Aaron Tovish, interviewed by telephone, 1993
Interviewer: Metta Spencer
Metta Spencer: So let’s start at the beginning. When we first met you were in Yugoslavia. What were you up to?
Aaron Tovish: That was an effort to get this third party intervention by neutral and nonaligned countries going. I was travelling around to all the neutral and nonaligned countries and I went through Hungary on the way to Austria, but Yugoslavia was considered the first nonaligned country.
Metta: And you were trying to talk to whom?
Tovish: People in the foreign ministry mainly, I wasn’t so much grass roots oriented in Yugoslavia. I did talk to, they had sort of an official peace movement and they had some interesting, there were some signs of activity among young people, particularly Slovenians, whom I met at a meeting organized by the world federalists, European federalist youth, Tarasik Nova.
Metta: Would that have been Marko Hren?
Tovish: I don’t know.
Metta: Ok, so you were talking to people in the foreign ministry asking them to do what?
Tovish: To speak up and get active with the superpowers not talking to each other and Europe threatened that way with the deployment of the missiles and all that.
Metta: Did you feel that you had any success?
Tovish: Well not on that particular issue in Yugoslavia, but later on Yugoslavia was part of an effort to amend the partial test ban treaty. I think it was in part, you know I had sort of made some contacts there and with the parliamentarians started working, later with the parliamentarians of course we had a little access. But they knew me, they knew the kind of politics I did, I think it was…
Metta: Can you name some of the people who were in this?
Tovish: There was a guy named Djokic’, he was in the disarmament section and it went on to, he was in Geneva for a while and then he was at the UN as a deputy and so on. In fact, I saw him just the other day, and maintained sort of a running dialogue with him. I just saw him I didn’t talk to him, I have no idea where he stands in the mess that’s going on there now. When I was in Hungary I met some of the dissidents, but I can’t say that I advanced any particular cause while I was there. I wrote a report for the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society — the newspaper. They were quite involved in opening channels in the East. You might want to get them.
Metta: Who in particular?
Tovish: Well Lars Angstrom, and to a lesser extent Thomas Magnusson.
Metta: Did you talk to any officials in Hungary?
Tovish: No, the people I met with were being hounded by the police.
Metta: For example, do you remember any names?
Tovish: No we mainly ended up talking mathamatics, because the guy I stayed with was a mathematician.
Metta: Now eventually you found a meeting of minds between, on approach to…
Tovish: We had been pressing for, through the Six Nation Peace Initiative, a test moratorium with the Soviets and of course the US also. And the Soviets responded in August 1985 to lots of different people’s suggestions that there be a moratorium, putting some undoubtedly internal thinking on the matter. But a lot of people credit the Centre for Defense Information for having really put that to the Soviets. IPPNW also takes some credit for that. They met with Gorbachev and his top officials and he said it would make a big difference if they stop testing. Then once the Soviets had decided to stop testing we thought this was an opening for the Six Nation initiative to not just support the moratorium, and ask other countries to join them, which everybody who was pro Moscow was doing. But to say that the moratorium should be used to be testing out some of the verification techniques in recent years. We had commisioned Charles Archibald from the University of Colorado to design a, what kind of verification system would you want if during a moratorium want to ensure that the moratorium was really being respected, but secondly learn the kind of information you need to establish a permanent monitoring system. So he wrote a memorandum for us which we arranged to have presented by him to a luncheon meeting of the representatives of the Six Nation peace initiative leaders, who we met with regularly in a thing called planning group. This was a way of getting American expertise into the purview of these six foreign countries. This was a technical presentation by Archibald, the people listening were not technical. What they did do is to agree to set up a technical group which is under the leadership of Ola Dahlman. He worked as a seismologist in the Swedish defence ministry, they have a defence research organization and the Swedes have been pretty active on the test ban verification issue. So he chaired the group and then there were experts from each of the other five countries. That group continued to meet for a period of half a year and eventually –
I’m going to have to back track a little to explain what’s happening,. They produced a paper which included about six recommendations on how to verify a moratorium, which was then made public by the Six Nations leaders in Ixtapa in 1986 Aug. It became the basis for, well, that summit and the call for the extension of the moratorium was very influential in getting the Soviets to extend their moratorium yet another time. So the Six Nation Initiative interest in this was an important point of reference for Gorbachev to be able to say, well look—there are people taking this seriously out there and we should keep trying it. But more important than that, the initial Archibald paper led to sort of an ambiguous statement by the Six in Oct. 1985, so I’m back tracking now Oct 85, on Disarmament Day during the general assembly. Three of the leaders met and they issued this statement; it said they were prepared to help with the verification of the moratorium, but basically what they meant, all they were prepared to agree upon with each other was that they were prepared to do it from their own territories, which is pretty meaningless. They could do that even without Soviet permission or US permission. So we sort of put a spin on it, we said what they’re really talking about is setting up seismometers in the country and we gave the people Archibald’s address, telephone number and they called him up and so they sort of, the whole idea of verification inside the country came out for the first time. In other words doing something like an intrusive verification like that without a treaty agreement was sort of made public at that point in a kind of funny way.
