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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

January/February 2019

Arms Control Today January/February 2019

Edition Date: 
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Cover Image: 

After the INF Treaty, What Is Next?

U.S. and Russia trade blame as they look to develop new weapons systems.


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

If the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty collapses in 2019, the United States, key U.S. allies, and Russia will face critical questions of how to respond, including whether to develop and deploy new intermediate-range missile systems and whether to seek restraint measures to prevent a renewed missile race in Europe and beyond.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on the screen during an annual meeting with high-ranking military officers on December 18, 2018 in Moscow. Putin told them that if the United States “breaks the [INF] treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” (Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)Washington and Moscow have not shown a willingness to go the extra mile to resolve their years-long INF Treaty compliance dispute, as the clock runs down on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Dec. 4 ultimatum, under which Russia has 60 days to return to “full and verifiable compliance” or the United States will suspend its obligations and issue a formal notice of its intent to withdraw from the treaty.

Rather, each side has been laying the groundwork to blame the other for the treaty’s demise and, in that case, to advance new weapons systems.

At the direction of Congress, the Defense Department began early research and development activities on concepts and options for conventional, intermediate-range missile systems in late 2017. If the administration moves to withdraw from the treaty, it could ramp up funding to accelerate development.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Dec. 18 that if the United States “breaks the treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” He further warned that Russia could easily conduct research to put air- and sea-launched cruise missile systems “on the ground, if need be.”

Since 2014, Washington has accused Moscow of violating its commitment not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) having a range prohibited under the INF Treaty. The Trump administration later identified the missile as the 9M729. In 2017 the Pentagon alleged that Russia began fielding the missile.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in November that Russia has “fielded multiple battalions of 9M729 missiles, which pose a direct conventional and nuclear threat against most of Europe and parts of Asia.”

Moscow has denied these charges and accused the United States of violating the treaty, most notably by deploying missile defense interceptor platforms in eastern Europe that Russia claims could be used for offensive purposes.

“If Russia admits its violations and fully and verifiably comes back into compliance, we will, of course, welcome that course of action,” Pompeo said at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Dec. 4. “But Russia, and Russia only, can take this step.”

The impasse is complicated by the fact that neither President Donald Trump, Pompeo, nor any other administration official has publicly acknowledged as legitimate Russia’s concerns about U.S. compliance or suggested that Washington would be willing to engage in talks that address the concerns of both sides.

Pompeo also cited China, which is not a party to the treaty, as a reason why the agreement no longer makes sense for the United States. This suggests the administration sees benefits to withdrawal from the treaty beyond its concerns about Russia’s noncompliance.

“There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China,” Pompeo declared, “in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.”

For its part, Russia continues to deny that the 9M729 violates the treaty while suggesting that it remains open to dialogue. But Russia does not appear to have tabled any specific proposals to address the U.S. and Russian concerns and rather has ramped up public statements blaming the United States.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in a Dec. 19 interview with Kommersant that U.S. officials made it clear to Russia that Trump’s announcement in October that he intended to “terminate” the treaty was “final and is not ‘an invitation for dialogue.’”

Although Russia has open production lines for the 9M729, the United States is still in the early stages of development of a treaty-busting missile. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required “a program of record to develop a conventional road-mobile [GLCM] system with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers,” including research and development activities. (See ACT, December 2017.)

The law also required “a report on the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, modifying United States missile systems in existence or planned as of such date of enactment for ground launch with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers as compared with the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, developing a new ground-launched missile using new technology with the same range.” Such existing and planned systems include the Tomahawk cruise missile, the Standard Missile-3 anti-missile interceptor, the long-range standoff weapon, and the Army tactical missile system.

As of the end of 2018, the Pentagon had yet to submit this report.

