We were thrilled to see friends, colleagues, and supporters at our 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting.
The full program is available at right or use the links below to view individual portions of the program.
Daryl Kimball, executive director
|Special Remarks Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State|
Daryl Kimball, executive director
Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, and
Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima
|9:30 a.m.||PANEL 1 | “The Nuclear Threat in the Wake of Russia's War on Ukraine - Lessons and Next Steps”
Elayne Whyte, former Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United Nations - Geneva
Nina Tannenwald, director of the international relations program at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies and author of The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945
Oliver Meier, senior researcher at the Berlin office of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH)
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, moderating
|Congratulatory Remarks from
George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Alicia Sanders-Zakre, ICAN
|10:45 a.m.||PANEL 2 | “Restoring Nonproliferation and Disarmament Guardrails”
Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation
Eric Brewer, senior director of the Nuclear Materials Security Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative
Jamie Kwong, Stanton pre-doctoral fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Kelsey Davenport, policy director at the Arms Control Association, moderating
Special Message from President Joe Biden to the 2022 Annual Meeting
|12:00 p.m.||Special Presentation
“The Arms Control Association: 50 Years of Accomplishment"
Mallory Stewart, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance
Introduced by Carol Giacomo, editor, Arms Control Today
|Congratulatory Remarks from
Shalonda Spencer, Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation
Emma Belcher, Ploughshares Fund
|1:00 p.m.||PANEL 3 | “Arms Control Tomorrow: Mitigating the Dangers of New Weapon Technologies"
Michael Klare, senior visiting fellow on emerging technologies at the Arms Control Association
Victoria Samson, Washington office director for the Secure World Foundation
Lindsay Rand, research assistant at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, Arms Control Association, moderating
|2:00 p.m.||Special Remarks
Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8)
|2:15 p.m.||Keynote Speaker
Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
Introduced by Randy Rydell, board of directors member, Arms Control Association
|Congratulatory Remarks from
Robert Floyd, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization
Fernando Arias, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
|2:45 p.m.||PANEL 4 | “Revitalizing the Movement for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association
Joan Rohlfing, president and chief operating officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative
Denise Duffield, associate director of Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles
Zia Mian, co-director of the Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security
Chris Wing, acting board chair of the Arms Control Association, moderating
|Congratulatory Remarks from
Peter Crail, Business Executive for National Security
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
Tribute to Daryl G. Kimball for 20 Years of Service
|3:35 p.m.||Remarks from
Bonnie Jenkins. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
|Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)|
|3:45 p.m.||Closing Remarks
Future Goals for the Arms Control Association
Daryl Kimball, executive director
Following the day's discussions and keynote speakers, attendees gathered at the DACOR Bacon House for our 50th Anniversary Reception. Click here to view photos.
DARYL KIMBALL: It's really wonderful to see everyone in person and online. I'd just like to ask everybody to settle in for our 2022 Arms Control Association annual meeting. We're about to get started. I am—as many of—Daryl Kimball, the executive director. And this is our first in-person event since 2019, and I know a nber of us are in shock seeing other human beings but you'll get over it and I hope you will enjoy it
We're marking of course the Arms Control Association's 50th anniversary. A couple of program notes—first of all, we're going to be asking you all to wear your masks while you're not eating or drinking because we are a nuclear, chemical, biological non-proliferation organization. We don't want any viruses proliferating either, and also please turn off or mute your cell phones. Feel free to use social media throughout the day—we encourage that—but try to keep them quiet.
We're going to get the program started today with a special video submission from a proven leader and a friend of the arms control and non-proliferation community, which is the first of several today that is going to augment our panel discussions and our keynote speakers today. So with that, please watch.sh
Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State
WENDY SHERMAN: Hello and congratulations to the Arms Control Association on your 50th anniversary year. Working on arms control and nuclear weapons policy has never been easy. The details are highly technical and the potential consequences of a miscalculation utterly catastrophic. These are issues that are rarely at the forefront of public debate and yet require constant sustained work over years—even decades.
Over the last 50 years, thanks to the determination and skill of diplomats, experts like you and organizations like the ACA, arms control has come a long way. At times during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union possessed roughly thirty thousand nuclear weapons apiece—a far cry from the much smaller stockpiles the u.s and Russia have today. Over the decades successive rounds of negotiations, confidence-building measures and treaties, and other agreements showed the world that progress on arms control and nuclear weapons is possible.
But the challenges we face today are different from the challenges of the Cold War. Vladimir Putin's premeditated, unprovoked, unjustified, and utterly horrific war against Ukraine has had profound consequences for the security of Ukraine, for the security of Europe, and for the security of the entire world. As the United States and our allies and partners have surged support for Ukraine and impose severe costs and consequences on the Russian Federation, Putin and senior members of his government have even threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, which would be an unthinkable escalation.
The world is facing challenges related to nuclear arms well beyond Russia. The People's Republic of China has accelerated the buildup of their nuclear weapons capabilities. The DPRK has held an unprecedented number of missile launches this year. Negotiations are continuing for a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran after the previous administration withdrew from that agreement.
The United States continues to believe that arms control is necessary to safeguard the security of the United States of our allies and partners and indeed of the entire world. We continue to see arms control and deterrence as complementary, mutually reinforcing, and as essential to global stability. But arms control agreements only work and work durably when both parties are taking steps to ensure mutual security.
Before Putin's all-out invasion of Ukraine, the United States and Russia had held constructive meetings on the strategic stability dialogue. Because of Putin's actions, we have suspended the SSD. Our last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, New START, which President Biden extended on his first day in office will expire in 2026. It is a welcome sign that consistent with New Start, Russia provided the United States with advance notice of their launch of the new format ICBM in April, ensuring that we were not taken by surprise.
None of us knows what the future holds, but I know the Arms Control Association and its members are as deeply engaged in the difficult and vital work of finding solutions to the challenges we face today as you have always been. It will take all of us working together—government officials, and diplomats, ACAdemic experts, and scientists, activists, and organizers—to come up with new and innovative approaches to strengthen transparency and predictability, reduce risk, and forge the next generation of arms control agreements.
Daryl Kimball, executive director
KIMBALL: Well, we're deeply appreciative to Deputy Secretary Sherman for that great opening for the meeting today. she framed the issues, the challenges, and the work that's ahead very very well, and we greatly appreciate that from her.
It is so good to see so many friends and colleagues once again. It's really energizing and inspiring and encouraging to be together as we talk about some of the most important and difficult challenges we face in the weapons-related security area.
We gather today at a difficult and dangerous time—a traatic time. In many ways our world faces a range of difficulties—from the climate crisis, the pandemic, the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, the ongoing struggle for racial and social justice, as well as the threats to our democratic institutions. And from my perspective, we need to be mindful of all of these challenges and how they intersect and relate to how we as individuals and as a community pursue our lives and our work and also how those of us at the Arms Control Association and in the broader arms control and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation community seek to advance our work.
The work of the Arms Control Association—the mission of the organization as outlined in our first newsletter in 1972, published in in April ‘72, almost exactly 50 years ago—as stated is to promote and support for and understanding the need for positive steps towards the limitation in elimination of armaments and other measures to reduce international tensions on the road toward world peace. And since then the organization, working with allies and partners here in the United States and around the world in government and in the non-governmental community, have successfully advanced many effective arms control solutions that have addressed some of the world's most dangerous weapons-related challenges, particularly nuclear weapons. And we can and will today pause and mark and recognize and honor the accomplishments of the organization and all the people who've worked for the Arms Control Association, which nbers 197 in the history of the organization by the way.
But we also need to remember what we have ahead of us. We can't rest easy. We cannot be complacent. We cannot forget what is at stake. A great deal remains at stake. And as we start today, it's important to think about this meeting in 2022 as an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to pursuing the strategies and ideas that are going to be necessary to complete the mission that the founders of the Arms Control Association set out for itself back in 1972.
So today's conference is designed to explore some of the big issues in weapons-related peace and security challenges that we're going to be facing—not just today or tomorrow next week but in the years ahead. We hope that you will find this to be thought-provoking and inspiring. And we'll stimulate thinking about what each of you can do here in this room and out beyond in the world.
So through the program, as we just noticed, we'll be hearing several guest video contributions from special friends—some people who used to be associated with the Arms Control Association, and some of our friends and partners in the field. And before we begin our first panel discussion on the nuclear threat in the wake of Russia's war on Ukraine, we're going to hear from two important allies and leaders from the other side of the world who have a unique understanding and message for the rest of us about the profound dangers and consequences of nuclear weapons. So once again, please watch.
Special Remarks from
Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, and Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima
KAZI MATSUI: Greetings from Hiroshima. My name is Matsui Kazi, and I am the mayor of Hiroshima and the President of Mayors for Peace. It gives me great pleasure to deliver this message to you on this very special occasion—the 50th anniversary of the Arms Control Association. Let me start by expressing my profound respect and heartfelt congratulations on the Association's many accomplishments over the past half a century.
Your association has taken a significant role in fostering public awareness of nuclear disarmament and has led to its advancement. The current international state of affairs is extremely alarming. Russian's aggression against Ukraine brings with it not only the escalated risk of the use of nuclear weapons but also puts the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime at risk—systems which international society has made a tremendous effort to build the world which humanity must strive to realize is one without nuclear weapons.
Mayors for Peace is working to make this sentiment a global shared value by widely conveying the realities of the atomic bombings and the Hibakusha's desire for peace. To that end, in close partnership with our over 8100 member cities in 160 countries and regions, we are currently doing our utmost to carry out initiatives that promote cultural peace. In doing so, it is our sincere hope to further deepen our collaboration with your association's outreach activities for arms control and non-proliferation. We are convinced that doing so will certainly encourage national leaders to affect policy change or the abolition of nuclear weapons.
I would like to take this opportunity to humbly ask you to continue to stand with us and act together with the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting world peace. In closing I extend my best wishes for the further success of the Arms Control Association in the years ahead and the continued good health and the prosperity of all in attendance.
Thank you very much.
TOMIHISA TAUE: Hello everyone. This is Taue Tomihisa, the Mayor of Nagasaki. On behalf of the citizens of the atomic-bombed citiy of Nagasaki and as the Vice-President of the Mayors for Peace, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the Arms Control Association on marking the 40-year anniversary since its establishment. Specializing in the fields of nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control, the ACA is a think tank that provides authoritative information and analysis relating to American security. I have profound respect for the ACA’s efforts over these many years.
At 11:02 am, on August 9, 1945, a single atomic bomb instantly turned the city of Nagasaki to ruins, killing and injuring approximately 150,000 people. 77 years have passed since that day, but the Hibakusha, the atomic bomb survivors who narrowly survived are still suffering from emotional and physical wounds that will never heal. Even still, they continue to advocate for the realization of a world without nuclear weapons by sharing their traumatic experiences.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the international climate regarding nuclear weapons is becoming increasingly more intense and the risk of nuclear weapons being used again is ever mounting. In order to put an end to the current situation and once again foster a moment toward a world without nuclear weapons, each and everyone one of us participating in civil society must work together and make our voices heard louder now more than ever before. I believe that it is the duty of civil society to guide public opinion so that governments are able to have positive discussions for the realization of a future without nuclear weapons.
However, civil society does not have the capability to create practical measures alone, which is why we need to work together with professionals, the United Nations, and governments around the world. I consider Executive Director Mr. Daryl G. Kimball and everyone at the ACA as our constant allies in the cultivation of peace.
The city of Nagasaki is resolved to continue to strive towards the abolition of nuclear weapons and eternal world peace as the ACA is an important partner with whom we share a common goal. I sincerely hope that we can work together to expand the network of peace.
In closing, I would like to extend my best wishes for the continued success of the Arms Control Association and my best wishes for the good health and happiness of my trusted friend Mr. Daryl G. Kimball and everyone attending the event.
PANEL 1 | “The Nuclear Threat in the Wake of Russia's War on Ukraine”
KIMBALL: Just note before we start our next panel that there's an important meeting happening in 2023. The G7 meeting will be held in Hiroshima and I'm sure that will focus much more attention on the messages that Mayor Matsui and Mayor Taue have just delivered and would like to continue to deliver.
Now, we will begin our first session with three distinguished experts on the nuclear threat in the wake of Russia's war on Ukraine. And we're very very pleased to have with us Ambassador Elayne Whyte, who is a veteran Costa Rican diplomat, who is best known for serving as the president of the negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition Nuclear Weapons in 2017, guiding over 100 states towards the negotiation of that treaty which will enjoy its first meeting of states parties later this month in Vienna.
Also, we have on the end on the right, Professor Nina Tannenwald with Brown University, who is a very accomplished scholar on nuclear matters. She's particularly well known for her writings and thinking on the evolution of the taboo against nuclear weapons use, which is at the center of the discussion here in this panel.
Also, I'm very glad to have with us—all the way from Berlin, Germany—Oliver Meier, who is currently the coordinator of the U.S.-German-Russian Deep Cuts Commission—that is deep cuts in nuclear arsenals—and is one of Europe's leading experts on nuclear weapons issues. I’m proud to say that Oliver was once our international representative in Europe and continues to be a very close friend and partner.
So as we heard from Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, part of Vladimir Putin's strategy to pursue a full-scale war on Ukraine is that he's raised the specter of nuclear weapons use against any state that might try to interfere directly with Russia's invasion. For those people who have not been focusing too much on the nuclear threat for the past 20 or 30 years, the war and Putin's threats are a startling reminder that—although today's nuclear arsenals are smaller than they were during the height of the Cold War—they've not gone away.
Nuclear deterrence still involves the threat of nuclear use. The risks that nuclear weapons might be used might be relatively low in the mathematical sense but low doesn't mean zero. And we can see that public concern here in the United States is very high. Polls show that some eight in ten Americans worry that the war in Ukraine could expand to other countries, which it could, that U.S. forces might get involved in the fighting, and that Russia might use nuclear weapons. And President Biden's essay just two days ago in the New York Times clearly attempts to assuage those concerns, but in my view not effectively enough.
So we've got a number of questions here for our panelists to unpack, including what is the risk of nuclear weapons use, what are the lessons that we can begin to draw, and what steps can be taken to reduce the nuclear danger now and in the years ahead.
So I'm going to start our panel discussion by asking each of our panelists some key issues and time allowing us to take questions from the audience here in the room using the index cards that are on your table. The idea is for you to think about questions you might have and my team will come and collect those towards the end of this session and so we can factor those in.
So first, I want to go to Oliver Meier since Oliver traveled the longest. I wanted to start with you with maybe one of the most difficult questions we've all been trying to answer which is in the wake of Russia's threats, Putin's threats, and as the war goes on, are we in a heightened state of alert? Is there a risk that putin might become desperate enough and use short-range weapons in Ukraine? Or is it really the risk of a broader NATO Russia war? How do you see these issues?
OLIVER MEIER: Thanks Daryl and thanks for inviting me. Pleasure to be here and an honor. We've collaborated over more than 20 years of trying to go back and couldn't quite pin it down but it's been a long time. As we've heard from the video messages, the work of the Arms Control Association has been extremely valuable in terms of analysis and guidance. I think also in terms of the ideas and proposals you put out. It's a guiding star for many of us in the field, so it's an honor to be here. It's a pleasure to be on this panel with distinguished colleagues. It's a particular pleasure to be here because I was able to bring my daughter, Kyra, who is just graduating from high school next month. and it's a pleasure to also bring her along because you know this generation has a lot on its plate already—global warming, epidemics—and they shouldn't need to worry about nuclear weapons use like we did when we graduated from high school. So yeah , it's a good opportunity to be here and to discuss this issue.
I think the risk of nuclear weapons use is at least as high as it was over the last 30 years since the end of the Cold War. We can debate whether the Cuban Missile Crisis was more dangerous or not. But, I think the point is that we are in a situation where the risk is very real and very high. There are at least three factors that make it so dangerous.
It's the first time I think that we have a full-fledged invasion of a country that is coupled with a very explicit nuclear threat in a way that we haven't seen before—so offensive deterrence we have seen in practice for the first time. This is a very long conflict—much longer than the Cuban missile crisis. That adds dangers because the longer this war goes on the greater the risk will become. And we have a leadership in the Kremlin—unlike the past—which is very hard to read and we don't know what's on Putin's mind.
So, these three factors taken together make this extremely dangerous. and the core task has to strengthen the nuclear taboo and to prevent nuclear weapons use. I think that's the first main point. I would still think that the risk of unintentional or unintentional escalation to the nuclear level of this conflict is higher than the risk of intentional use. We see a development where the weapons that are being used are more capable at a longer range. Some dual-use and dual-capable systems being used on the Russian side add to the risk. I think it is still more likely than the risk of intentional use that we would come to the first time of nuclear use in over 75 years.
That being said, there is a risk that Russia might use nuclear weapons first unintentionally. There is a very strange mix of old-type conventional war with very nationalistic rhetoric going on. That makes it very hard to read what was on Putin's mind when he gave his declaration of war speech on February 24th. He basically tried to scare off NATO intervention but it wasn't quite clear what he meant. I think he may have also intended to deter the kind of NATO support that we see for Ukraine by threatening to use nuclear weapons, so we're not quite sure where the red line is. And as the conflict evolves, he may come to conclude that it may be in his favor to use nuclear weapons.
The very interesting reaction from Biden that you mentioned—also two days ago—and an article yesterday in the New York Times which raised the possibility as understood, but also made the case that the U.S. might not respond by also using two possible nuclear weapons. I think that's the task we have to think about—to raise this fire war between conventional and nuclear weapons used, to increase the distance between conventional wars and nuclear wars. And, final point, I'm not quite sure that the NATO summit at the end of the month will result in agreements that take us in that direction. I'm rather concerned that the linkages between conventional and nuclear deterrences may be strengthened. And my personal lesson from the Ukraine war would be that the war has shown that we can support a country like Ukraine without resorting to nuclear threats. If I read the New York Times article yesterday, that's the direction the administration wants to move, which is from the nuclear arms control and disarmament perspective—exactly the right direction. So I hope NATO will follow along this path and not move in an opposite direction.
KIMBALL: All right, thank you for thinking about it a lot. Ambassador Elayne Whyte, we here in the United States often think that we're the center of the universe but we're not. We think about these issues in terms of people living and working on nuclear weapon state, but you and many other leaders of non-nuclear weapon states have been warning about raising the alarm bell about the risk of nuclear weapons use for a long time, which is one of the very things that led to the negotiation of the Treaty in the Prohibition Nuclear Weapons in 2017, which followed the humanitarian conferences on the impacts of nuclear weapons.
How do you—and perhaps if you can channel the thoughts of others in the non-nuclear weapon state world—view Putin's nuclear threats in the context of this invasion? What does it say to those countries that don't have nuclear weapons about the assurances that have been given in the context of the NPT, the Non-proliferation Treaty, and elsewhere and the promise to reduce the role of nuclear weapons? So how do you see this?
ELAYNE WHYTE: Well, thank you. Good morning to everybody and let me first express my congratulations to the Arms Control Association and for these 50 years of influence, hard work, and shared objective towards a more stable and prosperous world. So keep on the good work. We are together there.
Well, let me respond to that question in two parts. We all know that the non-nuclear weapon states have been ringing the alarm for over decades about the risk of nuclear weapons but also have been very active in exerting leadership and agency and trying to shape the agenda on at least five different aspects: first of all on the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons based on evidence; second on on the issues of risk responsibility and transparency in requesting; in placing demands; on the agenda and proposals and measures to reduce and eliminate the risk either of accidental, unauthorized or intentional detonations on disarmament; and on a balanced and just nuclear order—that means on the balanced implementation of the three pillars of the of the NPT.
On the need to move to our nuclear disarmament as has been the political because of the legal, political, and humanitarian imperatives, but also because it is the political commitment by the great powers. We have taken the word as a serious commitment so we have expected for over many decades to see that political commitment and legal commitment become a reality as is the case because legal obligations are for all of us in the international community to comply with. But also the non-nuclear-weapon states have been very strong in demanding the unequivocal and legally binding assurances by nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use such weapons. Those assurances have been viewed by the non-nuclear states as one of the major requirements for achieving an adequate balance between our obligations and the obligations of nuclear weapons states.
The rules-based international order is definitely based on the reality that the rules are for us—for everybody—to comply with. And I would like to reiterate in this moment, in view of the second part of my answer, the request by demands from my own region from Latin America, whose heads of state and government have reiterated the call towards the negotiation and adoption of universal and legally binding instruments or negative security assurances, but also on the need to withdraw the interpretative declarations from the protocols of the comprehensive treaty—notwithstanding the slow progress in meeting these demands and requests. The non-nuclear-weapon states have reiterated the institutional and legal roadmap and reiterated the status of being compliant with all legal obligations and in that with that legal and moral basis requesting and demanding further steps on the issue of nuclear disarmament with those background points.
How do we see those threats precisely at the moment leading up to the invasion? First of all, they violate the legal foundations of the international system overall, not only of the Article 2 Paragraph 4 of the U.N. charter and the obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state or in any other manner that is inconsistent with the U.N. charter. It looks like these threats at the moment were issued to somewhat limit the extent to which a member state of the United Nations can resort to the inherent right to self and collective self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. charter. it's a principle of international customary law, but also it breaches the Budapest Memorandum on security assurances in connection with Ukraine's accession to the to the NPT, and therefore weakens the credibility of that major power towards their security assurances and undermines the overall aura of the purpose of the npt itself.
Of course, it does undermine the sense of security of states that have renounced nuclear weapons and are in compliance with the obligations of non-proliferation and prohibition of nuclear weapons for over five decades. So, it brings to the center stage the discussion about the imperative of nuclear disarmament and the necessary discussion of the security assurances for the non-nuclear-weapon states as an inherent and fundamental component of the equation of the nuclear order.
KIMBALL: So you see a lot of problems in other words? That was very thorough and good answer to these issues. Professor Tannenwald, you've literally written the book on the nuclear taboo, which I hope everybody has read at some point. Nina, let me just ask you to address the question I asked Oliver and then another question. I wanted to pitch to you the question I asked Oliver. Are we in a heightened state of alert? Why? But also, putting this in what has happened over the last few weeks in historical perspective, Putin's threat wasn't the first that's ever been issued. It's not the first challenge to the nuclear taboo. How should we see this in historical context?
NINA TANNENWALD: Thank you Daryl and thank you for inviting me and it's a pleasure to be here and speak to this group.