Then in December, before the moratorium was going to expire, Gorbachev announced that he was going to extend it, so that was the first extension. And he referred to the offer of the six to help with verification and he said he would welcome it. Now that was the first time ever the Soviets had talked about verifying something other than a treaty agreement, so that was a bit of a breakthrough and as I see it it was the first sign that Glasnost applied to security issues. It was laid down as a principle at that point, but since then the initial offer was ambiguous, the response was inherently ambiguous also and that’s when the INDC [MS: I think he means NRDC? The errors I have found here make me think this is from a paper that was scanned, but not scanned well.] came in. I had been in touch with them, I made available to them Archibald’s paper.
So then we took a delegation, Global Action took a delegation in 1986 over to Moscow. It included Olafur Grimsson and Relus terBeek, he’s now the minister of defence in Holland. And Olafur Grimsson, he was for a while the minister of finance for Iceland and now co-leader of the opposition there. [MS: Later president of Iceland for four terms.] And Nick Dunlop and Frank Von Hippel was the advisor that we brought along. So that delegation met with Shevardnadze. And Shevardnadze said, look we would welcome the scientists with all their baggage and everything, we’re all in favor of it, but still it was seen as if it was only under conditions of the bilateral moratorium. So they then held a meeting with Velikhov, where Frank did most of the talking because they were well acquainted with each other and the case is clear that Velikhov was prepared to go faster than that and maybe involve scientists even if there wasn’t a bilateral moratorium. It wasn’t clear but it looked like there might be a possibility. At any rate what was agreed was that we would, Global Action and the Soviet Academy, would organize a workshop on verification. We would be responsible for inviting the foreign participants, along with Frank out of Princeton, and so Frank and I got in touch with the National Resource Defence Council as soon as we got back because we knew their proposal.
Metta: They had already proposed something?
Tovish: Well they had gone to the Soviets and suggested this idea of citizen monitoring.
Metta: They had done this separately from you?
Tovish: Yes they had approached the mission in Washington and gotten nowhere. They had been received politely but there had been no response at all, nothing major, to their proposal. So Frank said, Ok here’s our chance to put it forward to Velikhov and his people at this workshop. NRDC was invited and Jack Everndon, who’s been another really active scientist on this stuff, he had a proposal to do some basic research in preparation for establishing a network. Officially Global Action paid for Archibald with the NRTC proposal to go over and NRDC paid for Everendon with his sort of more long range proposal. But that was just how the technicalities worked out, we’ed already had Archibald as a consultant. We covered Archibald and NRDC covered Everendon. And Tom Cochran was there and Adrian Dewind was also representing NRDC. Frank was on the delegation, I was on the delegation. And we also arranged for participation by Ola Dahlman the Swede, and an Indian flew in from Delhi. The Soviets had a whole array of people from the scientific community mainly.
Metta: And this is the workshop you’re referring to?
Tovish: This is the workshop, this was held about 2 weeks after Chernobyl. Velikhov would appear for a couple hours then go back to Chernobyl, then reappear for a few hours then go back where apparently he was doing himself some damage, J think he over exposed himself (physically).
Metta: Is he sick?
