"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
Shannon Bugos

U.S., Russia Must Elevate Action on Arms Control in Strategic Stability Dialogue



Volume 14, Issue 1, Jan. 13, 2022

As U.S. and Russian diplomats engage in a high-stakes negotiation on a broad range of challenging European security and nuclear arms control issues, it is in the interest of both sides to ensure that progress on new nuclear arms control arrangements does not fall victim to deep, and perhaps irreconcilable, differences over NATO’s relationship with Russia and the delays on the implementation of the Minsk II agreement, which was designed to avoid further conflict over Ukraine.

It has been nearly a year since U.S President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to extend the only remaining treaty limiting their massive nuclear arsenals, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits each side to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 deployed strategic delivery platforms.

It has been more than six months since Biden and Putin agreed in June 2021 to restart a Strategic Stability Dialogue (SSD) in order “to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.”

Since then, too little progress has been achieved to negotiate a new agreement or agreements before New START expires in early 2026.

On Monday, Washington and Moscow concluded the third round of the bilateral strategic stability dialogue, which was focused on Russia’s new and broader package of proposals on mutual security guarantees. The initial two rounds of the SSD were held in July and September 2021.

Russia’s decision to inject additional demands on “security guarantees” has, unfortunately, further complicated the equation. As we and other U.S., Russian and European experts have suggested, the two sides can and need to develop new understandings on four sets of nuclear arms control issues through this process:

  • deeper verifiable cuts in the bloated U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals,
  • achieving new understandings designed to limit and account for Russian and U.S. non-strategic (or tactical) nuclear weapons,
  • new measures to prohibit or limit the reintroduction of intermediate-range missiles in Europe, and
  • new understandings on how to limit strategic missile defense capabilities.

On Jan. 10, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman noted, correctly, that “these kinds of arms control negotiations – as President Putin himself has said – don’t happen in just a day or even a week. They’re generally quite complex, very technical, and take some time. But we’re certainly ready to move as expeditiously as one possibly can in these circumstances.”

Concluding durable, new arrangements to supersede New START will ensure there are verifiable limits on the massive and deadly U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles, which are critical to U.S. and Russian national, as well as for international, peace and security. Without such guardrails, U.S.-Russian relations will become even more dangerous.

We call on the two sides to redouble their efforts to keep their nuclear disarmament discussions moving forward so new, follow-on nuclear disarmament agreements can be concluded no later than 2025, and preferably sooner.

INF Missile Restriction Options

While some Kremlin demands, including Putin’s call for legally-binding assurances regarding NATO expansion, may reflect serious Russian concerns, they are non-starters. On the other hand, some other Russian proposals on arms control challenges are quite serious and deserve a substantive response from the United States.

For instance, Russia has reiterated its concept for a moratorium on U.S. and Russian deployment of missiles formerly banned by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which Putin first proposed in 2019 and expanded in 2020 to include mutual verification measures.

Russia’s INF missile proposal needs further work, but it can serve as a starting point for negotiations on a deal with the United States that can help avert a new Euromissile race.

It is incumbent upon the Biden administration, in coordination with NATO, to put forward a constructive counterproposal regarding an INF-range missile moratorium.

One approach would be for U.S./NATO leaders to pledge not to field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles in Europe so long as Russia does not deploy treaty-prohibited systems where they could hit NATO territory.

Other options that might be considered include agreeing to a verifiable ban on all nuclear-armed ground-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles of intermediate range (500-5,500 km) or a prohibition on ground-launched ballistic missiles of intermediate range. This would require a return to an INF Treaty-like verification system and would require Russia to move or destroy its currently deployed 9M729 missiles, which violated the terms of the original INF Treaty.

The U.S. and Russian presidents could codify these INF missile restrictions through an executive agreement. Progress on this issue could build momentum in other areas of nuclear arms control and improve the climate for talks broader security matters.

On Jan. 3, the United States, Russia, France, China, and the United Kingdom issued a rare joint statement reiterating the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Now, the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals can start to put these words into action by empowering their negotiators to reach new agreements that sharply reduce nuclear risks and the number of nuclear weapons. —SHANNON BUGOS, senior policy analyst, and DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director


It is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to ensure that progress on new nuclear arms control arrangements does not fall victim to deep, and perhaps irreconcilable, differences. 

Country Resources:

NPT Nuclear-Weapon States Reject Nuclear War

January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos and Julia Masterson

The five original nuclear-weapon states have pledged that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” in a rare joint statement intended to reduce tensions and avoid nuclear conflict.

Representatives of the five original nuclear-weapon states met for the first time in nearly two years in Paris in December. They reaffirmed their commitment to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). (Photo credit: Permanent representation of France to the Conference on Disarmament)“As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented,” China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in the statement, issued on Jan. 3.

The five are the only nuclear-weapon states recognized under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and their pledge was among several coordinated steps taken in advance of the treaty’s 10th review conference, which was supposed to start Jan. 4 but has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” was articulated in 1985 by Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan and reaffirmed by U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their June 2021 summit in Geneva. At the last gathering of the NPT nuclear-weapon states in 2020, the United States balked over a proposal by China for a joint declaration on this principle.

