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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

Russia

25 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Enduring Value of Nuclear Arms Control

Description: 

Moscow’s challenge to Europe requires a tough and unified response, but the challenge can’t be effectively resolved with nuclear weapons or the buildup of nuclear capabilities.

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Volume 6, Issue 11, November 7, 2014

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has rightly aroused concern in Western capitals about Moscow’s commitment to international peace and security and a rules-based international order. These concerns are compounded by troublesome Russian behavior in the nuclear arena, such as the testing of a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and not so subtle reminders from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia is strengthening its “nuclear deterrent capability.”

Russia’s belligerence has prompted calls from some in the United States to abandon long-standing bipartisan arms control efforts to reduce the Russian nuclear threat.

Some members of Congress have proposed mimicking Moscow by placing a greater premium on nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy.

But this would be a mistake. Moscow’s challenge to Europe requires a tough and unified response, but the challenge can’t be effectively resolved with nuclear weapons or the buildup of nuclear capabilities.

In a Sept. 8 opinion piece in Foreign Policy, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) stated that Russia's development of new nuclear capabilities should accelerate plans to modernize U.S. nuclear weapons "and perhaps even develop new nuclear systems."

Similarly, former George W. Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker recently argued in The Washington Post that the Obama administration should punish Russia by suspending implementation of the reductions mandated by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)and cease efforts to further reduce excess U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons.

Heeding these calls would be counterproductive and self-defeating. U.S. presidents from both parties have long recognized the value of arms control agreements in constraining and reducing Russian nuclear forces. While current tensions between the United States and Moscow may preclude new negotiated agreements in the near term, the arms reduction process has survived similar downturns in the past, and remains in the national interest today.

Nuclear Weapons and the Ukraine Crisis

To date, the United States and European Union have responded to Russian moves in Ukraine and Crimea primarily with economic sanctions, financial and limited military assistance to Ukraine, and conventional military support to NATO countries, particularly the alliance’s easternmost members that border Russia.

U.S. nuclear forces have not played a significant role in the current tensions over Ukraine. The nuclear component of the U.S. response has been limited to sending nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 aircraft to Europe to participate in military exercises. The deployment of the bombers is largely seen as a symbolic gesture meant to reassure NATO allies alarmed by Russian actions. The calls from Eastern European allies for reassurance have been almost exclusively for non-nuclear measures.

The unparalleled destructive power of nuclear weapons makes them unusable in all but the direst of circumstances. Given the catastrophic impacts of using just a handful of nuclear weapons, deterring their use can be achieved with a far smaller nuclear force than the arsenal of 4,800 weapons the United States currently possesses.

Nuclear weapons are especially irrelevant to the strategy of “hybrid war” that Russia has pursued in Ukraine and which some NATO officials fear could be deployed against the alliance’s eastern flank.  A recent article in the Financial Times described the Russian approach as “a broad range of hostile actions, of which military force is only a small part, that are invariably executed in concert as part of a flexible strategy with long-term objectives.” These tactics fall well below the threshold that makes threatening or using nuclear weapons rational or credible.

In fact, an overreliance on nuclear weapons could make preventing future Russian misbehavior more challenging. For example, many NATO members are skeptical of the continued deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. According to former British Secretary of State for Defense Lord Des Browne, this situation is a “godsend” for Russia, which is eager to exploit fissures in the alliance. In addition, the money spent on maintaining a bloated nuclear arsenal is money that can’t be spent to help Ukraine’s economy or provide central and eastern European allies with additional conventional military support.

Responding to Russia’s INF Violation

The State Department’s 2014 arms control compliance report released in July found “that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

The United States government has not published details of the violation. Sources told the New York Times in January 2014 that the missile of concern – which may not be intended to deliver nuclear weapons – has not yet been deployed. The Obama administration has taken up the issue with the Russians, but Washington remains unsatisfied with Russia’s explanation for the tests.

The Obama administration should publicly criticize Russia for its violation of the INF treaty, consider steps to make Russia pay a price for its actions, and engage with Moscow in an attempt to bring it back into compliance with the agreement. However, withdrawing from the INF treaty, stopping implementation of other arms control treaties, or ceasing pursuit of future agreements would not serve U.S. interests.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan continued to observe the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Moscow despite its determination that a large radar located at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia violated the treaty. It also engaged in negotiations with the Soviet Union on the INF treaty and Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty during this period. It took time, but diplomacy worked and the Soviets eventually tore down the radar.

Likewise, building new nuclear capabilities to counter Russia would be unwise. The U.S. military does not have a requirement for new INF-range missiles. Forcing the Pentagon to spend money on such hardware would suck funds from investments for which there are requirements. In addition, trying to find hosts for new intermediate range missiles would have political costs.

Overall, the implementation record of arms control agreements with Russia has been highly successful—which is why both Republican and Democratic presidents have pursued such agreements. Without these efforts, Russian forces would be unconstrained, our ability to verify what Russia is doing would be curtailed, and the incentives to engage in a costly arms race would be magnified.

