tv Arms Control and Proliferation Panel CSPAN April 12, 2016 4:41am-6:12am EDT
since 2007. so much of senator louvre's work has been devoted to the challenge of dismantling nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. and to this end, senator louvre, who as you probably know is a republican, worked with senator sam nunn of georgia, a democrat, and at the time, chair of the senate armed services committee to craft what became known as the nunn-louvre act of 1991. i would say it's an exceptional example of bipartisanship. it creates an institution whose purpose was to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their associated infrastructure in the states of the former soviet union. and among many, many other accomplishments, this cooperative threat reduction program resulted in the
deactivation of 7,500 nuclear warheads, and the destruction of more than 500 icbms, and close to 500 submarine launch ballistic missiles. senator louvre was also instrumental in gaining senate approval of the last nuclear weapons treaty, signed with russia, the so-called new start treaty of 2010, which reduced significantly the number of deployable strategic nuclear weapons. to his right, research
professor, by training the professor is a nuclear scientist from 1986 to 1997. he directed the laboratory that most of you know had the chief mission of ensuring the safety and reliability of the american nuclear arsenal. in recent years, they worked with the laboratories to secure the enormous stockpile that russia inherited from the soviet union. and he is now compiling and editing a book. that hasn't come out yet, has it? it has. he compile and edited a book between american and russian laboratories since the fall of the soviet union. and at least as i understand it, you can update me, his current research deals with the problem of reducing the risks of nuclear terrorism worldwide and the challenges of nuclear india, pakistan, and north korea, as well as with the nuclear aspirations of iran.
the professor has been an important contributor to public debate about nuclear issues in the united states and beyond. recent publications that have caught my attention include an article entitled "stop killing iran's nuclear scientists." george perko vich, before him, miriam potter, who is next to professor hecker. the sam nunn and richard louvre professor of non-proliferation studies. professor potter served as a consultant to the u.s. arms control and disarmament agency, the rand corporation, and the lawrence livermore national laboratory. proffer potter is a prolific author, on at least 20 books,
has contributed chapters and articles to more than 120 scholarly books and journals on subjects such as nuclear terrorism, nuclear arms control, nuclear non-proliferation, and nuclear issues involving the states of the former soviet uni, especially the russian federation, kazakhstan and quuf stan. he's an exceptionally well informed researcher. to his writings i turn when i'm designing lectures dealing with nuclear weapons. and last but not least, dr. george perk vich, vice president for studies at the carnegie endowment for international peace. i would say this is one of the world's most influential think-tanks. his irias of research include
nuclear streaj and nonproliferation issues and south asian security. he's the author of a prize-winning book, published in 1999, shortly after that country's second test of a nuclear device. more recently, dr. perko vich has published an important mono graph and a book on the subject of abolishing nuclear weapons. he works tirelessly, i would say, to educate the american public on nuclear issues. whenever i teach on the subject of nuclear weapons, his articles almost always make their way onto my syllabus. >> thank you. >> one that i'm likely to assign this fall is a portion of a study he co-authored last summer, entitled "parsing the iran deal." this is one of the most impartial reviews of this highly controversial deal. it's a study designed to help readers make up their own minds,
not to tell them how to think and what could be better for the classroom. so the format of the panel, as i assume the previous panels have been, i haven't had the pleasure of being here, is somewhat unusual for an academy conference. i've been asked to make a few introductory remarks, that i'll keep very brief. and after that, instead of offering the panelists to issue prepared comments, my mandate is to engage them in a conversation on a variety of issues. and we'll reserve, i'm hoping at least a half hour for questions from those of you in the audience and especially but by no means exclusively, i see some students here the i.u. and at the end, i'm going to give each panelist an opportunity to make any concluding remarks he would like to offer. so let me just start by framing the subject of the panel.
