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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Gabriela Rosa

Russia Blocks NPT Conference Consensus Over Ukraine


September 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández and Daryl G. Kimball

Russia blocked the 2022 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference from reaching consensus on a substantive outcome document on Aug. 26 because of differences over the nuclear safety crisis caused by the Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya (L) and Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun confer at a UN Security Council meeting on August 24. During that meeting and the concurrent NPT review conference, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations about the nuclear security crisis engulfing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)At a time of rising nuclear dangers, 151 NPT states-parties worked intensively Aug. 1–26 at UN headquarters to hammer out a document designed to assess implementation of the landmark treaty and identify actions to advance its core goals and objectives of disarmament, nonproliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

But the effort to agree on a joint declaration collapsed in the final hours of the conference when Russia demanded changes to several paragraphs in the 35-page draft outcome document, including those that stressed “the importance of ensuring control by Ukraine’s competent authorities” of the Zaporizhzhia facility.

Ukraine and dozens of other countries originally sought explicit references to Russia’s responsibility for the deterioration of safety at the nuclear plant, which was seized by Russia in March.

Russian and Ukrainian officials exchanged accusations over the course of the conference and in a special session of the UN Security Council on Aug. 10 about who bore responsibility for the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia facility, which remains occupied by Russian military forces. The text was modified in an effort to strike an acceptable balance, but in the end, Russia was alone in opposing the compromise language.

The result marks the second consecutive NPT review conference that failed to reach consensus on a final outcome document. Given the growing tensions among the five nuclear-armed NPT member states, the conference conclusion was not surprising. Never before has an NPT conference been convened in the midst of a major war in Europe involving one of the treaty’s three depositary states: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia.

In remarks following the meeting, conference president Gustavo Zlauvinen said that, despite the failure to reach consensus, “this should not detract from the fact that the states have engaged in sustained, in-depth negotiations…that brought us extremely close to an outcome document that contained agreed actions steps. This shows the commitment by all delegations to the treaty” and “provides a basis for momentum going forward.”

Zlauvinen cited the conference agreement on a procedural measure “to establish a working group to strengthen the review cycle to achieve more transparency and accountability and to accelerate the actions states have agreed to pursue.”

The conference breakdown also elicited expressions of disappointment and determination from many of the states-parties.“[T]he NPT will remain a fundamental and irreplaceable cornerstone of the rules-based order,” insisted Adam Scheinman, head of the U.S. delegation, in a closing statement on Aug. 26. “This month has shown that while we still have much work to do, we do agree on more than we disagree, and we are prepared to define ourselves by what we hold in common rather than by what divides us.”

Russia may have been alone in blocking consensus, but it was not the only nuclear-weapon state that resisted making clear commitments to fulfill NPT goals. As time ran out on the conference, many states-parties expressed unhappiness with various elements of the Aug. 25 draft final outcome document, but chose not to oppose consensus. Many non-nuclear-weapon states were displeased with the lack of ambition in the disarmament action plan after years of inaction.

“Costa Rica was prepared to join the consensus on the final document because of our commitment to the treaty…. In truth, the document was well below our expectations, falling short on concrete measures to advance us toward nuclear disarmament,” Maritza Chan, the Costa Rican ambassador to the United Nations, said in her closing statement on Aug. 26.

In his closing comments, Alexander Kmentt, the head of the Austrian delegation to the conference, noted “the dramatic trust and confidence deficit among some nuclear-weapon states.” They can agree on very little, he said, except the one area of “no forward movement on nuclear disarmament. This damages the NPT, puts the norm against the proliferation of nuclear weapons under duress, and reinforces the credibility deficit of this treaty on the implementation of [NPT] Article VI,” on disarmament.

In the final week of the conference, Zlauvinen invited the Finnish delegation to convene consultations involving some two dozen key states to try to iron out consensus language on the thorniest issues. Those negotiations included the NPT’s five nuclear-armed states (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States); the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Egypt); Indonesia, which chairs the Non-Aligned Movement; Austria; Iran; Japan; the Netherlands; Sweden; and Switzerland.

For example, the NPT states-parties could not agree on whether the conference should condemn recent threats of nuclear weapons use issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24 and April 27 in the context of the Russian war on Ukraine. As Zlauvinen reminded delegates at the opening of the conference, “[W]e live in a time when the unthinkable—the use of nuclear weapons—is no longer unthinkable.”

Representatives from France, the UK, and the United States, along with their NATO allies, also criticized Putin’s nuclear threats and wanted the conference to condemn “irresponsible rhetoric concerning potential nuclear use intended for military coercion, intimidation, or blackmail” but not nuclear threats that “serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war,” according to a working paper issued by the three countries on July 29.

Many non-nuclear-weapon states, including Austria, Costa Rica, and Ireland, argued that such attempts to distinguish between nuclear threats are unhelpful and that all threats of nuclear use must be condemned as contrary to international law and the UN Charter. In the end, states could only agree that the final draft should commit the nuclear-weapon states “to refrain from any inflammatory rhetoric concerning the use of nuclear weapons.”

The topic of naval nuclear propulsion also drew significant attention. China and Indonesia expressed concerns about the nonproliferation implications of the AUKUS initiative announced in September 2021, by which the United States and the UK would share advanced nuclear submarine propulsion technology with Australia. The project will likely involve highly enriched uranium, which can be used for nuclear weapons, and creates unique challenges for maintaining International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on the nuclear material.

A small group negotiated compromise text on this issue that simply noted “the topic of naval nuclear propulsion is of interest to the states-parties to the treaty” and “the importance of a transparent and open dialogue on this topic.”

The Chinese delegation also opposed references in the draft calling for a voluntary halt of fissile material production for nuclear weapons purposes, pending negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty.

