An ACA Briefing with ... Lora Lumpe

Arms Control Today, November 1993


The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) policy outlined in the president's statement is not a radical departure from current policy. Let me outline current policy and briefly trace the history of the MTCR.

The MTCR was established in 1987 by the United States and its six closest economic allies. It has been expanded over the years and now compromises 23, mostly European countries, plus Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Several other countries adhere to its export control standards but are not formal members. At the next meeting later this year, two more countries will be- come formal members. It is note- worthy that the first developing - country, Argentina, will be one of those; Hungary will be the other.

Russia is among the countries that have agreed in principle to or, in fact, abide by MTCR export control restrictions. This concession was wrung out of Moscow after a fracas over its export of a cryogenic booster rocket and production technology for India's geosynchronous space launch vehicle. In return for finally agreeing to limit the terms of that transfer and also agreeing to abide strictly by the MTCR export guidelines, Russia was promised significant space cooperation with the United States.

China has agreed to abide by MTCR guidelines, but there is some concern about how seriously Beijing takes this pledge. Israel has also agreed to abide by these guidelines, but was not invited to become a full member for reasons I will explain in a moment. South Africa recently announced it will abide by the MTCR guide- lines as well, and it is not clear whether South Africa will be invited to become a full member.

The MTCR controls the exports of technologies in two categories listed in its annex. Category 1 is complete rocket systems and major subcomponents--complete ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles and major subcomponents. Category 2 covers significant enabling technology for those major subcomponents and for those missiles. MTCR member states have agreed to a "presumption to deny" all Category 1 transfers--the complete systems--and not to transfer production capability for ballistic missiles--entire missiles or major subcomponents. They also agree to generally restrict Category 2 technology, but the MTCR guide- lines explicitly state that Category 1 and Category 2 items may be transferred if a binding end-use agreement is received that the technology will not be used in a ballistic missile, but rather, for civilian space or aircraft purposes.

Monday's White House statement does not dramatically change the current situation. It does state more explicitly what has been going on. The difference is that now developing countries are starting to join this export control regime, which is aimed at developing countries for the most part. So, the statement did hold out a tentative carrot that says, if you jam, it is possible that you might be able to receive technology restricted by the MTCR for civilian space programs.

This has been the case. The only difference is that in the past, all the countries involved have been European, or Japan and Australia, and the United States did not consider them a proliferation threat. So in aiding Spain's space launch program or Italy's Acorns Control Today November 1993 space launch program or Australia's aerospace industry, transfers of items that are listed on the technology annex were reviewed and licensed by the State Department and the Commerce Department as required, but these countries were not considered a significant proliferation risk.

By now making more explicit the possibility that developing countries will be able to obtain the same treatment if they become full members of the MTCR, the White House has sparked strong reaction in Congress from those who see this as backing off from a commitment to control missile proliferation. These members claim there is absolutely no difference between a space launch vehicle and a ballistic.

It is ironic that the senators who have taken a lead on this issue are the same ones who drafted the legislation that implements and enforces the MTCR in the United States. It is this U.S. law that results in sanctions being imposed against China and other countries during the last couple of years. The United States has imposed sanctions seven different times--more than once against some countries--over the last two years. In my view, part of the problem with the MTCR is that the domestic legislation goes much further than the MTCR guidelines. U.S. legislation states that any country that is not an MTCR member or an adherent to its guidelines is ineligible to receive from the United States--or from any other country--any technology listed on either of the two categories of the MTCR annex.

So, for example, with Russia's agreement to transfer cryogenic engines and technology to India, which happened about a year and a half ago but finally just came to a head this past summer, the cryogenic engine was covered under Category 1 of the MTCR annex. But Russia could have completed the deal under MTCR guidelines if it obtained a binding agreement from India that the engines or technology were not going to be used for a ballistic missile. Russia reportedly obtained that agreement, but the sanctions were imposed anyway because U.S. law states that because India is not an MTCR member it cannot receive any of this technology and that Russia must be punished for transferring this technology. Implicit in that construct is that, if you are a member of the MTCR, you can receive these technologies. It is not explicitly stated, but the law clearly does not call for sanctions against adhering countries that import missile-related technologies.

