"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."

– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
Shannon Bugos

Biden Approves $29 Billion Increase in Defense Budget

April 2022
By Shannon Bugos

President Joe Biden has signed off on a $29 billion spending increase to his requested fiscal year 2022 national defense budget, a massive expansion that was approved alongside another $13.6 billion in emergency military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine as Russia’s deadly war on that country continues.

A Ukrainian serviceman aims a FGM-148 Javelin, a U.S.-made portable anti-tank missile, at a checkpoint near Kharkiv in March 2022. President Joe Biden is proposing billions more dollars in U.S. defense spending to meet the military and humanitarian needs of Ukraine as it tries to defend against a Russian onslaught. (Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)“We will make sure Ukraine has weapons to defend against an invading Russian force,” Biden said on March 11 before signing the legislation four days later. “We will send money and food and aid to save the Ukrainian people.”

The national defense total in the 2022 omnibus spending bill is $782 billion, a 3.9 percent increase over the administration’s request for 2022 and a 5.6 percent increase over the 2021 appropriations. (See ACT, January/February 2022; July/August 2021.) This total does not include the assistance for Ukraine, of which $6.5 billion is headed to the Pentagon for funding U.S. troop deployments to eastern Europe and restocking weapons that have been or will be sent to Ukraine.

“The escalating crisis President [Vladimir] Putin has inflicted on Europe poses the greatest threat to democracy and national sovereignty in a generation,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on March 10. “The American people overwhelmingly support the people of Ukraine.”

“We are becoming witness to one of the worst humanitarian crises we have seen in generations, which is why this bill provides $13.6 billion in humanitarian assistance, defense support, and economic aid to help the Ukrainian people in their most desperate hour of need,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said on March 9 in a floor speech.

Nearly six months after the start of fiscal year 2022, the House on March 9 passed the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the government, including for defense, and energy and water, and the supplementary aid package for Ukraine, followed by the Senate on March 10. Congress approved and Biden signed the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in December. (See ACT, January/ February 2022.) The NDAA authorized funding in the amount of $768 billion, while the appropriations bills stipulate actual spending levels.

Since the start of the fiscal year in October, Congress has passed multiple short-term continuing resolutions, which funded most programs and activities at the previous year’s spending level to keep the government open and prevent a shutdown.

The defense appropriations bill allocates $5.1 billion for the construction and continued research and development of what will ultimately be a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. This is an increase of about $7 million above the authorized amount and $145 million above Biden’s budget request.

The appropriations bill, like the NDAA, fully funds the requests of $5.2 million and $10 million by the Defense and Energy departments, respectively, for the development of a new submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and its associated low-yield nuclear warhead. The House Appropriations Committee zeroed out this funding in its version of the spending bills in an attempt to halt the controversial program kick-started by the Trump administration, but the final bills reinstated it.

In addition, the defense appropriations bill fully approved the Air Force’s request of $3 billion for the B-21 Raider strategic bomber program, including $108 million for initial procurement, as well as $2.6 billion for continued R&D plus initial missile procurement for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program. The service plans to buy more than 650 new GBSD missiles to replace the current fleet of 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) beginning in 2029.

The Air Force saw a slight decrease in its budget for the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapons program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile. The final LRSO appropriation came to $599 million, which is a 2 percent decrease from both the administration’s request and the NDAA but a 56 percent increase from the 2021 authorization.

The Army, meanwhile, received its complete request of $286 million for the development of a conventional, ground-launched, midrange mobile missile capability, just as in the NDAA.

Despite the drive shared by defense officials and members of Congress to speed ahead with the development and deployment of conventional hypersonic weapons, the appropriations law ultimately canceled one program for an entirely new hypersonic capability and cut initial procurement for another capability.

The Air Force requested $161 million to purchase the first 12 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) hypersonic missiles during 2022, but the law halved the amount and redistributed the remaining funds to the ARRW program’s R&D budget, for an appropriation of $319 million. The ARRW system, a hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, was slated to achieve an initial operating capability this fiscal year, but failed three flight booster tests in 2021. In its explanatory statement accompanying the legislation, Congress ascribed its decision “to recent failures and delays in testing that have extended the ARRW program schedule and put a first production lot contract at risk for award in fiscal year 2022.”

Breaking with the general consensus, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall recently has gone on the record with his skepticism of the ARRW program, which, he said on March 9, “still has to prove itself.”

Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, also admitted to Bloomberg on March 7 that although she is supportive of the ARRW program, the 2022 “operational capability date is a very aggressive schedule.” Shyu held another meeting with hypersonics industry executives in early March following a previous meeting, attended by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a month earlier. (See ACT, March 2022.)

The spending bill also cut $10 million from the requested and authorized amounts for the Air Force’s new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program, bringing its appropriated budget to $190 million.

As for the Navy, the spending bill slightly downsized the budget for the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, which features the hypersonic glide body that is shared with the Army’s hypersonic program, to $1.3 billion, a $48 million decrease from Biden’s request and a $174 million decrease from the NDAA.

The service aims to add the CPS system to Zumwalt-class destroyers starting in fiscal year 2025 and to Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2028. Congress subtracted some funding as it assessed that, for both the integration of the CPS system onto Virginia-class submarines and the expansion of the industrial base, the dollars requested were “early to need.”

The budget for the Navy’s new hypersonic program, the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment II, was slashed entirely due to a “lack of program justification.” The Pentagon had requested $57 million, and Congress had authorized $34 million.

The Army’s hypersonic capability, the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) system, received the full request for $111 million for procurement of additional LRHW batteries and a $14 million bump from the request and authorization for its R&D budget, to $315 million.

The spending bill also appropriated $194 million for the hypersonic programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an 11 percent increase from the request and a 24 percent decrease from the authorization. These programs include the Glide Breaker, Operation Fires, Tactical Boost Glide, and Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept programs. Congress increased the appropriated amount for the purposes of “hypersonics risk reduction.”

