Expounding Bush's Approach to U.S. Nuclear Security
Scoblic, J. Peter, Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today
An Interview With John R. Bolton
Arms Control Today met with John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, on February 11 to discuss the Bush administration's strategic nuclear policy, its ongoing negotiations with Russia, and its approach to nonproliferation.
In the interview, Bolton acknowledged for the first time that the United States did not offer Russia amendments to the AntiBallistic Missile (ABM) Treaty before announcing its withdrawal December 13. Bolton also questioned the value of the negative security assurances the United States has offered non-nuclearweapon states since 1978, but the State Department subsequently indicated that U.S. policy had not changed and that the Bush administration does support negative security assurances. (For more information, see news story on p. 23.)
Bolton was sworn in as undersecretary on May 11, 2001. Before joining the State Department, Bolton was senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington policy organization. A lawyer by training, Bolton was a partner in the law firm of Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus from 1983 to 1999. He has held several government positions, including assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs from 1989 to 1993 and assistant attorney general from 1985 to 1989.
During Bolton's time as the nation's top arms control official, the Bush administration has generated controversy by announcing the U.S. intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and by rejecting an internationally negotiated protocol intended to help strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. Currently, the most prominent arms control debate concerns how to implement President George W. Bush's proposal to reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads the United States operationally deploys to 1,700-2,200, as well as Russia's offer to reduce its nuclear forces. Although the administration recently said it would codify the reductions in a legally binding arrangement with Russia-a commitment not clear in November when Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin initially announced the cuts-the Pentagon has said that warheads removed from operational deployment will be stored in a reserve force rather than dismantled. This position has been criticized by Russian and American experts, as well as U.S. congressional leaders, who want to see the warheads and their delivery vehicles dismantled in order to make the reductions as difficult as possible to reverse.
J. Peter Scoblic, ACT's editor, and Wade Boese, the Arms Control Association's research director, met with Bolton in his office at the State Department. The following is a transcript of their conversation.
ACT: Secretary Powell said last week that he expects the United States and Russia to sign a legally binding accord to reduce the number of offensive strategic weapons that they deploy. In earlier months, the administration had suggested that it would prefer an informal agreement because Cold War-style treaties are unnecessary, given our new relationship with Russia. Why has the administration changed its mind?
Bolton: Well, I don't think we have changed our mind. I think the point about not wanting Cold War-style treaties remains entirely valid, and the reason for that is that, in many respects, the way those treaties were negotiated reflected the geostrategic environment of the Cold War. That environment is now very much different, and our relationship with the Russian Federation is very much different. In those circumstances, you don't want to be negotiating a kind of formal agreement that actually exacerbates diplomatic tensions as much as it might have the prospect of relieving them. So, the issue is looking for the right kind of agreement that reflects the new relationship, which could well take the form of a treaty or something other than a political declaration. We're still in the process of deciding that. …