Tovish: He’s been off and on, he’s in trouble. I don’t think it’s lethal, well maybe in the long run, but he was really in the thick of it down there. Anyway, things were kind of delayed because Velikhov kept going back and forth. We still had the workshop and to our amazement we thought they would go for the long range plan because we didn’t think that the government would ever accept this sort of unilateral verification, unofficial verification with the US still testing. But to our amazement Velikhov talked Gorbachev into it. And so they couldn’t be less interested in Everndon’s plan, although eventually they did get around to doing a lot of that stuff. But the political moment was: we want to get this project going faster than you are proposing. So they wanted to work out an agreement right then and there, so everybody extended their stays. They sent us on a trip to St. Petersburg over the weekend, then when Velikhov returned the next week to Moscow, they had drafted up an agreement which I think you can get from the NRDC. And they initialed it at the academy, Velikhov’s office and I was there. I remember that Velikhov signed in the wrong place. Velikhov signed over Adrian Dewind’s name and Adrian Dewind signed over Velikhov’s name. The plan went forward and J had to take a plane to Stockholm at that point because Dahlman had already left at the end of the workshop so I was going back to him to report on things. There were all these seismologists drawing pictures on the blackboard, they were going to design the seismic stations around the test site and so on, and it’s just the feeling that you could really work with these people.
Metta: What difference do you think it made in the long term scheme of things?
Tovish: The moratorium was important, but there was an effort in Washington to cast it as just another one of many Soviet ploys. And they spread lies about how they accelerated the testing before calling the moratorium, which was factually totally incorrect. They had managed to kind of sideline the thing so the support of the Six Nation Initiative, Gorbachev’s response and then this very practical thing that we helped the NRDC do were a way of proving that this really was something new.
Metta: Proving to the Americans?
Tovish: Proving to the whole world, but particularly to American politicians. Tom Downey has on his office wall, he has framed, the first seismogram taken from the station at near Semipalatinsk. The first seismogram that the US scientists were able to get of an earthquake coming out of Kazakhstan. So that was I think, you know Markey got up on the floor of the Congress and said look I have here evidence of the change in the Soviet Union, look at this, this is information gathered by American scientists in Russia in militarily sensitive area and so on. It had quite an impact I think on Congress, it led to this stream of delegations going over there and looking at the seismic stations. And then eventually there was a trip where members of congress went to Krasnoyarsk and looked at the radars, and said this radar is not legitimate and so on. So it was the whole beginning of Glasnost of the Russians opening up to transparency to their military activities
Metta: Move back a little bit and tell me how you got involved. You started out talking about the Six Nations and I need to have on record how you got involved with them.
Tovish: Well I’ve been working on what I call third party intervention.
Metta: Yeah you had some dealings with Olof Palme, right?
Tovish: Well I never actually met Olof Palme, but some of the people I worked with in Sweden had talked to Olof Palme about this stuff. So that sort of softened up Palme for the pitch, indirectly. There had been articles in the newspapers about how Sweden should get involved, you know things like that. There had been op ed pieces whjch I had sort of a hand in instigating. And then along comes a bunch of very professional politicians and Nick Dunlop, they meet with me first and then they go in and meet Palme, and then they say, how about it, do you want to be part of this Six Nation effort? Now the fact that Indira Gandhi said that she was all ready to go when Papandraeou was interested helped of course. Palme indicated tentative interest. Ulf and Nick came back to my apartment after the meeting and said it’s in the bag. They had figured they had gotten as far as they needed to with that first meeting and sure enough, he did become involved.
Metta: I think you told me at one poing that Trudeau had been approached and had turned it down?
Tovish: Yes Trudeau had been approached, he had expressed sort of an interest in the general idea, but then he went off and did his own thing. He expended a lot of energy into it which was impressive. In a way I think it helped us, in that it showed that a politician could get a lot of publicity for taking up this cause. But it also showed that one person was not enough. I’m not sure whether six people was enough either, but it encouraged these leaders to accelerate their efforts.
Metta: Do you think the Six did anything else besides—I mean that really made a difference besides this…
Tovish: Yeah well, one other thing maybe, although it’s yet to be seen what comes of it. They did this stuff with the test ban and verification which was getting the Soviets to open up, that was quite important. The other thing they did was put forth the idea of a multilateral verification agency within the UN. That led to a study being done on the subject, it was actually quite a good study, but there were dissenting opinions, So that the overall impact of the study was fairly minor and right now it’s essentially gathering dust. But I can see a time when we get a sensible government in this country where that study can be pulled out and become the basis for real action.
