Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top advisor to President Obama on defense and nuclear issues, joins Robert L. Gallucci of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to discuss the upcoming third Nuclear Security Summit, to be held in The Hague. Sherwood-Randall credits these summits with focusing attention on the importance of securing nuclear material in order to counter the threat of terrorism. She says that the summit provides a venue for the sharing of best practices and creates positive peer pressure for states to do more.
GALLUCCI: Liz, can you hear me?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I can, thank you.
GALLUCCI: That's good. I hope this is at least as weird for you as it is for me.
So I think as everybody knows, the plan is for me to do a brief introduction to Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, and then she will make some opening remarks, then I will ask the initial few questions, and then it'll be open to members.
So without further ado, I know you all have her bio. I will hit some high points which I think are relevant. Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall is now the White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control. She had been on the NSC staff as senior director for European affairs before this current position, and in that capacity most recently worked on North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, issues, European Union issues, as well.
Before joining the Obama administration, Dr. Sherwood-Randall was a senior fellow here at the Council, as well as a research scholar at CSAC out at Stanford. She had been in the Clinton administration, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, and in that capacity, she worked on such topics as Ukraine and Partnership for Peace, or P for P as we knew it in government. She worked particularly on the denuclearization of Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. So I say, parenthetically, how lucky could we be?
She has also been adviser to then-Senator Joseph Biden. She has a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and a D.Phil. from Oxford University.
Liz, I turn it over to you.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you so much, Bob. And to all my friends and colleagues there, I'm really sorry that I'm not sitting in the chair next to you. I had fully intended to be there. The flights out of both Dulles and National were canceled this morning. We had over six inches of snow between midnight and 5 a.m., and none of the planes could leave.
And unfortunately, given events in the world, I wasn't able to come up to New York last night, so I thank you for letting me do this, this way. This evening, I also leave with the vice president for his trip to Poland and Lithuania. And so the best solution we could come up with was to do this from the Sit Room. And actually, it's not so weird for me, Bob, because we do a lot of this, not with outside groups, but with lots of colleagues and counterparts around the world, both U.S. government and also our allies and partners.
So the one offer I will make, if it's any consolidation, is I'd be glad to come up after the Nuclear Security Summit. I assume the weather will be better in spring and give you a readout of what we accomplished and the goals we've set for the next summit.
As most of you know, and as Bob said, I've worked at the Council several times. I really consider it an intellectual home, and, indeed, many of the ideas I've brought into the Obama administration with me were germinated and generated in my time as a senior fellow at the Council, so I'm very grateful for all that the Council has done to support my work over many years.
And I'm also very appreciative of your invitation to speak today on this subject of the Nuclear Security Summit. And I have to say that I think it is -- for all those of you who've taken the time to come, I'm very grateful, because it's easy for this topic, which is rather nerdy, to get drowned out by missing airplanes and the dramatic events in Ukraine and lots of other news. So thank you for coming to talk about this, because this agenda of this summit is actually of urgent importance to all of us. And it doesn't get addressed in any other leaders forum on Earth.
President Obama launched a Nuclear Security Summit process in his Prague speech in April of 2009 and convened the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 in Washington and then attended a second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in 2012 and now will travel this Sunday night to The Hague, where he'll participate in the third Nuclear Security Summit next Monday, a week from today, and Tuesday.
And he's doing so because he has made the security of nuclear materials, the highly enriched uranium and plutonium that are the essential building blocks of making nuclear weapons, one of his highest global priorities. That's because we know that getting this material is the hardest part of building a nuclear weapon. And therefore, we need to keep this material out of the wrong hands. You don't need very much to make a bomb. The public estimates are that you need eight kilograms of plutonium or 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, and that stuff is all over the world.
So the focus of this process and all the work that goes on in between the summits is to increase security at nuclear material storage sites all around the world, civilian and military, to counter nuclear materials smuggling, and to prevent nuclear terrorism, full stop.
And it's worth noting that between Washington and Seoul, 90 percent of the goals that were set at Washington got accomplished. Now, those goals were an initial set of goals, and there's lots more to be done, but summarizing the progress of the last four years quickly, 12 countries and two dozen nuclear facilities around the world have rid themselves of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, dozens of nations have boosted the capacity they have to protect their nuclear storage sites, build counter nuclear smuggling teams, and created new centers of excellence to increase training and improve their nuclear security performance.
The IAEA is stronger, and it is focused on this mission, as well, to a greater degree. Indeed, it hosted its first-ever ministerial-level Nuclear Security Summit last summer. And there is work being done to implement a series of treaties that are important to global cooperation in stopping the proliferation of this material and its getting into the wrong hands.
But we've got lots more to do. And so we set our sights on a new set of goals for this summit that will take place next week. One of the important factors in the growth of the summit process has been the emergence of a network all around the world of officials who are seized with this, mandated to work on this every day. There's a sherpa community. I have 52 colleagues around the world. Each of them has an interagency delegation that supports their work. And we're now in touch by e-mail, by video teleconference, in person regularly, so I'll wake up in the morning and have e-mails from my Pakistani counterpart, my Chinese counterpart. It's a very unusual community of people who are focused on this nuclear security mission, and that community has never existed before this summit process.
