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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

European Security

Russia Still Violating INF Treaty, U.S. Says

Russia remains in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, according to a State Department report.

July/August 2015

By Kingston Reif

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work testifies at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on June 25. He said the United States would not allow Russia “to gain a significant military advantage through [its] violation of an arms control treaty.” (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Clydell Kinchen)Russia remains in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, according to an annual State Department report released on June 5.

The report, which surveys compliance with arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament commitments by the United States and other countries, reiterated the finding, first announced in the 2014 version of the report, that Russia is violating its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” (See ACT, September 2014.)

The new analysis says the Obama administration had noted concern about Russia’s compliance “in earlier, classified versions” of the report but did not publish a formal noncompliance determination until 2014.

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 eliminated almost 2,700 intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles, most of them Russian.

The U.S. government has raised its concerns about Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty on multiple occasions over the past two years. Moscow continues to deny that it has violated the agreement.

As in the 2014 report, this year’s report did not specify the type of Russian cruise missile in question, the number of tests conducted, or the location of the tests.

Some media 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.

But in a June 23 interview with the Russian news agency Interfax, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the R-500 is not the missile that the United States has “determined is in violation” of the treaty. She added that the U.S. government is “confident that the Russian government is aware of the missile to which we are referring.”

The 2015 report contains two paragraphs not in last year’s report that highlight treaty provisions stating that “if a launcher has been tested for launching a GLCM” or “contained or launched a particular type of GLCM,” then “all launchers of that type shall be considered to be launchers of that type of GLCM.”

In a June 7 posting on the blog Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, Pavel Podvig, an affiliate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said that these additions “seem to support” his theory “that the violation is a technicality” involving tests of a long-range sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from a mobile GLCM launcher.

The testing of a SLCM from a mobile launcher would constitute a violation of the treaty, Podvig argues, because the treaty requires that any missile that is not a GLCM covered by the treaty should be test-launched from a fixed land-based launcher used solely for test purposes and distinguishable from GLCM launchers.

A Congressional Research Service report on Russia’s compliance with the INF Treaty, released on June 2, questioned the SLCM explanation, stating it “seems imperfect.” 

“U.S. officials have repeatedly referred to the violation as a test of a ground-launched cruise missile, lending less credence to the view that the United States might have misidentified tests of a sea-launched missile,” the report says.

In a June 11 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry described the allegation in the State Department report as “completely false.” 

The statement reiterated Russian concerns about U.S. military activities that “are based on a very loose interpretation of the INF Treaty provisions,” such as “plans to deploy the vertical missile launch systems . . . at missile defense bases in Romania and Poland,” use of “target missiles with characteristics similar to those of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles” in missile defense tests, and the manufacture of armed drones that “fall under the INF Treaty definition of ground-based cruise missiles.” According to Moscow, those actions constitute violations of the treaty.

Gottemoeller disputed these counterallegations, stating that the “United States remains in compliance with the INF Treaty.” 

In testimony at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on June 25, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work reiterated that the United States “will not allow the Russian Federation to gain a significant military advantage through [its] violation of an arms control treaty.”

He said the Defense Department is “developing and analyzing response options” for President Barack Obama and will consult with its allies on the options. 

Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said in December 2014 that the range of military response options under consideration includes “active defenses to counter” INF-range GLCMs, “counterforce capabilities” to prevent attacks from these missiles, “and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces.” (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

Posted: December 31, 1969

UK Submariner Cites Safety Flaws

The Royal Navy dismissed a seaman whose online allegations of safety breaches aboard the United Kingdom’s nuclear-armed submarines were rejected by the Ministry of Defence.

July/August 2015

By Jefferson Morley

The ballistic missile submarine HMS Victorious moves through the water off the west coast of Scotland on April 4, 2013. (Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)The UK Navy has dishonorably discharged a sailor who posted an online indictment of safety issues aboard the country’s nuclear-armed submarines.

William McNeilly was released from service June 17, a month after posting an online statement alleging up to 30 safety and security problems in and around the United Kingdom’s four nuclear-armed Trident subs. McNeilly, a 25-year-old native of Belfast, was stationed for three months earlier this year at the Faslane base where the subs are housed between tours at sea. In his 18-page letter, which was posted on the WikiLeaks website, McNeilly described himself as “a Strategic Weapons Systems engineer who has sacrificed everything to tell the public how close it is to a nuclear catastrophe.”

