Login/Logout

*
*  
"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Shannon Bugos

U.S. Seeks ‘New Era of Arms Control’


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos and Kingston Reif

The Trump administration continues to say it would like a new arms control agreement with Russia and China while remaining silent on the possibility of extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Moscow, according to U.S. and Russian officials.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speaks at a White House press conference on Oct. 2, when he publicly called for extending New START in the presence of U.S. President Donald Trump.  (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)During a session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Oct. 10, Thomas DiNanno, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, stated that the administration is seeking “a new era of arms control, one in which Russia and China are at the negotiating table and willing to reduce nuclear risks rather than heighten them.”

“Today, the Cold War approach, with its bilateral treaties that covered limited types of nuclear weapons or only certain ranges of adversary missiles, is no longer sufficient,” he added. DiNanno did not mention New START except to say that some of the new long-range nuclear delivery systems under development by Russia would not be subject to the agreement.

In an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times, he referenced New START specifically, saying that “technology has rapidly changed” and pointing out “not what New START does, but what it doesn’t do in the 2020 deteriorating security environment.”

DiNanno did not explain how the United States plans to achieve a broader agreement with Russia and China.

Details on such an agreement also were not forthcoming from the White House. In an Oct. 21 interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump said, “I believe that we’re going to get together with Russia and with China, and we’re going to work out our nuclear pact so that we don’t all continue with this craziness.” China has repeatedly stated that it is not interested in joining multilateral talks with the United States and Russia on arms control at this time.

In the aftermath of the end of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August, New START is the only remaining arms control agreement limiting the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. The Trump administration is expected to make a decision on whether to extend the treaty next year. New START allows for an extension of up to five years, until 2026, if the presidents of the United States and Russia agree to do so.

In an Oct. 11 interview, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called on the United States “to stop wasting time” regarding an extension of New START. “There is almost no time left” before the treaty expires, he said. “At least, it is important to understand what they plan to do with the treaty.”

Ryabkov added that “the extension period is subject to discussion. We are poised to exercise flexibility in this respect.”

Although Russia emphasizes the importance of extending New START, Moscow argues that any future nuclear arms reduction agreement should be multilateral and address a broad array of factors that impact strategic stability.

In a statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11, Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said these factors include “unrestricted deployment of the U.S. global missile defense, development of high-precision strategic offensive non-nuclear weapons, prospects for deployment of strike weapons in outer space, destruction of the international system of arms control treaties and agreements, [and] attempts to weaken defense potential of other countries by using illegitimate methods of unilateral pressure, bypassing the UN Security Council.”

Meanwhile, Fu Cong, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reiterated Beijing’s position that it does not plan to participate in talks on arms control with the United States and Russia. Instead, he urged the United States to respond to the Russian call to extend New START, “while substantially reducing its gigantic nuclear arsenal and creating favorable conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to join in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.”

U.S. allies in Europe continue to express their support for prolonging New START.

In October, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto became the first head of state to publicly call for an extension of New START in a public appearance with Trump.

During a joint press conference on Oct. 2, Niinisto said, “Some of us remember the worst years of cold war in [the] 1960s. There was no agreement at all, just Cold War. We can't let the situation return [to having] no agreement at all about arms control, and that is why it is important to try to negotiate new agreements and to continue…New START.”

Trump did not respond to Niinisto’s comments on the treaty.

New START, set to expire in February 2021 unless extended, caps deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 warheads and 700 missiles and heavy bombers each.

The U.S. State Department in October released updated information on the current status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces limited by the treaty. As of Sept. 1, the data show the United States deploys 1,378 warheads on 668 missiles and heavy bombers. Russia deploys 1,426 warheads on 513 missiles and heavy bombers.

In addition, the State Department reported that as of Oct. 17, the United States has conducted 14 inspections in Russia this year, and Moscow has conducted 14 inspections in the United States. A total of 18,889 notifications have also been exchanged according to New START requirements.

NATO Rejects Russian Missile Proposal

NATO rejected an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin in September to impose a moratorium on deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, shown here in Munich in February, said recently that a Russian proposal on intermediate-range missiles was not "credible."  (Photo: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)The proposal, according to NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a Sept. 26 statement, was not “a credible offer” and “ignored the reality on the ground.” Lungescu specifically pointed to Russia’s deployment of the formerly illegal ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729 as a reason why Putin’s offer was not legitimate.

On Oct. 23, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the proposal was not “credible,” but also stated that, “at the same time, we aspire for a constructive relationship with Russia.”