For this upcoming summit, we will focus on enhancing nuclear security performance in every country that's participating, deterring and apprehending nuclear traffickers, eliminating excess weapons material, avoiding production of materials we can't use, making sure facilities can repel the full range of threats they may face, and we have some experience in that recently in our own country, which we talk about candidly with our colleagues so that they understand that we ourselves face challenges and nobody should feel above the threats that may present themselves. And we try to emphasize the point that this is an ongoing project. So long as nuclear materials exist, this work will never be done.
So when my teenage son recently asked me, so why do you have to have summits? I mean, it sounds like this work is really important. Why don't you just do the work and leaders don't have to get together once in a while? And I explained to him that summits are action-forcing events, and essentially leaders, as those of you who worked in government know, are motivated to be proud in front of their peers of what they've accomplished, and that pressure to look good, that peer pressure literally is what motivates states to act.
And we have been able as a result of the summit process to get countries to step forward and do far more than they would ever do with the pressure of a summit where leaders will sit around the table and present in front of one another what they have achieved, consistent with the goals that they have set.
So at this summit, watch this space. I cannot get ahead of the national statements that will be made by leaders, but there will be several countries that will step forward with significant removals of HEU and separated plutonium. These are in summit lingo called house gifts, what nations bring to the party. And these are going to be very significant announcements early next week.
We'll work together to continue building the global nuclear security architecture, which will be very important to sustaining this process beyond summits. And we'll be working to build more momentum on a concept called assurances, which is essentially creating a group of countries who model best practices and who demonstrate to one another the best, the highest form of excellence in nuclear security in order to model for others and assure others that they are doing all that needs to be done to secure their material at home.
There will also be gift baskets at this summit. That was -- that's another piece of summit lingo, and that means that countries that band together around a particular project that they believe is important and want to work on collaboratively, collectively. And in sum, the house gifts and gift baskets that will be presented in The Hague include, as I noted, returning excess U.S.-origin HEU and separated plutonium from a number of countries to the United States; improving security at civilian and military nuclear facilities; working together to convert research reactors from the use of HEU to the use of low-enriched uranium, which is non-bomb-making material; strengthening the security of radiological sources, something that we're championing this year; increasing port and border security, which is an important new initiative, as well; and, finally, continuing work on countering nuclear smuggling, where we have a very strong group of countries that is working together, led by Jordan, to advance that goal.
"[S]ummits are action-forcing events, and essentially leaders, as those of you who worked in government know, are motivated to be proud in front of their peers of what they've accomplished, and that pressure to look good, that peer pressure, literally is what motivates states to act."
One of the most interesting aspects of this summit of which the Dutch have innovated is that there will actually be something like an exercise for the leaders who will participate. It's called a scenario-based policy discussion. And that will include a series of videos that leaders will be presented with, with a fictitious nuclear security incident, and they'll be asked to consider among the group of leaders what they would need to do both nationally and internationally if faced with such a crisis. And this will be moderated -- chaired and moderated by the Dutch prime minister and give leaders who don't necessarily exercise as often as our leader does the chance to think about what needs to be done in advance, not only to prevent an incident, but also to prepare should one occur.
Finally, I'd add that on the second day of the summit, next Tuesday, the leaders will meet in a leaders-only format to talk about the future of the summit process. And there, President Obama will lead the discussion. President Obama has offered to host a summit in 2016 -- he announced that in Berlin in June of 2013 -- because he assessed that this work would clearly not be done and the international architecture would not be strong enough to hand the summit process off. So we will be talking -- the leaders will be talking in that session about the goals that we want to set now for 2016 and how we can be ambitious in pushing this agenda forward.
With that, Bob, I think I'll stop, and I look forward to a conversation with you and then with those in the audience. I don't know if I'm going to get to see the audience, so please say who you are when you're speaking to me so I can know who I'm interacting with. Thank you.
GALLUCCI: Thank you, Liz, for that. That was a great introduction. I think I'd like to start by asking you to tell us, if you can, a little bit more about just the topic you're focused on, which is the summit. The concept of the gift basket, I wonder if -- if, as I listened to you talk about what had been accomplished, there was a lot of reducing of threats and enhancing of capabilities. I wonder if you could do some specifics, maybe referring to our gift basket. What are we going to go with? I recognize there may be some surprise quality to a gift, but anything you...
... anything you could tell us about the substance of what we're after. And particularly, if I can have a special focus here, I have heard that we may be looking for some kind of institutionalization of standards that we may be looking for a regime of some kind, and I wonder if there's anything to that, and if you could -- if there is, you could tell us about it.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Bob. You're right that I can't say -- I can't describe specifically who is going to be doing what together, because for those who think this is exciting, I can't get in the way of the announcements that they will make. I realize, again, as I noted for some people, this isn't a titillating summit, but for others, it captures their attention.
So I will say that you're right about the interest in long-term in thinking about the kinds of behavior that would first become what I would describe as norms and ultimately could lead to the emergence of a regime. What we're aiming toward -- and I mentioned this when I described the work we're trying to do on assurances -- we're aiming to gather countries together who want to demonstrate excellence in nuclear security practices and to begin to quantify what that entails and have agreement about it.