So yes, little historical perspective. During the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Union made nuclear threats against each other. That was a somewhat regular feature of the cold war. After the Cold War, the patterns changed a bit so there were actually more nuclear threats made after the end of the Cold War. This is in part because there were more nuclear armed states then but the majority of these threats were made by India and Pakistan against each other and by the United states against countries who are perceived to be outside the international normative community as defined by the NPT, so Iraq and North korea.
So, the United States actually made more nuclear threats after the end of the Cold War although many of these were very veiled. The United States has not made nuclear threats against Russia since the end of the Cold War. Russia, however, has made nuclear threats against NATO countries and the west.
So that is the historical pattern. The Cuban Missile Crisis was what we considered the greatest moment of nuclear danger. I do think the crisis was more dangerous than the current crisis because escalation was essentially one decision away. If Khrushchev or Kennedy had made a different decision, there could have immediately been an escalatory momentum.
Having said that, the Ukraine war as Oliver noted is a hot war. The Cuban Missile Crisis wasn't and did not break out into fighting fortunately. The Ukraine war is a hot war and it will likely go on much longer. And in both the Cuban Missile Crisis and Ukraine, there is a risk of inadvertent escalation and miscalculation. Putin has a track record of miscalculation, so that is something that we should worry about.
I think the risk of nuclear use is still low but it's not zero and the longer the war goes on the more the risk goes up. In part for arguments that people have made about if Putin gets backed into a corner and, out of frustration, reaches for a tactical nuclear weapon. So my view is that the goal should be to try to end the war as soon as possible.
Now because I'm here to talk about norms, let me say something about the normative status of nuclear threats. So, one of the things that's really different about Putin's nuclear threats is that they're very blatant. As my colleagues have noted, they're being used to shield conventional full-scale aggression. The other thing that's different is that they are very explicit and they are made every few days right so over and over again. These very explicit threats are a very significant change from the patterns of the past where the threats tend to be very veiled. Over the course of the Cold WAr, they become very veiled, they become more subtle. And there aren't so many of them in any given crisis. So that's what's quite different here and that really ratchets up the nuclear danger here.
But let me say something about an opportunity for norm creation here, and especially fans of the Ban Treaty may be interested in this, is that one thing that the terrible atrocities of this war does—so the Russian military's terrible atrocities in Ukraine, the war crimes violations, the massive destruction of cities—it creates an opportunity to link nuclear youth to war crimes. If you look at the devastation in Ukraine right now caused by conventional weapons, it is not very difficult to imagine how much worse it would be if a nuclear weapon were used. So there is a moment here for the norm entrepreneurs to create a narrative to strengthen the narrative that a use of a nuclear weapon in a war like Ukraine would be a war crime, especially if it were used on a city.
I think that we are only a few steps away from criminalizing the use of nuclear weapons, not in law—I think that's going to take a while—but in the creation of a norm that use of nuclear weapons in most instances would be a criminal act. As we have the discourse of war crimes in Ukraine right now, you can connect that to the use of a nuclear weapon and a nuclear threat. I think that is a discourse that we should encourage.
KIMBALL: All right, very thought-provoking. Well, as Professor Tannenwald just said, unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is a rolling crisis. I think you said that the risk of nuclear weapons deployment may rise as this conflict goes on depending on how things go. With that in mind, I mean let me ask Oliver and Ambassador Whyte, if you want to jump in too. What do we need to be thinking about? What do the policy makers need to be thinking about? What needs to be done in order to avoid the kind of escalation that could lead to the second and third level decision, that Nina was talking about, that could lead to nuclear weapons use?
Before I let you answer, I would just note that if everybody saw it in President Biden's guest essay in the New York Times yesterday, he reiterated quite clearly that it is not his intention for the U.S. or NATO forces to become directly engaged with Russian forces in Ukraine but best intentions don't always pan out in these kinds of things. What specifically do U.S. policy makers—NATO policymakers, Russian policymakers—need to be doing to avoid that kind of situation from Europe? I'm sure this is on top of your mind.
MEIER: Thanks Daryl. Yeah, that's something we also discuss in the Deep Cuts Commission. Those of you who are not familiar with the Commission that's been around for almost eight years now, it's a group of German, Russian, and U.S. experts not only discussing the possibility of deep cuts but also looking at ways to reduce nuclear risks. We have also had a Young Deep Cuts Commission since last year. Two Young Deep Cuts Commission members are here. One is going to speak later so that's also something that is in the long term.
I think it is extremely important to bring new people into the field and to have this dialogue not only at the senior level but also to bring new people in. I can honestly say that that’s a very energetic group of people so that's a very important exercise to think about when reducing nuclear risks. Fortunately, we have funding from the German Federal Foreign Office so that's very useful. One of the things we agree on in the commission, and that I think is very Important, and has been mentioned before, is finding ways to replace New START with a new agreement. That's one of the difficult questions. What parcels we're trying to agree on in in the context of possible talks, i cannot really speak for all the commissioners, but i think that's one issue where we all all agree on—that both sides should try to find a way back to the negotiating table in Geneva or elsewhere as quickly as possible and for the reasons that most of you are aware of, not only to keep the restrictions but also to keep the verification and inspection regime in place, which is a way to interact and keep this dialogue also at a working level, which is extremely important.
It's good to hear not only Wendy Sherman this morning but also Bonnie Jenkins recently saying that the US is ready to resume talks whenever, probably at least enter the war. When the war has ended and the peace process is underway, there are different ways of framing when that point in time might be. Let me just say we cannot take this view for granted. There are some in Europe but also in Washington who would argue that the period of arms control of Russia is over, that for the time being—and that’s unspecified—we cannot speak to Russia on these issues.
That's a very dangerous view. Arms control is not something we do as a favor to the other side but it's something that we all profit from. Therefore, again it's essential that we avoid unnecessary arms races. One way to do that is to find a way to replace a New START. It's not much time, even though 2026 sounds far away. We discussed a couple of other issues in the Deep Cuts Commission and let me just throw out some of the ideas because we don't have so much time left.
I think one of the ideas is to have a permanent channel of communication also between NATO and Russia. There are dialogues going on but to institutionalize that maybe NATO-Russia risk reduction centers might be something useful. We need more transparency on non-strategic weapons. President Biden said there's no indication of Russia moving some of its non-strategic weapons in the context of the crisis but we don't really know and we need more transparency on that.
It’s difficult to verify of course but there are other solutions. Pavel Podvig, for example, has written a great paper for the Deep Cuts Commission on verifying the absence of non-strategic nuclear weapons and other nuclear weapons in certain locations—that would be valuable in itself. Before the war broke out and Russia attacked Ukraine, on both sides, there was an overlap in terms of proposals on a moratorium on INF range systems in Europe. Or maybe beyond that could be a building block and that could be reconsidered when the strategic stability dialogue resumes. To just repeat a point, I think for NATO it would be very important in its new strategic concept tolower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. Also there's no necessity to do that and moving in that direction would be very difficult. Another topic that's going to come up in the NATO context and has come up is missile defenses—one of the biggest stumbling blocks for arms control over decades. NATO right now has language in its existing strategic concept that it will not use missile defense to target Russian strategic forces particularly. I think that's the intention and hope that doesn't change because that will just add another imperative for increasing Russian strategic forces. So that's another way to build confidence and prevent unnecessary arms races. Let me stop there.
KIMBALL: I would just note on missile defense, the Biden Administration's missile defense review is still classified along with the Nuclear Posture Review so the public doesn't know what the administration's view on missile defense is and how it relates to arms control. And when does the NATO strategic review finish?
MEIER: Well, the summit is the 25th and 26th. It's the end of the month. It's the first time where the nuclear posture review might follow a NATO strategic concept. We'll see how that plays out.
KIMBALL: All right. Ambassador Whyte, you were talking about the many ways in which Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats have violated the legal norms including the UN charter. And in early March—it was March 2nd—there was a UN General Assembly resolution 141 voting in favor condemning the invasion in general. There was a clause in there condemning the decision by Putin to raise the nuclear alert levels, not the threat per se but to raise the nuclear alert level.
Looking ahead over the next few months—also with respect to the upcoming meeting of states parties of the Treaty and the Prohibition Nuclear Weapons on the June 21 to 23 and then the Nuclear Non-proliferation Review conference beginning August 1—how can the international community—which of course is not some vague thing, it's actual people, it's actual governments—respond to this unprecedented situation? Or is that clause and that resolution going to be enough to send the message to Vladimir Putin that this is not something we should be doing? What are your thoughts about what can be done as a practitioner? What's the menu that you would offer?
WHYTE: Yes, this is a very unprecedented moment. It is creating a dangerous momentum situation. It is creating a sentiment that it is much more dangerous to be a non-nuclear weapon state in terms of the powerlessness and the misperception in some publics. For instance, there has been a lot of discussion about the fact that Ukraine became a non-nuclear weapon status in being portrayed as a historic mistake. This is something that we think is a matter of concern.
Going back first to the normative—because I think it is fundamental to start with how we frame the behavior of states in the international community—the Resolution 11-1 does provide the legal framework that very clearly specifies the illegality and unlawfulness of all of these situations. So that aspect is somewhat covered. It is very clearly also recognizing the Sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity of Ukraine within the internationally recognized borders but also the call to the resolution of the crisis and this war by peaceful means. So that aspect is covered.
But, we need to ask ourselves how the different types of countries in the international community are going to do damage control and take damage control measures that's been done to the international system above all. In that case, I strongly believe that the non-nuclear weapons states are going to continue with the path of compliance with legal obligations. There is going to be an increased commitment towards the signing and ratification of the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Then hopefully we are going to have a very successful first meeting of state parties that is going to undertake.
Most probably, we are going to see many expressions of unequivocal commitment towards the reinforcement of the legal obligations towards non-proliferation and disarmament and overall in the prohibition of nuclear weapons. This moment in time, we are also to expect an agency, leadership, and restraint on the part of the nuclear powers. Of course, many of the of the statements in the media in the last days by the President inviting other officials are welcoming in the sense of receiving this signal of restraint and thoughtful consideration of every single step in behaving in this in this situation—because, above all, what it is difficult to understand from the nuclear deterrence doctrine is that, in these supposed linear steps that follow escalation and potential nuclear use, where is human agency?
Where is human and political leadership like the one that we saw for instance in the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 60s? So in this time and age, we also see and expect the same kind of agency, rational behavior, restraint, and leadership in terms of increasing the nuclear taboo and taking on board arms control measures and initiatives with all the important components of the agenda that you have been mentioning. But, also it is central to include in this global conversation about the problem and the risk of nuclear weapons on what exact responses are going to be given to the increasing concerns of the non-nuclear-weapon states and our security. This is something that cannot be undermined in the agenda.
There is definitely going to be a call to increase the level of relevance of the nuclear security assurances. Of course, I call a very strong call toward nuclear disarmament overall, specific measures for towards risk management and reduction, transparency measures that also allow the rest of the international community to know exactly where we stand, and what responsible and accountability actions we can expect on the side of the nuclear-weapon states and in terms of their response, their message, their communication to the rest of the world and to the next generations.
They are also concerned about other global issues that need to be resolved at the moment. We also have to think about the nuclear problem in a systematic manner, which also means that this international system has to sort out many different global problems. This crisis, as serious as it is, should not distract the international community from addressing the other problems: decarbonization of the economy, global public health. Those are the issues that need to be discussed and make progress in 2022. There is also the need to keep a balanced approach towards the global agenda in the international system so we cannot let ourselves be completely taken off the track of reviving international cooperation to solve the problems of humanity.
KIMBALL: A very rational and reasonable approach from Costa Rica, which of course does not have nuclear weapons or a standing army. So good advice. Well, I'm going to ask Nina Tannenwald a question that is graduate school or above because she can handle it, but it's a question that comes up here. Ambassador Whyte talked about how Ukraine's history has led some to think that Ukraine's problem is due to the fact that it became a non-nuclear weapon state. Of course, there are other nuclear flashpoints around the world other than Ukraine and Europe right now. Looking more broadly, what we need to be thinking about that needs to be done? How is this crisis going to affect the nuclear proliferation and nuclear use scenarios in other places—south Asia, northeast Asia? How do we reinforce the taboo in the years ahead in the wake of this in these other places? So, if you could try to do that briefly because I want to get to some of the questions from the audience. That's why I said it was a tough question.
TANNENWALD: Obviously, the nuclear taboo is simply one of the important norms in the global nuclear normative order. There are other important norms and these are all under threat today as you note, including nonproliferation, disarmament, and deterrence. I would define deterrence as a norm because deterrence—as opposed to war fighting with nuclear weapons—needs to be embedded in shared norms and institutions for it to be stable. So all of these norms are under threat.
There are other flashpoints. We have a looming arms race in East Asia. We have North Korea engaging in testing, so the testing norm is under challenge. We have a situation in India and Pakistan where there seems to be—after the 2019 Pulwama crisis—a greater willingness to engage in the manipulation of risk and to cross thresholds. India and Pakistan have no real security dialogues going on. So, there's a whole bunch of other areas in which nuclear war or an escalation to nuclear use could happen. Before the Ukraine crisis, I thought it was India and Pakistan.
So what can we do? Let me just say just a couple of things about the nuclear taboo. I would like to see a lot more taboo talk in this war. By that, I mean references to the 77-year tradition of non-use, that there's a nuclear taboo, that violating it would be terrible. We have a lot of news articles about whether Putin would use a nuclear weapon. We have people speculating and thinking about wargaming.
Somebody has to do that but there's a way in which those repeated kinds of articles have a kind of goading effect in my view. If Putin were really manly and tough, he might just do this. That's not what we want. I thought that Biden's New York Times Article and Secretary General Stoltenberg’s comments the other day at the news conference—where he reminded Putin that Russia had joined the P5 statement, reiterating the Reagan-Gorbachev statement that nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought—there should be much much more of that. That should be the first response to any reporter's questions. Putin has committed himself to this, reiterated this, and we know it's terrible. Right, that kind of taboo talk.
But more generally, non-proliferation norms are going to be under threat. I think it very much depends on how the war turns out so if Ukraine basically survives the war and is not dismembered then states might conclude that one can respond to this kind of aggression effectively with conventional weapons. If Ukraine is totally dismembered and broken up and Russia takes it over then states may likely interpret that they need nuclear weapons.
Of course, this is especially going to affect Japan and South Korea, where we already see pressures. There's conservative support for the acquisition of nuclear weapons in both South Korea and Japan. The primary goal of U.S. policy toward these regions has to be to prevent war, and it requires a dialogue among the East Asian countries: Japan, South Korea, North Korea. I do not think North Korea is going to become denuclearized anytime soon—that needs to be a long-term goal—but the emphasis needs to be on the unacceptability of war.
U.S. policy should be to prevent war in East Asia, to prevent war in India and Pakistan. That has to be the primary goal, so we do not want new tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Asia or in Europe. There should be a new norm. we can establish a new norm: no new deployments. that would be going in the wrong direction. Rather, the discussions with allies should be about political and military cohesion and political support that is more important with an emphasis on diplomacy. but we need to reinforce the taboo. We need to stigmatize nuclear threats.
When you have a blatant violation of a norm like Putin is doing now with these blatant nuclear threats, it creates an opportunity to strengthen the norm so everybody can see how horrible, inappropriate, irresponsible this is. that provides an opportunity to then strengthen the norm and to stigmatize it. So there may be political support in the General Assembly, for example, to pass resolutions or in other forms to up the discourse about the unacceptability of nuclear threats and stigmatizing leaders who make those kinds of threats.
KIMBALL: So one question that is coming from the audience, Nina, that relates to norms—and I want to ask you to just address this directly—is that Vladimir Putin doesn't care about certain international norms. He's shown that he's ordered his forces to do things that violate certain other norms. We keep talking here about the need to reinforce the nuclear taboo. There has been a nuclear taboo for 77 years. What makes us think that this can be effective? How do you respond to the question that norms don't matter with a guy who doesn't care?
TANNENWALD: That's a great question. Obviously, when you look at all the discourse the genocide discourse in Ukraine—the the the atrocities and so on—you can easily think that a leader who's willing to carry out genocide might not be inhibited about using a nuclear weapon. That is a concern and that's something we should be concerned about.
At the same time, I think that Putin knows and Putin's generals know and his military knows that use of a nuclear weapon by Putin would be a disaster. He would become an instant pariah. There would be global opprobrium and widespread condemnation. It would not benefit Russia. Russian leaders know that it would be a disaster and it would not benefit Russia. It would leave Russia worse off and those points also we can continue to make to Russia. Those points should be part of the talking points that remind Putin why there would be no good outcome from using nuclear weapons.
KIMBALL: All right, we have a couple of other questions here. I want to pitch these to our other panelists here. This is for Oliver. We have a couple of questions about what specific actions and scenarios might lead to intentional or unintentional nuclear use in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Why would Putin potentially use nuclear weapons in a conflict with NATO? What does the Russian nuclear policy actually say?
We've heard u.s intelligence officials say that so far Russia has not removed its taboo nuclear weapons from central storage but is there any risk that there might be some loss of Russian operational control by Putin and some someone lower on the chain might decide to use these weapons? How would you respond quickly to those two questions?
MEIER: Well, let me first take Nina's advice and point out that this would be a totally irresponsible course of action. I'm worried and actually sometimes a bit frightened by the certainty with which some pundits and also some analysts put aside nuclear risks—more so than in the beginning of the war at least in Europe and in Germany but also here. There are a number of pieces now, which basically say that we've managed this for three months now so we can be pretty sure that we've got this under control—either making the argument that Putin is a rational actor and will not use this because he must fear the consequences that nuclear weapons will have little military use or because he's so irrational that, no matter what we do and what our support for Ukraine is, it will not affect Russian nuclear thinking anyway.
This kind of over-determined argument here makes it very difficult to counter, but the risks are real. There are a range of scenarios where it might appear to the Russian leadership to improve their position. The most discussed scenario is that the war continues to go against Russia and we don't know where it's going—let's just re-emphasize that there's a great deal of uncertainty and speculation here—but he might hope to turn the tide by demonstrating resolve by either testing or maybe even demonstrating nuclear use either militarily or over some unpopulated area or something like that. The response that was outlined in the New York Times article makes clear that—even in such a scenario—there are ways to strengthen the taboo without resuming nuclear use. We've seen military action in the west of Ukraine with long-range systems attacks against Kyiv and other cities that are far removed with long-range systems. If these go off target—I think one of these targets was also on a day that an Indian cruise missile accidentally veered into Pakistan—it's not difficult to imagine similar things going on, particularly if they're dual-capable systems that you don't know what kind of system is coming your way.
You've seen the sinking of the Moskva, a major battleship. Imagine that going the other way and an accidental sinking of a U.S. battleship in the Black Sea. There are scenarios where things can get difficult and can get quickly out—particularly because the Russian signaling is extremely confusing. You've seen a statement by the Russian ambassador in London excluding the possibility of use of non-strategic weapons. At the same time, you have members of the Russian Duma ranting about using nuclear weapons in Germany and other countries. Presumably, they're not doing this just in their own capacity, so this also makes it extremely dangerous because it's very difficult to read nuclear signals coming from Russia at the moment.
KIMBALL: All right, dangerous times as we said. I'm going to ask one question to each of you and I'd like to ask you to answer briefly because we're running out of time. Then we've got one final question I'm going to answer in 15 seconds before we shift to the next part of our program.
We've often been told that nuclear weapons use is unthinkable. But, we’re thinking about it. How would each of you recommend to Jen Stoltenberg or Joe Biden how he should respond if there were nuclear weapons used by Russia in Ukraine or a demonstration test or if Russia used nuclear weapons first in a conflict with NATO? Keep in mind that if Russia used nuclear weapons against NATO, there's a high risk that there's retaliation with nuclear weapons. Nina Tannenwald, what would you say to the President?
TANNENWALD: Well, he's already made what I think is the correct decision, which is that retaliation should not be in kind so that the US has overwhelming conventional superiority and can respond conventionally. If we're trying to maintain a norm or if we're trying to maintain a taboo, we don't want to engage in the behavior we're trying to stigmatize. There's a parallel here with chemical weapons. If Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine, the United States would not respond with a chemical strike. We'd respond conventionally. So we should respond with overwhelming conventional force but there are lots of things that we could do.
MEIER: I absolutely agree. In addition, I think we should immediately go to the UN and try to get an agreement first in the Security Council. And then there is no new way to move directly to the general assembly if there's a Russian veto to make sure that Russia is not only a rogue state but a pariah state. And it would be very difficult even for the 35 states that supported Russia on March 2nd to support Russia in that instance. So you would isolate Russia also at a global level and that would be also another way of strengthening the norm and making clear that this is totally unacceptable.
KIMBALL: Ambassador Whyte?
WHYTE: I would tell them on behalf of most citizens of the world to have a very wide and solid basket of options of non-nuclear responses to any such scenario. We know that reflection has been made so reiterating that they need to resort to as many legal measures as possible that are non-nuclear responses.
KIMBALL: All right, thank you very much. We have one other question. I'm going to try to answer it very quickly and then we're going to close. One question that's come up—it was referred to by Wendy Sherman—is the expiration of the new strategic arms reduction treaty on February 5, 2026. All of you mentioned this too. The question is what are the chances for deeper cuts in strategic nuclear weapons now given the situation of the expiration of a new start?
That's actually a very good question for Assistant Secretary of State Mallory Stewart who's going to be our keynote speaker but I would just note that we have been living for 50 years with some kind of US-Soviet-Russian bilateral arms control agreement. The first one was negotiated by the man who would become a board member of the Arms Control Association, Gerard Smith. It was concluded on May 26, 1972. So none of us really here except for a few distinguished individuals here have been living in a world without bilateral arms control and it would be difficult to see how it gets any better without it.
So, I think it remains in the interest of the US and Russia to find a way to maintain at the very least the limits established by a New START. There are multiple ways to do this: formal negotiated agreements—which look unlikely at the moment—but also unilateral reciprocal measures to respect the central limits of a new start. So, I hope the team at the State Department, the Whyte House, and in Russia are thinking hard about this and considering what's at stake.
But we are out of time for this first panel discussion. Before we move on, I want to thank our panelists for taking on some really tough issues. This has been an enriching discussion for me. I hope you all agree so please thank me or join me in thanking Ambassador Whyte, Oliver Meier, and Nina Tannenwald.
PANEL 2 | “Restoring Nonproliferation and Disarmament Guardrails”
KELSEY DAVENPORT: Good morning, everybody. My name is Kelsey Davenport and I’m the Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association. Thank you so much for joining us today for our annual meeting in our 50th-anniversary celebration. Personally, I hope we can put the Arms Control Association out of business, so we don't have to come back to celebrate the 100th anniversary but we'll see.
