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What Does Disarmament Look Like?

PDF version of What Does Disarmament Look Like?

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Examples of Cooperative Disarmament

In recent years, there have been several notable examples of countries that have chosen to give up mass destruction weapons, and willingly cooperated with the international community to verify its disarmament.  These countries include:

High level Political Commitment

President de Klerk decided in 1989 to end South Africa’s nuclear weapons production and in 1990 to dismantle all weapons.  South Africa joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1991 and later that year accepted full scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Under the leadership of President Kravchuk and President Nazarbayev, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, respectively, ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation and START Treaties.  This created high-level political commitments to give up the nuclear weapons and strategic delivery vehicles they inherited upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

National Initiatives to Dismantle Weapons of Mass Destruction

South Africa, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan each charged high-level organizations with implementing disarmament.  In South Africa it was the Atomic Energy Commission and ARMSCOR.  In Kazakhstan it was primarily the Ministries of Defense and Atomic Energy.  In Ukraine it was mainly the Ministry of Defense.  Each of these organizations worked cooperatively with outside organizations -  for example, the IAEA in South Africa and the United States and Russia in Ukraine and Kazakhstan - to implement disarmament.

Full Cooperation and Transparency

The true measure of cooperation is to answer questions without being asked.  In each of these examples, weapons programs were disclosed fully and voluntarily.

South Africa began its disclosure with a declaration to the IAEA on its nuclear program, which was expanded over time.  South Africa allowed the IAEA complete access to operating and defunct facilities, provided thousands of current and historical documents, and allowed detailed, unfettered discussions with personnel involved in the South African program.

An IAEA article from 1994 sums up the cooperative South African approach to nuclear disarmament and IAEA verification:

“In the case of South Africa, the results of extensive inspection and assessment, and the transparency and openness shown, have led to the conclusion that there were no indications to suggest that the initial inventory is incomplete or that the nuclear weapon programme was not completely terminated and dismantled.  However, in the future, and without prejudice to the IAEA’s rights under the safeguards agreement, the IAEA plans to take up the standing invitation of the South African Government -- under its reiterated policy of transparency -- to provide the IAEA with full access to any location or facility associated with the former nuclear weapons program and to grant access, on a case-by-case basis, to other locations or facilities that the IAEA may specifically wish to visit.”

Given the full cooperation of both governments, implementation of the disarmament decision was smooth.  All nuclear warheads were returned to Russia by 1996, and all missile silos and heavy bombers were destroyed before the December 2001 START deadline.  The United States had full access, beyond Treaty requirements, to confirm silo and bomber destruction, which were done with U.S. assistance.

Both countries have also gone farther in disarmament than the NPT and START Treaty require.  For example, Kazakhstan no longer has strategic missiles and Ukraine is well on the way to giving up its strategic missiles.  Ukraine asked for U.S. assistance to destroy its Backfire bombers and also air-launched cruise missiles. 

In the early 1990s, Kazakhstan revealed to us a stockpile of more than 500 kg. of HEU, and asked that we remove it to safety in the United States.  It has also shut down its plutonium-producing reactor and is using U.S. assistance to ensure the long-term safe storage of the spent fuel.  Finally, Kazakhstan used U.S. assistance to destroy all nuclear test tunnels and bore holes -- a total of almost 200 -- at the former Soviet test site there.

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