Several state-parties called attention to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which prohibits all nuclear weapons activities and aims to ban all nuclear weapons, as a mechanism that could encourage nuclear-weapon states to implement their NPT Article VI obligations. The draft text acknowledged the entry into force of the TPNW in 2021.

One of the most significant agreed elements in the draft conference outcome document was a pledge by Russia and the United States to fully implement the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) "and to pursue negotiations in good faith on a successor framework to New START before its expiration in 2026, in order to achieve deeper, irreversible, and verifiable reductions in their nuclear arsenals.”

Although the review conference failed to formally reach consensus, several states expressed hope that Washington and Moscow would fulfill their pledges to resume negotiations to further reduce the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

States-parties agreed that the next NPT review conference will be in 2026 with the next preparatory meeting in 2023.

Despite the disappointing outcome, NPT states-parties still hope Russia and the United States will honor pledges to resume nuclear negotiations.

How to Strengthen the NPT

News Date: 
August 24, 2022 -04:00

Updates from the 10th NPT Review Conference

State Parties Fail to Achieve Consensus at The NPT Review Conference August 26, 2022 After four weeks of negotiations, State-Parties failed to achieve consensus at the NPT Review Conference (RevCon). On Thursday night, President Designate Gustavo Zlauvinen released a final version of the conference document. During the last plenary session, Russia objected to the final document over paragraph 34. In its statement regarding the final outcome document, Russia claimed that many delegations had objections to the text and accused other states of politicizing the RevCon. “If there is a wish to find...

A Case for More Oversight of Military Aid to Ukraine

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Volume 14, Issue 6, August 9, 2022

Even before Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United States and some of its allies were providing weapons to Kyiv. In the immediate aftermath of Russia's assault, the United States and its allies rushed additional and more advanced weaponry to Ukraine to help the government fend off the Russian offensive and improve Ukraine’s bargaining position in future negotiations on an end to the war.

The United States alone has committed $9.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration. In July, the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, appealed to Congress for more weapons. “I’m asking for something now I would never want to ask. I’m asking for weapons, weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land, but to protect one’s home in the right to wake up alive in that home, I’m asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill children in their strollers, in order for rockets not to destroy children’s rooms and kill entire families,” Zelenska said July 20.

Currently, there are no signs that Russia seeks any sort of negotiation nor that it will cease to brutally attack Ukraine. On July 24, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, blatantly admitted that Russia sought to “help the Ukrainian people to free themselves from their anti-people and anti-historical regime” during his trip to Egypt after denying that Russia sought regime change in Kyiv multiple times in the past.

Pallets of ammunition bound for Ukraine are secured onto a commercial plane during a security assistance mission at Dover Air Force Base, Del., July 21, 2022. (Photo: Air Force Senior Airman Faith Schaefer)

Russia’s brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine has now entered its sixth month, but arming Ukraine comes with potential security risks and consequences. These risks include equipment being sold for monetary gain within or outside of Ukraine and arms entering the illegal arms market, especially after the end of the conflict as commonly happens in any conflict. At the moment, there is no evidence that weapons sent to Ukraine are getting into the wrong hands. However, Europe, Ukraine, and the United States must work to mitigate these risks. As Ukrainians valiantly fight for their country against unprovoked aggression, the United States and its partners must improve oversight mechanisms to ensure they are used for their intended purpose and prevent arms supplies from falling into the wrong hands, especially after the end of the war.

In partial recognition of these needs, the EU launched a new platform in mid-July with the inclusion of its Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts to discuss how to prepare to tackle organized crime in connection with the war in Ukraine. EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson announced that the main subject on the agenda was illegal arms smuggling of weapons originally sent to the Ukrainian armed forces. 

“We have some indications [of this already happening], but we also know by experience that this very often happens, that firearms travel around afterward or during the war,” said Johansson despite providing little evidence that this was occurring.

On July 22, Europol stated that it was working with Ukrainian officials to reduce the risk of illegal arms trafficking into the European Union. Europol noted that it had full confidence in its Ukrainian partners as they implement new measures to mitigate these risks.

Concerns about the issue from foreign partners prompted politicians and lawmakers in Ukraine to call for and establish a special monitoring committee of their own. On July 19, the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament of Ukraine, created a temporary oversight committee to particularly track the use and receipt of arms transferred to their country by international partners. More recently, The Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine refuted allegations about Western arms disappearing in Ukraine in a CBS News documentary titled “Arming Ukraine” by declaring that a EUCOM Control Center of Ukraine operates in Stuttgart, Germany directly oversees the provision of weapons and their use.

In addition, the Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine also announced on August 7 that Brigadier General Gerrick M. Harmon, Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché of the United States, has been put in charge of overseeing the transfer and use of these weapons by Kyiv. Overall, these and other measures will help Ukraine monitor the use of these weapons and counter Russian allegations and misinformation about lax export controls.

The Call to Arm Ukraine and The Risks

The United States and its allies have committed a wide range of weapons to Ukraine. According to the most recent fact sheet released by the Department of Defense, the U.S. has contributed hundreds of howitzers, 400,000 artillery rounds, 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 6,500 javelin anti-armor systems, loitering munitions, MANPADS, and 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and ammunition, among other weaponry.1

To facilitate these arms transfers, the Biden administration has employed rarely used legal authorities to accelerate weapons transfers to Ukraine (See ACT May 2022). In late April, U.S. officials declared an emergency under the Foreign Military Sale Program to provide Ukraine with over $165 million of ammunition. By invoking this authority, the executive branch is allowed to bypass mandatory congressional review periods before concluding the arms sale. Congress then approved the Ukraine Democracy Defend Lend-Lease Act, which removes some obstructions to providing Ukraine and other Eastern European countries with defense assistance. And, the May approval of a $40 billion emergency allocation for Ukrainian and European security contained little constraints as to how the executive branch can use these funds.

Allies have also promised—and delivered in some instances—a diverse set of sophisticated equipment. For instance, France notably sent Caesar self-propelled Howitzers, Poland signed a contract with Ukraine to deliver Krab self-propelled Howitzers among other equipment, and Canada notably delivered M777s. On top of this, countries such as Australia, the UK, Norway, Italy, and Greece pledged critically needed artillery systems and ammunition, and recently, Germany announced that Ukraine had finally received the heavy weapons that it had pledged to deliver months ago such as the first Gepard anti-aircraft vehicles and ammunitions, plus the Multiple Rocket Launchers Mars II and self-propelled Howitzers. Not to mention the thousands of small arms provided.

Along with committing a diverse set of military weaponry, the West has also been training Ukrainians to use them. This appears to be a long-term commitment and one designed to overhaul Ukraine’s weapons inventory as NATO’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, stated on June 27 that “over the longer term, we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era military equipment, to modern NATO equipment. And further, strengthen its defense and security institutions.”

Providing such training in the middle of a war and doing so without putting U.S. and allied combat forces on the ground in Ukraine creates training challenges. In April, the Pentagon confirmed that it would resume direct weapons training of the Ukrainian military on the howitzers, counter artillery radar systems, and other equipment as part of the assistance packages, but do so outside of Ukraine. Canada similarly confirmed that it was training Ukrainian soldiers to use M777s elsewhere in Europe. In July, London announced that up to 10,000 recruits from Ukraine would arrive in the UK for specialized military training.

Training also takes time, which must be factored into all decisions. This was notable when the Pentagon announced in June that it would be transferring the HIMARS as Russia made several advances in its attempt to take the Donbas region through its use of heavy artillery. The Pentagon stated that it would take about three weeks to teach Ukrainians how to operate these systems, and another few weeks to teach them how to maintain them. However, those tasked with maintenance would not necessarily operate them.

Throughout the conflict, concerns about escalation and its shifting dynamics have been front and center and are expected to continue. In response, the United States has set limits on certain systems like the HIMARS. On May 31, President Biden declared in an op-ed in The New York Times that the United States would “not encourage or enable Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.” The Pentagon announced that it would only provide Ukraine with munitions up to 70 km in approximate range for the HIMARS, a system that the Ukrainians had been requesting for over two months. As pointed out by the Stimson Center, this transfer may have set a significant precedent for U.S. arms transfers, for the United States had earlier only transferred the system to select partners.

Questions about the conditionality established through agreements between the United States and Ukraine regarding the use of these weapons are also likely to return. On June 1, the Pentagon declared that Ukraine had given assurances that it would not use the HIMARS to strike targets beyond its borders.

Nonetheless, when asked about the repercussions if Ukraine violates these assurances during a news conference, DoD Undersecretary for Policy, Dr. Colin Kahl replied that “they've given us their assurances that they're not going to use these systems for striking Russian territory. And we trust the Ukrainians will live up to those assurances.” On July 20, the DoD assured that the Ukrainians are effectively using the HIMARS by targeting Russian ammunition depots and have made due on their assurances.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has requested even longer-range ammunition such as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). At a recent DoD news conference, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III replied that the weaponry that Ukraine received “has really given them a lot of capability” and the decision on longer-range weapons will “be based upon how they're prosecuting this fight and what their needs are.

However, at the Aspen Security Forum in late July, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reiterated that President Biden had said that there were certain capabilities that the Biden administration was not prepared to provide. “One of them is long-range missiles, ATACMS that have a range of 300 kilometers (max range)” because of escalation concerns.Just a week later, CNN reported that House Representative Elissa Slotkin said that there was bipartisan support to provide Ukraine with ATACMS, which can strike as far as 180 miles.

Oversight Initiatives

Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, Oleksii Reznikov, told the BBC on July 15 that the weapon smuggling narrative is part of a Russian disinformation campaign, but he also confirmed what analysts following the conflict have known and predicted for months: that a limited number of Western weapons (some next generation Light Anti-tank Weapons) have fallen into Russian hands when Ukrainian troops retreated from certain cities in the Donbas as it happens in every war. As the media has extensively noted, Ukrainian forces have also acquired Russian equipment, especially following the retreat of Russian forces from the Kyiv axis earlier in the war.

As for monitoring, Reznikov affirmed that Ukraine uses a NATO logistics and account control system in a limited but functional way and that he has invited foreign emissaries to observe. Reznikov also stated that representatives of some of Ukraine’s partners had already done this and had no questions. Additionally, Reznikov clarified that some of the weapons sent to Ukraine possess GPS trackers. This move and the creation of the temporary special commission entrusted to the Verkhovna Rada to oversee weapons transfers during martial law are good first steps toward addressing the risks of weapons transfers.

The development of arms transfer monitoring mechanisms shows that Ukraine is willing to be transparent with its Western partners and work toward the standardization of an oversight initiative.2 During the first few months of the war, such initiatives were understandably difficult to execute because of active combat and the security concerns around the transfer of these weapons.

Nonetheless, Ukraine needs not only needs to continue to be transparent with its Western partners about its use of foreign-supplied weaponry, but also with its own people. To do this, they need to continue to develop their own capacity for accountability. As we are now entering the sixth month of this brutal war and Ukrainian civil society experts have a key role to play in ensuring oversight and advising the Ukrainian government via workshops, roundtables, and/or working groups while taking into account the security concerns regarding the weapons deliveries.3

In the United States, members of Congress and many others have voiced their concerns regarding the subject and continue to do so. While Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) efforts to condition the $40 billion package in May upon establishing an inspector general for its spending, the law does include requirements for the Defense Department’s inspector general to provide a report on the funds within 120 days, a report on end-use monitoring efforts within 45 days, and an unclassified report every 30 days detailing defense articles and services provided to Ukraine. Congress should pay special attention to such reports and work with Ukrainian officials as they further implement new measures to improve their capacity to absorb these weapons deliveries.