Although the statement, coming at a time of rising international tensions, was welcomed by many experts, nuclear activists were quick to note the contradiction between the words and deeds of the nuclear-weapon states. “They write this ‘nice’ statement but doing exactly the opposite in reality. They’re in a nuclear arms race, spending billions on modernizing and constantly prepared to start a nuclear war,” tweeted Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

On Dec. 2–3, representatives from the five states gathered for the first time in nearly two years in Paris to reaffirm their commitment to the NPT and prepare for the review conference. The meeting produced a joint communiqué reaffirming their adherence to Article VI of the treaty and expressing support for “the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.”

Article VI commits the countries to pursuing “negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Non-nuclear-weapon states have long expressed frustration with the nuclear powers over their commitment to this treaty obligation, given the nuclear-weapon states’ expanding nuclear arsenals and nuclear weapons modernization programs.

Certain non-nuclear-weapon states have rejected calls to adopt additional obligations under the global nonproliferation regime until the nuclear-weapon states demonstrate clear progress toward compliance with Article VI.

The five NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Their December meeting was held to advance the P5 Process, which was established in 2009 to focus on such goals as increasing clarity about nuclear doctrines and strengthening strategic risk reduction.

According to the meeting communiqué, the five countries reviewed progress on issues related to the review conference. This included exchanging updates on their respective nuclear doctrines and policies, recognizing “their responsibility to work collaboratively to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict,” and communicating an intent “to build on their fruitful work on strategic risk reduction within the P5 Process throughout the course of the next NPT review cycle.”

On Dec. 7, the five countries also submitted to the review conference a working paper on strategic risk reduction, which they described as “complementary to the treaty’s overarching goals and… consistent with the nuclear-weapon states’ long-term efforts towards disarmament.”

The P5 Process last convened in person in February 2020. (See ACT, March 2020.) France chaired the process in 2021 and planned to continue that role through the review conference. The United States will take over as chair in 2022, although it is not clear when, given the conference postponement. (See ACT, March 2021.)

The five issue a rare joint statement on preventing conflict and arms racing.

U.S., Russia Broaden Strategic Dialogue

January/February 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball and Shannon Bugos

Senior U.S. and Russian officials have agreed to meet in Geneva on Jan. 10 to discuss a long list of security issues, including a wide-ranging set of Russian proposals that Moscow says are designed to provide “security guarantees.” In recent weeks, tensions have flared as Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up Russian military activity near Ukraine, which Russia invaded in 2014, and complained about NATO military support for Ukraine and Georgia.

President Joe Biden speaks to the press as he departs the White House on Dec. 8, a day after a virtual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another virtual summit was held on Dec. 30 as tensions over Ukraine heated up.  (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)On Dec. 15, Karen Donfried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who transmitted two draft agreements outlining political and military security guarantees Moscow wants from the United States and NATO. They include demands that NATO renounce any expansion eastward into states of the former Soviet bloc, including Ukraine, and limit troop and weapons deployments and military drills on NATO’s eastern flank.

Two days later, Russia published its proposals, one between Russia and the United States and another between Russia and NATO. “We hope that the United States will enter into serious talks with Russia in the near future regarding this matter, which has critical importance for maintaining peace and stability, using the Russian draft treaty and agreement as a starting point,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The White House quickly announced it would engage on the proposals, but insisted its European partners would also be involved. The Russian-U.S. strategic stability dialogue in Geneva is expected to be followed on Jan. 12 by talks in Brussels within the NATO-Russia Council, which has not met in more than two years.

“We’ll listen to Russia explain its proposals and the underlying concerns motivating them. We’ll respond and share our own concerns, and we do have many,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Jan. 4 of the Geneva meeting.

He stressed that the talks are narrowly focused on strategic stability matters and described the U.S. goal as being able to “identify a few issues where there might be enough common ground to continue discussions and ultimately address together.”

Price also emphasized that the talks would deal strictly with bilateral matters and “we’re not going to talk above the heads of our European allies and partners.”

On Dec. 30, President Joe Biden spoke with Putin on security matters, the second such conversation that month. According to a statement released by the White House, Biden “… urged Russia to deescalate tensions with Ukraine. He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine. President Biden also expressed support for diplomacy, starting early next year [and] reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of deescalation rather than escalation.”

The January meetings were scheduled as fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine continues and as concerns linger about Russia’s military activities along its common border with Ukraine. Last month, U.S. officials said Russia has amassed around 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border that could be used against Ukraine. On Dec. 25, Reuters reported that more than 10,000 Russian troops were leaving regions near Ukraine, including Crimea, Rostov, and Kuban, and returning to permanent bases in Russia.

The Russian-U.S. talks will occur in the context of the strategic stability dialogue launched after the June summit between Biden and Putin to discuss nuclear weapons-related issues. The previous two rounds, in July and September, were led by Ryabkov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

The dialogue was originally designed to explore future arms control options. After the September dialogue, Moscow and Washington agreed to establish two working groups, one on “principles and objectives for future arms control” and the other on “capabilities and actions with strategic effects.”

