalent toward negotiations (currently being pursued directly with North Korea through the six-party talks and indirectly with Iran through the European Union), but faces significant constraints on military options.

The fourth and final issue Gallucci addressed was U.S. nuclear policy itself. He argued that the U.S. goals of preventing proliferation and delegitimizing nuclear weapons is undercut by the potential development of new nuclear weapons (e.g., a low-yield, ground-penetrating nuclear warhead to attack deeply buried bunkers holding nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons).

Robert S. Litwak, Director, Division of International Studies


Experts & Staff

  • Robert S. Litwak // Vice President for Scholars and Academic Relations and Director, International Security Studies
  • Tonya Boyce // Program Assistant, International Security Studies

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