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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Daryl G. Kimball

In Hiroshima, Obama Says Nukes Require ‘Moral Revolution’

Today, in a solemn and moving ceremony in Hiroshima’s Peace Park, U.S. President Barack Obama along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered wreaths at the Cenotaph Memorial, which honors the victims of the world’s first atomic bombing. With his visit, Obama became the first serving U.S. president to personally confront the painful stories, complicated history, and inspirational demands of the hibakusha never to allow the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be repeated ever again. An estimated 240,000 people died by 1950 as a consequence of the U.S. atomic bombings of...

Kerry, G7 Ministers Visit A-Bomb Site

During a visit to Hiroshima last month, John Kerry became the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the site of the atomic bombing in the Japanese city. 

May 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

During a visit to Hiroshima last month for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries, John Kerry became the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the site of the atomic bombing in the Japanese city. 

After Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida toured the Peace Memorial Museum on April 11, the two men were joined by the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union at the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to offer wreaths in honor of the people who died on Aug. 6, 1945, and in the years afterward.

In remarks following the visit, Kerry said, “Going through the museum was a reminder of the indisputable truth that war must never be the first resort.”

“What I got here was a firsthand sense of what happened in Hiroshima and what happens with a nuclear weapon, particularly in terms of its types of destruction,” Kerry said at an April 11 press briefing. “So for me, today really was…a moment of connecting to this place and to the feelings of the Japanese people and the terrible events of that day in a very personal and special way.”

An estimated 240,000 people died by 1950 as a consequence of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

At the briefing, Kerry said that “the reason I thought that it was particularly important to come to Hiroshima and to come now was not just that Fumio Kishida and I work together and are friends and this is his home community and we have a G7 meeting here, but because we are engaged in this effort to try to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and because we are trying to remind people of the power of reconciliation.”

Kerry added, “Everyone should visit Hiroshima, and ‘everyone’ means everyone. So I hope one day the president of the United States will be among the everyone who is able to come here.” President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend the G7 summit that will be held May 26-27 in Japan’s Mie prefecture. 

No sitting U.S. president or vice president has ever visited Hiroshima. While serving as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited the Hiroshima memorial site in September 2008.

The seven foreign ministers also issued a two-page joint declaration on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. The document reaffirmed their “commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability.”

The ministers declared, “No state should conduct a nuclear test explosion and all states should sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty without delay and without conditions.” They urged “all states to work with us on practical and realistic initiatives that can promote meaningful dialogue on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation among all.” 

In the document, the ministers urged other political leaders to visit the sites of the two atomic bombings and concluded, “We share the deep desire of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear weapons never be used again.”

Posted: April 27, 2016

In Hiroshima, Chart the Path Forward

As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Setsuko Thurlow saw her classmates and other fellow citizens of Hiroshima obliterated by the hurricane-like blast...

May 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Setsuko Thurlow saw her classmates and other fellow citizens of Hiroshima obliterated by the hurricane-like blast, burned by searing heat, or sickened by the radiation of one atomic bomb. 

She was one of the lucky ones, rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building 1.8 kilometers from ground zero. By 1950, some 250,000 had died from the bomb that was detonated on August 6, 1945, and the second that scorched Nagasaki three days later.

Over the past seven decades, Thurlow and the other survivors have served the cause of peace by reminding the world of the horrors of nuclear war and calling on leaders to ensure that nuclear weapons will never be used again.

With a historic visit to one or both of these cities when he travels to Japan for the summit of the Group of Seven industrialized countries May 26-27, U.S. President Barack Obama could not only acknowledge the experience and contributions of the hibakusha, but also use the opportunity to map out ways the United States and other countries can move closer to a world free of nuclear weapons. 

As he declared in Prague seven years ago, “[A]s the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” 

Obama has refocused global attention on the need to reduce and eliminate nuclear dangers. His leadership has led to significant progress in preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons-usable material and the conclusion of a long-term verifiable agreement to block Iran’s pathways to the bomb.

But the impact of the president’s actions and policies to reduce the role and number of the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons has been far more modest. Even after the 2010 U.S.-Russian New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, each side can still deliver some 1,800 strategic nuclear warheads, each of which is more powerful than the bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

In 2013, Obama announced the United States has one-third more nuclear weapons than necessary, but made further cuts contingent on Russian reciprocity. At the same time, Obama’s push for a massive and costly program to upgrade each element of the U.S. arsenal would maintain excess force levels for decades to come.

As he winds up his time in office, tensions with Russia are high, and further nuclear arms talks are on hold; no functioning multilateral forum for nuclear disarmament has been established; the door to further nuclear testing remains open; and a new technological arms race involving the world’s nuclear-armed states is underway.

With just months remaining, Obama can still make a positive impact but only if he is more creative and is prepared to provide bolder leadership. 

In Japan, he could take a dramatic step to reduce the risk of inadvertent nuclear weapons use by announcing he will eliminate the launch-under-attack posture from U.S. nuclear strategy and call on other states to do the same. This would not undermine deterrence capabilities because U.S. nuclear forces are designed to withstand an initial first strike. 

