“For 50 years, the Arms Control Association has educated citizens around the world to help create broad support for U.S.-led arms control and nonproliferation achievements.”

– President Joe Biden
June 2, 2022
Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

Arming Ukraine and how to mitigate risks of illicit diversion of weapons and conflict escalation: a US perspective

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has committed over $22 billion in security assistance to Ukraine in less than a year. The United States and its allies have rushed to provide Ukraine with the capability to defend itself, retake its territory from Russian forces, and secure it. Entering the 10 month of a war of attrition, there is little to suggest that Russia will cease attacking Ukraine or that either side will seek a negotiated settlement in the near future. As a result, the Biden administration and allied governments will likely continue to...

UN First Committee Calls for ASAT Test Ban

December 2022
By Heather Foye and Gabriela Rosa Hernández

A key UN panel formally adopted for the first time a resolution calling for countries to ban destructive anti-satellite (ASAT) missile tests.

Satellites like the Telstar 3-D communications satellite, deployed by the space shuttle Discovery in 1985, are among those space objects that could be better protected if anti-satellite weapons tests are banned. (Photo by NASA)Although not legally binding, the resolution reflects an increase in international political support for prohibiting ASAT weapons testing that destroy objects in space, which is formally referenced as “destructive direct-ascent anti-missile testing.”

The vote came during the 77th session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on disarmament and international security as it concluded weeks of negotiations that underscored geopolitical divisions between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The ASAT testing resolution was adopted Nov. 1 by a 154–8 vote with 10 abstentions. It was championed by the United States, which is pursuing a related initiative that encourages states to undertake a voluntary moratorium on ASAT testing as a first step to curbing an arms race in space. (See ACT, November 2022.)

Last April, the United States became the first nation to commit to the self-imposed moratorium. Since then, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have followed suit. (See ACT, May 2022.)

According to Reaching Critical Will, some states were displeased that the moratorium contained in the UN resolution was limited and did not restrict the proliferation of other space activities. In opposing the resolution, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, and Syria noted that the United States already had achieved ASAT missile capability and, hence, the resolution limited real progress toward preventing an arms race in outer space.

India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed states, were among those that abstained from voting on the resolution. Pakistan believed the draft resolution was “piecemeal,” according to Reaching Critical Will, and India is known to have conducted an ASAT weapons test.

In addition to India and the United States, China and Russia, as well as its predecessor, the Soviet Union, are the only states that have conducted ASAT weapons tests, which typically cause a large quantity of space debris when the missiles ram into orbiting satellites.

Most nations do not possess the technological capability to conduct such missile tests. The resolution builds on progress made last year when the First Committee voted to create an open-ended working group aimed at preventing an arms race in space. (See ACT, December 2021.)

The United States launched its ASAT testing ban initiative following a Russian test in November 2021 that destroyed a Russian satellite that had been in orbit since 1982. The collision caused at least 1,500 trackable pieces of debris to litter space. Astronauts on the International Space Station were advised to take shelter when the station encountered the debris. (See ACT, December 2021.)

Tensions among states at the First Committee also resurfaced over a resolution, introduced annually, on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The Oct. 6 resolution called on states to adopt the TPNW and commit not to participate in nuclear weapons activities. The treaty entered into force last year and now has 91 signatory states, 68 of whom have ratified it.

The nine states believed to possess nuclear weapons (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, and the United States) again voted against the resolution.

For the first time, Australia, which is under the U.S. nuclear security umbrella, abstained from voting on the resolution. In previous years dating back to 2018, Australia voted against the resolution. The previous Australian government, led by the Liberal Party, had opposed the TPNW. But the current Labor-led government, which came to power earlier this year, has been more open to embracing it. In June, Australia participated as an observer at the first meeting of TPNW state-parties held in Vienna. (See ACT, July/August 2022.)

Australia is “assessing its position on the TPNW, taking account of the need to ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture, interaction of the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], and achieving universal support,” the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in an Oct. 26 statement. It added that the government’s decision to observe the first meeting of TPNW states-parties in June “demonstrates the constructive engagement with the treaty.”