As you know, nuclear material is a crown jewel for countries. Countries that have military material in particular are very sensitive about any discussion of their material. And what we're trying to do in this complex multilateral setting, which includes many countries who don't necessarily -- who don't normally work together in a format like this, to develop agreed-upon activities that would provide that kind of assurance, as I noted, demonstrate excellence, and ultimately grow a core group of countries that live by those standards, and then optimally incentivize, motivate others to do the same.
The long-term goal of this whole effort is to strengthen the nuclear security architecture, which includes the institutions, like the IAEA and WINS and others, and the norms, and the treaties and agreements, and the relationships that undergird all of those so that we do have ultimately a strengthened capacity internationally to ensure that all of this material remains safe and secure.
GALLUCCI: Liz, when the first summit was held in Washington in 2010, some people who do find all of this exciting and think of nuclear terrorism as one of the most exciting things you can think about, were unhappy that there was a pretty concentrated focus on highly enriched uranium, one kind of fissile material, but not much focus on plutonium, another kind of fissile material.
So I wonder if you would parse the effort a bit in your own mind about what we're aiming to do -- U.S. particularly -- at this summit on two parameters. One is the military-civilian parameter, because roughly 85 percent of that fissile material is in military stockpiles and the other 15 percent civilian energy stockpiles. So how much emphasis is going where on that parameter?
And then the other parameter is the uranium and plutonium. Maybe 75 percent of the fissile material is highly enriched uranium and 25 percent is plutonium, but these are very large numbers, over 1,000 tons of material we're talking about spread over the world.
So as you think about these two things, military and civilian, plutonium and highly enriched uranium, is there a core or a center of gravity for our efforts here, in terms of our policies?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Very good questions. On the military-civilian piece, this is, as I noted, something very hard to persuade countries to talk in a public format with 52 others and international organizations present about their military materials. Nevertheless, we have driven a discussion about capturing military materials in this process, and we are the most forward-leaning of any country in that regard. We're very interested in doing this.
The British are quite supportive. We then get into other countries that have military materials that are more uncomfortable, and we will likely work between 2014 and 2016 to define a new initiative to address military materials.
One of the things that has grown out of this process that has been very useful has been a tremendous amount of bilateral work that we do individually with countries to secure their materials, to help them develop the capacity to take care of what they have. And so while that does not happen in the summit space, and it certainly doesn't happen in the public domain, this has given us an umbrella under which to do some very sensitive nuclear security cooperation with countries that gives us greater assurance about their practices, which makes us all more secure.
On the subject of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, there isn't a discrimination in this -- in our view between what we should prioritize and what we should not. And we work very actively with countries depending on what they possess to discuss how we might dispose of, if not secure their material.
And I think you'll see in this upcoming summit some good results on the front -- on the plutonium front, as well as on the highly enriched uranium front. And I'd also note that we have continued to be very serious about the pursuit of the disposition of our very large stockpile of plutonium. And we have a significant agreement with the Russians, which it's very important that we advance.
For those of who follow this, this is a challenging undertaking, and the facility that has been anticipated for the disposition of plutonium, the MOX facility, has had tremendous delays and cost overruns, and our secretary of energy has decided he wants to re-look whether this is the most efficient and cost-effective way to dispose of our plutonium without in any way questioning the underlying commitment which we retain and the Russians are committed to dispose of this large stockpile of plutonium.
GALLUCCI: Since, Liz, you -- as they say on TV courtroom shows -- opened the door here, let me just ask you to square a circle here, and that is the -- our concern at this summit, along with a lot of other countries, about securing this material and fuel cycle choices that are apparently hanging fire, so to speak, in places like Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, to name three. And if one were concerned about fissile material stockpiles growing, as opposed to shrinking, one could see this and these decisions in these three countries without meaning to exclude the others, but just focusing on these three, as potential game-changers, meaning if the back-end decisions are to reprocess rather than to follow our recommendation from the blue-ribbon commission and dispose of spent fuel, but to reprocess and separate that plutonium, we're talking thousands of kilograms, tons of plutonium in circulation around that we could try to secure down to the level of, you said, eight kilograms.
So how do you -- what do we do about that? I mean, how do -- if we have this objective, this policy objective which we're pursuing through the summit process, and we have these countries making these decisions over here, do these things ever come together?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Not in the summit space, but we do a tremendous amount of work on this issue with each individual country. We have sought to remain both commercially competitive with our nuclear industry and to have guidelines with regard to the view we have that countries should not have an enrichment and reprocessing capability that enable us to do work collaboratively, set high standards, be the purveyor of capability to generate energy, and at the same time ensure that countries follow a path that don't add to the dangerous stockpiles around the world.
So that's probably a whole separate CFR lunch discussion, but it's a very important piece of our agenda and one we're working not only with some of the countries you mentioned, but with a number of others around the world.
GALLUCCI: So I'll ask one other question which I think you could have anticipated along the same lines, and that is that we now know that there are going to be budget cuts everywhere, but there are going to be some pretty sharp cuts at the Department of Energy, just where the folks work on the nuclear terrorism issue and work on the issue which is at the heart of this summit. How do these match up?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, first of all, you're right. This was a pretty rough budget cycle, and every agency took big cuts. And I did have responsibility for working through the budgetary requests that came both from DOD and DOE on this front.