Obama said in April, “[W]e do have to guard against…new and more deadly and more effective systems that end up leading to a whole new escalation of the arms race.” If he is serious, he should take another look at the Pentagon’s unaffordable, Strangelove-ian nuclear force modernization scheme and announce he will halt plans for 1,000 to 1,100 new air-launched cruise missiles, which would introduce new capabilities and are designed for nuclear war-fighting, not deterrence. 

Obama should also propose a new global nuclear restraint and disarmament dialogue. He should call for other nuclear-armed states, particularly China, India, and Pakistan, to halt fissile material production for weapons use and freeze the overall size of their nuclear weapons stockpiles as long as the United States and Russia continue to reduce theirs. To work out a framework for further progress, he could propose a series of high-level summits on multilateral nuclear disarmament involving nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states. 

Obama says he wants to secure Senate support for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but has fallen miserably short of his call in 2009 for “an immediate and aggressive” effort for the treaty. As a result, entry into force remains a distant goal, 20 years after the negotiation of the treaty. 

In his final months, Obama has a responsibility to reinforce the norm against testing by supporting efforts to formulate and adopt a nonbinding UN Security Council resolution that calls on all states to refrain from testing, urges CTBT holdout states to ratify the treaty, and declares that conducting a nuclear test explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty.

Obama’s visit to Japan represents one of his last and best opportunities to take steps necessary to head off a new phase of global arms competition and establish a more meaningful legacy on nuclear disarmament.

Posted: April 26, 2016

Statement by Daryl G. Kimball on Challenges on Disarmament and Opportunities for Progress

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Under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), each of the parties, including the nuclear-weapon-state parties...

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Political and Security Challenges on Disarmament
and Opportunities to Achieve Progress 

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Framework Forum Roundtable organized by the
Canadian Mission, the Middle Powers Initiative, and Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung 

Mission of the Government of Canada in Geneva, April 18, 2016

Under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), each of the parties, including the nuclear-weapon-state parties, “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

In its 1996 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that the threat and use of nuclear weapons was generally illegal, but it could not decide whether this illegality applied “in an extreme circumstance of self-defense in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.” Three judges dissented from that ruling, arguing that nuclear weapons were illegal in all circumstances. In its 1996 opinion, the ICJ also concluded unanimously that the disarmament obligation is not limited to NPT parties.

But today, and contrary to these legal obligations, progress on nuclear disarmament is at a standstill, and the risk of unbridled nuclear competition is growing.1

U.S. MX missile re-entry vehicles being tested at Kwajalein Atoll. Each line represents the potential explosive power of about 300 kilotons of TNT. All nine of the world's nuclear weapon states are replacing or upgrading their nuclear weapons strike capabilities. (Photo courtesy of Department of Defense.)As the delegations here at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Disarmament realize, there are still no legally-binding restrictions on the nuclear buildups of world’s four non-NPT nuclear-armed states, and are currently no active bilateral or multilateral negotiations to further regulate, cap, or reduce the stockpiles of any of the world’s five original nuclear-armed states.

Worse still, key treaties like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) have not yet entered into force due to political divisions in Washington and inaction by seven other Annex 2 states, leaving the door to renewed nuclear weapons testing ajar twenty years after the Conference on Disarmament completed its negotiation and the treaty was opened for signature.

In addition to the tensions between key nuclear-armed states, the biggest challenge to the disarmament enterprise is the fact that all of the world’s nine nuclear-weapon states are, to varying degrees or another, devoting vast sums of money to modernize, upgrade, and in some cases expand the size and lethality of their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems.

As Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists wrote in in 20142, the numerical nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia may be over; but elsewhere, “a dynamic technological nuclear arms race is in full swing and may increase over the next decade.”

Although there is abundant evidence that even a “limited” exchange of nuclear weapons would result in a catastrophic humanitarian catastrophe—and in the view of many would violate the principles contained in the Law of War and be contrary to widespread interpretations of International Humanitarian Law—each of the nuclear-armed states continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons for their security and maintain plans for the use of these weapons in a conflict.

U.S.-Russian Tensions

Undoubtedly, renewed tensions between Moscow and Washington are blocking progress on nuclear disarmament. The United States and Russia have a special responsibility to provide leadership to further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons, but they are not doing so.

Although the number of nuclear weapons is down from its Cold War peak, the United States and Russia deploy far more nuclear weapons—some 1,800 each—than necessary for nuclear deterrence purposes. As President Barack Obama correctly noted in a speech in 2012, “we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”

Yet progress on further nuclear cuts is on hold. As President Obama recently acknowledged and the Russian [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] MFA confirmed, new negotiations on further nuclear disarmament beyond [the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] New START are unlikely any time soon.

Russian leaders cite concerns about limited but unconstrained U.S. ballistic missile interceptors, NATO conventional military capabilities, and third-country nuclear arsenals, as reason for rejecting the June 2013 U.S. proposal for a further one-third reduction in each side’s strategic nuclear forces. But Russia has failed to put forward a counterproposal and has rejected U.S. offers to discuss the full range of strategic issues.