The Case for Further Reductions

Over the last 40 years, the United States and Russia have reduced their stockpiles of nuclear weapons to the benefit of U.S., Russian, and global security. Successive administrations, on a bipartisan basis, have reduced the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a way to draw down Russia’s arsenal, build international support for nonproliferation, and save money. These rationales still hold true today.

Paradoxically, the current tensions with Russia reinforce the value of arms control agreements such as New START. The United States and Russia are no longer adversaries like they were during the Cold War and the risk of a deliberate nuclear exchange is exceedingly low. However, by verifiably capping U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear forces, the treaty bounds the current tensions between the two countries.

Blocking implementation of New START would be a major propaganda victory for Moscow and could cause it to renege on its own commitments under the treaty. This would limit the U.S. ability to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile, thereby driving up the worst case assessments of military planners, leading to a potentially costly surge in weapons procurements.

Even under New START, the United States and Russia are allowed to deploy as many as 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons with thousands more in reserve. After an extensive review of nuclear deterrence requirements, U.S. military leaders concluded last year that the United States could safely reduce the size of its deployed strategic arsenal by up to one-third below the New START levels.

In the past, U.S. nuclear weapons reductions have provided an incentive for Russia to similarly reduce the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States, via both formal treaties and unilateral cuts. Today, Russia is already well below the New START limit on deployed delivery vehicles. While Russia is aggressively modernizing its nuclear forces, some observers expect Russia’s stockpile to continue to decline as its largest and most heavily loaded missiles reach the end of their lifetimes and are retired.

Russia has so far resisted U.S. offers to negotiate further cuts below News START, and given current tensions between the two sides over Ukraine and INF Treaty compliance issues, further negotiated treaty cuts seem unlikely in the near term. However, the United States and Russia have continued to cooperate on other risk reduction goals, such as constraining Iran’s nuclear program, destroying Syrian chemical weapons, and securing dangerous nuclear and radiological materials. Likewise, disagreements over Ukraine should not reverse the overall trend toward smaller nuclear arsenals.

One option is for the United States and Russia to informally agree to reciprocally reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,000 warheads and 500 delivery systems. According to a 2012 report by the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board, this lower level could be verified using the New START verification provisions and reduce Russia’s incentive to build back up to New START levels and deploy new delivery systems.

Continued U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions are a necessary condition for including other nuclear-armed states in the arms control process, most notably China. If the United States and Russia fail to further reduce their arsenals, China, which is believed to possess less than 300 nuclear warheads, is unlikely to consider capping the size of its arsenal and could instead speed up efforts to increase the capability and size of its arsenal.

There are also strong financial reasons for the United States to consider retiring excess weapons. The congressional mandate for significant reductions in projected military spending could force reductions to the U.S. arsenal with or without Russian reciprocity.

A December 2013 Congressional Budget Office report estimated the cost of the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans at $355 billion over the next decade. But this is just the tip of the spending iceberg. Over the next 30 years, the bill could add up to $1 trillion.

Faced with increasing pressure to reduce military spending, a bipartisan, independent report commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department recently called the Obama administration’s plans to rebuild the nuclear arsenal “unaffordable” and a threat to “needed improvements in conventional forces.” Russia also faces significant financial constraints, as a drop in global oil and natural gas prices, the growing costs of the war in Ukraine, and the impact of Western sanctions have taken a significant toll on Russia’s economy.

Now is the time to reevaluate existing spending plans before major budget decisions are made.

Calls to place a greater emphasis on nuclear weapons in response to Russian revanchism is not the magic bullet that some critics make it out to be.  The marginal utility of the 4,799th and 4,798th warheads in the U.S. stockpile is next to nil. Pursuing common sense arms control measures and reshaping U.S. nuclear policy to comport with current security and fiscal realities makes sense as a way to reduce excess U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and free up resources to address the most 21st century security challenges. – KINGSTON REIF

Country Resources:

Posted: December 31, 1969

France Delays Arms Delivery Decision

The controversial sale of a French amphibious assault ship to Russia remains in limbo after the French government dropped its original deadline for a decision.

November 2014

By Jefferson Morley

The controversial sale of a French amphibious assault ship to Russia remains in limbo after the French government dropped its original deadline for a decision.

A man demonstrates on September 7 in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire against the decision of the French government to delay the delivery of the Mistral amphibious assault ship to Russia. (Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images)On the eve of the NATO summit in early September, French President François Hollande announced he was delaying the scheduled delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers because of Russian intervention in Ukraine. At that time, Hollande said he had two conditions for approving delivery of the ship—a cease-fire in Ukraine and a political settlement that resolves the country’s crisis. He said he would make a decision in “late October.”

Germany and the United Kingdom had called on France to cancel the contract, which is worth 1.1 billion euro ($1.4 billion), so as not to bolster Russian military capabilities. According to news reports, France may have to pay a substantial penalty if it does not fulfill the contract, which was signed in June 2011.