The Defense Department requested and Congress approved $48 million in fiscal year 2019 for R&D on and concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Prior to the conclusion of the INF Treaty in 1987, the United States deployed several hundred nuclear-armed, intermediate-range Pershing II ballistic missiles and GLCMs in Europe, the latter of which were an adaption of the Tomahawk. The Pentagon spent $2.6 billion, in fiscal year 1987 dollars, to develop and procure 247 Pershing II missiles and associated launchers and $3.5 billion to develop and procure 442 GLCMs through fiscal year 1987, according to a 1988 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

Yet, the cost today to develop a new ballistic missile system would be higher given that several decades have passed since the development of the Pershing II. In addition, the range of the new missile would likely need to be much greater than the 1,800-kilometer range of the Pershing II to have any utility against China in the Pacific region.

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in March 2017 that “there are no military requirements we cannot currently satisfy due to our compliance with the INF Treaty.” But a U.S. withdrawal could lead to the establishment of a new military requirement and accelerated efforts to develop ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles.

Even if the United States were to develop the weapons, they would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia and China. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles.

At an event in Washington on Dec. 14, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that the Pentagon should rapidly develop new intermediate-range missiles despite uncertainty about where they could be fielded. “Basing questions can obviously be controversial, but that will be a decision to be made for the future,” he said.

The collapse of the INF Treaty also raises questions about how to prevent the buildup of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia.

Russia approached the United States in 2007 and the two sides then jointly proposed in a UN General Assembly resolution to multilateralize the INF Treaty. The idea of multilateralizing the treaty has been around for more than a decade, but neither Moscow nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept, and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would require eliminating the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Other options that might be pursued include a pledge from the United States and Russia not to be the first to deploy intermediate-range missile systems anywhere in or within range of NATO members in Europe, limiting the number of intermediate-range missiles instead of banning them completely, and prohibiting nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

 

U.S. Counts Down to Quitting INF Treaty

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a 60-day countdown to notification of U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia during a Dec. 4 press conference, drawing warnings from Russian officials and criticism from congressional Democrats.

Administration officials rolled out the U.S. case supporting President Donald Trump’s decision to “terminate” the 1987 treaty after five years of unresolved U.S. complaints that Russia’s 9M729 missile violates the INF Treaty’s range restrictions. Russian officials now acknowledge the missile exists, but deny that it has been tested at or is able to fly at treaty-prohibited ranges.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, at a Nov. 30 news briefing, said that Russia’s noncompliance stems from having first conducted legally allowable tests of the 9M729 from a fixed launcher at a range well beyond 500 kilometers followed by tests from a mobile launcher at a range of less than 500 kilometers. Taken together, however, the tests show Russia has developed and fielded an INF Treaty-noncompliant missile that could be launched from a ground-mobile platform.

Coats’ briefing provided the public foundation for Pompeo’s announcement on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend treaty obligations after 60 days unless Russia returns to “full and verifiable compliance.”

Pompeo indicated that the administration would issue a formal notice of withdrawal at the end of the 60 days, which would begin a six-month withdrawal period under the treaty. The 60-day waiting period was largely attributed to the request of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Pompeo sought to respond to criticism that Trump’s decision was hasty, noting that the United States had raised the issue of Russian noncompliance “on at least 30 occasions” since 2013. Abiding by the INF Treaty constraints, which Russia is violating and which do not bind U.S. adversaries such as China, means the United States will “get cheated by other nations, expose Americans to greater risk, and squander our credibility,” he said.

Although the U.S. move worries European allies, Pompeo succeeded in having the NATO foreign ministers for the first time publicly back the U.S. conclusion that Russia is violating the INF Treaty. “It is now up to Russia to preserve the treaty,” they said in a Dec. 4 statement that did not include an endorsement of Pompeo’s ultimatum.

In response to U.S. and NATO statements, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Moscow would respond “accordingly” to a U.S. withdrawal. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Russian military chief of staff, reportedly warned European officials that U.S. missile defense sites on allied territory could become “targets of subsequent military exchanges.”

Since then, Russian Foreign Ministry officials have raised the prospect of mutual inspections to address Russian allegations of U.S. noncompliance with respect to the Mk-41 U.S. missile defense launch system in Europe, which can also be used to fire cruise missiles.

