MTCR – Part 2 – Brazil

While I was overseas in Thailand and Brazil, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) had been created and agreed among the G-7.  Administrations had changed; George H.W. Bush had taken over from Reagan, and he had made a number of personnel changes to differentiate his administration from Reagan’s.  Richard Perle was out and had been replaced at the Pentagon by Stephen Hadley, who went on to be the NSC National Security Adviser under President George W. Bush.  His main assistant for missile proliferation at DOD was Henry Sokolski, and Richard Spier continued to work on the issue for him.

While I was in Brazil, the Brazilian space agency (INPE) decided to build environmental satellites to monitor the Amazon.  They wanted to build new ground stations to receive the data download sent from the satellites as they passed over Brazil.  One of the companies bidding on the ground stations was an American company, Scientific Atlanta.  For some reason, the Scientific Atlanta salesman in Brazil had missed the deadline for bidding on the ground stations.  As a result, the Brazilians chose a Japanese bidder.

The Embassy’s Commercial Counselor, who works for the Commerce Department, called and asked if I could do anything to help Scientific Atlanta.  I called some of my contacts at INPE and was somewhat surprised to find that they were willing to reopen the bidding.  They said they would prefer to work with an American company.  They reopened the bidding, and Scientific Atlanta won.  Soon we learned, however, that Stephen Hadley’s Pentagon office had denied Scientific Atlanta’s export license to build the ground stations because it said they violated the MTCR provisions.  Since there was no indication of any military connection, this ruling seemed totally wrong.  DOD’s decision was based on the fact that they thought that if the ground stations could maneuver to track satellites, they could follow a test launch of a military missile.  They could not do a good job of this, if they worked at all, because they were designed to track satellites in orbit, not rockets launched from the ground.  Nevertheless, the deal was blocked, and my contacts at INPE were furious.  They had had a deal with Japan, and now they had nothing.  They had awarded the contract to an American company, and now that company could not perform it.

I felt terrible.  Not only had I persuaded the Brazilians to award the contract to an American company, but I had been one of the creators of the MTCR, which was cited as the basis for blocking the deal.  In fact, the Pentagon for whatever reason did not like or trust Brazil.  For years, Brazil had had a nuclear rivalry with Argentina that caused both of them to maintain nuclear programs that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons, and both preserved the option of building missiles that could deliver a nuclear weapon.  Argentina led in both categories, with a missile called the Condor, and a nuclear research lab at Bariloche. While I was in Brazil, however, Brazil and Argentina had agreed to de-escalate their nuclear rivalry, although neither had yet joined the NPT.

Both nuclear and missile technologies are dual use.  They can build nuclear power reactors or military weapons.  They can build space launch vehicles for scientific research or missiles to deliver weapons.  I was convinced from my years of working with both the nuclear and space communities in Brazil and from my studies in Washington before going to Brazil that Brazil was not going to build either type of weapon under the present circumstances, although they wanted to retain the option to build one of they felt threatened by changes in the international situation.  Whatever DOD may have thought their intentions were, the satellite ground stations would not have been useful for testing a missile.  They were designed to be used for peaceful purposes only.

Around this time, I got a call from the Politico-Military Bureau at the State Department in Washington, asking if I would be interested in working on missile proliferation issues there.  I agreed in part because it might give me a chance to reverse the DOD decision to deny the ground station export license.  The fight went on for months; all that time Brazil was prevented from beginning work on its ground stations.  In the end, however, we finally got the decision reversed and the export license approved, much too late to please Brazil.

After I had been assigned to PM, I ran into an awkward situation.  Before I arrived I was promoted to FSO-1 from FSO-2.  The head of the PM Bureau was Assistant Secretary Richard Clarke, who went on to be in charge of the White House counter-terrorism office during the 9/11 attack.  Clarke had a candidate he wanted to name as deputy director of the office I was going to.  However, the candidate was an FSO-2.  I felt that as an FSO-1, it would be inappropriate for me to work under an FSO-2.  Clarke was unhappy, but agreed to appoint someone else.  I don’t remember exactly how it worked out; perhaps I was officially named deputy director or co-director so that I would not be working for a lower ranking person.  When I left, I received a meritorious honor award, which I thought was generous of Clarke, who had had to give up an appointment he wanted because of my promotion.




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