And our judgment is that we have been able to ensure that the priority initiatives that DOE is responsible for in the nonproliferation arena are supported and supported at a level sufficient to meet the president's priorities in those domain. And as I noted, this is one of his highest priorities.
So, first of all, some of the cuts relate to what I already noted with this, which is the way in which we're going to handle the domestic disposition of plutonium and the placement of the MOX facility in cold standby until we sort out how to proceed.
Second, funding reductions were anticipated because we front-loaded the NNSA budget in the first four years of the administration and achieved a lot in HEU and plutonium removals in the previous three years. So there isn't a requirement right now to fund at the level that these programs were previously funded.
Nevertheless, we have the money in there to do the work we need to do to remove and dispose of excess nuclear material, to fund the security upgrades that I talked about both domestically and also in our work with allies and partners around the world, to retain the resources we require for important projects we're doing on countering nuclear smuggling, and to support the security and removal of high-priority radioactive sources inside and outside the United States.
So I'm confident -- I mean, nobody emerged unscathed from this round, and we would like to see the next round be less brutal, but we can't predict anything, so we think we have protected what we most needed to protect.
GALLUCCI: OK. I want to switch ground, if we can, and go to what's clearly a topic that's like the others, but even maybe more so in your wheelhouse, as they say, and that's Ukraine and the nuclear issue. So, first, at the summit, I assume that Putin will find time to come and that our president will be there. Are they going to be meet? Is the current crisis in Ukraine going to impact what it is they say to each other? Are they, in fact, going to meet and say things to each other? Can you say something about that?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, the president spoke to President Putin yesterday and was very, very clear in his expression of his displeasure about what happened in Crimea, with an illegitimate referendum, and warned against the consequences of proceeding forward with annexation. We never anticipated that President Putin was going to come to The Hague. We've known for quite a long time that he wouldn't attend long before the most recent events. And we know that Foreign Minister Lavrov will represent Russia, and we don't anticipate a bilateral meeting between the president and Foreign Minister Lavrov.
As you know, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov have a quite open channel of communication, but we do expect the Russians to continue the important work that we do with them in this context unabated. And I'll just note that the deputy defense minister stated over the weekend, I believe it was -- might have been earlier than that -- that the Russians fully intend to fulfill their commitments under New START, which we had indicated was very important, and there should be no pause, and we have a lot of work underway behind the scenes on nuclear security with the Russians at a technical level between our experts, which we expect will proceed forward.
GALLUCCI: Now, Ukraine got some special assurances when they gave up their nuclear weapons on their territory, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan. Ukraine has Ukraine-specific assurances. What's the -- of their security -- what's the status of those assurances in terms of our perceptions and, actually more relevantly, maybe Russian perceptions?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: First of all, I'd just note Ukraine has been a very important leader in the nonproliferation domain since its independence in 1991, when it became independent, in 1994, when it gave up its nuclear weapons. And the assurances you're referring to, of course, are codified in the Budapest memorandum, which was signed by the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom, as depositories of nonproliferation treaty.
And this document committed those three countries to ensuring that Ukraine would not be threatened with nuclear use and that we would support Ukraine's independence. And so we have conveyed, of course, to our Russians our views about their behavior, as I already noted in the most recent conversation with the president, but long before that, that they are not living up to their commitments under this memorandum.
Ukraine's commitments to the nonproliferation treaty do not legally depend on the Budapest memorandum, but our commitment to Ukraine grows out of the work we did in the lead-up to the singing of the Budapest memorandum and beyond, in which we have viewed Ukraine as an important partner. It has joined the Partnership for Peace at NATO, and we've done a whole series of exercises with Ukraine, worked with the Ukrainian military on modernization and reform, and sought to assist Ukraine in being able to contribute to multilateral missions when it chooses to do so.
"[W]e do expect the Russians to continue the important work that we do with them in this context unabated."
And so our view is that in light of what has happened, we will enhance our engagement with Ukraine and continue to do everything we can to support its sovereignty and territorial integrity, its viability as a democracy. We'll support the elections that are slated for later this year. And we expect those signatories to the memorandum to do the same.
GALLUCCI: Have the Russians indicated that they believe the obligations of that agreement still obtain?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: As you know the Russians have a different view of what has happened in Ukraine, and so they are questioning the legitimacy of the current leadership, rather than referring back to the Budapest memorandum. And this will be an ongoing subject of discussion with the Russians. You know that this morning we have rolled out a series of additional sanctions to raise the cost to Russia of the actions it's taking in Ukraine and to try to steer Russia onto a more constructive course vis-a-vis Ukraine's future.
GALLUCCI: So changing ground just one more time here, among the things we worry about in the nuclear terrorism field is the transfer, as well as the leakage of fissile material, the transfer being harder for us to imagine, but there have been cases of this. The North Koreans actually built a plutonium production reactor in Syria, and it was only through the rather special nonproliferation action of the Israelis that that facility was squashed.