Russian media reported there was no U.S. response after Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu, in several messages sent to the U.S. embassy in Moscow, suggested holding discussions with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Any prospective movement on such a high-level military-to-military dialogue is uncertain given Mattis’ protest resignation following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and to reduce their numbers in Afghanistan.

At the United Nations, Russia sought General Assembly approval of a resolution calling on states-parties to renew their efforts to preserve and strengthen the INF Treaty through “full and strict compliance,” continue consultations on compliance with treaty obligations, and resume a “constructive dialogue on strategic issues premised on openness, mutual confidence and real opportunities.” The resolution failed on Dec. 21 by a vote of 43–46, with 78 abstaining.

Meanwhile, congressional reaction to Trump’s withdrawal plan was divided along partisan lines.

On the Republican side, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) led a Nov. 29 letter to Trump signed by more than 40 House Republicans commending the decision to withdraw, and Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) led 24 other Republican senators in a Nov. 28 letter to Trump against extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because of Russia’s INF Treaty noncompliance.

Among Democrats, 26 senators, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) called on the president in a Dec. 13 letter to redouble diplomatic efforts to salvage the treaty. In a Dec. 3 letter, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jack Reed (R.I.), and Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking members of the foreign relations, armed services, and intelligence committees, respectively, urged Trump to engage with Congress on the implications of withdrawal before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the treaty.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: January 8, 2019

Stakes Grow for Possible Trump-Kim Summit

Diplomacy stalls over meaning of denuclearization as the United States and North Korea seek next steps.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

North Korea reiterated that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula must include removal of U.S. nuclear weapons in the region, a statement that underscores that diplomatic advances in 2019 will require addressing simultaneously North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its security concerns.

In an image provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers (left) talk with a South Korean soldier during mutual on-site verification of the withdrawal of guard posts along the Demilitarized Zone on December 12, 2018. The two Koreas have begun to destroy 20 guard posts along their heavily-fortified border under an agreement reached during the September 2018 Pyongyang summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  (Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)The state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Dec. 20 that denuclearization means “removing all elements of nuclear threats from the areas of both the north and the south of Korea and also from surrounding areas from where the Korean peninsula is targeted.” The United States has focused on a deal in which North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and related facilities in return for a lifting of U.S. and UN sanctions and possibly ending the Korean War.

The United States removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, but the country remains under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea and Japan. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that certain joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea would be suspended, and subsequent exercises were modified, but North Korea is still looking for the United States to take additional steps to address its security concerns.

With little negotiating progress evident in late 2018, Trump said he is in no rush for an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even though he had sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” as Pyongyang increased its nuclear and missile capabilities.

The apparent impasse increases the stakes heading to a second Trump-Kim summit, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Dec. 20 radio interview is expected “not too long after the first of the year.”

Kim, in his annual New Year’s address Jan. 1, said that he is “ready to meet the U.S. president again anytime” but that it is up to the United States to take the next steps. If the United States “responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the taking of more definite and epochal measures,” he said.

Kim warned, however, that if the United States fails to follow through, persists in imposing sanctions, and attempts to “unilaterally enforce something,” North Korea “may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Kim referenced North Korea’s decision to suspend its nuclear warhead and missile tests in 2018, which Trump frequently cites, as evidence of its commitment to denuclearization, but North Korea is thought to be increasing its stockpile of nuclear materials for warheads. As a result, time works in Pyongyang’s favor and may make a diplomatic solution more difficult.

Further, the protest resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a strong advocate of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, may raise anxieties in Seoul even as President Moon Jae-in has worked to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

That is because the Trump administration is pressing Seoul to bear more of the burden for keeping 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, leading to speculation that Trump might be willing to pull out some U.S. forces in a concession to Kim. The U.S. troops help with South Korea’s defense preparations and act as a trip wire to reassure South Koreans that the United States would engage if the North attacks.

North Korea’s Institute for American Studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated in a Dec. 17 commentary that North Korea is waiting for the United States to take action to move the process forward, arguing that Pyongyang has taken “proactive denuclearization steps” and Washington must respond in a corresponding manner.