It really is this question of looking to the future that's guiding today's panel topic: restoring non-proliferation and disarmament guard rails. And for the next hour, we're going to look at future challenges to the broader non-proliferation and disarmament regime and really see how the NPT and its related instruments can respond to those challenges to meet the array of nuclear threats that we're seeing. Because if we look at the regime at large, we're facing a complex array of challenges from a rise in nuclear threats that we heard about in the last panel concerning about the emergence of new nuclear states—a pillar of the arms control architecture, US-Russian arms control and the future of that really being at risk.
So thank you so much for joining us today to discuss these questions and more. I couldn't be more pleased with the panel that we've gathered. You have your full bios in their program so i'm just going to read their titles but we're going to start today with Tom Countryman.
Tom is the former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation. We're also going to hear from Jamie Kwong. She is a Stanton pre-doctoral fellow at the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And we're going to hear from Eric Brewer, a senior director of the nuclear materials security program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
So Tom, I'd like to start with you. US-Russian arms control has really been a crucial element of the broader arms control and disarmament regime. And we heard from Wendy Sherman in the video just how much we've accomplished in terms of arsenal reduction since the height of the Cold War and it would seem that President Biden really puts a high priority on this topic. One of his first actions in office was of course to extend New START. He resumed strategic stability talks with Moscow so again it seems quite clear that he views this as a priority. But, given the Russian invasion in Ukraine, what can we expect from strategic stability dialogue in the future? Is there a possibility of resumption and can we see future arms control between the US and Russia given current geopolitics?
THOMAS COUNTRYMAN: Well thank you, Kelsey. First, let me say congratulations to you and Daryl and the entire team on 50 years of effective and inspiring work. The ACA is effective in part because it is inspiring and I'm really happy to be together again in person with members and supporters. I've been a guest at these annual meetings. I’ve been a host at these annual meetings. I'm back to being a guest because I'm momentarily employed by the Department of State in helping to prepare for the Non-proliferation Treaty review conference in August and assisting Ambassador Scheinman in that task.
Now your question, Kelsey. You'll get a better answer from Assistant Secretary Stewart when she speaks later today, but I know you're all the impatient types. That's why you're in the arms control business. So instead of waiting for the ideal answer, I'll give you a half-decent answer.
It has to start with why it is not possible at this moment to continue the strategic stability dialogue that commenced with some promise between Moscow and Washington. It's not only that Russia's action in Ukraine has put a dent in all three pillars of the Non-proliferation Treaty. Irresponsible talk about nuclear weapons use and outright threats of nuclear weapons use means that the important statement that five Presidents made in January was immediately undermined by one of them before the end of February—and that can't be ignored.
In the Non-proliferation Pillar, there are some who argue that this creates incentive for other states to pursue nuclear weapons programs. I think that concern is overstated but the fact that it's being discussed means that the effect is real. On peaceful uses, having active combat in a country with 15 operating nuclear reactors is a challenge to the concept of peaceful uses of nuclear energy we haven't faced before but there's something bigger than even the effect on the Non-proliferation Treaty. That is the truly unprecedented nature of a 21st century country reverting to 17th century behavior and treating power as a means to extend one's territorial control over its neighbor.
This is a more fundamental challenge to the rules-based order in the world. I think it is more fundamental than the way many have put it as an argument between democracy and autocracy. It is a reason that there cannot be at this moment simply business as usual—even on a topic as crucial as strategic stability between the two powers.
You're absolutely correct that President Biden is committed to this. We've never had a president come into office with such a long history and a deep interest in nuclear policy and in arms control. And he is fully aware of the need to get back onto that path. I think it's also important that in my opinion we've never had a president who cared so much what allies and partners and other countries think and who has made a more intensive effort to consult with allies and non-allied friends on all manner of issues. So I think there should be no doubt about the determination of his administration to get back on track with arms control with the Russian Federation and to find the right path to open that dialogue with China as well for which we don't have a precedent in history.
When we get there, I think the goals have already been well articulated. We have to not only continue limitations on strategic delivery vehicles, which has been the main thing that we have discussed. We have to address the question of unconventional and in my view irrational weapon systems and delivery systems that have been developed on the Russian side. We have to find a way to talk about so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons, although I've never met a nuclear weapon that isn't strategic. And we have to be able to put it on the table as well and discuss the questions that concern the Russian Federation. There is inevitably a give and a take in any negotiation of this type. I think we will get back there but I hope that at the base I've made clear there's a damn good reason we can't do it next week.
DAVENPORT: Well, I certainly take your point that that we can't do it next week but in a few months—the question of arms control, what's perceived as a slow pace of disarmament, frustration over the lack of progress on Article six—all of that is going to come up if the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review conference is actually finally held. I'm not sure I'm going to believe it until I see it at this point in August.
So, how is the United States going to approach that review conference? How are you going to answer for this real frustration about the lack of progress on Article six?
COUNTRYMAN: Well first, let's talk about the general approach and one of the silver linings to the health crisis of the last couple of years is that—due to delay of the conference and the advent of of web video technology—we have consulted more widely with more states party to the treaty than the US has ever done before previous review conferences. I think that we've been clear to all that we are looking for a positive outcome, a successful outcome, at the treaty, that we will engage seriously study every question, discuss openly what is good and what is less acceptable, and will work towards an outcome—whether it's a single document as has been the case at some review conferences or a set of documents that has been the case at other review conferences that accomplishes a few goals.
First, it reflects a genuine honest review of what has and hasn't worked in the treaty, where we've accomplished goals, and where we have failed. Second, that it points away forward with meaningful achievable steps in all three pillars. But third and since February, we have to think about something else as well. Does it speak exactly to the problems that we have as a result of Russia's action?
Obviously, we're not going to have in a consensus a condemnation of Russia but can we talk about the ways that it has driven a tank into those three pillars, find the right language to prevent that or to discourage such behavior, and do something to rectify things. Some of that is more easily done. We can talk, for example, on the second pillar about the need to discourage any new state from leaving the Treaty and pursuing a weapons program. That depends both in part in talking about Article 10 the Withdrawal Clause of the Treaty and in the strongest possible statements from all leaders that we will oppose any new weapons program by a new country—no matter which country.
That's important on the third pillar. We can talk about positives as security assurances. We can talk about the ways that the members of the treaty—the state's party—are committed to addressing nations that suffer radiological risk due to military action against their country.
The hard part is in the first pillar. What you say about how the Russian action has damaged not just the credibility of the five, although—to be fair—it only damages the credibility of one of the P5 groupings but has demeaned the power of security assurances whether they are legally binding or otherwise. That's what we ought to be concerned about. I'd like to pick up on what Professor Tannenwald said about the blatant violation of a taboo. The immediate undermining of an otherwise very positive statement by the five nuclear weapon states creates an opportunity to strengthen the taboo and here I have heard many folks—including some in this room—saying the obvious opportunity to strengthen that taboo and make a strong statement is at the review conference.
I agree that's logical. It is not, however, realistic because so far I have not seen a reaction from the rest of the world to the threats that Russia has made. I've heard a lot of NATO leaders say this is unacceptable, but I've not heard the presidents or foreign ministers from countries outside of NATO to say this is outrageous. Whether that's from a misguided notion that they have to be neutral and not offend Moscow, that's one issue.
But the failure to stand up for principles at the highest level of government leads me to have no confidence that folks several layers down in those governments are going to be able to agree on a meaningful statement in New York. Nor will it have the same power coming out of a review conference as it could have if say 50 or 100 foreign ministers signed a very simple statement saying nothing about Moscow or Kiev but simply saying these kinds of threats are unacceptable in the 21st century.
Since I don't see that happening and I see too many countries willing to sacrifice crucial principles of the world order out of a misjudgment of what geopolitics demands makes me a little bit pessimistic about addressing that at the conference. But, all of that said, on your second part of your question was specifically Article six, our commitment to Article six is strong. It was not restated during the previous administration but the Biden Administration has restated it.
We know that it involves arms control negotiations. We also believe strongly that it includes risk reduction measures that are incumbent not just in a bilateral context but among the five nuclear weapon states that must involve the non-nuclear weapon states as well. Risk reduction is not a substitute for disarmament but it is the more urgent question given the development of the last three months. It therefore requires the most urgent action from the review conference so those are just a couple of points about Article six but no one should doubt that the United States recognizes the legally binding obligation to continue to pursue arms reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear arsenals.
DAVENPORT: Thank you, Tom for kind of giving us the US perspective about what we might see at the review conference. Jamie, I'd like to bring you into the conversation when the review conference was scheduled for January. It already promised to be acrimonious and—now for the various reasons that Tom laid out related to the Russian Invasion—it promises to be an even more trying conference. So Tom laid out what he thinks might be possible. I’d love to get your perspective.
What could we realistically hope to achieve at the review conference and what in your mind would make it a success? I know we have to look kind of beyond just the final document as an indicator of success, so what are you going to be looking for?
JAMIE KWONG: Well, firstly thank you so much Kelsey and to the Arms Control Association for inviting me to speak today. It's an honor to be a part of the 50th anniversary celebration, so I think these are a really important set of questions and I'll kind of broadly touch on a couple scene setting points that hopefully we can dive into some more.
But I think, ultimately, firstly we can expect the atmosphere to be really bad. The Iran nuclear deal is in flux. North Korea is likely going to test a seventh nuclear weapon. We have these strange relations amongst the P5. The TPNW first meeting of states parties will be a month before the revcon. As we've discussed, we have Russia's invasion of an NPT compliant non-nuclear weapon state. I think this war in particular has really hardened people's positions on nuclear issues. And this is something I've talked quite a lot about with my KCL colleague Amelia Morgan.
But you have on the one hand nuclear weapon states saying “look this is why we need deterrence, this is why we need nuclear weapons” versus you have TPNW supporters “saying look this is why deterrence is risky, this is why we need to get rid of these weapons.” So, all of this will express itself at the revcon through lots of finger pointing, nasty rights of reply, maybe even delegates walking out during each other's speeches and so to take quite a cynical approach the prospects for progress are quite low especially on the disarmament pillar.
But that said, fundamentally no one wants to break the NPT, right. Everybody recognizes it plays a critical role in the global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture and so I think there's an obvious opportunity to state that quite clearly at the revcon and hopefully at high political levels as well.
But what else can we realistically expect beyond that kind of low hanging fruit? Well I think it's important to think along kind of a spectrof ambition and really think quite critically about how ambitious we should strive to be in August. So on the lower end for example, I think we can expect that there will be language to acknowledge the TPNW, right? I think even nuclear weapon states have come to the point where there's a recognition we need to do so. However, the question still remains what exactly will that look like?
Kind of moving up in ambition, I think we can certainly expect a continued commitment to cooperation amongst the P3—US, UK, France—but there's also an opportunity here for China to demonstrate its commitment to continued cooperation amongst the nuclear weapon states while dialogue with Russia remains unfeasible.
Obviously, that will be quite politically challenging for Beijing, but it could draw on some of their attempts to demonstrate their leadership in this space.
Then, finally on the more ambitious end, and what I'd really consider success is if states parties use the repcon to adopt a forward-looking approach and really set up a successful 2025 review cycle. This gets to Tom's point as well that we really should be looking forward.The 10th revcon is not the end all of the NPT and so I think there's opportunities to really think about what are realistic opportunities for medium-term progress. And I agree that risk reduction is really a critical one there.
DAVENPORT: So, as you said, risk reduction is a space where you might be able to see some progress but I think there might also be room in some of the multilateral initiatives that support the NPT such as the Stockholm Initiative, such as the P5 process. In a piece you wrote for Carnegie in January, you referred to these as NPT adjacent, a term that I thought was very descriptive.
So can we look to these types of initiatives for opportunities to reduce risk and just given the challenges facing the NPT is the future in these forums as we look to to advance arms control and disarmament objectives?
KWONG: Sure yeah. So I think these NPT adjacent forums are critical right and kind of for three interrelated reasons. First and foremost, they help to maintain dialogue especially when the atmospherics are as challenging as they are. Secondly, they're doing a lot of important leg work to kind of set ourselves up for that future success that I mentioned. And thirdly and somewhere, I think there's more room to improve on is there's great opportunities for coordination and collaboration amongst them, including a kind of a division of labor. But of course, I think that all of this work still does need to feed back into the revcon and the NPT more broadly because as challenging as revcons can be, at the end of the day, that is the gathering where all states parties can really exercise their voice on these issues.
But, I really think that the bigger question here is what exactly do we mean by risk reduction. So Heather Williams wrote a really interesting piece on this recently, but we have a lot of current discussions on risk reduction measures that are really focusing on how we can address misperception, inadvertent escalation, and the like. I think that's really important and something we should be striving towards. But, as the last panel kind of addressed, what happens when a nuclear weapon state is purposely increasing nuclear risks? What are we supposed to do then? And so I think that suggests that at the most fundamental level we really need a serious discussion of what risks are we striving to reduce.
And kind of in the interest of time I'll go ahead and stop there but I'm happy to go into more detail about the individual groupings and their risk reduction efforts and ways ahead.
DAVENPORT: So that is a good cue to remind the audience that if you have questions please feel free to write them in the cards on your table. Hold them up. My colleagues will be circulating to pick them up.
But now I want to move to the non-proliferation side of things and we've seen a number of states make threats to pursue nuclear weapons in recent years. Just in december, Foreign Affairs did a survey of experts asking if we'd see the number of nuclear-armed states rise in the next 10 years and I would say expert opinion was fairly mixed, and since then we've seen the invasion of ukraine and that's raised questions about the value of nuclear weapons. The nuclear deal with Iran, whether or not that's going to be restored that still sort of remains unresolved, so Eric—moving on to you—mean do you think the risk of proliferation is rising and if so what factors do you see driving states to more seriously consider nuclear weapons?
ERIC BREWER: Thank you, Kelsey. First of all thank you for having me here today. To you into the Arms Control Association, it's a real pleasure to be here.
I answered that question. I was one of the people who asked that question for Foreign Affairs and I think my answer was neutral with a high degree of confidence, but I debated between that and yes there would be proliferation with a low degree of confidence. I'll unpack that a little bit in the remainder of this question, but the bottom line is that—yes—I do think the risks of proliferation are rising. But of course, the question of whether or not a country or any country really crosses that nuclear threshold depends on a lot of things and it's not a given.
I think the greater risk is that rather than a whole slew of new nuclear weapons possessing states, we end up in a world where more countries either advance or develop the ability to build and deliver nuclear weapons should they choose to do so as a hedge. We live in this world of more hedgers and the reason why I'm worried about that is because—when you take a look at kind of the trend lines and the factors that we all look at and assess when countries whether or not countries are going to proliferate—a lot of those are moving in the wrong direction.
We've talked about some of those today but I'll talk about a few more. The first is that there's growing nuclear weapons threats which we've covered today and worse in regional security environments. It's not determinative of proliferation but it certainly kind of sows the seeds for some of those risks. As countries take a look around and look at the environment that they're living in, almost all nuclear weapons states are increasing their nuclear arsenals: Russia, China, North Korea. A lot of countries in those regions are also worried about those countries’ conventional capabilities. And, in the Iran case, Iran is probably less than a week or a week away from being able to produce enough material for a weapon.
So, I think that's another threat that's out there. I think that's something we need to factor into these assessments. I wouldn't say that Europe is high on my list as an area that I look at for proliferation concerns. NATO is probably the most cohesive and strongest it's been in a while today, but there have been some alarming signals.
I think there was a really good article that was written in the Bulletin recently by Alex Linoska and Lawrence Duken who did a survey of a series of Eastern European countries and not only did they find strong support for NATO and they actually found strong support for national nuclear weapons programs. I think Poland was one where about two-thirds favored or would support developing a national nuclear weapons program so that's again not determinative. It’s a political decision to produce and so I don't want to overstate that but it's something I think we need to keep our eye on when we talk about these erosion of non-proliferation norms.
Looking at Asia, countries in the region are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing North Korean nuclear threat, the threat posed by China as well and some of the aggressive postures of China. I would point to another study that's been done by Carl Freedoff, Toby Dalton, and Tony Lamikim that again surveyed South Koreans. They found 70 percent support nuclear weapons.
Now, that number is not necessarily higher than we've seen in the past, but what they did find that's particularly alarming is when survey participants were asked “Would it change your opinion if you were sanctioned or if the US withdrew troops from the Peninsula?” They said no. It didn't really move the needle for them so when we look at the utility of some of these tools and I think the factors that are actually driving or inhibiting nuclear weapons proliferation that's another factor we have to look at.
We're in development and in the Middle East. I already talked about the risk of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Again, a nuclear Iran but also Iran that's sort of on the cusp is quite worrying when it comes to concerns about proliferation in the region and countries like Saudi Arabia potentially hedging or doing otherwise.
The second is the kind of trend line that I worry about—and it sounds a little weird saying this—now but this was certainly a debate and a real issue of concern in the Trump administration, which is that countries remain concerned about US credibility and the credibility of US security commitments.
Again, NATO is probably stronger than it's ever been. The Biden Administration has done an excellent job and I think deserves a lot of credit for repairing US alliances in Asia and improving those relationships. but I think this is a longer term question for a lot of countries and it's not just about security commitments per se but it's about the broader question of US leadership in the world.
Is the United States going to continue to support and defend the international system that it helped create and lead? These are longer-term questions that drive these concerns. The reason why they're worrying is because—if you look at history and what's driven countries to pursue or consider nuclear weapons—a big part of it has been—at least for those countries that receive US protection—whether or not they buy into that view. South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, and others so I think that's another area that bears watching.
The final point that I'll highlight here is one that is kind of hard to get our heads around but I think there's also a concern that we may be entering into an era where non-proliferation as a goal is taking a back seat to some other strategic objectives that we have. This isn't to say we don't care about non-proliferation or we don't prioritize. We do but as a consequence or an outcome of other choices right—and we've seen instances of this throughout history—we've had periods where we've gone through in cases where we've gone through where other issues have trumped non-proliferation. Israel and Pakistan are two clear-cut examples.
In this case, it's perhaps our prioritization of strategic competition that is kind of readying for competition with China and Russia and doing more to enable our allies and partners to do more for their own defense. Of course, there's definitely a pull element of that as well. They want to do more but in some instances some of those choices are in tension with non-proliferation goals. And I'll just highlight two here, but we can talk about more of these later.
The ending of the the limits on South Korea's missile program in May of last year, which has allowed South Korea to develop longer-range solid propellant missiles—which was as mentioned earlier although not directly related to this—they're developing a conventionally armed capability and then the nuclear-powered submarine arrangement under that which we have to move forward on that very carefully in a way that sets positive non-proliferation precedence because it could go in the other direction as well and set some negative precedence that could make it easier for for other countries to divert material for nuclear weapons or to embark on enrichment programs to fuel nuclear reactors for submarines.
So, I'm really pleased to see that the participants in that arrangement have recognized that and are prioritizing non-proliferation as an element of that because it's important. I’m not arguing we shouldn't prioritize China as a major challenge or threat or we shouldn't have done office or we shouldn't have done some of these other things. All I'm saying is that we need to be more deliberate and think probably both inside and outside of government to think about the non-proliferation consequences of some of these decisions and think about how to best mitigate them.
DAVENPORT: Thanks, Eric. I certainly agree with you on the risk. Well, I agreed with everything you said. Well okay, I did disagree on one thing and answered the Foreign Affairs survey as well and I think I said no but low confidence. So we had some divergence there but I certainly agree with you on wanting to highlight the risk of new states engaging in hedging activity. The tension between non-proliferation priorities and and other priorities raises the question: is the US playbook adequate for guarding against some of these hedging concerns?
You mentioned South Korea. Now, we have Iran rich in reaching 60 percent. That raises the risk of whether or not higher levels of enrichment will become a norm. So my question is are there steps that you think the United States and the international community could be taking to better prevent proliferation to try to guard against some of this hedging? Or do you think the current playbook is adequate?
BREWER: It's a great question and the way that I've been trying to think about
This is kind of along these lines. What is the future proliferation environment going to look like and where will threats stem from? Is it going to look like the past 30 years roughly where threats primarily stem from so-called rogue states, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Iraq, in an environment where countries are hiding their capabilities, where it's a unipolar era, where the US can has has a lot of ability to drive the discussion and drive the agenda.
For those who don't want to go along, you pull them along kicking and screaming perhaps in some cases. Is it going to look like that environment where the kind of the name of the game for US policy is trying to kind of pressure countries and leaders to make a change in assessments about their programs and be willing to put constraints on them? Is it going to look like that or is it going to look like maybe the 30-ish years before that where proliferation challenges stemmed not just from so-called rogue states but from a variety of different other types of countries, allies, partners that don't fit neatly into one category or the other areas, where the United States power and influence is not unrivaled and not unchallenged?
And I would argue it's probably not going to fit either of those worlds precisely and—obviously that's a bit of an artificial distinction—but I think I'm worried it's going to look more like the former than the pre-Cold War era than the last 30 years. I’m worried that we're not thinking about that. We're not quite prepared for that type of world where some of these other tools that we've developed and honed and used over the past 30 years—some of the more polar counter proliferation oriented tools and sabotage interdictions—aren't going to be as useful in this coming era, right.
If we look back again to the 1970s and 1980s where we had challenges of proliferation from countries like Taiwan and South Korea, it was a serious effort to unwind those programs as I'm sure many of us lived through in some cases. It was a real challenge to take those back. It took decades and it took the United States putting some pretty severe consequences on the table as part of those efforts including removing U.S. troops, including ending civil nuclear cooperation.
I think it's an open question whether we would be able to or would be willing to put some of those consequences on the table today if we ever encountered similar types of situations—and now there's a debate as well as to whether we should. I think the other area that has me concerned about this in terms of tools is that perhaps our most valuable tool—which has been diplomacy—and our ability to negotiate and conclude and sustain arms control and non-proliferation agreements is coming under strain in the future. I worry part of that's because of the US domestic political scene right now and the types of agreements that are sort of sought after and the maximalist nature of some of those agreements.
But also I think that parties who would enter into these agreements about the U.S. ability to sustain commitments and the concern that those commitments could dissolve over the course of one election. And the second part of that is U.S. cooperation with Russia and China on non-proliferation is going to become harder. I don't think it's one of those issues that we can kind of just assume will be walled off from the other tensions. From this sort of more competitive environment, we're gonna have to make a real deliberate effort to sustain that—and that's something that we should do.