Metta: If Clinton were the president, do you think there would be any change?
Tovish: I don’t know enough about him yet to be sure, I’d like to think so. He has some reasonable advisors around him. People who understand how the Third World feels and also understand what the potential would be if the US would really take a positive leadership role.
Metta: So it’s basically the US who stymied the multilateral verification?
Metta: We were, I remember hearing a lot about the idea of UN satellite. Is that just part of it?
Tovish: They didn’t explicitly endorse that because of its financial implications. But they certainly wanted it to be included as one of the topics.
Metta: What about, I want you to tell me more about the Amendment Conference and where that came from.
Tovish: While I’m remembering it, we just finished a video on the amendment. We have to figure out the cost but it will just be the cost of the tape and shipping, that might be something you would be interested in.
Metta: Yes I can use it for the class I’m teaching. So let me work backward because I really want to know whether you think anything will ever come of it further?
Tovish: There are two ways that something more will come with it. One is if you get a government in the US that wants to move quickly on multilateral agreements and they would be wise to use the Amendment effort to get a test ban. If they want a multilateral test ban.
Metta: It’s wiser to use that than some other route?
Tovish: Yes because once a majority of parties have ratified the amendment, it goes into force for all the parties.
Metta: Yeah, I’ve heard that, although the Canadian government, some of the officials I’ve talked to said they didn’t believe that.
Tovish: Well all they have to do is read the treaty. It’s not a matter of belief, it’s a matter of fact. Now whether a country would protest in some way and threaten to withdraw and so on, we’ve analyzed that and nobody has looked at it seriously that any country would do that, so it would work. And the interesting twist about this French moratorium is that it highlights for us that France isn’t a party to this treaty but our senses that (a) they wouldn’t start up testing if a comprehensive test ban had been agreed to by the other parties, but better that they should attend the Amendment Conferences as observers and make it clear under what conditions they would sign the amended treaty so that those conditions could be met and they could sign it. That’s one approach, now that obviously depends on some major changes in the way US approaches this whole issue and chances are that the changes wouldn’t be so major and they would likely go through the CD. So I don’t put a whole lot of percentage in that happening. The other way that the conference could reappear again is if 1995 is looming and the CD is still involved in ad hoc busy work on the test ban. And the nonaligned countries decide it’s time for a shot across the bow to let the nuclear powers know that they are serious on the test ban and related issues and they’re not just going into 1995 and play dead. In which case the amendment conference is a perfect vehicle; all it takes for [Ali] Alatas to say, let’s meet again. Then the US has a very tough decision to make, if they boycott the meeting they’re going to catch hell and the meeting itself is going to be tough, whether or not they are there. That I consider the more likely scenario, certainly if Bush is re-elected. I’m quite sure that Alatas, assuming he stays on as foreign minister.
Metta: And he’s where?
Tovish: He’s the foreign minister of Indonesia. He’s the president of the conference and he was given responsibility of pursuing consultations and reconvening the conference at the appropriate time. So he told us point blank that if there hasn’t been a test ban treaty before 1995, there will be a second session of amendment conference.
Metta: That’s interesting because nobody else has told me that. I just asked this week from Tariq Rauf and he said he doesn’t think there’s a chance there would be another meeting.
Tavish: Well that doesn’t surprise me; Tariq doesn’t really know what’s going on. But I mean that maybe Alatas will have lost his position as foreign minister by then. There are all sorts of things that can happen. The nonaligned movement is in disarray; if it goes into deep crisis, that could affect chances of it occurring and so on. Right now there’s a lot of sitting back and watching going on. The US is riding very high still. Countries are reluctant to take the US head on, simply because it is riding high, they don’t want to fail. There is still some hope that nonconfrontational methods will find at least some kind of positive response from Washington. So that’s what the emphasis is on right now, but many countries are becoming very pessimistic about the Washington scene. The new world order talk is always suspect in most people’s minds, it’s been exposed as bullshit. That Bush has abandoned any serious efforts to work multilaterally with countries. They’re just sort of biding their time waiting for Washington to stumble. Waiting for other forces to emerge and also to pull themselves together to find their own center of unity. The next summit of the Nonaligned will be in Jakarta, so Alatas will be playing quite an important role in that.