In late June, the Pentagon announced that it was considering sending weapons inspectors to Ukraine. Lawmakers have also pushed for further oversight. A June letter from the DoD Acting Inspector General to Senator Charles E Grassley (R-Iowa) reveals that the Inspector General office had partnered with Inspector General offices at the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development to form a joint working group.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)In May, Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill to establish a Special Inspector General for Ukraine to oversee the use of these funds to assist Ukraine. Just a month later, Rep. Bob Wittman (R-Va.) introduced companion legislation to Senator Kennedy’s bill in the House to introduce a special inspector to oversee how aid packages are appropriately spent. Earlier this month, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) wrote a letter to President Joe Biden requesting rigor and accountability when it came to the assistance provided to Ukraine among other allegations.

As colleagues from the Stimson center point out in Defense One, the United States should develop a plan and mechanisms to account for the weapons provided. The United States should also engage with external experts from civil society and provide detailed information about the procedures undertaken to track these weapons and ammunition stockpiles.

The possibility of arms supplies getting into the wrong hands is not unique to the military assistance that the United States is providing to Ukraine although it would not be fair to state that the case of weapons assistance to Ukraine is a replica or even compares to the case of Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet poor military equipment accountability practices are common in active combat zones. For instance, SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) reports and congressional hearings in the last decade noted poor accountability when it came to small arms deliveries in Afghanistan due to poor record keeping when they were received in Afghanistan along with other funds. Proper accountability was also an issue in Iraq. The Center for Civilians In Conflict and other organizations have also pointed out the shortcomings of U.S. monitoring practices.

It is very likely that for the foreseeable future the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with very substantial military assistance in accordance with the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces. Further oversight of the assistance provided to Ukraine can ensure the weapons are used for the intended purposes (to assist Ukrainians in the defense of their country) and are not diverted elsewhere. Transparency is the best antidote when it comes to countering attempts to ruin Ukraine’s credibility in the face of aggression, especially, when military aid from Ukraine’s partners is so crucial for Ukraine to defend its sovereign territory. Thus, every party has something to gain through enhancing transparency.—GABRIELA ROSA, research associate

 

ENDNOTES

1. For more details and a timeline of arms transfers to Ukraine, see the Forum on the Arms Trade's resource "Arms Transfers to Ukraine," https://www.forumarmstrade.org/ukrainearms.html, Accessed Aug. 9, 2022.

2. ACA Interview with anonymous Ukrainian civilian.

3. ACA Interviews with Dr. Olya Oliker (Director of Europe and Central Asia Department at the International Crisis Group) and anonymous Ukrainian civilian experts.

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For the foreseeable future, the United States will likely continue to provide Ukraine with substantial military assistance in accordance with the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces to repel the Russian offensive. Oversight of the assistance provided to Ukraine can ensure the weapons are used for the intended purposes and not diverted elsewhere, especially after the conflict.

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NATO Strengthens Eastern Flank, Eyes Russia, China


July/August 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

NATO leaders have approved a new strategic concept, announced major plans to strengthen the military force posture, and agreed to begin accepting two new members as the alliance continues to push back against an increasingly aggressive Russia and a rising China.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (L) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid on June 28. The talks, which also included Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, appeared to resolve Turkey's objections over Finland and Sweden joining NATO. (Photo by Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)In a world where “pervasive instability, rising strategic competition and advancing authoritarianism challenge the alliance’s interests and values…[w]e will significantly strengthen our deterrence and defense posture to deny any potential adversary any possible opportunities for aggression,” they declared in the strategic concept, the blueprint of alliance goals and principles.

The NATO summit in Madrid on June 29–30 opened on a strong note after Finland, Sweden, and Turkey signed a trilateral memorandum clearing the way for the Nordic states to join the alliance. Turkey lifted its hold on the membership bids after 11th-hour talks on June 28. As a result, Turkey received assurances that Finland and Sweden would commit to preventing the activities of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has killed civilians in Turkey, and other terrorist organizations. Meanwhile, the United States signaled a new willingness to sell upgraded F-16 jet fighters to Turkey.

Guided by the strategic concept, the new force plans include deployment of a brigade-level military presence on NATO’s eastern flank and an increase in its high-readiness joint task force from 40,000 troops to 300,000 troops by 2023. The alliance also agreed to prioritize the integration of air and missile defenses in its deterrence and defense posture.

Although NATO members reaffirmed that arms control, disarmament, and meaningful reciprocal dialogue are imperative to Euro-Atlantic security, they also asserted a robust recommitment to NATO’s nuclear capabilities in order “to preserve the peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.”

The main difference from the previous strategic concept, released more than a decade ago, appears to be an acknowledgement that NATO is operating in a radically different security environment, with Russia now identified as the most pressing challenge. “The Euro-Atlantic area is not at peace. [Russia] has violated the norms and principles that contributed to a stable and predictable security order,” the new strategic concept states.

By contrast, NATO members in the 2010 concept envisioned a true strategic partnership with Russia and viewed the NATO-Russia Council, established more than 20 years ago by the NATO-Russia Founding Act, as a crucial mechanism for dialogue and joint action.

By 2021 the tone was already changing as NATO deemed Russia a threat. “We face multifaceted threats, systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers,” NATO leaders said in a statement at the time. “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.”

The allies also first acknowledged that China’s growing influence presented a challenge. (See ACT, April 2021.) The new strategic concept takes that further and says China’s “malicious hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational rhetoric and disinformation target allies and harm alliance security.”

The new concept highlights numerous issues of strategic importance for the alliance defense and deterrence force posture, including air and missile defense capabilities. In NATO’s determination to “defend every inch of allied territory…we will ensure a substantial and persistent presence on land, at sea, and in the air, including through strengthened integrated air and missile defense,” the concept says. The move reflects NATO’s concerns about Russia’s indiscriminate use of missile systems in Ukraine. (See ACT, June 2022.) The concept also emphasizes the importance of new and emerging technologies. To this end, NATO leaders agreed to launch a $1 billion fund for emerging technologies.

