spearheading the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), the Bush
Administration has taken a major step toward balancing
international and national authority in controlling weapons
proliferation. The PSI seeks to coordinate the actions of
individual states in interdicting shipments of weapons, weapons
components, and weapons production equipment.
approach allows each participating state to make a contribution
toward interdicting relevant shipments in a way that is consistent
with its national laws and policies. By sidestepping the
"least-common-denominator" approach for establishing international
non-proliferation policy that is inherent in the consensus-based
decision-making process of an international treaty regime, the PSI
has already demonstrated that it will make a powerful contribution
toward stemming proliferation.
means of hindering proliferation, multilateral arms control has
become too dependent on a treaty regime managed by cumbersome
international bureaucracies. This dependency weakens the critical
effort to control the proliferation of biological, chemical, and
nuclear weapons and their delivery systems by depriving it of
needed flexibility and access to a wider variety of tools.
Augmenting the treaty regime and its institutions--e.g., the
Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the Chemical Weapons
Convention (CWC), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)--necessarily depends on encouraging
individual states to exercise their sovereign authority to control
Non-proliferation should not remain an
effort in which centralized international authorities seek to
override state sovereignty. Rather, the international treaty regime
should share with national authorities the responsibility for
addressing proliferation threats.
The Rise of the PSI
President George W. Bush proposed the PSI,
in general terms, in Poland at the Group of 8 (G-8) summit on May
31, 2003. Specifically, the President stated:
And I call on America's G-8 partners to
follow through on their financial commit-ments so that we can stop
proliferation at one of its sources. When weapons of mass
destruction or their components are in transit, we must have the
means and authority to seize them. So today I announce a new effort
to fight proliferation called the Proliferation Security
Initiative. The United States and a number of our close allies,
including Poland, have begun working on new agreements to search
planes and ships carrying suspect cargo and to seize illegal
weapons or missile technologies. Over time, we will extend this
partnership as broadly as possible to keep the world's most
destructive weapons away from our shores and out of the hands of
our common enemies.
first follow-up meeting of the core group of PSI nations was in
Madrid, Spain, on June 15, 2003. At this meeting, the participating
states agreed to an initiative describing the strategies for
intercepting suspicious cargoes, including those that might include
chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or missiles, as well as
second meeting was on July 9-10, 2003, in Brisbane, Australia. This
meeting focused on establishing the most effective modalities for
interdiction activities. The conference found that information
sharing among participating states is essential to effective
interdiction. The Brisbane conference also supported steps for
strengthening domestic non-proliferation laws in participating
states, including enhanced export controls.
third meeting of core PSI participants, in Paris, France, on
September 4, 2003, was perhaps the most important. At this meeting,
the principles governing the PSI were established. The 11 states
agreed to four principles, which call on all states concerned about
- Take steps to interdict the transfer or
transport of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery
systems, and related systems to and from states and non-state
actors of "proliferation concern";
- Adopt streamlined procedures for rapid
exchange of information regarding suspected proliferation
- Strengthen both national legal authorities
and relevant international law to support PSI commitments; and
- Take specific actions to support
interdiction of cargoes of WMD, delivery systems, and related
materials consistent with national and international
laws--including not transporting such cargoes, boarding and
searching vessels flying their flags that are reasonably suspected
of carrying such cargoes, allowing authorities from other states to
stop and search vessels in international waters, interdicting
aircraft transiting their airspace that are suspected of carrying
prohibited cargoes, and inspecting all types of transportation
vehicles using ports, airfields, or other facilities for the
transshipment of prohibited cargoes.
fourth PSI meeting was in London, England, on October 9-10, 2003,
and focused on broadening international support for the PSI
principles adopted at the Paris meeting. Identifying the PSI as an
inclusive global initiative, participants stated that over 50
countries had expressed support for the principles by the time of
the London meeting.
final PSI meeting of 2003 was an experts-level meeting in
Washington, D.C., on December 16-17. The focus of this meeting was on how to
conduct interdiction operations. In addition to the original
participating states, representatives from Canada, Denmark, Norway,
Singapore, and Turkey attended this meeting. Further, Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz committed the U.S. Department
of Defense "to making interdiction [under the PSI] an essential
mission for [the U.S.] military."
first PSI meeting of 2004 took place in Lisbon, Portugal, on March
4 and 5. Among the accomplishments at this meeting was a decision
to prevent the facilitators of the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction, including individual traders and companies, from
engaging in this kind of weapons trade. PSI participants pledged to
continue their efforts to broaden international support for the
initiative. The next
PSI meeting will take place in Krakow, Poland, in May.