And some people, when they think about the Iranian case and worry about dominoes in the region, they also worry when they think about Iran as a provider of conventional arms to groups we regard as terrorists, anyway, whether the accumulation of material there might not lead to transfer. So that raises the natural question of the relevance of our policies to these two countries – there are others, but we can start with these two -- the relevance of our policies with those countries to our nuclear security goals. How are we doing with Iran? And what's the plan if we don't meet the deadline? And how about North Korea? That's kind of like, how 'bout them Yankees?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So those are two...
GALLUCCI: But, still, you know...
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Bob. Having worked on this extensively, you know -- OK, I'll start with Iran, where we have a process underway that holds out the promise, if the Iranians are serious about the negotiation of reaching a constraint that is very significant on the Iranian nuclear program, and we won't know the outcome for many months. Our negotiating teams are going back and forth. We have almost -- I mean, it feels like it's near continuous. We have experts who meet for several weeks at a time, and P5-plus-one political directors meet, foreign ministers periodically participate in that process. Somebody who works directly for me is with that negotiating team.
And I wouldn't take a bet on it. The president said 50/50 when he last spoke publicly about this, but we have the best chance we have had ever because of the intensive sanctions that have really caused very great discomfort on the part of the Iranian people, which I think is what led to the election of a new leader who has indicated he wants to have a serious discussion.
So let me just add that while these negotiations are going on, we don't change our posture in the region. The president recently noted, we have 35,000 U.S. forces in the region, spread across a number of bases and facilities, and that presence demonstrates our seriousness and our commitment to allies and partners, because this won't be over until it's over and we have to be sure that we get a deal that is satisfactory to our interests and the interests of those participating in this process and our allies and partners in the region.
With regard to North Korea, there is no process that is satisfactory. And we are working to increase the pressure on the North Koreans. You noted the concerns we have about North Korean proliferation behavior, and we have very extensive initiatives underway to interdict what the North Koreans might try to move in order to fund their nuclear program and their other programs that are associated with their nuclear program, their missile program in particular. There are United Nations Security Council resolutions which enable us to do this work on a multilateral basis. And we continue to try to find ways to generate a process with the North Koreans that would be a meaningful one, but have not been satisfied thus far that there is any seriousness of purpose on the Korean side that would -- North Korean side that would lead us into a dialogue.
That's work that remains very important. And there, as well, we have a very significant presence in the region and a presence over the horizon, as well, should we need it.
GALLUCCI: OK. Liz, I'm going to subside here and now begin to preside and open this up...
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Bob.
GALLUCCI: ... and open this up to members. I would ask us, as Liz requested, that you identify yourself with an affiliation and that, as is always the case, we hope for true questions.
"We have the best chance we have had ever because of the intensive sanctions that have really caused very great discomfort on the part of the Iranian people, which I think is what led to the election of a new leader who has indicated he wants to have a serious discussion."
QUESTION: Thank you. Janet Benshoff, the Global Justice Center. I want to follow up on the question of Mr. Gallucci's about North Korea. I know we're looking for ways to interdict so that they don't get the funding to build up their capacity, but I want to ask you specifically about the United States' relationship with Myanmar, since as President Obama pointed out in his first visit, the civilian government in Myanmar has no control whatsoever over the military. In fact, the president can't even get on a military ship without permission.
So why -- how do you -- what is the U.S. policy towards getting towards the military that has -- even after President Thein's promises that we're going to comply with Security Council resolutions, that U.S. has interdicted ships going to North Korea or suspected of going that are from and to the Burmese military. So what are we doing in this whole process about states that have an entity that's sort of outside of the scope of anything to do with your state summits?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you. So we're doing a lot of work. One of the things that the initiative to open up a new relationship with Myanmar has afforded us is the opportunity to wean the military away from its dependence on the North Koreans. And we continue, as I noted, to use all the instruments available to us to constrain the North Koreans' proliferation behavior. It's a project that requires additional time and effort, and we're fully committed to seeing it succeed, because as I noted, the ways in which the North Koreans fund their programs, given their isolation, include the effort to continue to sell weapons around the world.
Thanks. By the way, I can see you, which is terrific. I didn't realize that CFR would give me the opportunity to look at you, but it's wonderful. I can see a little bit of lunch left. I'm sorry I don't get any dessert.
GALLUCCI: I ate it. All right, so -- yes, in the back?
QUESTION: Hi, Stephanie Cooke from Nuclear Intelligence Weekly. I wanted to ask you, following on from what Bob Gallucci was saying about the connection between the civilian and military sides, he mentioned Korea, Japan and China as possible game-changers, but if you look at the plans of Russia and India and countries, you know -- well, basically, those two countries, plus the other three, you have a sort of -- you can see a world dividing between the countries that want to reprocess and go to advanced breeders and those like us that are sort of -- perhaps not going, you know -- certainly not in any full-fledged way in that direction.
And to what extent -- I know this -- you know, we don't want to get into a whole discussion about this, but when you talk about the plutonium suspension agreement with Russia, in a sense, us giving up the MOX facility is symbolically important, if nothing else, for this discussion, and I would have thought, you know, might impact our talks with Russia over revising that agreement. And I just wondered if you could comment on how difficult you think those talks will be and how much of that sort of symbolic input will factor into it.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks. So, first of all, I would just -- I'd note that one of the interesting and challenging dimensions of this work generally is that we're in -- we are trying to build international collaboration among countries with widely disparate interests. And we can't impose our will. We have to invite countries to understand that they have a great stake in the nuclear security behavior of others, just as others have a great stake in their nuclear security behavior.