In an Oct. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a spokesman for the French embassy in Washington pointed to remarks Hollande had made the previous day in Milan. In those comments, Hollande reiterated his conditions for approving the delivery of the first carrier, saying that the cease-fire “needs to be fully respected in Ukraine and the crisis resolution plan…needs to be fully implemented.”

The spokesman said that no date has been set for Hollande’s decision.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Future of Some U.S.-Russia Work in Doubt

Although Russia and the United States are continuing to work together on global nuclear threat reduction, the future of their collaborative efforts after the end of this year remains uncertain.

November 2014

By Kingston Reif and Kelsey Davenport

Russia and the United States are continuing to cooperate on key elements of global nuclear threat reduction, but the future of collaborative efforts between the two countries remains uncertain.

In comments last month, current and former U.S. officials said cooperation in some key areas is in doubt after the end of this year.

Containers of highly enriched uranium fuel are prepared for transport to Russia from Almaty, Kazakhstan, on September 29. (Sandor Miklos Tozser/IAEA)In one of the areas of ongoing cooperation, Russia and the United States worked together in late September to assist with the removal of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Poland and Kazakhstan. The Russian-origin HEU was shipped back to that country for secure storage and elimination.

Janusz Wlodarski, president of Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September that Poland’s remaining HEU will be shipped back to Russia in 2016. The Polish research reactors that previously ran on HEU now use only low-enriched uranium (LEU), he said.

Operators of the cargo ship that transported the HEU to Russia reported on Sept. 29 that the material reached Russia and was transferred to railroad cars for transport to a reprocessing plant. Poland did not disclose the amount of HEU in the shipment.

More than 10 kilograms of HEU from a research reactor near Almaty, Kazakhstan, were also returned to Russia for secure storage on Sept. 29, the IAEA said Oct. 2. The agency, which assisted in the removal, said that the reactor is being converted to run on LEU.

According to the IAEA, since 2002, Russia and the United States have worked in cooperation with the agency to transfer more than 2,100 kilograms of Soviet-origin HEU from 14 countries back to Russia, where it is secured or down-blended into LEU.

In an Oct. 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, cited examples of “very solid” nuclear security cooperation with Russia, but expressed concern that because of the ongoing Ukraine crisis, Russia does not seem to be “thinking beyond the end of 2014 about continuing expansive threat reduction cooperation.”

At an Oct. 29 briefing for reporters, retired Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, head of the Department of Energy’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, said nuclear security cooperation between Russia and the United States beyond the end of the year depends largely on the results of an ongoing internal Russian review.

Matthew Bunn, a former adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy who is now a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, cited the recent HEU removals as part of “a long-standing effort to reduce the security risks posed by Russian-supplied HEU around the world that would not be possible without Russian cooperation.” Moscow and Washington have so far been saying that this cooperation should continue despite the tensions over Ukraine, but “[c]ooperation within Russia faces more uncertainty at present,” Bunn said in an Oct. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have cooperated on an array of nuclear weapons dismantlement, material security, and nonproliferation activities inside Russia. These efforts have been pursued primarily under the auspices of the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program and the Energy Department’s nuclear material security programs.

In June 2013, Russia and the United States agreed to a pared-down replacement for the old CTR agreement. The new pact allows nuclear security activities in Russia to continue, but discontinues activities involving the Russian Ministry of Defense. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Bunn, who is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, warned that nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 is now in doubt, as all the work specified in current contracts finishes at the end of the year. “What kind of cooperation will continue after that is very much up in the air,” he said.

For Russian and U.S. security, “[t]he worst outcome…would be no cooperation,” he said.

Funding for U.S. nuclear security work with and inside Russia has been a contentious issue on Capitol Hill this year. The House-passed appropriations bill that funds the Energy Department’s nuclear material security programs “provides no funds to enter into new contracts or agreements in the Russian Federation in fiscal year 2015” until the secretary of energy “reassess[es]” the Energy Department’s “engagement” with Russia and certifies that cooperative work with Russia is “in the national security interest of the United States.” Also, the bill redirects unspent fiscal year 2014 funds for nonproliferation projects in Russia to nonproliferation work elsewhere.

In addition, the House-passed version of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act includes provisions prohibiting the Defense Department from engaging in “cooperative threat reduction activities” with Russia and bars the Energy Department from funding “any contact, cooperation, or transfer of technology” between Russia and the United States on nuclear security. The provisions include waivers that would allow the executive branch to continue cooperation after certifying that the work is in the U.S. national interest.

The Obama administration strongly opposes House efforts to curtail cooperation with Russia. In statements on the appropriations and defense authorization bills, the administration stated that “[c]ooperation with Russia remains an essential element to the global effort to address the threat posed by nuclear terrorism. Critical bilateral nuclear nonproliferation activities are continuing in a number of key areas, and nuclear security is of paramount importance.”

In contrast to the House, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Energy Department’s nuclear security programs provided about $50 million above the fiscal year 2015 budget request of $305 million for the materials protection account.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee version of the defense authorization bill does not impose restrictions on U.S. nuclear security cooperation with Russia. The bill includes a provision restricting all bilateral security cooperation with Russia funded by the Pentagon, but according to a Senate staffer, the provision exempts the department’s CTR work in Russia from this restriction.