Complicating matters, Russia also has tested ground-based cruise missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. U.S. and Russian officials say they are interested in discussing the issue, but the matter remains unresolved. So long as it does, the prospects for negotiation of a follow-on agreement to New START are low.

Making matters even worse, Russian officials have begun to highlight their nuclear forces as a deterrent against what they see as increasingly threatening U.S. and NATO conventional military capabilities. Late last year, Russia “leaked” plans for a new nuclear-armed underwater torpedo, implying it is eyeing new types of nuclear weapons.

Now, in a troubling shift of rhetoric, the Defense Department has unwisely begun to frame its unaffordable, all-of-the-above plan for replacing and upgrading U.S. strategic bombers, nuclear-armed cruise missiles, and land- and sea-based strategic nuclear forces as part of its strategy to “counter Russia’s aggressive policies in Eastern Europe,” according its fiscal year 2017 budget request.

In reality, U.S. nuclear weapons, including the remaining forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons are irrelevant to the protection of nervous NATO allies in the Baltics and elsewhere.

Obama and his successor, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, have a responsibility to pull back from a nuclear action-reaction cycle that would put both countries at greater risk and block further nuclear reductions for many more years to come.

Other Nuclear-Armed States

Meanwhile, as the U.S. and Russian tensions and arsenals attract most international attention, China, India, and Pakistan are all pursuing new ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems3 themselves and increasing the size of their warhead stockpiles or their capacity to produce material to make more weapons.

Although smaller in number, these arsenals are just as dangerous. Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use in a potential conflict with India by developing tactical nuclear weapons capabilities to counter perceived Indian conventional military threats.

Pakistan’s stated concern about India’s larger fissile stocks has led it to block negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, even though the United States has recently opened the possibility of changing the mandate to address fissile stocks4.

For its part, India says it would support fissile cut-off talks, but it appears to be expanding its fissile material production capacity as the CD remains deadlocked.

Leaders in Beijing, New Delhi, and Islamabad profess support for nondiscriminatory approaches to disarmament and minimal deterrence, but their programs are moving in the opposite direction and there is little or no dialogue among them, and with others, on nuclear risk reduction options.

Chinese officials suggest they will not consider limits on their nuclear arsenal unless there are additional, deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons cuts.

Although North Korea may be under tighter and tighter international sanctions, its nuclear weapons and ballistic programs remain unconstrained. With further nuclear and ballistic missile tests, it will likely have missile-deliverable nuclear warheads.

Israel’s nuclear opacity and the inability of the Arab League to find a way to agree on an agenda acceptable to Israel for a meeting Middle East Nuclear WMD Free Zone Treaty has frozen discussion of practical measures to reduce nuclear and missile dangers in that region.

Another challenge is the relatively low-level of public and policy-maker awareness about the dangers of renewed nuclear competition and the consequences of nuclear weapons use is relatively low in the United States—and perhaps elsewhere.

While there is support among Democrats in Congress for efforts to further cut U.S. and Russian arsenals, there is strong skepticism among Republicans in Congress about any further nuclear reductions, and even though the U.S. Defense Department acknowledges that it cannot afford its costly, all-of-the-above plan to replace each component of the U.S. nuclear arsenal5, for the time being there is bipartisan support for most U.S. nuclear weapons modernization programs.

Moving Forward

Obviously, these are very challenging conditions. These difficulties are reflected in the inability to achieve consensus here in Geneva at the CD and in the failure of the nuclear weapon states to meet key 2010 NPT Review Conference commitments and the inability of the states parties at the 2015 NPT Review Conference to agree on an updated action plan on disarmament.

Frustrated by the slow pace of the so-called “step-by-step approach” to disarmament, many non-nuclear-weapon states have tried to catalyze progress through the humanitarian consequences initiative. The effort has helped raise awareness once again about the unique destructive power of nuclear weapons and the dubious legal and moral basis for their possession and use.

But that initiative and the open-ended working group to discuss possible measures “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons" has not yet produced a unified, realistic diplomatic proposal for halting nuclear competition or starting multilateral disarmament talks.

There is no substitute for serious dialogue, the political will and support to achieve results, and international and domestic pressure to achieve meaningful results.

Simply repeating calls for action are not sufficient. Creative, practical ideas are needed to overcome persistent obstacles and new challenges.

It does not appear to me that there is any one initiative that can overcome these broader systemic challenges that impede progress on disarmament.

Rather, it will likely take the pursuit of multiple, practical, and sometimes bold, initiatives on the part of responsible leaders and groups of states.

So, what options might states participating in the OEWG and the CD pursue to jumpstart progress? Allow me to briefly comment on a few that are in circulation here in Vienna and to offer a few others for your consideration.

  • A Ban Treaty
    At the February OEWG discussions some states and civil society campaigners suggested it is time to launch talks on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons possession and use. Such a ban is, in my view, eventually a necessary step toward a world without nuclear weapons.

    But if such a negotiation is launched and concluded, it would not help the nuclear weapon states meet their nuclear disarmament obligations and would not likely do much to change opinion, policies, dangerous nuclear use doctrines, or accelerate progress on the elimination of the nuclear arsenals in the nuclear-armed states.