And the only way ultimately to build a commitment commensurate with the challenge that I noted at the outset is to move in this direction and to identify opportunities to invest countries in these responsibilities. Countries are going to make very divergent choices about how they generate energy. Some of it will be risky behavior, and that is one of the reasons that we need to develop means of working with some countries that may have made choices we don't agree with to assist them with the way in which they secure their nuclear material.
With regard to the plutonium disposition agreement with the Russians, this is something we have extensive discussions with the Russians about and in making our own decision about a re-look at the technology. We have had discussions with the Russians. There are no surprises here. And we have made it clear that our commitment is rock-solid to achieve the disposition. What we were concerned about was the cost and the time that would be required.
And so as we considered this need to examine technology, we have had conversations with the Russians to reassure them that this is not at all about changing course. It's about ensuring we can get the job done.
GALLUCCI: Can I ask a follow-up on that? And it's just a clarification. Does that agreement bind us to make mixed oxide fuel with that plutonium and fuel reactors find some utility that has a burning desire, so to speak, to use that fuel? Or is it another mode of disposition might be acceptable?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: My recollection is that another mode of disposition can be acceptable. This was the path that we chose to pursue, and if we are able to demonstrate effective disposition, then we're not bound to this particular course.
GALLUCCI: OK. Yes, sir? Just wait for the microphone. They're right behind you.
QUESTION: Herbert Schlosser, former chief executive, NBC. Hello, Elizabeth.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Hello, Herb.
QUESTION: We've known each other for quite a few years. My question is this. In your dealings with officials of other countries, countries specifically that you believe may want these weapons or may seek to develop them, do you sense any apprehension that just having these weapons makes the nations that have them less secure and that they're dangerous, not only in terms of an accidental detonation -- and with thousands of these weapons about now, that's a real possibility -- but beyond that, the enormous of expense of developing them, maintaining them, and last but not least, seems to me that to use them invites your own destruction, because these weapons are in a class way beyond what we've ever had before, and the fallout from the weapons doesn't respect lines on maps.
And they present a danger not only to those you aim them at, but to other nations around them. So do you sense that there is any beginning of a belief that they're really not usable, they're really too dangerous to own?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Herb. I think that among countries that have had the responsibility for managing arsenals for many years, there's certainly an appreciation of the dangers and the huge burden of responsibility that we carry. And, indeed, Herb's son has written an extraordinary book called "Command and Control," which talks about our own challenges in managing our arsenal over decades, which is a very meaningful read.
I would say that the newer nuclear powers haven't yet come to a full appreciation of what you're describing. And the subcontinent is a place where we are concerned about the possibility of an arms race, of escalation, and potential use, which would be devastating not only in the region, but beyond.
And so this is an ongoing project. It involves the nuclear material itself and, therefore, is relevant to the summit, but I would just note an interesting point for those of you following this summit, the one important issue excluded from this summit is the disarmament debate, because there are many international opportunities for discussing disarmament, and the -- we knew that if we made this forum into a disarmament forum, we would lose the countries that we most needed to include in the work on securing nuclear material.
And so this particular summit process has not been focused on the challenge of reductions in nuclear weapons, something the president is working on in other arenas. This summit process focuses specifically on accepting that there are a wide number of countries. We may disagree that they chose to have a nuclear program, but in this space, we want to work with those countries to ensure that so long as they have nuclear materials, those materials are secure from theft or sabotage or any other form of acquisition and use that would be of catastrophic implications for the world.
GALLUCCI: Liz, do you worry at all that by focusing that way and with that rigor that you legitimatize the accumulation of fissile material, if you just secure it well enough?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Bob, thank you for that question. There have been those who have asked that...
GALLUCCI: That's what I'm here for.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: And the world is imperfect. And sometimes our principles get in the way of pragmatic approaches. So as you have noted, this could legitimatize -- and, indeed, it could even create an incentive for countries to keep their nuclear materials, because they want to be invited to this summit. But our judgment has been that we cannot allow the best to be the enemy of the good, and the good here is to get into a dialogue with countries that have lax, risky or inadequate nuclear security practices, and seize them with the priority that needs to be placed on this and identify opportunities to work together collaboratively, multilaterally, or bilaterally to improve their performance.
GALLUCCI: Yeah, just for those of you who haven't been around the block 1,000 times on this -- and Lynn has and I have and other people -- some other people here have -- that the IAEA is the classic example of you want to be very much supportive of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its safeguards, which are designed to discourage and catch anybody who would divert material, but if you say it's OK, you can reprocess the spent fuel, separate the plutonium, I've got safeguards, and you have just now created a situation in which you can rationalize this as being safe when lots of people believe large throughput facilities, whether they're enrichment facilities to produce the -- being made to produce highly enriched uranium or reprocessing facilities that have tons and tons of throughput really can't be safeguarded when there are materials -- unaccounted for factors of a few percent, which turn into tons of missing stuff.