The full Senate has yet to pass either bill.

The vast majority of U.S. nuclear security work in Russia is led by the Energy Department. Its cooperative activities with Russia include returning Russian-origin HEU to Russia from third countries and improving security at Russian nuclear material sites. The Pentagon’s nuclear cooperative work with Russia has diminished in recent years, but still includes technical exchanges on nuclear weapons security topics and dismantling retired Russian nuclear submarines.

Congress left Washington in September without reconciling the differences between the House and Senate bills. It is unclear whether and, if so, when Congress will pass final authorization and appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2015.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Apocalypse Averted: Lessons From the Man Who Saved the World

Last Monday – October 27 – marked the fifty-second anniversary of a day when the world came staggeringly close to nuclear war. Despite the many decades that have transpired since that fateful date, the story of that day remains a worthy one to re-tell, for all the things that went wrong, the one thing that went right, and for the enduring implications it has for the command and control of nuclear weapons on submarines in today’s world. On that day in 1962, deep in the Cuban Missile Crisis , a U.S. destroyer began dropping depth charges on a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine with the intention of...

U.S. and Russia Nuclear Numbers Up During Last Six Months

The deployed strategic nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States increased in size over the last six months, according to the latest data exchange under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Taken together, operational U.S. and Russian strategic missile warheads and heavy bombers rose by 188, an amount larger than that possessed by five of the seven remaining nuclear weapons states in their entire arsenals. The uptick in strategic arsenals revealed by the most recent data exchange constitutes a surprising and troubling milestone at the mid-point for the seven-year...

Russia, U.S. Face Off Over INF Treaty

A U.S.-Russian meeting failed to clear up differences over what Washington claims was a Russian violation of a pivotal, Cold War-era nuclear arms control agreement.

By Diane Barnes

Russia and the United States failed in a high-level September meeting to end a standoff over Washington’s claim that Moscow breached a landmark nuclear arms control treaty by testing a new medium-range, ground-launched cruise missile as early as 2008, officials from the two governments said. The U.S. State Department formally issued the long-discussed claim in a July 2014 compliance report amid rising international tensions tied to Moscow’s backing of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

The United States asserted that the Russian tests constituted a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Russia and the United States continue to possess nuclear arsenals far larger than any other country’s, and the alleged violation has been seen as further dampening prospects for any new bilateral initiative to further draw down the stockpiles. 

“The U.S. concerns were not assuaged in this meeting,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at a press briefing on Sept. 11, after the INF Treaty compliance meeting in Moscow. “We had a useful exchange of ideas. We agreed to continue the dialogue.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement affirming a shared interest in keeping the treaty in force, but added that “no satisfactory answers were given to Russia’s questions” in the September talks. Russia did not elaborate on its concerns, but Moscow recently suggested that Washington might itself be guilty of violating the treaty.

“It is not a secret that the main problems with [the treaty’s] implementation occurred many times because of the United States,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a July 31 statement. The ministry contended that Washington has breached the pact by deploying armed unmanned aerial vehicles and by launching target missiles to test its defensive interceptors. Moscow tied additional possible violations to the MK-41 Vertical Launching System used on some U.S. warships.

The United States dismissed the suggestion that it may be guilty of stretching the pact’s terms. “We…reject any notion of any noncompliance issues on our side here,” Harf said at the briefing. The U.S. delegation to the meeting was led by Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. The team included representatives from the National Security Council and the Defense and Energy departments.

Washington and Moscow agreed to convene additional discussions, but neither side offered any hint of the timing for follow-up talks. In Sept. 16 remarks to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov appeared noncommittal about pursuing the exchange.

“It is possible that the dialogue on the issue will continue,” Ryabkov said. “However, at the moment we have no common understanding of when and where this dialogue may continue.”

The 1987 treaty, which remains in effect, was the first between the United States and Soviet Union to incorporate a tight regime of on-site inspections to verify reductions to their respective nuclear stockpiles. The pact eliminated a combined total of nearly 2,700 intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

The lingering compliance controversy has remained a key concern on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where lawmakers were set to weigh a draft proposal aimed at barring nuclear arms reductions beyond those mandated under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

The initiative, contained in a continuing appropriations resolution for the 2015 fiscal year, would bar the administration from unilaterally pursuing nuclear weapons reductions beyond those required under New START. That pact requires Russia and the United States to cap their nuclear deployments by 2018 at 700 missiles and bombers on each side, with backup fleets of no more than 100 additional delivery vehicles. The treaty also would bar each country from deploying more than 1,550 nuclear warheads.

Spokespeople for Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), declined to specifically address how the lack of progress in September’s bilateral talks might affect their consideration of the proposed New START limitations.