Just a couple sort of concluding sort of recommendations on how do we manage this environment, I would go back to what I said the outside which is one I think we need to have a bigger debate—a bigger discussion—and a strategy discussion about what is this environment going to look like and what does the United States, our allies, and the international community need to do to manage that Iran in particular.
The real concern that Iran could remain at this threshold capability or develop nuclear weapons means we need to try and return to the JCPOA as soon as possible or figure out another way another agreement to limit Iran's program because of the concerns that could be incredibly damaging to the non-proliferation regime and potentially lead to follow-on proliferation. And I think on top of that—which we can talk about more in the Q&A—we also have to pivot to focusing on a regionally driven set of solutions that can likewise provide limits on certain nuclear activities and add transparency.
So, I'm probably over time so I'll just stop there and we can discuss the rest during Q&A.
DAVENPORT: Well, if you were over time I did not notice because of the excellent comments. Now, I'm going to turn to questions from the floor. I already have a few. If you have more questions, please feel free to write them on the cards on your table and then if you hold them up my colleagues Gabriella and Leanne will be circulating to collect them. So thank you to those of you who have already submitted questions.
I'm going to start with one about the P5. So what do you see as possible at the review conference, specifically by the P5 collectively? Something that could be done without normalizing Russian behavior? And there's a specific question here about whether or not a reiteration of the Reagan Gorbachev formulation—would that be a cynical exercise given Russian nuclear threats? So, Tom and Jamie, I don't know if you would like to weigh in.
COUNTRYMAN: On that action that the P5 might be able to take collectively, I don't know and I say that with high confidence. The P5 did some great work between 2009 and 2015. It did very little of value until last year and we had a reasonably good meeting of the group in December in Paris. It led to a number of statements intended for discussion at the revcon including a declaration by four presidents and a prime minister that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And while most of the world focused on that sentence, I urge everyone to read the entire one-page statement because it has much else of value including an explicit statement that nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes only—and that should matter as well in the current environment.
The same considerations about Russia's not just violation but detonation of important international norms means that if we can't do the higher priority strategic stability dialogue at this moment, it's a lot harder to do the lower priority although lower visibility P5 process. So, I can't predict at this point whether the P5 will have something meaningful to say as a group at the review conference other than the important statements we made in December and January that are already put forward.
Now by the way, the United States yesterday assumed the chairmanship of this group for the next year or so. One of the things that we'd like to do is to talk about the N5 rather than the P5, to distinguish the particular role of nuclear weapon states under the NPT from the particular role of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. But, also recognize that, interchangeably we'll be saying P5 and N5 for a while.
The fun thing about the five is the negotiation of a joint statement on any topic and what you end up with is a lowest common denominator statement, which sometimes is still pretty good—better than no statement at all. The good news or again a silver lining in the current situation is that the three—France, United Kingdom, the United States—can say some meaningful things and their lowest common denominator is going to be not nearly as low as the common denominator at five. so I think that you will see some useful statements from the three—some useful initiatives.
There is certainly an imperative for the three of us to distinguish ourselves from the irresponsible behavior of a nuclear weapon state that we've seen. And since China was mentioned, I think it is useful to maintain the distinction between the irresponsible behavior by a nuclear power in the case of Russia and to remind ourselves we have not seen that same level of irresponsibility from China, although we have other criticisms of them. I'll stop there.
KWONG: I'll just add onto that. I think a great opportunity for the P3 to demonstrate their cooperation and efforts to continue this intersectional progress, perhaps they could host a smaller version of the doctrine side event that originally the P5 had committed towards, which I really just don't see as politically feasible in August. Something to think about as well is if you can't be operating in this grouping, are there opportunities for these individual nuclear weapon states to be making unilateral reaffirmations?
I certainly would agree that doing so in concert carries a bit more weight, but again while the politics are hard is that an opportunity? Of course, the question then comes up: should we still be questioning the credibility of these commitments when we're seeing one of the nuclear weapon states invading a non-nuclear weapon state?
Just to add one more thing—kind of outside of the revcon itself—I think the P5 commitment after the December meeting to create a young professionals network is a great opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to supporting cooperation and coordination amongst the P5 at the track two-level and really encouraging the next-gen to be continuing these conversations when they're not quite feasible at the track 1.5 or track one levels—I think is a great way to demonstrate a continued commitment to looking forward.
COUNTRYMAN: And I think that group has its first meeting next week
DAVENPORT: So, I'm going to turn to North Korea and maybe I'll ask you to weigh in on this first, Eric—but Tom and Jamie if you want to jump in afterwards feel free. So this question is how significant is the failure to impose further sanctions on North Korea? And I assume this might be referring to recent Security Council efforts led by the United States that were vetoed after North Korea's recent missile launches. And does the vastly diverging interests of the permanent members of the UN Security Council mean that the costs of proliferation are now lower? And could this trend drive further proliferation?
BREWER: That's a good question. So we'll take the example of the recent sort of fracture of the UN Security Council over the proposal that was put forward to increase sanctions on North Korea in response to the series of ICBM tests. On the one hand, I do think that is significant and that is kind of the first time that that's happened I think since 2006 where Russia and China vetoed one of those resolutions. So, from that standpoint, it's an important marker of where things stand and it certainly signals that resolutions down the roads are going to continue to be difficult and challenging for those same reasons.
There was a comment by a Chinese official that said that the United States is unhelpfully forcing this discussion now because it's sort of seen things through this lens of its conflict with China and Russia. I mean there's probably an element of truth to that but there's it's kind of like “look in the mirror,” right? In this case too because I think China and Russia are also viewing these dynamics through similar lenses.
And unfortunately I'm a little skeptical that even if there was another nuclear test by North Korea, I'm sure you'd have another resolution. I bet you'd have another resolution probably condemning the test—maybe some type of additional sanctions in place. But I don't think it's as automatic as it used to be because of these new types of tensions that have cropped up in the relationship and that now pervade the Security Council.
That's going to be a challenge moving forward and is that going to mean that other proliferators will sort of take away that they can move forward without consequences? I’m not sure that is really going to be a determining factor about whether a future country will or will not move forward but it certainly doesn't help that calculus.
DAVENPORT: So I should have apologized in advance if I butcher the wording on anybody's question. I really thought if I read my father's handwriting, I could read everybody else's but a few of these have been a bit challenging. Perhaps because I’ve been so used to typing in the virtual world of the pandemic. But I want to now perhaps combine non-proliferation and the NPT a bit more directly for this next question, which is what are the implications for the NPT review conference if the JCPOA has not been restored by then? Certainly, we could see that as another flash point so I will open the panel to who might want to weigh in on.
COUNTRYMAN: The implications would be negative but not necessarily dramatically significant. The review conference has not and will not be this time a place where the fate of the JCPOA and the strategic direction of Iran are decided. But, certainly to get back to the JCPOA, which should be in the common interest of everybody who does not want to see a new war in the Middle East, if we fail to get back to it, it will hurt the atmosphere but does it dramatically change an outcome document? I don't think so.
DAVENPORT: Would other of you like to weigh in?
KWONG: I’d probably agree. To get back to my point, there's a lot of challenges that are going to make for a difficult atmosphere at revcon—the JCPOA being one of them—but we're facing a lot so it's not going to be the end-all be-all.
BREWER: The JCPOA, there's a lot of different views on that on the deal. In my mind, it still remains the least unattractive option for the United States when it comes to limiting Iran's nuclear program. I take the point of folks who say that changes over time have made it less useful, right? It's not quite the deal it was in 2015 but when you look at the available alternatives that are out there, it still strikes me as the best among them.
Moreover if you are concerned about all of these other nuclear challenges we've talked about—North Korea, if you want to prioritize China as the biggest challenge the United States, and the pivot to asia—it strikes me that taking a deal that even if not the perfect deal is nevertheless quite good at limiting Iran's program and and adding a lot of transparency to that program. It strikes me that that is the best strategic choice so that's kind of the way that I've been thinking about it. I would agree with my colleagues’ comments on the NPT review conference.
The only other time I would make—because this is somewhat relevant to Iran as well—this idea of Iran sort of at the cusp of a nuclear weapon or this risk that there might be additional nuclear hedgers out there. I think that poses additional challenges for disarmament as well and having to grapple with what that blurry line right between sort of purely peaceful and weapons looks like. I think that could potentially be more challenging to advance the disarmament goals that we have.
DAVENPORT: Staying on the topic of the NPT, Jamie, maybe I'd ask you to take kind of the first stop at this question. Will too much focus on the condemnation of Russia's actions create new dividing lines at the NPT, further undermining the prospects for its relative success. So we discussed a lot about why it's important to condemn Russia but I think asking about the consequences is important. So what do you think?
KWONG: I think that that's a big possibility. I certainly agree with the comments that have been made that there needs to be a clear condemnation of Russia's behavior and actions again against an NPT-compliant non-nuclear weapon state. That said, getting to my point, it's really important to preserve the NPT so I think we still do need to focus on areas for opportunity and progress to ensure that the revcon doesn't implode the treaty—which to be clear I don't think it will but to really safeguard our efforts and make sure that our progress isn't derailed, which touches on the point as well of making sure that the rev con is kind of insulated from external semi-tangential issues.
For example, I think AUKUS could come up from the Chinese delegation, saying “look, we have concerns that the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia are challenging non-proliferation norms.” Certainly, that's a topic of discussion but I don't think that these external issues should derail the progress and focus on the three pillars of the treaty and doing a good faith review of the treaty as Tom mentioned.
COUNTRYMAN: Two points on that. First, I agree and it follows also on what both Nina and Jamie have said that a frontal assault on the key concepts of the treaty by the Russian federation makes everything harder. But it is also an opportunity and I think it reinforces what most nations should feel: that this is not just a routine review conference. This is happening at a moment when basic tenants of the treaty are being actively undermined and therefore there is a greater need than ever to come to the defense of the treaty, to reiterate that it is not just relevant but important and central to the global rules-based order, and that we are determined to strengthen it against all challenges.
So as difficult as Russia's war has made it, it actually gives me a little bit of optimism that states are going to focus on that central goal of keeping the treaties strong, vibrant, and in the forefront of leaders minds rather than quibbling about whether we have done enough on this topic or that topic.
The second thought about this question is Russia deserves to be condemned for reasons as I said that go well above the level of the NPT, but there has to be clear in people's minds a separation in concept and in timing between condemnation of Russia and strengthening of the norms of the treaty. You should be condemning the hell out of Russia every place outside of the review conference and especially before the review conference but—when you get in the hall and you are talking about a consensus document—that's not where you're going to write condemnation of anybody.
You are going to write about principles about strengthening norms and you're going to do that without mentioning names if you're going to have a successful document, so keeping that distinction in concept and in timing between condemnation of what has happened and a positive program to help ensure it doesn't happen anymore is important.
One more quick concept on AUKUS. We will talk about AUKUS at the NPT. China will raise AUKUS in New York, in Vienna, in Geneva at the climate change conference, at the conference on fish migration. They will raise it everywhere. They will hope vainly that we do not raise the facts about who has introduced more nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear missiles into the Pacific than anyone else. It will be an entertaining conversation but it's also an opportunity for us to demonstrate—as Eric mentioned—that the three AUKUS partners are committed to establishing the highest possible standard for non-proliferation in the context of new naval propulsion and that we will be utterly cooperative with the IAEA.
DAVENPORT: So this next question sort of combines two questions from the audience. I might direct this at Eric first. To what extent should we be concerned about the actions that Saudi Arabia is taking given its nuclear threats in the past and its involvement with China? And is the Middle East WMD-free zone likely to be a contentious issue at the NPT review conference? Is that an option to counter proliferation threats that we might see rising in the Middle East? So Eric, whatever part of that you'd like to respond to.
BREWER: Great question. Maybe I'll leave the questions about the review conference to my colleagues, but no. When you look at the sort of the cast of characters right and where they rank on your concern, Saudi Arabia is certainly on that list for a couple of reasons. As you alluded to at the outset of this, Kelsey, members of the Saudi leadership have openly talked about how they will develop nuclear weapons if Iran does. So as Iran inches up that capability ladder, that's one reason to watch, although it's notable that they haven't said anything in quite some time, so perhaps they found those comments not terribly useful as they did at least at the outset.
So there's the Iran factor and the statements they've made publicly that they're watching but of course we've seen reports about Saudi Arabia developing an indigenous ballistic missile production capability, which of course is not nuclear. There's no direct linkage but, because of the potential future delivery capability and role that could serve, I think it's something that bears watching.
And I think the other that is concerning is the current Saudi Arabia could certainly be doing more to provide transparency on its nuclear program. I think the big thing there is rescinding the Small Quantities Protocol and applying the Additional Protocol. And the Saudi's have been quite reluctant to adopt and it's been quite reluctant to limit and for swear in any capacity enrichment reprocessing. Steps on those issues would certainly be positive. So those are the types of things I would look for that would certainly provide some reassurance and take it further down that list of countries of concern. Thanks.
DAVENPORT: On the middle east zone opportunity at the MPT review conference flash points, we all remember that in 2015 it actually was the Middle East WMD free conference that prevented consensus. So Jamie or Tom, do you have thoughts on how we might see this issue come up in August?
KWONG: We can expect it will come up again but there has been some intersessional efforts since 2015 to address the issue. There's been a dedicated conference meeting in person before everything at some point but again—I would just reiterate—we need to make sure that there's not one single issue that derails the conference in the larger effort that we should be using August to really be strengthening the NPT and the broader regime.
COUNTRYMAN: I do not expect it to derail the conference.
DAVENPORT: So we have just a few minutes left and I'm gonna end on this question and I’ll give everybody a chance to to weigh in. Jamie, we will start with you and just work down the row. So Adam Scheinman was interviewed in this most recent issue of Arms Control Today and he said that past NPT review conference commitments are political, that only the treaty is binding, and we should not waste time debating history. So the question is: why should anyone care about NPT commitments?
KWONG: I'm so glad I get to go first. Past commitments is another issue that is brought up a lot in the NPT space and I can expect will be brought up again at revcon. Just to kind of give more depth to the conversation, there are some states saying past commitments are important. They're very representative of the time; however, we should be looking forward and seeing how we can implement the spirit of the treaty and those legal obligations. Then on the other hand, you have states saying “look, if we aren't following these past commitments that have been reached by consensus, certainly we're undermining the NPT.”
So I think that's a very critical point of tension that is honestly quite challenging to address and so I’ll perhaps problematically just fall back onto my area for which the largest ambition is looking forward and how can we collectively strive to strengthen this treaty. Hope I avoided that well enough.
COUNTRYMAN: You should read Ambassador Scheidman's interview because he explains it better than I do but the essential points are a treaty obligation—what is written, signed, and ratified is binding and eternal. A commitment made at a review conference is political. It is important. It is relevant and—at least speaking for the United States when that commitment is made—it is sincerely made with the intent to carry it out. I have to agree that arguing about what we meant when we said this in 2000 is a less productive exercise than what we need to focus on in the next five years.
It is the business of diplomats to find the right wording that will reassure others. It's a little more of a theological and semantic exercise but I also respect the fact that a number of states parties feel very deeply about this issue and therefore we have to address it. We have to find the right language that reassures people but that also recognizes from the point of view of the United States that 2022 is not 1995.
BREWER: So I'm not a lawyer nor an expert on international law—as I've been reminded by people who actually are—but, no. I agree with my colleagues. Political doesn't mean are relevant, right? It's not right. It's not an insult or at least I wouldn't perceive it as an insult. So just saying that they're political does not mean they're irrelevant as Tom said.
They're quite relevant, but I also agree that looking forward to the future is the most productive way and thinking about—given where we are—what is the most productive way to strengthen the treaty is the right approach at the end of the day.
Congratulatory Remarks from
Shalonda Spencer, Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation
Emma Belcher, Ploughshares Fund
SHALONDA SPENCER: I would say ACA's biggest accomplishment is their expertise of 50 years in the arms control and non-proliferation community. I'm involved with ACA through WCAPS, an organization called Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation. The former executive director and founder of WCAPS, which is Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, funded ACA back when she was with the Ford Foundation. And through that work of funding, they also recognized her in 2021 for an award and she also served on the board. So that relationship that she had with ACA is still ongoing through my leadership—and my goal is to continue that relationship.
EMMA BELCHER: The Arms Control Association has been an asset to the nuclear policy field since the 1970s and particularly recently played an important role with the community on New START in 2010 and the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.
SPENCER: What I value about ACA is their dedication and commitment to this work and also making sure these issues are always at the forefront—whether if it's in the news or the media. Those are some of the things that I feel like that they contribute to the community of foreign affairs and international relations.
BELCHER: You might not know this but ACA was in fact the Ploughshares Fund's first ever grant and we've been proud supporters for over 40 years.
SPENCER: Over the past 50 years, ACA has contributed to bridging diversity, equity, inclusion and that's by ensuring that women of color are elevated in this space. We greatly appreciate the work that they have began and we're looking forward to another 50 years of continuing bridging this diversity gap
BELCHER: Their briefings, fact-based analysis, and reports make them one of the go-to sources for nuclear information as well as arms control related news. So congratulations to everyone at ACA on 50 years and thank you for your excellent contributions to our field.
PANEL 3 | “Arms Control Tomorrow: Mitigating the Dangers of New Weapon Technologies"
SHANNON BUGOS: All right, good afternoon everyone and thank you again for joining in. I realize I have the panel that's the post-lunch-like nap time crowd—so I will try and keep this interesting. I don't think it'll be hard to keep this very interesting. So, my name is Shannon Bugos. I am a senior policy analyst at the Arms Control Association. I have the honor now to moderate the third panel of today about mitigating the dangers that new weapons technologies pose to strategic stability.
The inspiration for this panel is a project that we began last year with support from the European Leadership Network called Arms Control Tomorrow. Over the course of this project, we have been hosting workshops honing in on five particular new and emerging technologies that we see as posing the greatest threat in the near term. Those weapons technologies are new hypersonic weapons, offensive cyber operations, counter space capabilities, and artificial intelligence and—then relatedly to AI but we kind of split off—drones and lethal autonomous U.S. weapons.
The concept of new and emerging technologies is a massive one and so I want to emphasize up front that some of this attack is already present, so hypersonic weapons for instance have already been reportedly deployed for years. We have seen them used in warfare for the first time in the war in Ukraine. Ultimately, the goal of this project that we're doing with the European Leadership Network is to identify and understand the risks that these technologies pose to strategic stability in the military sphere. And then part two is to take that knowledge and start to develop policy recommendations for decision-makers and how to mitigate these effects through diplomatic norms and agreements.
A tall order especially when we're talking about such a massive field—very different technologies. And as you'll see today within AI, there's a plethora of different ways you can go but we're going to try and tackle pieces of this. So for today's panel, we will be diving into the realm of space and AI with our stellar panelists who have been participating in some of the project's workshops as well as a couple of people in the audience we've dragged into participating with us.
So we have joined U.S.today Samson Sampson who is the Washington office director of the Secure World Foundation. Samson is going to be our expert on all things space. And then Lindsey Rand is here. Lindsay is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a graduate research assistant at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. Lindsay is going to break down advanced computing technologies for U.S.which involves quant computing and artificial intelligence. And last but certainly not least is Michael Klare who is a senior visiting fellow on emerging technologies at ACA. Michael will also be in the AI realm but focusing more on unmanned systems and lethal autonomous US weapons.
So a few logistical notes before we start diving in with lots of questions for our panelists. We will turn to questions from all of you at around like a little after 1:30. At 1:30, we will start collecting them from you but just the same process as before. You're experts at this by now. Write it on a note card, hold up, someone will come grab it and pass it up to me. And as Kelsey said earlier I apologize in advance if I butcher anyone's question as I try to interpret your handwriting. And we only have about 50 minutes for this panel so I will be strict on time as I warned our panelists beforehand if I'm staring you down and pointing at my watch I'm not trying to be rude. I'm just trying to provide a helpful reminder alright so let's get started.
I have two rounds of questions for Samson, Lindsay, and Michael. Broadly speaking, the first round of questions will focus on outlining the particular risks the panelists’ respective technology poses. And then round two we're going to get to what are the potential arms control measures to mitigate those risks.
So Samson, let's start with space. It's a domain that is far from new but has been receiving more attention as of late with recent anti-satellite testing, creating a lot of debris, and we've seen that last year with the Russian ASAP test creating. It was close to 1500 pieces of debris still tracking, still seeing the effects today so a challenge in the new and emerging technology space is just terminology. What term do we use to say exactly what we think the threat is? So, Samson, what is encompassed by the term “offensive counter-space capabilities”? Is that the right term to use in this domain? Is there another one? What's the disagreement there? But for the course of this conversation, how would you define it and how should we think about it?
VICTORIA SAMSON: Thank you, Shannon and thank you ACA for inviting me. I'm so happy to be here, congratulations again on the 50th anniversary. That's awesome. So talking about counter space capabilities, people tend to use them interchangeably with space weapons, with ASAP weapons. I like counter space and I'm biased because I'm a co-editor of a report that talks about global counter space capability so that's the term of art that we have chosen. But the reason why we look at it is that really when you're talking about space capabilities, there are three places where interference can happen.
There are the satellites themselves. There is the broadcast that they're doing uplink or downlink and then you have the ground stations. Each of those legs could be considered a counter space capability so it does not have to be placed into space, which I would argue a space weapon should be .
So, when we're talking about counter space capabilities, my organization the Secure World Foundation in a report, we have five different categories. We look at what's called direct descent, basically shooting a missile at a satellite to kinetically interfere with it so to speak, as Russia did in November. Many countries including the United States have done as well.
Then you have what's called co-orbital where the missile goes or the attacking interceptor gets into orbit. It gets close to the satellite and interferes with it there. Then you have directed energy lasers. You have radio frequency interference jamming and then you have cyber so you can imagine you were talking about things already there. Oftentimes when we talk about counter space capabilities, people's minds go to the things that go boom because that's very sexy. Explosions are what you think of but radio frequency jamming already happens, cyber attacks already happen.
And we saw that happened just a few months ago when Russia invaded Ukraine. They had an attack of vice at some ground terminals so this is definitely something that's happening now. It's not just a theoretical concert that's happening in the future. And when we started working on this global counter space assessment in 2018, we did six countries. We did the U.S., Russia, China, India, Iran, North Korea. Then in 2018, we added two more countries: France and Japan. This year's 2022 report, we added three more countries: Australia, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. Probably next year, we'll be adding a few more.
And I bring that up not just to flag my report but also to indicate there's a proliferation of interest and counter space capabilities going on right now and that speaks to how important space is for our daily lives, for national security considerations, for how our economies function. But it does indicate this is a problem that is not going away. It's getting increasingly complicated and so that's definitely something to think about for the future for counter space capabilities.
