An NGO Statement the 10th NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting, August 2, 2023
(As prepared for delivery by Patricia Jaworek, member of the Young Deep Cuts Commission, and organized by the Arms Control Association.)
Further progress on nuclear disarmament by the United States and Russia—along with China, France, and the United Kingdom—has been and remains at the core of their NPT Article VI legal obligations to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”
But, since the conclusion of the 2010 New START agreement, U.S.-Russian strategic stability and nuclear arms control talks have not produced results. Today, important bilateral nuclear arms control agreements are either gone, are being ignored, or are in jeopardy.
The only remaining treaty that verifiably limits the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals is New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which will expire in early 2026. Earlier this year, Russia "suspended" implementation of New START citing the United States "hostile" attitude but pledged to abide by the central limits of the treaty, which will expire in about 900 days.
Although China, France, and the U.K. have engaged in discussions on nuclear terms and doctrines through the P5 Process, they have stubbornly refused to seriously engage in talks on ideas and proposals that would cap or reduce their own deadly arsenals.
Meanwhile, the worlds nuclear-armed states are spending tens of billions of dollars each year to replace and upgrade their deadly arsenals:
- Russia is developing new types of intermediate-range missiles and is threatening to deploy exotic new strategic systems, including nuclear-armed torpedoes. President Putin also recently suggested he might put Russian sub-strategic nuclear weapons on missiles and aircraft in Belarus.
- The United States is on pace to spend $756 billion from 2023–2032 period, as avg. of $75 billion a year according to a new Congressional Budget Office estimate. Over the objections of President Biden, the U.S. Congress is pushing to fund a new weapon, which could cost an additional $10 billion: the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise-missile.
- China is rapidly increasing the quantity and capabilities of its nuclear arsenal and refusing to engage in negotiations to cut-off the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, in violation its NPT Article VI commitments.
The deteriorating situation is the product of more than a decade of neglect of disarmament diplomacy in key capitals. None of the five NPT nuclear-armed states can credibly claim they are meeting their NPT disarmament obligations.
Without renewed nuclear disarmament diplomacy, there is the potential for a dangerous three-way arms race between the United States, Russia, and China, and possibly others, that would undermine global security and the NPT itself. It is essential for the United States and Russia to immediately engage in negotiations on a post-New START nuclear restraint and reduction framework agreement.
Now is the time for all NPT states parties -- whether they are nuclear-armed or nonnuclear weapon states, allied or nonaligned, as well as civil society groups that support for the NPT and for nuclear disarmament -- to actively, vocally, and persistently, demand that all five NPT nuclear-armed states engage in good faith efforts to halt and reverse the arms race.
Progress is not only necessary, but it is possible.
On June 2, President Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan declared that the United States is ready to engage in nuclear arms control diplomacy with Russia and with other nuclear-armed members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), including China France, and the U.K., “without preconditions.”
Sullivan was critical of Russia's suspension of New START but also noted that “Russia has publicly committed to adhere to the treaty’s central limits.”
He said: “It is in neither [U.S. or Russian] interests to embark on an open-ended competition in strategic nuclear forces,” and the United States is “prepared to stick to the central limits as long as Russia does."
With New START due to expire in 2026, Sullivan suggested that “rather than waiting to resolve all of our bilateral differences, the United States is ready to engage Russia now to manage nuclear risks and develop a post-2026 arms control framework.” Given the existential risks posed by nuclear weapons, we agree that nuclear disarmament diplomacy must be “compartmentalized” and not held hostage to demands on other matters.
On June 5, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia remains open to dialogue with the United States on arms control. He described Sullivan’s comments as “important and positive,” but said Russia wants to learn more about the proposal through formal diplomatic channels. To date, however, the two sides have not agreed to engage in such a dialogue.
Now is the time for the two sides to begin a serious dialogue focused on a new arms control and disarmament framework before 2026, when New START will expire and when the next NPT Review Conference will be held.
The negotiation of a complex, bilateral nuclear arms control framework to replace New START would be difficult in good times and extraordinarily difficult so long as Russia's war on Ukraine continues.
Nevertheless, there is scope for the White House and the Kremlin to reach a unilateral, reciprocal arrangement that neither will exceed the deployed strategic warhead limit set by New START until a more permanent arms control arrangement comes into effect. This would contribute to a more stable international security environment and improve conditions for overdue progress on multilateral nuclear arms control and disarmament.