Meanwhile, others in Congress have considered the military impact of any new Russian missiles deployed in breach of the treaty. In a Sept. 8 commentary for Foreign Policy magazine, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) argued that if Moscow deployed the mobile, intermediate-range cruise missile, it would undermine NATO deterrence and assurance planning, as a ground-launched weapon would be “much harder to find” than counterparts deployed on submarines and aircraft. 

“The Russian deception of negotiating a nuclear arms reduction while building up nuclear arms poses a direct threat to the United States,” said Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Speaking to The New York Times in April, Gen. Philip Breedlove, the head of U.S. European Command, said the United States and NATO would need to respond in some fashion if they could not resolve concerns over Russia’s possible INF Treaty violation.

“It can’t go unanswered,” added Breedlove, who is also NATO’s top-ranking commander.

Posted: December 31, 1969

NATO Moves Trigger Russian Response

After Western allies announced new sanctions and military measures aimed at deterring Russia in Ukraine and eastern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to continue Russia’s conventional and nuclear buildup. 

By Jefferson Morley

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, NATO countries agreed last month to create a rapid reaction force, endorse new economic sanctions against Russia, and boost defense spending. Russian President Vladimir Putin countered by ordering a major military exercise and repeating previous declarations that his country would fortify its conventional and nuclear forces. 

“Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine have fundamentally challenged our vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace,” the NATO countries declared at the end of their Sept. 3-5 summit meeting in Wales. 

According to the Associated Press, Putin responded by saying, “We have warned many times that we would have to take corresponding countermeasures to ensure our security.” In Sept. 11 comments, Putin said Russia’s weapons modernization program over the next decade would focus on building a new array of offensive weapons to provide a “guaranteed nuclear deterrent,” rearming its air force, and developing high-precision conventional weapons. 

The actions marked a further worsening of relations between Russia and NATO over Ukraine and a setback for arms control efforts, according to regional experts. 

The 28 member countries of NATO agreed to create a 4,000-person “spearhead” force, capable of deploying anywhere within the territory of alliance members on 48 hours’ notice.

NATO already has a response force, but several days are required to place those troops on the ground at a target destination. The new force will include ground troops with air and maritime support, as well as special operations forces to confront the type of paramilitary forces now fighting in eastern Ukraine. 

The creation of the new force “sends a message to the Baltic states and the Poles and Romanians and others that as far as NATO as a whole [is] concerned, their territory is as important to [NATO] as any other piece of territory, and that they can count on not only America’s commitment, but NATO’s commitment to their collective defense,” Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said during a Sept. 3 press call. 

“[T]hat, in turn, is meant to send a signal to Vladimir Putin and to Moscow that basically says, ‘Don’t even think about doing what you’re doing in Ukraine on NATO territory because we will react swiftly, quickly, rapidly, and with maximum force to make sure that you do not succeed,’” Daalder said.

The Western allies expect to have “an initial capacity with this much more rapid response time in less than a year,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow said in a Sept 18 speech in Poland. “It won’t be all finished, but we recognize that the threats are here, [and] we can’t put this on the slow track.”

The new sanctions target Russian state-owned financial, defense, and energy companies. They strengthen measures that the United States and the European Union instituted in late July to target key engines of the Russian economy after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.

France Suspends Deal 

Under pressure from Western allies, France announced on the eve of the NATO summit that it was suspending the scheduled delivery to Russia of a French-made Mistral helicopter carrier ship for two months. 

“Russia’s recent actions in the east of Ukraine contravene the fundamental principles of European security,” said a statement from the office of President François Hollande. According to the statement, Hollande “has concluded that despite the prospect of [a] ceasefire [in Ukraine], which has yet to be confirmed and put in place[,] the conditions under which France could authorise the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place.” 

In a press conference at the NATO summit, Hollande said he would review the suspension in late October and that he had two conditions for delivery of the ship: a cease-fire in Ukraine and a political settlement that resolves the country’s crisis. 

The NATO countries pledged during the summit to reverse a trend of declining defense budgets by committing to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. In 2012, only the United States (4.5 percent), United Kingdom (2.5 percent), Greece (2.3 percent), and Estonia (2.0 percent) spent at the levels NATO now seeks, according to the NATO secretary-general’s 2013 annual report. 

Saber Rattling

NATO acted after Putin made a pointed speech Aug. 29 declaring, “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words.”

Nonetheless, the NATO actions stopped short of violating a nonbinding U.S. pledge made in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, Lee Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to Poland, said in a Sept. 17 interview. 

In the agreement, NATO promised to carry out its collective defense mission without “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces,” a provision that Russian President Boris Yeltsin interpreted as a binding commitment by NATO that the alliance would not permanently deploy combat forces near Russia. NATO took care to emphasize that the new force would not be permanently stationed close to Russia, said Feinstein, now dean of the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University.

“NATO wants to leave open the possibility of a diplomatic solution,” he said. “This is not a return to the Cold War, but it is very destabilizing when Russia engages in nuclear saber rattling.” 

At the NATO summit two years ago in Chicago, the allies debated and turned down a German proposal to reduce nuclear weapons in Europe, said Jorge Benitez, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, in a Sept. 18 interview.

