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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Statement by
William Schneider, Jr.
Adjunct Fellow, Hudson Institute
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Sub-Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee today. I am William Schneider, Jr. I serve as an Adjunct Fellow at the policy research organization, Hudson Institute, and operate an international trade and financial service business in Washington. From 1982-86, I served as Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. Among the responsibilities of the office at the time were those associated with export controls, arms transfer, foreign assistance, and regional security policy. I subsequently served as Chairman of the U.S. General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament from 1987-93. My remarks will address some the major policy issues raised by the nuclear test series conducted by India and Pakistan last month, and draw from an analysis of these developments, some implications and policy recommendations.

The India and Pakistan nuclear tests

The eleven nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan last month ended nearly a quarter century of nuclear ambiguity by India, and eliminated the last shred of doubt about the aims of Pakistan's nuclear activities underway since the early 1980s. In both cases, the test series is likely to be linked adapting a nuclear device to a specific delivery system (e.g. a ballistic missile) because both India and Pakistan already possess tested nuclear devices.

India tested a nuclear device in 1974. China provided Pakistan with the design of a nuclear device it tested in 1966 according to press reporting. As a result, neither India or Pakistan required nuclear testing to be assured that it had a nuclear device that would produce nuclear yield. Adapting the nuclear device to be used in a delivery system such as a ballistic missile or aircraft could require additional testing for safety and reliability purposes. The ability of both nations to test a significant number of devices in a short period of time suggests both an ample inventory of fissile material, and a scientific and industrial base able to support the introduction of nuclear-armed delivery systems rapidly.

Both India and Pakistan have recently tested advanced ballistic missiles making it likely that the nuclear devices tested are being prepared for specific delivery systems. Both India and Pakistan have several choices of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and tactical aircraft depending on the range required for their purposes. However, the most likely delivery systems for India and Pakistan's nuclear payloads are ballistic missiles rather than long-range aircraft or cruise missiles. None of the nations India and Pakistan seek to deter have ballistic missile defenses, but they do have air defenses. The general absence of ballistic missile defense is driving proliferators to favor ballistic missiles as the delivery system of choice for weapons of mass destruction.

Implications for international security of the India and Pakistan nuclear tests

The India and Pakistan nuclear tests have a number of serious implications for the international security environment. As further evidence becomes available, our understanding of both the direction of India and Pakistan's program may be achieved, and with it, our assessment of the implications may improve as well.

The counter-proliferation activities of the international community have not been successful, despite three decades of multi-lateral arms control and diplomatic efforts at bilateral dissuasion.

Both nations have developed an infrastructure for producing fissile material and ballistic missile delivery systems. The extreme poverty of both nations, and an interest on the part of other nations in acquiring nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles converge to produce serious incentives for further proliferation. Ironically, to the degree that economic sanctions are effective against India and Pakistan, they may produce a perverse outcome. A serious economic recession in either or both nations may have the effect of stimulating efforts to earn foreign exchange through the export of nuclear weapons or technology and ballistic missiles.

The exports of China and Russia of proliferation-enabling technology and hardware to South Asia has compressed the time required for both nations to develop and deploy a functional nuclear weapons capability. This has consequences outside of the South Asian region. For example, China sold medium-range ballistics missile to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. This missile was designed to deliver a nuclear warhead, although it is not generally believed that these were supplied by China. With Pakistan's successful test, the possibility of its readiness to transfer nuclear weapons to other users of Chinese missiles cannot be dismissed as a possibility.

The absence of a consensus among the major powers concerning the imposition of sanctions or other measures after-the-fact makes it less likely that other potential proliferators will be deterred from embarking on WMD or ballistic missile developments if compelling local or regional security concerns are present.

The high cost of a modern conventional defense is making the acquisition of WMD and ballistic missiles the least-cost security solution for some of the world's most impoverished states. The cost of developing nuclear weapons has declined by an order of magnitude in the past half-century, but appears likely to decline even more rapidly in the next two decades. These trends are likely to further stimulate WMD and ballistic missile developments by nations who perceive a nuclear capability to be in their interest.

Membership in strong mutual security agreements (e.g. NATO or US bilateral security arrangements) appear to be a more effective instrument for deflecting nuclear weapons aspirations than broad multi-lateral arms control agreements. Linking arms control behavior to mutual security arrangements appears to be the approach most highly correlated with non-proliferation behavior.

Implications for US counter-proliferation policy

The India and Pakistan nuclear tests reveal the limits of the counterproliferation activities of both the United States and the international community. Starkly expressed, US counterproliferation policy has failed, and we have no "Plan B." There is a legitimate argument over whether or not the US policy could have been successful in the long-term. However, it is now apparent that the underlying architecture of current policy will not permit the US to achieve its counterproliferation aims in the future. The proliferation of advanced industrial technology has made many aspects of the design and manufacture of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery widely accessible in commercial markets. Nuclear weapon design, development and manufacturing information has become widely available. To cite only one extreme example, a US environmental advocacy group, has published nuclear weapon design information on the Internet that can provide material assistance to a potential proliferator. The restraints of the Cold War period in China and Russia concerning the export of enabling technologies faded during the latter part of the Cold War, and have now largely evaporated.

The proliferation problem appears destined to become a more serious one for the United States unless it modernizes its counterproliferation strategy and policy. The subject deserves more a detailed discussion than is possible here, but I will offer a few of the contours of a modernized counterproliferation strategy and policy that could be helpful in coping with the consequences of the India and Pakistan nuclear tests.

US proliferation policy failed to integrate the local or regional security concerns of potential proliferators. Professional diplomats and analysts of regional affairs have long recognized that India could not accept the status quo of China's legitimate and exclusive regional possession of nuclear weapons. Pakistan's poverty, absent security support from another powerful nation, has driven them to offset India's military advantage through its own WMD and ballistic missiles.

A new policy needs to be able to distinguish between proliferators who are adversary states from those who are friendly. US counterproliferation policy has had perverse characteristics. North Korea, an adversary proliferator has been authorized to receive advanced civil sector nuclear power facilities, while such facilities have been denied to India and Pakistan who are friendly states.

The United States needs to provide access by friendly states to ballistic missile defense technology or hardware to offer an alternative to such states to obtaining WMD. US proliferation sanctions and restrictions have had a counter-productive impact. The Pressler amendment made Pakistan less secure and diminished the effectiveness of internal restraint on exercising the nuclear option. US pressure on India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) intensified their sense of nuclear isolation and vulnerability, and may have precipitated the test series. A modernized US counterproliferation posture needs to reflect these concerns and integrate them into the full range of policy instruments available to the President. These instruments should include such measures as arms transfers, diplomatic and military support, foreign assistance, and other measures. The President's inventory of instruments should be enriched, and not impoverished by offering sanctions as the only policy alternative to engage the proliferation problem.

The proliferation problem is a real one, but it has not emerged with the India and Pakistan test series. The problem has been developing for more than a quarter-century. The test series ended the basis for US complacency based on its efforts to implement a noble, but flawed policy. I urge the Congress to collaborate with the Executive branch to develop a modern, comprehensive, and flexible counterproliferation strategy and policy that will enable us to better cope with WMD and ballistic missile proliferation by friend and adversary.

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