Despite the shifts in force posture, NATO leaders reaffirmed the importance of arms control to a credible deterrence posture and reiterated their commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Nonetheless, the new concept does not provide a strategy for moving forward with nuclear arms control and disarmament and does not differ from NATO’s previous policy. The new concept states that the allies “will pursue all elements of strategic risk reduction, including promoting confidence building and predictability through dialogue.”

Effectively, the new security environment is accelerating existing NATO policies. When the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO withdrew nearly all forward-based troops from Eastern Europe. After Russia’s illegal invasion of Crimea in 2014, the alliance developed an “enhanced forward presence” comprising four rotational multinational battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland as a trip wire to deter Russia. NATO also increased military exercises in the Black Sea. (See ACT, June 2022.)

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the alliance doubled the number of rotational multinational battlegroups; established four more battlegroups, in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia; and placed more than 40,000 troops under direct NATO command. These troops are part of NATO’s Response Force, a multinational, multidomain force that can be deployed quickly. NATO also expanded its air police missions and military exercises.

At the summit, the alliance reinforced its military position in other ways. The multinational battlegroups established in 2016 on the alliance’s eastern flank will be enhanced up to brigade levels. After 2016, the battlegroups totaled about 3,000 troops. In June 2022, NATO said the approximate troop strength in all battlegroups, including in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia was 9,641. NATO’s high-readiness joint task force, which NATO said had 4,000 troops in 2021 and 40,000 after Russia’s invasion, will be increased to 300,000 troops under a new force model.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced that these new deployments would include additional U.S. forces in Europe, including, but not limited to, a permanent headquarters in Poland for the U.S. Army Fifth Corps, enhanced rotational deployments in the Baltics, and an additional brigade in Romania underscoring continued U.S. leadership in supporting European security. “Earlier this year, we surged 20,000 additional U.S. forces to Europe to bolster our alliance in response to Russia’s aggressive move, bringing our force total in Europe to 100,000,” Biden said.

Russia’s reaction was swift, with media quoting President Vladimir Putin as saying, “We have nothing to worry about in terms of Finland and Sweden's membership in NATO. They want to join NATO—please. Only they should clearly imagine that there were no threats to them before, but if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in a mirror manner.”

Before the summit, analysts wondered if NATO would ditch its commitments under the 1997 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 the Soviet Union disintegrated.

Although the new strategic concept did not formally abrogate the act, NATO is looking at conventional options to strengthen deterrence beyond the limits implied in the act. The act’s “substantial combat forces pledge” states that NATO will not permanently deploy substantial conventional forces, assumed to mean more than one brigade, in new member states. Russia has accused NATO of violating the act with rotational deployments. At the summit, NATO did not announce a permanent force deployment in the Baltic states and likely will argue, in response to Russian accusations, that rotational forces do not violate the act. Possible contributions by Finland and Sweden are not included.

“Russia has walked away from the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and while that is unfortunate, it’s done, and we are certainly going to look at conventional deployments that would not be necessarily considered under the NATO-Russia Founding Act. But more importantly, I think we just don’t think it applies anymore to the world that we’re facing,” a high-ranking NATO official told Arms Control Today.

At the summit, the allies agreed on a comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine. “Over the longer term, we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era military equipment to modern NATO equipment and further strengthen its defense and security institutions,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

The leaders also recommitted themselves to the alliance’s long-standing open-door policy and formally invited Finland and Sweden to join. (See ACT, June 2022.) Next, the parliaments of NATO’s 30 member states must ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s accession protocols.

NATO approved a new strategic concept, announced plans to boost its military force, and began accepting
two new members as it pushed back against Russia and China.

States-Parties Meet on Nuclear Arms Ban Treaty


July/August 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández and Daryl G. Kimball

The first meeting of states-parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has produced an ambitious 50-point action plan and several decisions designed to implement the 2017 agreement. It also adopted a political statement that aims, in part, to reinforce norms against nuclear weapons use and threat of use.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (on screen) speaks during First Meeting of States-Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in Vienna on June 21. The treaty, which bans nuclear weapons, has been ratified by 66 countries. Notable holdouts are the United States and other nuclear-weapon states.  (Photo by Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images)“We will not rest until the last state has joined the treaty, the last warhead has been dismantled and destroyed, and nuclear weapons have been eliminated from this earth,” delegates said in a joint declaration issued at the close of the meeting.

“We stress that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations. We condemn unequivocally any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances,” the declaration added.

The June 21–23 meeting in Vienna occurred at a moment of unprecedented post-Cold War instability as Russia wages war against Ukraine. To date, 86 states have signed and 66 states have ratified the treaty, which prohibits the possession, development, transfer, testing, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The TPNW entered into force in January 2021.

The condemnation represents the strongest multilateral criticism of such nuclear threats since the UN General Assembly approved a resolution on March 2 condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s decision to increase the readiness of his nuclear forces. There have also been exchanges of nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea in 2017 and Pakistan’s reference to the possibility of nuclear war with India in 2019, according to a TPNW conference working paper. Most recently, Russia threatened to use nuclear weapons if NATO members intervene militarily in the war in Ukraine. (See ACT, April 2022.)

In a statement issued June 24 by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, the Russian government rejected the criticism. “There have never been any ‘nuclear threats’ from Russia and never are. The Russian approach to this issue is based solely on the logic of deterrence.”

Calling NATO actions to be “dangerously balancing on the verge of a direct armed conflict with our country,” she argued that “the logic of deterrence remains an effective way to prevent a nuclear collision and large-scale wars.”