Russia has repeatedly floated the moratorium proposal in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty. The 1987 pact led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet conventional and nuclear-armed, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

At the beginning of October, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov called for the two countries to “come to grips” on the issue of deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. He also echoed comments made by Putin after the U.S. test on Aug. 18 of a ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty. “We will produce such [ground-launched intermediate-range] missiles,” Putin said, “but we will not deploy them in the regions where no ground-based missile systems of this class manufactured by the U.S. have emerged.”

John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said on Sept. 30 that although the Defense Department has “started development programs on intermediate-range missiles,” the department does not “have any specific plans at this time for deployments anywhere.”—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

Washington hopes to include China in future nuclear arms control talks.

U.S. Reveals Assessment of Russian Explosion


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The United States has determined that a Russian recovery mission of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, known as Skyfall by Western intelligence agencies, prompted a major explosion in the White Sea in August.

The explosion, said Thomas DiNanno, deputy assistant secretary of state for defense policy, emerging threats, and outreach, was “the result of a nuclear reaction” that occurred during the recovery mission of the missile, which “remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year.” DiNanno made the remarks on Oct. 10 at the UN General Assembly First Committee in New York.

DiNanno elaborated on the Skyfall incident in an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times. “From what I understand, the actual radiation cloud was not dangerous per se,” he said, “but our issue is with the lack of transparency and the cover-up and the misinformation.”

Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department on Nonproliferation and Arms Control, delivered Russia’s statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11. Yermakov did not mention the August incident, instead focusing on the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the need for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The Aug. 8 blast occurred at the Nenoksa Missile Test Site, on the coast
of the White Sea. According to a statement from Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation issued two days later, five employees died in the accident, which involved “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.” Two military personnel also reportedly died from the blast.

Initial reports claimed that Russia was testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile, named the 9M730 Buresvestnik by Russia and the SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO, that Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed in March 2018. (See ACT, September 2019.)

A mysterious August explosion in Russia occurred during efforts to recover a sunken, nuclear-powered cruise missile, according to a U.S. official.

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work

 

For the 10th consecutive year, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded in mid-September without reaching consensus on the adoption of a program of work.

The final report on the conference stated that throughout the 2019 session, successive CD presidents “conducted intensive consultations with a view to reaching a consensus on a program of work,” but despite those efforts, they “did not succeed.” Since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty opened for signature in 1996, the 65-member, Geneva-based CD has managed to adopt a program of work only twice, in 1998 and 2009.

The 2019 session involved 48 formal plenary meetings and 16 informal meetings. In February, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged states to overcome their differences and warned that “key components of the international arms control architecture are collapsing.” He specifically referenced the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which ultimately collapsed in August, and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is scheduled to expire in February 2021. “I urge you in the strongest possible terms to take a decisive action to safeguard and preserve the existing system through dialogue that will help restore trust,” Guterres said.

In addition to Guterres, representatives from nearly 40 countries addressed the conference over the course of the 2019 session, including the United States and Russia. All these dignitaries, according to the final report, “expressed concern about the Conference’s current situation.”

The CD’s permanent agenda contains 10 items, but there are four core issues: nuclear disarmament, a treaty banning the production of fissile material, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. The current deadlock is largely attributed to disagreements between members about the prioritization of those issues and attempts to link progress on one issue to progress on another.—SHANNON BUGOS

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work

Trump Administration May Pull Out of Open Skies Treaty; Last U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Treaty Also at Risk

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: October 27, 2019

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext. 110; Jessica Sarstedt, 202-802-1835

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Trump administration officials continue to deliberate on the future of the Open Skies Treaty. It was reported earlier this month that the White House is considering a proposal advanced by former National Security Advisor John Bolton to withdraw from the 34-nation agreement, which has been in force since 2002. The Open Skies Treaty allows unarmed information-gathering flights over other parties to the agreement to track and monitor military deployments, including those of Russia.

Open Skies is another critical piece in the overlapping armor of arms control and security agreements negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations that helped bring an end to the Cold War. These agreements have provided predictability and transparency of our adversaries’ military activities, reduced the nuclear weapons threat, and decreased tensions and the risk of military conflict.

A U.S. exit from Open Skies would add to tensions with Russia, especially after the U.S. exit from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, undermine the security of our European allies, and damage the credibility of U.S. leadership. As The Wall Street Journal and others have reported, the government of Ukraine greatly values the Open Skies Treaty and supports full participation and compliance by all parties.

Not only is the Open Skies Treaty at risk, but Trump has also not decided on whether to extend the only remaining treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear weaponry, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is due to expire in February 2021.

Abandoning these agreements would make more likely something Trump says he wants to avoid. Just this week, Trump reminded everyone that his goal is to not seek an arms race and noted the importance of arms control agreements, specifically driving home the need to place a cap on nuclear weapons arsenals.

On Monday, Oct. 21, Trump said in an interview: “We should all get together and work out something—a cap, have a cap. We don't need 10,000 [nuclear] weapons, [we need to] have a cap.”

The United States and Russia, which possess the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world, already have an agreement in force which caps each country’s nuclear weapons: New START. The treaty:

  • Caps each sides’ strategic deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550,
  • Caps deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions to no more than 700 each, and
  • Caps deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and bombers are limited to no more than 800 each.

By walking away from either one of these agreements, the United States would set back efforts to reduce military and nuclear tensions with Russia and other nuclear armed states.

Instead, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week, we need to sustain, strengthen, and build upon proven multilateral agreements that provide transparency about Russia’s military activities and that verifiably cap U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, including the Open Skies Treaty and New START.

Experts Available for Comment

Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Department of State, and member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association.

Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation and former Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Lynn Rusten, Vice President, Global Nuclear Policy Program, Nuclear Threat Initiative, and former senior director for arms control and nonproliferation on the White House National Security Council staff and senior advisor in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (AVC), where she led the interagency backstopping process supporting the negotiation and ratification of New START.

Thomas Countryman, former​ ​Acting​ Under Secretary of State ​Arms​ ​Control and ​International Security and ​​Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arm​​s Control Association.

Description: 

Background information and experts available on the Open Skies Treaty and New START

Subject Resources:

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, Oct. 17, 2019

Trump Poised to Withdraw from Open Skies Treaty The Trump administration is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty , according to lawmakers and media reports. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, first sounded the public alarm in an Oct. 7 letter to National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien. “I am deeply concerned by reports that the Trump Administration is considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty and strongly urge you against such a reckless action,” Rep. Engel wrote. “American withdrawal would only benefit...

Abandonment of Open Skies Treaty Would Undermine U.S. and European Security

Sections:

Body: 


For Immediate Release: October 9, 2019

Media ContactsKingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext 110.

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The Trump administration is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from yet another key arms control treaty: the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. If President Trump decides to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty, it would undermine the security of the United States and European allies, including Ukraine, say leading arms control and national security experts.

The Open Skies Treaty entered into force in 2002 and currently has 34 states-parties, including the United States and Russia. The treaty allows for information-sharing that increases transparency about military forces among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.

The treaty allows aerial imaging through short-notice, unarmed observation flights over each other's entire territory. The flights allow observing parties to identify significant military equipment, such as artillery, fighter aircraft, and armored combat vehicles. Open Skies aircraft can only be equipped with cameras verifiably limited to a resolution below state-of-the-art technology, and the treaty disallows the collection of any other electromagnetic signals. The 34 states-parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the collected information available to all treaty parties.

Since entering into force, the United States has conducted almost 200 flights over Russian territory. Russia has carried out more than 70 flights over U.S. territory. U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection.

National security officials, members of Congress, and arms control experts are warning the Trump administration that withdrawal would be "reckless" and would reduce the ability of the United States and European allies to monitor and counter Russian aggression against Ukraine.


QUICK QUOTES

"The Open Skies Treaty provides information about Russian military activities for the U.S. and our allies and provides the Russians with insight on our capabilities. Such transparency reduces uncertainty and the risk of conflict and miscalculations due to worst-case assumptions."
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

"U.S. flights over Ukraine and western Russia have yielded valuable data, easily shared between allies. The flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery. Withdrawing from the treaty would be another step in the collapse of U.S. leadership and further alienate U.S. allies and partners."
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy


RESOURCES


EXPERTS AVAILABLE IN WASHINGTON

To schedule an interview with or appearance by an expert on U.S-Russian arms control agreements, please contact Tony Fleming, director for communications, (202) 463-8270 ext 110.

  • Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, [email protected], (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

  • Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Department of State, and member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association, [email protected], (571) 264-7053

  • Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, [email protected], 202-277-3478
Description: 

The treaty provides transparency about Russian military activities for the U.S. and our allies. Withdrawing from the treaty would be another step in the collapse of U.S. leadership and further alienate U.S. allies and partners, note arms control experts.

Country Resources:

Countries Urge Entry into Force of Nuclear Test Ban at UNGA

In the midst of this year’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City on Sept. 25, ministers of foreign affairs and diplomats representing nearly 50 countries spoke at a biannual conference in favor of entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) signed by 184 countries. Signed in 1996, the CTBT prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any nuclear explosion” no matter what the yield, anywhere in the world. According to Article XIV of the treaty, the agreement cannot enter into force until it has been both signed and ratified by the 44 countries listed in...