So part two of a question for you if you don't mind. So what are the particular risks we should think about? You've laid out the different kinds of pieces that fit into the counter space puzzle. For instance, ground stations for me are something where it’s like when you forget. Counter space also has those facilities on the ground and you have to look at the whole picture so what are the risks associated with the weaponization or militarization and other terminology disputes of space? Yeah, pet peeves.
So space was militarized from the very beginning. So if you were talking about a need to prevent the militarization of space that ship has sailed and it's not a helpful way of looking at things about weaponization or counter-space capabilities. That's much more important because there are ways in which we can stop or limit or mitigate that and there's room for that. But there are very real consequences. For example, if you create a large amount of debris in orbit and you hit it, you use your interceptor, you hit a satellite, it blows up into a bunch of pieces. Those pieces are up there for a while.
I was a political science major so, as I understand it the grand scheme of things, the farther up you go the longer the pieces are going to be around. We're talking it could be months—it could be years. It could be decades. It could be centuries.
So imagine, you have these pieces of debris—some of which you don't know actually exists because they're too small to be tracked, going around at thousands of kilometers per hour. That's a huge threat to everyone's ability to utilize space right because your satellite can be interfered with by debris. It is agnostic. It does not care if you have space capabilities. It just says “okay, you're in my way or I'm gonna hit it. We have no way to remove debris that's up there so it's up there. We're stuck. You know there are processes being worked out for active debris removal—that's a whole other discussion—but for now we're stuck with the debris that's up there so you don't want to create any more.
So that's a concern. But, as you think back—this is an arms control group and you're very well aware about the arms control nuclear treaties—there's always a cut out for national technical means to not interfere with because it was seen to be so escalatory to actually shoot down a satellite that's involved in nuclear command.
Controlling it could lead to some sort of inadvertent nuclear conflict. That concern is still there, particularly since the proliferation of capabilities. It's also broadened. In terms of military capabilities, they are often carried on non-military satellites and so you can't say “well, we'll just agree not to hit the nuclear C2 satellites and we'll be good” because a lot of military communications are carried on commercial satellites.
A lot of U.S. communications are carried on non-U.S.satellites and so there's been a blur between all these different types of satellites and capabilities, which means again there could be the possibility of inadvertent escalation where conflict on earth goes up in space or even worse conflict in space goes back down to Earth.
BUGOS: Thank you, Samson. We'll be moving to the world of AI and I will say this is an emerging technology space I've only recently started to learn about, so Lindsay and Michael are definitely going to teach me a lot today. So for Lindsay, let's start with you. When I first asked you to participate in this panel, my thought process was just generally artificial intelligence as it works in the offensive or in the military operations but then through chatting with Lindsay—as she pointed out, given this kind of the scope that i wanted to have with this panel—the better terminology would be to talk about advanced computing technologies.
So Lindsay, for those of us unfamiliar with the involved technologies, can you break down what is meant by advanced computing technologies, quantum computing, as well as artificial intelligence? Can you kind of paint the picture for us?
LINDSAY RAND: I like the term advanced computing technologies because it encompasses both hardware and software developments that we're working on right now and the interconnectedness between the two groups of technologies. So just because everyone knows about AI, it’s a little bit more popular but there are a lot of hardware developments occurring as well, such as quant computing innovation, graphical processing units, and supercomputers.
And the interconnectedness comes into play when we're thinking about improving past a certain limit. So to some extent, you might need some hardware improvements to get better AI and conversely you might need better software improvements to be able to function advanced hardware technologies as well. There's an interesting overlap where there might be a cascade effect where if you get some breakthrough in AI, you could be able to improve your quantum computing or hardware technologies and vice versa. So it's really important to keep an eye on both the hardware and the software inspector. It's a little bit more useful since we're talking about arms control to also talk about tangible and intangible things, so it sets me up for later.
BUGOS: Excellent. So part two of a question for you then is similar to Samson. What are the hardware risks? What are the software risks that we should think about in the military sphere?
RAND: For the sake of risks, we can think of them together and they're often referred to as enabling technologies, which means they themselves are not the actual instruments of interference or engagement but rather they're improving capabilities such as speed or accuracy for the instruments of engagement.
Everything can fall under three categories of impacts on strategic stability. So the first is offensive cyber capability improvement, so advanced computing technologies can allow more prolonged or more brute force engagement in the cyber domain. Like prolonged capabilities could be afforded by software, such as AI and hardware, such as quant computing can allow for more brute force disruption to our current cyber defense capabilities. We can go into greater detail on that in the Q&A but they also allow you to limit your resources and capital that you're investing into offensive cyber.
The second area is data processing power, which is something that people refer to as the weaponization of data. So theoretically, you could improve your ability to process data much more quickly to the extent that you could track or target or detect mobile nuclear technologies more easily such as ground mobile ground launch missiles or nuclear submarines. The caveat I will give here is that there's a lot of hype in this area especially with respect to second strike capabilities and there's a lot of people who want to use this to reinforce second strike capabilities. But I would just say that there is a very big distinction between what is technologically possible when you're considering this use and what is practically feasible because you can put up a bunch of sensors and process that data.
But there is a deployment feasibility aspect of that as well. That's what my PhD research is on, so I’m definitely interested in that as well. Then the final area which I will leave a little bit for Michael is the increased speed that AI or advanced computing allow and the crisis instability aspect that this might introduce by pushing for faster decision making or more automation just by introducing automation in one area.
And then the final thing that kind of is overarching for all these three areas is the hard part about these technologies is that right now—I guess this might be an overarching theme for this panel—there's not great terminology or verification of like specific capability improvements, so there is a huge component of perception and signaling in this sphere where just because someone says they are applying artificial intelligence or quant—what does that actually mean? And so that's something that we can talk about in the arms control aspect.
BUGOS: Thank you, Lindsay. That is a very informative and detailed kind of rundown of how we should be thinking about all of this and definitely terminology is certainly a tough point when it comes to new and emerging tech. So Michael to bring you into the troubles here, so the technology I asked you to focus on is similar to AI and that was not an accident. I wanted to emphasize with having two people in the AI realm is just how absolutely massive and expansive this is, that it is changing and adding.
When you talk about artificial intelligence, there's a million different directions you could go in. So for Michael, we're going in the direction of drones and lethal autonomous weapons—LAWs for short or killer robots. So first of all again, here’s a terminology question to define what constitutes a lethal autonomous weapon and how are laws different from drones and other unmanned systems? In a lot of reporting or in some literature it can kind of get conflated into one big thing, so can you break it down for us—into what we should be thinking about and how they're different?
MICHAEL KLARE: Hello everyone. I'm pleased to be here and to be a part of such a distinguished panel and to be part of the 50th anniversary of the Arms Control Association. I was very proud of that movie we saw earlier. I must say all the accomplishments of the organization that made me feel good as a long-term board member so lethal autonomous weapons systems or LAWs is not a military term. This is a term invented by policy wonks and scholars and diplomats, but you will not find a line item in the Department of Defense budget for lethal autonomous weapons systems. I've looked and they're not there.
The term that the military uses is unmanned weapon systems, specifically unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs. Unmanned ground vehicles, UGVs; unmanned surface vessels, USBs; and unmanned undersea vessels, UUVs; and that's what they are funding and quite aggressively in the new budget by the way. Unmanned is the term that they use. There's been some discussion of this because of its gender implications. There are some of us who think that the term excludes women from the conversation and the term should be uninhabited or uncrewed. But nonetheless that is the term that's used and I'll refer to unmanned weapon systems.
So, unmanned weapon systems are combat devices that are enabled by artificial intelligence to sense their own environment, to maneuver in their environment, to identify enemy targets, and to shoot at them or to crash into them without human intervention. This is different from drones. Drones are tethered to a human operator that sees through a TV link, looks at the ground and looks for targets, and then chooses to decide whether or not to strike a target. An unmanned weapon system has the ability to do so on its own without consulting with a human. This represents a new stage in the history of human technology because it empowers software with the power of life and death—something really new in human history.
And this obviously raises a lot of moral ethical and legal questions that our community is struggling with. Many ethicists argue and religious leaders argue that the taking of a human life is an exceptional act that should only be done under exceptional circumstances; and can only be done by humans and and not by a machine, because humans can be held accountable if they do so in violation of human norms and standards. We indeed have an international criminal court where violators can and are held responsible but machines cannot be held responsible to such standards. And so many ethicists believe they should not exist. They should not be allowed to exist.
There are also legal questions that stem from the use under the laws of war. The Hague and Geneva Conventions say that nations at war have an obligation to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants on the battlefield and to do everything they can to prevent unnecessary death and suffering to civilians in the war zone. And many who study this believe that machines are never going to be capable of making that distinction the way humans can tell who's a civilian and who's not. We just have that ability to do so.
Now, advocates of these devices say that in time they will be trained. They will be capable of making this distinction, but if you look at the history of self-driving cars, they've been millions and millions of miles and millions and millions of dollars spent to perfect them—and they still are not capable of making fine distinctions on highways, not a combat zone. So there's a lot of us who fear that machines are not capable of making those distinctions.
BUGOS: So now that you've laid out some more of the terminology—and you all are probably catching on to my process here—but can you name some of the risks? So, you wrote an article in Arms Control Today about how unmanned weapon systems will play an ever increasing role in future military planning. I'm sure you saw that when you mentioned when going through budget docents and seeing the sneaky names that these capabilities are nested under. So what are the concerns that the Defense Department should keep in mind as it's developing these budget proposals, as it's moving forward with these capabilities, and especially—as we learned at the end of May—that the Pentagon is updating its 2012 guidance on autonomous systems? And they're hoping—it was like the end of this year, this fall—to have the updated guidance out. So, what would you say going into that review? How should we think about the risks and what should the Pentagon be keeping in mind before storming ahead with some of these capabilities?
KLARE: Well, this is what Lindsay raised about strategic stability. Strategic stability assesses that if there's a pair of nuclear-armed states that are hostile and are in a crisis or in a non-nuclear conflict then neither side will have an incentive to use nuclear weapons first because they know that the other side has an invulnerable second strike capability that could still inflict unacceptable harm and that creates a stable situation.
So, the worry that some of us have is that some of these devices that the Department of Defense, Russia, China, and other parties are developing—unmanned ships and planes—will be equipped with extremely capable sensors with the ability to operate in packs or in swarms independently and will be able to track enemy ballistic missile carrying submarines SSBNs—or for example, mobile ICBMS that Russia and China depend for their second strike capabilities on these mobile ICBMS and SSBNs.
And it appears that the U.S. is developing unmanned underwater vessels, unmanned surface vessels, and unmanned area of aerial vehicles that will be able to operate in packs, equipped with advanced sensors that could be conceivably used for the purpose of tracking these second strike capabilities—even if it appears that that might be the case that poses a threat to strategic stability, because the other side has to be fearful of that. It might lead at the other side to adopt a launch on warning posture, meaning it would use its nuclear weapons very early in a conflict if it felt threatened, so the big worry—and we'll come back to this in your next round of questions—is should we encourage the development of these kinds of unmanned systems? These are sort of not what has been the attention of killer robots, which are striking humans but the threat that this posed to strategic stability.
BUGOS: Thank you, Michael. So, that was completing round one of first of all what are we really even talking about when it comes to some of these capabilities in the space and AI world but then what are the risks as well. So moving then to round two, my questions will focus more on drawing out ideas.
All right, so we've identified the risk. How can we potentially move to start mitigating some of these? So, Samson back to you. We'll go back into space for a little while. A few weeks ago the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats held its first meeting in Geneva. This working group was created in december 2021 in order to work to prevent an arms race in space. A month prior to the meeting, the United States announced that it will not conduct destructive direct ascent anti-satellite or ASAT missile testing. So, these look like two relatively positive developments in the space domain. First, I'm going to break down my questions again and I'll ask you one question then come back to a second one, but first I just wanted to know how did that first meeting go? How did the Biden Administration's announcement on the AST test ban play out in Geneva? Was there a big outcome from the meeting or are things kind of still just moving along at a slow pace?
SAMSON: Great, thank you. I’ll contextualize really quickly why those two things were such a big deal. So when you're discussing space security in the United Nations, you discuss at the conference and disarmament. The conference disarmament has not nailed the grant agenda for the better part of two decades so that's been an issue for moving had these discussions. But the other part is that there is no agreement between the major space powers in terms of what is the biggest threat to space security and stability. Russia and China and their allies have focused on essentially space missile defense as being the biggest threat, and they want to have a treaty. They propose the PPWT, which has been in a dead man's float for 15 years going nowhere but they keep promoting it.
Whereas the U.S. and its allies have been talking about almost like it's an environmental issue. Space is congested. It's contested and they focus on well we want to identify just because of the dual use nature of space capabilities, we don't necessarily want to try and ban them, but maybe we focus on behavior and focus on what we see as responsible use of space. So you can see it's been really hard to make any progress if you can't even agree on what the threat is and how you want to handle it.
So, this movement to create open-ended working group was the idea that any country that was interested—that's the open-ended part, it does not last forever, it's gonna be for two years—can come together and talk about what do they identify as the biggest threats to space security instability, what norms of behavior do they think are important, what do they identify as responsible use of space with idea. Maybe at some point having a resolution coming out of it, just kind of getting the national community on the same page.
And for me that was really encouraging. I had low expectations. I got to be honest. Before, I was just thinking “okay if it happens, game on.” But it happened and there was actually a lot of good exchange of views, mostly productive. Some countries could have been abstract and they were not, so that was really encouraging. Of course, the US commitment not to conduct anti-satellite missile tests in the future came out mid-April. Canada also agreed during the LEWG that they would also commit not to conduct those tests. Brazil talked about the idea of a ban on not having any ASAT tests.
I would say probably about a dozen countries spoke favorably about this, so you could say almost there's a norm emerging that perhaps this is somewhere you're going to go about doing it. So, we'll see what ends up happening. As I said, this is the first meeting. There's gonna be three more. The second one is going to be in September and the second one's topic is going to be threats—and so that one could get a little a little rocky. We'll see what ends up happening but it's good to have these discussions. And no matter what comes out of these discussions, it's helpful because you can see norms emerging in terms of what countries identify as a responsible use of space.
And so even if there's a resolution, there's two ways you have success: successive processes where you have an agreed upon report, but successive ideas. And I'm really holding on to that second part and that countries can come out of these discussions and say whether or not there is a report that came out of a resolution. We saw these ideas of responsible behavior in space, and we want to be responsible space actors, and we are going to do that unilaterally and whatever happens internationally that happens. so we'll see what ends up coming out of it.
BUGOS: Sounds good. So a quick follow-up question before my other one. So at the beginning, you had mentioned the conference on disarmament—and for people unfamiliar with space—can you just speak briefly to why this open-ended working group is a moment of optimism and inspiration that there's some new conversations happening given the deadlock and the CD? And then originally my second part of the question was going to be “so now, where do we go from here in terms of potential pathways to continuing to mitigate threats in the space domain and pursuing space arms control?” Is there like a norm kind of emerging, are there other ways of arms control that may be applicable in space?
And I just want to say, especially in the new and emerging technology space, the traditional way of thinking about arms control—when you think of New START—that is applicable, but also the new and emerging technology space is in a way redefining what arms control could be. And so how should we think about space arms control? Is it different from what most people immediately think of when you say arms control and they think like “nukes’?
SAMSON: So, why is this such a big deal for the CD? And when you're talking about space and the United Nations, you have two—basically four—you can do it in. You have the fourth committee, the Committee on Peace in Outer Space, that talks about civil space capabilities and they're in Vienna. They're doing well, generally speaking. And then you have the first committee discussions and that's the UN general assembly—that's the conference disarmament, that sort of thing. And that has just been stuck just having these circular arguments for decades about this. In 2019, I got excited because the UN disarmament commission was going to have a discussion that didn't go anywhere. They were going to have a GG on space TCBMS—that didn't go anywhere.
So, there are all these different options where they could have had something and just nothing was going on. And we weren't seeing any progress and meanwhile space is getting increasingly complicated. So this movement to shift the focus away from traditional arms control ideas of banning things you don't like to have out there, it's helpful because—for space capabilities—it's really difficult to determine what is actually a counter space capability that interferes with the satellite interferes with uplink or downlink, that interferes with the ground station. So if you're trying to ban that, what are you going to ban exactly? There's so many things that are applicable and as well so much for space capabilities. It's your intention. It's not necessarily technology. It's your intention of what you're going to be doing with it and so that complicates things.
That's where things like having transparency about your capabilities and your policies about your programs that can demonstrate good intent by sharing information about responsible behavior are positive ways to look at it. Then, just in terms of ways to move forward, the idea behind the commitment not to test ASAT missile tests is gathering some momentum because it ties into a concern about not deliberating about crate debris on orbit, which everyone agrees is not good because debris—as I said before—can damage anyone whether or not you have a space caterpiece program or not.
There's the idea of like no non-consensual close approaches—the idea you don't get up close to another country's satellite without their approval or their understanding because that's a concern—as well as the idea of acting with due regard for others. Some of these ideas are in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty but does not mean that it's still helpful and applicable, so there are ways forward in terms of sharing information and having points of contact for when there's possible conjunctions or close approaches for your space capabilities.
These are all good and the last thing I'll say that's really changing is that—particularly for arms control capabilities that are strategic—oftentimes they were seen as solely the prominence of geopolitical superpowers. Yeah, this is a U.S.-Russia thing. Maybe, it's the U.S.-Russia-China thing. Okay, we're bringing India in because they had an ASAT test but no one else. It's not really important. So a lot of countries—the G77—they just didn't see counter space capabilities as something that was relevant to them, but that that attitude is changing because there's a growing recognition that every person on this planet is a user of space data and so every person on this planet has an incentive to make sure that space does not interfere with or it's not deliberately trashed and that it's a stable predictable reliable domain.
Countries around the world are starting to recognize this and starting to become more involved in these discussions, so that's what I hope.
BUGOS: I like an optimistic note in the arms control space. I'll take it every so often. Yeah, we get it. All right Lindsay, over to you. Before I get to Lindsay's question, just a reminder we're going to start taking questions from the audience. I have one more question for Lindsay and then Michael, so if you have a question write it on the card and we'll come around and collect it.
All right, so Lindsay, now time for your question. So, we have a fuller understanding after your answer in round one of what advanced computing technologies, quantum computing and technology and what they are, so let's talk about potential arms control when it comes to these because I will definitely say when about “all right, how do we how do we bring arms control into quantum computing and AI,” what really does that look like because—as we talked about with Samson—it may not be the traditional way we think about arms control. So start there and then I have a follow-up question.
RAND: I guess the two major challenges for arms control on advanced computing technologies are dual use technologies. So, there are civil civilian applications in addition to military applications—and somewhat different from space because there are space is dual use—but it was largely started by the military that a lot of the innovation is occurring in the private sector for advanced computing technologies, which just means you would really have to engage those stakeholders and also make sure you're navigating carefully. Like we said, I don't think bans are really feasible, but like you're navigating your agreements so that you are not impeding civilian applications that could be beneficial or potential economic gains.
In terms of ambiguity of these technologies, this is just always going to be a problem for the software technologies—like what do we mean when something is AI unless we really really hammer down some terms? And in terms of hardware-based advanced computing technologies, this is really a challenge because quant computing is so nascent and a lot of these hardware technologies are kind of esoteric and kind of being discussed in the technical communities. But there is some movement on getting better definitions, which leads me into what the main areas that we need to work on?
I don't think that we can talk about arms control agreements per se when we're beginning arms control in this sphere because of the lack of clear definitions, so that seems like that would be putting a cart before the horse. And we'd be making an agreement that might not be lasting or that might not be comprehensive, so to lay the groundwork for that we can pull in different stakeholders and everyone has a role to play.
So first, technical members of the community and legal practitioners can help define what we mean by certain increments of application of these technologies as well as metrics. And then for the security analysts and practitioners, which is a lot of us in this room, we can begin by looking at cases that we don't find or that we find to be destabilizing that we might want to curb and then we can come up with creative solutions that don't necessarily ban the technology but that might ban either the target, such as putting things off limits, maybe space capabilities, or critical infrastructure—or that we put limits on the type of data that we can collect or analyze. Then third, policymakers especially for these really nascent technologies really need to begin to build networks.
There's just still a lack of clear leadership and clear and overarching strategies on these technologies. So Biden has taken some stances and has said that he developed the artificial intelligence research resource group, which is kind of a funny name, and then he also this May issued a memo on the fact that the U.S.should have leadership in quant technologies but what does leadership mean and are we sharing that with our allies or with the private sector? Is it leadership in security-relevant technologies or are we leading because we want civilian benefits as well?
And so defining a clear overarching strategy will really need to be an inter-agency process in the government, which is something that is kind of picking up at the moment. But it is still not there and then we also need to engage the private sector as well as international members.
BUGOS: Excellent. So then part two. You said how an arms control agreement may be too far down the road so some initial steps would be definitions and bringing in those stakeholders that you mentioned. So, where does momentum currently exist toward those types of initiatives? And then secondly, where should we be having these conversations so, with Samson we've been talking about the UN, but what's the best spot? What's the best spot to talk about these capabilities about quant and AIs? Is it the UN or should it start bilaterally between states who are in the game? where should we start?
RAND: Yeah sorry, I realize it might have drifted into your second question, but there is movement, especially with these strategies and interagency groups that are forming. So the Quant Economic Development Consortium is a big effort to build consensus on quant technology. I'm not sure they've actually produced anything practical yet but that is the goal. And then on artificial intelligence, this is something where it's been around for a while and so it's a little bit confusing that we don't have more of a clear strategy yet but it is an issue that's being raised. So the Government Accountability Office just released a report in March about it and identified seven objectives that we need to improve on in defense applications of AI.
And this is a major issue that's kind of reiterated through each of the points is just that we need better strategy making about what we mean when we're going to apply it. A lot of this really does have to happen with private sector engagement because if we want this to be lasting policies and to be practicable then we have to make sure that we are getting private sector stakeholder investment as well.
BUGOS: Thank you, Lindsay. Alright Michael, onto you. So we're going to talk more about arms control but for lethal autonomous weapons and unmanned weapons systems, so the UN Secretary General has joined calls in recent years for a total ban on any lethal weapons that do not require human oversight but countries that include the United States have not necessarily been open to that idea.