Metta: When is that?
Tovish: It’s in September. And you can be sure that the test ban will be a major issue there. Especially with France having a moratorium there.
Metta: What do you think pushed France in that direction?
Tovish: I think the electorate.
Metta: Really, is that right? That’s interesting, well obviously it’s connected with the election, but I always had this feeling that the French public would just love to have more bombs. Every time I’ve been to Paris I’ve talked to cab drivers and they ask me what the hell I’m trying to do to stop the arms race because it’s a great thing.
Tovish: Well probably it is a majority sentiment. The Socialists were losing to the Greens and the Greens are against testing. The Greens said—you want our continued support, you gotta stop testing. And they needed the support of the Greens.
Metta: Didn’t they do something the other day? I was in Bratislava and couldn’t see the newspaper. Was there something about how the French did something against Greenpeace again? Something like an action against the new Rainbow Warrior?
Tovish: No I didn’t hear about it.
Metta: I didn’t see anything in the paper about it but it was brought up on the floor in Bratislava.
Tovish: Anyway there’s another factor that might be important, which is that Patricia Lewis told me that there was a comprehensive review of their nuclear policy going on. She wasn’t aware that it was finished yet, but the French, I’ve always said this about the French, they were the most logical in terms of their nuclear policy. They made certain basic assumptions, they stuck to it and then their practice matched their justifications. It’s not like in the US where a laboratory would dream up some new weapon and the mandarins would figure out some way it would fit into deterrence. Their policy seemed to be driven by a carefully thought-through policy on nuclear weapons themselves. It was basically the Dissuasion, their word for deterrence.
The thinking was that the Soviet tanks are only about 200 miles or less from the French Border, from East Germany across West Germany to France, it’s only like 150 to 200 miles at the narrowest. Basically the message was: you get too close to France and we’re going to blast you, it’s as simple as that. And of course if you use nuclear weapons we’re going to blast you back. It was a very simple thing for people to understand, the threat appeared very real, more real than it does to Americans or British for that matter. So it was not hard for politicians to defend it. But the threat’s gone, the threat’s been moved back a thousand miles. It’s not nearly as potent as it was before. The notion of a strike out of the blue from the Soviet nuclear force is absurd at this point. The foundation of their whole policy had been pulled out from underneath, they were left mouthing these old conclusions. I think there’s certain, if one credits previously having a certain integrity, then it’s only normal if they were to maintain that integrity that they would have a review and have some very different conclusions. It may be that they had already concluded that the testing was really not that necessary as before. Therefore when the political situation developed, they were prepared to throw testing to the wolves, because of the political need. I don’t know; this is just weaving speculation from a distance, but it may have been a convergence of both those things and we may hear more about their review of their nuclear weapons policy.
Metta: Did the Six Nations go to talk to people in France?
Tovish: Yeah, but they didn’t get anywhere.
Metta: One of the other things….
Tovish: I never gave the background on the amendment yet. You know most of the stuff…
Metta: I know but the tape doesn’t.
Tovish: Well, it started with an idea, I was preparing for the 1985 NPT Review Conference. In the course of looking into their amendment, how the amendment provisions of the NPT had been negotiated, I found that they had been drawn from the PTBT. I checked that out immediately and realized that while (a) the NPT was more difficult to amend and (b) politically a much more complex treaty to even start talking about amendments. Neither of those problems existed vis-à-vis the PTB, it had an easier amendment provision and the issue was simple as pie. So I got all excited about this and I thought we’d have an amendment conference going within a year. Had I known I would have never even bothered. It took us five and a half years.
Metta: I know it did but you say something good has come of it anyway?
Tovish: Yeah, certainly it was a useful exercise, but the it’s very hard to have a five-year perspective on things. It helped to think it will happen sooner. The Six Nation initiative wasn’t ready to take it on, so we had to find a new group. Mexico was one of the countries from the six that was prepared to go with it from the beginning. And little by little we picked up Yugoslavia and Sri Lanka and Indonesia, Venezuala and Peru.