Meanwhile, the energy and water appropriations bill followed the NDAA’s lead by providing 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. The law also approved full funding for other controversial programs proposed by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration, including $134 million for the new high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, the W93, and its associated aeroshell and $98.5 million for the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department that maintains and modernizes the nuclear warhead stockpile, also received 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.

Even so, Adm. Charles Richard, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, acknowledged on March 8 that “we now know we will not get 80 pits per year by 2030, as is statutorily required, and even unlimited money at this point will not buy that back.”

The appropriations law also funded the NDAA’s $105 million increase over the Biden request for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, bringing the total to $345 million. 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 increase to the requested fiscal year 2022 national defense budget is massive.

Biden’s Reported Decision to Retain Option to Use Nuclear Weapons Against Non-Nuclear Threats Is Disappointing, Illogical, and Dangerous


For Immediate Release: March 25, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

(Washington, D.C.)— President Joseph R. Biden has stepped back from a campaign vow and approved an old Obama-era policy that allows for a potential nuclear response to deter conventional and other non-nuclear dangers in addition to nuclear ones, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

Biden’s policy will reportedly declare that the “fundamental role” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be to deter nuclear attacks. Such a policy, the officials said, will leave open the possibility that nuclear weapons could also be used in “extreme circumstances” to deter conventional, biological, chemical, and possibly cyberattacks by adversaries.

“If the report is correct, President Biden will have failed to follow through on his explicit 2020 campaign promise to adopt a much clearer and narrower policy regarding nuclear weapons use, and he will have missed a crucial opportunity to move the world back from the nuclear brink,” charged Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Biden wrote in Foreign Affairs: “As I said in 2017, I believe that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As president, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with the U.S. military and U.S. allies.”

“Putin’s deadly war against Ukraine, his nuclear saber-rattling, and Russia’s policy that reserves the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict with NATO underscore even more clearly how extremely dangerous it is for nuclear-armed states to threaten the use of nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear threats—and it reinforces why it is necessary to move rapidly away from dangerous Cold War-era thinking about nuclear weapons,” Kimball said.

“Biden has apparently failed to seize his opportunity to meaningfully narrow the role of nuclear weapons and failed, through his NPR, to distinguish U.S. nuclear policy from Russia’s dangerous nuclear doctrine that threatens nuclear first use against non-nuclear threats,” he added.

“There is no plausible military scenario, no morally defensible reason, nor legally justifiable basis for threatening or using nuclear weapons first—if at all. As Presidents Reagan, Biden, Gorbachev, and even Putin have all said, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Kimball said. “Once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict between nuclear-armed states, there is no guarantee it will not result in nuclear retaliation and escalation to an all-out nuclear exchange.”

“We also strongly urge the administration to explain how Biden’s nuclear weapons declaratory policy will differ from Russia’s dangerous nuclear doctrine and under what circumstances the United States might believe it would make sense to initiate the use of nuclear weapons for the first time since 1945,” he said.

Shannon Bugos, a senior policy analyst at the Arms Control Association, added, “The final Biden NPR should also reiterate the longstanding U.S. commitment to actively pursue further verifiable reductions in the still bloated nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia, and to seek to engage China and other nuclear-armed states in the disarmament enterprise.”

“The sobering reality is that it would take just a few hundred U.S. or Russian strategic nuclear weapons to destroy each other’s military capacity, kill hundreds of millions of innocent people, and produce a planetary climate catastrophe,” she noted.

“Maintaining ambiguity about using nuclear weapons first is dangerous, illogical, and unnecessary," said Bugos.


Biden has apparently failed to seize his opportunity to meaningfully narrow the role of nuclear weapons and failed through his Nuclear Posture Review.

Country Resources:

Putin Orders Russian Nuclear Weapons on Higher Alert

March 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Amid a full-scale military assault on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his country’s nuclear forces to move to the heightened alert status of a “special regime of combat duty,” further escalating a catastrophic war in Europe and upending international stability and nuclear arms control and disarmament.

Damage to the upper floors of a high-rise building in Kyiv on Feb. 26 after it was reported to have been struck by a Russian rocket. (Photo by Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly economic actions against our country, but leaders of major NATO countries are making aggressive statements about our country,” Putin said on Feb. 27 during a meeting with defense officials. “So, I order to move Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of combat duty.”

Belarus, Russia’s client-state, followed up by agreeing to abandon its status as a non-nuclear weapon country and reaffirming its offer to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons on its territory.

Asked at a press conference at the United Nations on Feb. 28 if there is a scenario under which Russia would use nuclear weapons, Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, replied, "On the use of nuclear weapons, god forbid it." He said Moscow was exercising “a kind of deterrence.”

Although Putin’s decision raised the risk of nuclear weapons confrontation, it was not entirely unexpected given that a few days earlier the Russian leader threatened any country that tries to interfere in Ukraine with consequences “such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

The United States and NATO immediately criticized Moscow’s move, but their response was measured and there was no indication that the status of U.S. and NATO nuclear forces would mirror Russia.

“This is really a pattern that we’ve seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Feb. 27. “At no point has Russia been under threat from NATO [or] has Russia been under threat from Ukraine.”

“This is dangerous rhetoric,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said of Putin. “This is a behavior which is irresponsible.”

It was not immediately evident exactly what changes to Russian nuclear forces and command and control systems Putin had demanded. One senior U.S. defense official cautioned that although there is “no reason to doubt the validity of this order [,]…how it’s manifested itself I don’t think is completely clear yet.”

Putin’s move to place Russian nuclear forces on a higher alert occurred in the early days of Moscow’s invasion. During an address on Feb. 24, Putin stated that Russia will undertake “a special military operation” in Ukraine. Soon after, Russian military forces launched deadly missile attacks and invaded the country from southern Belarus, western Russia, and Crimea, a part of Ukraine that Putin occupied in 2014. By Feb. 25, they had reached the capital Kyiv.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in response.

A senior U.S. defense official said on Feb. 24 that “this is just an initial phase” of the invasion and the Pentagon believes Moscow has “every intention of basically decapitating the [Ukrainian] government and installing their own method of governance.”