    This is due in large part to the fact that the nuclear weapons states will simply ignore the process and the results. The key is to draw them in such a way that they are compelled or persuaded to shift their approach and accelerate action toward zero nuclear weapons.
  • Challenge Nuclear Weapons Use and Use Doctrines 
    Another, approach—which would help address the longstanding goal of assuring non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons—would be to pursue the negotiation of a legally-binding instrument banning the use of nuclear weapons.

    Such an instrument would not, as some have suggested, legitimize the possession of nuclear weapons. Even if the nuclear-weapon states do not initially join in the negotiation or sign the instrument, the process itself and the final product could further delegitimize nuclear weapons, strengthen the legal norm against their use, and put pressure on nuclear-armed states to revise their nuclear doctrines.

    Another approach would be to press each of the nuclear-armed states to report, in detail, on the physical, environmental, and human impacts of their nuclear war plans, if these plans were to be carried out, and how they believe the use of hundreds of such weapons would be consistent with humanitarian law and the laws of war as some nuclear-armed states claim6.

    Such a process could force an examination of dangerous nuclear doctrines and focus public attention on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons use.
  • UN Study on Effects of Possible Nuclear Exchanges Between Weapons States
    Part of the OEWG mandate is to make recommendations on “measures to increase awareness and understanding of the complexity of and interrelationship between the wide range of humanitarian consequences that would result from any nuclear detonation.”

    One important way to do so is to launch a UN study on the climate effects and related humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use.

    Tremendous advances in climate modeling and research on both the immediate effects and impacts on climate and agriculture from large-scale nuclear weapons use have been completed since the United Nations looked at the issue 25 years ago. It is time for an up-to-date UN study and report on these issues to inform current and future debate and decisions on global nuclear policy.
  • Disarmament Discussions in the CD or Through Another Forum
    Theoretically, the CD can be a forum for a dialogue on disarmament. The United Kingdom has put forward a useful, and wide-ranging proposal for a working group to discuss and identify effective measures on nuclear disarmament7. It would appear to be flexible enough to all states’ interests into account. If states do not burden this proposal with poison pill demands, it could help extend the conversations taking place at the OEWG and engage key nuclear-armed states. If launched, it would be vital for all states to bring forward detailed and considered proposals, not tired talking points.

    Another option would be to initiate a series of high-level summits approach to put the spotlight on the issue and spur new ideas. This would complement the ongoing P5 [China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States] dialogue on nuclear terms and concepts and the humanitarian impacts initiative.

    Leaders from a core group of states could invite their counterparts from a representative group of 20 to 30 nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states to join a one- or two-day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. The high-level meeting could be a starting point for ongoing, regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial levels on the basis of a clear understanding of the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

    Borrowing a concept from the nuclear security summit process, all participants should be encouraged to bring “house gifts”—specific actions by states that would concretely diminish the threat of nuclear weapons use, freeze or reduce the number of nuclear weapons, reduce the role of nuclear weapons, bring into force key agreements such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or make their nuclear programs more transparent.
  • UN Security Council and UN General Assembly Action to Reinforce the Test Ban Pending Entry Into Force
    The CTBT was concluded twenty years ago, yet entry into force is still many years away. It is essential that states that support the norm against nuclear testing support initiatives that raise the political and legal barriers for testing pending entry into force of the CTBT.

    Specifically, we urge you to actively support a non-binding UN Security Council resolution and a parallel UN General Assembly measure later this year that:
  1. Calls on all states to refrain from testing and calls upon those states that have not ratified the CTBT to do so at the earliest possible time;
  2. Declares that the conduct of a nuclear test explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT;
  3. Underscores the need for a continuous, real-time global nuclear test monitoring capability to detect, identify, and locate nuclear test explosions, and recognizes the vital contributions of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, including the International Monitoring System and International Data Centre.

    In light of the North Korea’s ongoing nuclear testing, the central importance of the CTBT to the NPT and nonproliferation, and the ongoing efforts by several nuclear-armed states to improve their capabilities, the time is right to take this initiative. The place to begin discussing it is the upcoming June 13 high-level meeting in Vienna on the CTBT.
  • Call for Parallel U.S.-Russian Reductions Without a New Treaty
    In 2010, all of the nuclear-weapon states committed “to accelerate concrete progress on the steps leading to nuclear disarmament,” including “all types of nuclear weapons.”

    Further nuclear reductions need not wait for a new U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. More states need to call upon the United States and Russia to accelerate the pace of reductions under New START to reach the agreed limits before the 2018 deadline and call on both states to continue to reduce force levels below the New START ceilings, to be verified with the treaty’s monitoring regime.
  • New START Follow-On Talks No Later Than 2017
    States can also call upon the leaders in Moscow and Washington to begin formal negotiations on a follow-on to New START, and on other relevant strategic weapons issues, no later than 2017.