Metta: You were always running this through PGA? [Parliamentarians for Global Action]
Tovish: Absolutely. We had delegations travelling all over the world pitching the idea. We held the first meeting where we discussed this with official, was held in Geneva during the NPT review conference. During the opening debate of the NPT Review Conference we held one meeting, then a second meeting about a week after the NPT ended. There were 13 countries there, of which five were amongst the countries that finally went forward with the amendment three years later. We ran through the UN that fall and in January Gorbachev publicly endorsed it. That was in part IPPNW takes some credit for getting Gorbachev’s attention because during the IPPNW got the Nobel Peace prize in ’85 and Bernie Lown mentioned in his speech and Chazov was made aware of it. So in his big speech in January 1986 Gorbachev said that the Soviet Union would also go for the amendment.
Metta: That wasn’t the UN speech?
Tovish: Yes, in 86 it was the speech on comprehensive security and disarmament by the year 2000.
Metta: I’m confused because when was that big—when he came to the UN, wasn’t that in December?
Tovish: That was a couple years later.
Metta: Yeah. That was in December also?
Tovish: That was in December, this one was in January. The Soviets booked space in the New York Times and printed the whole speech and things like that. But at any rate, so he was the first head of government to endorse the amendment. We’ve been working with diplomats up until that point, we met with some heads of government but it was the diplomats who put it together at the UN. And then we went back to the UN two more times and the third time the First Committee urged the non-nuclear parties to the treaty to submit an amendment. We thought, Ok the countries that sponsored this now have a go-ahead. In March they still hadn’t done anything, in March 1988.
So we said. look, the 25th anniversary of the treaty is coming in August so if you guys don’t do it by then, who are you kidding? Just stop playing game with UN resolutions; basically shit or get off the pot. So we held a meeting, we took the initiative in calling a meeting where we invited the top two disarmament people from each of the countries that sponsored the resolution. William Epstein and I made the case, Garcia-Robles chaired an informal luncheon discussion on implementation of the resolution. They agreed to go back to their capitals and get clearance to go forward if everyone else would go forward. So then there was the question if anyone would back out. But then Garcua-Robles, this was during the disarmament commission in April, Garcia-Robles went back to Geneva and orchestrated things straight through until August and sure enough they formed a delegation and delivered it to the British, Soviet and the Americans.
Metta: So he played a major role throughout. It wasn’t just now and then?
Tovish: Oh, he was critical and he was one of us. Most diplomats – yeah it’s a good thing, it’s nice to have a nice position. They weren’t going to take risks. Garcia-Robles that’s what he was about. Sometimes I thought he was a little bit too cautious but one had to trust his judgement. Unfortunately he was starting to go senile, that made our work pretty hard sometimes. We had to repeat things to him dozens of times and we stiJI weren’t sure whether it stuck completly. At any rate in terms of the east, because of Gorbachev’s position we basically assumed that the Soviets would speak out in favor of it, we never expected them to request a conference. It would be appropriate for one of the original parties to do that, but they continued to make positive noises and anyway supported the amendment effort.
And then we took a delegation of the US, British, and Soviet parliamentarians into Moscow in Nov. 1990 and met with Gorbachev and we suggested he send a message to the conference personally, endorsing the efforts to amend the treaty. He said he would think about it and he did it. That delegation went on to London and on to the White House; we met Brent Scowcroft there. And of course didn’t get the same response, but Scowcroft really listened and didn’t throw back at us the initial stupid arguments. He’s on record as supporting a test ban when he was in the government. Between serving Reagan and Bush he signed on to a paper that called for a test ban. So I think he’s one of the forces arguing for a more reasonable line in the government, on some things. He understands that it would be useful on the nonproliferation efforts. That’s sort of the gist of it and you know the conference itself was probably the single most impressive display of international support for a test ban that has ever occured. It was clear that the British and the Americans wanted to shut the thing down after just two weeks. There was a reluctance certainly, on the part of the allies. Well, they were sort of caught in a position, because on the one hand they didn’t want to come out against a test ban. On the other hand the US and Britain were about to lead the world into a war in the Gulf where there were many things at stake. They didn’t want to appear disloyal at that time and they ended up splitting, seven western countries voted in favor of the amendment effort going forward and the rest abstained and only Britain and the US voted against it. The first time a vote had been taken in a negotiating forum on arms control. While it didn’t set a date, it did empower Alatas to do so.
Metta: Well it’s interesting that you think it may happen, I haven’t heard anybody say any positive optimistic things about it.