Anyway, it's a conundrum. Liz answered about as good as it could be answered, I think. It's just a problem we have to worry about. And you're welcome, Liz. That's all I can say. Yeah, it's tough.
Yes, sir? Oh, and then here. Yes.
QUESTION: Hi, I'm Steve Buffone. I'm a partner in the Gibson Dunn law firm. I'm the founder of the Bob Gallucci Fan Club. I should note that I'm also the only dues-paying member of that fan club at this point. But just a quick question. I wanted to ask you with, I think, the third anniversary of the Fukushima accident and incident, were those of you who are involved in this area and these issues as surprised as I was, as someone who doesn't know -- or didn't realize just how inadequate the safeguards were at that plant, in terms of both protection from the tsunami, backup generation, and those sort of things.
And has that served hopefully as a rallying cry, motivational point for -- on the civilian side, obviously, or around the world for making sure that other plants are far more secure than that one was?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you, Steven. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Your green tie is shining through here in the Sit Room.
Yes and yes, essentially. Yes, with a country as advanced as Japan, the catastrophe was surprising. And, yes, it has motivated everybody to try to learn lessons from what happened in Japan and how we need to act to ensure that in a future natural disaster, much less manmade disaster, we have what is required to reduce the damage and enable us to respond effectively. We have done that work internally and domestically. And, of course, it also stimulates international work.
GALLUCCI: Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Jeff Laurenti. I wonder if you could explore with us a bit what the interactions are between this more informal Nuclear Security Summit process on the one hand and, as Dean Gallucci had said, the IAEA, the formal institutions of the international system for nuclear control and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. Are the agencies a kind of checkpoint or monitoring point or, forgive the phrase, enforcement assistance mechanism? And in the case of the NPT, where we're going to have another review conference next year, do you get into this process, backing up questions of the faltering commitment on that promised Middle East nuclear-free zone, negotiating conference that the last NPT conference had solemnly affirmed?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Jeff. I would say that the international institutions, and in particular the IAEA, are very important partners in this process. And Director General Amano sits at the table with leaders. And we view this and have emphasized consistently that our goal ultimately is to strengthen institutions, but institutions are only as strong as we, the nations that belong to them, make them. And so what this requires for the IAEA is that the countries that are most committed to this agenda put more resources, human and material, into the IAEA in order to ensure that it can perform this role, which will grow. In our view, it should grow, that is, the nuclear security mission has to become something that the IAEA does more of, and that means that the countries that care about the mission are going to have to support it in doing it.
So the relationship that we have with other institutions, Interpol is involved in this, for example, the U.N., clearly, WINS, I mentioned, the World Institute for Nuclear Security, which also includes industry. They're very important partners in getting this job done, and the more we strengthen them, the more we can anticipate a time when we don't need to convene leaders every two years to drive progress and to create that peer pressure that I mentioned.
As far as the NPT review goes, as I noted in my previous answer, we have tried to keep these two spaces separate. Inevitably, it creeps in, but to the extent that this becomes a disarmament forum, we will drive away countries that we urgently want to see actively involved in the nuclear material security work that we're doing in this summit.
GALLUCCI: Right there?
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Liz Holtzman. I'm a former member of Congress. I wanted to ask you two quick questions. One is, what about our own security of nuclear facilities? There have been some scandals recently about our own missile defense systems. What's happening on that score?
And, secondly, to follow up on Fukushima, one of the, obviously, concerns about the important work that you're doing and the president has done in this area is to protect human life from improper radioactive releases, and yet at this very moment, radioactivity is rushing out of Fukushima into the Pacific. You talked about the importance of the work that we're doing internally, but what about the international efforts, which I really haven't seen -- and perhaps I'm unaware of them -- to stop this and protect human life, fish, global environment? Thank you.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you. First of all, in terms of our own security, one of the principles -- our own nuclear material security -- one of the principles that we have operated under has been that we are very transparent and candid about the shortcomings in our own system, because we have judged that that would make others more comfortable talking about their own vulnerabilities and make it clear that we're all in this together.
Now, we also happen to have a system in which our shortcomings are described in vivid detail in the media or in books, and so we don't have nearly as secret of a culture as many countries do. But that has -- we have tried to turn to our benefit, and so whether it's the Y-12 complex break-in, for example, or other incidents involving transport, the Minot to Barksdale flight a couple of years ago, the inadvertent flight of some bombs, we try to use this to inform others about the vulnerabilities even in a system that is deemed to probably be the best in the world and to motivate cooperation as a consequence.
But we continue, of course, to look very hard at how we can improve our own practices and reduce vulnerabilities and reduce the weaknesses that we find as we continue to exercise and as we have experiences that suggest that nothing is failsafe. And, of course, nothing is failsafe, so it's an ongoing project. As I noted, the work will never be done.
As far as Fukushima goes and the continuing leaks, it's, of course, very frightening for all of us to witness the continuing challenge that the Japanese face and the potential environmental consequences that you noted, and we have done a great deal of collaborative work with the Japanese, continue to offer to help in any way we can.