Exercises and Interdictions
While planning and organizing the PSI, the
participating states are also undertaking a series of training
exercises and interdiction operations. These activities demonstrate
that the PSI is not just a series of meetings: It is resulting in
concrete actions to stem the flow of dangerous materials and
equipment to those states and non-state actors that wish to obtain
biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological weapons and the
missiles to deliver them.
PSI nations have undertaken six training exercises since the
adoption of the interdiction principles in September 2003, including:
- An Australian-led maritime interdiction
training exercise in the Coral Sea in September 2003;
- A British-led air interdiction command
post exercise in London in October 2003;
- An October 2003 maritime interdiction
training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, led by Spain;
- A November 2003 maritime interdiction
training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, led by France;
- A January 2004 maritime interdiction
training exercise in the Arabian Sea, led by the U.S.; and
- An Italian-led air interception training
exercise in February 2004.
Future training exercises have also been
organized. These plans make it clear that PSI nations believe that
interdictions to stem both the proliferation of dangerous weapons
and the means to produce them will be an enduring activity. The
currently planned exercises include:
- A Polish-led ground interdiction exercise
for early this year;
- An Italian-led maritime interdiction
exercise in the Mediterranean Sea this spring;
- A French-led air interception exercise,
also scheduled for this spring; and
- A German-led international airport
exercise, scheduled for later this month.
Despite the relatively recent birth of the PSI, the
participating states have already undertaken interdiction
operations, although these operations will be announced or
discussed in public in only a few cases. The speed of response signals one of
the core strengths of the PSI: the demonstrated ability to bring to
bear the existing assets and capabilities of member states without
the exhausting and time-consuming effort of building a large
important, publicly announced case concerned an attempt to ship
centrifuges for producing nuclear weapons material to Libya.
President Bush described the interdiction in a February 11, 2004,
speech on countering the threat of weapons of mass destruction. According to Bush,
U.S. and British intelligence identified the shipment as the
products of a Malaysian facility and tracked its initial delivery
to Dubai. There, the equipment was transferred to a German-owned
ship, the BBC China. After the BBC China passed through the Suez
Canal, German and Italian authorities stopped the ship and unveiled
the clandestine cargo of centrifuge parts.
December 2003, Libya announced its intention to terminate its
nuclear and chemical weapons programs and forgo a biological
While it cannot be proven, it is reasonable to assume that the
interdiction contributed to Libya's decision, since U.S. and
British officials confronted Libyan officials regarding the
interdiction prior to the announcement.
Putting the PSI in Perspective: Guidelines
for the Future
Given the early indications of success
under the PSI, the U.S. and other participating states should use
it as a basis for continuing to expand the tools for combating
proliferation. In reality, the PSI represents a new approach to
arms control: an approach designed not to replace the existing
treaty-based regime, but to augment it by expanding the arms
control effort. Given the current context, the ongoing effort to
build and strengthen the PSI should be directed by the following
Foster healthy competition with the institutions of the
treaty-based non-proliferation regime.
treaty-based international non-proliferation regime should not have
monopolistic powers. With few exceptions, this regime has dominated
the world of arms control in the area of non-proliferation. As a
result, it exhibits the classic weaknesses associated with any
monopoly. It is large, slow, complacent, and lacking in creativity.
It is easily distracted and drawn into matters tangential to its
primary purpose. The bureaucracies that manage the regime seem more
interested in self-protection and perpetuation than in meeting new
following are just some of the shortcomings that have surfaced with
the treaty-based regime and its affiliated bureaucracies over the
- Debate over the NPT has become more
focused on the tangential issue of "general and complete
disarmament" than on the object and purpose of the treaty, which is
stemming the spread of nuclear weapons.
- The BWC is inherently unverifiable.
Nevertheless, considerable effort was put into the unachievable
goal of crafting a verification protocol to the treaty.
Predictably, this effort failed in July 2001.