One month earlier, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong pointed to the “weak and desperate” nuclear rhetoric of Russian President Vladimir Putin for why Australia would “redouble” its efforts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. (See ACT, November 2022.)

Australia’s abstention on the TPNW resolution drew a U.S. warning on Nov. 8 when the U.S. Embassy in Canberra said the treaty “would not allow for U.S. extended deterrence relationships, which are still necessary for international peace and security,” The Guardian reported. Finland and Sweden, which applied for NATO membership this year, voted against the TPNW resolution for the first time. (See ACT, November 2022.) Since 2018, both countries have abstained on the resolution. They also attended the TPNW meeting of states-parties as observers.

A key UN panel adopted for the first time a resolution calling on countries to ban destructive anti-satellite missile tests.

WMD-Free Zone Conference Makes Little Progress

December 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

The chair of a UN conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East expressed confidence that the initiative would bear fruit even though it has made little progress toward that goal.

The 25 states that attended a UN conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East at the UN in New York in November made little progress, but the meeting chair expressed confidence that the initiative ultimately would bear fruit. (Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)“We are fully aware that the journey to reach our objective is a very challenging one, but I am convinced that with a strong political will and commitment, we can achieve progress with collective dedication, wisdom and hard work,” Chair Jeanne Mrad of Lebanon said on Nov. 18, according to a UN statement.

The third annual session of the conference took place Nov. 14–18 in New York.

Participating states reaffirmed their commitment to produce a legally binding treaty to establish a zone without affecting the development of chemical, biological, and nuclear research for peaceful purposes. At least one state raised the idea of setting a timeline to draft a legal treaty.

Twenty-one states from the Middle East and four observer states—China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—participated in the session. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit also attended.

Several states said that progress on creating a zone was hindered by Israel’s continued absence. Neither Israel, which possesses nuclear weapons but is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), nor its main ally, the United States, has attended any of the three annual sessions.

“The NPT member states, especially nuclear-weapon states, must encourage all the invited states of the region to participate in this conference in an open and inclusive manner to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the establishment of the zone on the basis of consensus,” according to a Nov. 14 statement by the Lebanese mission to the UN.

Although the zone concept has generated broad international support over the years, there has been little practical progress toward the stated goal.

A future zone would commit parties not to possess, acquire, test, manufacture, or use any nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, or their delivery systems, as provided for in the Middle East resolution adopted by the 1995 NPT review and extension conference.

Since 1995, debate over a potential zone has dominated and at times derailed discussions at NPT review conferences and in other disarmament forums. A UN study suggested that the region includes all League of Arab States, plus Iran and Israel.

In 2018 the UN General Assembly First Committee called on the UN secretary-general to convene a conference on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East in 2019 and every year thereafter until a zone is created. (See ACT, December 2018.)

Last year, the conference adopted a resolution by consensus that led to the creation of an informal working committee aimed at advancing the slow-going deliberations. (See ACT, January/February 2022.) The working committee is preparing a glossary of terminologies and general principles and obligations for the zone.

The fourth session of the conference will be held Nov. 13–17, 2023, in New York.

Participating states reaffirmed their commitment to produce a legally binding treaty to establish a zone.

Turkey Tests Short-Range Ballistic Missile

December 2022

Turkey carried out a short-range ballistic missile test over the Black Sea on Oct. 18, Bloomberg reported. The Tayfun, or Typhoon, missile was developed by the Turkish rocket and missile center Roketsan.

The Bora short-range ballistic missile, pictured, is among the many missiles in Turkey's arsenal. It is shorter than the Tayfun ballistic missile that was tested over the Black Sea on Oct. 18. (Photo: Roketsan)Experts said the test is evidence that Turkey is continuing to make progress with its indigenous missile program and will be less dependent on external suppliers such as the United States, but that does not mean the Tayfun will enter service soon.

The weapon was fired from a mobile launcher in Rize, flew 561 kilometers, and fell into the water off the coast by the port of Sinop. That distance is twice the range of the known ballistic missiles in the Turkish arsenal, Forbes reported on Oct. 20.

In 2017, Turkey unveiled the Bora short-range ballistic missile, which has a shorter range than the Tayfun and can hit targets up to 280 kilometers away. Turkey reportedly launched a Bora missile for the first time toward a Kurdistan Workers’ Party target in Iraq’s Kurdistan region in 2019 during Operation Claw. According to Forbes, the Bora missile complies with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), in which Turkey participates.

The MTCR, a voluntary grouping, aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, or nuclear attacks. The regime urges its members to curb their exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers.

The Tayfun missile is the first one that Turkey has tested that exceeds the MTCR distance limit. The weight of the missile payload is unknown. It is also unclear whether Turkey plans to export the missile.—GABRIELA ROSA HERNÁNDEZ

Turkey Tests Short-Range Ballistic Missile

EXCERPT: The Art of the Possible: Minimizing Risks as a New European Order Takes Shape

The following is an excerpt from the FPRI report, " The Art of the Possible: Minimizing Risks as a New European Order Takes Shape ," co-authored by ACA research associate Gabriela Iveliz Rosa-Hernandez . N ote: Research for this analysis was completed on October 13, 2022. The text does not reflect events since that date. INTRODUCTION Europe, a seeming bastion of stability since the end of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, has once again grown dangerous. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, which had followed eight years of lower-grade conflict, has brought the heaviest...

Iran Supplies Arms to Russia

November 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

Iran has solidified its role as Russia’s wartime arms supplier as Russian forces, facing battlefield losses, intensify their attacks on Ukraine’s civilian population and infrastructure.

Drones supplied to Russia by Iran are wreaking havoc on civilians in Ukrainian cities like Kyiv where in October, people cleared blast debris and leaves outside a house where a couple was killed by a Russian drone strike. (Photo by Ed Ram/Getty Images)Last summer, Iran began delivering drones that loiter, then explode on impact with a target, for Russian use in Ukraine, according to U.S. officials.

On Oct. 18, Tehran upped its involvement by agreeing to provide Moscow with surface-to-surface missiles and many additional cheap drones, Reuters reported.

Two days later, the United States disclosed that it had evidence that Iran sent personnel to Crimea to assist Russian forces in launching attacks on Ukraine. “Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

He described the Iranian presence as “relatively small” and said the goal appeared to be “to help the Russians use [drones] with better lethality” after early failures.

“We don’t believe it’s going to change the course of the war,” Kirby said of Russia’s drone use.

But he expressed concern that Iran may go farther and transfer advanced missiles to Russia, and as a result, the United States is looking “actively, right now” at possibly providing Ukraine with air defense systems to deal with the Iranian threat.

Ukraine and its Western partners expect that Iran will send Russia the Fateh-110, a mobile short-range ballistic missile, and the Zolfaghar, a Fateh variant.

The Pentagon is trying to speed the deliveries of National Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems, according to CNN. The United States has committed eight of these systems to Ukraine. Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told CNBC on Oct. 25 that his company recently delivered two of the defense systems to Ukraine and they were being installed.

“Russia’s use of these drones wears down Ukraine’s air defenses, putting stress on Ukraine’s supply lines and communications. Ukrainians are discussing items like the German Gepard as a successful system against these threats,” said Samuel Bendett, an expert on Russia’s use of unmanned and robotic military systems.

Iran’s sale of the missiles and drones to Russia constitutes a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted in support of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Under the resolution, Iran is banned from exporting ballistic missiles until 2023.

“[B]oth of the types of [drones] that…Iran had been provisioning to Russia meet the parameters under [limitations contained in the resolution] because they are capable of a range equal to and greater than 300 kilometers,” Vedant Patel, U.S. State Department principal deputy spokesperson, said on Oct. 18.

In recent weeks, Russia has launched air attacks on several Ukrainian cities by using missiles, Shahed-136 loitering munitions, and Mohajer-6 drones, according to Ukrainian officials and their Western partners.

Tehran and Moscow have denied that Iran is supplying weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine. “The hardware that is used is Russian.… It has Russian names,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to TASS on Oct. 18.