How the broadened dialogue will affect progress toward negotiations on new nuclear arms control arrangements is not yet clear. Both sides have indicated interest in a new agreement or agreements to supersede the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which expires in February 2026. The treaty caps Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles and heavy bombers each. The Bilateral Consultative Commission, the treaty’s implementing body, last met Oct. 5–14 in Geneva.

One Russian security proposal calls for the United States not to deploy outside its borders any missiles formerly banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Under that treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union banned all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, leading to the elimination of a total of 2,692 missiles.

After Washington withdrew from the accord in 2019, Putin proposed that the two countries impose a moratorium on the deployment of INF Treaty-range missiles and later added mutual verification measures to the proposal. Russia also indicated that its 9M729 cruise missile, which the United States alleged was a violation of the INF Treaty, would be covered by its proposal.

At the time, the Trump administration and NATO dismissed the Russian proposal. The Biden administration has not clarified whether it would consider the Russian concept or offer a counterproposal.

The draft Russian-U.S. agreement proposes that the two countries “shall undertake not to deploy ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles outside their national territories, as well as in the areas of their national territories, from which such weapons can attack targets in the national territory of the other party.”

The draft Russian-NATO agreement also includes a moratorium, proposing that “the parties shall not deploy land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas allowing them to reach the territory of the other parties.”

Additionally, Moscow proposed that Russia and the United States “refrain from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territories” and “not train military and civilian personnel from non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons.”

This refers to the U.S.-NATO nuclear sharing agreement, under which Washington is estimated to deploy more than 100 B61 gravity bombs across Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, with all but the Turkish air force assigned and trained to carry out nuclear strike missions with the U.S. weapons.

Bonnie Jenkins, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, outlined the key concepts for U.S. arms control efforts in a Sept. 6 speech. “First, we will look to capture new kinds of intercontinental-range nuclear delivery systems. Second, we will seek to address all nuclear warheads, including those which have not been limited previously, like so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons. Third, we will seek to retain limits on Russian intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments after New START expires in 2026,” she said.

It remains unclear how the two sides could bridge their nuclear differences and when they might transition from the dialogue to more formal negotiations on a successor to New START. Biden said in June that “we’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.”

Russian, U.S. officials planned security talks for Jan. 10.

Congress Boosts Defense Budget By $25 Billion

January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

U.S. lawmakers have authorized a $25 billion increase to the annual defense policy bill’s topline, bringing the total to $768 billion. The total reflects bipartisan views that President Joe Biden’s proposal was insufficient to deter China and Russia and keep pace with inflation.

The B-21 Raider strategic bomber, shown here in an image provided by Northrup Grumman Corp., is among the weapons systems that will receive increased funding under the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. (Photo by Northrup Grumman Corp.)The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), approved by Congress in December, “makes great progress,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said. “It addresses a broad range of pressing issues, from strategic competition with China and Russia; to disruptive technologies like hypersonics, [artificial intelligence,] and quantum computing; to modernizing our ships, aircraft, and vehicles.” The committee’s version of the NDAA, passed July 21, included the $25 billion increase to the administration’s NDAA request of $743 billion.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said the NDAA “bolsters our national security” and “prepare[s] our military to face the ever-growing threat of China.” Rogers had introduced an amendment in the committee for the boost to the request, which the committee approved in its version of the NDAA on Sept. 2.

The House passed the NDAA on Sept. 23, but the Senate deadlocked over the legislation and failed to pass its own version. The leaders of the respective armed services committees then bypassed the usual conference committee, during which the chambers reconcile their respective versions of a bill, and negotiated a final compromise bill between themselves.

The House passed the compromise NDAA on Dec. 7 by a vote of 363–70, and the Senate followed with an 88–11 vote on Dec. 15. Biden signed the legislation into law on Dec. 27, marking the 61st consecutive year that an NDAA has been enacted.

“This bill represents compromise between both parties and chambers—as a result, every single member involved has something in it they like and something that didn’t get into the bill that they wish had,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in a Dec. 7 statement. “Ultimately, our responsibility as a Congress to provide for the common defense supersedes these areas of disagreement, making the substance of this bill and its signature into law critical.”

But the NDAA only authorizes the funding. Congress has yet to pass the defense and energy and water appropriations bills, which appropriate actual spending, and is not expected to do so until at least mid-February, when the continuing resolution passed on Dec. 2 expires.

The legislation authorizes a total $5.1 billion for the construction and continued research and development of what ultimately will be a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, an increase of $138 million from Biden’s budget request. (See ACT, July/August 2021.) The Senate summary of the legislation attributed part of the cost to the need for “industrial base development and expansion.”

The NDAA includes the $15.2 million requested by the Defense and Energy departments for the development of a new sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and its associated low-yield nuclear warhead. The House Appropriations Committee has zeroed out this funding in its version of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill, therefore leaving the possibility that this SLCM program ultimately may not receive any funding.