- The CWC is unenforceable. The result is
that significant chemical arsenals will remain intact for the
foreseeable future, despite the treaty's assertion that it will
"exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical
weapons." The CWC represents a wet blanket for creative efforts to
address the enduring chemical weapons threat.
- The CTBT will not be brought into force,
but this fact has had little impact on those pursuing a futile
effort to find a magic formula for bringing it into force. As a
result, the CTBT has become yet another distraction in the effort
to stem nuclear proliferation.
- The OPCW Director General was dismissed
for mismanagement in 2002.
- The IAEA underestimated the scope of the
Iraqi nuclear weapons program in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Clearly, the international treaty-based
regime for combating proliferation could use some healthy
competition. Thus, the PSI should not be pursued as a replacement
for the treaty-based regime but as a supplement. Under Secretary of
State John Bolton has confirmed the U.S. government's intention to
participate in the PSI on this basis.
essence, the PSI--and any additional non-proliferation initiatives
or activities of a similar nature--should serve as a force to
counter the monopolistic behavior present in the treaty-based
regime. In effect, they should represent new entrepreneurial
players in the non-proliferation arms control market. Institutions
such as the NPT, the CWC, the IAEA, and the OPCW should be forced
Resist the temptation to build cumbersome international
Under Secretary of State John Bolton has
noted on several occasions that the PSI is "an activity rather than
This is appropriate. As noted earlier, the PSI has resulted in a
series of substantive exercises and actual interdiction operations,
despite commencing less than a year ago. This has been possible
because the member states are focused on their interdiction
activities and not on building a bureaucracy.
OPCW, by comparison, is seven years old and, by its own account,
has been focused on building an international bureaucracy. The OPCW
Web site boasts that the organization has 158 member countries (as
of the end of 2003) and a staff of 500 people from 66 countries,
communicates in six different languages, spends about 60 million
euros annually, and forces "big, rich countries" to finance the
majority of its operations while "some smaller and/or poorer
countries pay as little as one thousandth of one percent of the
the OPCW leadership is not focused on fashioning a "lean and mean"
organization that is results-oriented.
the PSI matures, however, pressure to "institutionalize" will
likely grow. This pressure should be resisted. Building an
international bureaucracy will only distract PSI participating
states from performing the essential function of interdicting
weapons-related shipments. The same bias against
institutionalization should be applied to any future PSI-related
Harness the power of sovereign states.
Harnessing the power of sovereign states
would make contributions to controlling proliferation that the
international treaty-based regime cannot match. The PSI is
completely dependent on the determination and assets of its
participating states to interdict weapons-related shipments. This
is a source of strength, not weakness. This approach, along with a
relatively select membership, allows the PSI to avoid the
least-common-denominator decision-making process associated with
the treaty-based non-proliferation regime. It also allows the PSI
to take advantage of the capabilities of its participating
comparison with the CWC is useful. As noted earlier, as of the end
of 2003, the OPCW had 158 member countries in its Conference of
State Parties. Article VIII of the CWC directs that decisions by
the Conference of State Parties on substantive matters should, if
at all possible, be by consensus. At a minimum, such decisions
require a two-thirds majority of the member states present and
voting. Needless to
say, a bias toward consensus among 158 countries--including
countries determined to cheat on their non-proliferation
obligations--is not a formula for efficient decision-making.
Further, the CWC established the OPCW. The
OPCW was built from scratch with in-house capabilities and designed
to be at arms length from the governments of the member countries.
This effectively made the OPCW a separate power center--opposite
the member countries and their governments--and blocked its access
to most contributions that the governments might otherwise make
toward fulfilling the CWC's purpose.
PSI is currently designed to take advantage of the capabilities of
its participating countries and avoid creating a separate power
center. By harnessing these capabilities--as opposed to striking a
pose of neutrality among the participating states--the PSI enables
rapid-fire decisions and will have an impact on stemming
proliferation that far outstrips the modest size of its
Avoid quid pro quo deals that compromise the mission.
