A Conversation with Sam Nunn

Thursday, June 14, 2007

JAMES HOGE:  Good afternoon, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations luncheon meeting.  Let me just remind you of the usual modest constraints here.  Turn off your cell phones, BlackBerries and any other wireless devices.

This meeting, unlike many that we have here, is on the record.  And when we get to the question-and-answer period, I'd like those of you who have questions to put your hand up and then stand up, identify yourself and give us one nice, concise question at a time.  Thanks very much.

Now our speaker today is Sam Nunn.  Sam is co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a charitable organization working to reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.  Sam, as I'm sure all of you know, served as United States senator from Georgia for 24 years.

In addition to his work at NTI, Senator Nunn has continued his service in the public policy arena as a distinguished professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech University and as chairman of the board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Now, during his Senate years, Sam was responsible for a number of very major pieces of legislation.  And I'm only to name one because it is so relevant to today's topic.  It is the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which provides assistance to Russia and the former Soviet republics for securing and destroying their excess nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Please join me in welcoming Senator Nunn.  (Applause.)

SAM NUNN:  Thank you.  Thank you very much, Jim.  And I'm delighted to have a chance to be here at this great gathering.  And also I'm delighted to be here with my friend Pete Peterson.

My subject today is rather grim, but I think what -- we ought to at least entertain the possibility of letting Ted Sorensen give his roast of Pete again today -- (laughter) -- and at least at the end we can all go away laughing, rather than worrying about nuclear dangers.

Pete, I'm reminded, when I think about your role and what it has been -- and you're now going to be moving into another position, but I remember Griffin Bell, who was formerly attorney general and my law partner in the firm of King & Spalding in Atlanta when I was in the partnership -- Griffin says that there are two kinds of law partners who no longer work.  He says those who are gone but not forgotten, and the other type is those who are forgotten but not gone.  (Laughter.)

You're not going to be forgotten, and you're not going to be gone, because keeping you -- as Richard Haass and others have made it clear, keeping you involved in this organization is not only indispensable for the Council on Foreign Relations but, I think, indeed, for our nation.

And I'm excited about Blackstone, and I'm excited about the prospects that are coming in that regard.  But I'm also extremely excited about the enabling possibility that you are going to be tackling some of the most difficult, intractable problems in the world, through your generosity and/in?? your foundation.

So to Pete Peterson, I tip my hat.  I don't know of anyone who's been chairman of an organization that has done more, and I know you're going to continue to do that.  It's good to be with you.

On Veterans Day in 1948, at the dawn of the Nuclear Age, after the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, General Omar Bradley said in a speech -- and I quote him -- "The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom and power without conscience.  Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.  We know more about war than we know about peace, and we know more about killing than we know about living," end quote.

It might surprise General Bradley, if he were alive today, to know that we've made it 60 years without a nuclear catastrophe.  Thousands of men and women deeply thought -- thought deeply and also worked diligently on both sides of the Iron Curtain to prevent nuclear war, to avoid overreacting to false warnings, and to provide safety mechanisms and joint understandings to reduce risk.

During that era, we were good in the professional sense.  We were diligent.  But we and the Soviets were very, very lucky.  We had more than a few close calls, including the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, which everyone knows about; the 1979 scare, when a technician in Omaha accidentally loaded a simulated attack into our warning system, which very few people know about; the 1983 Soviet warning glitch, which falsely showed five nuclear missiles launched against it by the United States, which few know about.

We've had many other close calls.  India and Pakistan have already had more than one close call, and their nuclear era is just beginning.  Making it through 60 years without a nuclear attack should not, therefore, make us complacent.  In the future, it won't be enough to be lucky once or twice.  If we're to avoid a nuclear catastrophe, all nuclear powers, particularly if we see the continued increase of nuclear powers, will have to be highly capable, careful, competent, rational and lucky, not once but every single day, every single time.

We do have important preventive efforts under way, and some successes, including Jim has alluded to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which is ongoing, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which has been underway about three years, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Proliferation Security Initiative, the rollback of Libya's nuclear program, and U.N. Resolution 1540, which has all the right words but is a long, long way from implementation.

Now, these all mark progress and potential, but from my perspective the bottom line is the risk of a nuclear weapon being used today is growing, not receding.  The storm clouds are gathering.  Terrorists are seeking nuclear weapons, and there can be little doubt that if they acquire a weapon, there are some groups that would not hesitate for a moment to use it.  There are nuclear weapons materials in more than 40 countries around the globe, some secured by nothing more than a chain link fence.  And at the current pace, looking at it globally, it will be several decades before this material is adequately secured or eliminated globally.

The know-how and expertise to build nuclear weapons is far more available today because of an explosion of information and commerce throughout the world.  The number of nuclear weapon states is increasing.  Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs threaten to spark an arms race -- a nuclear arms race both in the Middle East and Asia.

A world with 12 to 20 nuclear weapon states will be immeasurably more dangerous than today's world and make it much more likely that weapons or materials to make them will fall into the hands of terrorists.  Our worst nightmare, the spread of nuclear capability to terrorist groups with no return address, many of whom don't care whether they live or die, and little way of being deterred, will become much more likely.

With the growing interest in nuclear energy, which I favor, a number of countries are considering developing the capacity to enrich uranium, ostensibly to use as fuel for nuclear energy, but this would also give them the capacity to move quickly to a nuclear weapons program if they chose to do so.  The New York Times recently reported that roughly a dozen states in the Middle East have turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency for help in starting their own nuclear programs.  Meanwhile, the United States and Russia, the nuclear giants, continue to deploy thousands of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that can hit their targets in less than 30 minutes, a short warning time, prompt launch capability that carries with it an increasingly unacceptable risk of accidental, mistaken or unauthorized launch.

The bottom line:  The accelerating spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how and nuclear materials has brought us, at least from my perspective, to a nuclear tipping point, and the world is heading in a very dangerous direction.