McNeilly said fire and floods threaten the safety of the subs’ nuclear weapons, while lax security procedures could enable terrorists to attack. Bans on electronic gear, e-cigarettes, and shaving (to keep hair particles from circulating in the air) are not enforced, he said.

After some members of parliament praised McNeilly in late May, Michael Fallon, the UK defense secretary, dismissed his claims as unwarranted.

“Most of McNeilly’s concerns proved to be either factually incorrect or the result of mis- or partial understanding,” Fallon said in May 28 statement. “Some drew on historic, previously known events, none of which had compromised our deterrent capability,” he said. When appropriate to do so, “lessons had been learned to develop our procedures as part of a continuous improvement programme,” he said.

On June 18, the day after the navy announcement, McNeilly posted a nine-page letter to supporters saying he had been dishonorably discharged.

“I believe Home Office are still doing their investigation, but that’s nothing to worry about,” McNeilly wrote on Scribd, a document-sharing site. “Most people know that I acted in the interest of national security.” 

Trident Safety Record

In an analysis of McNeilly’s comments, John Ainslie, coordinator for the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, noted that there have been several incidents involving UK nuclear subs. His compilation includes a submarine stranded in Gibraltar from 2000 to 2001, a collision between French and UK submarines in 2009, and a submarine running aground in 2010. The report says that it “places McNeilly’s allegations in the context of known safety issue[s] with British nuclear submarines.”

The Trident issue has become contentious in British politics with the rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has called for nuclear disarmament. Last September, Scottish voters rejected the SNP’s call for independence and nuclear disarmament in a referendum. (See ACT, October 2014.) The results of the May 15 national parliamentary elections further fortified parliamentary supporters of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, who have pledged to provide the funding to allow replacement of the four-submarine fleet by 2030. (See ACT, June 2015.)

In his May 15 Web posting, McNeilly recounted what he called security lapses bred by the habits of daily routine and the indolence of some sailors. He also cited safety concerns about the maintenance of the submarines, particularly about the risk of fire or explosion near the Trident’s missiles in which nuclear warheads are located near one of the missile’s rocket motors.

McNeilly quoted a passage from the Trident safety manual as acknowledging the risk of “a rocket motor propellant fire.” According to McNeilly, the manual states that “an accident or enemy action may cause rupture of the RB [re-entry body, the shell of the missile], burning or possible detonation of the HE [high explosive] and release of radioactive contamination.”

Vulnerabilities

McNeilly is not the first to call attention to this aspect of Trident’s design. A 1990 Washington Post article reported that nuclear safety analysts were concerned that a volatile explosive used in the warhead of the Trident missiles could explode in an accidental fire, “producing forces that could compress the nuclear core in each bomb and begin a nuclear chain reaction.” The article went on to say that the Trident missile “is considered particularly vulnerable to such an accident because its multiple warheads are arranged in a circle around the propellant fuel in the missile’s third stage.”

Nick Ritchie, a lecturer on international security at the University of York, said in a June 19 e-mail that McNeilly “at times conflate[s] the risk of the detonation of the high explosive in a warhead and/or missile ­propellant that could scatter the warheads’ fissile material (plutonium and uranium)” with the risk of an even worse event, “the inadvertent detonation of the warheads themselves resulting in a catastrophic nuclear explosion.” 

“It is difficult to independently judge the veracity of specific claims without having experienced day-to-day operational practices at the Faslane Naval Base [on board] UK nuclear-armed submarines,” Ritchie said. “However, the account is detailed and supports a public history of problems in the UK submarine fleet and nuclear weapons enterprise.”

Posted: December 31, 1969

NATO Monitoring Russian Saber Rattling

May 2015

By Kingston Reif

NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow, shown in this November 2014 photo, said recent Russian actions and comments dealing with the country’s nuclear arsenal were “irresponsible.” (NATO)NATO is in the process of determining whether “increased Russian attention to nuclear weapons” should prompt steps such as military exercises “to make sure that there is no doubt about the effectiveness of our deterrent,” Alexander Vershbow, the alliance’s deputy secretary-general, said last month. 

In a video posted on the website of Defense News on March 29, Vershbow said the Russians “are flaunting their nuclear capability, they are holding more nuclear exercises, and they are talking about their nuclear capabilities” as “part of their messaging.” 

“Maybe this is just rhetoric, but it is irresponsible nonetheless,” he added.

Among other recent nuclear threats from Russian officials, Mikhail Vanin, the Russian ambassador to Denmark, said on March 21 that “Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles” if Denmark joins NATO’s ballistic missile defense system. 