PSI is keenly focused on interdiction activities. Likewise, the
designers of the initiative have avoided adopting competing
priorities within the initiative. This is a wise choice. Adopting
competing priorities would necessarily dilute the purpose of the
PSI and lessen its effectiveness.
contrast, the desultory treaty-based non-proliferation regime is
defined by competing priorities that are a direct result of quid
pro quo deals codified by the treaties themselves. For example, the
NPT codifies a deal between nuclear supplier states and non-weapons
states. The deal commits the supplier states to support peaceful
nuclear programs in the non-weapons states, and the non-weapons
states commit to forgo nuclear weapons.
problem is that a non-weapons state like Iran can use the
international commitment to support its peaceful activities both to
facilitate and to shield from public view an illegal nuclear
weapons development and acquisition program. President Bush spoke
of this shortcoming in his February 11 speech: "These
[proliferating] regimes are allowed to produce nuclear material
that can be used to build bombs under the cover of civilian nuclear
is not to say that quid pro quo arrangements such as those in the
NPT are always a bad choice: It is true that such arrangements are
a source of weakness in the agreements and treaties that use
them, but it is a
weakness that need not apply to all non-proliferation agreements
and initiatives. The founders of the PSI have avoided resorting to
these kinds of arrangements, and the PSI is stronger for it. They
would be wise to avoid such arrangements in the future.
Building on a Good Idea
Consistent with the guidelines outlined
above, Members of Congress could make five specific recommendations
to the Bush Administration regarding the PSI and its broader policy
for using arms control to combat proliferation. These
recommendations would assist in strengthening the PSI and expanding
the concept to other areas through similar initiatives.
of these recommendations are legislative. Embedding the PSI in
domestic law would likely undermine the responsiveness of the
initiative in fulfilling its defined responsibilities for stemming
proliferation. Rather, these are recommendations that individual
Members of Congress could suggest to the Bush Administration in
private meetings or public hearings.
#1: Focus on cracking down on domestic sources of proliferation
within PSI member states uncovered in the Khan
Recent press accounts indicate that in
several instances, European sources supplied nuclear weapons
production components to Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear black market
account, for example, charges that Peter Griffin, a British citizen
living in France, was a middleman in a project to make centrifuge
components in Libya. The article goes on to say that
machines for this project came from Spain and Italy. (France, the
United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain are all PSI countries.)
Whether or not the specific charges are
true, the successful penetration of the Khan nuclear black market
network is clearly providing numerous leads to the original sources
of nuclear weapons production components. Further, it appears that
in a number of cases, PSI states are the sources of these
components. Members of Congress should press the Bush
Administration to obtain a commitment from all PSI states that they
will work aggressively to follow the leads resulting from the
penetration of the Khan network and work to shut down any supplier
operations within their borders.
While this recommendation would expand the
mandate of the PSI beyond interdiction, this is a limited expansion
and will not serve to distract the PSI from its central mission.
President Bush has already called on PSI states to cooperate in the
area of law enforcement. This proposal is consistent with the
President's new initiative on stemming proliferation.
#2: Forswear any international employees under the
countries should not succumb to the temptation to build the PSI
into an international bureaucracy. Such a step would only duplicate
a significant weakness in the existing treaty-based
non-proliferation arms control regime.
way to reduce the likelihood of this mistake is for PSI member
states to issue a declaration that the PSI will not hire staff.
Rather, the declaration should state that the participating
governments will provide the manpower required to support PSI
activities and that these individuals will remain employees of
those governments. Members of Congress should recommend that the
Bush Administration propose such a declaration at an upcoming
meeting of PSI countries.
#3: Establish companion initiatives for dismantling weapons
programs and verifying their destruction .
interdiction activities of the PSI are an essential part of an
effective non-proliferation regime. Two other areas of an effective
non-proliferation regime deserve similar initiatives: dismantlement
of weapons programs and verification.
PSI's core mandate is interdiction. As indicated earlier, expanding
that limited mandate to cover law enforcement activities is
appropriate. However, a further expansion of the PSI would only
distract the initiative from its central mission and dilute its
effectiveness. The better alternative is to pursue dismantlement
and verification as separate initiatives.
need for initiatives on dismantlement and verification occurs in
the context of special agreements with would-be proliferating
countries to abandon their weapons programs. Libya, for example,
has recently made such a commitment. It is even possible, although
unlikely, that North Korea could sign an agreement to dismantle its
weapons programs as well. As a result, the U.S. could spearhead the
creation of a Weapons Program Dismantlement Initiative (WDI) and a
Non-Proliferation Verification Initiative (NPVI).
