Paul KerrFMCT: Geneva Ain't a Nice Place Off Your Face

Wade Boese enters the race with an excellent piece on the US opposition to FMCT negotiations.

Wade wrote about the FMCT/CD goat rodeo a few months back, but here he succinctly summarizes how China called the administration’s bluff:

The United States said for years that it would be willing to entertain talks on outer space in exchange for FMCT negotiations, but Beijing would not bite because it argued that the two subjects deserved equal treatment. Yet now that China has compromised and is willing to accept simply talks, “the Bush administration rejected it out of hand, effectively blocking any forward movement on an FMCT agreement,” explains Ambassador Robert Grey, who represented the United States at the conference from 1997 through 2001.

He also supplies a Bolton quote that I hadn’t heard before:

The concern is that talks could open the door for further action. Emblematic of this deep-seated sentiment is then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton’s July 2001 admonition that “from little acorns, bad treaties grow.”

The Administration claimed the FMCT couldn’t be “effectively verified”, but Ambassador John Carlson dissolves this argument. Also, check out this press roundtable featuring Robert Einhorn and David Albright’s thoughts on the subject.

ACT editor Miles Pomper and I asked IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei about the FMCT a few months back. A fan of the treaty, ElBaradei had this to say about the verification question:

ACT: Could you elaborate a little bit more on that? As you know, the Conference on Disarmament is divided on the question over whether a fissile material cutoff treaty is effectively verifiable, and you just mentioned verification. Do you think such a treaty could be effectively verifiable?

ElBaradei: To me, to verify a cutoff treaty means that we have to verify all enrichment/reprocessing facilities and look for any such undeclared activities, which we do now in other countries. Basically, we will have to do the same in all nuclear-weapon states and the countries outside the NPT (India, Israel, and Pakistan). So, I don’t see anything about the fissile material treaty—again, just off the cuff—that is different from what we do now in other places.

ACT: But those are obviously states you’re generally looking at now that are nuclear-weapon states, right?

ElBaradei: Yes, but it is the same technique. We would be looking at all the facilities that are capable of producing either plutonium or highly enriched uranium, which is no different from what we do now. I’m not looking into the stockpiles, as far as I understand the cutoff. We are basically looking at future production, meaning that the existing facilities are under verification, that there are no undeclared facilities. So, as I said, I don’t see why we should not be able to verify a cutoff treaty.

But anyway, a fissile material cutoff treaty obviously would facilitate very much the question of management of the fuel cycle in the future because then at that time, if you have a universal cutoff, every enrichment plant in the world, every reprocessing plant in the world, would be under verification. Then it’s much easier to say, “Is that enough, or should we also have a multinational approach?” Right now of course, you have fuel cycle facilities in the military sector that are completely outside any verification at all, let alone multinational verification or multinational oversight.

But with the Bush administration’s attitude, my utility belt tells me it’s to the bar, Batman…

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