It is unclear what specific nuclear-related steps, if any, NATO may be considering to respond to these threats. 

On the issue of NATO’s nuclear policy posture, Vershbow said the alliance members “think we still have an effective posture.”

In an April 10 e-mail, a NATO official said that “NATO does not comment on military contingency planning.” 

But the official said that NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), which acts as the alliance’s senior body on nuclear matters, convened Feb. 5 during the last meeting of NATO defense ministers. The NPG meetings take place about once a year and “provide an opportunity for Allies to address the safety and effectiveness of our nuclear forces,” he said. 

The official added that NATO’s “nuclear readiness levels have not changed since the start of the Ukraine crisis.” Relations between NATO and Russia have deteriorated significantly since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued action in eastern Ukraine, resulting in the imposition of Western economic sanctions against Russia. The official also said NATO is not considering the basing of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of new member states.

On the other hand, he emphasized that “NATO is currently implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.” 

Such steps include increasing NATO’s presence on the territory of the alliance’s easternmost members and doubling the size of the NATO Response Force to up to 30,000 troops. The response force is a multinational force that the alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed. 

“All of this shows that NATO is serious about deterrence, and stands ready to defend all Allies against any threat,” the official said.

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Posted: December 31, 1969

New Report Calls for Using Arms Control to Halt Downward Spiral in Relationship with Russia

Body: 
U.S.-Russian-German Commission Report Calls for Using Arms Control to Halt Downward Spiral in the West's Relations with Russia
  

For Immediate Release: April 21, 2015

Media Contacts: Greg Thielmann, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270, ext. 103; Steven Pifer, Brookings Institution, (202) 741-6520; Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270, ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.) A new report by a 21-member commission consisting of experts from Germany, Russia, and the United States, "Strengthening Stability in Turbulent Times," recommends several new arms control and confidence-building-measures to reverse the deterioration in Russia's relations with U.S. and European governments.

The immediate objective of the fifteen recommendations is to achieve a verified termination of the violent conflict in Ukraine, arresting the slide of NATO and Russia toward a potentially more dangerous situation.

The longer-term objective goal, according to the Deep Cuts Commission, is to set the stage for taking more productive steps toward achieving the disarmament and nonproliferation goals established by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). An every fifth-year review conference of the NPT will be held in New York on April 27-May 22.

"It is in times of international tensions that arms control arrangements demonstrate their real worth and contribution to stability and security," says Deep Cuts Commissioner Steven Pifer, director of the Brookings Institution's Project on Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. "This report's recommendations outline practical steps that should be of interest to officials in Washington, Moscow, Berlin and other European capitals," he says.

"In light of the forthcoming NPT review conference, the Iran framework agreement, mutual allegations surrounding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the almost complete breakdown of the arms control regime for conventional forces and armament in Europe, political leaders are well advised to no longer neglect the urgency of arms control and disarmament," says Deep Cuts Commissioner Walter Stuetzle, former senior official of the German Defense Ministry and former Director of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute.

The report draws attention to the acute threat posed by unintended clashes between Russian and NATO military forces, but also notes that some vital arms control treaties are holding and that the aggregate global number of nuclear weapons continues slowly to decline. 

The report also urges immediate action to re-establish military-to-military communications and to set down rules to regulate the operation of the sides' military forces when operating in close proximity to one another.

The Commission calls on participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to explore conventional arms control measures to reverse the current dynamic and conduct discussions focused on identifying the appropriate scope and format for resuming. The report notes the unique opportunity Germany has for promoting such a discussion as chairman of the OSCE in 2016.

The report stresses the importance of governmental and nongovernmental dialogue on how the United States and Russia can achieve further cuts beyond those called for in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and address other issues that impact nuclear arms reductions. 

The report calls for supplementing high-level political discussions with the involvement of U.S. and Russian technical experts in conducting site visits so that INF Treaty compliance concerns can be resolved.

Russian Deep Cuts Commissioner Andrei Zagorski has cited the report's treatment of the INF Treaty dispute as an example of how controversial issues "can be reasonably solved in a cooperative manner, rather than through mutual public accusations." Dialogue on such issues, he says "leads to identifying not only problems ahead, but sometimes also to solutions."

NPT nuclear weapons states are urged to intensify their pursuit of nuclear disarmament by undertaking discussion on the effects missile defenses and long-range precision-guided conventional strike systems have on stability. China, Britain, and France are urged to pledge unilaterally not to increase their nuclear force levels as long as the United States and Russia continue to reduce their own nuclear arsenals.