The Trump administration proposed this controversial SLCM program in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). (See ACT, March 2018.) The NDAA would exert some oversight over the program by restricting travel by select Navy staff until the department releases the analysis of alternatives for the new capability and briefs Congress on it.

Congress authorized the Air Force’s $3 billion request for the B-21 Raider strategic bomber program, including $108 million for initial procurement. The legislation also approved the service’s $609 million request for the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapons program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), a 58 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 authorization.

Bloomberg reported in July that the projected total cost of the development and procurement phases of the LRSO program will fall between $14.2 billion and $16.2 billion, an increase of 30 to 50 percent from the Air Force’s 2016 estimate. (See ACT, September 2021.) In the 2022 NDAA, Congress prohibited the awarding of the LRSO procurement contract until the Pentagon conducts additional cost analysis and justifies the awarding of a sole-source contract for the program. The Air Force announced in April 2020 that Raytheon would be the sole contractor for the LRSO program and awarded the company a $2 billion development contract in July 2021. (See ACT, September 2021; May 2020.)

The legislation also provided $2.6 billion for continued R&D and initial missile procurement for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, the same as the Biden budget request and $1.1 billion more than the previous year’s authorization. The GBSD missiles are slated to replace the fleet of 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) beginning in 2029.

The Pentagon requested in late 2021 a report by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by the end of January on potential options for the future of the land-based leg of the nuclear triad, but the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review is scheduled for release around the same time, casting doubt on how influential the Carnegie report could be.

Meanwhile, there has been significant pushback from Congress on downsizing or eliminating the ICBM leg, as evidenced by the NDAA provision that bars any 2022 funding from going toward reducing the number of deployed ICBMs below 400.

The Carnegie report will help “to make sure we surface the full range of viewpoints across the political spectrum, tension points, and key considerations, so that the Department can benefit from those insights during the NPR process,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, wrote in a Nov. 8 letter to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The senator had written Kahl in September following the abrupt departure of the department’s lead on the NPR process, Leonor Tomero, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, from the Pentagon. (See ACT, December 2021.)

In addition to the NPR, which began in July, the Pentagon is working on two other complementary studies, the National Defense Strategy and the Missile Defense Review, which began in June. (See ACT, September and October 2021.) The White House is also working on the National Security Strategy, which helps to guide these three Pentagon documents. Kahl said on Dec. 8 that the National Security Strategy will be released “early in the new year,” to be followed by the National Defense Strategy.

Relatedly, the NDAA mandates the establishment of a congressional commission to examine and offer recommendations regarding the long-term U.S. strategic posture, including a strategic threat assessment and a review of nuclear weapons policy, strategy, and force structure.

In the 2022 legislation, Congress also authorized the Army’s request of $286 million for the development of a conventional, ground-launched, midrange missile capability. The service announced in 2020 its selection of the Navy’s Standard Missile-6 and Tomahawk cruise missile to serve as the bases for this capability. (See ACT, January/February 2021.) Both missiles likely would have been prohibited under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which the United States withdrew in August 2019.

The overall national defense topline, including defense-related activities outside the scope of the armed services committees, is anticipated to be $778 billion for fiscal year 2022, a 3.4 percent increase from the administration’s request. In the coming years, the Pentagon is expected to face tough choices as the defense budget is projected to experience no growth beyond inflation adjustments.

The Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which maintains and modernizes the nuclear warhead stockpile, received a total of $16 billion for its nuclear weapons activities account, a $497 million increase from the Biden administration’s request. Congress gave the NNSA a mammoth 24 percent increase in its 2021 authorization compared to the previous year and set the agency on track to request and thus far receive a larger annual budget than projections had anticipated.

The NDAA will provide the requested funds for the B61-12 gravity bomb, the W87-1 ICBM warhead, and the W80-4 ALCM warhead upgrade at $772 million, $691 million, and $1.1 billion, respectively. Congress also authorized the requested $1.6 billion to increase the production rate of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads to at least 80 per year at two production sites.

In addition, U.S. lawmakers approved funding for other controversial NNSA programs proposed by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration. These include the new high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead (W93), along with an associated aeroshell, for $134 million, and the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb for $98.5 million.

Meanwhile, Congress for the second year in a row slashed the Pentagon’s proposal for a layered homeland missile defense system. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has plans to adapt the Aegis missile defense and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems, both designed to defeat short- and intermediate-range missiles, to intercept limited ICBM threats, which is currently the aim of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system based in Alaska and California.

Congress made an 87 percent reduction in the $99 million MDA request for adapting the Aegis system to supplement the GMD system due to “lack of requirement,” according to the budget documents. The law also zeroed out $65 million that was requested to demonstrate THAAD capabilities against longer-range threats, as the request was “unjustified” and “lacking [an] acquisition strategy.”

But lawmakers funded the $745 million R&D request for the GMD system, as well as $926 million for the development of the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) missile. The Pentagon plans to supplement the existing 44 ground-based interceptors with 20 NGI missiles beginning not later than 2028, a timeline endorsed by the NDAA, so as to bring the fleet total to 64.