The greatest dangers of the Cold War were addressed primarily by confrontation with Moscow.  The greatest threats we face today --  catastrophic terrorism, the rise in the number of nuclear weapon states, increasing danger of mistaken, accidental or unauthorized launch -- we can prevent only in cooperation with Moscow, with Beijing, and many other capitals.  We are indeed in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.  We must change direction.

The good news -- and I believe this is good news, though not acted on, in many cases -- I believe that the security and economic interests of the great powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan, and India I would add to the list -- have never been more aligned in history.  As Henry Kissinger says, quoting him, "The great powers have nothing to gain by military conflict with each other.  They're all dependent on the global economic system," end quote.  Old rivalries should not keep us from seeing common interests.

Both leaders and citizens here and abroad must reflect on what's at stake.  There's a thin balance between alarm and basically shaky complacency.  But let me just share with you for a moment what would happen if al Qaeda had hit the trade towers with a small, crude nuclear weapon instead of two airplanes:

A fireball would have vaporized everything in the vicinity.  Lower Manhattan and the financial district would be ash and rubble.  Tens of thousands of people would have been killed instantly.  Those who survived would have been left with no shelter, no clean water, no safe food, and very little chance of any medical attention.  Telecommunications, utilities, transportation, and rescue services would be thrown into absolute chaos.  And that would have been just the physical impact.

If you were trying to draw a circle to make the overall impact of the blast in social, economic and security terms, the circle would be the equator itself.  No part of the planet would escape the impact.  People everywhere would fear another blast.  Travel, international trade, capital flows, commerce would virtually stop.  And many freedoms we've come to take for granted would quickly be eroded in the name of security.  The confidence of America and the confidence of the world would be shaken to the core.  From my perspective, again we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.

With these growing dangers and stakes in mind, George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger and I recently published, in January, an article in the Wall Street Journal that called for a different direction for our global nuclear posture with both vision and steps.  We said that U.S. leadership will be required to take the world to the next stage, to a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally.  We see that as a vital contribution to preventing their proliferation into dangerous hands, and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world.  We underscored the importance of intensive work with leaders of countries in possession of nuclear weapons to turn the goal of a world without nuclear weapons into a joint enterprise.  We made the point that terrorist groups are conceptually outside the bounds of what we've known as deterrence, and even among states, unless urgent new actions are taken, the U.S. will find itself in a nuclear era more precarious, psychologically disorienting, and economically even more costly than the Cold War.

The four of us, and many other former security leaders, including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a former head of the CIA, those who joined us, we're all keenly aware that the quest for a nuclear weapons-free world is fraught with practical and with political challenges.  As The Economist magazine wisely said last year in an excellent article, quoting that magazine, "By simply demanding the goal of a world without nuclear weapons without a readiness to tackle the practical problems raised by it, ensures that it will never happen."  End quote.

We've taken aim at the practical steps by laying out a series of steps that we believe constitute the urgent new actions for reducing the nuclear dangers and lay the groundwork for building a world free of the nuclear threat.

Specifically, we advocate:

Number one, the United States and Russia should move to change the Cold War posture of our deployed nuclear weapons to greatly increase the warning time in both countries, and the decision time, and to ease our fingers away from the nuclear trigger.

Number two, nuclear forces should be reduced substantially in all states that possess them, not just the United States and Russia.

Number three, we must eliminate short-range tactical nuclear weapons, the so-called battlefield nuclear weapons, the bombs most likely to be targeted for theft or purchase by terrorists, beginning on that quest with accountability and transparency bilaterally between the United States and Russia.

Number four, we must work to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force in the United States and other key states.

Number five, we must secure nuclear weapons and material around the globe to the highest possible standards.  And that's a mission that our organization, called The Nuclear Threat Initiative, has been working on for five years now -- six years now.

Number six, we must get control of the uranium enrichment process for civil nuclear fuel production.  We must phase out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce, and we must halt the production of fissile material for weapons everywhere on the globe.

Number seven, we must redouble efforts to resolve the regional confrontations that increase demand for nuclear weapons.  And we all know that's a lot easier said than done, but it must be done.

Number eight, we must enhance our verification capabilities.  President Reagan's credo of "trust, but verify" has been largely forgotten.  We must make at least as much effort in building verification procedures and using technology in intelligent ways as we are now making in the missile defense effort.  Now, I'm not saying dollar per dollar, but I'm saying focus, priority and front-burner on verification.  There's a lot that can be done in that area to improve.

The advantage here is that each step toward the vision will help us reverse the spread of nuclear weapons.  Each step is valuable not only for its ability to inspire greater cooperation, but for its own sake.  Each step represents a move in the right direction.  And each step reduces the risk of nuclear use.

None of these steps can be taken by the United States alone.  Strategic cooperation must become the cornerstone of our national defense against nuclear weapons and catastrophic terrorism.  This is not because cooperation gives us a warm feeling of community, but because every other method would fail, and I think that's pretty obvious today.

I have concluded that we cannot defend America without taking these and other steps.  We cannot take these steps without the cooperation of other nations.  We cannot get cooperation of other nations without the vision and hope that the world will someday end these weapons of mass destruction as a threat to the world.  The vision and the actions must go together; without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent, and without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible.

I recognize as much as anyone here that this cannot happen overnight.  It will be a long process, step by step, done in stages.  The United States must keep our nuclear weapons as long as any other nation does, but we will be safer and the world will be safer if we are working toward the goal of de-emphasizing nuclear weapons and ultimately ridding the world of them.

The vision of a nuclear-free world is not new.  In his memoirs, President Reagan wrote, quoting, "For the last eight years, for the eight years I was president, I never let my dream of a nuclear-free world fade from my mind," end quote.

In the 1960s at an earlier tipping point in the nuclear age, it was the vision of a nuclear-free world that pulled us back from the edge.  It came in the form of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  It was the grand bargain of the nuclear age, designed to limit the number of nuclear weapon states in the world.  The treaty was built on three fundamental premises and promises.

