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Inside the Arms Control Association  
November 2023

More than a decade ago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognized ACA as an “exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact disproportionate to its small size.”

We’re still modest in size and resources, but our dedicated professional staff and high-caliber board members continue to work hard to make a difference. This month has been no exception.

The ACA Team at the 2023 Annual Meeting

In the wake of Russia’s counterproductive decision to withdraw its ratification from the CTBT, we continue to lead efforts to reinforce the global norm against nuclear testing.

This month, we worked with our partners at ICAN to organize a letter from more than 40 civil society leaders to all UN member states calling on them to actively urge the remaining hold-out states to sign and/or ratify the treaty without delay. 

We also presented a webinar briefing on “Upholding the CTBT Regime in a Time of Adversity,” featuring remarks from the executive secretary of the CTBT Organization, Dr. Robert Floyd.

And we published an important article in the Nov. issue of Arms Control Today by three physicists outlining exactly how such mutual confidence-building measures could be carried out at the former nuclear test sites in Russia, the United States, and China. ACT editor Carol Giacomo and I also conducted an in-depth interview with Dr. Jill Hruby, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), on “Managing an Arsenal Without Nuclear Testing,” which appears in the December issue of the journal.

This week, at the invitation of the NNSA, I will join a handful of independent nuclear arms control experts at the former Nevada Test Site to discuss test site transparency options and visit the NNSA’s underground, subcritical nuclear experiments facility. 

Kelsey DavenportACA director for nonproliferation policy, Kelsey Davenport, traveled to Europe for off-the-record, expert discussions on how to contain Iran’s nuclear capabilities as efforts to restore compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal continue to falter and the war in Gaza rages on. 

Before and after a rare meeting on November 6 between senior U.S. and Chinese officials, we provided expert commentary on what to expect and what might come next. 

As the public debate about the risks of AI widens, ACA senior policy analyst Shannon Bugos moderated an important discussion on the risks that AI poses for nuclear weapons decision-making at an event we co-hosted with the European Leadership Network on Nov. 13 at the National Press Club. This work is a continuation of our project  to examine the impact of emerging technologies in the military sphere and measures that can be taken to mitigate their most dangerous effects, which is led by Shannon and senior fellow Michael Klare.

ACA’s Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) Coalition coordinator Mina Rozei and Coalition chair Paul Walker are at The Hague to help facilitate expert input from civil society at the annual meeting of states-parties being held this month.

Also this week: ACA’s new research assistant Shizuka Kuramitsu will be at UN headquarters in New York for the second meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and will speak at several side events.

Meanwhile, our board chairman Tom Countryman, fresh off our successful fall board of directors meeting on Nov. 13, is in the Seattle region speaking on nuclear arms control issues. See below for more details.

Yes, 2023 has been a busy and difficult year, the ACA team will continue to:

  • deliver information and ideas on the world’s most dangerous weapons
  • push forward new ideas to reinforce the barriers against nuclear and chemical weapons, and 
  • build awareness and stronger public and policymaker support for renewed arms control and disarmament diplomacy.

We are grateful for your generous support that sustains our work.

An Arms Control Opening with China

Following a proposal for talks outlined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at ACA’s 2023 Annual Meeting, senior U.S. and Chinese officials met in Washington Nov. 6 to discuss nuclear arms control and nonproliferation issues. The meeting between the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Mallory Stewart and China’s Director-General of Arms Control Sun Xiaobo was the first of its kind since at least 2018. At their meeting in San Francisco the following week, Presidents Xi and Biden confirmed that the high-level talks on arms control would continue.

As ACA’s Daryl Kimball wrote in an analysis in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the meeting represents a modest yet important breakthrough that provides a starting point for further talks “aimed at more concrete nuclear risk reduction and arms control measures that enhance mutual security.”

“Upholding the CTBT In A Time of Adversity"

On Nov. 16, ACA hosted a webinar that brought together a panel of experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Speakers included; Dr. Robert Floyd, executive secretary of the CTBTO; Elena Chernenko, head of the international section at the Kommersant newspaper in Moscow, María Antonieta Jáquez Huacuja, counselor, Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, which is a co-sponsor of the resolution in support of the CTBT at the 78th UN General Assembly; and ACA’s Daryl G. Kimball.

The recording of the webinar is available below and on our YouTube channel.

“The Risks That AI Poses for Nuclear Decision-Making”

Rapid advancements in technology put artificial intelligence at the heart of discussions concerning nuclear strategy, especially among nuclear-weapon states. This joint event, co-hosted by the European Leadership Network (ELN) and the Arms Control Association (ACA), presented the main findings of a new ELN research report sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The recording of the webinar is available below and on our YouTube channel.

Event: “Reinforcing the Nonproliferation and Arms Control System” on Dec. 12

Our next public event, on Tuesday, Dec. 12, will feature Tom Countryman, Amb. Elayne White Gomez, president of the negotiating conference for the TPNW, and Nomsa Ndongwe, a research fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. RSVP here to attend in-person or online.

The forum is being organized in partnership with the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington and will be held at the National Press Club.

Countryman “On Tour” In Washington State

The World Affairs Council in Seattle will host a luncheon program Dec. 4 at 12:00 pm Pacific Time featuring Tom Countryman, ACA Board Chair and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, for a conversation on the new arms race, the persistent risk of a nuclear exchange, and the future of arms control and nonproliferation.

On the evening of Dec. 5, Countryman will be speaking at a Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility event on “Stabilizing U.S.-China Relations before a ‘near-miss’ turns into a crisis,” at 5:30 pm at the Seattle Athenaeum.

Please Help Support Our Work!

The choices we make today will affect the future of generations to come. The Arms Control Association is a small organization but has an impact disproportionate to our size, and we depend on the generous support of concerned people like you.

Your gift enables ACA to deliver authoritative research and practical policy recommendations to address the threats posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Please donate today with a sustaining monthly contribution of any amount that suits your budget. And for more information on other ways to help, including planned gifts, please visit ArmsControl.org/Give.

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