North Korea’s expansive definition of denuclearization is not new. Pyongyang made a similar statement in July 2016 emphasizing that U.S. nuclear weapons in the region must be part of the diplomatic process.

The July 2016 statement said that “the denuclearization being called for by [North Korea] is the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in South Korea and its vicinity.”

North Korea cited five specific demands in July 2016 to remove the U.S. nuclear threat: public disclosure of U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, removal and verification that such weapons are not present on U.S. bases in South Korea, U.S. guarantees that it will not redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, U.S. assurances that it will not threaten or conduct a nuclear strike on North Korea, and withdrawal from South Korea of U.S. troops authorized to use nuclear weapons.

This list might provide insight as to what Pyongyang will be wanting from Washington if talks progress.

It was also clear after Trump and Kim met in Singapore in June that Washington and Pyongyang do not share the same definition of denuclearization, which many experts predicted could complicate negotiations.

At a July hearing held by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo was pressed on whether the two countries agree on what constitutes the Singapore summit’s commitment to pursue denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Pompeo said that the United States shared its definition with Pyongyang and that North Korea “understands” U.S. expectations for what that process will accomplish, but he would not confirm that North Korea agreed with the U.S. terms.

North Korea may be emphasizing its definition of denuclearization to influence the diplomatic process going forward.

Since the June summit in Singapore, negotiations between the United States and North Korea have failed to gain traction. Initially, the U.S. insistence that Pyongyang complete denuclearization before any U.S. concessions on sanctions or an end of the Korean War appeared to stymie progress, as North Korea insisted on a step-by-step approach with each side taking reciprocal actions.

North Korea’s Dec. 20 commentary may be intended as a reminder that Pyongyang expects the United States to take steps that address Pyongyang’s security concerns as the country rolls back its nuclear weapons program.

The Dec. 17 commentary made a similar point, stating that the United States must realize “before it is too late” that maximum pressure will not work and Washington should take a “sincere approach to implementing” the Singapore statement.

Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang in November initially appeared to reinvigorate the process when the two sides agreed to more regular contacts and the establishment of working groups, but there has been little evidence that these developments are being realized. Still, Pompeo described the negotiations thus far as a “great process” in a Dec. 21 interview with NPR.

Although the announcement of working groups meeting regularly would be a step forward in establishing a process for negotiations to proceed, commentary from North Korea suggests that Pyongyang may prefer to deal directly with Trump.

The Dec. 17 statement said that Trump “avails himself of every possible occasion to state his willingness to improve [North Korean-U.S.] relations” and targeted the U.S. State Department as “bent on bringing” the relationship between the United States and North Korea “back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire.”

 

Posted: January 8, 2019

Smith, Inhofe Clash on Nukes

Empowered House Democrats will challenge priorities favored by Senate Republicans.


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

The incoming chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees ended 2018 by trading blows on nuclear weapons policy, presaging what is poised to be a contentious fight between Democrats and Republicans on the issue during the 116th Congress.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) speaks to reporters about the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act on Capitol Hill July 11, 2018, as Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) looks on. In the new Congress, Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Smith is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has long maintained that the United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs for its security and can reasonably afford. This has raised the ire of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has expressed strong support for the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) report and its emphasis on augmenting the role of nuclear weapons and developing new nuclear capabilities. (See ACT, March 2018.)

At a November event in Washington hosted by Ploughshares Fund, Smith called for putting U.S. nuclear policy on a different path by reducing the size and cost of the arsenal, renegotiating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), adopting a no-first-use policy, and forswearing new, low-yield nuclear weapons.

President Donald Trump has declared his intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty in February if Russia does not return to compliance with the agreement and has yet to decide whether to extend New START by up to five years as allowed by the treaty.

In response to Smith’s comments, Inhofe told reporters that rebuilding the nuclear arsenal “is the most important area of” upgrading the military.