Number one, the Article VI commitment of nuclear weapon states to move toward nuclear disarmament.  Most people in the nuclear weapon states don't remember that pledge.

Number two, the commitment of non-nuclear weapon states to forego nuclear weapons.

And number three, the commitment that all nations shall have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

This treaty and its vision of a world free of nuclear weapons has been successful in keeping the number of nuclear weapon states below what almost anyone would have predicted or expected by the turn of the 20th century.  But today the treaty is in deep trouble, and all three pillars and all three promises are eroding in terms of perception.  In the eyes of its critics, the treaty has served to enshrine the nuclear weapons inequalities that existed on the day it was signed.  As they see it, those who had nuclear weapons on that day can continue to keep them, and those who didn't have them, tough luck.

There can be endless argument about exactly what Article VI means in the treaty and the timetable, and there is endless argument on that, but it must mean at least this:  Nuclear weapon nations must visibly and steadily reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons.  Today the world believes that they are not, and that belief has a clear and increasingly negative impact on our efforts to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons.  As last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, IAEA Director ElBaradei recently said, quoting him, "It's hard to tell people not to smoke when you have a cigarette dangling from your mouth," end quote.

Recently, former President Gorbachev endorsed the views expressed in our Wall Street Journal piece and stated, quoting him, "The members of the nuclear club should formally reiterate their commitment to reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons.  As a token of their serious intent, they should without delay take two crucial steps:  Ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty and make changes in their military doctrine in removing nuclear weapons from the Cold War-era high alert status," end quote.

I believe that the world should take up President Gorbachev's challenge.  I think it's long overdue for us to ask ourselves a question:  Is it, 16 years after the end of the Cold War, in the United States' national security interests, for the president of Russia to have only a few minutes to decide whether to fire his nuclear weapons or lose them in response to what could be a false warning?  I believe that the answer to this question is pretty clear:  That is not in our security interests.  I would hope that this question would be asked in reverse in Russia and that the two of us would begin to ask it together.

If both the United States and Russia altered their Cold War alert postures and significantly increase warning time and decision time for our leaders, we could dramatically reduce the chances of an accidental, mistaken or unauthorized launch.  The benefits of working with Russia to remove our weapons from what I call hair trigger alert would have benefits beyond reducing the risk we pose to one another.  If we remove our nuclear missiles from hair trigger and at the same time reduce our numbers of nuclear weapons, it will strengthen our fight against the spread of nuclear weapons around the globe.

Now this is not because our example will inspire Iran or North Korea or, for that matter, al Qaeda to say, we've now seen the light.  That's not going to happen.  We know that.  But because many more nations will be willing to join us in a firm and vigorous approach to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials and to prevent catastrophic terrorism, the power of this kind of international pressure is absolutely crucial.  If a strong coalition of nations band together, it can exert powerful economic, diplomatic and military pressure to prevent new nuclear weapon states and to make it much more likely that terrorists can get the materials they need and seek to build a nuclear weapon.

Now the reaction of many people, perhaps even most people, to the vision and steps that I've outlined to eliminate the nuclear threat comes in two parts.  On the one hand they say, wouldn't that be great?  And their second thought is, we can't get there from here.

To me the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons is like the top of a very tall mountain.  It's tempting to say and easy to say, we can't get there from here.  It is true, today in our troubled world, that we cannot see the top of the mountain.  But we can see that we're heading down, not up.  We can see that we must turn around and head in a different direction.  We can see that we must take paths leading to higher ground, and we must get others to join us.  We can see that there are trails leading upward.

We can work with the Russians to remove weapons from hair trigger alert and increase warning and decision time for both Russia and the United States, greatly improving the security of the citizens of both countries and indeed the world.  We can work with other nations to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world.  We can work harder and faster to secure and eliminate nuclear weapons materials that can be bought or sold by terrorists.

We can agree on transparency, accountability and near-term elimination of short-range battlefield nuclear weapons, a terrorist's dream.  We can greatly strengthen our verification capabilities.  We can redouble our efforts to ease regional confrontations which greatly increase the demand side of the nuclear equation.

All of these, yes, they're tough steps, but they are doable.  Once we get to higher ground, there will remain serious obstacles between us and the top of the mountain.  We must develop ironclad verification procedures and assurances for monitoring and enforcing a prohibition on nuclear weapons.  We must be able to respond quickly and decisively to any attempt to cheat.

Today it is very apparent that our capability and our focus in this regard needs both sharpening and strengthening, to say the least.  Now both the good and bad news is that given the big steps, that I've outlined, required to move upward, we do have time to work on the transition from the higher ground which we must reach to the top.  And it is not too soon to begin in a serious way to think about this.

Let me close with a parable of hope.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the United States began funding Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus in their work to dismantle the Soviet nuclear missiles and warheads that were in all of those former Soviet now independent countries, our country struck a deal called the U.S.-Russian Highly-Enriched Uranium Agreement.  Again, most people never heard of it, don't know about it.  But under this agreement, which was signed in 1993, 500 tons of highly-enriched uranium from former Soviet nuclear weapons is being blended down to low-enriched uranium and then sold and burned in nuclear power plants here in the United States.  Shipments began in 1995 and will continue through 2013.

When you calculate that 20 percent of all the electricity in our country is nuclear and 50 percent of the fuel for that nuclear power comes from Russia through this Highly-Enriched Uranium Agreement, you have a rather amazing fact.  Roughly speaking, 1 out of every 10 light bulbs in America today, including in this room, is powered by material that was in Soviet nuclear warheads pointed at us just a few years ago -- from swords to plowshares.  Now who would have thought this was possible in the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s or the 1980s?  Certainly it would have been seen as a mountain far too high to climb.