Several states-parties at the Vienna meeting expressed deep concerns about the risks posed by the dangerous nuclear deterrence policies espoused by Russia and the eight other nuclear-armed states and their allies. “The logic that nuclear deterrence provides security is a fundamental error because deterrence requires credibility, meaning the readiness to actually use these weapons. This is nothing less than a massive nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over the head of all of us, of all of humanity. We must take and we have taken a different path,” declared Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg at the beginning of the conference.

Many TPNW delegations joined Schallenberg in expressing concern about the risks posed by nuclear deterrence policies of the nine nuclear-armed states and their allies.

Led by conference president Alexander Kmentt, the Austrian director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation, states-parties made several decisions that will shape the treaty’s future. These include implementing treaty obligations to assist people affected by nuclear weapons use and nuclear test explosions and designating a competent international authority to monitor treaty implementation and compliance. In addition, the conference agreed on steps to promote further TPNW ratifications and to establish a scientific advisory group on the technical aspects of the treaty, including the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons and their use.

The conference statement also expressed deep concern with the fact that none of the nuclear-armed states are taking serious steps to reduce dependence on nuclear weapons. “Instead, all nuclear-armed [states] are spending vast sums to modernize, upgrade, or expand their nuclear arsenals and placing a greater emphasis and increasing the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines,” the declaration said.

According to a 2022 report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, nuclear arsenals are expected to grow in the coming decade, despite a marginal decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2021. The two largest nuclear weapons possessors, Russia and the United States, have suspended discussions on a follow-on arms control agreement to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which will expire in 2026.

States-parties also agreed on steps relating to their obligations under treaty articles VI and VII to address the harm from the use and testing of nuclear weapons, including the establishment of an international trust fund for assisting health issues in affected states and for environmental remediation.

They pledged to pursue high-level engagement with states that have not joined the treaty, which was negotiated by more than 120 countries but not the nuclear-armed states.

In 2021, NATO members declared their opposition to the treaty in the Brussels summit communiqué, saying, “We reiterate our opposition to the [TPNW] which is inconsistent with the alliance’s nuclear deterrence policy, is at odds with the existing non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, risks undermining the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)], and does not take into account the current security environment.”

Yet, NATO member states and close U.S. allies such as Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway attended the first meeting of states-parties as observers.

Germany and Norway delivered statements that reiterated NATO’s declaratory policy regarding the treaty. “As a member to NATO, and as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance, and confronted with an openly aggressive Russia, which has not only invaded Ukraine but is threatening the rules-based international order and peace in Europe, Germany cannot accede to the TPNW, which would collide with our membership in NATO including nuclear deterrence,” Rüdiger Bohn, the German deputy commissioner for arms control and disarmament and head of the German delegation, told the conference.

But he pledged that Germany would seek to engage “in constructive dialogue and exploring opportunities for practical cooperation” with TPNW states.

Jørn Osmundsen, Norwegian special envoy for disarmament affairs, also laid down caveats. “Norway is attending this conference as an observer,” he stressed. “This is not a step towards signing the TPNW, which would be incompatible with our NATO obligations. Norway stands fully behind NATO’s nuclear posture.”

The TPNW conference reaffirmed that the treaty is designed to complement and strengthen the existing nonproliferation and disarmament regime. “In the absence of an enabling legally binding framework and the slow pace of implementation of agreed disarmament commitments, the TPNW’s negotiation and adoption is an effort by nonnuclear-weapon states to make progress towards the full implementation of Article VI of the NPT…[which is] an obligation for all NPT states-parties,” according to a conference working paper developed by Ireland and Thailand in advance of the meeting of states-parties.

States-parties agreed to pursue further discussions about establishing or designating a competent international authority to monitor and verify the disarmament process. They acknowledged the need to elaborate on what procedure and timeline should follow in case a state wishes to disarm and remove nuclear weapons from its territory. (See ACT, May 2021.)

Prior to the TPNW meeting, Austria hosted a fourth conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons with the goal of bringing together different actors from civil society, academia, and survivors to discuss these issues. Similar conferences in Oslo (March 2013); Nayarit, Mexico (February 2014); and Vienna (December 2014) helped propel non-nuclear-weapon states to launch the negotiations that produced the TPNW in 2017.

The TPNW meeting named Juan Ramón de la Fuente, Mexico’s UN ambassador, to serve as president of the second TPNW meeting of states-parties, which will be held in New York on November 27–December 1, 2023.

The first meeting of states-parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons declared, “We will not rest until…the last warhead has been…destroyed.”

States Prepare for Nonproliferation Conference


July/August 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

States-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will convene in August to discuss the future of arms control at a moment when the international strategic environment is more unsettled than any time since the Cold War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown at an international economic forum in St. Petersburg in June, looms large over the 10th Review Conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty scheduled for August 1–26 at UN headquarters. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images).After multiple delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 10th NPT Review Conference, set for UN headquarters on Aug. 1–26, will seek to bolster the landmark treaty against the backdrop of Russia’s nuclear threats and its war on Ukraine.

The Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which gave up the nuclear weapons on its territory in return for security assurances, has raised serious doubts about the intentions of Russia, a leading nuclear-weapon state that, along with the United Kingdom and the United States, promised in 1994 to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has played up his country’s nuclear weapons status (see ACT, June 2022) to keep NATO members from interfering as Russian forces conduct a brutal military campaign, now largely focused on the Donbas and southern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, arms control and nonproliferation challenges are intensifying. In early June, the United Nations revealed that Iran has enough uranium to produce a nuclear weapon if the uranium is enriched further to weapons grade. Efforts to bring Iran and the United States back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, are stalled. China and North Korea are building up their nuclear arsenals, while Russia and the United States have discontinued bilateral discussions about their own nuclear programs.