Congress once again boosted the Cooperative Threat Reduction program after receiving a greatly reduced budget request from previous appropriation levels. This program is aimed at reducing threats from weapons of mass destruction and related challenges, including the spread of dangerous pathogens such as the coronavirus.

The Trump administration aimed to cut the program in fiscal year 2021 by 36 percent from the previous year’s appropriation, but Congress thwarted the effort. (See ACT, April 2020.) For 2022, the Biden administration proposed a significant 33 percent cut from the 2021 appropriation of $360 million, but the NDAA boosted the $240 million request by 44 percent, to $345 million, specifically in support of the Biological Threat Reduction Program.

U.S. lawmakers authorized a $25 billion increase in annual defense spending to $768 billion.

Congress Authorizes Accelerated Hypersonics Plan

January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Congress has voted to authorize and, in some instances, substantially increase the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for the accelerated development and deployment of hypersonic weapons capabilities amid increasing rhetoric from Pentagon officials that the United States is falling behind and needs to catch up to China and Russia.

A U.S. airman with the 912th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron secures the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (AARW) as it is loaded under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber at Edwards Air Force Base, California in 2020. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)The Pentagon in May requested a total of $3.8 billion for projects related to the research, development, and initial procurement of hypersonic weapons for fiscal year 2022. Congress either rubber-stamped or increased the requested amounts, except for two programs, in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the House on Dec.7 and the Senate on Dec. 15. President Joe Biden signed the legislation on Dec. 27.

The passage of the NDAA came as defense officials called for the United States to speed up its development of hypersonic capabilities, in particular following a test by China in July that, according to published reports, featured a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before launching a separate projectile over the South China Sea and then striking within two dozen miles of its target. (See ACT, November 2021.)

“There is an arms race, not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Reuters on Nov. 30. “The Chinese have been at it very aggressively,” he said, while the United States has not “done enough.”

Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the Space Force, noted on Nov. 20 that the United States has some “catching up to do very quickly.”

On Nov. 16, Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged that the Chinese test should “create a sense of urgency” in the United States “from a technology perspective.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to comment on the Chinese test, but said on Nov. 17 that the Pentagon will “continue to move as fast as we can to develop [hypersonic] capabilities.” On Dec. 4, Austin asserted that the United States will meet “the pacing challenge [of China] with confidence and resolve, not panic and pessimism.”

The Trump administration launched an accelerated plan for the development and deployment of conventional hypersonic weapons, which the Biden administration continued in its 2022 budget request and Congress has now kicked up a notch with the 2022 NDAA. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

The 2022 NDAA fully authorizes the Air Force’s request for $238 million for continued research and development on the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), an air-launched hypersonic glide vehicle, and $200 million for the new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program. Congress decreased the initial procurement budget for the ARRW system from $161 million to $117 million. The system failed three flight booster tests in 2021, with the latest failure on Dec. 15 when “the launch sequence was aborted before release with an unknown issue,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath Collins told The War Zone on Dec. 17. (See ACT, September 2021.)

As for the Navy, Congress boosted the budget for the Conventional Prompt Strike program, which features the common hypersonic glide body that is shared with the Army’s program, by $124 million above the requested amount to $1.5 billion, a 95 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 authorization for the program. The Navy plans to add the system to Zumwalt-class destroyers starting in fiscal year 2025 and to Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2028.

The Navy’s request for $57 million for its new Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment II weapon was cut by $23 million due to “lack of program justification.”

The Army received the full request of $301 million for R&D on the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) and $111 million for additional LRHW batteries. The service plans to begin operating the program in fiscal year 2023.

A Nov. 12 report by Bloomberg, based on an estimate from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, highlighted the rapidly growing costs of the Navy’s and Army’s hypersonic programs, which share the common hypersonic glide body. The office projects that these programs will add $21.5 billion to the Navy’s budget and $7 billion to the Army’s budget in the coming years.

According to the CAPE office estimate, the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will cost $10 billion for development, $11 billion for production, and $400 million for related military construction. The Navy is planning for 240 missiles in all, at a cost of $89.6 million each.

The CAPE office estimated that the Army’s LRHW program will cost the Pentagon $4.4 billion for development and $2.5 billion for production. With a plan for 66 missiles, including 48 development models, the cost of each LRHW missile comes to $106 million.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman, a Defense Department spokesperson, told Bloomberg that the CAPE cost projection is “in close alignment with the Army and Navy cost estimates for their respective programs.”

The rising estimates illuminate the motivation behind the remarks of Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, in October that “we need to figure out how to drive towards more affordable hypersonics.”

The Pentagon successfully conducted a second test of the first-stage booster rocket motor for the common hypersonic glide body on Oct. 28. The department last tested the glide body in March 2020. (See ACT, April 2020.)

“We are on schedule for the upcoming flight test of the full common hypersonic missile,” said Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe Jr., director of the Navy’s strategic systems programs. This test is scheduled to occur by the fall of 2022.

