Interview with Robert Grey, former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, on U.S. nuclear diplomacy

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1), which was signed by the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1991, has expired. The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Robert Grey, 73, the former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament and an expert on U.S. nuclear disarmament policy, on the prospects and challenges for U.S. nuclear diplomacy, during his visit to Hiroshima.

Why do you think a final agreement on a pact succeeding START 1 was not reached by December 5, when the treaty was set to expire?
The United States and Russia have been engaged in serious negotiations for the last five months. Partly due to the change of U.S. presidents, they have been preoccupied with "negotiations for negotiations" until recently. The environment hadn't been conducive to reaching an agreement.

The fact that U.S.-Russia relations cooled during the former Bush administration had a significant impact as well. Russia was put on the alert by the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pushed by the Bush administration. Last year, the war between Russia and Georgia widened the divide between NATO and Russia.

From another perspective, though, it can be said that the two nations have done a good job in such a short period of time.

There are fears that the verification system which enables the two nations to monitor each other's implementation of nuclear disarmament may be affected.
Disagreements over the verification system no doubt remain. I hear that the U.S. inspectors stationed at Russian missile factories have been pulled out in the wake of the expiration of START 1.

However, the United States and Russia both recognize the importance of the succeeding treaty. Although there may be some delay, the new treaty will surely be signed. And until it goes into force, the current system will be sustained, in principle. I'm not particularly concerned over the lag time between the two.

What do you think of the interim agreement that requires the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 each?
The scale of such reductions is modest, and I hope that negotiations seeking further reductions will be conducted.

What are the prospects for ratifying the new treaty in the U.S. Senate, which is required in order to implement the agreement?
I believe that a majority vote of two-thirds of the 100 senators, which is required to ratify the new treaty, will be secured. But discussions must be held to understand the contents of the treaty. Moreover, the Senate also has a number of other items on its agenda. It will take several months, at least, to ratify the new treaty.

The next hurdle to clear is the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The ratification of the CTBT will be much more difficult than that of the treaty succeeding START 1. I intend to do what I can to help persuade the Senate of the CTBT's merits in order to realize its ratification next year.

Robert Grey
Mr. Grey served as the U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament from 1998 to 2001. He also worked as a political advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and Director of the State Department's Office of Advanced Technology.

(Originally published on December 7, 2009)