Testimony: Nuclear Arms Proliferation

Testimony of Gary Milhollin

Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School and
Director, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control

Before the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs

May 8, 1992

I am pleased to appear before this Committee to discuss the subject of nuclear arms proliferation.

I would like to begin by congratulating the Committee, and its chairman, on their excellent investigative work. The Committee has done a great public service by exposing the dangerous decisions, made by our government, that helped Saddam Hussein build weapons of mass destruction and become a threat to the Middle East. We will never truly understand the American experience with Iraq until the truth comes out about our government’s cooperation with Saddam. I hope the Committee continues its investigation until all of the important facts are known.

The Committee has asked for my views on why the bomb is spreading and what can be done about it.

In general, countries build the bomb because they perceive its benefits to be greater than its costs. Each country makes this appraisal from its own vantage point. To convince countries not to make the bomb, they must be persuaded that the costs are simply too high. We are now trying to convince Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine of that proposition. They are being asked to move from nuclear weapon to non-nuclear weapon status, and to voluntarily give up what other countries have struggled and paid lots of money to pursue. The choice these former republics make will set an important precedent for the rest of the world.

We must convince them that any benefits of nuclear weapons are outweighed by cost of being deprived of Western aid and trade, which we must withhold unless the republics make the right decision. In effect, we must ask them to choose between bombs and breakfast.

Everybody knows that you can’t eat bombs for breakfast, but if somebody else is willing to buy your breakfast and let you keep making bombs, you never need to experience this reality.

The Russians also want our help. We haven’t asked them to give up nuclear weapons, but we can ask them not to help other countries develop long-range missiles. The Russians are now trying to sell India an powerful space rocket that would help India make an ICBM. In addition, India would get the rocket production technology, which would allow India to mass-produce the rocket and supply it to other countries. The Russians have also offered to supply the same technology to Brazil. Both India and Brazil convert their space rockets freely to ballistic missiles.

These Russian rocket sales would clearly violate the Missile Technology Control Regime, an international accord that limits the sale of dangerous missile technology. The Russians have not joined the regime although they have promised to abide by its provisions. If the sales go through, the regime would be severely, if not fatally, wounded. Before the West sends a giant aid package to Moscow, the Russians should be persuaded to join the regime and publicly renounce both of these deals. It is essential that the United States stand firm on this issue.

But does pressure like this really work? The evidence is growing that it does. Beacons of hope have begun to shine from several points. Argentina and Brazil have promised to stop short of nuclear weapon status, despite years of effort devoted to making both nuclear weapon material and long-range missiles. And even South Africa has promised to become a non-nuclear weapon state, although that country may have actually manufactured warheads. These three countries have apparently decided that the cost of having the bomb is simply too high. They concluded that whatever benefit they might derive from nuclear weapon status was smaller than the cost of being deprived of high-technology. They want to be viewed as reliable trading partners by the developed world, and are willing to give up the bomb to gain that status.

North Korea is now facing the same choice as Argentina, Brazil and South Africa did. The developed world is telling North Korea that it will remain isolated–diplomatically and economically– unless it gives up its bomb program. The isolation will push North Korea ever farther behind South Korea in real political and economic power, and hence influence. North Korea must decide whether the bomb is worth such a price.

In the Middle East, we are watching Saddam Hussein try to wriggle out of the embargo and still keep his nuclear secrets. It is unclear whether he will succeed. The U.N. does not seem to have found all of his nuclear equipment, and it is certain that his supplier network, which is perhaps his most dangerous asset, has not been exposed. The network is still willing and able to supply other would-be nuclear weapon states. To do a thorough inspection job in Iraq, the International Atomic Energy Agency needs to increase its effort dramatically. There must be several times more inspectors, they must move into Iraq, and they must engage the Iraqis aggressively until a complete picture of the Iraqi bomb program can be drawn. To help make this effort succeed, the countries that supplied Saddam must give the U.N. a list of the equipment their companies sold. And the members of the U.N., including the United States, must be willing to pay for more expensive inspections.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal also remains a problem. It is not easy to convince the Islamic countries that they don’t need nuclear weapons, chemical weapons or long-range missiles when Israel has all three, with our apparent blessing. Israel has passed along missile guidance technology to China and missile and nuclear technology to South Africa, making Israel an additional source of proliferation. Israel has also diverted U.S. missile technology–supplied to help Israel defend itself against missiles–to its own offensive long-range missile program.