Saudi Arabia Seeks to Enrich Uranium


October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

Saudi Arabia intends to enrich uranium to fuel its planned nuclear power program, the country’s new energy minister said on Sept. 9. The Saudi position could run afoul of a recently disclosed Trump administration policy to seek a Saudi commitment to refrain from such activities in exchange for U.S. nuclear technology.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks with reporters in May. He has delivered a letter to Saudi officials demanding they agree to refrain from enriching uranium or separating plutonium in exchange for peaceful U.S. nuclear technology. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)“We are proceeding with it cautiously.… We are experimenting with two nuclear reactors,” said Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman at the 24th World Energy Conference in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 9. Saudi officials have announced plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. (See ACT, April 2018.) Currently, companies from the United States, Russia, South Korea, China, and France are competing for a contract to build the first two nuclear power reactors, with a Saudi decision reportedly expected by the end of this year.

To receive U.S. nuclear materials or technology, Saudi Arabia would need first to sign a 123 agreement with the United States. Named after the section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act requiring it, a 123 agreement sets the terms and authorizes cooperation for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries. A 123 agreement can involve what is known as a “gold standard” commitment in which a country forgoes the enrichment of uranium or the reprocessing of plutonium, which are two pathways to making nuclear weapons. The State Department is leading negotiations for this agreement, and once complete, it will require congressional approval.

Those negotiations apparently include a U.S. demand for the gold standard. In September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry sent a letter to Saudi officials outlining the U.S. requirements that Saudi Arabia must adopt an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and commit to the gold standard.

“The terms of the 123 Agreement must also contain a commitment by the kingdom to forgo any enrichment and reprocessing for the term of the agreement,” said Perry’s letter, as reported by Bloomberg.

Energy Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette recently spoke in favor of a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia. “If there’s going to be any transfer of technology, you can’t do it without it,” he said. He did not, however, specifically mention whether the gold standard would be a part of such an agreement.

Negotiations on a 123 agreement have slowed over the past year as Riyadh has refused to relinquish the possibility of enriching uranium. (See ACT, December 2018.) Further complicating the talks were March 2018 remarks by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

Also muddying the situation is an ongoing investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee into allegations that top Trump administration officials, such as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, pushed for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia without a 123 agreement and in potential violation of ethics laws. (See ACT, March 2019.) The committee first revealed its investigation in February 2019 and released a second interim report on its investigation this past July.

Shortly after its first report in February, members in both houses of Congress introduced legislation requiring congressional oversight over any 123 agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Those bills also state that no 123 agreement with Riyadh should be approved until Saudi Arabia becomes transparent about the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a commentator for The Washington Post, in October 2018. The U.S. intelligence community determined last November that the crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi, but U.S. President Donald Trump has defended Riyadh.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who introduced the House bill alongside Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), told Arms Control Today that “Saudi Arabia’s government isn’t known for its transparency, but on the nuclear issue, the kingdom has been crystal clear: it wants to enrich uranium to have the capability to build nuclear weapons. In light of this, a failure to secure a 123 agreement with gold standard safeguards would be reckless and irresponsible. If you can’t trust a regime with a bone saw, you shouldn’t trust it with nuclear weapons.”

Saudi Arabia announces plans to enrich its own nuclear fuel just as the Trump administration demands restraint. 

U.S. Raises Treaty Compliance Concerns


October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The United States has concerns about Russian and Chinese compliance with nuclear weapons-related treaties, according to a newly released State Department report. The annual compliance report provides additional background details on Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and repeats Trump administration concerns about possible nuclear testing by Russia and China.

The U.S. State Department's annual compliance report reiterated that Russia's 9M729 cruise missile violated the INF Treaty, leading to the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. (Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)The report, made public on Aug. 22 and titled “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” primarily covers activities during 2018. The State Department released a shorter version of the report in April, which sparked controversy in Congress about the potential politicization of intelligence with regard to Iran, as well as other countries.

The full report said that Russia continued to violate the INF Treaty in 2018, a charge the Trump administration cited before formally withdrawing the United States from the treaty on Aug. 2. The 1987 pact banned the possession or testing of all nuclear and conventional, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Since 2014, the United States has accused Russia of violating the treaty by testing, possessing, and fielding an illegal ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729. The report asserts that Russia began development of the missile “probably by the mid-2000s” and concluded in 2015 a “comprehensive” flight-test program. By the end of 2018, Russia fielded multiple battalions of the 9M729, the report says.