“I don’t know why Smith or anyone else would single out nuclear modernization as an area to cut,” Inhofe said. “That allows someone who’s not otherwise a formidable opponent to destroy the United States of America.”

Smith quickly fired back, lamenting “that Senator Inhofe seems to want to…publicly question my intelligence and publicly question my ability to adequately lead the committee.”

As a result of the midterm elections on Nov. 6, Democrats gained 40 seats and retook control of the House of Representatives. As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Smith will have a platform to conduct aggressive oversight of the Trump administration’s nuclear policy and spending proposals, especially through the annual national defense authorization process.

The annual bill, which has been passed and enacted each year for 58 years in a row, establishes spending ceilings and legal guidelines for Defense Department programs and the activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Smith has indicated that he plans to oppose continued funding to develop and field the two new, low-yield nuclear capabilities proposed by the NPR report. Those are a low-yield warhead option for submarine-launched ballistic missiles and a new sea-launched cruise missile.

In addition, Smith appears likely to question the rationale for developing new fleets of nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) and intercontinental ballistic missiles and expanding the NNSA’s capability to develop new nuclear warheads.

Such actions by Smith would set up a clash with the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee, which will strongly support the Trump plans under Inhofe.

Although Smith and Inhofe will have considerable say over the direction of U.S. nuclear policy, congressional appropriators wield the most power over funding decisions.

During the first two years of the Trump administration, not only has the Republican-controlled Congress backed the administration’s hefty budget requests for nuclear modernization, but in some cases it has increased funding above the requested levels. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Congress largely supported the Obama administration’s spending plans as well, but not without controversy. For example, the Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee sought to scale back NNSA plans for the B61 mod 12 life extension program (LEP) in 2013 and block funding for the W80-4 ALCM warhead LEP in 2014. Both efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

While Smith and Inhofe were drawing their own personal battle lines, other lawmakers closed out 2018 by issuing additional partisan salvos in response to the Trump administration’s NPR and intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

In a Nov. 29 letter led by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), 25 Republican senators urged Trump to think twice before supporting an extension of New START due to Russia’s violation of several international agreements, the imbalance posed by Russia’s development and modernization of nuclear capabilities unlimited by arms control agreements, and the growth of China’s nuclear arsenal. The letter added “that continued funding of the U.S. strategic modernization program, including for low-yield warhead options, as proposed in your [NPR], is critical in the face of dangerous international security developments since the New START was ratified.”

Two weeks later, on Dec. 13, 26 Democratic senators called on the president to address Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty instead of unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement and for him to extend New START.

“A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970,” the letter said.

The Democratic senators added that the administration’s “proposed new types of nuclear weapons threaten the bipartisan consensus that investments in the U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent and supporting infrastructure must be accompanied by pursuit of continued arms control measures.”

 

 

 

Posted: January 8, 2019

Russia Blocks Consensus at CWC Conference

Tensions are evident over international efforts to investigate chemical weapons use in Syria.


January/February 2019
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

When states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) gathered in The Hague in late November to review the treaty, their work to uphold the norm against chemical weapons amid repeated use in Syria was challenged by a country that had played a leading role in negotiating the accord.

A sign points the way for delegates to the Chemical Weapons Convention conference sessions at The Hague in November 2018. (Photo: Alicia Sanders-Zakre/Arms Control Association)Russia, now seeking to cover for a Middle Eastern ally, tried largely unsuccessfully to thwart international efforts to investigate chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime. Moscow’s actions defied the international consensus that has undergirded the legal prohibitions on the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons.

Together with the United States, Russia had worked to secure the adoption of the 1997 chemical weapons ban and for many years played a constructive role in upholding the treaty. In 2013, Russia forged a deal to eliminate more than 1,300 metric tons of Syrian chemical weapons. In 2015 it agreed to a United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to investigate chemical weapons users in Syria.

Over the past several years, however, Russian behavior regarding chemical weapons shifted dramatically. In March, Russia blatantly violated the convention by using a nerve agent in the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom. (See ACT, April 2018.)