Finally, we come to the subcontinent, where India and Pakistan can each deploy nuclear weapons and are embroiled in a long-standing border dispute. Neither country seems to have a clear military doctrine governing the use of nuclear weapons, so if fighting should suddenly break out over Kashmir, both countries would be stepping into the unknown.

The Indian and Pakistani bombs were built without jeopardizing anyone’s breakfast. American aid to Pakistan continued throughout the 1980s, even though it was clear that Pakistan was bent on making the bomb. Strangely enough, the aid flowed into Pakistan until Pakistan was actually able to assemble a nuclear device, at which point we cut them off. One can wonder at the effectiveness of such a policy.

India also enjoyed uninterrupted U.S. aid while it was developing its nuclear program. In fact, the bomb that India tested in 1974 was made with plutonium produced with U.S. heavy water, supplied to an Indian research reactor through Canada. Heavy water is used in reactors to make plutonium–a nuclear weapon material–from natural uranium. During the mid 1980s, India finally achieved the ability to make a nuclear arsenal by smuggling large quantities of heavy water from China, Norway and the Soviet Union. The United States detected the shipments and discovered that they were being made by a German broker. American diplomats complained about the broker to the German government, but Germany ignored the complaints, just as it ignored other U.S. complaints about the poison gas plants that German firms were supplying to Iraq and Libya at the same time. The State Department apparently decided not to embarrass Germany publicly, so all the deals went through.

The bill before this committee today, H.R. 4803, would cut into the free breakfast. India, for example, could not make bombs with one hand and still take money from the World Bank with the other. According to its Annual Report for 1991, the World Bank loaned India more than two billion dollars in 1991 and has loaned India more than $37 billion altogether. For Pakistan the figures are $677 million in 1991 and $8 billion altogether; for Argentina, $680 million in 1991 and $5.8 billion altogether; for Brazil $955 million in 1991 and $18.9 billion altogether. All of these countries also get help from the International Monetary Fund. The Fund loaned India over $2 billion in 1991 and loaned Pakistan $130 million.

It is also interesting to look at other types of aid. India got over four billion dollars’ worth of Export-Import Bank financing from the United States from 1970 to 1989, the period during which India was actively developing nuclear weapons. India also got another $20 billion in bilateral aid from Western countries other than the United States from 1980 to 1988.

When all these numbers are added up, we can see that the West was sending many billions of dollars in foreign exchange into India at the very same time that India was sending out billions to import its nuclear and missile infrastructure. In effect, the West was buying not only breakfast, but lunch, dinner and dessert for India’s nuclear and missile makers. India never had to decide between bombs and breakfast because it had an inexhaustible tab.

It is one thing for India to build nuclear weapons, nuclear missiles, and even nuclear submarines, which it is now doing, but it is quite another to ask U.S. taxpayers to finance it.

One final note on India. According to the standard references, India is now exporting only $17 billion in goods while importing $25 billion, thus running a trade deficit of $8 billion, which must be added to the interest payments on its $70 billion foreign debt. India is now in a financial vise. Yet, India is still spending over $9 billion per year on defense, and is ready to pay the Russians $200 million to import the missile regime-breaking rocket technology. Where will India get the money? From foreign aid.

H.R. 4803 would stop at least some of this. India would be cut off from multilateral aid unless it gives up its dangerous nuclear and missile programs. It is eminently fair to force India to make such a choice. If India has enough money to build nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, it does not need foreign aid. And if we continue to shovel foreign exchange into India while it is making bombs and missiles, we are simply bankrolling its drive to become a mini nuclear superpower.