there's been no development in relations in the last 70 years that's posed a greater threat to american and international security than the spread of nuclear weapons. the international community has taken some significant steps to deal with and address this threat, to reduce it. i would say and this is judgment question, we can debate this, but the first and foremost of those was the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which went into effect in 1970. it limited the states nuclear weapons to the five that possess them at the time they were opened for signature and provided for international inspection of the nuclear activities of all other states that aspired to maintain a program.
at present, 191 states, the vast majority are now a party to that treaty. an extreme important recent step was the launching of the 2003 proliferation security initiative. this was a global effort to stop the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction to and from both states and non-state actors. this initiative is endorsed and supported by more than a hundred states, also by a substantial number. we've had a series of bilateral and strategic arms control agreements, the last of which was in 2010, that have also helped to curb nuclear proliferation. first by reducing the number of weapons and the amount of fissile materials available to those who'd like to acquire them. and this has reduces what some analysts like to call horizontal
patrol ifreration, the increase in the number of actors who possess these weapons and materials. and the arms treaties have reduced what has been called vertical proliferation, the accumulation of larger and larger and more and more dangerous arsenals by existing nuclear states. the cooperative threat reduction program which senator luger was so important in establishing has made a profound contribution to international security by securing nuclear weapons and materials as well as other weapons of mass destruction in the former soviet union. but important as these steps have been, the world is, i would say, far from secure from the threat that some of these weapons might be used. moreover, the challenges inherent in the proliferation in weapons of mass destruction seem to be increasing rather rapidly.
for example, if we just take the period of president obama's tenure in office, we witnessed the following highly troubling developments. i hesitate to use precise numbers in the presence of this expert panel, but i'll take the plunge and say that according to one estimate, by the summer of last year, iran had reached the point where the time it would have taken for that country to fuel a nuclear warhead was probably as little as two months. and even with last year's iran deal in place, that time appears to be extended to only one year. during president obama's time in office, north korea expelled international nuclear inspectors from its country. it tested three nuclear devices, including one that it claims to be a hydrogen bomb and conducted two tests of a long range missile which it claims is capable of hitting the united states.
during this period as well, pakistan acquired sufficient material for more than 200 nuclear weapons and repeatedly blocked nokz negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty that would ban production of any more fissile materials for nuclear weapons. it also failed to prevent taliban-linked groups from attacking tightly garded military and government targets, some of which are located near important nuclear facilities. in syria and iraq, both the assad regime and the islamic state have been routinely using chemical weapons, albeit so-called crude ones, despite president assad's claims to have destroyed all of those on syrian territory. in belgium last week, the government revealed its concern that the islamic state was seeking to attack, infiltrate, sabotage, or obtain nuclear material from its nuclear facilities, which have a history of severe lapses.
surveillance footage of a top official of one such facility was found in the apartment of a suspected islamic state militant. two employees at another belgian nuclear facility left their jobs to travel to syria where they joined isil. and the same terrorist network that carried out the recent attacks in paris and brussels may have been planning some kind of operation at a belgian nuclear facility, possible one that uses highly enriched uranium. president obama is certainly concerned. tomorrow he'll be opening the fourth nuclear security summit in washington and this gathering of world leaders will focus on the subject of securing nuclear materials. so these are just a few of the kinds of challenges the next president will need to confront. and it's not meant to be an exhaustive list. i expect our conversation today will explore at least some of these issues, and without further adieu, let me sit down and begin posing some questions
to our panelists. so i'd like to start with senator luger. and as i mentioned, you've -- or i haven't mentioned yet. you've been working on the problem of securing nuclear weapons and materials for two and a half decades at least, maybe more. so how is the international community doing with regard to this issue in your opinion? is the problem being addressed in promising ways, and if so, how? >> well, without going through the whole history of this situation, let me just say that back in 1986, president ronald reagan felt that after a meeting in reykjavik, that was a possibility that the united states and former soviet union might begin arms control negotiations. he asked about 16 senators, eight republicans, eight democrats, go to geneva, switzerland, and he was wise, because a treaty would
require 2/3 majority, in the event something could be negotiated. i was selected as one of those, as was sam nunn, who was to become my partner for a long while in this, but also bob dole, and senator bird. we went over, we met with a lot of russians. it was an instructive experience, educational for all of us, but this was not to be in 1986. so we were not close really. and it took several years. during that period of time, sam and i visited with a good number of russians we had met, and we heard stories about the deterioration of the former soviet union. not a total surprise that when 1991 came that a group of these russians came to sam's office. met in a round table, and they said to us, you folks in the united states got a lot of problems, because the people that are guarding the missiles
on which the warheads that are aimed at you are located, those folks are deserting in good numbers. they are not getting paid. as a result, some of those weapons might be unguarded and there could be an accident. there could be a firing inadvertently. let me just say, this came after the so-called 40 years of mutually assured destruction. the thought there was that the united states and former soviet union each had close to 10,000 nuclear warheads, enough to cover every military installation in either country, and likewise, most of our major cities. as a young mayor of indianapolis, indiana, for eight years, i had no idea that a couple of those weapons were aimed at indianapolis and could have obliterated the whole place. none of us understood that. so when you ask how things moved, why, they moved from a time in which i was shocked when
i went down into a pit where -- and pulled a missile out in siberia, and down at the bottom of that where the guards were located, were pictures of american city cities, which lead me to come back and ask was indianapolis one of the targets. it certainly was. without a doubt. with the reduction act in a bipartisan situation that lasted through four or five administrations over 20-something years, has been suggested at least 7500 warheads aimed at the united states have been removed from the soviet union and the missiles that would fire them and lots of other things. and correspondingly we have reduced on both sides to roughly 1500 warheads of material aimed at each other. but 1500 is close to five digits, it's a big difference. unfortunately, the situation came to a conclusion in june of
2013. i went over to russia in 2012, trying to plead that we needed to keep talking, you know, the soviets said sure, but the war office said no, no more americans, we're tired of you folks. so that was the end of that trail. so that's the one story. huge amounts, potential destruction of countries, including our own. now we're at a different point as this nuclear security summit meets in washington starting tomorrow. it's the fourth time around the track, and a lot of the discussion will come down now to things much more like what you've described in belgium recently. i don't want to skip over everything intervening, but nevertheless, the fact is that in belgium, during the last attack, the belgians wisely shut down two situations that are power stations, dismissed all
the employees and you say, why would they do that? well, because at least in previous weeks, they found that there had been two employees at one of these places that had gone to join isil, and that there was, matter of fact, a real problem, that there could be out there at these stations, people that were not very loyal to the belgian government and could create even more of a problem than had already occurred there. in essence, many people taking a look at this summit are saying, we're at a point where you can count major nations that have warheads, and this is bad enough. but now we're at the terrorism stage. the extent to which people are able to get to radiological trl, the point to which some territories might try to create so-called dirty bomb, that would not really create a nuclear explosion, but in essence would
render a whole square mile of new york city unhabitable for decades. this type of situation is frequently discussed, and too frequently comes up without too much of an answer. what is to be the answer out of this nuclear summit conference now? is there going to be a new international organization? will there be a new international agreement? will there be much more of an inspection situation internationally, that's respected by all the nations involved? i would just conclude this long answer by mentioning that sam nunn and the nuclear threat initiative and this is a group with jessica matthews has been involved. and i've officiated being a member of the board for a long time. and especially the work that has occurred recently in the publication of this nuclear security index, which includes theft and sabotage.
now, this is an sshl book for anybody deeply interested in the subject, because it goes through what's happening in all of the countries on earth that have any sort of potential for difficulty. it rates them one by one in terms of the amount of safety that has been obtained. and the amount of danger that is still there, as a matter of fact. and i appreciate this, because it's a situation in which nti has collaborated with the economist magazine and with data which is tremendously important for each student of all of this. plus, at least indicators of how extensive the dilemma is. how many countries are involved. it will often be mentioned in summary of this conference that's coming up, this summit over the weekend, that there were at least 35 countries that had substantial amounts of nuclear material a while back.
11 of them have given it up apparently. 24 still remain. and the united states and russia have the most. but nevertheless, 1800 tons of nuclear material is out there, in one form or another. much of it not safe guarded as ought to be. and finally, if you have isil terrorists, you don't really need a killo ton. you don't even need a few ounces. the question is how we're going to deal with terrorism and people in european countries quite apart from the middle east who are prepared to do in the citizens of their country. so let me pause at that point, so that my fellow panelists for whom i have enormous respect, this has been a thrill for me just to be included in this panel. >> great. professor potter, senator lugar mentioned the fact that abruptly
in 2013, the russians informed us that they're not interested in any more collaboration with the united states in securing their nuclear materials. and if you open the front page of today's "new york times" you'll see president putin has decided to boycott this round of the nuclear summit. in your opinion, what does this portend in terms of russian activities -- and yes, that was a slip -- russian activities in in sphere? is it something that we should be worried about, this unwillingness to work with the united states anymore on this issue? >> before i respond to your question, i do want to put it in some historical context. i must say it's a tremendous honor to appear on a panel with a number of my good friends, but also one of my real heroes, senator lugar. and as he knows and as sam nunn
knows, i've had the privilege to nominate the two of them for a nobel peace prize on a number of occasions and i think it's very deserving. so i wanted to really first applaud the tremendous efforts that the two senators have been able to promote over there many, many years in government and out of government. let me kind of recast or respond to your question again acknowledging that both of us once upon a time focused on soviet affairs rather than just russian affairs. and the point that i think is tremendously important looking at the nature of u.s.-russian relations today, particularly as they pertain to non-proliferation is that for many decades, beginning probably one could say with the negotiation of the non-proliferation treaty which
was concluded in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. but particularly after the so-called peaceful nuclear explosion conducted by india in 1974, the united states and the soviet union began a very concerted and routine collaboration, cooperation for nonproliferation. every six months at the assistant secretary level, they met to compare notes about their different proliferation activities and concerns. at the london suppliers group meetings that preceded the nuclear suppliers group, the united states sknt soviet union actually collaborated much more closely than did the united states with a number of its traditional allies, including the french and the germans. you could add the japanese. in the ntp review process, the
united states and the soviet union routinely acted in concert for the most part because they were both nuclear weapon states and they were not anxious to see other nuclear weapon states emerge. and that applies also to the international atomic energy agency, but what's particularly important to note, this cooperation persisted across democratic and republican administrations. and even during the most frigid moments of the cold war. so after 1979, when the soviet union invaded afghanistan, all other bilaterals were shut down. the only one that persisted in the security realm was cooperation continuing in the non-proliferation sector. so that very powerful, historical message, which unfortunately is unknown to some american and russian practitioners today, because these routine meetings ceased in the latter part of the 1980s.
and while you had other forms of cooperation, they were of a different nature. so i think it is indeed most unfortunate that the russians will not be, that mr. putin or a designate will not be at the nuclear security summit. it's most unfortunate that russia believes it no longer needs to formally cooperate with the united states. but i think if one tries to identify an area in which it still may be possible, despite the chill and the nose dive in u.s.-russian relations, i would say non-proliferation remains one promising area. and to give you just an example, next week, in monterey, we will have various senior u.s. and russian officials joining with experts from both countries to
talk about these matters, particularly as they pertain to north korea. and dr. hecker will be one of the participants in that meeting. so i would say that by way of background. if you could indulge me, if i could make just one other set of points, and that has to do with nuclear terrorism and nuclear security. about ten years or so ago, i co-authored a book on the four faces of nuclear terrorism. and as has been alluded to, these different faces of terrorism involve what people talk about as a dirty bomb, or at least some form of radiological dispersal device by conventional means. we can also talk about attacks on or sabotage of nuclear facilities, a subject of concern at the nuclear security summit upon. concern to both the russians and
the americans. what can talk about an improvised nuclear device, even if it's not sophisticated, something that dr. heckert could readily produce. there's also the potential for the theft or seizure and use of nuclear weapons from actual arsenals. those are four very different forms of terrorism. subsequent to the publication of that book that i enmekzed, i'd become concerned about a fifth face of nuclear terrorism, which i don't think has received enough attention by national governments, including our own. and that's the potential for non-state actors, who don't attempt to acquire nuclear material, don't attempt to build a nuclear device of any sort, but think that they may be able to precipitate a nuclear exchange between countries
possessing nuclear weapons. i would call this spoofing. and i think the best example and one that requires more attention was an incident that occurred in 1995, when a scientific rocket, a sounding rocket, a multi stage rocket was launched off the coast of norway. the norwegian authorities had informed russian authorities about their plans to undertake this launch. but that information was not conveyed to appropriate command and control parties in moscow. and as a consequence, when this sounding rocket took off, russian command and control thought it was a submarine launched ballistic missile, and they had some good reason to think so. fortunately it was a single sounding rocket that was fired. but one could well imagine had there been a dozen of these launches simultaneously. and the concern for me, that's the only form of a real existential threat that i see at the moment, posed by non-state
actors. i'm very much concerned about acquisition of fissile material, i'm equally concerned with the potential to, by isis and others, to make use of radiological surss and dispersal devices, that would be horrendous. but if you're really talking about an existential threat, i think it's one that one needs to be more concerned about at the moment, in a number of regions, possibly including george's favorite area, which is south asia. >> thank you. professor hecker, now in your opinion, how acute is this problem of insecure nuclear materials? in which countries are we really facing the greatest dangers there? >> let me first address the russia issue. >> thank you. >> because you asked what's happened over that time and what about the russians walking away and how vulnerable does that leave the nuclear materials.
so let me go back to 1991, '92, while senator lugar was entertaining the russians in his offices, we scientists and those from lawrence livermore, we were interfacing with the russian nuclear weapon scientists. it w it was totally unheard of during those times. and i first went to their secret city, their los almos, in february of '92. next month, i'm going to make my 52nd visit to russia since that time. and most of it is addressing this issue of the security issues that we had. so when i look back in 1991-'92, the number one, two, and three greatest nuclear threats and concerns that i had were all related to russia and the coming apart of the soviet union and what happens. and then we had this incredible
combination of u.s. government actions that were really important, including president george h.w. bush's presidential nuclear initiatives. the lugnunn-lugar act, came on force, ahead of the government, to sort of push into action talking to each other, because they knew it was going to take a lot of cooperation. and then we the scientists at these nuclear labs, began to work together. so at that time, and that's the story we tell in this book, in a thousand pages. so i'm going to try to give you a quick synopsis of those thousand pages. [ laughter ] so what we faced in 1991-'92 is a soviet union coming apart and the 15 nations that made up the
soviet union, particularly russian federation, then having access to these enormous nuclear assets at a time when a country was literally coming apart. you know, the economy in total turmoil, the political system changing, the safety net for the soviet people, now russian people, going away. and so it was really what i would call the making of a perfect nuclear storm. what you had at that time, you had a soviet union with 30 thousand something weapons. you had a russia then left with somewhere around 1.4 million kilograms of fissile materials. the stuff you can make the bombs out of. that means plutonium and highly enriched uranium. just to remind you, that nagasaki, the plutonium bomb,
6.2 kilograms of plutonium blew up a city. that's this much. that's it. hiroshima was highly enriched uranium. it was more. today, about 25 kilograms, so smaller than a soccer ball. and we're talking about 1.4 million kilograms in hundreds of facilities and buildings, and this is not ft. knox stuff. and actually one of the things that really bothers me about the nuclear security summit, there's too much of this talk of lock up. why don't we just lock up -- you can't lock up these materials. you dissolve them in acid, there's waste, you work with them, either in nuclear power or in nuclear weapons. so the problem is, there was all this. so we talk about concern about loose nukes. and of course nunn lugar was
really essential. the second one was loose materials. could some of this material get away? in 1992, i really didn't see how we're going to get through the next 10 to 20 years, without significant loss of russian nuclear materials. the third that we worried about was loose people, experts. the soviet complex had about a million people working in that nuclear complex. of course not all of them nuclear weapons, but let's just say lots of them. so you're worried about the loose experts. and then the fourth was loose exports. so you had the four loose nuke problems. now you look back 25 years later, loose nukes didn't happen. loose nuclear materials, a little bit. of course again as i say, it doesn't take much. but incredibly small amount of fissile materials. it's unbelievable what actually happened. loose experts, basically nothing. you know, not anymore than we've
