Jennifer Knox ’14: Stanclift Fellow in International Policy
This week we hit the ground running after the Yale site visit. I spent a lot of time with the organization credit cards, finally finishing up with a lot of different vendors and providers: I fulfilled the contracts for our walkie-talkies, confirmed our reservations at the Newark hotel, purchased special binders and paper for the European staff and students (it is very difficult to find a5 binder and paper suppliers here in the states!), and completed the placement of ads in newspapers. In the next week Global Zero will be appearing in The Harvard Crimson, The Washington Square News, The Tufts Daily, The Hilltop (Howard University) and of course Yale’s school paper.
If this experience has taught me anything about event planning, it is that it’s always worth avoiding it and passing the buck on to someone else if possible. I cannot wait for the summit, though! The work will definitely pay off. In the meantime, there are a million more things added to the to-do list every day. I’m in charge of the Staples runs as the list of necessary supplies grows – Dupont has the smallest Staples I’ve ever seen. I found all of the supplies we needed eventually, though. My first trip to Staples coincided with my first reimbursement form! At least, the first reimbursement form I processed for myself and not for someone else.
Wednesdays are always eaten up by a series of conferences with different teams — first communication with the US Field Team, all located within the DC office, then a staff-wide conference call including our office, the NY and European teams, the Yale interns and a west coast outreach intern in Florida. We round it all off with a more focused call on the summit exclusively with the Yale interns and their team. Especially as we hammer details down on the summit, its good to have thorough communication with the other branches of Global Zero to make sure that everyone is on the same page. A lot of the items on the agenda have been discussed for such a long time that these calls can be tedious as well. The good news: we have a US campaign strategy (mostly)! More details will come out on that earlier next week, which is cutting it close — we’ll be announcing this campaign at the summit next weekend.
I attended the event Diplomatic Strategies for Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran on Thursday, once again hosted by the Arms Control Association. Speakers included the executive director of the ACA, Ambassador James Dobbins, and Peter Crail. The name that caught my attention, however, was Dr. Jim Walsh, who spoke a few months ago at Cornell about the realities of Iran’s nuclear program. As part of my policy research with Global Zero, I’ve become quite familiar with the different types of rhetoric characterizing the discussion on a potential nuclear Iran — the issue has exploded even during my time here at Global Zero as Republican presidential candidates fight to assert both the situation as an apocalyptic threat and themselves as the most capable defense against it. I’ve often wondered what Dr. Walsh thinks about these new developments, so many of which followed his own predictions about probable (and destructive) responses to Iran’s nuclear ambitions; at this panel, I satisfied that curiosity as he, and the other eminent figures discussing the topic, urged a diplomatic solution as the only viable option for an Iran without nuclear weapons. Sanctions, despite misconceptions common in popular discourse, can never be the equivalent of diplomacy. He asserted that sanctions may create the pressure that allows diplomacy to be meaningful, but the latter must eventually follow the former for any result to emerge. Another option bandied about quite brazenly is the possibility of a military strike — but there is no way to surgically remove Iran’s nuclear program. Intelligence communities have asserted with high confidence for years that Iran has the intellectual and technical capability to produce nuclear weapons; their enrichment programs are robust, well protected, and widely dispersed. The knowledge is there and it isn’t going away. Only a full-out invasion and occupation, the destruction of the regime and all scientific infrastructure, promises a military solution to the Iran question, and that solution is heavy both with ethical obscenity and world-wide political and economic consequences. The other thing that intelligence communities hold in high confidence, however, is that Iran has not yet made a decision to actively seek the bomb. We still have an opportunity to prove to the Iranian leadership that more prestige, influence, and security can come without nuclear weapons than with; Dr. Walsh’s concern is that a strike, far from sterilizing Iran, would compel it to choose to seek nuclear weapons actively. He pointed to the bombing of the Osirak facility in Iraq, the consequences of which were a full-throttle race for nuclear weapons.
Luckily all panelists believed that a diplomatic resolution was not only possible but also opportunistic. Dr. Walsh in particular endorsed a plan originally introduced by Iranian leadership, which offered to limit enrichment activities to 3-5% so long as fuel was provided for a reactor that produces medical isotopes in Tehran. More intimate cooperation with the IAEA is an additional important goal. In exchange, the United States needs to seek ways to reincorporate Iran into the international diplomatic and economic community. Ambassador Dobbins stressed the importance of more regular and informal communication between Iran and the United States. One summit a year, he says, isn’t going to cut it. The amount of scrutiny and attention an event like that receives makes it difficult for participants to maneuver — meaning that negotiations predictably devolve into theatrical check-lists of every wrong each state has committed against the other. With more regular communication, eventually press interest will peter out, allowing more earnest and flexible discourse to take root.
On Friday I attended another event, this one held at the Brookings Institution right next door from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where I work. These panels, titled New START at One Year: Implementation and Looking to the Future, celebrated the anniversary of the New START treaty by first explaining its accomplishments and then exploring the groundwork it has laid for future arms reduction negotiations. New Start has been extremely successful in strengthening communication and intelligence between the United States and Russia; it has established a system of active data exchange on deployed strategic weapons (huge databases handed over twice a year and thousands of notifications as that data changes) as well as short-notice inspections that either country can conduct at will to affirm the authenticity of that data. Unfortunately, New START only targets deployed strategic weapons. The thousands of strategic nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia, as well as any non-deployed strategic weapons, are not yet addressed. Panelists called for attention to be given to these stockpiles as negotiations move forward. However, the political environment in both countries as presidential elections approach make any definitive negotiations highly unlikely. In the next year, panelists recommended trust-building gestures and even more thorough intelligence exchanges that would create the right climate for arms reduction as soon as election rhetoric dies down.
A new perspective I didn’t expect to gain from these panels was Russia’s contributions and reservations concerning New START and arms reduction in general. The panel opened with praise, not only for the U.S. team of negotiators and policy makers, but also their equally hard working Russian counterparts. Nevertheless, the United States and Russia approach the question of arms reductions with extremely divergent priorities. While the United States brings to the table a strong interest in nuclear weapons reduction, Russia is more worried about U.S. conventional capacities. This makes negotiations a difficult balancing act and helps to explain recent tension over the missile defense system plans in Europe.
Director of the Brookings Arms Control Initiative Steven Pifer, who served as moderator for the two panels, and Acting Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, featured in the first panel, will both be speaking at the Reaching Zero student summit next weekend! It was fantastic to see such eminent speakers before the summit.