So, for instance last year at the UN, a U.S. representative balked at the prospect of illegally binding agreements regulating or banning laws. Instead, the representative was promoting the idea of the development of a code of conduct. So can you talk us through what the options are for arms control for laws and lethal and unmanned systems? Why is there that tension similarly in some ways to space where there's countries coming together to discuss this but then they have different priorities? So what are those different priorities and what are the arms control avenues that we can potentially take to handle some of those concerns?
KLARE: So as I said earlier there are two sets of concerns. There's the legal and moral concerns about taking human life and the laws of war, and there are also the concerns about escalation and strategic stability. I want to discuss those separately.
The first set of concerns has been the subject of serious arms control discussions in Geneva under the auspices of the convention on certain conventional weapons as a funny title. The CCW Convention on certain conventional weapons—this is a framework treaty which is to say it doesn't specify everything that it's trying to regulate but it creates a framework for the parties to the treaty. The US is a party, Russia and China—all parties to this treaty—can agree to add protocols to ban or regulate certain specific weapons that are considered especially injurious or put civilians at particular risk. And protocols have been added for things like blinding wet blinding lasers and anti-personnel landmines, so for the past five years or so there has been a process underway under the auspices of the CCW to create a protocol that would ban, prohibit, and regulate the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems.
And groups of governmental experts as in these other fields have met and have come up with a kind of treaty language. What that would look like—however, the CCW operates by consensus many of these bodies do. And Russia and the United States and several other states have refused to accept a prohibition on these weapons. The U.S. says that they perform a useful military task that the U.S. will always abide by international law and that Russia and China can't be trusted to do so. That's what the U.S. says and therefore the process underway in Geneva is viewed as deeply flawed. It is proceeding.
The group of governmental experts continues to meet but many of the groups that have participated in this process, including a grassroots campaign—a civil society campaign the campaign to stop killer robots—and a group of states led by Austria and new Zealand among others are looking at an alternative process of going to the United Nations General Assembly where a majority can vote. So there is a process underway that would look at actually a treaty banning these weapons altogether. That's possibly in the future. Thank you. I hope I answered your question.
There's the follow-up question about the other dimensions of these devices. Is there any other possible way of addressing them—particularly the strategic risk? And there's no conversation about that. This was to be a topic that was hoped would be brought up in the strategic stability dialogue that the U.S.and Russia were about to discuss.
We’re in the process of holding and, as we've heard from Tom Countryman, that process has now been suspended but the hope is that if that process is re-configured and re-established, that discussion would be held on on strategies for limiting the use of devices that would threaten the safety of non-that is conventional devices—autonomous systems that might threaten the safety of second strike retaliatory capabilities. In other words to protect strategic stability, so that's something that we would hope if conversations with Russia are reset, that that would come up in such discussions and if there are ever such discussions with China that that would also be on the agenda.
BUGOS: Gotcha thanks, Michael. We're turning two questions from all of you. Samson, we'll start with you. I'm going to try and combine it with you here. So first part, novel technologies seem to emerge and develop faster than policy can keep up. Given that, would you advise emerging tech in the space domain to be included in future nuclear arms control treaties? If not, should they get their own treaties? Then, I kind of want to add on to that a little bit because a question that often pops up when it comes to the space domain is just what's the role then of the outer space treaty? How is that setting up potential future space related treaties?
Then the second question comes to verification, so what type of verification will we need for an agreement that is covering space capabilities because there's tensions in the discussion about verification over will it be easy? What are the challenges and how is it different from verification we've seen thus far? Can you touch on all of that in like a minute because I know there's probably other questions and we’re running out of time.
SAMSON: All right, so really quickly in terms of treaties, so the Outer Space Treaty is from 1967. It's a foundational docent. It's nine articles long but a lot of them are still very relevant today. It's just how do they apply to an evolving space? To me, there's a couple other treaties that came out of it the Astronaut Rescue Convention: the Liability Convention, the Registration Convention. the Moon Treaty is there as well. I don't count it. Very few countries have signed it. I don't think it counts as customary international law but anyways, if you count the Moon Treaty, the last treaty that was really done on space stuff was 1979. The time for treaties for space is over at least right now.
We'll see maybe something coming out of this process with OEWG, but it's not a helpful way of looking at things. It's important to bring space capabilities when you're discussing arms control in general because oftentimes we tend to have it in its own silo which is not helpful. But, in terms of saying “well just we'll have our own counter space treaty”—again it depends. If you're gonna be looking at behavior that might be an option but if you're looking at banning or preventing a proliferation of technologies, it's gonna be really challenging. And then in terms of verification—thank you for asking questions because I was gonna bring it up and I forgot—but the main idea is that space situational awareness is how you verify actions on orbit and the idea you're using telescopes radars to keep an eye on things and track them.
Now, SSA is good but it's not 100%. Oftentimes if things are too small, you can't track them but it is a way in which you can try and identify what standard behavior, what's abnormal if someone's acting in an irresponsible manner. You can do that and it’s used to be the U.S.military was the only one sharing this type of information—it still is—but there's a commercial SSA sector that is very good and very helpful and they provide an a good alternative or complementary capability.
So it's not just the U.S. military saying these things are happening. There are other actors—maybe with different stakes in the game—that can be part of the conversation. So I think SSA is going to be a crucial part. But finally the idea is that it's not just SSA that identifies what's happening. Humans have to identify patterns and so that's again where these discussions for responsible behavior are really important because that's when the national community comes up with ideas of what patterns of behavior they like, which they don't like.
BUGOS: Thank you. So a concept that comes up with SSA is space traffic management as well. Can you describe the differences between those? It seems like your overall point—and let me know if I'm misquoting you here—is just that SSA will be useful but it's not all we need. So we need to potentially add on extra pieces to this for the human element of “all right, what is the good or the bad behavior in space?”
SAMSON: Right, so SSA again, it's the idea of identifying actions or activities on orbit space traffic management is all different. That's kind of a comprehensive holistic picture and so right now there's no one really in charge of space traffic management. There's no space traffic director for the world. It isn't there and there are different concepts between the U.S. and its allies in terms of what kind of space traffic management they'd like to see happening so that's part of a broader discussion for that.
In terms of what we need for verification, SSA is a tool in the toolkit but it's not the only one. Maybe you borrow from ideas from arms control: the idea of having pre-notifications, of sharing transparency in terms of policies, of explaining what you can be doing ahead of time. Those are all ways in which you can help verify good behavior and verify responsible use of space in addition to the technical capabilities.
BUGOS: Great, thank you. So the next question we have from the audience. I'll ask for answers from both Lindsey and Michael. So—very succinctly—do emerging technologies present any opportunities or challenges for advancing nuclear arms control? So this gets to a question that I want to end with later so maybe I'll have to scrap that one but essentially—when we're talking about AI or when we're talking about quant—what's the intersection between quant and nuclear arms control? Is there any intersection there that we could start to address through arms control or should we be starting to tackle it a little bit separately?
RAND: That's why I got interested in these technologies in the first place. I do think that they provide impetus for arms control on nuclear technologies because handling these technologies will require a lot of resources and adaptability. I don't see the U.S. having the capability to respond flexibly to these new technologies and the strategic risks that they could entail unless we begin to reduce the resources we're spending on nuclear. I really do think that this is an impetus for nuclear arms control. The problem is is that when we overemphasize hype and the risks of these new technologies– which we all need to be really careful about if we really want arms control movement—is that if we over discuss the risks and if we don't parameterize it with what is technically feasible, then we might be urging people on to create more robust nuclear infrastructure. And so that's really a challenge between trying to be very clear about the limitations of what these technologies will bring but also using it as an impetus for nuclear arms control.
BUGOS: Thank you and one more follow-up question for Lindsay before we move to Michael. So Lindsay, would you say that this panel is kind of hyping up the risks or did we do okay? Are we contributing to that? What's the caution we should have when we're thinking about this?
RAND: Yeah, this is something I found for my dissertation research. I just think like people are talking about emerging technologies with a lot of good intentions but if we are hyping it up too much then the things we produce might be being used to explain why we need more nuclear weapons. So I'm always trying to be careful about the caveats that I bring in when I discuss these new technologies and maybe we shouldn't have said the risks of emerging technologies but I wasn't going to be picky.
BUGOS: Thank you, Lindsay. Michael, over to you.
KLARE: So this is a very interesting discussion. Are we hyping over hyping the threat? No, because it's clear that these new technologies pose a challenge to arms control. They don't fit neatly into the existing arms control regimes in many cases. You can't count artificial intelligence and categorize them by seeing how many throw weight and how many warheads and the like.
They are new challenges. They do pose new risks and they pose risks to arms control so it is forcing the U.S. and the program you're leading to think about arms control in new ways. And that's a very healthy development. We've had to stretch our minds and to think are there new approaches to arms control that will be necessary to address these new challenges. We're making some progress but we have a long way to go because we're only beginning to understand the threats that they pose. We have to identify the risks that they pose. Many of them are unprecedented in human history
BUGOS: So I want to take a question that was given to Victoria and apply it to the AI realm if I can. So the question about verification in space—so now verification in the AI realm—is that way too far down the line what would that really look like? So Lindsay, if you want to start with you—and as a reminder Lindsay is our quant computing and AI tech person. And then Michael is drones and law. So we'll see if verification is something that can be easily applied in that domain or do we have to kind of scrap the idea and go with something else?
SAMSON: Yeah, verification is at the heart of these definitional questions so it's extremely hard on software capabilities but that's why it can be useful to rope in some hardware capabilities and then potentially provide tangible objects for verification. But, then you get into the distinction of how much of a software can you use before you need an iterative hardware improvement so that's a very hard question.
BUGOS: Michael, you haven't answered.
KLARE: Well, people are putting their minds to this now. One of the programs we didn't discuss on this panel is hypersonic weapons and that's an area where the new technologies would be very useful. I believe advanced sensing and computing would be very helpful in verifying a treaty or an agreement limiting hypersonic weapons if that were to come to pass. So we could talk about that at some other point when we discuss hypersonic weapons, but in the area of AI what I've learned is that a lot of the dangers occur before things are actually put to military use. In the training of algorithms, in the developing the software, there is a risk of data data poisoning and data bias.
We've learned a lot about data bias with AI and and there could be standards adopted international standards in the use of AI and these technologies, not as an arms control but kind of in the field of technical standards in the way professional organizations adopt them. There would be ways to have an international standards bureau that would test and verify that these standards of accountability of algorithms are held to the pledges made.
BUGOS: Gotcha, thank you so I have one more question for Samson and then we have time enough to do a quick quick wrap around for a final question I have for all of you. So Victoria, I am impressed by this person's recollection of numbers. So let's see. Currently about 3,200 active satellites and about 3,000 inactive. SpaceX plans to spend 42,000 total—more than 800 times this year. What does the privatization of space mean for the domain? Let me know if you need to look at the numbers.
SAMSON: No, actually those numbers are quite boring actually. It keeps changing because SpaceX does keep launching satellites but there's roughly 5,800 active satellites currently. But SpaceX is not the only one doing omega constellations or has a platforming constellation. Yes, they're planning on doing 42, 000 more right now. They've launched about 2,200 just in the past three years. So you can imagine over the past three years, one actor—it's not even a country, it's a commercial actor—has about 40 percent of the active satellites in space. That's a huge change but if you look at the various proposed mega constellations, we could see maybe a hundred thousand more.
Rwanda asked for 350,000 more satellites. Rwanda even has one satellite currently, so some of this is kind of speculative it's a specter grab that sort of thing but by the sheer dent of things, a certain percentage of the satellites will be launched and that does change things because space is going from a domain where nation states are the primary actors to one where commercial actors are. That isn't necessarily a bad thing but it shakes things up.
One of the biggest challenges we run into particularly from a security perspective is that when you have a shared security concern, where do you go? Do you go to the United Nations to discuss this in a multilateral format? SpaceX does not have a seat at the United Nations. In theory, Article 6 of the Airspace Treaty says that countries have to provide continuing supervision for activities of their citizens, so in theory the United States will be representing it. But still, it's difficult and so that's a real challenge.
How do you bring in these commercial actors? But more importantly if they're the ones to be the predominant actors in space, they need to be on board for what's considered responsible behavior because they're oftentimes setting the norms. They're out there doing this and they're not waiting for the UN to come to some form of agreement. They're just doing their thing and saying “well, you guys catch up when you can.”
So that's a real challenge in the future to be able to bring them in particularly since a lot of countries see the commercial space sector and they don't want them involved in these conversations because they see it as the West trying to double dip, trying to have more votes. And some countries don't recognize the private space sector or they don't have the ability to have a private and a commercial space sector. They just have one, so that's been a real challenge as well as how do you incorporate non-state actor perspectives in these international discussions when a lot of countries are highly suspicious of non-state actors being part of the conversation?
BUGOS: Thank you. So we have a little less than five minutes left. I'm going to ask a question that is expanding the discussion out a little bit more. Victoria, we'll start again with you. I'm sorry we're putting you in the hot seat every time. We've covered a handful of technologies today that have already changed or will change the pace and the weapons used in warfare, so I've asked each of you questions about your respective technology. I asked you questions about the particular words that you focused on, but I'm curious as to what those lines of intersection may be between all these different technologies we see in the massive new and emerging technology space?
For instance, the U.S. Russian strategic stability dialogue has had a working group that's focused on space so we see that intersection of nuclear weapons and arms control and space being brought increasingly. As well as there's a working group on cyber, so the question for each of you—and try to keep your answers short which will be difficult with a broader question like this—but are there options for arms control that encompass more than one technology than the one you focused on today and if so what technology on like your dream list would you say overlaps really well and that you would want to package together into one agreement or some type of arrangement? It doesn't have to be legally binding. What's kind of like your ideal picture if you're just like “all right, the risks between space and something else are pretty similar so we can tackle that with one arrangement.” Victoria?
SAMSON: I don't think you can. I'm sorry. It's challenging because in terms of space, the benefit from space is information and data. So you can see that technologies maybe have an interwoven connection with cyber or even AI if you're talking about computing and that sort of thing, but it's challenging because oftentimes—at least in my experience—some of the more exciting topics get precedent. You do a cyber space dialogue, but it becomes a cyber dialogue and then like we probably need space including the issue.
So I'm reluctant to combine things. I think it's important to make sure that you have maybe input from various actors, but if you really want to get down in the weeds and really focus on the issue at hand oftentimes it can be overwhelmed by a more exciting topic. So that's why I'm a standalone type person.
RAND: I guess this might get at the trend we identified, which are we moving away from controls or agreements on the technologies themselves and if so I definitely think if we are controlling the technologies themselves. These are just really different technologies and then you are undervaluing the technical characteristics of each, but if we are moving away from that then I suppose there might be a world in which we could identify controls on end uses or targets that we would not allow infra-interference on such as critical infrastructure.
Maybe that is a place to start. Then I would just respond to Michael. I definitely think we agree about the hype thing, so I'm only saying we just need to be careful. We're talking about the hype regarding the impact on nuclear survivability and nuclear infrastructure, and I guess my main point is we definitely undervalue the risks of arm racing instability when we are looking at the technologies and that's why I have a bone to pick about hype.
BUGOS: We agree with that. Thank you Lindsay and Michael. You're bringing it home for us. We're on time, so I'm sorry we left you with little time to respond.
KLARE: I'm overwhelmed by this question. It's hard. It does come back to the strategic stability dialogue because we have learned that that the the old threats that we understand and we can control—ICBMS and and the like—are now being supplemented by a whole array of other kinds of systems that are exceedingly dangerous but don't fit under any any of our umbrellas for control. The only way that's going to change is when the major powers begin to discuss them and that professionals from each side meet. What you really need is to have technical working groups of Russians, Chinese, and Americans who have the technical expertise in these fields to sit down with one another and to work out how to develop a regime to control them.
So, we must have conversations with those countries and it's how we get to that is hard for me to see, but that's what our conversation today has been about: how do we get to that point? But, we need to work back. I don't know if I'm doing justice to what you said but to work back from where are the dangers to stability, identifying the dangers to stability posed by these new technologies, and how can we diminish those dangers.
BUGOS: Thank you, I know it's a broad question. Thanks everyone for taking a stab at it. So before we thank our marvelous panelists, just up next we have another guest video from friends of ACA so stay tuned. Other than that, please help me in thanking our panelists.
Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8)
DON BEYER: Hello. I'm Don Beyer, a member of the U.S. Congress. I just want to congratulate the Arms Control Association on 50 extraordinarily constructive years of advocacy, thought leadership, and just movement on trying to make the world safe from the existential threat of nuclear weapons. Thank you to Daryl Kimball and all those people on the board and all the givers and all the participants for trying to help us deal with the deepest and most existential threat that we have.
I know we worry deeply about climate change which will affect the lives of billions, but we don't really fear that climate change will end human life. An unrestricted arms race could in fact do that. The world gets ever more dangerous with Chinese silos and North Korean rockets and even this recent Russian rocket. We have to be absolutely committed and vigilant to continuing the conversation, realizing that the only possible way forward is political solution and political agreements that will make the world have ever fewer nuclear weapons and make us ever safer.
Congratulatory Remarks from
Robert Floyd, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization
Fernando Arias, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
ROBERT FLOYD: It is my great pleasure to congratulate the Arms Control Association, the ACA, on 50 years of success in promoting public understanding of and advocacy for effective arms control policies. The ACA has a long history of leadership on public education and outreach. I commend Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the ACA since september 2001—and very auspicious start date Daryl—and the dedicated ACA team for continuing to provide invaluable reporting and analysis on salient arms control disarmament and non-proliferation issues.
Over the past five decades, the ACA has excelled in being a source of timely and authoritative information analysis and commentary through its engagement with policy makers, the press and the general public. ACA has played a pivotal role in informing arms control policy debates in Washington and beyond.
I'm particularly grateful for the ACA's project for the CTBT which was created to sensitize policy makers and the public on the history and the issues surrounding the ctbt. Daryl, I'm ever so grateful for your unwavering and passionate support for the CTBT and its entry into force. Your dedication to achieving a world without nuclear testing is a shining example of the championing that we need to finally see the CTBT cross that finish line.
As we celebrate the CTBT's 25th anniversary year, I continue to be inspired by the strong support we're receiving from our supporters and champions all over the world, particularly among civil society. We welcomed two ratifications in March this year, the Gambia and Tuvalu. I'm delighted to report that we are well on our way to reaching the goal that I set of achieving five or more ratifications during the treaty's 25th anniversary year. By partnering together to promote the signature and ratification of the treaty, we are succeeding in reinforcing the taboo against nuclear testing and reaffirming the key role the CTBT plays in the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
ACA has been an instrumental part of this success. The current international security situation including putting nuclear weapons onto high alert has underscored the urgent need to strengthen the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture of which the ctbt is a core element. In this crucial moment, ACA's role becomes ever more important.
I wish the ACA great success as it continues providing vital contributions in support of effectives arms control policy around the world. Thank you.
FERNANDO ARIAS: It is a great pleasure for me to address you on this occasion to mark the Arms Control Association's 50th anniversary. On behalf of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, I wish to congratulate you for reaching this historic milestone. This is also a momentous year for the OPCW. We mark the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Looking back over the past five decades the disarmament and non-proliferation field has changed significantly. New treaties, agreements, and commitments have been negotiated and adopted to limit, prohibit, and eliminate the world's most destructive armaments. Regrettably, we have also seen a considerable number of these instruments weakened or abandoned.
Throughout this period the Arms Control Association has been a reliable source of independent knowledge and a strong advocate for global disarmament. Advocacy has also been indispensable for chemical disarmament. The Arms Control Association has been a champion of the chemical weapons convention as far back as its negotiation in the 1980s. As such, the Arms Control Association has been a valuable major partner for the OPCW and its mission by raising awareness about the dangers posed by the barbaric weapons of mass destruction.
In recent years, the international norm against chemical weapons has been placed under increasing pressure. These brutal, abject, and absolutely prohibited weapons have been used in multiple countries in the last few years—and this can neither be ignored nor tolerated.
Civil society leaders in the field of disarmament, such as the Arms Control Association, have a vital role to play in preventing the erosion of the norm. It is crucial to raise awareness about the new risks we have to face and the Chemical Weapons Convention persistently promote its objectives and forcibly condemn their violation.
Recent global developments have demonstrated that the gains of disarmament cannot be taken for granted. They must be safeguarded with courage and decision. As a non-partisan voice in the disarmament and non-proliferation field, the Arms Control Association is well placed to continue that defense.
For its part, you can count on the OPCW's ongoing support in our collective endeavor to prohibit the use and threat of use of chemical weapons. I thank you for your kind attention and I wish you a fruitful annual conference.
CHRIS WING: Hi, I am Chris Wing. I am a member of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association. I have been for quite some time. It is quite an honor. ACA, in case you haven't noticed, has an excellent staff, and it is really a pleasure to be on the board at the moment (I am acting chair temporarily).
I am very pleased that I got asked to help moderate this panel because in this panel, we are moving to a really difficult question. But it is not right in the heart of the policy. It is not in the heart of what happens in Washington so much. We are talking about the question of nuclear abolition, actual nuclear disarmament and, in particular, we are talking about, given how many things are changing in the world, but given the long history of some success on addressing nuclear disarmament, addressing abolition, how should we be thinking about popular movements in support of nuclear abolition? How should we be thinking about moving toward nuclear disarmament right now? And part of what pleases me about being asked to do this is we have a really excellent combination of people.
We have got Denise Duffield, who actually works at a local level. You are associate director of Physicians for Social Responsibility in Los Angeles. Daryl Kimball, who I think you know, have probably met before and so, I am not going to waste any time--we have got a short time--to introduce him further. Joan Rohlfing is the president and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and has been for 10 years now or so, or longer?
JOAN ROHLFING: I think so.
WING: But also, with solid government experience before that which is very important.
And Zia Mian is co-director of Princeton's program on social… on science and global security. I have known about that program for a while. I should know the name by now, but we'll keep going. Zia is one of those people that's very valuable to the kind of work that we all do because he really does function as a scientist and a researcher but also is very involved in the community of people who work on these issues.
And so, this panel really, we are pulling together every sort of work on these questions from many different levels. And, as I think you will hear from people and you will also hear it and you will hear from me, I think that any movement ultimately to get rid of nuclear weapons means we are working on every level that we can … nothing happens only in Washington, and obviously we are going to be talking, I mean, I should say obviously, we are going to be talking about the experience--these are all folks who work in the U.S.---we are talking about experience in the U.S. especially.