- In a WDI, participating states would
contribute teams of experts to assist in the dismantlement process.
These experts, however, would remain employees of the participating
governments, insofar as a WDI, like the PSI, would remain "an
activity rather than an organization."
- In an NPVI, the same concept would have
participating states create teams to verify completion of the
destruction process and certify that no new weapons programs emerge
in the applicable states. This approach is consistent with
Guideline #2 and Guideline #3 for directing the PSI and similar
Without such initiatives, the temptation
will be to turn destruction and verification responsibilities over
to the international bureaucracies associated with the treaty-based
regime. As noted in Guideline #1, these bureaucracies should not be
given monopolistic control over non-proliferation activities.
this regard, it is interesting to note that the U.S. and the United
Kingdom are working with the IAEA and the OPCW to dismantle Libya's
They did not just turn over responsibility for the destruction
program to the IAEA and the OPCW. Using the teamed approach would
be entirely appropriate in future cases.
#4: Propose a fifth principle for the PSI on the provision of
dual-use systems and components.
additional principle would commit participating states not to
supply any would-be proliferating state with dual-use systems that
could reasonably be assumed to provide a weapon production
capability, even if they are ostensibly for peaceful purposes.
Adopting this principle would signal that PSI countries would
resist the kind of quid pro quo deal that weakens the nuclear
non-proliferation regime, as described in Guideline #4.
PSI should seek to raise the standards for non-proliferation and
not just settle for improving operating procedures under the
existing standards. Under current practice, non-nuclear NPT states,
for example, are effectively entitled to a wide variety of dual-use
nuclear equipment to support ostensibly peaceful nuclear programs.
Much of this can be used in the production of nuclear weapons. Just
because a non-nuclear state wants dual-use equipment, however, does
not mean that it should get the equipment in every instance.
President Bush recognized this when he
announced in his February 11 speech that he is seeking future
restrictions on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing
equipment. As a
result, it is entirely appropriate that the PSI countries agree to
a principle that calls for blocking the transfer of dual-use
equipment and components to any would-be proliferating country.
Congress should recommend that the Bush Administration seek
adoption of this new principle at a future meeting of PSI
#5: Use PSI partners to encourage outside support for PSI on a
participants are seeking the support of other states for the
initiative. As of October 2003, some 50 countries had expressed
support for the PSI. Several weeks later, Under Secretary
of State John Bolton told the Arms Control Association that outside
support for the initiative was continuing to grow.
of the reasons behind the momentum for outside support of the PSI
is that Japan hosted a meeting of Asian nations to inform them
about the initiative and ask for their support. This kind of
regional approach to spreading support for the PSI should continue
to pay dividends. Congress could suggest to the Bush Administration
and other PSI governments that they host similar regional
Today's security requirements call for a
system of international cooperation that is more flexible than the
system used during the Cold War. This new system has been called
"coalitions of the willing." While this term is used more commonly
in the context of cooperation in defense activities and military
operations, it is equally appropriate to describe a new system for
arms control cooperation.
nation-state remains the primary component of the international
system. The extent to which the international non-proliferation
effort fails to account for this fact is the extent to which the
effort is weakened. The PSI works within the structure of the
nation-state system. It reinforces national sovereignty rather than
weakening sovereignty by vesting enforcement authority in some
supranational body like the United Nations. As a result, it
strengthens the forces for non-proliferation worldwide by
harnessing the strengths of the nation-state system.
Further, today's world is more complex and
less predictable than during the Cold War. As a result, rigidly
structured international coalitions cannot effectively respond to
the rapid pace of threatening developments. The appropriate
response is to create less formal and more loosely structured
international coalitions that are more responsive and adaptive.
This is the case with arms control as well as with military
operations. The PSI shows how the coalitions-of-the-willing concept
can be applied to arms control and non-proliferation.
attacks of September 11, 2001, serve as a warning to civilized
nations of the intolerable risks associated with the unchecked
proliferation of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and the
missiles to deliver them. While arms control is only one of several
tools for combating proliferation, it is an essential one. If arms
control is left completely in the hands of ineffective and
unaccountable international bureaucracies, this essential tool of
non-proliferation will atrophy. The PSI serves to ensure that such
an unfortunate outcome is not the result.
Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research
Fellow in National Security Policy in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom
Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage