Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers
David C. Isby 1 : "Barriers to Proliferation And Pathways to Transfer:
Building Ballistic Missile Capabilities Under MTCR"
It was a truth universally acknowledged, that a developing country in
possession of a national security problem must be in want of a ballistic
missile. At least it was so in the 1980s. Since then, much has changed.
Calls to Moscow worldwide no longer lead to re-assuring exports of Scud
tactical ballistic missile (TBMs). 2 Colonel Qadaffi no longer publicly
laments his lack of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). 3 Many
missile development programs have come to an end due to internal political
changes and international pressure. 4 Every country that bought a
Chinese-built fighter is no longer seen as a likely customer for M-9 TBMs.
Bilateral understandings and multilateral agreements, most notably the
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), reflect increasing concern about
missile proliferation. The 1991 Gulf War revealed the scope of imports for
Iraq's missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.
While this progress is significant, evidence shows that missile technology
suppliers continue to supply and builders continue to build. Most troubling
has been the evidence, since 1995, of transfers of technology and
components from Russia to Iraq and Iran, in apparent violation of MTCR and
other international agreements. 5 The evidence of such continued Russian
proliferation of missile technology is so extensive that it is unlikely to
be a rogue or criminal enterprise. 6
China has also been identified as proliferating missile technologies
despite its promise to adhere to MTCR guidelines. 7 Despite the threat of
sanctions for missile, CW, and other proliferators, China continued some
exports. 8 China has, in response to US concerns, agreed to limit its
exports; the success of this agreement is yet to be demonstrated. 9 The
recent Pakistani missile test has highlighted potential Chinese involvement
in that program. 10
Ballistic missile programs in North Korea, Iran, India and Pakistan have
all progressed. While many missile and WMD programs have ended, the most
recent Pakistani missile test - and Pakistani and Indian comments on the
limited US response--suggests that the motivations survive. 11 Such
programs make use of both domestic and imported capabilities. 12 There have
been no published sources reporting what percentage of a North Korean-built
Scud-C TBM or Silkworm cruise missile is produced from domestic sources,
let alone more advanced designs in that country or Iran. Considering the
limitations of each country's industrial base, it is unlikely to be 100%.
Recent reports have suggested that North Korea is acting as a conduit for
Chinese exports. 13 But no country has had sanctions imposed for supplying
these components and technology.
North Korea is both a beneficiary of proliferation and a proliferator.
Despite the threat of US sanctions on recipients, North Korean export of
missile technology remains extensive. This has included Scud technology
exports to Egypt. 14 The US has attempted to limit North Korean
proliferation, identifying it as among the many actions preventing better
The evidence that missile technology continues to proliferate from Russia
and China is considerable. That it does so from North Korea is certain.
There is less evidence of such proliferation from other developed
countries, though the record of sales related to missile or WMD technology
to Iraq, Libya, Syria and other potential threats during the 1980s remains
US response to such proliferation has been characterized as reluctant to
impose sanctions or block exports. 16 In part, this represents the
potential substantial diplomatic cost of imposing sanctions. US-Russian
disputes over the export of MTCR-covered technology have been identified as
playing a crucial role in defining Russia's post Cold War foreign policy.
17 Thus, implementing stronger non-proliferation policies, such as
following existing laws or halting effective subsidizing or re-negotiating
with proliferators may have substantial diplomatic costs. 18
A number of bottom line questions suggest themselves. Will missile
technology proliferate despite US policies? Will missile technology lead,
if matched with a WMD capability, to a potential ballistic missile threat
to the United States that does not exist today?
Suppliers and Builders
The record suggests that current non-proliferation policies will not halt
totally the proliferation of missile technology. Missile technology, unlike
that associated with nuclear weapons, is dual use, competitive, and in the
international market. Missile technology presents problems more like those
that have been raised in conjunction with the Chemical Warfare Convention
(CWC) than those presented by the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The
emerging cruise missile threat makes the problem of dual-use technology
(e.g., GPS guidance) even more difficult.
The US has, since 1993, moved to "universalize" MTCR and "make it less
discriminatory" while at the same time liberalizing its own trade
restraints on rocket and drone technology that is inherently dual use. 19
This led to policies designed to encourage members to give up ballistic
missile programs in return for being able to acquire "peaceful" space
technologies from the US and other MTCR members, an approach modeled on the
NPT's non-nuclear weapons states receiving civilian nuclear technology. 20
The potential for proliferation without the safeguards of the NPT has
motivated extensive congressional opposition. 21
Those proliferating dual-use technology are not likely to be limited to
Russia or China, or even those countries whose adherence to MTCR is purely
economic; even though MTCR explicitly covers such technologies, recent US
practice shows a reluctance to apply sanctions to back them up. 22 Founding
MTCR members - including the US--find themselves pressured by economic
concerns to export dual-use technology. Recent US missile technology
exports to China have come under criminal investigation despite government
approval of similar exports. 23 The record of the export of dual use
technologies such as high performance computers shows the sort of
capabilities available on the world market and US reluctance to interfere
with their export. 24 Indeed, the US has failed to punish unlicensed
exporters of high performance computers, suggesting a gap between those in
government and industry concerned with increasing exports and those few
primarily concerned with nonproliferation. 25
As MTCR membership has expanded, it has changed from an organization of
countries concerned about missile proliferation to one that includes also
countries whose adherence is brought by a combination of carrot and stick,
and where nonproliferation has to be seen to pay better than proliferation.
26 Countries producing missile technology may wish to become formal MTCR
members or at least adhere to the guidelines. But for them, the ability to
sell to the increasing number of members and avoid pressure from the US
will have to balanced against the desire to continue to make money through
non-MTCR compliant exports. MTCR expansion may be counter-productive,
eroding MTCR's credibility (especially in the absence of sanctions) and
internal consensus, but excluding potential suppliers of missile technology
is seen as likely to increase the risk of proliferation.
Sources of Technology
In the 1980s, missile technology was readily available on the world market
for those with enough money and no sanctions. It was estimated that a third
world country could develop an SRBM capability in 10 years, six years with
outside participation. 27 Iraq's Scud production capability was apparently
developed in five years. 28 Iraq was able to go from a zero level of
technology and manufacturing capability to being able to produce some Scud
type TBMs and producing parts of the multi-stage Al Tammouz SLV, flight
tested in 1989. 29 This design was to contribute to the multi-stage Al
Aabed IRBM that was projected to have been operational in the mid-1990s
were it not for the Gulf War. 30
Today, such transfers of technology are less likely. But the knowledge of
missile design and fabrication is "out there" in the form of reports on the
shelves of US university libraries or know-how in the brains of unemployed
former Soviet engineers. 31 General Bernard Schriever, USAF (rtd), father
of the US ICBM program, characterized the design of ICBMs by potential
threats as an "engineering exercise, not a research problem"; such
countries know what the solution is and can re-create it independently. 32
For example, open source literature ("Most, if not all, of the technology
[developed by the US 1945-58] has been published in the open literature")
33 includes details of ICBM-suitable RV heat shielding technology. 34
Space launch requirements will push missile technology increasingly into
the forefront of international commerce. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty states
that all countries have a right to use space much as they use the high seas
and may conflict with MTCR goals. 35 In the near future, increased reliance
on space assets for the daily business of communications will provide a
continue impetus for access to space, which means access to the space
launch vehicle (SLV) technology that is inherently dual use. 36
While It is unlikely that every country that has a money-losing airline for
prestige reasons will want a money-losing SLV capability to go with it, in
the future, there will likely be more developing countries looking to make
money from space (as Tonga recently has tried with geosynchronous satellite
allocations). More lawyers may wave the Outer Space treaty. There will be
greater need for SLV capability and greater commercial motivation for
countries to acquire it. This will feed increased competition between the
providers. While MTCR will aim to limit changes in ownership outside of
members, SLV technology will likely proliferate, despite the current
efforts, because it is inherent in the right to use space. 37 Missile and
SLV technology in its many forms will move in international commerce and
suppliers wish to avoid the financial and diplomatic costs of restraining
trade. 38 Any specific item may be kept secure, but not a whole class of
Other dual-use technologies are likely to be available to future threats on
the world market. New low-cost inertial guidance technologies are widely
available from the US. 39 Computing resources and engineering knowledge are
part of the stream of world commerce. Even a well-enforced MTCR could not
reach them all.
SLV to ICBM
Access to missile technology - through direct proliferation or modification
of space technology--makes possible new threats to the United States. Those
unable to acquire a nuclear warhead could still acquire at least a
terrorist countervalue capability through use of biological or radiological
agents. The conversion of an SLV to an ICBM capable of striking the United
States has been described as requiring a "modest" effort. 40 A Department
of State report asserted "the technology, equipment and facilities used to
build SLVs are essentially identical to those required for military
ballistic missiles". 41 The trends of space launch being integrated into
the world economy and few export controls on dual use technologies suggests
that future non-ICBM powers could create such a capability from a baseline
of today's TBM technology. 42
SLVs have not yet led to new ICBMs, though with Brazil and Russia both MTCR
members, the transfer of converted road-mobile SS-25 ICBMs as SLVs may yet
take place, (the US has stressed that inter-member transfer of technology
is still subject to review on a case-by-case basis). 43 Even in that case,
an RV would have to be added and guidance modified before being used as an
ICBM. 44 Without flight tests--readily observable--even the most reckless
aggressor may be unwilling to attempt blackmail backed by such a
home-brewed ICBM. The cost--both in terms of cost and international
pressure--of creating an ICBM through adding SLV technology to the current
baseline of TBM technology would be high. Most countries have no need for a
capability to strike at another continent. While the know-how to do so is
likely to be available even under MTCR, these factors are likely to
severely limit the desire to use SLV technology to create ICBMs. 45
According to the well-known 1995 NIE 95-19 "Emerging Missile Threats to
North America Within the Next 15 Years", countries with an SLV capability
could build ICBMs "within five years. 46 Yet this NIE had as a key
assumption that Russia would not egregiously violate MTCR to enable such
conversions. In the words of Richard Speier "the Russian behavior I have
described blows the NIE's assumptions to smithereens". 47 Other implicit
assumptions of that NIE--that no other country currently with an ICBM or
SLV capability would transfer it--led to stormy public debate. 48
It has been estimated that, whether based on an indigenous ICBM or a
modified SLV, only Brazil, India, Italy, Israel, Japan, Germany and Sweden
could have the capability within the next 10 years; the RSA, ROK, and
Taiwan in over 10 years. 49 Another report in 1991 identified India, Israel
and possibly Taiwan as in the advanced capability, able to produce ICBMs
using 1960s technology. 50 Yet another report placed Israel, India, Taiwan,
ROK, Brazil and possibly DPRK and RSA as being able to enter this category
within 10 years in 1993, 51 while elsewhere the DPRK has been grouped with
Iran, Iraq, and Libya as having the motivation to acquire ICBM but not the
Evidence of the willingness of Russia, China, North Korea and others to
proliferate and the US decisions, going back to 1993, not to enforce
sanctions suggests that the nonproliferation victories won since the 1980s
may be tactical and transient. 53 Most of the technologies that are
proliferating--to North Korea, Iran, or Iraq--reflect those of the 1950s.
While these may yield threats in the Scud or No Dong class, this does not
translate to an ICBM capability. This has been termed the "Scud Barrier" to
ICBM development. Some believe that current nonproliferation efforts have
ensured it will be strong and lasting. 54 Others have identified this
barrier as one reason why land attack cruise missiles may prove to be the
weapon of choice. 55 The consensus on nonproliferation is weaker on these
technologies than those associated with ballistic missiles. 56
SLV technology and expertise may well provide a potential way around this
"Scud barrier" even if the reluctance to impose sanctions does not
encourage more direct proliferation. The need for space launch capability
in the world economy limits the potential effectiveness of more stringent
nonproliferation agreements proposed as follow-ons to MTCR. 57 MTCR
members--including the US--wish to expand exports and are reluctant to
impose sanctions; though in the case of clear violations, such as flight
testing an SLV turned ICBM, there is likely to be stronger action. Then it
may be too late. While the "Scud barrier" can still have value a decade in
the future, the SLV technologies that could provide the basis for future
ICBMs may have the potential to make such barriers less relevant.
1. David Isby is a Senior Staff Member, SPARTA Incorporated. Conducts
policy analysis and management dealing with national security, foreign
policy, and DoD missile defense issues (ABM Treaty); provided input to U.S.
Government negotiations (bilateral talks with Russia). Director of the
Committee for a Free Afghanistan, a bipartisan educational and charitable
2. There have been no publicly identified new users of former Soviet Scuds
outside the former Soviet Union since the end of the Cold War. Armenia has
been the only new user, though the covert nature of the transfer -
reminiscent of the covert transfers of SS-23 TBMs to the former East
Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria in the late 1980s - has
3. "If we had possessed a deterrent - missiles that could reach New York -
we would have hit it at the same moment".
4. Aaron Karp, Ballistic Missile Proliferation, Oxford, 1996, SIPRI/OUP, P.
5. A recent summary of the effects of these events is: William C. Potter,
"The Case Russia Forgot", The New York Times, 3 April, 1998, p. A28. Steven
Erlanger, "US Telling Russia to Bar Aid to Iran By Arms Experts", The New
York Times, 22 August, 1997, pp. A1, A10. James Hackett, "Moscow's Man in
Tehran", The Washington Times, 8 April, 1998, p. A15.
6. For a summary see: Richard H. Speier, testimony before the Subcommittee
on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services, Committee on
Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, 5 June, 1997.
7. Richard Larder, "Despite Proliferation Concerns, Report Avoids Harsh
Criticism of China", Inside Missile Defense, 17 April, 1996, pp. 1-2.
"Search for Common Ground", Arms Control Today, September, 1996, p. 15.
8. Victor Zaborsky, "US Missile Nonproliferation Strategy Toward the NIS
and China: How Effective?", The Nonproliferation Review, Fall, 1997, p. 92.
9. Ann Roosevelt, "United States - China Agree on Nonproliferation Issues",
BMD Monitor, 14 November, 1997, p. 376. Michael Eisenstadt, "US Policy and
Chinese Proliferation to Iran: A Small Leap Forward?", Policywatch, n. 273,
31 October, 1991, pp. 1-2.
10. "Ghauri `Proof' of Sino-Pakistan Collaboration", The Pioneer (Delhi), 7
April, 1998, FBIS-TAC-98-097. "Delhi Claims Ghauri Missile Developed by
China", All India Radio, 7 April, 1998, FBIS-NES-98-097. "China: Spokesman
Denies Role in Pakistan Missile Test", Hong Kong AFP in English, 7 April,
1998, FBIS-CHI-98-097. "Ghauri Missile Not Indigenous", All India Radio, 7
April, 1998, FBIS-NES-98-097.
11. Roshan Zamir, "Unexpected Mild US Reaction on Test", The Nation
(Lahore), Internet edn., 8 April, 1998. Dinesh Kumar, "Indian Expert:
Implications of Ghauri Test", The Times of India, 7 April, 1998, p. 9,
12. Barbara Starr "Taepo Dong Set for Delays", Jane's Defense Weekly, 11
December, 1996, p. 10. Wyn Bowen, Tim McCarthy, & Holly Porteous,
"Ballistic Missile Shadow Lengthens", IDR Extra, February, 1997, pp. 3-5.
13. "Swiss Blocks N. Korea, China Scud Missile Sales to Egypt", AFP Bern
report, 7 April, 1998.
14. Barbara Starr, "CIA Discloses Source of Egyptian `Scud-B' Parts, Jane's
Defense Weekly, 9 July, 1997, p. 5.
15. Wyn Q. Bowen, "U.S. Policy on Ballistic Missile Proliferation: The
MTCR's First Decade (1987-1997)", The Nonproliferation Review, Fall, 1997,
16. Examples of the reluctance to impose sanctions despite MTCR violation
by two different administrations include: Theresa Foley, "Bush, Clinton,
Blink at Secret Purchase of Zenit Engines", Space News, 1 November, 1993,
p. 17. Elaine Sciolino, "US Lifts Its Sanctions on China Over
High-Technology Transfers, The New York Times, 22 February, 1992, p. A1.
David Hoffman and R. Jeffrey Smith, "President Waives Sanctions for
Israel", The Washington Post, 27 October, 1991, p. A1.
17. Alexander A. Pikayev, Leonard S. Spector, Elina V. Kirichenko, Ryan
Gibson, Russia, the US, and the Missile Technology Control Regime, Adelphi
Paper 317, London, 1998, IISS, p. 8.
18. These are the top three recommended policies in: Henry Sokolski,
"Faking it and Making It", The National Interest, Spring, 1998, pp. 72-73.
19. Henry Sokolski, "Next Century NonProliferation: Victory is Still
Possible," The Non Proliferation Review, Fall, 1996, p. 91.
20. Wyn Q. Bowen, "U.S. Policy on Ballistic Missile Proliferation: The
MTCR's First Decade (1987-1997)," The Nonproliferation Review, Fall, 1997,
21. Bowen, NPR, p. 31.
22. Sokolski, NPR, p. 93. Anne Eisele, "Congress: Clinton Lax on
Proliferation", Space News, 22 September, 1997, pp. 4, 20.
23. Jeff Gerth with Raymond Bonner, "Companies Are Investigated For Aid to
China on Rockets", The New York Times, 4 April, 1998, pp. A1, A3.