Nearly 20 years ago, President Reagan asked his audience to imagine, quoting him, "all of us discovered that we were threatened by a power from outer space, from another planet."  The president then asked, quoting again, "wouldn't we come together to fight that particular threat?"  After letting that image sink in for a moment, President Reagan came to a point -- to his point.  Quoting again, "We now have a weapon that can destroy the world.  Why don't we recognize that threat more clearly and then come together with one aim in mind:  How safely, sanely and quickly can we rid the world of this threat to our civilization and to our existence," end quote.  If we want our children and grandchildren to ever see the mountain top, our generation must begin to answer this question.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

HOGE:  Well, thank you very much, Senator Nunn.  That was a terrific presentation, very clear, a little chilling.  And now we're going to take some questions and answers.  If you want to come back up here, it'll make it the easiest.

Let me start with one.  If I read you correctly and hear you correctly, you think allowing Iran to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons is unacceptable not only because their hands are not particularly reliable, but that, in your opinion and of many others, it would really lead to an escalation of other countries wanting to get their hands, particularly, in that unstable region.

If it's unacceptable, do you think we can get a negotiated settlement?  So far we haven't been very good at it.  Are there things we should be doing that we aren't doing?  And if, by chance, we cannot get one, then what?

NUNN:  The first question, I don't know whether we can get an agreement with Iran.  The Iranian program has been going on a long time.  Every time I've been to Russia in the last 10 years -- until the last one or two because I learned by lesson -- when I met with the head of their -- what they call MinAtom, the head of their Atomic Energy Agency, I've said, "Why are you cooperating with the Iranians with the Bushehr reactor?  That's a danger to you as well as to us."  Well, that's like the old magic words.  He pulls out charts and goes through 30 minutes of all the things we did when the shah was there to help the shah with his nuclear program.

I learned not to ask the question because I got the same answer about four times.  In other words, this quest by the Iranians has been going on a long time.  It is not new.  It is alarming, it is dangerous, and I think the fact that there are a number of other countries in the Middle East that are now talking about, quote, "enhancing their ability to enrich uranium, working with IAEA," as I've cited The New York Times article, that indicates what's going to happen there if it happens.

So it is unacceptable.  The only way I know you can stop it is to have a much stronger coalition than we have right now.  I think the United States has to talk directly to the Iranians.  I've never understood the puzzling account of a philosophy that says you're punishing people that are doing things you don't want them to do by not talking them, particularly when you're bogged down in Iraq and we know that the military option is not a very feasible option at this time.

So getting a coalition together, thus discussing directly with the Iranians as well as discussing it within the coalition that is now working on this with the Europeans and others, getting the Russians to understand how much of a threat this is to them, making sure we're willing to cook our carrots and that we are also getting our allies, because we're willing to discuss directly and cook our carrots, so to speak, to sharpen their sticks -- it's going to take all of that, and it's also going to take countries in the region also being part of that coalition.  And it's going to take the Iranians understanding that countries in the region are going to have their own weapons in time if the Iranians continue on that course.

So carrots, sticks, discussion, alliances, much more vigorous diplomacy than we've seen yet, and making sure that countries are willing to put -- that come together in the coalition are willing to put both carrots and sticks as well as economic sanctions, which are a lot tougher than anything we've seen so far, and of course, the final resort, I would agree with those who say that you cannot in the final analysis take the military option off of the table.  It has to be part of the overall diplomatic, but it has to be last resort, and we have to be seen to have tried all the other things first before we do that.  That is absolutely essential.

HOGE:  Sam, on almost all the really big issues involved with trying to contain nuclear proliferation, the U.S.-Russian relationship and cooperation is absolutely essential.  I think that's a point you make a lot.  Now, at the moment, we have a relationship between the United States and Russia that is chilling rather dramatically, and we have a Russian president who is threatening an arms race if we continue with anti-missile systems in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Where do you see this going?  Is there some way to calm it back down?  How responsible are we for the chilling?  And if we can't, how much damage is this going to do to the nonproliferation agenda?

NUNN:  Well, I do not think the deploying of limited missile defenses in the Czech Republic or Poland is a threat to the Russian ability to deter and to respond to any kind of nuclear attack.  They have thousands of nuclear weapons.

Having said that, though, I think we have to understand -- Pete Peterson said to me a few minutes ago, "Isn't diplomacy about understanding where the other side is coming from, and then trying to mold things that relate to that?"  I think it is.  And we have to understand where they're coming from.

They've lost their empire.  One of their great claims to historical importance and relevance has been their empire; they no longer have it.  And they see NATO expanding step by step.  Now there's talk about taking in Georgia and Ukraine.  For the life of me, I don't see how you defend the Republic of Georgia, as much as we want them to be independent, we want both Ukraine and Georgia to be independent, but defending -- look at the map.  Are we going to go back to the Cold War where we threaten nuclear retaliation in the event there's any kind of an incursion?  I mean look at the military -- talk to somebody in the military about how you do that.  But that's what we're talking about right now.  Again, the American people are not paying a lot of attention to it, but Ukraine and Georgia are being talked about.  Ukraine doesn't want to come in at the moment.  Maybe Georgia doesn't either.

But we got to think about how does this affect Russia.  We've got to, at least in our deliberations, put ourselves in their shoes.  So I think that's the context of the Putin lash-out.

And I also think it's not coincidence that he's very popular in his own country.  I think the United States has lost a lot of credibility in the world.  I think we have got to begin restoring that credibility in the world.  We have got to do a lot of things that don't relate to security to let people know, including people in Russia, that we are interested in the welfare of the world, we're not simply so traumatized by 9/11 that we can see no one's interests but our own.  And that's not our view, that's not our history, that's not our value system, but that is the perception that is going on around the globe.  So this whole thing relates to perception.

I'm glad that President Bush has resisted the temptation of some advice he's gotten from people on the right and left in our political spectrum to basically kick Russia out of the G-8.  We've got people in the Congress calling for that.  Maybe they shouldn't have been in the G-8; you can debate that.  But now that they're in, to kick them out with all the things we got to work with them on, it makes no sense at all.  So Bush at least has that relationship with Putin.

