“Somebody Has to Make the First Move”

Inside the Arms Control Association
September 2023 

On June 2, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke at ACA’s Annual Meeting and announced that “rather than waiting to resolve all of our bilateral differences, the United States is ready to engage Russia now to manage nuclear risks and develop a post-2026 arms control framework” and “without preconditions.” The Kremlin responded cautiously saying Russia would study with care any formal proposal for discussions from Washington.

It was an encouraging sign and since then, we have been closely monitoring and persistently encouraging the two sides to take the next steps, through private meetings with U.S. and Russian officials and in public settings, such as the NGO statement we organized at the August meeting of NPT states parties.

Unfortunately, three months later, this important dialogue has not yet begun. As ACA board chair Tom Countryman (left) wrote in an op-ed published last week:

“To the best of my knowledge the U.S. government has not conveyed to Moscow any specific proposal for the timing, level, or agenda of a new dialogue.”

“Every nuclear arms control agreement through 10 administrations,” Tom notes, “has greatly benefitted American security and global security. Each of them required the United States to take the lead; never before has Washington simply sat back and waited for Moscow to set the agenda.”

As Tom concludes in his oped: "The inability to put down a simple concrete proposal — to get moving on an existential task — is inconsistent with President Joe Biden’s stated policy, and a sad comparison to decades of U.S. leadership."

You can count on ACA, in coordination with our extensive network of expert colleagues and other civil society partners, to keep pushing for progress to prevent unconstrained nuclear weapons competition and reduce the growing nuclear danger.

For further background, see senior policy analyst  Shannon Bugos’ latest report in Arms Control Today, and the latest edition of ACA’s Nuclear Disarmament Monitor e-newsletter.

U.S.-German-Russian Deep Cuts Commission Set to Meet

For 10 years, the Commission on Challenges to Deep Nuclear Cuts has brought together a high-level group of experts from the United States, Europe, and Russia to exchange insights and ideas, and to formulate solutions to advance progress on nuclear risk reduction and disarmament. In the wake of Putin’s war on Ukraine, it is one of the few “track 2” initiatives that is still functioning and active. In 2021, the project also established the Young Deep Cuts Commission.

As the U.S. partner for the project, the ACA provides significant support and guidance and will be well represented at the Commission’s next meeting in Istanbul later this month, with ACA board members Tom Countryman, Laura Kennedy, and Greg Thielmann attending. You can find out more about the Commission’s work and its membership online.

Defending the CTBT

As Daryl Kimball wrote in his latest column in Arms Control Today, “as with other critical nuclear risk reduction, nonproliferation, and arms control agreements, the 

ACA chief operating officer, Kathy Crandall Robinson (then with Women’s Action for New Directions), speaking on behalf of NGOs to the United Nations on the CTBT in 2017.

1996 CTBT - one of the most successful agreements in arms control history - is under threat due to inattention, diplomatic sclerosis, and worsening relations between nuclear-armed adversaries.” 

The ACA is monitoring the situation closely. And, as we have done in years past, we have organized a strong NGO statement with more than 80 endorsements from a diverse array of organizations and high-level figures from around the world for the upcoming Article XIV CTBT Conference on Facilitating Entry Into Force this Friday, Sept. 22 at the United Nations.

Iran Nuclear Crisis Still Looming

ACA, led by nonproliferation policy director Kelsey Davenport, continues to provide authoritative analysis and practical ideas as the world seeks to roll back Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities in the absence of mutual compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. There are positive signs that Iran (and the United States) have recognized the value of a policy of mutual de-escalation, but Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium and its capacity to produce more remains very significant. 

This past week, the EU announced it would block the scheduled lifting of UN missile sanctions on Iran (pursuant to Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA), which may, in turn, lead Iran to ramp up its program or reduce access by IAEA inspectors. All of this underscores the need for the United States and its partners to accelerate the pursuit of the diplomatic “Plan B”  that we have been quietly advocating since last spring.

For a masterful briefing on the situation, see Kelsey’s presentation for a webinar organized by the Stimson Center, “Iran One Year After the Death of Mahsa Amini,” held on Sept. 11.

EVENT, Sept 29: Elimination of the U.S. Chemical Weapons Stockpile

On Sept. 29, the ACA and the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition are co-hosting a webinar on the recent elimination of the final U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. Joining us will be former ACA policy director and current Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Kingston Reif, along with Irene Kornelly and Craig Williams, chairs of the Colorado and Kentucky Citizens’ Advisory Committees, who worked to reshape the original plans for chemical weapons destruction to reduce the risks to local communities.

RSVP to hear more about this milestone accomplishment at ArmsControl.org/Events

Gift Arms Control Today to Your Favorite Student

September is back-to-school month. Do you know a returning student or aspiring young arms controller who would value receiving the latest in arms control and nonproliferation news?

We invite current ACA members to introduce us to a future arms control advocate through complimentary digital access to Arms Control Today, ACA’s topical newsletters, briefings, and events.

Send an email to [email protected] with their name, university, and email address. We’ll send them a welcome email with instructions on how to access ACT online and send them updates in the field of arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation each month.

Arrivals and Departures

This summer we welcomed Libby Flatoff as our new Operations and Program Assistant. Libby earned her master’s degree at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, studying nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism, just a month before joining our team. She has been an enormous asset to our development and membership efforts and is assisting in bringing our online library of factsheets up to date. 

This fall, the Forum on the Arms Trade project will transition away from the ACA as it becomes an independent organization. Jeff Abramson, who has served as a senior fellow with the ACA and coordinator for the project, will be leaving to continue to lead the Forum’s outreach and growth. The ACA will continue to collaborate with the Forum on the Arms Trade in other ways in the years ahead.

New operations and operations assistant Libby Flattoff, senior fellow Jeff Abramson, and research associate Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández.This month we also say farewell to ACA research associate Gabriela Iveliz Rosa HernándezGabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández who is moving on to the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) Russia Studies Program as an associate analyst.

Gabriela’s energy, enthusiasm, and special skill sets regarding European security and Russia (and her Russian language skills) have greatly assisted us in understanding and reporting on developments in the Russian war on Ukraine.

Gabriela broke news in two important stories in ACT regarding the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures in Europe, and she co-authored a major article on “The Art of the Possible: Minimizing Risks as a New European Order Takes Shape.”

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