After the 9/11 attacks and the rash of anthrax mailings, renewed attention is being paid to the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) falling into the hands of additional states and nonstate actors. The vast majority of scenarios involving WMD proliferation invariably stems from the current insecurity characterizing the state of the Russian WMD complex, particularly its nuclear complex.
The threatened test of North Korea’s long-range Taepo-Dong II missile has apparently been averted¾ for now. Talks between U.S. and North Korean officials have resulted in a loose pledge from the North not to take any actions that would disrupt improving relations as long as talks continue.
President Clinton announced new funding for an expanded threat reduction initiative in Russia. Unfortunately this new funding commitment still does not match the threat. The degradation in security of Russia’s nuclear weapon complex and the economic collapse in August 1998 has put the safety of nuclear materials and nuclear intelligence in jeopardy.
For some two years there have been public concerns about Russian firms – and perhaps elements of the Russian government – assisting Iran to develop ballistic missiles. Last month Iran conducted the first flight-test of its Shahab-3 missile. Some analysts suspect that Iran is a few years away from fielding the Shahab-4 missile, which could reach most of Egypt and some of Central Europe.
In July 1998, The Carnegie Endowment hosted a Proliferation Roundtable with Joseph Cirincione, Frank Record, Vann Van Diepen, and Richard Speier. The conversation was off the record.
Agenda for the 1997 Carnegie Non-Proliferation Conference.
Iran’s growing weapons capabilities already pose a grave risk to U.S. allies and U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, but this threat could greatly worsen in coming years, as Iran graduates to even more potent weapons than it currently possesses, enlarges its missile arsenal, builds longer-range systems, and learns to mate its weapons of mass destruction with these advanced delivery systems.
The most likely setting for the world's first nuclear war, observers generally agree, is South Asia.