The same day, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said that claims about drone transfers are “based on false information and spiteful assumptions [that] are part of the targeted and political propaganda campaign waged by media of some countries against” Iran. He said Iran has been a neutral party to the war.

Russian attacks on Ukraine’s civilian centers, including Kyiv, and vital infrastructure have been terrorizing and destructive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted on Oct 18 that, since Oct. 10, “30 percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country. No space left for negotiations with Putin’s regime.” According to the BBC, as much as 40 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged.

Responding to the Russian attacks, Ukraine requested an array of air defense systems and support training for Ukrainian operators from Israel, Axios reported.

Russia vehemently opposed such cooperation and warned that if Israel provides arms “[i]t will destroy all diplomatic relations between our countries,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, wrote on Telegram on Oct. 17. Two days later, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel will help Ukraine develop an air defense alert system but not deliver weapon systems, according to CNN.

Siding with Russia in the Ukraine war, Iran delivered drones, promised missiles.

Poland Reignites Nuclear Sharing Conversation

November 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

With Russian nuclear threats as a backdrop, Polish President Andrzej Duda declared on Oct. 5 that his country would be willing to host U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory.

Polish President Andrzej Duda says his country would be willing to host U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory but the Biden administration has rejected the idea. (Photo by Dominika Zarycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)“There is always a potential opportunity to participate in the nuclear sharing program,” Duda said, according to a news report by Notes of Poland. “We have spoken with American leaders about whether the United States is considering such a possibility. The issue is open.”

Duda’s announcement came amid a series of threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin to potentially use nuclear weapons as the Russian military struggles with battlefield setbacks in its war on Ukraine.

But Washington dismissed the idea. “I can say that the United States has no plans to deploy a nuclear weapon on NATO member territory that had joined NATO post-1997,” Vedant Patel, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said on Oct. 6. Poland joined NATO in 1999.

Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey—all alliance members before 1997—host up to 150 U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bombs on their territories as part of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangement with the United States.

Any deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to Poland would mean abrogating the commitments made under the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which stipulated that NATO has no intention, reason, or plan to deploy nuclear weapons or nuclear storage sites in the territories of states that joined NATO after 1997.

NATO leaders did not abandon the founding act during their 2022 summit in Madrid, but it was a subject of discussion. A NATO official told Arms Control Today at the time that NATO was looking at conventional deployments beyond the limits of the act. (See ACT, July/August 2022.)

The issue of Poland potentially hosting U.S. nuclear weapons is not new. In May 2020, Georgette Mosbacher, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, suggested that if Germany withdrew its nuclear partnership, then “perhaps Poland, which pays its fair share, understands the risks and is on NATO’s eastern flank, could house the capabilities.”

Russia and its ally Belarus have been discussing their own possible nuclear sharing arrangement in which Russian weapons would be located in Belarus.

Russia has used Belarus as a base from which to launch its air operations in Ukraine and as an operation staging ground for the unprovoked assault. At the start of the war, Belarus revised its constitution to renounce its non-nuclear status, thus allowing the prospect of hosting nuclear weapons on its territory.

Putin and Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko have cited NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement as justification for their recent deployments in Belarus. On June 25, Putin agreed to transfer to Belarus the nuclear-capable Iskander-M, a ballistic missile system that has been fielded by Russian ground forces since 2018. He also agreed to start retrofitting some Belarussian combat aircraft to make them nuclear capable and to train Belarussian pilots.

“Do you think it was all blather?” Lukashenko asked reporters on Aug. 26, according to the Associated Press. “All of it has been done.”

In the past, Lukashenko has said that he would offer to host Russian nuclear weapons if the United States moved U.S. atomic bombs from Germany to eastern Europe.

NATO’s nuclear posture remains unchanged. In mid-October, NATO conducted its annual nuclear deterrence exercise, Steadfast Noon, which coincided with Russia’s Grom nuclear deterrence exercise. “The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear deterrence has always been to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Oct. 12.


Amid Russian war in Ukraine, Poland offered to host U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory.


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