The report concludes that all nuclear weapons states should commit to increased nuclear transparency by building on the legacy of the trilateral initiative (Russia, the United States, and the International Atomic Energy Agency) for monitoring fissile material stockpiles.

Deep Cuts Commission member Greg Thielmann, senior fellow of the Arms Control Association, praised the respectful and highly professional approach that led to the consensus recommendations of the report.

"We hope that the creative and comprehensive recommendations will help enliven international deliberations-at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, in Washington, Moscow, and other capitals-on how arms control solutions can help provide greater security and stability during these turbulent times," he said.

 

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

The 21-member German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission was established in 2013 to devise concepts on how to overcome current challenges to deep nuclear reductions. Through realistic analysis and practical recommendations, the commission strives to translate the existing arms control commitments into action toward further nuclear reductions and initiatives to strengthen common security. The commission received support from the German Federal Foreign Office and the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

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Posted: December 31, 1969

Strengthening Stability in Turbulent Times

A new report by a 21-member commission consisting of experts from Germany, Russia, and the United States, “Strengthening Stability in Turbulent Times,” recommends several new arms control and confidence-building-measures to reverse the deterioration in Russia’s relations with U.S. and European governments.

The immediate objective of the fifteen recommendations is to achieve a verified termination of the violent conflict in Ukraine, arresting the slide of NATO and Russia toward a potentially more dangerous situation. 

Posted: December 31, 1969

Russia Completes CFE Treaty Suspension

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

April 2015

By Kingston Reif

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

The announcement marks a further pullback from the treaty that Moscow had largely abandoned in 2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

In a March 11 interview with Interfax, Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said Moscow’s suspension was not due to the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations resulting from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“The issue was long overdue, long before the Ukraine crisis, before the current state of affairs in our relations with the West,” Ulyanov said.

According to Ulyanov, the United States “had forbidden its allies to discuss any substantive issues at the JCG. In those conditions there was not much sense in continuing our participation in the JCG.”

The CFE Treaty, signed at the end of the Cold War on Nov. 19, 1990, eliminated the Soviet Union’s overwhelming quantitative advantage in conventional weapons in Europe by setting equal limits on the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

The treaty was designed to prevent either alliance from amassing forces for a blitzkrieg-type offensive, which could have triggered the use of nuclear weapons in response.

Russia suspended implementation of the CFE Treaty in 2007, claiming it was responding to NATO member states’ decision to condition their ratification of the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty on the resolution of a dispute over Russian military deployments in parts of Moldova and Georgia. But Moscow continued to participate in the consultative group, saying that it hoped that dialogue could lead to the creation of an effective, new conventional arms control regime in Europe.

Beginning in 2010, the Obama administration sought to resolve the CFE Treaty dispute through the development of a draft “framework” for new negotiations to strengthen the treaty regime. But the talks stalled, and in November 2011, the United States announced that it “would cease carrying out certain obligations” under the CFE Treaty with regard to Russia.

Ulyanov told Interfax that Russia would be unlikely to return to compliance with the CFE Treaty. The accord, created when the Warsaw Pact was still in existence, is “anachronistic” and “absolutely out of sync with the present realities,” he said.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Nuclear Cruise Missiles: Asset or Liability?

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The future of U.S. and Russian nuclear cruise missiles is at an inflection point.

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March 5, 2015 

The future of U.S. and Russian nuclear cruise missiles is at an inflection point. Russia's alleged testing of a ground-launched cruise missile has jeopardized not only the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but other bilateral nuclear agreements as well, adding further strain to the U.S.-Russian relationship.

The U.S. allegation and Moscow's three counter charges should be resolved with the help of the treaty's Special Verification Commission, which was explicitly designed to deal with compliance issues. But the two countries need to take a broader look at nuclear cruise missiles.

New strategic cruise missiles are part of an unaffordable drive by Washington and Moscow to simultaneously modernize all three legs of their strategic arsenals. Given the increasingly marginal role that nuclear cruise missiles play in ensuring a U.S.-Russian balance and their destabilizing impact when deployed by emerging nuclear powers such as Pakistan, it is time to consider doing away with them entirely.

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Posted: December 31, 1969

Hill Withholds Funds for Work in Russia

Congress voted in December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia...