    The aim should aim to cut each side’s strategic arsenals to fewer than 1,100 deployed strategic warheads and 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, including any strategic-range conventional prompt-strike weapons. Such talks can and should explore a wider range of issues, including transparency and confidence-building steps on tactical nuclear weapons and joint understandings on missile defense capabilities and deployments8. Talks should begin soon and before New START expires in 2021 
  • Reinforce the INF Treaty and Pursue Nuclear-Armed Cruise Missile Limits
    To sustain progress on nuclear disarmament, it is essential to reinforce and expand the INF Treaty. States at the CD and elsewhere need to speak up and call upon the United States and Russia to immediately resolve compliance concerns.

    The United States and other like-minded states could also propose and initiate talks with other states in talks on limiting and eventually phasing out all nuclear-armed cruise missile systems. President Obama could spur progress in this area by cancelling plans for a costly new U.S. air-launched cruise missile, which would have new military capabilities and is destabilizing former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and others have proposed9.

    Such an initiative would allow the United States, Russia and other countries to forgo expensive modernization programs for such missiles, and in cooperation with other key states, head off dangerous cruise missile buildups around the globe.
  • Call On Other Nuclear-Armed States to Freeze Their Nuclear Buildups
    The world’s other nuclear-armed states must do their part too.

    In addition to urging the United States, China, and the other CTBT Annex 2 states to finally take the steps necessary to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Russia and the world’s other nuclear-armed states should be called upon by all NPT states parties to freeze the overall size of their stockpiles as long as the United States and Russia continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals. 

    A unified push for further U.S.-Russian arms cuts combined with a global nuclear weapons freeze by the other nuclear-armed states would help create the conditions for multilateral, verifiable nuclear disarmament and an eventual ban on nuclear weapons.

In the coming months and years, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to eliminate the potential for nuclear catastrophe.


1. "Race for Latest Class of Nuclear Arms Threatens to Revive Cold War,” By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, The New York Times, April 16, 2016

2. “Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT?,” Hans M. Kristensen in Arms Control Today, May 2014.

3. “India’s Submarine Completes Tests,” Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Today, April 2016

4. “U.S. Floats New Fissile Talks Formula, “ Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Today, March 2016.

5. “The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Spending Binge,” by Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Today, December 2015

6. The June 2013 Report on the Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy of the United States claims that: [t]he new guidance makes clear that all plans must be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Law of Armed Conflict. Accordingly, plans will, for example, apply the principles of distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects. The United States will not intentionally target civilian populations or civilian objects.”

7. Letter dated 19 February from the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Conference on Disarmament.

8. “Second Report of the Deep Cuts Commission: Strengthening Stability in Turbulent Times,” published by the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, April 2015.

9.“Overkill: The Case Against a New Nuclear Air-Launched Cruise Missile” by Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association Issue Brief, October 19, 2015

Country Resources:

Posted: April 18, 2016

ICJ Hears Nuclear Disarmament Case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague began hearing arguments March 7 in a case brought against nuclear-armed India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom by the Republic of the Marshall Islands...

April 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague began hearing arguments March 7 in a case brought against nuclear-armed India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which contends that the UK has failed to meet disarmament obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and NPT nonsignatories India and Pakistan have breached nuclear disarmament obligations established under customary international law.

The action by the island republic, which was a U.S. protectorate until 1986, represents the most significant international legal challenge on nuclear weapons since the ICJ issued an advisory opinion on the “the legality of threat of or use of nuclear weapons” in 1996. It also reflects the growing frustration of many non-nuclear-weapon states over what they see as the slow pace of nuclear disarmament.

The Marshall Islands, whose land and people were severely affected by 67 U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests conducted there from 1946 to 1958, is petitioning the ICJ to declare the three states in breach of their nuclear disarmament obligations and order them to initiate negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

In its 1996 advisory opinion, the ICJ judged that the threat and use of nuclear weapons was generally illegal, but added that it could not decide whether this illegality applied “in an extreme circumstance of self-defense in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.” Three judges dissented from that ruling, arguing that nuclear weapons were illegal in all circumstances. In its 1996 opinion, the ICJ also concluded unanimously that the disarmament obligation is not limited to NPT parties.

In court arguments, India, Pakistan and the UK separately argued that the Marshall Islands case was without merit and that they were committed to achieving nuclear disarmament. India in particular emphasized its votes in favor of nuclear disarmament at the UN General Assembly.

The Indian government “believes that given our consistent and principled position on the NPT, to which India is not a party to, NPT provisions cannot be extended to India as a legal obligation,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a March 7 statement.

On the same day that the nuclear disarmament case opened at the ICJ, India conducted a test of its new, nuclear-capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Tony de Brum, a representative of the Marshall Islands in the case and the former foreign minister, charged at the ICJ on March 15 that by “proudly and rapidly enhancing and diversifying” its nuclear arsenal, India’s “conduct is the opposite of satisfying a legal obligation to negotiate in good faith nuclear disarmament.”

In April 2014, the Marshall Islands filed formal applications in the ICJ instituting proceedings against all nine of the world’s nuclear-armed states. But only India, Pakistan, and the UK accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the court and appeared in The Hague to argue their side in the case. The other nuclear-armed states were invited to respond, but China declined and the others did not respond.

The ICJ is expected to issue separate rulings on the jurisdiction and admissibility of each case later this year. If the court rules in favor of the Marshall Islands, the process will move to the merits phase. If the court rules against the plaintiffs, the case will be over.

