Welcome and Closing Remarks

Opening remarks from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball to the 2024 ACA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  

June 7, 2024  

Good day everyone and welcome to the National Press Club and the 2024 to Arms Control Association Annual Meeting!

Daryl G. Kimball, opening the 2024 ACA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., June 7, 2024 (Photo: ACA)

I am Daryl Kimball, executive director, and we are delighted to have so many of you here in the room and online for today's event which is titled: "Moving Back from the Nuclear Brink."

We are indeed, on the brink, or at least closer to it that we have been in decades.

The three states with the largest nuclear arsenals—Russia, the United States, and China—are on the precipice of an unconstrained era of dangerous nuclear competition. Billions of dollars are being spent by the world’s nine nuclear weapons possessor states to maintain and upgrade their deadly arsenals.

Key nuclear arms control and nonproliferation agreements that have helped to ease tensions and reduce the nuclear danger are either gone, are being ignored, or are in jeopardy.

The last remaining treaty constraining U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons will expire in about 600 days ...

... and so far, the Kremlin also rejected the U.S. offer—announced at by Jake Sullivan at ACA 2023 Annual Meeting—to engage in talks on a new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control framework before New START expires.

Russia has also de-ratified the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, deployed sub-strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus, and is alleged to be developing a nuclear-armed space weapon. Meanwhile, as Putin's deadly and illegal assault on Ukraine continues, he continues to threaten possible nuclear weapons in response to Western efforts to help Ukraine defend itself.

Citing a China's nuclear modernization efforts, some members of the U.S. nuclear weapons establishment are proposing to spend even more U.S. tax dollars to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal for the first time in decades.

There are other stresses the broader arms control and nonproliferation system.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza following the Oct. 7 terror attack has produced a monumental humanitarian catastrophe that U.S. arms transfer policies and laws were supposed to help prevent but haven't.

And, in the absence of the agreed limits on its nuclear program and tougher international monitoring through the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Iranian leaders have expanded their capacity to produce weapons-grade nuclear material and restricted IAEA access to key sites.

As the risk of an Iranian nuclear bomb has grown, Saudi Arabia has redoubled its campaign to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies from Washington.

Our meeting today will explore these issues in depth with the help of some of the most experienced, best-informed experts from outside of government and some from inside the government, including our first keynote speaker.

We hope today's discussions will provide some new insights and ideas about how to best address these massive challenges.

Let me close this brief introduction to the day by underscoring the fact that if we are going to be successful in moving back from the nuclear brink, it will take all of us and much more to make it happen.

ACA is a medium-sized organization, with just a dozen full time staffers, a volunteer Board, working with a very modest budget that is supported by a very small number of generous foundations and our loyal members.

As the MacArthur Foundation once said about us, ACA is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact disproportionate to its small size.'

But we cannot succeed by ourselves. In my 35 years as a professional in the arms control and disarmament field, its clear that progress depends on:

  • Smart, collaborative, sustained civil society campaigns, involving multiple organizations, large and small, local, and national, to engage and inform and mobilize the public to put pressure on key policy makers to take responsible action.
  • It takes bold presidential leadership and constructive Congressional action.
  • It requires responsible behavior and initiative from other governments.
  • We also need the active and principled leadership of the UN and the UN Secretary-General, who we will hear from later this morning.
  • and it takes some good luck and more.

Together, over the years, we've all helped to establish and defend the norms against nuclear weapons use, threats of use, nuclear testing, nuclear proliferation, and nuclear weapons buildups, and to advance progress on nuclear disarmament.

But as the civil rights and nuclear disarmament champion Coretta Scott King once said (in 1993):

“The struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”

At this time, the collective efforts of our generation are more important than ever.

Closing Remarks from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball to the 2024 ACA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  

What a great discussion on a difficult topic that bears our urgent attention. Thank you, Rachel, and to each of the other panelists we just heard from.

I just want to close today's event with a few words of thanks to those who helped make this all possible.

First, thanks to our ACA team who have been working for several weeks and through the day today to make this event run smoothly. ACA is fortunate to have not only a very professional and capable staff team, but they are passionate about their work, and they are a joy to work with. Let's give them all a generous round of applause.

I want to give a particular shout out to our dedicated COO Kathy Crandall Robinson, our Director of Communications and Operations Tony Fleming, our program and operations assistant Libby Flatoff, and to Allen Harris, our stellar production and design editor, who along with our chief editor Carol Giacomo, is responsible for making Arms Control Today look so sharp.

For those of you watching online, you have our videographer Brendan Kowanoski to thank for his work today.

ACA's appreciation to all of our speakers and expert panelists. We heard from some of the very best in our field today. Thanks for all you do.

Finally, I want to recognize all of this year's generous annual meeting sponsors and everyone who joined us here today in person, and online. Your financial support, your interest, and your engagement is essential to our ability to pull this off and to pursue ACA programs and initiatives throughout the year.

You'll see the list of more than 40 meeting sponsors in the back of your program book and on our online 2024 Annual Meeting page, which will soon host an archived recording of today's proceedings.

I want to give a shout out to the essential grant-making foundations in the peace and security field who generously and loyally provide much of the financial support we need to sustain our work. These include our friends at:

  • the Prospect Hill Foundation
  • the Ploughshares Fund
  • the Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and
  • the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which has for many years been a major supporter of our work and that of many others in the nuclear risk reduction and nuclear policy field, but will, beginning next year, shift their attention to other urgent issues.

Yet, our work to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons must go on.

As Secretary General Guterres said, "the world is on a knife's edge," and as Tom Countryman reminded us, its our time to act to try to tackle the big challenges ahead and to make a difference.

That makes your engagement, your own efforts, and your financial support for ACA's work more important than ever.

[It will take persistence, it will take passion, it will require considered risks, it will require a more engaged and informed public, it will take new ideas and new voices, it will take all of us all working together.]

Thanks for joining us today.

We are adjourned.