It has also worked more subtly to weaken or eliminate the chemical weapons investigations it had once helped to construct. In November 2017, Russia vetoed the extension of the JIM mandate. (See ACT, December 2017.) Russia had increasingly belittled the reports that found that the Syrian military uses chemical weapons against rebels and civilians.

With Russia exercising its Security Council veto to block efforts to restart investigations, a special session of CWC states-parties sought to get around Russia by voting in June 2018 to create a new investigative body through the OPCW. (See ACT, July/August 2018.)

The dispute spilled over to the sessions of the CWC annual conference of states-parties and the five-year review conference held Nov. 21–30, where Russia sought to obstruct implementation of the June decision.

At the start of the conference, Russia, joined by China, introduced a draft decision that would have postponed the beginning of investigations until after an open-ended working group had reviewed the decision to start investigations. The Russian effort failed by a vote of 82–30.

Russia and Iran then fought to amend and vote down the 2019 OPCW program and budget. The program and budget is typically agreed by consensus in the OPCW Executive Council meeting preceding the conference of states-parties.

This year, however, Russia refused to accept the proposed budget that included funding for an investigative mechanism to attribute chemical weapons attacks, and so the budget was brought to a vote at the conference. The budget passed by a vote of 99 to 27, after rejections of Russian and Iranian amendments that would have gutted the budget’s allocated funds for the investigations.

States-parties did succeed in adopting a final conference report, but only after a delay due to difficulty in agreeing on final report language. As a result of the dispute, however, states-parties for the first time in CWC history failed to reach consensus on a final document at the subsequent treaty review conference.

Russia’s success in blocking a consensus review conference document and forcing the OPCW budget to a vote undercut what was otherwise near-universal international support for the norms represented by the CWC.

“We should be under no illusion as to why we have not reached consensus,” the United Kingdom said in a statement Nov. 30. “A very small minority who have used, or defended those that use, chemical weapons have obstructed our efforts.”

For its part, Russia accused the West of breaking consensus. Russia has repeatedly denied that it is seeking to obstruct the chemical weapons ban. “Our critics may rest easy: we are not trying to ‘kill’ the budget of the organization thus paralyzing the implementation of the tasks of the convention. Quite the opposite: we are trying to find the only possible consensus-based variant of the budget,” Georgy Kalamanov, Russian deputy minister of industry and trade, told the conference of states-parties on Nov. 19.

Some analysts now wonder what Russia’s next move will be to undermine the new investigative body, which it has repeatedly characterized as “illegitimate.” Jean Pascal Zanders, an independent disarmament researcher who runs The Trench website, told Arms Control Today in a Dec. 17 interview that Russian and Syrian actions immediately following the approval of the OPCW budget could be indicative of their future strategy.

On Nov. 24, Russia and Syria announced a chlorine gas attack that it attributed to rebel groups in northwestern Aleppo, which analysts and Western governments have since denounced as staged or inaccurate. Syria formally requested that the OPCW investigate the attack.

“It is likely that this was either a staged incident intended to frame the opposition, or an operation which went wrong and from which Russia and the regime sought to take advantage,” the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote in a press release on Dec. 7. The United States alleged in a State Department press release on the same day that Syrian and Russian personnel likely used tear gas against civilians on Nov. 24. Local reports have not shown any indication of chlorine gas, Zanders said.

Furthermore, the United States expressed concern that Syrian forces retained control of the site where the attack occurred, “allowing them to potentially fabricate samples and contaminate the site before a proper investigation” by the OPCW.

Russia and Syria have failed to block investigations, but they could attempt to prevent investigations from operating effectively, by actions such as seeking to waste limited OPCW resources with investigations of staged incidents or providing tampered evidence to investigators. “You can see how this is a trap that could be sprung,” said Zanders.

 

Posted: January 8, 2019

BWC Meeting Stumbles Over Money, Politics

States-parties to the Biological Weapons Convention agree on a financial fix, but little else.