Putin attempted to justify his military operation by repeating longtime grievances, such as NATO’s expansion eastward, and by falsely claiming that Ukraine has plans to build nuclear weapons or obtain them from the United States.

Under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances that there would be no threats or use of force against its territory or political independence. Washington has repeatedly rebutted claims that it would base nuclear weapons in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member state.

The attacks began after Putin signed executive orders on Feb. 21 recognizing the two Russian-controlled Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent and ordering forces into the regions to perform “peacekeeping functions.”

The invasion was preceded by weeks of feverish diplomacy, including an exchange of security proposals that experts believe eventually could be a basis for negotiation. Russia initiated the exchange on Dec. 15 with proposals related to arms control, risk reduction, and transparency. (See ACT, January/February 2022.) The United States and NATO put forward their respective counterproposals on Jan. 26. Russia responded to the U.S. proposals but has yet to comment on NATO’s package.

Among the various competing ideas, those with the most promise related to crafting a new agreement similar to the now-defunct 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, negotiating a follow-on to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and establishing risk reduction and transparency measures, such as hotlines.

In a Russian security council meeting with Putin on Feb. 21, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there were small “openings” for progress on some of the security proposals. But Moscow has insisted its main priority is blocking the further eastward expansion of NATO. The United States and NATO consider prohibiting Ukraine from joining the alliance a nonstarter, even though such membership is unlikely anytime soon.

Responding to the U.S. proposal on Feb. 17, the Kremlin emphasized that “Russia’s proposal is a package deal and should be considered in its entirety, not item by item.”

In 2014, Putin seized the Crimean Peninsula and deployed forces to eastern Ukraine. By ordering the latest invasion with the goal of toppling the government in Kyiv, Putin likely slashed any near-term prospects for new arms control and disarmament arrangements to follow New START, which expires in 2026.

The massive assault included successfully capturing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where a nuclear reactor exploded in 1986, contaminating areas in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. “Our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated,” tweeted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, just hours before Russian forces took the plant.

Cheryl Rofer, a former nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, cautioned that, “for those imagining more lurid scenarios, the dangerous material lies deep under the concreted-in reactor in a solid radioactive mass. [It is] hard to reach, and explosions are not effective in dispersing that kind
of material.”

In the lead-up to the assault on Ukraine, Russia held 10 days of military exercises in Belarus, which included sending an estimated 30,000 troops to the country, and followed up by conducting its annual strategic nuclear exercises, dubbed Grom 2022, on Feb. 19, which featured intercontinental ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons. At the time, U.S. officials estimated that Moscow had deployed approximately 160,000–190,000 troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Biden last spoke with Putin for about an hour on Feb. 12. “The call between the two presidents was professional and substantive,” a senior administration official told reporters afterward. But “there was no fundamental change in the dynamic that has been unfolding now for several weeks.”

Biden had agreed “in principle” to an in-person meeting with Putin, brokered by France, but it was cancelled because of the invasion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also cancelled a planned meeting with Lavrov on Feb. 24 in Geneva.

France, Germany, and Ukraine attempted to engage Russia in the so-called Normandy format over a potential revival of the 2015 political deal dubbed Minsk II. The four countries first met Jan. 26 in Paris and then Feb. 10 in Berlin, but to no avail.

Other diplomatic engagements have included a special session of the U.S.-Russian strategic stability dialogue on Jan. 10 in Geneva to discuss Moscow’s initial proposals from December. U.S. and Russian officials emphasized that only some of the issues under discussion coincided with the purview of the dialogue, which was previously held in July and September after Biden and Putin revived it in June 2021.

On Feb. 26, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said that Washington will not proceed with the dialogue under the current circumstances.

Although the specific effect of the order is unclear, it escalates a catastrophic war and upends international stability and nuclear arms control and disarmament.

Russia, U.S., NATO Security Proposals

March 2022

Prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement in February 2022 that Russia would recognize the two Russian-controlled Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine as independent and his decision to order his military forces into Ukraine, Russia and the United States/NATO exchanged written security and arms control proposals. Russia initiated the exchange in December 2021 with proposals related to arms control, risk reduction, and transparency. The United States and NATO put forward their respective counterproposals in January 2022. The following is a side-by-side summary of the various proposals.

Russian Proposals on Security Guarantees to the United States and NATO, Dec. 15, 2021 U.S. and NATO Responses to Russia, Jan. 26, 2022
Arms Control, Risk Reduction, and Transparency

Parties shall not deploy ground-launched, intermediate- and short-range missiles either outside their national territories or inside their national territories from which the missiles can strike the national territory of the other party.

The United States is prepared to begin discussions on arms control for ground-based intermediate- and short-range missiles and their launchers. NATO calls for Russia to engage with the United States on these discussions.

The United States is prepared to discuss transparency measures to confirm the absence of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, so long as Russia provides reciprocal transparency measures on two ground-launched missile bases of U.S. choosing in Russia.

No similar articles.

The United States proposes to begin discussions immediately on follow-on measures to New START, including on how future arms control would cover all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons (strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed) and new kinds of nuclear-armed intercontinental-range delivery vehicles. NATO calls for Russia to engage with the United States on these discussions.

NATO calls for all states to recommit to their international arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation obligations and commitments, such as toward the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention. NATO calls for Russia to resume implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

NATO is ready to consult on ways to reduce threats to space systems and to promote a free and peaceful cyberspace.

Sources: Article 6, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 5, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 3 and 4, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 9, NATO Response to Russia
Nuclear and Conventional Forces Posture

Parties shall not deploy nuclear weapons outside their national territories and shall destroy all existing infrastructure for deployment of nuclear weapons outside of their national territories.

Parties shall not train military and civilian personnel from non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons or conduct exercises that include scenarios involving the use of nuclear weapons.

The United States and NATO are prepared to discuss areas of disagreement between NATO and Russia on U.S. and NATO force posture, including possibly the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, and discuss conventional forces concerns, including enhanced transparency and risk reduction through the Vienna Document.

NATO is prepared to discuss holding reciprocal briefings on Russia's and NATO's nuclear policies.