This law was sponsored by the same group of senators who have reacted very strongly to President Clinton's proposal. They think the White House statement denotes a weakening of U.S. intention to control missile proliferation and that the United States is now going to promote space launch vehicle development and that this is an inherently bad thing.

What Zachary Davis has said about the difficulty of making decisions to control dual-use technology clearly applies here. In the case of India, and possibly one or two other examples, we are restricting technologies for a space launch program that they are obviously very serious about. India has spent over a decade and billions of dollars on this program, and it views space very much the way we view NASA: as a stimulus to education and development, and as a status program to show that India is a regional power with technological prowess.

Those who argue against allowing space launch vehicle technology transfer in return for a pledge to denounce ballistic missiles suggest that because such space launch programs are not economically viable, they must be a cover for some sort of military designs. But NASA is not "economically viable," many of the space launch vehicle programs under development here are not economically viable, but are driven by other motives as well. To deny that other countries could have those same motives seems, therefore, quite Arms Control Today November 1993 hypocritical. I think liberalizing exports of civilian space-related technology under a highly safeguarded situation in return for a pledge to disavow military ballistic missiles is a good trade.

The other conditions in the statement--and this is the first time this has been put down on paper, as far as I know--spell out what the United States requires for a country to become an MTCR member. That does not mean that because the United States decides a country can become a member of the MTCR, that member- ship is automatic--it is a consensual agreement among all 23 countries.

The White House statement says the U.S. supports "prudent" expansion of the MTCR's membership. According to the statement, the United States does not want everyone to come to the table, only countries that subscribe to international non-proliferation standards, enforce effective export controls and abandon offensive ballistic missile programs. Countries can keep buying Patriots and come to the table, but they have to renounce their surface-to-surface missile programs.

From my point of view, what is most noteworthy here is the blatant discriminatory nature of this policy. Countries that have been at the table since 1987 are not required to adhere to these same standards.

The United States, Britain, France and the other European countries that have short-range missiles in storage were not required to renounce their ballistic missiles to become MTCR members. They can even sell intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missiles to each other. But now that developing countries are joining the MTCR, they will have to jump over an extra hurdle by denouncing their offensive missiles, not only to join, but also if they want a civilian space launch program and want any sort of international cooperation at all, unlike all of the developed countries which are at the table.

In his speech, President Clinton said he seeks to "strengthen the principles of the MTCR by transforming it from an agreement on technology transfer among just 23 nations to a set of rules that can command universal adherence." let is difficult to see how he is going to do it with a regime that is so blatantly discriminatory. If it is going to create a separate set of conditions for new countries to join, there are undoubtedly some countries that are not going to accept those terms.

The result of this policy is likely to be that instead of shutting down India's space launch program, for example, a quicker indigenization of technology will occur. This is reportedly already the case with the cryogenic engine incident. According to Indian industry and government statements, they are making sudden, significant strides in that area.

The last point that I want to make is that the goal of this regime has significantly shifted and diffused over time. It was initially designed to stem nuclear proliferation, but now it seems to be equally or perhaps more of an anti-space launch vehicle program as well.

If the primary focus is concern that India will use long-range missiles to deliver nuclear weapons at Pakistan or China, that is rather absurd. India would be shooting its polar satellite launch vehicle almost vertically to hit Pakistan.

If nuclear weapons delivery is the concern, the focus should be on conventional aircraft. And as indicated earlier, except to say the administration is continuing to look at these issues, there is no indication in the White House background document or the president's speech of any sort of a vision for containing conventional weapons sales, in particular advanced aircraft, air defenses, and missile defenses--which all play into the acquisition of, and demand for, ballistic missiles.


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