Tovish: Well they should talk to Alatas. And also to a lot of the key nonaligned countries who they won’t say when it’s going to happen but they all say it will happen before 95. Unless there’s a real break on the test ban issue. It’s sort of a stick that they have that they can pull out and hit the US with if the US isn’t cooperating.
Metta: Do you think there’s a possibility that the US will switch, well, lets say under Bush, or —who knows what— under somebody else?
Tovish: Well Clinton is in favor of a comprehensive test ban.
Metta: But can you imagine Bush switching?
Tovish: Yes, well look at what he did on chemical weapons, well then he switched again on the verification issue. I can imagine it. When you take an objective look at a situation, what are they actually going to gain by doing another hundred tests, what fantastic weapon are they going to get out of that? What greater degree of assurance of their reliability are they going to get, what fantastic improvement in safety are they going to get by doing a hundred more tests? The answer is they don’t know, they have no clear picture.
Metta: Yeah, but what people, not in the US but what other people say, when reducing the importance of the thing, is that if you had a CTB today you wouldn’t have any fewer nuclear weapons than you have now.
Tovish: As Garcia-Robles said at the NPT 1990 Review Conference, yes and there wouldn’t be any fewer boats on Lake Geneva either. The point is that you’re trying to undo the mechanisms for an arms race. To ensure that an arms race doesn’t start up again. Test ban is an important part of that, it’s not the whole story. I’ve developed a new program of a broader sort at Global Action in the last year, dealing with nonproliferation and having the test ban being just a component of that. The fact is, I wouldn’t be very busy if all I were doing was working on the amendment conference. That’s not going to happen this year or next.
Metta: Could you send me what you’ve done?
Tovish: Well, do you subscribe to Nuclear Times?
Metta: Yes, but I don’t see it anymore. The last I’ve seen it I thought it had gone under again. It’s still alive?
Tovish: It’s out quite regularly. Although it probably is in financial trouble like most of us. Page 29 I think of the spring issue, I’ve got a 3 page article. I call it nonacquisition, you need a nonacquisition regime. Where nobody is acquiring nuclear weapons.
Metta: What would you have done to Iraq?
Tovish: What do you mean?
Metta: Well let’s assume that the reports afterwards were correct— that they were closer than believed. What would you have done about that if you’d known, say, before the war?
Tovish: Well, the problem is that the IAEA don’t have adequate access and authority to verify these things. Also that the NPT focusses only on the fissile material, part of the issue doesn’t look at any the other elements that go into building a bomb. I guess the main thing is the UN Special commission was able to get a pretty definite picture that there was a weapons program under way after their third visit. I would say that all of the kinds of things they did in those first three visits should be part, and also the information that the IAEA got through governments from defectors and so on. All that information and all those activities that they did in that period, those should be available to the IAEA under normal circumstances. That would mean a significant strengthening of the authority of that institution. But that is imposssible, I think. I think people who say it can be done on the same basis as the NPT are dreaming because it is so intrusive, it won’t be accepted on a discriminatory basis. It’s going to have to apply to everybody for it to be accepted. As you know the US and other nuclear powers are exempted from the IEAE safeguards completely. So they accept some voluntarily but it’s just a gesture. That would have to change and the only way that could change is if the US and Russia Britian and now China and France stop making nuclear weapons. Because otherwise they would go in and see if they were violating the agreement. It’s interesting if you read the NPT, it’s not a nonpossesion agreement, it’s a nonacquisition agreement. Nowhere is there possession of nuclear weapons mentioned. They talk about manufacture, transfer and then it says “and acquired by any other means.” Basically, you could get a nondiscriminatory treaty on the basis of people henceforth no longer acquiring nuclear weapons. Then put off for an Article Six type arrangement, hopefully stronger than Article Six, question what to due about the nuclear weapons that have already been acquired. It gives the threshold countries becoming involved without having to backtrack 100%. Anyway we’ve been trying this out on various people, getting generally a very positive response and even some inclings of interest from the US government.
Tovish: Well certain people. We only talk to people we think might be open-minded about it. But they exist, which is more than could have been said a few years ago. What we’re trying to say is, look there’s a table where people can sit down at and negotiate substantive changes and the basic issue is, will a squeeze be…
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