January/February 2019
By Jenifer Mackby

States-parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), facing cancellation of meetings due to longstanding financial arrears by some member countries, achieved agreement on a funding mechanism that will allow them to meet and to continue paying the accord’s small secretariat staff.

Medical workers disinfect the coffin of a suspected Ebola victim on August 13, 2018, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In December, delegates to the Biological Weapons Convention conference in Geneva considered how to improve international measures against diseases such as Ebola, misuse of scientific advances such as gene editing, and possible covert bioweapons programs. (Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)Delegates attending the meeting of states-parties in Geneva on Dec. 4–7 established a working capital fund, financed by voluntary contributions, to provide short-term financing pending receipt of contributions from member countries.

Yet, despite the broad support for outcomes from the BWC experts meeting held in August, delegates did not reach consensus on measures proposed by the experts to strengthen the convention. Many delegations blamed Iran, supported by Venezuela and a few others, for the lack of consensus. There was also evident tension between the United States and Russia.

The annual meetings of experts and of states-parties will provide further opportunities for consideration of measures to strengthen the convention prior to the BWC ninth review conference in 2021.

In Geneva, one day was cut from the December meeting’s planned four-day schedule due to lack of funding. The financial problems of the BWC, which outlaws biological arms, stem from some states being years late in annual payments and from slow payment by many other states, as well as from UN financial rules and practices. The United Nations now stringently requires that funding for meetings and staff contracts be received before spending is committed, rather than anticipating that funds will cover expenses as states pay later in the year, as had been the practice.

Although a number of states-parties are in arrears, five of them—Brazil, Venezuela, Nigeria, Libya, and Argentina, in descending order of arrearages—account for more than three-quarters of the debt. This produced tensions in the meetings, as the nonpayers were seen to be jeopardizing the efforts of the majority who meet their financial commitments.

In the report of the Geneva meeting, states-parties in arrears were requested to pay outstanding amounts, and all parties were urged to pay invoices more quickly. The working capital fund is expected to enable the BWC to hold meetings and to provide the secretariat staff, known as the Implementation Support Unit, with one-year contracts rather than the current shorter-term contracts.

Nevertheless, the accumulated deficit may force some curtailment of BWC meetings planned for this year.

A number of substantive topics were discussed in Geneva. For example, Russia and the United Kingdom presented a working paper and side event recommending ideas on how to respond following a BWC violation and request for assistance. Such support would include measures such as well-equipped, on-call response teams and mobile diagnostic laboratory capabilities.

France and India proposed a database that, if a state-party were exposed to danger from a violation, would match requests for assistance with offers of help such as specific expertise; protection, detection, decontamination assistance; and provision of medical and other equipment.

India and the United States authored a paper suggesting ways to strengthen national implementation measures with appropriate legislative, regulatory, and administrative provisions; national export controls that would penalize offenders; a list of items requiring authorization before export; and cooperative training and capacity-building activities.

A Chinese initiative on a code of conduct continued to interest many states-parties, while Kazakhstan presented a working paper about a seminar it held in October on national implementation measures, cooperation, and assistance.

The BWC has gained 17 states-parties since 2012, bringing the total to 182. However, there are still 10 nonsignatory states, and five signatories that have not ratified the convention. Of particular concern to many experts are countries in the Middle East: Israel has not signed, and Syria and Egypt have not ratified
the convention.

The BWC faces evolving challenges that include scientific advances, such as gene editing, that raise new dangers if abused, while many countries believe that more should be done to improve protections against threats from naturally occurring diseases, such as Ebola, from possible covert state biological weapons programs and from terrorist groups seeking biological weapons.

In addition to the worsening relations between Russia and the United States outside of the BWC context, the two countries have traded accusations of noncompliance with the convention. The U.S. State Department 2018 report on compliance stated that Russia’s annual BWC submissions “have not satisfactorily documented whether its bioweapons program was completely destroyed or diverted to peaceful purposes.”