What's New Text: 

Posted: March 29, 2016

Nuclear Disarmament Summitry

The positive results of the nuclear security summit process from 2010 to 2016 demonstrate how high-level, sustained leadership can catalyze action...

April 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

The positive results of the nuclear security summit process from 2010 to 2016 demonstrate how high-level, sustained leadership can catalyze action on a global problem: the threat of terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons-usable material. More work lies ahead, but the intensive, six-year-long summit process has significantly reduced nuclear vulnerabilities in key states.

As with preventing nuclear terrorism, reducing the catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons is a global enterprise that requires renewed leadership, dialogue, and action on the part of all the world’s nations.

Unfortunately, 70 years after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, progress on disarmament is stalled; the risk of nuclear competition and conflict is growing; and several states are expanding or upgrading their nuclear arsenals. There are no active bilateral or multilateral negotiations to further regulate, cap, or reduce the stockpiles of any of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states.

The possessors of the two largest arsenals, Russia and the United States, each deploy more than 1,800 strategic warheads on several hundred bombers and missiles—far more than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced he is prepared to cut the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal by an additional one-third. So far, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rebuffed the proposal and failed to make a counteroffer. Bilateral talks on further nuclear reductions are on hold indefinitely.

Meanwhile, other nuclear-armed states, such as China, France, India, and Pakistan, sit on the nuclear disarmament sidelines. Leaders in Beijing, Islamabad, and New Delhi profess support for disarmament and “minimum” deterrence, but each is pursuing new land- and sea-based nuclear delivery systems. Although smaller in number, these arsenals are increasingly dangerous and destabilizing.

For nearly two decades, the key countries at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva have been unable to reach consensus to begin negotiations on a fissile material control treaty or to start nuclear disarmament discussions.

The 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference failed to produce an updated, meaningful action plan on disarmament that builds on previous disarmament commitments. The next review conference is another four years away.

Frustrated by the slow pace of progress, more than 150 states attended conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use. Earlier this year, many non-nuclear-weapon states joined an open-ended working group to discuss possible measures “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Some states and civil society campaigners want to launch talks on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons possession or use. Such a ban is eventually a necessary step toward a world without nuclear weapons, but it will not by itself change today’s dangerous nuclear doctrines or eliminate nuclear arsenals. It is not a substitute for the difficult work and bold leadership necessary to reduce nuclear risks and head off new dangers.

As Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz argued in an op-ed in 2013, a new multilateral effort for nuclear disarmament dialogue is needed. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested in 2009 that the UN Security Council convene a summit on nuclear disarmament.

Now is the time to seriously consider a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on disarmament. Leaders from a core group of states could invite their counterparts from a representative group of 20 to 30 nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states to join a one- or two-day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

This high-level meeting could be a starting point for ongoing, regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial levels. As Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has argued, the dialogue on disarmament should be based on a clear understanding of the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

Borrowing a concept from the nuclear security summit process, all participants should be encouraged to bring “house gifts”—specific actions by states that would concretely diminish the threat of nuclear weapons use, freeze or reduce the number of nuclear weapons, reduce the role of nuclear weapons, bring into force key agreements such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or make their nuclear programs more transparent.

For instance, U.S. and Russian leaders could jointly announce they will resume negotiations on a follow-on treaty to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Further U.S.-Russian cuts, which are possible even without a new treaty, if combined with a pause in the nuclear buildups by China, India, and Pakistan, could help establish the conditions for future multilateral disarmament talks.

A nuclear disarmament and risk reduction summit process would complement the ongoing dialogue on nuclear terms and concepts involving the five NPT nuclear-weapon states and the humanitarian impacts initiative. Such a process by no means would be easy. But by putting the spotlight on the issue, it could spur new ideas and momentum. 

Posted: March 29, 2016

U.S. Floats New Fissile Talks Formula

Inclusion of fissile stockpiles fails to break a deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament. 

March 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

19_NEWS_Fismat.jpgIn an effort in January to break the years-long dispute blocking the start of negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Nigeria, the CD president at the time, circulated an informal draft proposal for talks on fissile material issues formulated by the United States and backed by several other governments.

To date, the proposal has not obtained the necessary consensus support in the 65-country CD, which is based in Geneva.

The new proposal calls for the establishment of a working group to “negotiate an internationally and effectively verifiable treaty dealing with fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” according to diplomatic sources.

This formula would allow for talks on a treaty that would not only verifiably halt the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, but also take into account existing stockpiles of fissile materials for use in nuclear arms.

In recent years, Pakistan has opposed negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material unless the talks also address the issue of existing fissile material stockpiles.

On Jan. 26, just days before the new proposal was put forward, Pakistan’s CD ambassador, Tehmina Janjua, complained that other states have not been “willing to include existing stocks of fissile material in the treaty’s negotiating mandate.”

“A treaty that does not address the asymmetry in fissile material stocks…would adversely affect Pakistan’s vital interests,” Janjua said.

Pakistan, its neighbor India, and North Korea are currently producing and stockpiling fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons.