“With recent Russian aggression, the consensus to stick with the status quo has only been strengthened,” he said. “Now it would be much harder to reduce NATO’s nuclear deterrent.”

Posted: December 31, 1969

U.S., EU Sanction Russia’s Arms Sector

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Obama administration and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia’s weapons and defense sector.

Jefferson Morley

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Obama administration and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia’s weapons and defense sector. In an announcement on July 29, the EU banned new EU-Russian military equipment transactions for one year while the Obama administration blacklisted eight Russian defense firms, two separatist groups, and a Ukrainian oil facility.

The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, called the measures “a strong warning [that] illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” The U.S. Commerce Department cited “Russia’s continued policy of destabilization in eastern Ukraine and ongoing occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol” as reasons to block transactions with the 11 entities “engaged in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Any U.S. firm seeking a license to do business with these organizations will face a presumption of denial, according to the Commerce Department. The U.S. sanctions, first authorized by an executive order issued in March by President Barack Obama, also block these entities from transferring any assets, receiving payments, or processing withdrawals in the United States.

What Sanctioned Russian Firms Make

  • Joint Stock Company (JSC) Concern Almaz-Antey is Russia’s largest defense contractor and the 12th largest in the world, with revenues of $8 billion in 2013.
  • Kalashnikov Concern makes the durable Kalashnikov assault rifle, one of the world’s most popular weapons. Kalishnikov Concern has exported almost 10,000 rifles to the United States in the first six months of 2014.
  • KBPO (Konstruktorskoe Byuro Priborostroeniya Otkrytoe Aktsionernoe Obshchestvo) manufactures high-precision weapons, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft systems, including the vehicle-mounted Buk missile system that Western defense analysts say destroyed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July, killing 298 people.
  • The State Scientific Production Enterprise Bazalt builds aircraft, ground, and marine munitions.
  • JSC Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Concern Sozvezdie focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Military-Industrial Corporation NPO Mashinostroyenia builds advanced space and rocketry equipment.
  • Uralvagonzavod produces combat vehicles, tanks, and ordnance.

Source: Defense News, U.S. Commerce Department, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

The sanctioned Russian firms include Concern Almaz-Antey, Russia’s leading defense contractor; KBPO, which manufacturers the anti-aircraft system believed to have destroyed a Malaysia Airlines plane in July; and Kalashnikov Concern, which manufactures the assault rifle of the same name. Kalashnikov exported at least 10,000 rifles to the United States in 2013, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, which monitors the global arms trade.

Russia Responds

It is not clear what the impact of the sanctions will be. European arms exports to Russia are relatively small, totaling around $400 million in 2013, according to the EU. But exports of dual-use goods to Russia last year were worth an estimated $26 billion. European firms supplied lasers and advanced electronics and materials, which Russia may find difficult to replace, according to sources quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

On Aug. 6, Izvestia cited sources in Russia’s Federal Space Agency as saying its aerospace and military-industrial enterprises will purchase electronic components totaling several billion dollars from China. The sources said China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. had offered “a direct alternative to, or slight modifications of the elements [Russia] will no longer be able to acquire because of the sanctions introduced by the United States,” according to Izvestia.

In addition to the EU sanctions, the German government canceled an ongoing deal involving Rheinmetall, a German defense firm supplying parts for a Russian military training facility. The deal has been suspended, and no more deliveries will occur, according to the German embassy in Washington. “We wanted to go beyond the EU sanctions,” a spokesman said in Aug. 11 phone interview.

Despite criticism from other European countries, France is going ahead with a $1.6 billion deal to sell two Mistral amphibious warships to the Russian defense firm Rosoboronexport. DCNS, a French naval defense company, signed the deal in June 2011. The company says it will deliver the first carrier to Russia in October. According to news reports, 400 Russian sailors trained this summer at the port of Saint-Nazaire, in northwestern France, learning how to operate the vessel.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a defense appropriations bill in May with an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) barring the Defense Department from contracting or subcontracting for helicopters or other weapons with Rosoboronexport. The Senate is expected to take up similar legislation in September. Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Dan Coats (Ind.) have called for the cancellation of all Pentagon contracts with Rosoboronexport. The Pentagon has paid the company more than $1 billion for a fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, which the United States is providing to Afghan security forces.

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Posted: December 31, 1969

Russia Breaches INF Treaty, U.S. Says

The State Department has accused Russia of testing a new medium-range, ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Moscow denies the charge.

Tom Z. Collina

After months of speculation, the U.S. State Department announced in July that it had found Russia to be in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty over Moscow’s testing of a new medium-range, ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). The accusation comes at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions over Moscow’s support for separatist forces in Ukraine.

“We have been attempting to address this very serious matter with Russia for some time, as the United States is wholly committed to the continued viability of the INF Treaty,” Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said Aug. 14. In remarks to a symposium at U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, she said the Obama administration was “asking Russia to return to compliance with the treaty in a verifiable manner.”