The problem is, below Bush and below Putin, I've seen no evidence of any kind of institutional working on real issues that have real meat.  And as I outlined, we have a huge number of these issues that we have a mutual stake in, not just the nuclear issues, also the energy issues, also the environmental issues.  We ought to be dealing with Russia on all of those and not reluctant to criticize them when they do something we don't want.

But we are being perceived as thinking that once you have democracy, all the other problems go away.  And we seem to be perceived around the world as defining democracy as one election, two elections.  And democracy is a lot more than that, as we all know.  And we ought to be talking to countries not simply about elections, we ought to be talking to them about human rights, and we ought to be talking to them about the rule of law, the rule of law.

And so all of these things are part of the psychology of what we have to do in dealing with Russia, in my view.  But it is very important to deal with Russia not only on nuclear, but also on environmental.  They're also on the Security Council.  If we have to take action -- strong action against Iran, Russia will be very important in that.  All of these things mean to me that we ought to resist the impulses from the left and right to again make Russia the enemy.  We have a huge stake with them.

I haven't even talked about the biologic.  During the Soviet days, they basically devoted an enormous effort, in violation of the Biological Treaty, to weaponizing biological pathogens.  We need to get in the same tent with each other on the biological side.  We need to make darn sure that defensive efforts in our country on the biological side are not perceived as offensive efforts other places.  This means to me Russia-U.S. biological defensive transparency.  And so these are areas we need to work on.  This is not a day for the biological threat, but Judy knows this one pretty well, it's going to be -- loom as large in the future as the nuclear and we're going to have to deal with it.  But we need to get countries to cooperate on this and we need to do it now before the threat basically materializes.

So, long answer to a tough question, but I think it's an enormously important question.

HOGE:  Good answer.

(Ted ), did you have your hand up?

Ted Sorensen:  I did.

HOGE:  Mike coming on your left shoulder.

Ted Sorensen:  First, Senator, thanks for a truly wonderful, powerful speech.  I agree with almost every word.  I'd like to ask a multiple-part question, if I may.  I'll try to be very concise.

I think your most important point in many ways is we can't preach abstinence on tobacco with cigarettes dangling from our lips.  But when you say we can't take the military option off the table, we have thousands of cigarettes dangling from our lips.  And why isn't Iran going to say, we can't take the nuclear option off the table, either?  And why isn't one country after another going to reply to you, "We don't want to take the nuclear option off the table, either."

Now I want to lead to two specific points that I think you omitted and which I have a special interest because of what President Kennedy tried to do a long time ago.

One is, given this enormous, modern arsenal that we have, why do we need new nuclear weapons, in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and yet, for the last several years, there's been talk about a new nuclear weapon called the Bunker Buster; what's that going to do, destroy bin Laden's cave?  What is the purpose of that -- of our developing that weapon?

Second, President Kennedy, responsible for the moonshot and the space exploration program, found that space would be reserved for peaceful uses, and in the last several years, the previous secretary of Defense and others say, no, we're going to militarize space.  And I thought you might want to mention that in your review of the situation.

NUNN:  Thank you, Ted.

I hope I said take the military option off the table -- not take it -- I hope I didn't say not take the nuclear option off the table, because I do not think we need nuclear weapons to deal with the Iranian threat.  But I believe that diplomacy and military power go together, used correctly.  Every president that we've had in history that has basically been successful in diplomacy has done so with some confidence in the military -- implicit military capabilities.  That's where diplomacy works best.

But right now we are on the defensive diplomatically because we have used the military option, in my view, in Iraq at the wrong time, wrong place, without allies, without plans, without postwar plans and without the right kind of intelligence, so we have greatly dulled our credibility.  That does not mean, in dealing with the Iranians -- for instance, one of the things the Iranians, I think, would be interested in in any kind of serious bilateral discussion is us removing the military option.  Well, if you've already removed it before you sit down at the table, then you don't have a whole lot of leverage.

I think they'll also be very interested in us basically saying that, even though we may not like the regime and may never like the regime -- we may hate the regime -- that we're not going to destabilize it.

So those are options that you basically have to discuss at the table.  I would not take them off before sitting down.  And I also think, when I say "the military option" -- I'm not talking about just U.S., I'm talking about a group of nations that would not remove the military option from the equation.  So those are my reasons on that.

The question of new weapons -- I testified recently in front of the House subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the new weapon that is being sought by the administration and said that I thought if we develop that weapon, it would basically cause consternation among our allies and it would basically be greeted gleefully by our adversaries and would make proliferation around the globe much more difficult.  I don't think that we can look at our arsenal, our nuclear arsenal now and say that we have very many missing links in our potential for damage, and we also have conventional capabilities dramatically more accurate than they ever were, reducing the need for nuclear weapons.  I think that we have alternatives, and we ought to continue to work on those alternatives.

The militarization of space -- this is another area where we need to talk to Russia and China.  There are certain things that we rely on space for that are enormously important to commerce, and if we do end up militarizing space, I think it has a huge destabilizing effect on our economic system, so I think we need to avoid that.  Obviously, we already use space for a tremendous number of communications; we use space for good things in terms of military, like verification, so we have to have a carefully calibrated approach to the use of space.  And where I would draw the line is the difference between defensive capability, communications and intelligence and offensive weaponry.

HOGE:  Pete.

Peter Peterson:  Sam, I believe you said it had been nearly 15 years since Nunn-Lugar or something like that.  Is that about right?

NUNN:  That's right.

Peter Peterson:  At the time, I thought that there was great agreement that this was a top, top, top priority issue.  My impression is that our actual progress in getting those enriched materials under control is slower than we and you would have wanted.  Tell me what the problems are.  Is it money?  Is it lack of trust?  Is it the wrong processes?  Is it bureaucracy, or what is it that is causing this to go so slowly?

NUNN:  It's all of the above.