In the absence of such a U.S.-Russian arrangement before New START ends, each side could upload more warheads on their strategic delivery systems quickly, and China might decide to accelerate its ongoing strategic nuclear buildup. Avoiding such a scenario is in the national security interests of all nations.
Sullivan also said that U.S. President Joe Biden supports “new multilateral arms control efforts,” involving all five nuclear-armed members of the NPT. “We’re under no illusions that reaching risk reduction and arms control measures in that setting will be easy. But we do believe it is possible,” he said. Sullivan proposed that all five states agree on greater transparency on nuclear doctrines, more effective crisis communications channels, common rules for missile launch notification, and policies to keep “humans in the loop” for command, control, and use of nuclear weapons.
We believe that all five can and should immediately reaffirm and update the 1973 U.S.-Soviet Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, which pledges they will “refrain from the threat or use of force against the other party, against the allies of the other party and against other countries, in circumstances which may endanger international peace and security.” It requires that “if at any time there is the risk of a nuclear conflict [each side] shall immediately enter into urgent consultations…to avert this risk.”
So far, the P5 Process has been positive, but it has underperformed. If it is to make a serious contribution to the implementation of the NPT, all five participants must elevate their commitment to the dialogue and be prepared to take on significant commitments and refrain from making any and all kinds of threats of nuclear weapons use for any reason.
Nuclear risk reduction strategies are fundamental but they are not a substitute for progress on arms control and disarmament. Risk reduction measures cannot erase the tensions that can lead to nuclear war, they cannot remove the inherent dangers of nuclear deterrence policies, nor can they prevent dangerous forms of qualitative and quantitative nuclear arms racing.
Now is the time for leaders of non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society groups to demand that all five NPT nuclear-armed states engage in good faith efforts to halt and reverse the arms race, in keeping with their solemn NPT Article VI obligations.
We invite other civil society leaders and NPT states parties to call upon the NPT's nuclear-armed five observe an immediate global nuclear freeze, by which China, France, and the United Kingdom would cap the overall size of their nuclear arsenals and agree to halt fissile material production so long as Russia and the United States cap their stockpiles and negotiate a new framework to cut their arsenals.
More nuclear weapons make us all less secure. Embarking on a safer path through disarmament diplomacy is imperative.
We thank you for your attention.
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Shannon Bugos, Senior Policy Analyst, Arms Control Association
Peter Wilk, Administrative Chair, Back from the Brink
Tong Zhao, Senior Fellow, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World
Dr Tobias Fella, Head, Challenges to Deep Cuts Project
Lucian Bumeder, Researcher, Challenges to Deep Cuts Project
Greg Thielmann, member, Challenges to Deep Cuts Commission
Oliver Meier, Policy and Research Director, European Leadership Network
Edan Jules Simpson Project and Communications Coordinator, European Leadership Network*
Prof. Götz Neuneck, Co-chair of the Federation of German Scientists and Pugwash Germany*
Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America
John Hallam, Human Survival Project, co-convenor of the Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group
Fredrick K. Lamb, Research Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Core Faculty Member, Program in Arms Control & Domestic and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign*
Michael Christ, Exective Dirextor, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Ariana Smith, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
Sharon Dolev and Emad Kiyaei, Directors, Middle East Treaty Organization
Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Bill Kidd, Member of the Scottish Parliament, Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament*
Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament
Valeriia Hesse, Non-Resident Fellow, Odesa Center for Nonproliferation*
Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action
Akira Kawasaki, Executive Committee member, Peace Boat
W. Taylor Carneiro-Johnson, Interim Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Stewart Prager, Professor emeritus of astrophysical science, and affiliated faculty, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University*
Frank Niels von Hippel, Professor of Public and International Affairs emeritus, Princeton University*
Norman Solomon, National Director, Roots Action
Marylia Kelley, Senior Advisor, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
Noah Mayhew, Senior Research Associate, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation*
Hanna Notte, Senior Research Associate, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation*
Elena K Sokova, Executive Director, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation*
Sean Arent, Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program Manager, Washington Physcians for Social Responsibility
Sara Bundtzen, member, Young Deep Cuts Commission
Patricia Jaworek, member, Young Deep Cuts Commission
Artem Kvartalnov, member, Young Deep Cuts Commission
Ekaterina Lapanovic, member, Young Deep Cuts Commission
Tim Thies, member, Young Deep Cuts Commission
*Institution listed for identification purposes only.