Dr. Ashton B. Carter
Photo by Mike Casey
PDP Co-Director Ashton B. Carter Participates in Forum Event at Kennedy School with Ambassador Robert G. Joseph: “Can the U.S. Save the Non-Proliferation Regime?”
November 13, 2007
Author: Robin Olsen
Cambridge, MA - On Tuesday, November 13, 2007, Dr. Ashton B. Carter, Co-Director of the Preventive Defense Project, participated in a moderated question and answer with Ambassador Robert G. Joseph titled "Can the U.S. Save the Non-Proliferation Regime?" The Forum was co-sponsored by the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Harvard International Affairs Council, and the Kennedy School of Government Women in International Security. Ambassador Robert G. Joseph served as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (November 2004 - March 2007) and in the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation and Homeland Defense (January 2001 - November 2004). The moderator for the discussion was Eric B. Rosenbach, the Executive Director for Research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The questioners were current and former Kennedy School students, Jason J. Blackstock and Manjana Milkoreit.
The formal question and answer session covered five topics: (1) what do you see as the future for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime in five years and in ten years and how important is this future to the security of the United States of America; (2) what has been the impact of America's recent nuclear posture on international perception of the U.S. commitment to disarmament and how has this potentially weakened the regime itself; (3) what impact has the historic support of the U.S. for treaties, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and START II, but the recent and current disengagement from these treaties had on the NPT regime; (4) what have been or will be the consequences of the U.S. - India deal on the non-proliferation regime; and (5) does the history of engagement and disengagement and the current deal with North Korea establish the precedent that proliferators, such as Iran or North Korea, will actually be much better off once they have obtained nuclear weapons, and what has that done to the regime?
Key points from the discussion included Dr. Ashton Carter's opinion that in five or ten years, there is a 75 percent chance the NPT regime will be healthy and working well. He stated that the erosion of the regime, apart from Iran and North Korea, comes from two points of view. One critique comes from countries without nuclear weapons who find the United States possession of nuclear weapons problematic and, second, some Americans believe that the Treaty regime is pointless since rogue regimes will not sign it or follow it. Both critiques miss the mark. In terms of the impact of the U.S. not disarming, Ambassador Joseph stated that the U.S. has a positive record through its drawing down of nuclear weapons and should continue to do so as long as it aligns with American defense and deterrence requirements. He believes that the U.S. will continue to require nuclear weapons as part of the defense posture, but that the nuclear weapon component will continue to be less prominent than it was in the past.
Dr. Carter and Ambassador Joseph disagreed about the prospects of the U.S. revisiting arms control negotiations with Russia and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Generally, Dr. Carter believed that arms control is a useful component of combating weapons of mass destruction and can be important. While he thought that it would make sense to "go one more round" with Russia to reduce the number of weapons, Ambassador Joseph was less inclined to think that would be helpful. Regarding the CTBT, Dr. Carter stated that since the U.S., as a practical matter, will no longer test nuclear weapons, the CTBT probably does have a future. Ambassador Joseph believed that there still may be some need to test nuclear weapons to maintain U.S. nuclear weapons, while Dr. Carter maintained that improvements with technological verification and the stockpile stewardship programs may eliminate the need for testing.
Both Dr. Carter and Ambassador Joseph agreed that the India deal was the right decision. However, while Ambassador Joseph believed it was a "non-proliferation plus," allows India into the mainstream of the NPT regime, and allows the U.S. to change its strategic relationship with India, Dr. Carter argued that it was a trade-off of non-proliferation for a better U.S. - India relationship. Lastly, in the discussion over the ramifications of North Korea negotiations on the regime, Dr. Carter pointed out that it was an example of the failed strategy of "tough talk and weak action," while Ambassador Joseph emphasized the history of North Korean's history of cheating on previous agreements and advocated increasing pressures on North Korea's illegal activities, including proliferation.
This Forum event may be viewed in its entirety at: http://ksgaccman.harvard.edu/iop/events_forum_video.asp?ID=3148.
For more information about this publication please contact the PDP Associate Director at 617-495-1412.
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