France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have publicly renounced fissile material production for weapons, while China is believed to have stopped such production. All have significant residual stockpiles. Israel is not believed to be actively producing fissile material for weapons.

Several delegation heads welcomed the proposal. Patricia O’Brien of Ireland praised “the timely U.S. initiative” and its inclusion of existing stockpiles of fissile material in the negotiating mandate.

“There is not more time to lose,” O’Brien said in a Feb. 2 statement to the CD.

Since 1996, the member states of the CD have failed to agree on a common work plan for negotiations on four main issues: nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cutoff treaty, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. (See ACT, September 2015.)

After consultations among states on the new proposal, Pakistan, along with China and Russia, blocked agreement, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the situation. Pakistan, according to one informed source, argued that the negotiating mandate must explicitly state that existing stocks would be considered rather than simply allowing for consideration of the issue.

In response, Nigeria circulated a formal proposal for “discussions” on all four of the core agenda items. 

This approach, however, elicited strong criticism from states that are impatient with the CD’s inability to launch negotiations, rather than discussions, on one or more agenda items.

“Mere discussions can never be a substitute for ‘substantive work’ according to the CD mandate—that is, negotiating treaties to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons,” argued Thomas Zehetner of Austria in a statement to the CD on Feb. 19.

“We have seen efforts in recent weeks to start negotiations. We believe that we should continue with these efforts to strive for the adoption of a Program of Work that would result in the start of negotiations, not just an exchange of views,” Zehetner said.

Efforts to resolve the impasse now fall to Norway, which takes over the CD presidency in March. 

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Posted: March 3, 2016

Countries Pledge Renewed CTBT Effort

Diplomats want a renewed, “high-level” push as the treaty’s 20th anniversary nears.

March 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball and Shervin Taheran

24_NEWS_CTBT.jpgIn the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test explosion on Jan. 6, diplomats from several states have announced they will intensify efforts to accelerate progress toward entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was opened for signature two decades ago.

Cristian Istrate, permanent representative of Romania to the international organizations in Vienna and chair of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said on Jan. 25 in remarks delivered at a symposium in Vienna that plans are in motion for a “high-level ministerial meeting” during the organization’s scheduled June 13-15 meeting in Vienna. In addition to the foreign ministers, the meeting will involve UN officials, independent experts, and the media, Istrate said.

The high-level meeting “is an ambitious and good idea,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in remarks Feb. 1 following a meeting with CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo in Paris, according to the CTBTO.

Citing the Jan. 6 North Korean test and the impending 20th anniversary of the CTBT, Zerbo said in a Jan. 27 column in Le Monde that “it is imperative to redouble efforts” to get “real results” with regard to the CTBT’s entry into force.

Since the CTBT was opened for signature in 1996, 183 states have signed and 164 have ratified the treaty, including 36 of the 44 states referenced in Annex 2 of the treaty as being required for entry into force. The eight states listed in Annex 2 that have not ratified the treaty are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States.

At the Vienna symposium, several government officials and nongovernmental experts suggested the treaty could serve as a confidence-building measure in the Middle East.

Israel’s representative in Vienna, Merav Zafary-Odiz, said in remarks at the symposium that a regional moratorium on nuclear testing “could enhance security and potentially lead to a future ratification of the CTBT.” She said that “Israel has announced its commitment to a moratorium” and that “it would be useful for others to do the same.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the CTBT in 1996, but the country has not ratified the pact.

Other symposium speakers underscored the importance of U.S. leadership on treaty ratification decisions by other Annex 2 states.

Siddharth Varadarajan, a veteran Indian journalist, argued that U.S. ratification is essential to secure ratification by at least three other countries—China, India, and Pakistan.

“Pakistan will not sign and ratify the CTBT as the smallest and weakest of the nuclear-armed states before India does, India will not do the same until China does, and the Chinese will not do it until the U.S. does,” Varadarajan said in his Jan. 26 remarks.

The Obama administration has said it is undertaking an effort “to reopen and re-energize the conversation about the treaty on Capitol Hill and throughout [the] nation,” as Secretary of State John Kerry put it last October. (See ACT, November 2015.)

Since then, State Department officials have been delivering speeches to audiences in several states, including Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Utah, on the benefits of a test ban.

In a Feb. 4 interview with the Albuquerque Journal during a visit to New Mexico, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said she was working “to get the American public again focused on the value of the CTBT to our national security.”

“We made a pass at ratifying the treaty back in 1999, and at the time…there wasn’t, I think, the clear knowledge that we could maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear stockpile without testing. The situation has changed quite a bit in the ensuing 17 years,” Gottemoeller said.

But she made clear that the administration was not pushing for a vote. “I don’t think [President Barack Obama] is unrealistic about trying to rush things through in 2016, but he definitely wants to lay some solid groundwork in the hope that the treaty, if it is not taken up in 2016, it can be taken up in the near future,” she said in the interview.

Some senators, including New Mexico’s Tom Udall (D) and Martin Heinrich (D), have expressed their support, saying they believe the technical questions surrounding the treaty have been addressed. The CTBT “is an important element of global nonproliferation efforts, and I believe the United States should ratify it,” Udall told the Albuquerque Journal on Feb. 4.