One of the interesting aspects of this is it points up the degree to which a nuclear incident is a sovereign and national responsibility, but has implications far beyond a nation's borders. And so that's why we say when we talk about nuclear security that my behavior affects your security and your security -- your behavior affects my security. And therefore, while we said these are sovereign responsibilities, we actually have a responsibility to one another and are heavily dependent on each other to ensure that we behave in ways that give assurance and we ask that of others, as well.
QUESTION: Hi, I'm Lee Siegel, and I'm going to ride my hobbyhorse of North Korea with you. Right now, we know they are enriching uranium. We know they've resumed production of plutonium at the reactor at Yongbyon. We know they can conduct a nuclear test at any point and it might be thermonuclear boosted energy, and we know they have longer-range missiles that they have yet to test launch.
Your answer has been that we're interdicting. And even if you had perfect interdiction, do you have any reason to believe that it would stop any of the ongoing existing things they are doing? Secondly, you said we're generating a process, by which I believe you mean that we're waiting for them to do unilateral actions, something they've never been willing to do. So when is it you're going to get around to negotiating with North Korea?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks, Lee. So, first of all, on the -- will interdiction stop their program? Of course not, and that wasn't my point. My point on interdiction was it reduces their ability to do two things, one is proliferate, which we worry about very much, material and capabilities, and the other is to reduce the amount of funds that they garner from those proliferations of materials and of capabilities.
Second, on the question of whether we'll negotiate, and this -- among the community of people who work on North Korea, of course, there's an endless debate of whether we should talk with the North Koreans without preconditions, when will we have a negotiation with them, what should the terms be, should there be preconditions, how come we're not getting anywhere, what is this pressure policy producing, are the sanctions ineffective? There's no question the North Koreans are doing very bad things, and we work very closely with our regional allies and with partners, as well, to try to build the pressure and to try to build enough consensus that we can move this regime, which is basically autarkic and follows no one's lead, to a place where we can have a serious negotiation about the nuclear program.
We also have to anticipate that we may not succeed, and we have to be prepared to address the threats that North Korea presents to our regional allies and to the world. And that's another piece of business for us, which is ensuring that, were the North Korean leader to do something truly foolish, we would be able to protect our country and our allies from any threat.
So I don't think that we are in a less -- a place as you describe it of not doing anything. Some of it may not be visible, but there's certainly a tremendous effort underway to find ways to reach the leader of North Korea and persuade him to pursue a different path.
GALLUCCI: Right here?
QUESTION: Pat Rosenfield. Hello, Liz. It's nice to see you. Rockefeller Archive Center. And fascinating. I wanted to ask about one group of players, though, we haven't heard about. You talked about cooperation with the U.N. system and WINS and the business community, but what about the positive non-state actors, the watchdog groups, the nongovernmental organizations? What role do they have in the summit process?
And also, just on North Korea, the role of Track II that's being undertaken by non-state actors in a positive way.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Pat, thank you. First of all, I have to thank Pat. I wouldn't have been at the Council if it weren't for Pat, because when she was at Carnegie, she supported work that I wanted to come to do at the Council. Thank you for that question and your vision over many years, Pat.
This is such an important piece of the summit. There is an entire summit that preceeds the leaders summit called the Nuclear Knowledge Summit. And that summit involves NGOs and academics and think-tanks and media, and the whole point of that summit is to share what we know about this challenge and to invigorate the civil society space, essentially, with the importance of this agenda.
And the NGO community, the work that's done, for example, by an organization like the Nuclear Threat Initiative, NTI, has been really important to the work we have done in government. In fact, it's a very powerful example of the ways in which those who generate ideas can have a real impact on policy.
And, for example, the idea I described to you of trying to build the norm of assurances was developed in part by work done at NTI by Joan Rohlfing. And so in this -- in this world, we depend and interact -- we depend on and interact with -- quite actively with the NGO community and look to them as critical partners in supporting the advancement of the agenda.
And you also asked the question about Track II initiatives in North Korea or with North Korea, and there I believe in the great importance of Track II initiatives. They've been important in our work with Iran. They've been important in work we've done with Pakistan. And they are important in providing some insight into North Korea, as well. And we -- I often meet with those who are involved in these Track II initiatives as they are anticipating an engagement and as they complete an engagement to both help them see things from the perspective in which we approach them in government and then to learn from them as they come out of their interaction. So that's very important additional feedback for us.
GALLUCCI: I would note here that Liz will be going to the summit in The Hague. Those of us who are involved with NGOs will be going to the -- to Amsterdam. And I just want to make that point and pass it on.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: And can I just mention, there's one more summit happening pre-summit which is called the Nuclear Industry Summit. So another circle of space in the Nuclear Security Summit process has been the work we have done to develop a conversation among industry partners about the importance of best practices, and this goes to the question that was raised about Fukushima, for example. It's very important that industry, which has -- is very diverse and there are many different models for industry in countries -- some have regulators, some don't -- governments are more or less involved, et cetera -- this is an important piece of our work, as well. And in the sherpa process, the preparatory process, we have opportunities to engage with the industry leadership, as well, to try to guide their work in support of this initiative among governments.
GALLUCCI: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, and thank you for allowing me to do this via video teleconference. I appreciate it so much.
GALLUCCI: Liz, stay warm.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you. Bye-bye.