Sources: Article 7, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 4, Russia Proposal to NATO; Page 3, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 9, NATO Response to Russia
NATO-Russia Relations

Parties reaffirm that they do not consider each other as adversaries.

Parties shall not undertake actions, participate in activities, or implement security measures that undermine the security interests of the other party. Parties shall not use the territories of other states to execute an armed attack against the other party.

Parties shall settle all international disputes by peaceful rather than forceful means. Parties shall use fora such as the NATO-Russia Council to address issues or settle problems. Parties shall establish telephone hotlines.

NATO poses no threat to Russia.

NATO believes that tensions and disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, rather than through the threat or use of force. NATO calls for Russia's immediate de-escalation around Ukraine. 

NATO supports re-establishing NATO and Russian mutual presence in Moscow and Brussels and establishing a civilian telephone hotline.

Sources: Articles 1 and 3, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Articles 1, 2, and 3, Russia Proposal to NATO; Articles 1, 2, and 7, NATO Response to Russia
NATO Expansion

All NATO member states shall commit to prohibit any further NATO expansion, to include denying the accession of Ukraine. The United States shall not establish military bases in or develop bilateral military cooperation with former USSR states who are not part of NATO. 

The United States and NATO are committed to supporting NATO's open door policy. The United States is willing to discuss reciprocal transparency measures and commitments by both the United States and Russia to not deploy offensive ground-launched missile systems and permanent combat forces in Ukraine.

Sources: Article 4, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 6, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 1 and 2, U.S. Response to Russia; Article 8, NATO Response to Russia
Military Maneuvers and Exercises 

Parties shall regularly inform each other about military exercises and main provisions of their military doctrines.

Parties shall not deploy armed forces in areas where the deployment could be perceived by the other party as a threat to its national security (except when the deployment is within the national territories of the parties).

Parties shall not fly heavy bombers (whether nuclear or non-nuclear) or deploy surface warships in areas outside national airspace and national territorial waters where they can strike targets in the territory of the other party. 

Parties shall maintain dialogue to prevent dangerous military activities at sea.

NATO calls for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

The United States is prepared to discuss confidence building measures regarding ground-based military exercises in Europe (to include modernization of the Vienna Document) and to explore an enhanced exercise notification regime and nuclear risk reduction measures (including strategic nuclear bomber platforms).

The United States and NATO are prepared to explore measures to prevent incidents at sea and in the air (to include discussing enhancements in the Incidents at Sea Agreement and the Vienna Document).

Sources: Article 5, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Articles 2, 3, and 7, Russia Proposal to NATO; Pages 2 and 3, U.S. Response to Russia; Articles 8 and 9, NATO Response to Russia
Reaffirmation of UN Charter

Parties shall ensure that all international organizations or military alliances in which at least one party participates adhere to the principles contained in the United Nations Charter. 

NATO remains committed to the fundamental principles and agreements underpinning European security, including the United Nations Charter.

Sources: Article 2, Russia Proposal to U.S.; Article 8, Russia Proposal to NATO; Article 3, NATO Response to Russia


A chart outlining proposals put forward by the three parties to resolve differences over Ukraine and European security.

Pentagon to Speed Development of Hypersonic Weapons

March 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted more than a dozen hypersonics industry executives in February as a demonstration of the Pentagon’s commitment to quicken the development of hypersonic weapons systems, which the department considers a technology priority as it races to keep pace with China and Russia.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, shown here on a trip to Poland, gathered executives from the hypersonics weapons industry at the Pentagon on Feb. 3 to emphasize the U.S. commitment to speed development of hypersonic weapons.  (Photo by Chad McNeeley/Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)During the Feb. 3 meeting, Austin “noted the need for persistent dialogue in order to meet the department’s current and future capabilities requirements for defensive and offensive capabilities,” according to a Pentagon statement released afterward.

Politico reported on Jan. 26 that plans for the meeting came together after the military services submitted fiscal year 2023 budget proposals that Austin deemed inadequate for speeding up the development and deployment of hypersonic weapons systems, which China and Russia have already begun to field.

Officially, the executive roundtable was part of a series of engagements focused on the Pentagon’s critical technology development areas, including hypersonics, that Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, revealed in a Feb. 1 memo. She highlighted three groups of 14 technology areas and announced that she will craft a new national defense science and technology strategy, which will be influenced by the yet-to-be-released 2022 National Defense Strategy.

“By focusing efforts and investments into these 14 critical technology areas, the department will accelerate transitioning key capabilities to the military services and combatant commands,” wrote Shyu, who stressed the need for this transition of technology from invention to fielding to occur “more swiftly.”

In the defense-specific category, Shyu listed hypersonics, noting that “strategic competitors,” namely China and Russia, have already deployed such capabilities and declaring that the Pentagon “will develop leap-ahead and cost-effective technologies for our air, land, and sea operational forces.”

Shyu’s 14 critical technology areas broadly overlap with the 19 items on the National Science and Technology Council’s critical and emerging technologies list, released on Feb. 7. That list was released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and was intended to identify the advanced technologies relevant to U.S. national security and inform efforts promoting U.S. technological leadership.

This top-level push for a reinvigorated focus on hypersonic weapons systems at the Defense Department comes even as there remain unanswered questions, acknowledged by officials, about the overall cost, mission, and required quantity of U.S. hypersonic weapons.

Shyu noted on Jan. 13 that the current price tag for hypersonic capabilities is high, but said that it could come down with automation and higher production quantities.

The Pentagon has not publicized the exact number of hypersonic glide vehicles and cruise missiles it wants to acquire, although Gillian Bussey, director of the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, called for higher quantities on Feb. 8.

Possessing hypersonic weapons “isn’t going to make a difference unless we have sufficient quantities,” Bussey said. “Having a dozen hypersonic missiles, regardless of whether they’re really hypersonic or not, isn’t going to scare anyone.”

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall cautioned in January that the United States must “be careful about not mirror-imaging the potential threats.” In other words, he does not see a need to match China and Russia one for one. Rather, Kendall said, “we have to look very carefully at the targets that we’re interested in and at the most cost-effective way to deal with [them].”