Gottemoeller said that the two countries previously “have been down the road of needless, costly, and destabilizing arms races.” She added, “We know where that road leads and we are fortunate that our past leaders had the wisdom and strength to turn us in a new direction.”

The INF Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, marked the first time the two superpowers agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. The treaty, which is still in force, eliminated almost 2,700 intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles, most of them Russia’s.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone about the INF Treaty on Aug. 1, according to the White House.

According to a July 28 New York Times report, Obama sent Putin a letter that day in which Obama asked for a high-level dialogue with Moscow to discuss ways to preserve the treaty and bring Russia back into compliance.

In an interview in early August, a diplomatic source familiar with the treaty controversy said senior Russian and U.S. officials are expected to meet in September to discuss the issue.

U.S. Allegation Unspecified

The Obama administration alleges that Russia is violating its INF Treaty obligation “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a GLCM with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” as a State Department report sent to Congress in July summarized it.

At a meeting in early July, the Principals Committee, which includes the national security adviser, the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of state, and the CIA director, “unanimously agreed” that the cruise missile flight test was a “serious violation,” the Times said. A senior administration official told Arms Control Today on July 29 that the intelligence community has “high confidence” in the assessment.

The State Department report, which surveys compliance with arms control agreements by the United States and other countries, did not specify the type of cruise missile in question or say how many tests have been conducted or when they occurred. The senior administration official said that the testing took place at the Kapustin Yar test site in western Russia. According to the Times story, Russia began testing the cruise missile as early as 2008, and the administration concluded that it was a compliance concern by the end of 2011, although officials do not believe the missile has been deployed. Gottemoeller first raised the issue with Russian officials in May 2013, according to the Times.

Unconfirmed reports have focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K short-range cruise missile as the missile that precipitated the U.S. allegation. That system uses a road-mobile launcher, similar to the Iskander-M, which is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Russia reportedly is deploying the Iskander-M near Luga, south of St. Petersburg, near Russia’s borders with NATO member countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans. (See ACT, January/February 2014.) It is not clear if the range of the R-500 exceeds the lower limit of the INF Treaty.

In the August interview, the diplomatic source said that according to the United States, the R-500 is not the focus of the allegation. That appears to be consistent with other available information on the allegation and the history of the R-500. According to the Times report, the GLCM considered to be a violation was first tested in 2008 and has not been deployed. The R-500 reportedly was first tested in May 2007 and deployed in 2013.

At an April 29 congressional hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) offered an alternative explanation of the nature of the alleged violation and the platform involved. He said that Russia claims to have tested a new intermediate-range missile for use at sea, which is allowed under the INF Treaty if the missile is tested from a test launcher, but that Moscow used “what appears to be an operational, usable ground-based launcher,” which is not allowed. Sherman said that “it appears as if [the Russians] were developing a ground-based capacity for this intermediate[-range] missile.” (See ACT, June 2014.)

Russia Denies Charges

Russia denies that it is breaching the INF treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a July 28 statement that the allegations are “as baseless as all of Washington’s claims that have lately been reaching Moscow. Absolutely no proof has been provided.” The United States has accused Moscow of providing military support to rebel forces in eastern Ukraine, including the surface-to-air missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July.

“We have many complaints to make to the United States with regard to the [INF] Treaty,” the statement continued. “These include missile defense target missiles having characteristics similar to those of shorter- and intermediate-range missiles and the production by the Americans of armed drones which clearly fall under the [category of] land-based cruise missiles” in the INF Treaty, the ministry said.

Russia’s top general, Valery Gerasimov, told Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 31 that Moscow was committed to adhering to the INF Treaty, Reuters reported.

According to the diplomatic source, Gerasimov expressed concern about U.S. plans to field the Mark-41 (MK-41) missile launcher in Romania and Poland as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the Obama administration’s policy for missile defense in Europe. According to an Aug. 1 statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, the sea-based MK-41 “can be used to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles, but [its] ground-launched version will be a gross violation of the INF Treaty.”

The MK-41 is currently used on U.S. Navy ships to launch missile defense interceptors, such as the Standard Missile-3, but it is also used to launch the Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missile. As a sea-based missile, the Tomahawk does not run afoul of the INF Treaty. But once the MK-41 is based on land, as the United States plans to do next year, it would, in Russia’s view, conflict with the INF Treaty’s prohibition on possessing a ground-based launcher for intermediate-range cruise missiles.

The United States has not responded publicly to the Russian allegations. It is not clear if the land-based MK-41 would maintain its capability to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles or if the United States intends to modify the launcher to eliminate this capability.

Hill Response

In response to the State Department’s charge against Russia, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a July 31 press release that Russia’s action “cannot go unanswered.” Along with Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rubio introduced legislation that would, among other things, initiate U.S. research and development on missiles banned by the INF Treaty. Such work is allowed under the pact.