I have a way of -- a scorecard on about seven or eight different parts of the nuclear equation.  On the Nunn-Lugar scorecard, which -- for those of you who hadn't followed this, it was a use of U.S. defense dollars to begin with, now DOE, State and Defense, to basically help the former Soviet Union get on top of the nuclear, chemical and biological arsenals.  The inventory was spread over what, Jim, 11 time zones when the Soviet Union broke up.  And that program's been under way since 1991.  On a scale of 1 to 10 on the nuclear side -- 10 being high, good score, 1 being low -- I give it about a 6 now.  That's about where we are.  I would have hoped we would be up around 9, but we're about 6.  We have a long way to go.

The things that get in the way of it -- Congress put a lot of certifications required by the president, and he has to jump through all sorts of hoops every year.  Senator Lugar, God bless him, has tried to get rid of those.  I testified against them just recently again.  It just makes it more bureaucratic, because the certifications assume -- sort of like we've talked about not talking to people being punishment, it assumes that if we quit helping the Russians get control of their nuclear, chemical and biological weapons -- as well as the Ukrainians, Kazakhstan, Belarus -- that we're somehow punishing.  If it wasn't in our security interests, we shouldn't have done it.  It isn't foreign aid.  It's a security expenditure.  So those certifications are damaging.

The Russians still believe that we're spying.  The movie we made with Fred Thompson called "Last Best Chance," any of you want it -- it has had a powerful effect, we hope, on the education -- it certainly may have had an effect on Fred Thompson, too, the way it looks -- (laughter) -- because he's played the role of president of the Unite States.  (Laughter.)

In any event, we make it pretty clear there what the obstacles are.  It's the perception of spying.  It's the conditions we placed on it by the Congress.  It's the -- in the beginning -- it's no longer the case -- they were -- the local authorities wanted to tax the money we were putting in there.  So they wanted to tax the aid we were giving, the assistance.

So it's all of those things.  Mainly it's bureaucracy, and mainly, more than anything else, we don't have one person in the United States government responsible for it.  It's everybody's job.  It's nobody's job.  And in my view, the president of the United States has not put it on the front burner.

Under Clinton, Bill Perry put it on the front burner, as secretary of Defense.  It has not been on, in my view, Don Rumsfeld's radar screen.  The people working the issues are way down the line.  God bless them, because they're out there on the line doing it.

We've made more progress by far on the nuclear than we have on the biological.  On a scale of 1 to 10 -- again, my scorecard -- I give us on the biological scale, working with the Russia, trying to get some transparency, cooperation on the biological threat -- I give us about a 1 or 2 there, on a scale of 10.  So we have a long way to go on that one.

HOGE:  Sam, I believe Nunn-Lugar has a 2008 deadline to get the program all wrapped up.  If so, can we really make that?

NUNN:  I'm not aware of that deadline.  I think that was the original goal.  But right now it's appropriated every year, and they're continuing put money in it.  But we're not going to make the 2008 deadline.

And we haven't hardly started -- we have hardly started on the biological side.  We need, as I mentioned, biological transparency and accountability on the defensive efforts between Russia and the United States.  We are doing defensive efforts.  I believe that.  But other countries with suspicions might not believe that.

We have all sorts of suspicions about what Russia may be doing.  But if we were going to use biological weapons, or they were going to use them, it would have happened during the Cold War.

So we have every reason to be working together with them.  And the first time something happens in that sphere, we're going to all say, again, what is it we wish we had done before the crisis.  And my question is, why aren't we doing it now?

HOGE:  Okay.  I notice we've got 15 minutes left, and more hands are going up.  You've got everybody excited.  So let's try and keep them concise.  So far, you've been very good at this.


John Watts:  Thanks.  John Watts.  I was a former missile division officer on our flagship in 7th Fleet when we were -- I could have been ordered to roll out the red ones and use them in the jungle.  I'm glad I never did.  But I've thought about it a lot since.  I applaud the work you've done.

But my question is, how do we negotiate with the American people?  Because I think, as climate change shows us, if they change their mind, the Congress can be fairly adept at coming along, and the president might too.  Do you see, in the new Senate, in the new administration as you might imagine it, a chance for taking something that is as unlikely as putting a man on the moon and getting some presidential and congressional leadership based on a change in political views amongst the populace of this country?

NUNN:  I see some hope.  One, the Congress has continued, with the change of administrations -- even though it hasn't been on the front burner of this administration, they have continued to support the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction effort.

Number two, since the Shultz article came out, I've been asked to testify several times, and I've done that over in different committees on the House and Senate side.  I know that George Shultz has been asked, Henry Kissinger's been asked, Bill Perry, and they've done some of that.

Number three, I think it's just so apparent that our present course isn't working.  And I think that dawns on people.  But we really have a huge educational challenge, John.  There's no question about it.

Brooke Anderson, sitting here at the table, is our head of communications.  And Brooke came up with a great program about three years ago now where we basically put on a bunch of -- we didn't have much money, but we wanted to target this question about securing nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union.  We took a series of ads and made them.  I got Warren Rudman to do one, Pete, with me in New Hampshire, where he's from.  And we did a series of 30-second ads on radio and television in New  Hampshire and Iowa and got some real attention.  Didn't get national attention.  But before the primaries, almost every one of the candidates was basically using our language about securing nuclear material.

We don't think it was any coincidence at all that in that first debate between President Bush and John Kerry, that both -- Kerry said, and then Bush agreed, that the top priority was getting nuclear weapons and materials under control all over the globe and preventing catastrophic terrorism.  And President Bush said, "I agree."  I think that was their last agreement, but nevertheless -- (laughter) -- it was important.  We don't say that that was all of us.  We think it had some effect.

We think this movie had some effect, "Our Last, Best Chance," if anybody wants it.  No Academy Awards, but a pretty good low-budget movie, 45 minutes on the nuclear threat.  Real scenarios.  Fred Thompson, as I mentioned, played the role of president.  We put it out two years ago.  It got on HBO.  We had, like, 125,000 people request it, which we give it out free, if any of you want it.  So we think that has a real educational effect.

