Preventing Escalation of Russia’s War on Ukraine

Inside the Arms Control Association
April 2023

As Russia’s disastrous war against Ukraine enters its second year, the destruction and bloodshed continue. Despite the enormous human toll of the war, Moscow is still trying to seize more Ukrainian territory and Kyiv is still fighting hard to retake its Russian-occupied lands. 

As a result, a negotiated and lasting end to the war is not yet in sight. As long as the war continues, there is a serious risk of escalation, including further nuclear threats from the Kremlin.

A Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during a test at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on April 20, 2022. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)To help prevent a bad situation from becoming even worse, our team here at ACA will continue to work with like-minded organizations, experts, concerned citizens, and governments to encourage strategies that lower tensions, restore a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction and arms control, and sustain pressure against those who might try to break the nuclear taboo.

In response to strong international outrage, Putin backed off his earlier nuclear threats rhetoric at the end of last year. 

However, if Ukraine’s anticipated spring  military offensive produces another shambolic retreat by Russian forces and Putin fears a humiliating loss of territory and military capacity, he may issue fresh nuclear threats or even decide to use short-range nuclear weapons against Ukraine in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to turn the tide. 

Even though U.S. and NATO leaders have made it clear that they do not intend for their military forces to become directly involved in the conflict, even a minor confrontation between NATO and Russian forces could become a flashpoint for a wider conflict.

You can count on us to continue to press policymakers to:

  • Condemn any threats of nuclear weapons use: To preserve the 77-year-long taboo against nuclear use in war, civil society and governments of all stripes need to continue to state unequivocally that nuclear weapons use, or any threat to use nuclear weapons, at any time and under any circumstances, is extremely dangerous and unacceptable. 
  • Re-establish a high-level U.S.-Russian risk reduction and arms control dialogue: Leader-to-leader dialogue is essential, especially when it comes to managing the risks of the world’s most dangerous weapons. ACA is leading efforts to maintain strong domestic and international support for U.S.-Russian engagement disarmament diplomacy.
  • Calibrate U.S. and European military support to avoid escalation: The Biden administration so far, has carefully  designed military aid packages and delivery of more advanced weapons to help Ukraine defend itself in a way that does not trigger Russian attacks on U.S. or NATO forces or territory. Even this strategy isn't risk-free.
  • Refrain from making threats of nuclear retaliation: To date, President Biden and leaders of NATO states have warned that Russian nuclear weapons use would lead to catastrophic consequences but have stopped short of threatening nuclear retaliation. 

Both Putin and Biden acknowledge that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." In this situation, any nuclear (or even conventional military) retaliation against Russian territory or forces in response to a “limited” nuclear strike on Ukraine would likely trigger a global nuclear conflagration.

Threats of nuclear retaliation are not only unnecessary and counterproductive but also would legitimize Putin's threats and set red lines no one can afford to cross.

For more on how we can strengthen the nuclear taboo in the midst of Russia’s war on Ukraine, see our recent Issue Brief on the topic.  

Thank you for your support at this crucial time,

Daryl G. Kimball
Executive Director

Register Today for ACA’s  Annual Meeting

ACA’s Annual Meeting is June 2, 2023,  at the National Press  in Washington, D.C.. 

Register now at to join ACA members, friends and colleagues for our one-day conference to hear keynote speakers and expert panel discussions on today’s pressing arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament challenges—and the way forward. The meeting will open at 9:00 a.m. and the program, including lunch, will conclude at approximately 3:30 p.m.

As President Biden wrote in his message to ACA at last year’s annual meeting, “Today—perhaps more than any other time since the Cold War—we must work to reduce the risk of an arms race or nuclear escalation. In this time of intense geopolitical tension, arms control and nonproliferation diplomacy continues to be an essential part of safeguarding … global security."

That statement is even more relevant today than it was then.

Please secure your seat with a basic registration or support the work of ACA by becoming a meeting sponsor (which includes registration) at Our registration deadline is May 15. We look forward to seeing you on June 2.

ACA, Other Experts Urge White House to Address Iran Nuclear Crisis

Last week, a group of two dozen non-proliferation advocates, including ACA Board Chair Tom Countryman and nonproliferation policy director Kelsey Davenport, delivered a joint letter urging President Biden “to promptly pursue diplomatic options that reduce the growing risks posed by Iran's nuclear activities in the absence of a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

In the joint letter, which was organized by the Arms Control Association,  experts suggest that “the most feasible option might be a combination of reciprocal, unilateral measures that ensure the [U.N. nuclear watchdog agency] has sufficient access and insight to monitor Iran’s activities and to freeze (or roll back) Iran’s most proliferation-sensitive activities, such as the further accumulation of uranium enriched to 60 percent and introduction of additional advanced centrifuge cascades.

Board Election Reminder

We invite all ACA members to vote on the proposed slate of candidates for the 2023-2025 class of the Board of Directors. Seven incumbent Board members have agreed to continue to serve if approved by the membership.

Please review brief biographical information for each board candidate and cast your vote online at no later than April 30, 2023. (Login and active membership are required to vote.) 

ACA Interns: the Next Generation

Throughout ACA’s 50-year-long history, we have benefited from the energy and expertise of hundreds of young interns who have worked side-by-side with our staff to try to reduce the dangers posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons.

For many, the ACA internship program has been a springboard to a career in the field, whether that is in government, academia, a research or advocacy organization, journalism, or philanthropy. Read more about our fall 2022 intern, Heather Foye, and her experience in Washington last fall in this “spotlight” article from Baruch College.

We’re proud of and grateful for the contributions of our fabulous spring 2023  interns, Luke Caggiano and Ethan Walton (at right). We’ll soon welcome our new summer interns. 

The deadline for applications for our fall 2023 internship will be August 1. Learn more and apply at

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