January/February 2015

By Kingston Reif

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) talks with reporters as he walks to the Senate floor for the start of a series of votes on December 12, 2014, the day that the Senate voted to approve the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)Congress voted in December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia amid uncertainty about the future of collaborative efforts between Washington and Moscow in that area.

Lawmakers also voted to significantly curtail Defense Department Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs in Russia.

Despite the decision not to fund the budget request for the Energy Department programs, unspent money within the department’s nonproliferation account will allow activities in Russia to continue if Moscow agrees to such cooperation, a Senate Appropriations Committee staffer said in a Dec. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

These provisions were part of the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations and defense authorization bills, both of which Congress passed in December at the end of the 113th Congress. Fiscal year 2015 started on Oct. 1, 2014, and runs until Sept. 30.

Of the money Congress withheld for Energy Department work in Russia, $25.4 million was taken from the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), and $66.9 million was subtracted from the International Material Protection and Cooperation (IMPC) program.

In his e-mail, the Senate staffer said that there is enough unspent money left over from previous years’ appropriations and the spending bill that funded the government from Oct. 1 through mid-December to “complete activities” in fiscal year 2015 “and start new activities” if Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz approves them. According to budget figures shown to Arms Control Today, roughly $100 million remains available to continue work in Russia by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in fiscal year 2015.

Congress also put constraints on the Defense Department’s nuclear security work in Russia. The defense bill prohibits funding for CTR programs in Russia beyond fiscal year 2015 without specific authorization from Congress. “[T]he traditional manner in which the program’s activities have been carried out in the Russian Federation is no longer necessary and no longer sustainable,” said the explanatory report accompanying the bill. “[S]ecuring and destroying nuclear weapons and nuclear material is now a Russian responsibility and one that the United States should no longer fund without Russian cooperation,” the report added.

The decline in congressional support for nuclear security work in Russia comes as Moscow has taken steps to wind down cooperation with the United States, putting the future of such cooperation in doubt. (See ACT, December 2014.)

The omnibus bill provided funding above the budget request for other nuclear security efforts, including an extra $32 million to complete installation of fixed detection equipment to prevent nuclear smuggling at vulnerable border crossings, airports, and small seaports in key countries around Russia and in high-threat areas in the Middle East. The bill also added funds to accelerate efforts to develop a new generation of warhead monitoring technologies and improve capabilities to detect low-yield nuclear tests.

Despite these increases, the final spending level for Energy Department nonproliferation work fell far short of what the Senate appropriations energy and water subcommittee, which funds the department’s nuclear security programs, approved in July. The full appropriations committee and the full Senate never voted on that bill. Although the subcommittee provided about $825 million, well above the budget request of $638 million for the GTRI and IMPC programs, the omnibus bill reduced their funding to $597 million.

Instead, the final funding levels for the GTRI and IMPC programs mirror those approved by the House, which withheld funding for work in Russia and funded other activities at roughly the same level as the budget request.

In the Dec. 19 e-mail, the Senate staffer said that increasing the funding for nonproliferation activities in the omnibus bill “was an uphill battle” for a number of reasons, including the Obama administration’s “inadequate” fiscal year 2015 budget request for nonproliferation “and uncertainty about the future of some of these nonproliferation programs.” In August, 26 senators sent a letter to the White House criticizing the administration’s proposed cuts to nonproliferation programs over the last several years. (See ACT, September 2014.)

Signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 16, the omnibus appropriations bill is a $1.1 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills that had to be passed to keep the government operating. The bill provides funding for agencies covered by 11 of the appropriations bills for the remainder of the fiscal year and continues spending at last year’s funding levels for the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 27.

The $577 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed Dec. 19, establishes spending ceilings and sets policy for Defense Department and NNSA activities.

Overall, the omnibus bill includes approximately $8.2 billion for nuclear weapons activities conducted by the NNSA, an increase of roughly $406 million from last year’s funding level.

New Cruise Missile Funded

The omnibus bill includes a compromise between the Senate and House to provide $9.4 million, the amount the NNSA had requested, to study a refurbishment of the warhead for the nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The funding figure essentially split the difference between the House, which initially approved $17 million for the study, and the Senate, which provided no funding for the concept study. (See ACT, November 2014.)

According to the Senate staffer, the bill makes no commitment to ultimately fund a life extension program for the ALCM warhead. The bill mandates that before the NNSA moves beyond the concept study phase, the NNSA must provide Congress with a report on the military requirements and preliminary cost and schedule estimates for a refurbishment effort.