Given such divisions and competing agendas, it is unclear how much the review conference could achieve. Although a consensus document would be ideal, some officials argue that that is not the only metric by which to measure success. “The absence of consensus will not necessarily undermine the [nonproliferation] regime,” Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said in a speech to the Arms Control Association’s 50th anniversary meeting on June 2. “What will jeopardize the NPT and the tangible benefits it provides is if states-parties do not approach the review conference with a willingness to listen, negotiate and compromise.”

Nakamitsu warned that a review conference wracked by divisive actions will endanger the central role of the treaty and “we don’t want to see that happening.” She urged nuclear-weapon states to reaffirm their commitment to the norm against nuclear weapons use and to agree to nuclear risk reduction measures.

Many experts view the conference as an opportunity to strengthen the NPT. “A frontal assault on the key concepts of the NPT by the Russian Federation [during the war against Ukraine] makes everything harder, but it is also an opportunity,” said Thomas Countryman, a consultant to the U.S. State Department’s delegation to the conference, who also spoke at the Arms Control Association meeting.

“I think it reinforces what most nations should feel, that this is not just a review conference, one in a series, [but] this is happening when basic tenets of the treaty are being undermined, and therefore, there is a need better 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,” Countryman said.

The 10th nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference takes place at a crucial moment for the future of arms control.

Finland, Sweden Apply to Join NATO


June 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

Finland and Sweden have applied to join NATO, abandoning their long-standing military neutrality in the face of Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine. The May 18 move signals an expected expansion of the alliance in ways that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago. It is widely seen as a political defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who for years worked hard to tear the alliance apart and insisted that no new members be added.

U.S. President Joe Biden (C) moved quickly to host Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House on May 19 in support of a decision by the two Nordic countries to apply for NATO membership. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)Sweden declared its intentions to seek NATO membership on May 15, shortly after Finland confirmed its move. Three days later, the countries filed formal applications at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

All of NATO’s 30 members must approve the new allies, a process that could take up to a year. In a surprise development, Hungary and Turkey, two NATO countries ruled by authoritarians, raised objections to the membership applications in what diplomatic sources described as an apparent attempt to gain political concessions driven by their national interests and desire to play to domestic audiences.

U.S. and European officials expressed confidence that any differences can be worked out. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on May 15 that the membership process could be very quick, according to media reports, and U.S. officials acted as if it were a done deal. But the Hungarian and Turkish obstructions cast a cloud over the historic Nordic shift.

U.S. President Joe Biden moved to speed the process and reinforce a sense of acceptance by inviting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to the White House on May 19. In a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, he said he was submitting immediately to the Senate the treaty language needed to make the two countries the newest members of the alliance.

“Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger,” Biden said. “They’re strong, strong democracies, and a strong, united NATO is the foundation of America’s security.”

Biden warned Russia that the United States would “deter and confront any aggression while Finland and Sweden are in this accession process” before they formally are accepted into an alliance whose core commitment is that “an attack on one is an attack on all.” Although Biden’s pledge is far short of a treaty, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on May 18 that the United States “will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this process.”

At the White House, Andersson said that “Russia’s full-scale aggression against a sovereign and democratic neighbor…was a watershed moment for Sweden, and my government has come to the conclusion that the security of the Swedish people will be best protected within the NATO alliance.”

As Finland and Sweden began taking formal steps to join NATO, Swedish Army troops, here camouflaging an armoured vehicle, participated in military exercises on the Swedish island of Gotland in May. (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images) Finland and Sweden were nonaligned during the Cold War and maintained formal military neutrality even as their armed forces contributed to Western operations. Both countries are considered to be NATO’s closest geopolitical partners, possessing vibrant democracies, strong economies, and competent militaries. Since Russia invaded Ukraine and upended European stability, Finland and Sweden have become increasingly unsettled by the Russian threat and experienced a stunning surge in support among their politicians and publics to seek security in the alliance.

As late as March 8, two weeks after the invasion began, Andersson, Sweden’s Social Democratic leader, said that her party was opposed to joining NATO. Sweden consulted closely during the decision-making process with Finland, which led the way on the NATO issue.

“Military nonalignment has served Sweden well, but our conclusion is that it will not serve us equally well in the future,” Andersson told a press conference on May 15 in Stockholm in announcing her country’s NATO decision. “This is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey’s objection stems from opposition to Sweden’s and, to a lesser extent, Finland’s perceived support for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey sees as an extension of the PKK. Ankara’s conflict with the PKK, a Turkish separatist group, has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

Putin has long opposed NATO and before the invasion had demanded that the alliance cease adding new members.

Russia has responded to the Finnish and Swedish decisions by threatening retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical measures,” Reuters reported. Yet, Niniisto spoke to Putin on May 14 and said later that their conversation was measured and did not contain any threats. “He confirmed that he thinks [the decision to join NATO is] a mistake. We are not threatening you. Altogether, the discussion was very, could I say, calm and cool,” Niinisto said in an interview with CNN. The Kremlin described the exchange as frank and said the change of course in foreign policy could negatively affect Finnish-Russian relations.

On May 16, Putin said in his speech to the Collective Security Treaty Organization summit that the fact of Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members would not in itself be a direct threat to Russia, but the expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure to these countries would certainly provoke a response. Previously, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant that “the next expansion of NATO does not make our continent more stable and secure” and will require that Russia undertake a “special analysis and development of the necessary measures in order to balance the situation and ensure our security.”

Russia’s war on Ukraine has driven the two Nordic countries to abandon their military neutrality.

War in Ukraine Driving NATO Revamp


June 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

As the Russian war against Ukraine grinds on, the conflict is propelling a fundamental revamp of the U.S. and NATO military arsenals, as well as an unprecedented buildup of Ukraine’s war-fighting capacity. If the current trend continues, the result is likely to be a collection of much stronger, more modern Western militaries arrayed along the border with Russia, just as that country’s own military underperforms in Ukraine, experts and alliance officials say.