Congress does not appear to be pressuring the administration to withdraw from the INF Treaty to protest Russia’s actions, in part because there is an apparent political consensus that the best outcome for the United States would be for Moscow to come back into compliance. “I do not believe the appropriate remedy in this case is for the United States to withdraw from the treaty,” Stephen Rademaker, an official in the George W. Bush administration, told the House Armed Services Committee on July 17. “Rather, since Russia so clearly wants out, we should make sure that they alone pay the political and diplomatic price of terminating the treaty.”

Last summer, Sergey Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, publicly questioned the value of the treaty, saying Russia has more potential threats on its borders than the United States does. “The Americans have no need for this class of weapon[;] they didn’t need it before and they don’t need it now,” Ivanov said, according to RIA Novosti. “They could theoretically only attack Mexico and Canada with them, because their effective radius doesn’t extend to Europe.”

Russia has indicated that another answer to its concerns might to be to expand the membership of the treaty. In 2007, Russia and the United States issued a statement at the UN General Assembly reaffirming their “support” for the treaty and calling on all other states to join them in renouncing the missiles banned by the treaty.

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Posted: December 31, 1969

U.S., EU Sanction Russia’s Arms Sector

Jefferson Morley

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Obama administration and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia’s weapons and defense sector. In an announcement on July 29, the EU banned new EU-Russian military equipment transactions for one year while the Obama administration blacklisted eight Russian defense firms, two separatist groups, and a Ukrainian oil facility.

The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, called the measures “a strong warning [that] illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” The U.S. Commerce Department cited “Russia’s continued policy of destabilization in eastern Ukraine and ongoing occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol” as reasons to block transactions with the 11 entities “engaged in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Any U.S. firm seeking a license to do business with these organizations will face a presumption of denial, according to the Commerce Department. The U.S. sanctions, first authorized by an executive order issued in March by President Barack Obama, also block these entities from transferring any assets, receiving payments, or processing withdrawals in the United States.

What Sanctioned Russian Firms Make

  • Joint Stock Company (JSC) Concern Almaz-Antey is Russia’s largest defense contractor and the 12th largest in the world, with revenues of $8 billion in 2013.
  • Kalashnikov Concern makes the durable Kalashnikov assault rifle, one of the world’s most popular weapons. Kalishnikov Concern has exported almost 10,000 rifles to the United States in the first six months of 2014.
  • KBPO (Konstruktorskoe Byuro Priborostroeniya Otkrytoe Aktsionernoe Obshchestvo) manufactures high-precision weapons, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft systems, including the vehicle-mounted Buk missile system that Western defense analysts say destroyed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July, killing 298 people.
  • The State Scientific Production Enterprise Bazalt builds aircraft, ground, and marine munitions.
  • JSC Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Concern Sozvezdie focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Military-Industrial Corporation NPO Mashinostroyenia builds advanced space and rocketry equipment.
  • Uralvagonzavod produces combat vehicles, tanks, and ordnance.

Source: Defense News, U.S. Commerce Department, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

    The sanctioned Russian firms include Concern Almaz-Antey, Russia’s leading defense contractor; KBPO, which manufacturers the anti-aircraft system believed to have destroyed a Malaysia Airlines plane in July; and Kalashnikov Concern, which manufactures the assault rifle of the same name. Kalashnikov exported at least 10,000 rifles to the United States in 2013, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, which monitors the global arms trade.

    Russia Responds

    It is not clear what the impact of the sanctions will be. European arms exports to Russia are relatively small, totaling around $400 million in 2013, according to the EU. But exports of dual-use goods to Russia last year were worth an estimated $26 billion. European firms supplied lasers and advanced electronics and materials, which Russia may find difficult to replace, according to sources quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

    On Aug. 6, Izvestia cited sources in Russia’s Federal Space Agency as saying its aerospace and military-industrial enterprises will purchase electronic components totaling several billion dollars from China. The sources said China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. had offered “a direct alternative to, or slight modifications of the elements [Russia] will no longer be able to acquire because of the sanctions introduced by the United States,” according to Izvestia.

    In addition to the EU sanctions, the German government canceled an ongoing deal involving Rheinmetall, a German defense firm supplying parts for a Russian military training facility. The deal has been suspended, and no more deliveries will occur, according to the German embassy in Washington. “We wanted to go beyond the EU sanctions,” a spokesman said in Aug. 11 phone interview.

    Despite criticism from other European countries, France is going ahead with a $1.6 billion deal to sell two Mistral amphibious warships to the Russian defense firm Rosoboronexport. DCNS, a French naval defense company, signed the deal in June 2011. The company says it will deliver the first carrier to Russia in October. According to news reports, 400 Russian sailors trained this summer at the port of Saint-Nazaire, in northwestern France, learning how to operate the vessel.

    The U.S. House of Representatives approved a defense appropriations bill in May with an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) barring the Defense Department from contracting or subcontracting for helicopters or other weapons with Rosoboronexport. The Senate is expected to take up similar legislation in September. Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Dan Coats (Ind.) have called for the cancellation of all Pentagon contracts with Rosoboronexport. The Pentagon has paid the company more than $1 billion for a fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, which the United States is providing to Afghan security forces.

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    Posted: December 31, 1969

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