Details on the exact targets and missions envisioned remain scarce.

“What missions would [hypersonic weapons] perform? Against what types of targets? In what geographic setting?” asked Tom Mahnken, president at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in a Jan. 26 Politico article. “Answers to questions such as these would go a long way toward determining how many hypersonic weapons we need to buy and of what type.”

The Feb. 3 industry roundtable was chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and attended by Shyu. Among the companies invited were Raytheon Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, L3Harris, and BAE Systems.

According to a Feb. 4 report by Breaking Defense, two major concerns expressed by the executives were the effects of the existing continuing resolution on the fiscal year 2022 budget and the lack of infrastructure for hypersonic weapons testing, such as wind tunnels.

Although Congress passed the 2022 defense authorization bill in December, it has yet to adopt the relevant appropriations bills, which would actually make funding available, and instead passed stopgap continuing resolutions through March 11. (See ACT, January/February 2022.)

Regarding hypersonics testing, “[P]articipants identified a need to expand access to modeling capabilities and testing facilities in order to adopt a ‘test often, fail fast, and learn’ approach which will accelerate the fielding of hypersonic and counter-hypersonic systems,” according to the Pentagon statement.

This testing concern voiced by hypersonics industry executives echoed a finding in a Jan. 27 report by the Pentagon’s testing and evaluation office that the department does not have enough open space on its missile test ranges to test hypersonic weapons. Bloomberg first reported on this finding Feb. 3 after obtaining the nonpublic version of the report, as the public version excluded that information.

Test ranges across the country are projected to face an overwhelming increase in demand of more than 50 percent by 2025 unless they are expanded, the report stated.

The public version of the report did acknowledge that the test schedule for the Air Force’s hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) system, “could be delayed due to the limited number and availability of hypersonic flight corridors, target areas, and test support assets.” These limited assets, the report said, “will not allow a standard assessment for operational effectiveness, lethality, suitability, and survivability.”

The ARRW system failed three flight booster tests, in April, July, and December 2021, and is slated to achieve an initial operating capability this fiscal year. (See ACT, January/February 2022.) The Air Force could still stick to this timeline and start production this year, said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force program executive officer for weapons, in a Jan. 13 interview with Breaking Defense. But “it is dependent on resolution of the failure [in December] and executing the rest of the test program up through all-up-round [testing],” he cautioned.

The ARRW system must successfully complete booster and all-up-round test flights before a contract is awarded to manufacturer Lockheed Martin to kick-start production.

The nonpublic version of the Pentagon’s testing report also highlighted concerns with hypersonic missile defense. The Defense Department cannot sufficiently simulate the threat from an incoming hypersonic weapon and therefore “needs to continue to pursue the representation of these environments in model and simulation and live fire testing,” the report said.

The lack of the necessary 2022 defense appropriations bill has also impeded the Pentagon’s plans for hypersonic missile defense, according to Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

“We live in a world right now where we don’t have current year appropriations, and we also don’t have insight into the following year’s topline. Unfortunately, that throttles this program,” Hill said, referring to the Glide Phase Interceptor, a hypersonic missile intended to destroy an adversary’s hypersonic weapon in its glide phase. The MDA awarded contracts to three companies in November to develop prototypes for this interceptor. (See ACT, January/February 2022.)

In a related development, Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Jan. 6 a new agreement with Japan aimed at fostering greater collaboration on research and development of emerging technologies, to include counterhypersonic technologies.

“We’re launching a new research and development agreement that will make it easier for our scientists, for our engineers, and program managers to collaborate on emerging defense-related issues, from countering hypersonic threats to advancing space-based capabilities,” Blinken said.

The announcement came a day after North Korea claimed it had tested a hypersonic glide vehicle and followed reports in October that China allegedly had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that could circle the globe.

Defense leaders are concerned the U.S. program is insufficient to keep up with China and Russia.

Russia’s War on Ukraine and the Risk of Nuclear Escalation: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions



Volume 14, Issue 3, Feb. 28, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

Disponible en español

In the midst of his catastrophic, premeditated military assault on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin Feb. 27 ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to move to a higher state of alert of “a special regime of combat duty,” unnecessarily escalating an already dangerous situation created by his indefensible decision to invade another sovereign nation.

By choosing the path of destruction rather than diplomacy, Putin has launched a violent military assault that threatens millions of innocent civilians in independent, democratic Ukraine.

Putin has also sharpened tensions between Russia and member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), increased the risk of conflict elsewhere on the European continent, and derailed past and potential future progress on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, possibly for years to come.

Putin’s order to put Russia’s nuclear forces on higher alert is not a complete surprise given his previous implied threats against any nation that tried to stop him in Ukraine.

But clearly, inserting nuclear weapons into the Ukraine war equation at this point is extremely dangerous. It is essential that U.S. President Joe Biden along with NATO leaders act with extreme restraint and not respond in kind. This is a very dangerous moment in this crisis, and all leaders, particularly Putin, need to step back from the nuclear brink.

In justifying his actions, Putin has pointed to longtime grievances, such as NATO’s expansion eastward, and the specious claim that Kyiv has plans to build nuclear weapons or obtain them from the United States. Ukraine was neither headed for NATO membership any time soon nor seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Ukraine did not pose the kind of threat that Putin claimed to justify his invasion.

Tragically, Putin also bypassed diplomatic options that could have addressed many of Russia’s stated security concerns in Europe.

In December, Moscow transmitted to each the United States and NATO a proposal on security guarantees, which included several nonstarters, such as a prohibition on allowing Ukraine to join NATO.

Nevertheless, the Russian proposal, as well as the U.S. and NATO counterproposals, highlighted potential areas for negotiations to resolve mutual security concerns. Yet, with the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has made any further progress on arms control and risk reduction impossible, at least for the time being.

The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is the only remaining treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, expires in four years, which is a short period of time for negotiating and securing the necessary domestic support for a replacement arrangement.

As we wrote last week, “Although Putin’s regime must suffer international isolation now, U.S. and Russian leaders must eventually seek to resume talks through their stalled strategic security dialogue to defuse broader NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common sense arms control measures to prevent an all-out arms race.”

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Putin’s war in Ukraine, Russia’s nuclear weapons, and the risks of escalation.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director, and SHANNON BUGOS, senior policy analyst

What did Putin say, what does it mean, and how should we respond?

Putin’s statement is probably designed to reinforce his earlier implied threats that were clearly designed to try to ward off any military interference in his attack on Ukraine, a non-nuclear weapon state.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly economic actions against our country, but leaders of major NATO countries are making aggressive statements about our country,” Putin said Feb. 27 in a meeting with defense officials. “So, I order to move Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of combat duty.”

A few days prior in his speech announcing his decision to invade Ukraine, Putin threatened any country that “tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people” with consequences “such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

Putin’s threat is unprecedented in the post-Cold War era—and unacceptable. There has been no instance in which a U.S. or a Russian leader has raised the alert level of their nuclear forces in the middle of a crisis in order to try to coerce the other side's behavior.

The White House and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg immediately denounced the move but did not indicate they would follow suit.

“This is really a pattern that we’ve seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki commented Feb. 27. “At no point has Russia been under threat from NATO [or] has Russia been under threat from Ukraine.”

“We have the ability to defend ourselves,” assured Psaki.

“This is dangerous rhetoric,” Stoltenberg said. “This is a behavior which is irresponsible.”

It is not clear at this point, however, what changes to Russian operational readiness Putin has put into motion. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly told Putin Feb. 28 that all nuclear command posts have been boosted with additional personnel.

Yet, one senior U.S. defense cautioned that while there is “no reason to doubt the validity of this order[,]…how it’s manifested itself I don’t think is completely clear yet.”

Pavel Podvig, director of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project, tweeted Feb. 27 that he is unsure that “we are dealing with elevated readiness level,” adding that, in his view, “it’s different.” Rather, he proposed that Putin’s order “most likely…means that the nuclear command and control system received what is known as a preliminary command.” This type of command, Podvig described, brings the nuclear systems into a working condition, but it “is not something that suggests that Russia is preparing itself to strike first.”

“The basic idea here is clearly to scare ‘the West’ into backing down. But part [of] the danger here is that it's not clear to me Putin has a clear de-escalation pathway in mind (except for the capitulation of Ukraine),” tweeted James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

What Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons also underscores is that nuclear weapons cannot prevent nuclear-armed states from launching major wars and that they increase the risk of an armed conflict between nuclear-armed states and nuclear-armed alliances. Rather than increasing security, they increase the danger of war by way of fostering the possibility of miscalculation and advertent or inadvertent escalation.

In the case of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Putin is essentially using the threat of nuclear weapons as a cover for his massive invasion of a non-nuclear weapons state. Key U.S. officials share the view that nuclear weapons can provide cover for projecting conventional military force. Admiral Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said in remarks published in February 2021 that "We must acknowledge the foundation nature of our nation's strategic nuclear forces, as they create the 'maneuver space' for us to project conventional military power strategically."

Have U.S. or Russian leaders made any similar nuclear threats against one another since the end of the Cold War?

No. Putin’s public implied nuclear threats toward NATO and the United States and his decision to raise the alert status of Russia’s nuclear forces is unprecedented in the post-Cold War era.

However, during the Cold War, between 1948 and 1961 as well as the the period between the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and into the mid-1970s, there were numerous nuclear threats and alerts designed to change the behavior of adversaries.

For example, President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger developed what he called the "madman theory," which posited that threatening massive, even excessive, levels of military violence, including nuclear attacks, would intimidate the North Vietnamese and their patrons in the Soviet Union into submission at the negotiating table.

On Oct. 9, 1969, Nixon and Kissinger instructed the Pentagon to place U.S. nuclear and other military forces around the globe on alert, and to do so secretly. For 18 days in October of that year, the Pentagon carried out one of the largest and most extensive secret military operations in U.S. history. Tactical and strategic bomber forces and submarines armed with Polaris missiles went on alert. This "Joint Chiefs Readiness Test" culminated in a flight of nuclear-armed B-52 bombers over northern Alaska.

The secret 1969 U.S. nuclear alert, though certainly noticed by Soviet leaders, failed to pressure them into helping Nixon win concessions from Hanoi. Nixon switched his Vietnam strategy from one of intimidation to one of steady troop withdrawals and Vietnamization—reinforced by rapprochement with China and détente with the Soviet Union. In the end, he exited Vietnam only after negotiating an unsatisfactory armistice agreement.

In the past, similar nuclear gambits have failed to work as intended. Such threats are unlikely to succeed when the side threatened possesses its own nuclear weapons capabilities, when a non-nuclear state or a guerrilla or terror group is presumably under the protection of a nuclear state, or when the nuclear threat is disproportionate and therefore not credible because it is aimed at a small country or non-state actor.

How many nuclear weapons do Russia, the United States, and NATO currently have?

The United States deploys 1,389 strategic warheads on 665 strategic delivery systems, and Russia deploys 1,458 strategic nuclear warheads on 527 strategic delivery systems as of September 2021 and according to the counting rules established by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Both countries are currently modernizing their nuclear delivery systems.

Strategic warheads are counted using the provisions of New START, which Biden and Putin agreed to extend for five years in January 2021 but will expire in 2026. New START caps each country at 1,550 strategic warheads deployed on 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned a nuclear mission.

The U.K. and France, also NATO members, are estimated to possess 225 nuclear warheads and 290 respectively.

The United States also has an estimated 160 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs that are forward-deployed across six NATO bases in five European countries: Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The total estimated U.S. B-61 stockpile amounts to 230.

In addition, Russia is believed to have an estimated 1,900 non-strategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons, all of which are thought to be in central storage, not deployed in the field.

Russia, like the United States, keeps its land-based ICBMs on a high state of readiness at all times, and it is believed that Russia’s SLBMs, like the U.S. forces, are similarly postured. The ICBM forces of both countries are maintained on a “launch-under-attack” posture, meaning they can be launched within minutes of an authorized “go” order by either leader and can arrive at their targets within 20 minutes or less. This posture leaves each side with very little time to make a decision about launching a retaliatory strike if they detect a launch of strategic nuclear weapons against their forces, which creates the risk that a false alarm could trigger nuclear war.

Sea-based strategic nuclear weapons, which are extremely hard to detect and destroy, can be fired nearly as quickly at their targets depending on their location. Other systems, such as strategic bomber-based weapons, take relatively more time to arm with nuclear weapons and reach their target launch points, but bombers can be recalled for a period of time after launch orders are given.

What are the policies governing U.S. and Russian nuclear use?

Both U.S. and Russian presidents have sole authority to authorize the use of nuclear weapons, meaning they do not require concurrence from their respective military and security advisers or by other elected representatives of the people.

Current U.S. and Russian military strategies reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first. In Russia’s case, its military policy allows for the president to order the use of nuclear weapons if the state is at risk or possibly if Russia is losing a major war. The theory is that a “limited” use of nuclear weapons could halt an adversary’s advances or even tip the balance back in favor of the losing side.

Some U.S. officials have argued for deployment of additional types of “more usable” low-yield nuclear weapons in the arsenal. However, even what are deemed low-yield nuclear weapons today still hold immense power. For instance, the low-yield W76-2, a new warhead deployed in late 2019 for U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles, is estimated to have an explosive yield of five kilotons, roughly one-third the yield of the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

But once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict involving nuclear-armed adversaries—even if on a so-called “limited scale” involving a handful of “smaller” Hiroshima-sized bombs—there is no guarantee the conflict would not escalate and become a global nuclear conflagration.

Biden and Putin both seem to understand that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” a statement originally endorsed in 1985 by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and reiterated by the five countries with the largest nuclear arsenals in January 2022.

The former head of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. John Hyten, described in 2018 how the command’s annual nuclear command and control and field training always ends. “It ends bad,” he said. “And the bad meaning it ends with global nuclear war.”

However, such a recognition among leaders does not mean a nuclear war will not break out. After all, Putin has demonstrated that he is an extreme risk-taker.

To reduce the risk of nuclear war and draw a strong distinction between Putin's irresponsible nuclear threats and U.S. behavior, Biden should adjust U.S. declaratory policy by clarifying that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter the first use of nuclear weapons by others. A sole purpose policy would rule out the use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike or in response to a non-nuclear attack on the United States or its allies, increase strategic stability, and reduce the risk of nuclear war.

In fact, during the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden wrote in Foreign Affairs: “As I said in 2017, I believe that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As president, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with the U.S. military and U.S. allies.”

Ultimately, even the best intentions of one side cannot ensure that the interests of all to prevent the use of nuclear weapons will win out. Therefore, the only action that can actually prevent the use of nuclear weapons is the removal of these weapons from the battlefield and their verifiable elimination.

What would be the effects from an outbreak of nuclear war?

Beyond the many dangers to the millions of innocent people caught in Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine, there is also an increased risk that the war might lead to an even more severe, if unintentional, escalatory spiral involving NATO and Russian forces, both of which have nuclear weapons at their disposal.

The indiscriminate and horrific effects of nuclear weapons use are well-established, which is why the vast majority of the world’s nations consider policies that threaten nuclear use to be dangerous, immoral, and legally unjustifiable and consequently have developed the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

If Russian or NATO leaders chose to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict in Europe, the result could be a quick escalation from a local disaster into a European nuclear war and then a global catastrophe. Millions, perhaps tens of millions, would die in the first 45 minutes.

A detailed study published in 2002 assessed the direct consequences of a major conflict between the United and Russia.

The study concluded that if 350 of the strategic nuclear warheads in the Russian arsenal reached major industrial and military targets in the United States, an estimated 70 to 100 million people would die in the first hours from the explosions and fires.

The U.S. president could quickly retaliate with as many as 1,350 nuclear weapons on long range missiles and bombers and, in consultation with allies, another 160 nuclear gravity bombs on shorter-range fighter-bombers based in five NATO countries in Europe.

Many more people would be exposed to lethal doses of radiation. The entire economic infrastructure of the country would be destroyed—the internet, the electric grid, the food distribution system, the health system, the banking system, and the transportation network.

In the following weeks and months, the vast majority of those who did not die in the initial attack would succumb to starvation, exposure, radiation poisoning, and epidemic disease. A U.S. counterattack would cause the same level of destruction in Russia, and if NATO forces were involved in the war, Canada and Europe would also suffer a similar fate.

More recent scientific studies indicate that the dust and soot produced by a nuclear exchange of 100-200 detonations would create lasting and potentially catastrophic climactic effects that would devastate food production and lead to famine in many parts of the world.

What are the past and present arms control treaties that have limited U.S. and Soviet/Russian nuclear weapons? What is the status of those treaties?

During the Cold War and after, arms control agreements helped to win and maintain the peace.

However, there has been growing mistrust between Russia and the West in recent years, leading to and fueling the loss of pivotal conventional and nuclear arms control and/or risk reduction treaties through negligence, noncompliance, or outright withdrawal.

Some of these treaties, which have acted as guardrails preventing the outbreak of catastrophic conventional and nuclear wars, included:

In the absence of these agreements, cooperation between the parties has eroded, concerns about military capabilities have grown, and the risk of miscalculation skyrocketed.

Of note is also the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits nuclear test explosions and established a global monitoring and verification network. The treaty has 185 signatories, including China, Russia, and the United States. During the course of the nuclear age, at least eight states conducted more than 2,000 nuclear weapon test blasts above ground, underground, and underwater. The CTBT has effectively halted nuclear test explosions. However, the treaty is not yet in force due to the failure of eight states to ratify, leaving the door to nuclear testing in the future ajar.