General Pierre Schill (R), chief of staff of the French Army, visits French troops deployed with NATO in Cincu, Romania in May 2022. (Photo by Didier Lauras/AFP via Getty Images)The United States and its allies have spent billions of dollars arming Ukraine since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. As Russia struggles to maintain control of the fight in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, it has continued to fire all kinds of missiles targeting key weapons facilities and industrial bases. On May 2, the U.S. Defense Department reported observing more than 2,125 Russian missile launches since the beginning of the invasion. While the barrage continues, the allies are not only learning valuable lessons about how these conventional missile systems are used and performing, but also taking steps to upgrade their own military equipment as they donate older models to Ukraine.

As one example, the allies have shifted to training Ukrainians to use Western military equipment as Ukrainian stockpiles of vintage Soviet-era systems have become depleted, according to PBS. Because of this, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law on May 21 a $40 billion assistance package for Ukraine, bringing total U.S. assistance to roughly $54 billion.

The new package, in part, would reimburse the Defense Department for training and military education provided to Ukraine and to allies who aided Ukraine at the behest of the United States. This is in addition to weapons, logistic and radar system support, and intelligence provided directly to the Ukrainian military. The German Defense Ministry announced in May that it is training Ukrainians on using advanced self-propelled howitzers donated by Germany and the Netherlands, while Canada disclosed plans to train Ukrainians to use heavy artillery.

These packages are not only helping Ukraine modernize its force with NATO military equipment, but also allowing NATO European allies to replace their own Soviet-era arms stocks as they donate them to Ukraine. For instance, Biden announced in March that the United States would replace Slovakia’s Soviet-era S-300 air defense system with a U.S. Patriot system after Slovakia donated the S-300 system to Ukraine. In April, Poland signed a $4 billion deal to buy Abrams tanks from the United States. Defense News reported that the procurement would allow Poland to phase out its Soviet T-72 and PT-91 tanks with a new tracked vehicle platform, part of a broad U.S. effort to transition allies from dependence on Russian military equipment through the European Recapitalization Incentive Program. Under specific conditions, the program allows the U.S. State Department to allocate funds from the Foreign Military Financing program to specific countries to purchase U.S. defense articles, training, and services for their defense needs and thus reduce military dependence on Russia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated this trend. As Poland donated a set of T-72 tanks to Ukraine, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government was considering donating Challenger II battle tanks to fill Poland’s defense gap. Although this transfer has not been confirmed directly, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on April 26 that Poland’s gap had been filled. He referred to U.S. and UK weapons provided to Poland since the beginning of the war. In the new $40 billion U.S. assistance package, about $4 billion is aimed at paying for European command operations and at helping NATO’s eastern flank countries, including with the deployment of another U.S. Patriot missile system. In late May, Poland said it would seek six more U.S. Patriot batteries and 500 HIMARS M142 launchers, a U.S. long range artillery rocket system.

Russia’s aggression has also propelled NATO to expedite plans to beef up the alliance’s conventional force posture. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the allies agreed in 2016 to establish a forward presence on NATO’s eastern front. By 2017, NATO established an “enhanced forward presence” composed of four rotating multinational battle groups, averaging about 1,000 troops each, in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. In the Black Sea, NATO developed a “tailored forward presence,” which focused on exercises and training opportunities overseen by its headquarters in Romania.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told ACT that there were plans to increase further the troop presence on the alliance’s eastern front, but did not provide a timeline. Since the war began, NATO, citing the need for deterrence, has doubled its rotating multinational battle groups, establishing new groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Also, battle groups in the Baltic states and Poland have significantly increased from about 5,000 troops to 18,200, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Reservists from the 2nd Estonian Infantry Brigade take part in maneuvers during a NATO exercise on the Estonian-Latvian border on May 25 in Voru, Estonia. Fifteen thousand troops from 14 countries are participating in one of the largest ever military exercises in the Baltics as NATO members funnel weapons and other assistance to Ukraine to beat back a Russian invasion. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Overall, more than 40,000 troops are now under direct NATO command on the alliance’s eastern front. In addition, The Washington Post reported in early April that the Pentagon had increased the number of U.S. military personnel in Europe from 60,000 to more than 100,000 since February 2022. The Post, quoting an anonymous senior defense official, also reported that there will be a permanent force posture change in Europe, including troops from other NATO member states and possibly including a greater U.S. presence. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated on April 5, “I believe a lot of our allies, especially those such as the Baltics or Poland or Romania…are very willing to establish permanent bases. They will build them and pay for them.”

Meanwhile, the alliance is keeping close track of Russian tactics. Russia claims it has used a variety of missiles to strike Ukraine, including expensive Kalibr cruise missiles, high-precision Oniks missiles, the Iskander missile system, and a dozen hypersonic missiles. Russia has destroyed or badly damaged a Ukrainian anti-ship missile facility near Kyiv, the Malyshev tank factory in Kharkiv, and heavy industrial complexes in the cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Mykolaiv, a Ukrainian official told Foreign Policy. In late May, The Washington Post reported that Russia has also hit fuel and military supply depots, power stations, transportation infrastructure, and training centers in western Ukraine with its long-range precision-guided capabilities.

In numerous regional military exercises, the use of these systems in Europe was associated with deterrence, but now states will pay attention to the battlefield capability, use, and military units responsible for these systems when reflecting on their own force postures in Europe. These weapons “will no longer be perceived as a means of deterring a potential enemy, but as a weapon for real combat,” political scientist Pyotr Topychkanov wrote in Forbes.

One early indicator is the announcement by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka that Russia was interested in helping his country produce missiles such as the Iskander. In addition, Lukashenka recently said that Belarus received S-400 air defense systems from Russia.

The conflict is propelling big changes in U.S. and NATO arsenals as well as an unprecedented surge in Ukraine’s warfighting capacity.

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