I just wanted to say two things before introducing people to… before asking people to respond to a couple of questions. We actually collectively have a lot of experience working toward nuclear disarmament but the moment we are in is very different than the one that many of us, anyway, have worked in before. And they are really two things, I mean, we don't yet know what the global security situation is going to look like. I mean, there's this sense, we have a sense, I think, that things are coming apart or are going to be different. They are different now and they are going to be different in a year, perhaps and further, we just, but we don't quite know what that will be like and our domestic political situation in the U.S. is profoundly different than it was. Or it is obvious to us now that it is profoundly different than it was in ways that--you know, back when I was working, you know, in doing freeze work or working in the disarmament movement or in it since, then, in the 80s, it was one thing, 90s another. It is been, you know, the negotiation of the treaty over the last decade and so on, but once but we are in a very different moment now, draws on activist time or substantial, so it's, we really need, we probably need more than 50 minutes to try to figure out what to do but this is how we are going to proceed.
Again, I have a couple of questions … I am going to ask people to respond to them as, you know, briefly. We will go through once and then we will come back with a second question.
My first question is, really, what have you learned from the work that you've done on nuclear issues over the last, you know, 10 years or so? What have we learned about what it takes to have engaged popular engagement in affecting nuclear policy? So that's really the first question. I think we have a lot of good experience to draw on before turning to all the difficulties. I wanted, we wanted to hear some about what people think works.
So, I was going to start with Daryl, then Denise, then Zia and Joan, if we may.
KIMBALL: Well, thank you very much, Chris.
And you know, this is the tough question. I think that we all need to think about how we engage the public, how we motivate ourselves, and the organizations that are part of the nuclear disarmament movement in effective actions that move us out of this very dangerous moment.
So, let me just mention, in my 30 years of experience since I was and even before when I was a student nuclear disarmament campaigner in the early 1980s, I mean there seemed to be several key things that are necessary ingredients for putting in the recipe to cook up success on nuclear disarmament, the breakthroughs that have made a difference that we have been hearing about through the course of the day.
But before I go through that quick list, I mean, I think one of the things that we have to remember is as difficult as things are, we have to remember--to coin a phrase from a guy who was also in the White House, "yes, we can"--because we have in the past collectively put together effective campaigns with these right ingredients that have made a huge difference and, because we have done that in the past despite the problems that we face today, you know, if we are smart, we work together. I think we can change the course of nuclear history once again.
So, as I said there are many ingredients that constitute an effective nuclear disarmament movement that have to be cooked up in the right way, that have to be cooked up in the right time, to produce meaningful success. And in the American context, I mean the way I think about it is we need to have widespread public concern and awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and arms racing and a sense that personal engagement, personal action, can somehow make a difference. We need to have bold and smart leadership from the president, not just nice words. We need actual action and commitment and some political risk-taking to move the ball forward. We need to achieve success—ideally, bipartisan leadership from enough members of Congress.
And when we have a coordinated and focused and socially and politically diverse set of organizations networks in Washington across the country working together, you know, we can focus public pressure and attention to push policymakers to take the actions that make a difference. We need the right ideas and there are a lot of ideas out there right now about how to move the ball forward.
There's not necessarily agreement in what we think of as the movement. And I think that's part of our challenge: is how do we come together around a focused set of key ideas that engage the public that are effective and that are achievable over the next five to 10 years? And so, you know, success also requires coordination amongst some of the key organizations and leaders of organizations like ACA and NTI and others to be working collaboratively rather than competitively. And I think there is a lot of collaborative spirit, but we don't necessarily have the organizational capacity right now to align our strategies within the organizations that work primarily in Washington, but also across the country. We need to work harder to develop that.
And then, of course, success depends on a whole lot on luck, historical circumstances, you know, Mikhail Gorbachev coming on the scene in 1985-87 that changed the course of history. That's not something we could plan for, but we can plan for, as High Representative Nakamitsu said, we can plan for the moment when the engagement between the great powers resumes, when there is an event that focuses the public mind on the problem, just as we have seen over the last few weeks, we need to be ready to move forward together to push for the actions that are necessary to reduce nuclear risk and to move toward the goal of the peace and security of the world without nuclear weapons.
So, those are some of the key ingredients. I think we have to keep that in mind as we talked about and think about how we work together.
WING: OK, thank you.
Denise, from where you sit, what have you seen that that you feel will help guide us forward?
DENISE DUFFIELD: Well, for the last four years, I've been deeply involved in a campaign called "Back from the Brink," bringing communities together to abolish nuclear weapons. And what this campaign is a campaign for nuclear abolition. We organize around a set of a policy platforms -- we call them policy solutions -- but really it is about making clear that nuclear weapons are a local issue and that local communities have and must have a say in nuclear policy, which many people don't know that there's something that they can do about it.
The campaign also is heavily focused on approaching municipal governments and state governments and asking them to adopt resolutions that support our policy platform and that those efforts are led throughout the country by grassroots activists. So, even though there's a steering committee that coordinates "Back from the Brink," it may be Pax Christie that's organizing a resolution in one city and maybe Veterans for Peace that's organizing that in another city. Many different groups get involved. What's even more exciting is when these groups can build coalitions and sort of break down the silos that we are in.
Because I am a local organizer, I worked a lot on the cleanup of the Sandia field laboratory. I know how the city politics works. I know how the state legislature works. I have relationships with environmental justice groups, with racial justice groups, with climate groups.
So, when it came time for the Los Angeles resolution to happen, we could draw on that--we could bring together hibakusha; we could bring the faith community; and we could bring veterans; and we could bring students in. And we did.
And what we are finding is that, on this local level, this is intended to influence decision makers. Members of Congress have asked us, "Look, I go… I have town hall meetings. I don't hear anything about nuclear anything. We really need you guys to do this." They are not going to make any of these policies a priority if they are not hearing it from their constituents.
And so more and more, we want to be able to say these cities in your district, this state that you are in, these organizations. Now we have state and local elected officials who are also coming on board, so this is, you know, Boston, Minneapolis, Tucson, Salt Lake City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, of course. Baltimore was the first major city to adopt a resolution. These resolutions are also sent out to Members of Congress.
They are an extraordinarily powerful organizing tool, not just at the municipal level but also with, when you are talking to other organizations and so trying to really, you know, build our capacity that way.
And again this we really, really particularly at this moment that you mentioned, with so much on the line, when children are being slaughtered, when people can't go to church or the grocery store in certain communities without being risk of losing their lives, that we talk about security in terms of human security and not what is … what we think is possible, what we know is necessary and that is the abolition of nuclear weapons.
So, I am very excited about this campaign and the lessons that we continue to learn as it grows and as it evolves, particularly this distributed organizing model we are doing. And I would say also on the national level another thing that we are doing, also to break out of the silo, is we are partnering with the Poor People's Campaign. They have their Moral March coming up on June 18th and this is they refer to a moral fusion model of organizing. And it has been incredibly powerful to be in some of the planning meetings and have, you know, reproductive rights activists, with labor, with environmental, with income inequality, with the faith movement, to have us all together because I don't…
I think where we are at as a country right now is… single issues are not … I can't see us having a big win somewhere and all these other things … I think we need to come together. So everybody brings their expertise; everybody sort of stays in their lanes but we join together and we support each other at moments when it counts. So that's what …
WING: So, it is not either/or. You are not saying to a local activist, you know, "Either you got to work on, you know, what do you want to do about democracy…"
DUFFIELD: No, you show up for each other. So maybe you are going to pass a resolution or a state legislative bill and another group is coming there with something about housing. We will stay and we will always support that and we will build the relationships that we need to move forward.
WING: OK, thank you. That's a great start.
Zia, what's on your mind? Failure, I know, yeah, all right, go ahead…
ZIA MIAN: I mean, you know one has to accept the inevitable fact that … you know, we are celebrating 50 years of the Arms Control Association. So, as people have mentioned, this was also when the first strategic arms limitation agreement was signed--capping the number of strategic nuclear weapons and the signing of the anti-ballistic missile treaty, which was said to be proof of the victory of arms control as a way of thinking about national security in the United States.
It is also when Nixon went to China. It is also the year when the first Stockholm Conference on the environment took place and made environmental issues a global issue. And look where we are now. We are still here, the Arms Control Association.
The ABM Treaty has been gone for 20 years. So, what happened to the proof of the victory of arms control as the cornerstone of American national security? When even the Kissingers and the McNamaras said it would be a disaster to undo this and Washington undid it anyway. As they were told the expansion of NATO after the Cold War would be a disaster and they did it anyway. And the Stockholm Conference.
We have had thousands of scientists pour their hearts out with explaining the terrible consequences of what we are doing with our fossil fuel economies. And yet here we are. We still do not have anywhere close to the kind of action that would actually address the real problem. And, you know, we could go on. We could talk about Roe v. Wade, we could talk about racial justice, we could talk about gun violence.
So, both at the domestic level and at the global level, we actually have a crisis of the legitimacy of the institutions that govern the world and this country. And, for me, we have to start with that fact. In a funny way that was also the problem in 1970-72 because of the Vietnam War. People in America and many people around the world saw a crisis of responsibility. Are these people and these institutions fit to be responsible for managing our societies and our lives? And when you go back and read the histories of that time, you realize that that sense of a crisis of the legitimacy of how things are managed and who's in charge and how they manage things was central to the politics of that time. And I think we need to reclaim that as a central element of what we are doing now.
And I say this with great respect for everybody in the room and who've done so much work, but, as the American political scientist Robert Dowel pointed out a long time ago in his book about controlling nuclear weapons, there were these two models--the model of guardianship, where there is a small group of elite experts both inside and outside government that talk to each other and tell everybody "You have to trust us to manage this because we are both reasonable and prudent and we are doing it in everybody's best interest," so, morally we are, you know, OK.
And then there is the democratic control issue. And Dahl said that in the United States, you know the guardianship problem is actually acute. And one thing that has happened in the past 50 years in a variety of issues (not just ours) is that we have become part of the structure of guardianship. The professionalization of dissent and contentious politics on nuclear weapons and on many other issues has meant that many organizations and ways of thinking are now part of this inside/outside process of people going into the government and coming out to an NGO or a think tank, people writing policy papers for each other, making sure that everybody accepts what is reasonable. And that domestication of dissent limits the kinds of things that we are possibly able to imagine and do with these existing structures.
So, I am in a very privileged position that, you know, Princeton is not in D.C. It is far away. I sit in a university, so I don't really have to deal with that aspect of it. But I think it also gives a perspective. And so, I think, for me, one of the things I've learned is that we actually have to rediscover some of the more difficult challenges involved in contentious politics and actually be much more focused on our own relationship to the structures of power and authority and how they limit what we think is reasonable to talk about and ask about.
And here I think that, you know, we have to remember that it wasn't so long ago that you had almost all the conditions that Daryl quite rightly outlined. You had a president who talked about the moral responsibility of the United States to give up nuclear weapons, the first president of the United States ever to go to Hiroshima. And yet what changed?
And so, I want to kind of just conclude by this … that if you wanted to look at an example of things that worked, I'd point to two things: one, is that you look at the success of an organization like ICAN, which was founded based on an idea by a Malaysian doctor, taken up by a group in Australia, with an agenda that was unthinkable in nuclear weapon states by and large—"Let's just do zero. No step by step. Let's just do zero."
And they worked with people outside the United States with great success. And so, one thing we might want to think about is that if we can't manage our own governmental structures, perhaps it is time for the United States to ask for help, right? "Hey guys, we are really stuck. Please help. Send the cavalry, right? Please send Elayne Gomez Whyte. Please send, you know, lots and lots of activists and diplomats and experts from where you do have experience in how to make fundamental change and help bail us out."
And the other thing is you look at the kind of work that 350.org and others have done. What it took to stop the XL pipeline and all of these things. Those are the kinds of things the peace movement used to do. Right? And I think--that's the last comment and I will stop here -- is we need to think about how to reimagine ourselves, not as the nuclear security community or the nuclear policy community, but ask ourselves "Are we a peace movement or not?" And what is our relationship to the movement and what kind of movement, and where are we with relationship to that. I will stop with that.
WING: Thank you. And I have a feeling we are not going to quite get to the end of the whole conversation here, but one of the things I wanted to say, just before going to Joan, is that this is the value of having these four folks up here. Because we are all working from … and if you in and from different … I mean what you are talking about Zia, what Denise is doing, is fundamental to answering some of the questions I think that you are raising. And we can get to that later, but Joan … so, here you are in Washington ….
ROHLFING: Thank you, yes. Alas, I might say most days it is pretty hot but I do love it here. So there's way more to say than we have time for. Let me try and hit a couple of key points. And Zia, thank you for your critical assessment; I agree 100 percent with it.
And I would say I think one of the most important things we need to do when we look at our lack of success, our lack of strategic success over a multi-decadal period, is to do a deep-dive examination of the nuclear system and all of the elements that hold it in place. What are the key dynamics and behaviors that are trapping us in a cycle that we can't seem to get out of?
One of the observations I would make about the system is that it is undemocratic at every level. Power is held by a small number of elites in a small number of states and yet the consequences of nuclear use affect all of humanity. And so, we do need to find a way to democratize nuclear weapons, to make them more accessible, to reach more people to make nuclear issues relevant for our political leaders, to make it necessary for them to respond to learn about these issues, and to help build the political will that we need for change.
So, I will make another observation about how do we do that. I think … by the way I would also just mention, Daryl, that there hasn't always been consensus, there still isn't consensus in our community. We are not monolithic. We are pretty diverse. But there hasn't been consensus around the importance of a social movement and so, we have we haven't coordinated well. We have thrown our energy into doing that at points in our history, but many of us, particularly those of us in Washington, have been playing this what I call an inside-baseball strategy, thinking that if we can only persuade, you know, a few key decision makers, we can crack the whole nut, we can solve the whole problem. And as you point out, Zia, even having helped bring to the presidency Barack Obama, there were limits to what he could do. And that's what has driven us into a deep-dive around…"Well, if he couldn't do it right, what are the other aspects, behaviors, and dynamics of the system that need to be disrupted?"
The lack of a social movement is only one. I think there are entrenched financial interests, there are entrenched institutional interests, there is a very deeply entrenched way of thinking about nuclear weapons that is deeply rooted in a belief in nuclear deterrence.
And as long as we remain deeply committed to nuclear deterrence forever, we can never… I mean, it is a circular logic that traps us in having to have nuclear weapons forever. We are never going to be able to reach the end point of a world where nuclear weapons are prohibited.
So, what can we do on the social movement side? I think that must be a priority. And in NTI, in order to better understand how we can help build a social movement, have done a couple of rounds of deep research--not traditional polling but a kind of deeper sort of cultural audit--to understand how the American public thinks about nuclear weapons. And there were … just I am going to mention two top level takeaways from that research.
First is that 75 to 80 percent of the American public is already bought into a world without nuclear weapons. We don't really have to make the sale on that. I mean, of course, it would be good if there was more nuance in understanding how bad it might really be but people already want that world.
There's a high level of despair about the multiple crises that we find ourselves in. People are living with a high level of anxiety and despair about the future but only half of the population, roughly 50 percent, believe that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and an even smaller number--about 30 percent--believe they have any agency at all to affect that outcome.
And one of the biggest obstacles the biggest roadblock standing in the way of people believing that they have any agency is no one has given them a hopeful feasible vision of what a future without nuclear weapons would look like.
So, you know for me I think the number one thing we need to do is to be better as a community about conveying the hopeful vision. Let's give people kind of more fidelity about what that vision looks like and help them understand that it is possible. It is not some "not-in-my-lifetime" pipe dream. I think that's really crucial.
So, I will stop there because I know we want to go to a next phase of the discussion.
WING: Yeah, it is hard to jump right from here to talking about… "OK, so what can we do in the next five to 10 years?," you know, because actually we are putting very big questions on the table, I would say.
In terms of what Joan was just talking about, I mean this is something that permeates our politics. And actually, it is not just recent in terms of … there are many things to which 75 to 80 percent of the people in the country would say, "Yes, I agree with you, but the political…, but the decisions made in Washington have resolutely gone against that."
It is not just on nukes. It is not just on abortion rights. It is not just on gun rights. So, there is something in the political process that we cannot actually ignore. So, part of the question, I guess, and starting again with Denise, from where you sit and from working locally, you are describing a situation where you feel that there's energy. And, so, how do you respond to the things that to the way, the discussion, the points that Zia and Joan have made about the difficulty? Because you've been working locally and at the state level, that doesn't yet make it to the federal level…
DUFFIELD: Oh, but it does, it does. You know we, for example, … I've talked about this but we when we met with Adam Schiff to talk about co-sponsoring a no-first-use bill we were able to talk about the resolutions. We are able to bring a very diverse (in terms of arenas) group of people to talk to him and… That's what it is meant for.
I couldn't agree more with Zia. I don't have an answer for how we fundamentally change the government right now. All I know is that all social change movements have doubt, have had at their base, at their root, organizing, organizing, organizing, organizing … that we work from the bottom up.
And that's what we are trying to do and fuse that with other folks that are also organizing for a better future, for a more hopeful future. We have groups like 350.org. We have Sierra Club. We have over 400 organizations that have endorsed the campaign that we too can call on, especially the ones that have chapters in different areas.
And what I think where we lack the most is capacity. The grassroots, which I think holds the key to the kingdom in terms of actually real change, is enormously under-resourced. And we are putting out many fires which is why I think this coming together that's happening in a couple of weeks here is so important. You've seen for the women's march, for the march on science, you will see signs for everything, immigrants righta, you know, everything in the world. You won't see peace or nuclear disarmament. Well, we are changing that and sort of entering into what may eventually at some point need to be quite confrontational in terms of how our government is structured and true participatory democracy.
WING: So, Zia, what do you think about … where will your focus be over the next six to 12 months on the assumption that you put your time and energy into things you think are, you know, have some promise?
MIAN: If only one had the privilege of focus given the state of the world. But let me let me kind of try and follow on from what Joan and Denise just said.
It seems to me that what I am trying to get at, you know, however incoherently, is that for a long time we have thought about nuclear weapons and many other issues as issues of policy, not as issues of democracy.
And I would make the case that, right now, all of these different strands of contention… the single-issue causes, movements, groups that we have seen struggling in so many ways in the United States and more broadly do reflect an increasingly shared sense about what I was saying. It is a legitimacy crisis about democracy, about people's ability to shape their lives and the conditions of their lives and, in that respect, I think that one of the things that, as a community with all our differences as Joan rightly points out and also all the other organizations that Denise is working with and others are working with, and, as I said, you know, folks around the world who are working on their issues, is to think about how to have a conversation about democracy.
Because, you know, thinking about, you know, what can we do to move this Member of Congress, and get a piece of legislation through a committee, et cetera … We have realized how vulnerable all of that is and once upon a time it was assumed that we would go step-by-step through one arms control treaty after the next arms control treaty and that, but each one was seen to be an anchor on, you know, a foundation on which we would build the next thing, and it turns out that the rug can actually be pulled out from under your feet. They were not as solid as we had ever imagined them to be and in the larger scale the entire world system is going through a profound transition which was never imagined in the ways in which many of these agreements were set up.
The United States has moved from a position of parity to hegemony, now to being defensive about the future. And, you know, so we have to keep all of those things in mind. But I think that we actually need to have a conversation about the need to build anti-systemic movements and go back to another-world-is-possible kind of ways of thinking but relevant to our time now, and actually ask the questions about, you know …, All of these social movements that we have, all of these policy crises we have actually are the rise of authoritarianism in many countries and populism. All speak to an issue about democracy and so we have to think about how does the peace movement, the anti-nuclear movement, … everybody have a conversation about what kind of relationship do we as people want to have about democracy and the role of democracy in managing societies. That may actually lead to new kinds of possibilities. I think that would be where I would look for resources for hope and action.
WING: Though I had told Daryl that I didn't think I'd call on him in the second round, I am going to because he looks like he has something to say.
KIMBALL: Yes, I will thank you, Chris, for indulging me. You've heard a lot from me today. Just let me offer a thought to build on what Zia is saying. You know, we have had a little bit of discussion earlier today in our previous discussions about what the war in Ukraine …, what questions it brings up, how we should respond to Vladimir Putin's threats of nuclear use.
And so, when if we are trying to catalyze a conversation about democracy and a lack of democracy in decisions about nuclear weapons, I mean, one of the key issues I think we need to be driving on and asking questions about is the issue of nuclear deterrence and how sustainable is this concept of international security.
If you've been reading Arms Control Today, I've been writing about this in the post-Russia-Ukraine war situation, but that is the fundamental question that this crisis raises that we need to begin thinking about. And so, over the next 6 to 12 months--I mean, this is one of the fundamental questions that I think we as a "community" (and a community is used with a small c in a broad sense) need to be asking questions about--it is a 5-to-10-year-long strategy we need to be pursuing.
That's just one aspect but I think it is an important aspect. And then finally, you know, just a quick note, as Zia says, the arms control institutions that have been and regimes that have been built up over the years (that we have been talking about all day) that we are celebrating away, yes, they are vulnerable. We cannot take them for granted and you know, (I am paraphrasing Coretta Scott King) every generation needs to fight for justice and freedom, every generation needs to win their victories.
And, you know, so we are going forward. We need to think about how we rebuild some of those arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation institutions. We need to build them better.
But we need to recognize, as you said, Zia, that these are not etched in stone. And we are not necessarily going to be able to build on them step by step.
And one of the elements is the TPNW, another element is the taboo against nuclear weapons which we talked about this morning, and another element, I think, is the simple idea that nuclear armed states must continue to pursue their legal obligation to negotiate on ways to end the arms race and achieve nuclear disarmament (which is Article VI of the NPT). So these are some kind of fundamental things that I think can bind us together to try to tackle some of the huge issues that we are talking about here over the next… whether it is six to 12 months or longer.
WING: Daryl in some ways is saying that there are actually also some sort of substantive or policy issues that we don't know, that we haven't yet …
WING: … thought through right. So, Joan, for you and an organization like NTI, is that a useful notion that maybe we haven't figured everything out? And there are things that, in addition to your concern about how you build and shape popular opinion, are there things that in the last 12 months you have come to focus on substantively more, for example, about deterrence? I mean, are you …
ROHLFING: We're deeply invested in…
WING: Yes, talk a little about what you are thinking…
ROHLFING: Totally, over the last several years, we have been really critically examining and challenging this deeply held and deeply entrenched belief system.
WING: And "deeply," do you see that as an elite discussion? I mean, who do you see.
ROHLFING: No, no, it is not at all at the moment. It is more of an internal discussion and a discussion in a few small forums where we find people interested in engaging in this.