24. Robert Johnston, "U.S. Export Control Policy in the High Performance
Computer Sector", The Nonproliferation Review, Winter, 1998, p.56.
25. Johnson, p. 56
26. One example of this is Ukraine. Even pro-MTCR writers stress that
financial incentives are the key determinant. Gary Bertsch and Victor
Zaborsky, "Bringing Ukraine Into the MTCR: Can US Policy Succeed?", Arms
Control Today, April, 1997, pp. 9-14.
27. Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) Infrastructure Requirements for
Third World Countries. Report prepared for the CIA. Arnold Engineering
Development Center, September, 1991, AEDC-1040S-04-91 p. 13.
28. Janne E. Nolan, Trappings of Power. Ballistic Missiles In the Third
World, Washington, 1991, Brookings , p.38
29. Martin Navais, Going Ballistic. The Build-Up of Missiles In The Middle
East, London, 1993, Brassey's, p. 13.
30. Ballistic Missile Proliferation. An Emerging Threat. Report prepared
for BMDO, 1992, Washington, SPC, p. 14.
31. There are many sources on the migration of knowledge and technologies
from the superpowers, the developed countries, to their current worldwide
state. These include: Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation
and Federal Services, Committee on Government Affairs, US Senate, Hearings
on "Missile Proliferation in the Information Age", 22 September, 1997.
Prepared statements by Senator Thad Cochran, Dr. Seth Carus, Dr. William
Graham, Gen. Bernard Schriever. Dr. David Tanks, ed., Exploring US Missile
Defense Requirements in 2010, Philadelphia, 1997, pp. 1-2, 3.
32. Statement by General Schriever, 1994
33. AEDC, p.13
34. Proliferation Study Team (LTG William Odom, USA (rtd) chair), The
Emerging Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, February, 1993. ,
35. Barry J. Hurewitz, "Non-Proliferation and Free Access to Outer Space;
the Dual-Use Conflict Between the Outer Space Treaty and the Missile
Technology Control Regime", High Technology Law Review, v. 9, n. 2, 1994,
36. CPT Michael Gallegher, "Legal Aspects of the Strategic Defense
Initiative", Military Law Review, v. 111, Winter, 1986, p. 42.
37. "Missile Programs Masked as Space Launch Efforts Seen As Problem",
Aerospace Daily, 24 September, 1997, p. 1.
38. Leitner, pp. 161-184, explains the decision-making that led to this for
other, non-MTCR technologies post Cold War,
39. Aaron Karp, "The New Politics of Missile Proliferation", Arms Control
Today, October, 1996, p. 12. "Fiber Optic Gyros Now Challenging Laser
Gyros", Aviation Week & Space Technology, 1 July, 1996, p. 62.
40. Odom, p.1
41. Department of State, Annual Report on the Proliferation of Missiles and
Essential Components of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons,
February, 1993, p.8
42. On technology transfer in the wake of the end of the Cold War, see:
Peter M. Leitner, Decontrolling Strategic Technology, 1990-92, 1995,
Lanham, 1995, University Press of America, pp. 37-60.
43. Wyn Bowen and Andrew Koch, "Non Proliferation Is Embraced by Brazil",
Jane's Intelligence Review, June, 1996, p, 287.
44. Inside the Pentagon, 29 June, 1995, p. 29.
45. Bowen, NPR, p. 31
46. Quoted in The Washington Times, 29 February, 1996, p. A12.
47. Speier, 5 June 97 testimony, prepared statement.
48. Wyn Q. Bowen. NPR, pp. 21-2.
49. Odom, p. 22.
50. Assessing Ballistic Missile Proliferation and its Control. Stanford
University Center for International Security and Arms Control, November,
1991, p. 153.
51. Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Assessing the Risks.
Report Prepared for the Office of Technology Assessment, August, 1993, p.
52. OTA, p. 235.
53. Sokolski, The National Interest, generally presents a short and blunt
summary of failures in implementing non-proliferation policy goals.
54. Karp, ACT, p. 11
55. See generally, K. Scott McMahon and Dennis Gormley, Controlling the
Spread of Land Attack Cruise Missiles, Marina del Rey, 1995, American
Institute for Strategic Cooperation.
56. McMahon & Gormley, p. 82.
57. Richard H. Speier , "A Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for Missiles",
in Henry Sokolski, ed., Fighting Proliferation, Maxwell AFB, 1996, Air
University Press, pp. 65-68