Meanwhile, Congress authorized $256 million for the hypersonic programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a 47 percent increase from the agency’s request. One of those programs is for the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), for which the Pentagon successfully conducted a free flight test in September. Congress authorized an additional $37 million for the HAWC program above the DARPA request of $10 million.

The 2022 NDAA also included provisions related to the testing and development of hypersonic weapons. One provision requires the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress comparing U.S. efforts to deploy hypersonic weapons and other emerging technologies to those of China.

Congress authorized the Biden administration’s 2022 budget request for the accelerated development of hypersonic weapons.

Chinese Hypersonic Glider Said to Fire Projectile

January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

The orbital bombardment system featuring a hypersonic glide vehicle that China allegedly tested in July included the release of an unspecified projectile from the vehicle during flight, according to an article in the Financial Times.

China announced in November that a new wind tunnel for testing hypersonic aircraft is nearly operational.  (Photo by China Central Television)The newspaper, citing U.S. intelligence sources, first reported in October about the alleged July 27 test in which a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle, carried on a rocket, flew through low-orbit space and circled the globe before striking within two dozen miles of its target. (See ACT, November 2021.) On Nov. 21, it reported that the vehicle fired a separate projectile, which had “no obvious target of its own,” in the middle of its flight “in the atmosphere over the South China Sea.” The projectile fell into the water, the article said.

Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, commented that the embassy was “not aware” of the test. “We are not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries,” he added.

The Biden administration declined to comment on the most recent report, although the White House noted that the test “builds on our concern about many military capabilities that the People’s Republic of China continues to pursue.”

Experts acknowledged that, if the report is true, the test would signify a technological achievement and a leap in capability for Beijing. But many experts emphasized the continued lack of clarity regarding the July test, particularly with respect to the nature of the supposed projectile, and urged caution before jumping to conclusions.

“Was it a missile at all? Or a spent rocket stage? Or a jettisoned service module?” tweeted Marco Langbroek, a military satellite tracker and an academic researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, about the projectile on Nov. 21.

The Financial Times report “generated more questions in my mind,” tweeted Laura Grego from the Union of Concerned Scientists on Nov. 22. “Better information about the launch site, landing site, what was at the landing site (a runway?), where the deorbit burn took place (ok probably will never get that), would help.”

In a potentially related development, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China announced on Nov. 21 that a new wind tunnel that can simulate speeds between Mach 4 and 8 is nearly operational.

The wind tunnel “can meet the test requirements of hypersonic aircraft,” including, notably, “weapon separation and release,” said the corporation said in a statement.

Further potential information and speculation about the July test came after the Pentagon on Nov. 3 released its annual China military power report, which said that Beijing is in the midst of a concerning nuclear buildup that includes efforts to amass 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads by 2030 and expand the number of nuclear delivery systems. (See ACT, December 2021.)

The hypersonic glide vehicle that China allegedly tested in July included the release of an unspecified projectile, the Financial Times reported.

Russia Officially Leaves Open Skies Treaty

January/February 2022

Russia officially withdrew from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty on Dec. 18, leaving the remaining 32 states-parties to figure out how to maintain the utility of the treaty without either the United States or Russia.

The Tupolev Tu-214ON Zherdin is one of the planes Russia used to carry out the Open Skies Treaty, before it officially withdrew on Dec. 18. (Photo by Dmitry Zherdin)“Responsibility for the deterioration of the Open Skies regime lies fully with the United States as the country that started the destruction of the treaty,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a Dec. 18 statement.

The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the treaty in November 2020, and the Biden administration informed Moscow in May that it would not seek to rejoin. (See ACT, June 2021; December 2020.) Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off in June on the decision to kick-start the six-month withdrawal process. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

After the U.S. withdrawal, Moscow sought written guarantees from the remaining states-parties that they would neither continue to share data collected under the treaty with Washington nor prohibit overflights of U.S. bases in Europe, but states-parties dismissed the request.

“Regrettably, all our efforts to preserve the treaty in its initial format have failed,” the ministry statement said. “Washington set the line towards destroying all the arms control agreements it had signed.”

Under the treaty, Russia formed a group of states-parties with Belarus. Minsk initially seemed to plan to withdraw from the treaty alongside Moscow, but now appears likely to remain a state-party.

“What is important now is for the remaining states to continue implementation, modernize the treaty (digital cameras and new sensor types), and seriously discuss additional forms of use, i.e., cross-border disaster relief or environmental monitoring,” Alexander Graef, a researcher at the Institute for Peace, Research, and Security Policy in Hamburg, tweeted on Dec. 17.

Entering into force in 2002, the Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.—SHANNON BUGOS

Russia Officially Leaves Open Skies Treaty

U.S., Russia to Continue Strategic Stability Dialogue in 2022

The United States and Russia aim to meet early next year for further talks on the future of arms control to follow the expiration of the last remaining agreement on the two countries’ nuclear arsenals in four years. This will mark the third round of the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January and met in person with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. The first round took place in July , and the second occurred in September , during which two working groups were formed. These groups are officially named the “Working Group on Principles...

Pentagon Sees Faster Chinese Nuclear Expansion

December 2021
By Shannon Bugos

China is accelerating its development of strategic nuclear warheads in an effort to amass 700 by 2027 and 1,000 by 2030, more than doubling last year’s estimate, according to the U.S. Defense Department’s 2021 China military power report.

China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, shown here during a military parade in Beijing in 2019, are a component of the country's nuclear buildup. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)Viewed alongside recent revelations about the construction of at least 250 new missile silos in northwestern China, the annual report highlights a concerning nuclear buildup. Last year, the Pentagon estimated that Beijing had a total nuclear warhead stockpile in the low 200s and projected it would at least double over the next decade. (See ACT, October 2020.)

China is “investing in, and expanding, the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces,” according to the report, which covers developments through 2020.

“Our number-one pacing challenge is the People’s Republic of China,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Nov. 5.

Responding to the report’s release, State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated that the Biden administration has sought to engage China on arms control. “We think all responsible countries that have [nuclear] weapons should engage in an arms control dialogue,” he told a Nov. 4 press briefing. “We remain ready and willing to do that, and we’ve made that known to [Chinese] authorities.”

President Joe Biden also raised the possibility of opening a strategic stability dialogue with China, to include nuclear issues, during a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Nov. 15.

“The two leaders agreed that we would look to begin to carry forward discussions on strategic stability,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told a virtual event at the Brookings Institution the following day. Such a dialogue will need “to be guided by the leaders and led by senior empowered teams on both sides that cut across security, technology, and diplomacy,” he added. “It is now incumbent on us to think about the most productive way to carry it forward from here.”

Beijing repeatedly rejected Trump administration demands to join trilateral arms control talks with Russia and also rebuffed previous calls by the Biden administration to open a bilateral strategic stability dialogue. The Biden-Xi virtual summit seemed to suggest that Beijing now is at least willing to consider the possibility of dialogue.

China strongly denounced the Pentagon’s report.

“The Defense Department report, just like similar reports in the past, disregards facts and is filled with bias,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Nov. 4. He emphasized that China “actively advocates the ultimate complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons.”

China has an estimated 350 nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists. The United States and Russia have at least 10 times more, with estimated stockpiles of 3,800 and 4,500 warheads, respectively.

The report also comments on recent revelations that China is constructing at least 250 new long-range missile silos at as many as three locations in its northwestern region. (See ACT, September 2021.) Beijing “is building hundreds of new ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] silos and is on the cusp of a large silo-based ICBM force expansion comparable to those undertaken by other major powers,” says the report.

Whether China plans to fill every silo with a missile and how many warheads each missile might carry remains uncertain. At the moment, Beijing possesses approximately 100 ICBMs, which can be silo based or road mobile.

As with the report covering 2019, the 2020 report concluded that China aims to deploy roughly 200 warheads on ICBMs within the next five years, as well as to continue expanding its inventory of more than 200 DF-26 ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear and conventional warheads.

In 2020, Beijing also began to deploy the dual-capable hypersonic glide-vehicle system paired with a medium-range ballistic missile, known as DF-17. The Pentagon report did not comment on the allegation by U.S. intelligence sources that China tested in July a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle, carried on a rocket, that flew through low-orbit space and circled the globe before striking within two dozen miles of its target. (See ACT, November 2021.)

China’s nuclear expansion “is certainly something that’s very concerning to us,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters ahead of the report’s publication. It “raises some questions about their intentions, because it’s one thing to observe what they’re doing, but they haven’t explained why they’re doing it.”

Caitlin Talmadge, an associate professor of security studies at Georgetown University, echoed this concern, telling the Financial Times on Nov. 3, “If this was an emoji, it would be the ‘eyes popping’ emoji.”

Yet, Rose Gottemoeller, former U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and chief U.S. negotiator for the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, emphasized during a Nov. 17 event at the Arms Control Association that “there is no need to panic.” China has “a long way to go to catch up with the United States,” she said.

The report notes that Beijing plans to carry out the expansion by increasing its capability to produce and separate plutonium, which can be used as fissile material for nuclear weapons, through the construction of fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities.

James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace expressed skepticism about this conclusion. Although it is “quite likely” that China will restart fissile material production, “I am not convinced by the argument in [the report] that it has already decided to do so,” he tweeted on Nov. 3.

Restarting production will require Beijing to master difficult technologies and carry “significant technical risk,” Acton wrote. “It doesn’t seem all that attractive from a military perspective.”

The report found that China has “possibly already established a nascent ‘nuclear triad’ with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile…and improvement of its ground- and sea-based nuclear capabilities.”

As in 2020, this year’s report highlights speculation among Chinese strategists that Beijing may need “lower-yield nuclear weapons in order to increase the deterrence value of [its] nuclear force,” although they have not defined specific nuclear yield values. China is not known to have fielded any low-yield nuclear weapons.

In addition to providing some details on China’s nuclear forces, the report describes Beijing’s nuclear policy doctrine. China has long held a no-first-use stance.