I mean, I agree with you, Daryl. I think it is crucial for us to ask and answer the question about how sustainable is nuclear deterrence. And the smart ass in me would say, "Yes and it is perfectly sustainable. It is like a self-replicating virus. It is so resilient, right, it just keeps coming back and back and back." But Humanity is not resilient in the face of a system which is premised on mass annihilation and therefore has risk baked into its DNA. And when the system fails, and I say when because I think, you know, just mathematically, it is a matter of time before the system will fail and we will have to manage a global catastrophe.
It is possible … and shame on us if we cannot as a community to develop a better system for managing nuclear technology, one that is … when I say nuclear technology, I mean both peaceful and nuclear weapons technology, we are not going to uninvent that … we have to figure out how we can live with it as Humanity in perpetuity but in a way that it doesn't threaten us.
And I think we are lucky to live in a period where, for all of the challenges that we are confronting today, we have many new tools available to us that we didn't have before in terms of technological tools that can enable us to do detection and monitoring and verification of the non-production of nuclear weapons and that can get us on the other side of this equation to a state of nuclear prohibition at some point.
So, we are investing a lot of our time and energy in not only understanding the dynamics that hold deterrence in place, to be smarter about how we can disrupt that and get us to a better place, but then also envisioning and developing the road map. Not just the road map how we get there but what does that end state look like. Let's define it with way more fidelity than just an expression of, you know, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a world without nuclear weapons?" And many of us, if not maybe all of us in this room, might agree with that destination, but we have to do more than just state the end point.
And I wanted to just say also very briefly, come back to the coordination point. Because I think it is really crucial that, you know, as a small community that's under extreme stress at the moment because of the loss of funders, we have to leverage our time and our effort and our resources by being much better coordinated with each other. So, I wanted to foot stomp that observation by Daryl.
WING: I also would say that the role of organizations that are advocating--I think of an organization like ACA as an advocacy nonprofit--in Washington when there's a lot going on in the country, then that pulls the advocacy groups into a different relationship with policymakers, and they serve a different role in relation to organizations on the ground. And, you know, ideally, we will be again at some point in a situation where there is more of that communication, where the work that's going on locally is connected--and I know you all talk, I don't mean that there's no connection but it is not yet or it hasn't been for a while--that sort of, I think, that the … it is very easy to … there are important things for nonprofits in Washington to do even when there's not a big huge grassroots organization.
But the strength really lies in being able to link not just with each other in Washington but also with each other and with people working around the country. And with researchers.
I think that you may have noticed that we didn't ask for questions. And the reason was that we had 50 minutes for this panel and it did not seem realistic -- 50 minutes, four speakers and I was crabby… so that's why I wasn't going to call on Daryl a second time because I figured he's got lots of chances to say what's going on.
But we actually, believe it or not, even though we have just started to scratch the surface, I think we are pretty much winding up and I wanted to I wanted to give you all an opportunity (but not a requirement) if you want to sort of make one final sort of comment. Start down at the end with Zia because he's had to be quiet for a little bit. No, I mean you just haven't talked yet.
MIAN: Sometimes it is good to be quiet.
WING: It is sometimes good.
MIAN: Camus famously said that "Sometimes the only thing you can do is be silent."
WING: That's right. Absolutely true.
MIAN: But I think that the issue for me fundamentally comes down to that organizations and groups working in the United States need to rethink their relationship of power with the rest of the world and begin by putting ourselves in a position of humility. And say "We made the world in large measure. The mess is our doing. We can't fix it. Please come help us figure out together how to try and fix it."
WING: Doris Leslie wrote a book along these lines many, many years ago. How about you, Denise, do you have anything you would like to add?
DUFFIELD: I just like to stress the importance of leadership in moments like this, leadership on all levels, you know. Some of the city councils that we have approached to have people that want to be involved, that want to be leaders, … there used to be a city council member we had named Alex Padilla. He became a state legislator. Now he's a state senator. It matters, you know, when we are talking to and developing leaders that can be force multipliers in a good way and hoping that that will also lead to what we really need, which is leadership in Congress. People who, like in the freeze movement, took this issue on, and made it their issue.
And so, I think again, these things seem to be falling apart at the seams and maybe they will and something better will emerge from the ashes. But in the meantime, right now, I think that there's a crisis of leadership too, and that our group is trying to foster that back from the brink again at all levels, from community leaders to elected officials on.
WING: Great! Joan, do you want to say anything more?
ROHLFING: Yes, please, which is, you know, we have been talking about really difficult issues during a really difficult period and it is easy to feel hopeless. And so, maybe, I will offer a word of hope, dare I say, which is—and this might sound like I am in denial… Daryl and I were talking about earlier how we get our jobs done because we can tune out the rest of the world on many days but…—I really believe our community is positioned at a point of significant opportunity right now. And it is and we are at this point because of the multiple crises that are happening, you know, because of the pandemic, because of the Ukraine crisis, people waking up to, you know, how fragile the world is and how endangered we all are.
We also see technological trends that are giving us new tools and the fact that our field is in crisis is forcing us to rethink our strategy and to collaborate in ways that we haven't had to in the past. And so, I am actually very optimistic that we may be on the verge of some very significant change and that we can collectively make some significant impact in the space. So, I wanted to share that.
WING: Thank you. Daryl, do you have anything you want to say now or ….
KIMBALL: I think that's a good note to end on, Chris.
Congratulatory Remarks from
Peter Crail, Business Executive for National Security
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
PETER CRAIL: I first learned about ACA actually as a graduate student when I was an avid reader of Arms Control Today. So when I joined ACA as its non-proliferation analyst and then contributed to ACT and the Arms Control Associations’ other work, tracking developments with places like Iran, North Korea, and Syria, it was an incredible experience. So I did that with ACA for a little over four years, which prepared me very well for the position that I took following that with the State Department, where I then implemented and helped to implement many of the policies that we tried to promote.
MARYLIA KELLEY: I've been involved with the Arms Control Association for almost 40 years. As an advocate for nuclear disarmament, I have known a lot of staff—past and present. They've always been wonderful. I need to give a special shout out to Daryl. I've certainly worked with ACA more closely since he took over the executive director role there. And I have known Daryl in previous positions since he was impossibly young. And so it's been a joy over all of these many years.
CRAIL: ACA's biggest accomplishment is the awareness that it's built over the last 50 years for the logic and need for arms control policies. There are always going to be loud voices on the other side calling for more arms and less restraint. If countries pursued more arms and less restraint than that would mean more suffering and more resources diverted from things to improve people's lives to things designed to to end them. ACA has been an important voice for arms control policies that will help to make the world safer.
KELLEY: The Arms Control Association has been part of and also had a leadership role in many both arms control and nuclear disarmament accomplishments. First of treaties, of the Iran deal—but, more personally, I want to call out ACA's magazine, its fact sheets, its press releases. They're always on point. They're useful for policymakers and the media of course. But what I do is I take them and use them side by side with some materials I've produced for Tri-valley CAREs that are more centered in the nuclear weapons complex and nuclear weapons budget. And on that same topic, ACA has a broader policy context and together it gives our members a very holistic understanding of what's going on and empowers them to take action.
CRAIL: The organization's most important contribution is the awareness that it's built over 50 years for the importance of arms control and arms control policies and it's done so based on rigorous analysis and sharing of information on these issues. And a lot of the information that an analysis that ACA has shared has helped contribute to arms control policies.
As just one example that I remember from my time after leaving ACA and then joining the State Department, the technical lead for the Iran nuclear deal—I was someone that I happened to share a wall with him and he was in the office next door—right before he left for a trip to con to join the negotiations some of the early negotiations on the Iran deal, he printed out one of our ACA analysis on the history of nuclear diplomacy with Iran and stopped by my office to say that this was a really helpful document for the talks that he was going to engage in, which is just a small example of how the work that ACA does really helps arms control practitioners do the work that they need to do.
KELLEY: I value a lot about the ACA. First and foremost, I value the people. I value analysis. I value the spectrum of activities. The Arms Control Association and all of the staff I've worked with over the years and Daryl in particular have this ability to speak truth to power in a wide variety of venues
CRAIL: Congratulations to the Arms Control Association for 50 years of promoting good arms control policies. The organization is becoming even more important now as we head into yet another dangerous time and we look forward to the ACA providing insight and guidance on these important issues as we go forward.
GEORGE PERKOVICH: Congratulations and thanks to Daryl and his colleagues and the board of the Arms Control Association for 50 years of great service.
ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: So I first came to ACA as an intern fresh out of college.—straight from Tufts to DC. And it was the most incredible introductory experience in the nuclear policy fields that I could have ever imagined. And I loved it so much I came back for more after briefly leaving for the Brookings Institution. I came back as soon as I could to the open research assistant position at ACA.
PERKOVICH: Arms control is like speed limits on highways. They reduce the probability and the death and destruction of collisions. It's like an open hand reached out for a shake rather than a fist drawn back for a punch. And it's like an all-clear bell after an alarm at school letting us know that the worst fears are not going to be realized today. It's good for people but not glamorous, not muscular, not enriching, and not sexy—but really good for people.
SANDERS-ZAKRE: What is so incredible to me about ACA—and I know that countless people can speak to ACA's policy impact and the real difference that the work of the staff have made on making the world a better place—but what's really strikes me about ACA is the potential to shape the next generation of leaders on arms control and nuclear policy. This is something I witnessed firsthand as someone who was introduced to the field through ACA. I learned an enormous amount.
I often say ACA was my master's degree in nuclear policy. Most of what I learned on nuclear policy was from ACA as well as not just the facts and figures but really how to make a difference. And looking around at my colleagues, interns, and research assistants who were at ACA with me when I was there, it's really cool to see where we've all gone—from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the State Department to Congress.
So, it's just a really unique and special launching pad to train the next generation of hopefully leaders in the field.
PERKOVICH: The Arms Control Association for 50 years has been the go-to source of information analysis and advocacy about arms control. If the Arms Control Association didn't exist, it would be missed and then reinvented because civilization needs arms control and arms control needs the Arms Control Association.
SANDERS-ZAKRE: I would really go back to how it has developed and shaped young people for generations to come to make a difference. The ACA is really unique as a think tank but also an advocacy organization in Washington DC that cares just as much about getting the most accurate and comprehensive information and policy information out there as how much it cares about really changing things and making the world a better and safer place. No matter what specific nuclear policy issue it's working on for ACA, it's the combination of hard-hitting facts with real advocacy to make a difference that makes it stand out.
What a remarkable legacy of 50 years. As a relative newcomer to the field, I feel like I don't have much of a place to speak to the entire history of ACA, but just of course congratulations to the entire team. That's something else that's really special about ACA—not only the work that's done but also the people who do it. As someone again who entered the field through ACA, I couldn't have asked for a better team of role models and mentors that I still look up to immensely. To everyone who I worked with and maybe who I didn't work with, just huge congratulations. And I hope you take some time to celebrate this moment.
MARYLIA KELLEY: Congratulations Daryl on 20 years with the Arms Control Association. I so appreciate how it has flourished under your stewardship and leadership. I recall first meeting Daryl at a national meeting of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability—must have been at least 25, more than 25 years ago. We were both young. Daryl had just gotten a position with Physicians for Social Responsibility and was representing them in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. And from the other side of the room, I spotted Daryl as smart. I spotted Daryl as good-mannered, as somebody I wanted to get to know and work with. And nothing in the last 25 or 30 years has changed that impression.
GEORGE PERKOVICH: Well, I first knew Daryl when I was at the W. Alton Jones Foundation, and I funded his work at Physicians for Social Responsibility so that was before he came to ACA. When it was announced that he came to ACA, I thought terrific, he's a great leader, and this would be a big chance for him to shine—and boy has he done that. He is tireless. He is relentless. And he is always doing what he's doing not out of personal ego but to make the world safer. We're all very lucky to have had his service for all these 20 years.
SHALONDA SPENCER: When I first started my role at WCAPS, it was a great transition. and I would like to say that Daryl was one of the first people to reach out to me to want to schedule a meeting when the world slowed back down because of COVID—and those moments represent true leadership.
ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: I just like to again go back to what an amazing job you've done over your time at ACA in building trust in the next generation and in young people who want to enter the fields. Something I'm really grateful for is that even when I came to ACA—I just turned 21—you always respected me and gave me an opportunity and never let that be an issue. As a young woman in the fields, there aren't a lot of leaders of organizations who will give you that credibility and take you seriously and talk to you about the issues. One of the proudest moments in my career was when we were having lunch in DC after I'd gone on to ICAN. You said to me that you saw a bit of yourself in me. That's the greatest compliment I could ever ask for. I hope that one day I can look back on a career like yours.
EMMA BELCHER: Congratulations Daryl for 20 years at ACA. It's an incredible accomplishment and the ACA has been such an asset to the field during your tenure.
PETER CRAIL: While I was working at ACA, Daryl would often tell people once he was done speaking with them that they were now off to help save the world because they were important people involved in arms control processes. Well, one thing that Daryl should keep in mind is that with his 20 years at the home of the Arms Control Association, Daryl, you're also helping to save the world.
KELLEY: I really appreciate how Daryl has taken forward in his career his understanding of the US nuclear weapons complex even before he got the job at Physicians for Social Responsibility. He was involved in nuclear weapons complex issues in his home state of Ohio. I do recall a story about Frisbees for Peace. I believe it was his college team and an action at an Ohio nuclear weapons site that I heard about at our first meeting.
That understanding, that very broad perspective has permeated his work at the Arms Control Association. It adds depth. It has nuance. It's a very holistic understanding that he has that both ACA and our sort of broader collaborative efforts as a community have both prospered and done great work together because of that holistic understanding that Daryl carries.
I remember at one of the early alliance for nuclear accountability meetings Daryl using a heathy little expression to talk about our collaborative work together. All of the groups in ANA, he called us the forces of good. Daryl, I need to tell you that I love that and for 30 years—however long it's been—I have occasionally used that expression and every time I say the forces of good of you and I smile inside.
SPENCER: Your work in the non-proliferation field is such an inspiration for people like myself to tackle such bigger issues. Congratulations Daryl on 20 years
SANDERS-ZAKRE: So, Daryl congratulations on 20 years with ACA and to 20 more.
CRAIL: Daryl, congratulations on 20 years leading the Arms Control Association. The organization's become 50 this year and it's becoming even more important as the world faces an even more dangerous time. And the organization couldn't be in better hands.
PERKOVICH: Congratulations Daryl. 20 years. I don't think any of us thought when you began that any of us would be in our jobs for 20 years and now you've done it so congratulations.
Congratulatory Remarks from
Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
BONNIE JENKINS: Hello, and congratulations to the Arms Control Association for celebrating its 50th Anniversary. It is a milestone that's well deserving of celebration, and I wish I were there in person to take part.
The ACA has been a source of information and network for me since I was a young scholar working on issues of arms control disarmament and non-proliferation. I was especially honored to receive the 2020 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year Award along with the organization I founded, Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation, in recognition of my efforts to diversify the voices heard and expertise in the areas of peace and security. I also had the pleasure of funding the great work of ACA back when I was a program officer of the Ford Foundation and later serving on the ACA board. it has always been a pleasure.
I am so very glad to see the ACA continue to be a leading organization focused on arms control, non-proliferation, and disarmament, which are all areas I continue to have a strong commitment to. I know you will continue to impact the future of peace and security for another 50 years.
from Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)
JEFF MERKLEY: Greetings to everyone attending the 2022 Arms Control Association Members Conference. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley here. Over the past few hours, you've all heard from experts and leaders about the state of the world today and the powerful need for nuclear arms control—more urgent now than it has been in a long time. So, thank you all for being a part of this conversation which is so critical to the future of our planet.
Years ago … decades ago, I worked at the Pentagon and on a Capitol Hill in nuclear arms control policy. I chose that line of work because I felt that the threat of nuclear war was the greatest threat facing humankind. It was possible that escalation of a conventional conflict or a misperception could lead to a missile launch and it would have the potential to bring about unimaginable global destruction. I thought about what President Kennedy said to the United Nations in 1961. He said, "every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderness of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness." Thanks to the work of so many over many years—leaders and organizations like the Arms Control Association—we came to a point where it no longer felt like that sword was over our heads. It felt like we were on a path toward reducing the number and threat of weapons of mass destruction.
Yet here we are in the year 2022 and it feels like that Sword of Damocles is back.
Here are some of my thoughts. One, Russia is carrying out an unprovoked illegal war in Ukraine and that's changed the context of the risk of nuclear weapons. Back in March, Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons when he ordered his country's nuclear deterrent forces be put in a heightened alert state, a move I strongly condemned with the other co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, because it threatened to escalate an already perilous situation.
More recently, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haynes, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee it was possible that President Putin might consider using nuclear weapons if he thinks he's about to lose the conventional war. I think how things had come so far since January, because in January, Putin joined other leaders of nuclear-armed states in saying "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
Meanwhile, China is growing and evolving its own nuclear arsenal. It's estimated that they have more than 200 warheads today but could have as many as a thousand by the end of the decade. They're building several hundred new missile silos in the Northwest. They're investing in systems like road-mobile ICBMs and better submarine launch ballistic missiles. They tested a hypersonic glide vehicle last year.
And then there's North Korea, which has continued to pursue its weapons program, launching at least 16 missile tests so far this year, including their first long-range ballistic missile since 2017.
There's also the potential of other nations joining the community of nuclear-armed nations. Certainly, we have to pay a lot of attention to the Middle East where both Iran and Saudi Arabia have the potential to develop materials to produce nuclear warheads.
So, we find ourselves again in the middle of a tense and frightening moment in world history, a moment rife with dangers that could end in unspeakable horror through "accident or by miscalculation or by madness."
Fortunately, not all is doom and gloom. Not all hope is lost for us to move back from the nuclear brink. Take, for instance, one of President Biden's first accomplishments in office: negotiating and finalizing a five-year extension of the New START treaty with Russia. And Putin's war crimes have solidified, united the world against him, potentially leading to the thing he feared most—a unified reinvigorated and expanding NATO acting as a stronger deterrent against the use of nuclear arms.
And the Biden administration is working hard to restore the JCPOA. When President Trump pulled us out of the JCPOA, it … well, decreased the amount of time in which Iran could put together the nuclear materials to make a bomb. It made the risk greater. Hopefully, restoration of the agreement can reduce that risk. And to accomplish that, we need Russia's cooperation. Of course, that's difficult in the current moment but President Biden is doing all he can to get to that goal. And I applaud his administration for pursuing the negotiation.
We also need to work with Russia to negotiate a follow-on to the five-year extension of New START. After all, how can we ask other nations to forego their nuclear ambitions if the United States and Russia are held in on new deployments?
We also need to work with China to establish communication and dialogue, to build confidence-building measures, so we can minimize the risk of misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Collectively, we can walk ourselves back from the brink of nuclear disaster. Collectively, we can reduce that risk to humanity.
But it's going to take all of us leaders and policymakers and government working alongside advocates and organizations like the Arms Control Association to find and create practical solutions to these challenges.
This is a scary moment in history, but with your help and your advocacy, we can move towards better days. We've done it before, and we can and will do it again.
Future Goals for the Arms Control Association
KIMBALL: All right well, we are very near the end of today's program and I want to thank everybody for being with us here in the room and online. I just wanted to close with a few brief thoughts and some words of thank you for a number of people here.
As Senator Jeff Merkley just said, we've accomplished a lot but there is certainly much more to be done. Our work is certainly not finished and I hope—as you've seen over the course of the day—we surveyed a lot of key issues not just for next week next year but the years ahead. The challenges are daunting. They're unnerving in many ways, but as the old slogan from my days before I met Marylia Kelley says we must not mourn. We must organize. We must see this as a moment to rededicate ourselves to the work that we've been undertaking. We've got to find new ways as an organization to increase our capacities to expand our ability to reach new audiences and to work in collaboration and cooperation and in partnership with a diverse range of partners and allies in Washington, across the United States, and around the world, because it's going to take all of that to to to address the deep deep challenges that we're facing.
So, we don't have any more time today to go into some of the things that we as an organization hope to be doing over the next five to ten years. We're not going to talk about 50 years—God help us—but over the next five. But you will be hearing more from me and from our team over the course of 2022, our 50th anniversary year, about some of those ideas and plans about how we're going to do even better going forward in the future. You can trust that so long as the Board of Directors entrusts me with the role of leading this organization. We'll see if it's another 20 years. Hopefully not, retirement has to happen at some point. You can count on all of us to be responding to the latest crises, defending keystone agreements, trying to build on the existing agreements and improve upon the arms control and proliferation disarmament ideas so that we can achieve those breakthroughs that we're going to need to move towards the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and other WMD.
So finally, let me just take a moment to do a few name checks here because a meeting like this—in June 2022 after two years of a devastating pandemic that has kept us away from another, taken many lives, set us back in many ways—takes a lot to pull all of this together. And I really want to thank our highly professional team here in the room and beyond. This was a team effort. It takes a real team, a village, and an organization to do all the things that we do here at this meeting and beyond. So in particular, I want to thank Kathy Crandall Robinson, our COO, who has been driving force behind this event; our Communications and Operations Director Tony Fleming; our Graphic Design and Production Editor who's a real guru on these things, Allen Harris; our longest-serving Arms Control Association member—this is an important factoid—Merle Newkirk, our finance officer who actually remembers meeting the founders of the organization from back in 1972.
And I also want to thank Amanda Levin who's with A Capital Event, who has been serving as our meeting coordinator; our videographer Brendan Karnaki who has done a fabulous job with the videos, including the surprise video that I didn't know about; and all the wonderful people here at the National Press Club which is a lovely place to hold this. Also, I want to thank all of our Board of Directors members who have been really pitching in a great deal with their personal time, their pocketbooks, their rolodexes to help bring this meeting together, to find the support necessary, to finance and organize today's very important meeting. So I want all of you who I just called to please take a moment and stand up and be recognized.
It is the honor of my professional career to work with such fabulous people and also thank you for all of you here who showed up on what is turning out to be a slightly rainy day but it's going to get better for this event. And all of you watching online, we really do appreciate the interest and concern and engagement. And I also want to thank in particular and finally the group of more than 60 plus 50th anniversary sponsors listed in the program book who stepped up their level of support at this critical time to help make this more robust than usual annual meeting possible. So our work really does depend on your support and we appreciate that from the bottom of our hearts.
We will see many of you tonight at our reception beginning at 6:00 pm in honor of the some 200 people who have worked for the Arms Control Association over its long history. Directions to the event are on the table in the back by the registration table. And so with that, let me say stay healthy, stay energized, stay safe.
Our 2022 annual meeting is now adjourned.