Three weeks -- four weeks ago we got a call from the Homeland Security Department saying they would like 4,000 of them to use as training tools, which we were very gratified.  A friend of mine made a speech to the Border Patrol in Mexico, their side of the border, showed the movie, and most of them had not thought about it.

So there are things we can do.  But those of us who have been writing op-eds and making speeches for all these years need to know -- need to understand we're in a visual world now and we've got to learn how to communicate visually.  And I think that would certainly apply to these problems.  We're thinking about doing a film with Shultz and Kissinger and Perry getting on record some of these thoughts in a visual way.  That's on our radar screen.

HOGE:  Jeff.

Q    Jeff Laurenti at The Century Foundation.  Senator, this flows, in a sense, from the last question, because paradoxically, the end of the Cold War resulted, it seems, in the dismantling not of the nuclear arsenal that had been built up in order to sustain that confrontation, but rather the anti-nuclear movements that had galvanized to try to force disarmament.  And in fact, "disarmament" is a taboo word, it seems, in Washington nowadays.  It is never part of the lexicon of either political party. And the one constituency left standing is the nuclear weapons labs.

To what extent is the existence of the weapons labs as the major organized constituency kind of the explanation for things like the bunker buster weapon?  And what do you see as the means by which what is this passive but very wide public support for nuclear elimination the polls keep turning up, but very passive, convertible into something the candidates both for president and members of Congress want to support?  How do you change the Senate dynamic?  And from there, do you think just the U.S. alone will lead the dominoes for the other nuclear weapon states to then begin to change their views as well?

QUESTIONER:  Jeff, good question.  I think we can lead and must lead.  Without U.S. leadership, none of this can -- will happen.  But I think it's very important for there to be no mistake in the minds of the American public; we're not talking about unilateral disarmament, we're talking about step by step up a mountain.  We're talking about building trust, we're talking about verification, and we're talking about nuclear powers moving together.  And we're talking about in the final analysis some kind of transition which we need people like John and those who have been in the military to think through how do we transition from the high ground to the top.  That's going to be extremely challenging and difficult.  I don't for one moment pretend it's going to be easy.

So all of those things are very important.

HOGE:  In the corner.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  Lane Green from The Economist magazine, also from Georgia -- not the Republic, but a former constituent of yours.

You said you'd like to get up to a nine on this, which still means that we're not quite there.  Even if we got to a 10, it's hard to imagine we'd ever be perfect.

So I wonder what you think about the notion of a strategic doctrine that if we can solve the technological challenge of fingerprinting a nuclear explosion, saying we know this bomb came from North Korea or Pakistan, making it our strategic doctrine to promise to retaliate against the source of the material, even if it was stolen or sold to a terrorist.

NUNN:  I believe that we're going to have to develop that capability.  I'm sure that our labs and others are working hard to try to be able to identify in real time, or as quickly as possible, the source of any nuclear explosion that goes off in America, or for that matter, in the world.  To do that you need cooperation because you need to be able to have samples of nuclear materials from different sources that have different identification capabilities.  But we're working very hard on that.  That will be enormously important.

But that doesn't solve the problem.  I mean, people -- I mean certainly you need every bit of deterrence you can, and we need to think through this carefully.  But let's say that a weapon goes off somewhere in the world -- let's go somewhere other than New York City; let's go to another country.  Let's say a city in France, just for instance.  It goes off in France.  We have a real-time capability to trace the data.  We trace it to a former Russian stockpile.  What do we do?  Do we assume at that stage we retaliate against Russia?  Suppose it came from a U.S. stockpile?  It could.  Missing material.

So yes, we need to do exactly that, we need to have real-time data, we need to send out the message, if we trace it to you and we can -- and you have to add a dimension that if we believe it's intentional, then there will be a response.  But boy, it's not as simple as saying that.

We've got -- in every country that has nuclear material, there's a lot of missing material.  Most of it, we hope, is through leakage in the regular system.  But it's not an easy world out there.  But it's a good idea.

And I'm glad that we have somebody from Georgia who now works for The Economist magazine.  I think that's terrific!  (Laughter.)

I want to mention one other thing on the nuclear labs.  I testified recently on the new MMW warhead -- I think -- I remember that's the name of it.  And I said that the labs have some of the most brilliant people we've ever had in the U.S. working in the U.S. government, a tremendous reservoir of talent.  We need to give them something to do other than build weapons.  (Laughter.)  They are doing other things, but people don't know about it.  And they need something to do because they are very effective in terms of not only what they do, but what they lobby for.  And one thing I would give them, if we can ever get this -- I'd give them the biological -- I'd give them a biological charge because they need that.  The whole question of verification -- I think we need to really spend a lot of time on verification.  Who's better at that than the labs?   So giving them something to do other than building weapons is a political but also security challenge.

HOGE:  Yes, ma'am?

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Lyndsay Howard, Howard Communications.  I wondered, Senator, if you could expound on the nuclear energy equation.  It's a double-edged sword with environmental impact and the security impact.  We also have the same difficulties with Russia that we've found in every other treaty; they exact such a high price for progress.  And meanwhile, they're not only helping Iran, but building a flotilla of nuclear reactors around the North Pole for deep-sea mining and other uses.  Could you elaborate?

NUNN:  Well, with our Russian friends, every time I've had a chance to be with them, I've told them that having any kind of barge anywhere around the globe, a mobile kind of nuclear reactor that moves around and uses highly enriched uranium, is very much against their interests as well as ours.  But they are thinking about some of that.

Again, people need to weigh in at very high levels, including the president.

You can do some of that with low-enriched uranium.  And certainly we should be getting rid of high-enriched uranium everywhere it is, including commerce.

What was the other question about -- ?

QUESTIONER:  Nuclear energy, and if you favor it.  We need it for clean, safe fuel.