had in the united states. loose exports. a bit of a problem with iran in the 1990s, but russia's come around to be a responsible nuclear exporter. so those four things didn't happen. and today the situation in russia is significantly improved where it was in 1991-'92. so their nuclear weapons are now really well protected. their nuclear materials are much better protected. their experts which often in the 1990s didn't get paid for six months at a time. they're getting paid. they're doing well. and in exports, they're exporting legitimately and making actually significant money that way. so what are the reasons they shut off -- >> they don't need us? >> they're actually made much
progress, and most of this program that we're talking about was focused on improving their facilities, their people. and they said, hey, we're done. we're as good as you guys. stop focusing on us. okay, so to some extent that's good news. the bad news is that, if you're talking about nuclear safety or talk about nuclear security, you're never done. just when you think you're done, and you get complacent is when the problems happen. and we've had those problems in this country, actually more so than they've now had it in russia. and what's so important is for us to continue to work together, because this issue of the nuclear security, from the weapons to the materials to the people, to the exports, it doesn't just require the government action. we were fortunate. we had this visionary legislation that by itself would
have done nothing. actually, in this case, we had two senators who kept traveling over there, they kept working this themselves. but then all the way down the line, we had several thousand scientists and engineers from the u.s. labs and the russian labs go to each other. thousands of trips back and forth. i mean, literally thousands of projects back and forth. >> how much of that is still happening? >> so it was only through that that we got the sense, that, hey, they're doing well, and now they've cut off that interaction and that is a pity. and so that's what we'd like to get restarted. >> dr. perko vich, your specialty deals with south asia and pakistan is often mentioned. and i mentioned it as a place where terrorists are particularly likely to obtain materials for a nuclear device. or even ready-made weapons. how accurate is that assessment? >> well, i think some of the
things that he just talked about at the end, about the progress that was made, to me, they're welcome good news, first of all. but they're also indicative of a logic that i think we ought to remember, even as we're worrying, and that is that states, including pakistan, and their leaders, have greater motivations even than we do, to maintain their crown jewels. so nuclear weapons to pakistan are the most important thing to the pakistani army. the pakistani army is the most competent organization in pakistan. it may not be fully competent, but it's the most competent organization in pakistan. so when people ask me this question which i get asked a lot, i say nuclear weapons are the safest thing in pakistan. now that may not be enough. you may say, they're still not safe. but from a pakistani point of view, what more do you want to do? they have lots of other things that they worry about, and the
other things that i think are more worrying, if they address them, the nuclear weapons will become more safe and secure too. >> have they been at all amenable to american assistance? >> yeah. it's very quiet. but there's been ongoing department of energy cooperation with the pakistanis on securing their nuclear assets. it's very, very difficult because the pakistani military that we worry the most about terrorists getting them. they worry most about us getting their nuclear weapons. so when the osama bin laden raid happened, when they got news of that, within hours, they started moving nuclear weapons, and securing their nuclear sites, because they thought the u.s. was coming after their nuclear weapons. so there's good news in that too, which is, if they can secure their nuclear weapons and materials against us, then they're probably securing them against other people as well. so i don't have a problem if that's the motivation. so the psychology of this issue,
especially for pakistan, is different than you might first think about it, but it's fairly positive, i would say. and their openness to cooperation without getting too close. because again, they want to make sure they can hide the things from us. and now the more that the u.s. co-operates with india, which is a bipartisan objective in washington, then the most the pakistanis say, wait a minute, their new bes friend and partner is the indians, who is our biggest enemy, and who'd like to get our nuclear weapons, so when the americans have all this capability and they come and want to talk about our nuclear capability, it's part of a plot with the indians to come get it. so we have to be aware of that and we're going, no, no, no, to the pakistanis. >> i just turned to another issue which the new president is going to inherit. last summer's iran deal. you published an article entitled the iran deal, no
better alternative, now make the most of it. i wonder what the other panelists would like to tell us about their views of this iran deal. how much more secure does it make us and what are the problems? professor potter. >> actually, i think it's probably focused on that issue more than i have, but i share, you know, the assessment as it's conveyed in the title by george. i think actually it's probably a better deal than many folks thought was possible just a few years ago, when we were in the midst of these negotiations. i think the real problem will be in the implementation of the deal. and the other problem is as much domestic as it is an international one.
i think they're unparalleled intrusive inspections that the iaea has and i'm quite confident on that side of the street we'll be all right. it's the question of the opposition in both countries by large, important factions, to the deal in principle. and i think that is something that we can't take for granted, that we're going to be able to sustain over time. but in balance, i think if you were to ask, you know, about the non-proliferation ledger, where's the good news and where is the bad news, i think the good news is indeed the iran deal. and let me share with you kind of an unanticipated, i think, consequence of that deal. because i think most americans, predictably those who work in the government, have had a very negative view of iran as it
pertains to international negotiations with some very good reasons and terrorism is one of those. but in the area that i tend to focus on a lot, and that is the non-proliferation treaty review process, the gatherings four out of every five years in which countries come together to review the implementation of the treaty in looking forward, it's rather striking that while there's all kinds of problems at the last review conference. in fact, i recently wrote an article called the unfulfilled promise of a 2015 npt, it was a hundred ways to say no in french and arabic. the countries that were french-speaking and arabic-speaking, one in particular was a problem. iran was not. iran, actually as the leader of the non-aligned movement this past year was a constructive force in those negotiations.
it's also telling that at the first committee, the disarmament committee of the united nations this past fall, all of the nuclear weapons possessors preferred a resolution put forward by iran, dealing with so-called open-ended working group on disarmament to the resolution put forward by our allies such as mexico, chile, austria, and the like. so there's a very unusual dynamic that we are observing now which i think is not familiar to most folks for obvious reasons. these are rather esoteric issues. but it is, i think, pertinent to the question of what's the consequence of this iran nuclear deal. >> you want to jump in on that? >> what i find amazing about the iran deal is how much division there is in this country about the iran deal. almost everybody has a very strong opinion either one way or
the other, and most quite frankly really don't understand the underlying technical issues. where they say, for instance, one of the common things, we're giving them the license that ten years from now, they'll have an stral nuclear weapons capability. so that's one concern. the second concern that i have, i wish we'd had as many people talking about north korea as we do about the iran deal. because that's a real problem. i mean, those guys not only have nukes, they got lots of nukes now, and that i been building them up, regardless of what the whole rest of the world is doing, not just u.s. failure. it's the failure of the international community, and we're just sitting by. it was mentioned earlier today, strategy patience. it's neither patient, nor strategic, it's a very bad move. but on iran, i've had a chance to interact with the iranian
technical people and also with the iranian political people. and so what's happened in iran is over the last 30 years essentially, when the ayatollahs made the decision that they would go ahead and reconstitute a path to -- a nuclear path in the mid 1980s or so, if you watch what they have been doing, over 30 years, they essential -- this is my opinion -- they've been putting in place the capability to build a bomb. so when you add all the pieces together, that's the only conclusion that i can come up with as to why they would do what they're doing with the centrifuges, why they were building a reactor that would make plutonium, and why they did certain types of tests. they've been putting that in place and also sort of regardless of what happens politically. it just kept on going along. and so then what happened with
this iran deal, was, in essence, the administration agreed that they would disaggregate the nuclear problem from the rest of the iran issue. in other words, separate the problem. and by separating the problem, the good news was, that's the only way they could get the rest of the world to come on board. particularly china, russia. there's no way that if you fold in whatever else iran is doing, you're going to get russia on board. but if you focus only on the nuclear piece, they managed to get all of those guys lined up. and so now they have the makings of a nuclear deal. and so what they did with this nuclear deal, the technical stuff, it's very straightforward. at the time they started the deal discussions, the iranians, in a month or two, could have made enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb.