In a Feb. 3 article, Roll Call quoted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as saying that “there’s been no discussion” on holding a vote on the CTBT in his committee. 

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Posted: March 3, 2016

After Tougher Sanctions, Effective Engagement Needed to Curb North Korean Nuclear and Missile Threat

Today, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a fifth resolution to address North Korea’s destabilizing nuclear and missile programs. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 was adopted in response to North Korea’s dangerous nuclear provocations of early 2016, namely a fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and a second launch of a satellite on Feb. 7, which has implications for its long-range ballistic missile development efforts. The new resolution imposes the most comprehensive sanctions to date. UNSCR 2270 seeks to: curb Pyongyang’s access to materials with military applications,...

Back to the Nuclear Brink?

Three decades ago, President Ronald Reagan declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” In the years after...

March 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Three decades ago, President Ronald Reagan declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” In the years after, Russia and the United States began to wind down Cold War tensions and slash their nuclear arsenals. But today, the risks of nuclear brinkmanship and unbridled nuclear competition are on the rise once again.

Although the number of nuclear weapons is down from its Cold War peak, Russian and U.S. nuclear forces and postures still allow each country to launch more than 1,000 nuclear bombs within minutes if attacked. Each side depends on the restraint and good judgment of the other to avoid mutual annihilation.

Obama listens to Putin after their bilateral meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18, 2012, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.

Distrust is deep, and the list of grievances is growing. Although Russian and U.S. forces still far exceed nuclear deterrence requirements, progress on further nuclear cuts is on hold. Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing concerns about U.S. regional missile interceptors and third-country arsenals, has rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2013 proposal for a further one-third reduction in each side’s nuclear forces without so much as a counterproposal.

Complicating matters, Russia also has tested ground-based cruise missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and stiff-armed U.S. efforts to resolve the issue. Both countries continue to pursue fiscally unsustainable, multibillion-dollar schemes to replace and upgrade each major component of their strategic nuclear forces.

Worse still, Putin’s illegal annexation and destabilization of parts of Ukraine in violation of its 1994 pledge to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for Ukraine giving up nuclear weapons has put NATO members bordering Russia on edge. Unfortunately, the Ukraine crisis has halted most military-to-military contacts between East and West, making the increasingly frequent Russia-NATO close air encounters an even more dangerous potential flashpoint.

To date, the United States and Europe have responded to Putin’s meddling in Ukraine with targeted economic sanctions against Russia, plus additional conventional military training and support for allies and partners.

As Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO supreme allied commander, told a Senate committee last year, “The security situation in Europe is less stable, but it’s not based on the nuclear piece” of the equation.

Over the past year, however, Russian officials have begun to highlight their nuclear forces as a deterrent against what they see as increasingly threatening U.S. and NATO conventional military capabilities. Late last year, Russia “leaked” plans for a new nuclear-armed underwater torpedo, implying it is eyeing new types of nuclear weapons.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned, “No one should think it is possible to use nuclear weapons in a limited way as part of a conventional conflict.” He is right.

Now, in a troubling shift of rhetoric, the Defense Department has unwisely begun to frame its unaffordable, all-of-the-above plan for replacing and upgrading U.S. strategic bombers, nuclear-armed cruise missiles, and land- and sea-based strategic nuclear forces as part of its strategy to “counter Russia’s aggressive policies in Eastern Europe,” according its latest budget request.

In reality, U.S. nuclear weapons do nothing to address Russia’s actions in Ukraine or protect nervous NATO allies in the Baltics. This new Pentagon talking point only provides the Kremlin with a cynical excuse to accelerate its plans to improve Russia’s nuclear forces.

It makes no sense for either side to pursue a multidecade nuclear weapons spending binge that would perpetuate excessive force levels and Cold War-era nuclear war-fighting capabilities for generations to come.               

Obama and his successor, along with Putin, have a responsibility to pull back from a nuclear action-reaction cycle that puts both countries at greater risk.

To start, the two presidents should issue a joint statement reaffirming their understanding that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that as long as each side has nuclear weapons, strategic stability will remain central to their bilateral relations.

They should immediately resume active discussions on new, creative proposals to reduce the size and enormous cost of their excess strategic and tactical nuclear stockpiles and to resolve disagreements about missile defenses and INF Treaty compliance.

For instance, Obama could order a halt of the program to develop a new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile, phase out the missile it is replacing, and pursue with Russia and other states a ban on nuclear-armed cruise missiles. Such systems are for nuclear war-fighting, not deterrence. As former Defense Secretary William Perry has argued, “[T]he old Cold War requirement for such a capability no longer exists.”

To avoid miscalculation in a crisis, U.S. and NATO officials should resume regular communications with their military and intelligence counterparts in Russia, including through the NATO-Russia Council. Dialogue is essential for security and should not be denied to show displeasure with Russian behavior.

Leaders in Moscow and Washington need to walk back from a new era of nuclear one-upmanship, or else the world will face even greater dangers in the months and years ahead. 

Posted: March 1, 2016

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