NUNN:  I've seen a lot of energy presentations.  I do not pretend to be a great expert on energy.  But I have never seen one that shows how you fill the gap between where we are now and where we want to go, without greatly increase the pollution in our air, without nuclear energy.  I think it has to play a huge role.  And if we don't have -- if we just keep what we have now, percentage-wise, 20 percent in America, that will take a lot of rebuilding of plants over the next 20, 25 years, just to keep it at 20 percent.  Otherwise it goes down, and you're more reliant on fossil fuel, more reliant on natural gas, more reliant on coal.

If China and India, with their plans for expansion and energy, and they will be building a huge number of power plants.  If they use mostly coal, the world's in deep, deep trouble, because we're going to really -- whatever the global warming problems are now are going to tremendously multiply.  So, I think, whatever we do in this country, we need to encourage the safe and secure use of nuclear energy in China and in India and in other countries.  So I don't see any other way to move.

Now we've got to do geothermal.  We've got to do wind; we've got to do solar.  We've got to have major, major conservation efforts.  But this is not -- there's not a silver bullet in energy, in my view.  There are a lot of platinum pellets, and we're going to have to shoot them all.  It's going to take them all.

HOGE:  Yes.

QUESTIONER:  Herbert Levin.  Senator, thank you for your presentation, with which I agree.

The administration offered a nuclear cooperation agreement to India.  Basically, we solve their peaceful electric generating problems with equipment and fuel, thereby permitting them to devote all their resources to build more nuclear weapons and test if they want to.  What are your comments on that agreement?

NUNN:  Well, to show you my impact, I wrote an op-ed piece on that against it.  And as far as I can tell, it had no discernible impact whatsoever.  (Laughter.)

I thought it was a bad idea.  I think India's great, is very important.  I think U.S.-Indian relationship is very important.  I think India is a great power and needs to begin to be treated as one.  But I believe that basically supplying them with nuclear technology, when we're trying to get Iran and North Korea to not become nuclear powers, is precisely the wrong message.

Now if you were going to do it at all, I think you should have done it by saying that the U.S. and Russia -- I mean, U.S. and India will step up to the plate and lead the way jointly as part of this deal to cut off all fissile material, and India start by saying, we're not going to produce anymore.  And I think the United States would need to say the same thing, with verification procedures.  The administration position, our administration position, is that they're for a fissile material cutoff.  But like the biological they say, we can't verify, so we're not going to try to verify.

I mean, I think, that's throwing in the towel.  I cannot understand the Republican party of Reagan when he said, trust but verify, completely throwing in the towel on any kind of verification under any treaty.  And we have -- the verification procedures we have in effect now are going out of effect in another couple of years on the nuclear side.  So I was not in favor of the Indian treaty, even though I understand the importance of U.S.-Indian relationship.  I thought that was the wrong way to make a deal and precisely the wrong message to countries around the globe that have their own eye on a nuclear arsenal.

HOGE:  David.

QUESTIONER:  I'm David Robinson with -- (affiliation inaudible).

The work that you did -- spectacular success, I think, the Shultz-Kissinger-Nunn-Perry report.  But it seems to me that you need to go forward with some sort of international cooperation or something that -- have you had any ideas for future work in this area?

NUNN:  David, we do.  It's a work in progress, but we're talking about several things.  One is another conference out at Hoover in October, which would be primarily the U.S., but paralleling that with an international conference sometime early next year.

We're also talking about what we did in our foundation very successfully.  And that is, form a consortium of think tanks around the globe that dealt with nuclear material.  We found that to be extremely helpful in countries.  We still have it underway.  The -- we hope to do that in this vein, a consortium of think tanks.

We also are -- I would like to see a film made, this visual business, with Shultz and Kissinger and Perry and myself.  I mean, I think, I bring the average age down in this group about 10 years -- (laughter) -- and I'm 68.  So I have some sense of -- don't tell them, but I have some sense of urgency in this regard.  (Laughter.)

So anyway, we have all those underway.  Your point about international is absolutely right.

HOGE:  Last question, very brief, we're out of time.

QUESTIONER:  David Speedie, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.  Senator, the -- retraining our experts in the national lab sounds like Nunn-Lugar for the U.S., so I wholly endorse.

You know, the questions have been about at the national level.  But clearly what "Last Best Chance" has done, in your own remarks, has revealed that we don't need to worry only about the nation-to-nation level.  The rogue elements are there.  And I wondered if specifically -- there was a flurry of interest in Dr.  A.Q. Khan a few months ago, a year ago or so, on the Pakistani scientist.

Has there been any progress, either through NTI's efforts or beyond, that you know in unraveling in the A.Q. Khan network?  It's almost a John le Carre scenario, but it's a chilling one.

NUNN:  The question's on the Khan network.  I have not had any kind of classified briefing on this subject.  I try to stay away from the classified world these days.  There's a great advantage not to know anything about it.

But I -- my impression is, if you look at rolling up the network, on a scale of 1 to 10, I give that, you know, at least a six because we've stopped parts of it.  But in terms of knowing how far that network extended, in terms of getting intelligence from Khan himself, we haven't been allowed that access.  In terms of getting reliable intelligence through Pakistan, as far as I know, that's a big question mark.  So the network could have been a lot bigger than we've rolled up.  So I would say it's progress, but on a scale of 1 to 10, somewhere around six.

I was in South Africa -- and by the way, they still have a very large stockpile of highly enriched uranium -- and I was there about a year-and-a-half ago talking to them about that because I'd love to see them convert that to low-enriched uranium.  But nevertheless, the day arrived there was an article in the South African newspaper -- it's gotten very little attention here -- saying that two members of the Khan network had been arrested in South Africa.  What's happened to that -- it's kind of faded in the news -- I'm not sure, but nevertheless, the tentacles went way out and progress, but far from complete.

HOGE:  That was a terrific briefing.  Join me in thanking Senator Nunn.  (Applause.)











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