it would have probably taken them six more months to build a crude bomb, but a couple of years to build something a bit more sophisticated. but they were within a couple of months to be able to make the materials for the bomb. that's how close they were. and what the deal does, and i had the discussions with the iranians, and i didn't believe, i kept on telling them, you got a open space between the military and the civilian capabilities. well, they opened space, and that space they opened, sort of this year that you've heard, and it's pretty good. that's pretty good. so what they did then with the deal, it would take them a year if they want to reconstitute. if they want to cheat, as george's buddies say, sneak out, instead of a break out, they could do -- that would be more difficult, because the whole inspection regime is much more rigorous than anything that's been put there.
what they did with this plutonium, what would have been a pollute ownium-producing reactor was remarkable. they entombed the core of that and they agreed to totally redesign the reactor to make the americans less concerned about making plutonium which would be their second task to the bomb. so they took all of those steps, and from a nuclear standpoint, that's all good news. if in 10 or 15 years, they want to go back and march toward the bomb, they can do that, they have the capabilities to do so, but we'd know it if they were doing it. so that's the good news. the bad news is, by disaggregating, that doesn't mean they're going to behave in all these other areas. so you relieve the sanctions to get more money. what are they going to do with the money, what's going to happen in the next 10 to 15 years? my bottom line, i don't know what's going to happen. we don't know which way iran is
going to go, i'd rather not face the next 10 to 15 years with them having nuclear weapons and still worry about all these other issues. so to me, this was by far the best that you could do. >> i know we're about to get to questions and i appreciate that, just want to say that i'm indebted to my colleagues on the stage today for the documentation which came into play. because the facts of life are, as this deal came up, every single republican in the united states senate indicated opposition. there was a situation in which the white house called me and asked if i could help. in fact, they implored it much more strongly than this, and called sam nunn, my partner. so we penned an op-ed that was published in politico and elsewhere around to begin with,
and then another one with the senator from louisiana. and john kerry then called and said, i'm going up to philadelphia to try to make a case there for a national audience. i'd like you to come on my plane, introduce me and start out by talking about some of your experiences with arms control and what have you. an interesting trip. and secretary kerry gave a tremendous speech really outlining point by point everything that's been suggested to date. and even at that point within the democratic party, there were not enough votes to get across the threshold of the parliamentary situation that they had. but nonetheless, the excitement was that by the time we finished that day, one senator whoever it may have been on the democratic side finally said, yes, it looked as if it was finally going to get across the finish line. i mentioned this because we've not had an arms control treaty
now since the new start treaty in 2012. and that was when john kerry was chairman, i was ranking member still in the senate. and subsequent to that, nothing whatsoever. so it's semi- miraculous that somehow this one got across the finish line, but it was very important that it did, and i just salute everybody who was involved in that process. >> before we get to questions, which i do want to do, i want to talk a little bit about north korea. so maybe i'll start with you, dr. perko vich. just how close are the north koreans to obtaining a weapon that can strike american territory? >> there are many, many reasons for that, but as you can kind of tell with my response to the pakistan -- to talk about the threat doesn't motivate me very much. because we've known what they
are for a long, long time. so north korea, depending on how you want to measure the worry, 1992 at the very latest, where we really, really worried. so i was still young. so the issue is, what are you going to do about it? we can talk about the north korean threat, but it's been there. what are we going to do about it? that's the biggest problem. we can't have an adult conversation in the united states or more importantly between the united states and our allies japan and south korea, about north korea.