The omnibus bill also requires the defense secretary to submit a report to Congress “describing the requirements, anticipated missions, programmed funding by fiscal year, and current program schedule” for the new missile that will carry the refurbished warhead. The Air Force’s fiscal year 2015 budget request delayed the new missile program by three years. According to an aide for Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the outgoing chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, the “general intent” of the report “is to have [the Defense Department] better explain” the acquisition strategy for the new missile program.

Meanwhile, the defense authorization bill dilutes provisions in the original House bill regarding the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russia’s alleged noncompliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and the maintenance of U.S. Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos. The House bill barred the spending of any money to carry out the reductions required by New START until Russia met a number of conditions, including “respecting the sovereignty of all Ukrainian territory.” The final bill merely requires a report from the Defense Department stating the reasons that continued implementation of New START is in the national security interests of the United States.

Similarly, the House bill required the Defense Department to prepare a plan for developing new U.S. intermediate-range missiles in response to Russia’s alleged INF Treaty violation, but the final bill asks for a report on steps being taken or planned by the department to respond to the violation (see story below). Moreover, while the House bill demanded the maintenance of 450 operational Minuteman III ICBM silos without an end date for that requirement, the final bill requires the maintenance of the silos only until 2021.

Missile Defense Scrutinized

Personnel at the Missile Defense Integration and Operation Center on Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado work at the test control facility during the flight test of a ground-based interceptor on June 22, 2014. (Missile Defense Agency)The defense bill includes provisions to strengthen congressional oversight of U.S. missile defense programs. One section requires that prior to production or deployment of “a new or substantially upgraded interceptor or weapon system of the ballistic missile defense system,” the defense secretary must ensure “sufficient and operationally realistic testing” of the system and that the testing results demonstrate “a high probability” that the system “will work in an operationally effective manner.” The provision also requires the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation to provide an assessment of the “sufficiency, adequacy, and results of the testing.”

Another section requires the defense secretary to commission an independent study on the testing program of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. The study must include “an assessment of whether the currently planned testing program” for the missile system “is sufficient to establish reasonable confidence that the…system has a high probability of performing reliably and effectively.”

Plagued by rushed development, cost overruns, and test failures, the GMD system is designed to protect the United States from limited missile attacks by Iran and North Korea. A total of 30 interceptors are currently deployed in Alaska and California. The Pentagon is planning to deploy an additional 14 interceptors in Alaska by the end of 2017.

Overall, the omnibus bill provided $1.1 billion for the GMD system, including $43 million more than the administration requested to upgrade the Capability Enhancement II kill vehicle. The bill also funded the administration’s $99.5 million request to begin work on a redesigned kill vehicle for the system. (See ACT, July/August 2014.)

Posted: December 31, 1969

Scottish Vote Preserves UK Nuclear Force

Voters in Scotland rejected independence in a Sept. 18 referendum that threatened to break up the United Kingdom and force relocation of UK nuclear forces.

By Jefferson Morley

Voters in Scotland rejected independence in a Sept. 18 referendum that threatened to break up the United Kingdom and force relocation of UK nuclear forces. By a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, the electorate voted against abandoning Scotland’s 307-year-old union with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

The vote spared the UK government the expensive prospect of having to move its only nuclear submarine base, at Faslane, Scotland, and nuclear arms depot, in nearby Coulport. The Scottish National Party (SNP), sponsor of the referendum, had touted independence as a way to make the country free of nuclear weapons by 2020. Relocating the two facilities to England would have cost 2.5 billion to 4 billion pounds, according to a study by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The Faslane base is home port for the UK’s four Trident nuclear-armed submarines, each of which is equipped with as many as 40 thermonuclear warheads on U.S.-designed and -built ballistic missiles. “Trident” technically refers to the missile, but the term is used in the UK to mean the entire system.

The SNP sought to outlaw such weapons on Scottish territory.

“Trident is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power,” the Scottish government declared in a November 2013 brief for independence. 

 The UK Ministry of Defence, which plans to replace the Trident fleet in the next decade, contended in an October 2013 analysis of Scottish independence that “the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent plays an essential part in the UK’s and NATO’s overall strategy and provides the ultimate assurance against current and future threats.” 

During the referendum campaign, the UK government promised to “devolve” more powers to the Scottish government. But defense will remain a “reserved” matter controlled by the government in London, and the Trident submarines will remain at Faslane, Malcolm Chalmers, a RUSI analyst, said in Sept. 19 e-mail.

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Posted: December 31, 1969

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

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