“The history of Russia’s anti-INF [Treaty] overtures leading up to missile tests, its attempt to covertly exploit a treaty exception permitting ground-based flight tests of intermediate-range missiles not subject to the treaty, its lack of an explanation for these tests, and its overall secrecy” about the 9M729, the report declares, “provide important context for Russia’s violation.”

The compliance report also raises concerns about alleged Russian nuclear weapons testing and compliance with the 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), which prohibits nuclear tests with explosive yields exceeding 150 kilotons. The report states that “based on available information, Russian activities during the 1995–2018 timeframe raise questions about Russia’s compliance with its TTBT notification obligation.”

In addition, the report echoes remarks made earlier this year by the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) regarding Russian nuclear testing. In May, DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said that “Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard outlined” in the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). (See ACT, July/August 2019.) The CTBT, although not yet in force, goes a step farther than the TTBT by prohibiting nuclear tests, no matter what the yield.

The August report said, “The United States…has assessed that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons tests that have created nuclear yield.” In an apparent attempt to back up this statement, the report adds that, “[d]uring the 1995–2018 timeframe, Russia probably conducted nuclear weapons-related tests at the Novaya Zemlya Nuclear Test Site.”

The report also mentions Ashley’s remarks regarding China. In May the DIA director said that China may be preparing to operate its nuclear test site year-round and is continuing to use explosive containment chambers at that site. According to the compliance report, these activities, as well as a lack of transparency from China, “raise questions” about Beijing’s adherence to the zero-yield nuclear weapons testing moratorium.

On Iran, the compliance report states that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons development activities judged necessary to produce a nuclear device” and that the United States will continue with its “maximum pressure campaign” on Tehran until Iran agrees to “a comprehensive deal that resolves all U.S. concerns.”

The report says that the information in the cache of documents seized by Israel on Iran’s past nuclear weapons-related activities, known as the nuclear archive, has not revealed evidence of any ongoing weapons work. The report argues, however, that Tehran retained those documents, which are still under review by the U.S. intelligence community, to potentially “aid in any future decision to pursue nuclear weapons” and may have “taken active measures to deliberately deceive” officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As for North Korea, the compliance report states that the United States “believes there is a clear likelihood” of “unidentified nuclear facilities in North Korea” besides those at Yongbyon, the country’s nuclear center. The report does not provide additional information on those secret facilities.

In response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s declaration in 2018 that Pyongyang would end all nuclear testing and demolish the P’unggye Nuclear Test Site, the report states that the results of the demolition at the test site in May 2018 “are almost certainly reversible.”

The compliance report emphasizes that the administration “remains committed to continued diplomatic negotiations with North Korea toward the goal of achieving the final, fully-verified denuclearization of North Korea.”

 

An annual State Department report reinforces Trump administration charges of arms control treaty violations. 

U.S. Intel Sheds Light on Russian Explosion


October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

U.S. intelligence analysts have bolstered earlier assessments that an Aug. 8 explosion near a Russian missile test site involved a nuclear-powered cruise missile undergoing development and testing. (See ACT, September 2019.)

The incident began with a blast at the Nenoksa Missile Test Site, on the coast of the White Sea. According to a statement from Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) two days later, five employees died in the accident, which involved “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.” Two military personnel also reportedly died from the blast.

A subsequent U.S. intelligence assessment determined that the blast was caused by a recovery mission to salvage a nuclear-powered cruise missile from the ocean floor from a previous test, CNBC reported on Aug. 29.

“There was an explosion on one of the vessels involved in the recovery, and that caused a reaction in the missile’s nuclear core, which lead to the radiation leak,” a person with direct knowledge of the intelligence assessment told CNBC. A number of media outlets have reported releases of a variety of radioactive isotopes.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Norwegian Norsar Research Institute suggested that there may have been two explosions at the test site. Anne Lycke, the institute’s chief executive, said that seismographic readings suggested an explosion first on the ground or water, and then an infrasonic air-pressure sensor pointed to a second explosion two hours later, likely in the air. The second one “coincided in time with the reported increase in radiation,” she said. The governor of the region in which the blast took place denied the possibility of a second explosion.

Some U.S. nuclear experts and intelligence officials initially assessed that the accident likely involved a failed test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile known as the 9M730 Buresvestnik by Russia and the SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov appeared to confirm this assessment Aug. 21, stating that a “nuclear-propelled missile” was being tested at the time of the accident.

No official explanations have come from Russia. President Vladimir Putin said only that “this is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems.”

CNBC released another report on Sept. 11 citing an intelligence finding that, despite numerous test failures, the 9M730 would be ready for deployment in 2025, about five years earlier than previously assessed.

 

A mysterious August explosion at a Russian missile test site likely involved a prototype nuclear-powered weapon. 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Shannon Bugos