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Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation
June 2, 2022
Nuclear Threats and the Dangers of Deterrence
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Arms Control NOW

Inside the Arms Control Association
July 2022

President Vladimir Putin’s threats of the possible use of nuclear weapons against any state that might interfere with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have reawakened the world to the dangers of nuclear war. The possibility of military conflict between Russian and NATO forces has significantly increased the risk of nuclear weapons use. Recent public opinion polling indicates that 80 percent of Americans are concerned that the war will expand and Russia will use nuclear weapons.

I was honored to be invited by the Austrian government to speak last month at the fourth Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons on “The Nuclear Risk Dimension of Russia’s War On Ukraine.” My remarks focused on what we are learning about the extreme risks of nuclear deterrence doctrines and what we can do to reduce the danger.

The gathering, which also included a presentation by Dr. Zia Mian, co-director of the Princeton Program on Science and Global Security and a member of ACA’s board of directors, highlighted the newest research on the consequences of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons use, and risk of nuclear conflict in various regions around the globe. A summary of the conference, including the presentations, is now available online.

More than 800 diplomats and officials, as well as civil society experts and campaigners and journalists attended the June 20 Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna.

The Humanitarian Consequences conference was followed by the first meeting of states-parties to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). As ACA research associate Gabriela Rosa Hernández and I report in the most recent edition of Arms Control Today, the meeting produced an ambitious 50-point action plan and several decisions designed to implement the 2017 agreement.

Just as importantly, the meeting produced a very strong rejection of nuclear weapons and threats. Citing “increasingly strident nuclear rhetoric,” the TPNW states-parties issued the Vienna Declaration, which condemns all threats to use nuclear weapons as violations of international law, including the UN Charter. The declaration demands “that all nuclear-armed states never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances.”

Given the growing risk of nuclear war, we must do all we can to make the first meeting of TPNW states-parties and the upcoming nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference a turning point - moving away from dangerous nuclear policies and arms racing and turning instead toward renewed and productive disarmament diplomacy.

Daryl G. Kimball,

Executive Director

Next Up: the 10th NPT RevCon

After multiple delays, hundreds of diplomats representing the states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) along with representatives from civil society, will convene at UN headquarters Aug. 1-26 for the treaty’s 10th review conference.

ACA’s team will be there at UN headquarters in New York monitoring the conference and engaging with key delegations to work together for a productive outcome.

Our chief message is that in the face of the growing danger of nuclear war, this is a critical opportunity for the treaty’s 191 states-parties to reinforce the norms against nuclear weapons, to strongly condemn any threat of nuclear weapons use, and to intensify the pressure for action to fulfill the treaty’s Article VI provision “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

ACA will publish short, twice-weekly updates on key developments through our ArmsControlNow blog. ACA executive director Daryl Kimball will be speaking at two side events: one on Aug. 10 sponsored by the U.S.-German-Russian Deep Cuts Commission and another on Aug. 18 hosted by the Embassy of Kazakhstan.

For more on the U.S. government’s approach to the conference, see Carol Giacomo’s interview with Amb. Adam Scheinman in the June issue of Arms Control Today, and our preview news report on the conference in the July/August issue.

NGOs Push Shift in U.S. Landmine Policy

After a months-long policy review, the Biden administration announced on June 21 that it will reverse the Trump administration policy that allowed for wider use of anti-personnel landmines. The decision, which has been the focus of steady advocacy from the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL) and the Arms Control Association, means the United States is returning to the Obama-era policy that bars the use of the weapons anywhere except in support of its ally South Korea on the Korean peninsula.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Daryl Kimball, who is member of the USCBL steering committee, welcomed the new policy but said the United States must take the steps needed to join the Ottawa Convention, the widely-supported 1997 treaty that prohibits participating nations from using, transferring or stockpiling weapons categorized as anti-personnel mines. “We are still out of step with most of the world,” Kimball said. “The administration needs to move more quickly to bring us in line.”

For more details, see our news report in the latest issue of Arms Control Today.

Job Opportunity: Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction

We are very excited to announce that beginning Oct. 1, ACA will become the host and partner for the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction, a growing network founded in 2020 by Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security with support from an American Physical Society Innovation Fund grant and a major grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The Physicists Coalition involves over 800 physicist-advocates and supports dozens of expert colloquia each year on nuclear arms control issues at physics institutions across the country to deliver information and to foster action on nuclear policy and disarmament issues at local and national levels.

ACA and the Coalition Steering Committee are seeking candidates for a policy and communications coordinator position. Please see the position announcement for further details and help spread the word about this great opportunity to help make a difference.

Remembering Michael Krepon

Everyone at the Arms Control Association is deeply saddened to learn that Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a former member of the Arms Control Disarmament Agency, and tireless advocate and partner for international peace and security, passed away July 16 at his home in Charlottesville, VA after a long battle with cancer.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Michael’s family and wide circle of friends. He was an indefatigable and influential leader in our field who made a positive difference through his creative ideas, compassion for others, and instinct for collaboration. Look for more on Michael’s life and contributions in the next issue of Arms Control Today.