But the report notes “some ambiguity about conditions where Beijing’s no-first-use policy would no longer apply.” Some Chinese military officers have discussed using nuclear weapons first in cases when a conventional attack threatens the survival of China’s nuclear forces or of the country itself, the report said.

Although Beijing says it maintains an arsenal “at the minimum level required for national security,” the report suggested that the Chinese arsenal can more accurately be called a “limited deterrent,” which Chinese military officials have described as a level between a minimum and maximum deterrent.

“I do worry they’re going away from minimum deterrence because every indication is they are,” Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Oct. 28. “You don’t need to develop the kind of capabilities they’re developing for minimum deterrence.”

The report states that China “intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning…posture with an expanded silo-based force.” Beijing likely views this posture as compatible with a no-first-use policy, the report added.

It is not established that Beijing has applied this approach to the majority of its forces, as the launch-on-warning posture appears primarily associated with exercises at this stage. The report also found that China “almost certainly keeps the majority of its nuclear force on a peacetime status—with separated launchers, missiles, and warheads.” With nuclear warheads separated from delivery vehicles, Beijing would require extra time to prepare its nuclear forces for launch.

Some experts say China’s nuclear expansion reflects concerns about U.S. missile defenses. But Tong Zhao, a Beijing-based senior fellow at Carnegie, argued in a Nov. 15 op-ed for The New York Times that, although technically correct, such an assertion “misses the bigger geopolitical picture.”

“It’s clear to me that Beijing’s nuclear buildup is ultimately an attempt to force Washington to drop the perceived strategic assault and accept a ‘mutual vulnerability’ relationship—in which neither country would have the capability or will to threaten nuclear war without risking its own destruction,” Zhao wrote.

China’s evolving capabilities are geared toward strengthening its ability to “‘fight and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy,’” a likely euphemism for the United States, the report concluded, as well as to “coerce Taiwan and rival claimants in territorial disputes, counter an intervention by a third party in a conflict along [China’s] periphery, and project power globally.”

China Pushes 'Intelligentized' Warfare

The Pentagon’s 2021 report on China’s military strength highlighted another alarming claim in addition to the disclosures about the country’s expanding nuclear arsenal. That is that China will have completed by 2027 the modernization and what it terms the “intelligentization” of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), thus investing it with the capacity to engage and defeat U.S. forces in a hypothetical war over Taiwan.

According to the report, the Chinese leadership has decreed a new milestone for military modernization in 2027, the 100th anniversary of the PLA’s founding, when the PLA will have achieved “the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization” of its forces. Once this process is completed, the report asserts, China would have access to “more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.”

By means of informatization and intelligentization, the report claims, the PLA expects that the use of advanced technologies, notably artificial intelligence (AI), high-speed computing, sophisticated sensors, cyberweapons, and autonomous, or unmanned, weaponry, will enable it to prevail in high-intensity combat against a well-armed adversary, such as the United States.

“PLA strategists have stated new technologies will increase the speed and tempo of future warfare, and that operationalization of AI will be necessary to improve the speed and quality of information processing by reducing battlefield uncertainty and providing decision-making advantage over potential adversaries,” the report states. “The PLA considers unmanned systems to be critical intelligentized technologies, and is pursuing greater autonomy for unmanned aerial, surface, and underwater vehicles to enable manned and unmanned hybrid formations, [and] swarm attacks…among other capabilities.”

The PLA also is stepping up research on emerging technologies such as AI and autonomy and accelerating the incorporation of these technologies in combat-ready weapons systems, the report says. In particular, the Chinese are said to be rushing development and deployment of unmanned weapons systems, including aircraft, ships, submarines, and tanks. Such systems are intended to collect data on enemy movements and supplement the combat power of manned weapons. The PLA is developing the capacity to employ unmanned vehicles in “swarms,” using AI to coordinate the actions of multiple robotic weapons, the report added. Swarming technology has also been tested by the U.S. military, for example in the Navy’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem 21 exercise of April 2021. (See ACT, May 2021.)

Although the report says China is developing unmanned weapons of all sorts, it provides detailed information on only one type: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The report says that the PLA has begun deploying its WZ-7 Xianglong “Flying Dragon” high-altitude reconnaissance UAV at airfields in western China and on Hainan Island. It is also continuing to develop the Shen Diao “Divine Eagle” long-range combat UAV and to upgrade its BZK-005 Chang Ying “Long Eagle” reconnaissance drone.

Equipped with these and other advanced systems, the Pentagon report concludes, by 2027 the PLA could be capable of repelling a U.S. counterattack should Beijing decide to invade Taiwan in order to secure the island’s unification with the mainland. Many independent analysts question this assertion, insisting that U.S. military capabilities are far superior to China’s and are improving all the time, thus negating any Chinese expectations of overpowering U.S. forces in such a contest. Nevertheless, the Pentagon’s claim that China is five years away from possessing the ability to defeat the United States in a war over Taiwan is certain to fuel efforts by Congress to increase spending on weaponry supposedly intended to defeat China in any such encounter.

China is accelerating its development of strategic nuclear warheads, more than doubling last year’s estimate, according to the U.S. Defense Department’s 2021 China military power report.


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