In addition, the United States and the Soviet Union—and later Russia—negotiated a series of treaties that capped and eventually reversed the nuclear arms race. These included:

  • The 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I): Though important as the first such treaty, it only slowed the growth of the two countries’ long-range nuclear arsenals. It ignored nuclear-armed strategic bombers and did not cap warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads onto their missiles and increasing their bomber-based forces.
  • The 1979 SALT II: This treaty was never formally ratified because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan later that year, but Reagan agreed to respect its limits.
  • The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I): This agreement, which expired in December 2009, was the first to require the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their strategic deployed arsenals and destroy excess delivery systems through an intrusive verification involving on-site inspections, the regular exchange of information, and the use of national technical means (i.e., satellites). START I was delayed for several years due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them non-nuclear weapons states under the nuclear 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and parties to START I.
  • The 1993 START II: This treaty called for further cuts in deployed strategic arsenals and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. However, it never entered into force due to the U.S. withdrawal in 2002 from the ABM Treaty.
  • The 1997 START III Framework: This framework for a third START included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000-2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.
  • The 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty): This treaty required the United States and Russia to reduce their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. Unfortunately, it did not include a treaty-specific verification and monitoring regime. SORT was replaced by New START Feb. 5, 2011 .
  • The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START): This legally binding, verifiable agreement limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers assigned a nuclear mission. The treaty has a strong verification regime. The United States and Russia agreed Feb. 3, 2021, to extend New START by five years, as allowed by the treaty text, until Feb. 5, 2026.

As a result of these agreements, the total stockpiles of the two countries have been slashed from their peaks in the mid-1980s at almost 70,000 nuclear weapons to about 10,000 total U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons today. Plus, we no longer live in a world in which nuclear-armed states are detonating nuclear test explosions to perfect new and more deadly types of nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the United States and Russia still currently possess far more nuclear weapons than necessary to destroy one another many times over and more than enough to deter a nuclear attack from the other.

Consequently, the United States and Russia should further reduce their nuclear stockpiles and work to get other nuclear-armed countries involved in the process and eventually in the agreements. In 2013, for instance, the Obama administration found that the United States could further cut its deployed nuclear arsenal to about 1,000 without sacrificing U.S. or allied security.

Unless Washington and Moscow resume talks to reach a new agreement to replace New START before its expiration, there will be no limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972—and we risk an all-out nuclear arms race once again.

Admittedly, however, Putin’s destructive, indefensible war on Ukraine will make that task much tougher.

How should the United States and NATO respond to Putin’s threat and minimize the risk of an outbreak of nuclear war?

The danger of miscalculation and escalation, including to the nuclear level, among adversaries is real and high.

Though Russia has yet to locate military forces along the Ukrainian-Polish border, for instance, there is a possibility that Russian and NATO forces will engage militarily, prompting the situation to quickly spin further out of control.

There is also the potential for close military encounters elsewhere involving U.S./NATO and Russian aircraft, warships, and submarines.

In the days and weeks and months ahead, leaders in Moscow, Washington, and Europe, as well as military commanders in the field, must be careful to avoid new and destabilizing military deployments, dangerous encounters between Russian and NATO forces, and the introduction of new types of conventional or nuclear weapons that undermine shared security interests.

For example, the offer from Russia’s client state, Belarus, to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons, if pursued by Putin, would further undermine Russian and European security and increase the risk of nuclear war. Unfortunately, Belarus voted Feb. 27 in a referendum to abandon its status as a non-nuclear state.

How can the United States and Russia get nuclear arms reduction efforts back on track?

Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s regime will and should face the consequences and suffer international isolation imposed through a strong and unified front.

For the time being, this isolation includes a suspension of the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic stability dialogue, which Biden and Putin resumed in June 2021 and last convened in early January 2022.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman confirmed Feb. 26 that Washington will not proceed with the dialogue under the current circumstances, saying that she sees “no reason” to do so. The day prior, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that while “arms control is something that will continue to be in our national security interest,…we don’t have another iteration of the Strategic Stability Dialogue planned.”

Eventually, however, U.S. and Russian leaders must seek to resume talks through their bilateral strategic security dialogue in order to prevent even greater NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common-sense arms control and risk reduction measures.

The Russian proposal on security guarantees from December 2021 and the U.S. (as well as NATO) counterproposal from January 2022 contain areas of overlap, demonstrating that there is room for negotiations to resolve mutual security concerns. The areas with the most promise are related to crafting a new agreement similar to the now-defunct INF Treaty; negotiating a follow-on to New START; agreeing to scale back large military exercises; and establishing risk reduction and transparency measures, such as hotlines.

Washington must test whether Moscow is serious about such options and, if possible, restart the strategic stability dialogue—and they must try to do so before New START expires in early 2026, else the next showdown will be even riskier.

In the long run, U.S., Russian, and European leaders—and their people—cannot lose sight of the fact that war and the threat of nuclear war are the common enemies. Russia and the West have a shared interest in striking agreements that further slash bloated strategic nuclear forces, regulate shorter-range “battlefield” nuclear arsenals, and set limits on long-range missile defenses.

Should Ukraine have kept its nuclear weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union? Will Ukraine seek to have nuclear weapons once again?

Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and the current invasion violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.

In 1994, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom signed this important agreement, which extended security assurances against the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territory or political independence. In return, the newly independent Ukraine acceded to the nuclear 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and gave up the 1,900 nuclear warheads it inherited from the Soviet Union.

Ukraine did not have operational control of and could not have safely maintained those nuclear weapons. Any attempt by Kyiv to keep these nuclear weapons would only have resulted in greater danger for Ukraine, Europe, and the world.

Arguments that a nuclear-armed Ukraine would be safer today are fallacies, as are any claims that Kyiv seeks to build or obtain nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons do not make anyone safer and instead pose an existential threat to all of us.

Putin’s takeover of Crimea in 2014 and this new, massive invasion in 2022 serve to undermine the NPT and reinforce the unfortunate impression that nuclear-armed states can bully non-nuclear states, thereby reducing the incentives for nuclear disarmament and making it more difficult to prevent nuclear proliferation.


Although Putin's regime must suffer international isolation now, U.S. and Russian leaders must eventually seek to resume talks through their stalled strategic security dialogue to defuse broader NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common sense arms control measures to prevent an all-out arms race.

Country Resources:

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.


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