Midnight Hour for Diplomacy to Restore Iran Nuclear Deal

After more than a year of indirect negotiations, diplomats from the United States and Iran continue to bicker about issues outside the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As a result, the parties have failed to finalize their plan to restore mutual compliance with the 2015 agreement that former President Donald Trump abruptly exited in 2018, even though Iran was in compliance with the deal at the time.

Last month, talks resumed but did not produce a breakthrough. One more effort by European intermediaries is now underway to try to resuscitate this critical nonproliferation agreement, which had very effectively rolled back Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities, but is now on the verge of collapse as Iran continues to increase its enriched uranium stockpiles and curtail international monitoring of its program to try to press the United States to lift nuclear-related sanctions.

ACA’s team led by director for nonproliferation policy, Kelsey Davenport, is closely tracking the situation, meeting with principal officials and diplomats on both sides of the negotiations, and warning of the dire consequences if a solution is not achieved soon. For a detailed analysis of what is at stake and what must be done, see our latest Arms Control Association Issue Brief, “The Last Chance to Restore Compliance with the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal,” July 13.

ACA’s will host a webinar on August 9, featuring Davenport and other top experts in the field to assess “The Future of the JCPOA and the Implications for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime.” More details on the event will be posted soon.

Tracking the Flow of Arms to Ukraine

As Russia’s brutal military assault on Ukraine drags on, more than two dozen Western countries have delivered defensive weapons to help Ukraine fight back. Earlier this spring, the Forum on the Arms Trade, a project hosted by the Arms Control Association, launched a new bulletin to track the arms transfers to Ukraine.

Forum coordinator and ACA senior Fellow Jeff Abramson, intern Magritte Gordaneer, and ACA research associate Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández will continue to update this popular resource.

Thanks to ACA’s Summer Interns

Thank you to communications intern, Michelle Liu, a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has played a key role in our communications work for the past several months. She has carried out a variety of essential communications tasks— framing complex issues into digestible and engaging social media content, helping us engage with key journalists, and assisting with the copyediting and promotion of Arms Control Today—as well as helping with all aspects of our 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting.

Thanks also to Magritte Gordaneer, a student at McGill University, who has been very busy working with Jeff Abramson at the Forum on the Arms Trade, a project hosted by ACA. See examples of her excellent work tracking arms transfers to Ukraine and reporting on landmines developments in the July/August 2022 issue of Arms Control Today.

ACA in the News

  • Reuters utilized data from the Arms Control Association on Iran’s missile program in “Factbox: Iran's hardline rulers see missile systems as vital deterrent,” published July 15.

  • Executive director Daryl Kimball warned that “Russian and NATO leaders must sober-up and refrain from threatening nuclear rhetoric and actions that increase the risk of nuclear escalation” in an interview in TASS, July 1.

  • Policy director Kelsey Davenport wrote that “restoring the JCPOA is the best and only good choice” to address Iran’s escalating proliferation risk in an essay in Just Security, June 23.

  • Kimball welcomed Biden’s decision to ban landmines by the United States around the globe but urged in The Washington Post that “[w]e are still out of step with most of the world” and that “[t]he administration needs to move more quickly to bring us in line,” June 21.

  • In a report on Biden’s recent landmine policy shift, Kimball told the Associated Press that the plan was not enough: “We need to get fully in step to fully differentiate ourselves from the international scofflaws like Russia,” June 21.

  • In a June 21 Agence France-Presse new account of the First Meeting of States Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Kimball warned that “US and NATO nuclear weapons have proven to be useless in preventing Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

  • Politifact cited statements from ACA board member Andy Weber that “there are no U.S. military-run labs in Ukraine but rather health labs to help detect, prevent and mitigate infectious disease” to clarify that the Pentagon does not fund bio-labs in Ukraine, June 15.

  • In an essay on the Responsible Statecraft blog, Davenport wrote that “Iran lied about its past nuclear activities, that’s why we need the JCPOA,” June 14.

  • The Tehran Times quoted recent statements from Kimball and Davenport on the importance of the JCPOA in “Experts urge Biden to intensify diplomacy to revive Iran nuclear deal,” June 11.

  • Davenport was quoted by the BBC noting that the IAEA’s recent report signals rising escalations with Iran in “Iran removes nuclear watchdog's cameras after criticism,” June 9.

  • In a Politico article “Iran nuclear deal nears potential ‘fatal blow’ as Tehran removes cameras, watchdog chief says,” Davenport warned that “If the agency cannot ensure continuity of knowledge about Iran’s program, the IAEA will not be able to implement the JCPOA’s monitoring and verification provision,” June 9.