For its part, Russia has questioned the presence of U.S. Defense Department personnel at public health laboratories in former Soviet states, in particular at the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Georgia. Russia suggested that this center and others were producing biological weapons. In November 2018, Georgia hosted a group of international experts for a “transparency visit” to the Lugar Center to dispel Russian allegations. Such on-site visits are seen to enhance confidence in compliance. Russia and the United States have also traded charges recently at meetings of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

At the outset of the Geneva meeting, the United States refused to accept Venezuela as a vice-chair because of its humanitarian, economic and political crisis, in addition to its non-payment of dues to the BWC. As a result, the meeting proceeded “on an exceptional basis” without any vice-chairs. This upset Venezuela and a number of members of the Non-Aligned Movement. In addition, the United States challenged the status of the “State of Palestine” as a BWC state-party.

A Dec. 5 statement endorsed by 15 nongovernmental organizations and 27 individuals warned that the BWC is “in a precarious state” due to the financial and political issues. Nevertheless, the group noted the substantive discussions held at the 2018 BWC experts meeting and said that states should focus on governance mechanisms to prevent scientific advances that could undermine the norm against biological weapons.
 

(Article has been corrected to remove a reference to Venezuela as a "rogue state.")

Posted: January 8, 2019

U.S., Iran Spar Over Ballistic Missiles

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuses Tehran of being in “open defiance” of Security Council resolution.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States and Iran sparred at the UN Security Council last month over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and allegations that Iran is violating UN restrictions on missile activities.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chats with Karen Pierce, UK permanent representative of to the UN, during the Security Council meeting on Iran held December 12, 2018. (Photo: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)The dispute at the Dec. 12 council meeting came as the United States is ratcheting up its rhetoric on the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program and seeking support for more stringent restrictions. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the council session that the United States will “continue to be relentless in building a coalition of responsible nations who are serious in confronting the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity.”

The meeting focused on a biannual report from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and put in place restrictions on the country’s ballistic missile and conventional arms activities. Ballistic missiles and conventional arms are not covered by the Iran nuclear deal.

“No nation can dispute that Iran is in open defiance” of Resolution 2231, Pompeo said.

The report, released Dec. 8, did not definitively conclude that Tehran violated UN provisions prohibiting the transfer of ballistic missiles, but it included evidence that missiles used by Houthi fighters in Yemen originated in Iran.

Debris from missiles that landed in Saudi Arabia bore features similar to Iranian ballistic missiles, the report said, and noted that the UN Secretariat would continue to try and determine if the systems were transferred before or after the council resolution entered into force in January 2016.

Pompeo said the United States has “hard evidence that Iran is providing missiles, training, and support” for the Houthis and transferring ballistic missiles to Shia militias in Iraq. He called on the Security Council to “establish inspection and interdiction measures” to “thwart Iran’s continuing efforts to circumvent” UN restrictions.

Iran, although not a member of the Security Council, was permitted to speak at the meeting. Eshagh Al Habib, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said Iran faces real threats and “will not and cannot compromise on its security and its conventional defensive capability.”

He also said the United States is in violation of Resolution 2231 by withdrawing from the nuclear deal and “punishing” states for supporting the resolution.

Resolution 2231 calls on all UN member states to support implementation of the nuclear deal and refrain from actions that undermine it. As a result of U.S. sanctions, foreign entities have pulled out of the Iranian market.

The report did not describe the U.S. reimposition of sanctions as a violation of Resolution 2231, but Guterres said that U.S. actions “do not advance the goals set out” in the resolution and expressed regret over the Trump administration’s actions.

The report detailed the dispute over whether Iran’s ballistic missile testing and use of ballistic missiles violated Resolution 2231, which also calls on Iran to refrain from developing ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The resolution language on missile development is nonbinding, and there are different interpretations of what “designed to be nuclear capable” means. The Dec. 8 report quoted a letter from Iran arguing that there is no evidence that Iran’s ballistic missiles possess the necessary features for delivering nuclear weapons and the resolution does not prohibit Iran from pursing its ballistic missile program.

In a Nov. 20 letter to Guterres, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany described ballistic missiles fired by Iran into Syria in October as “inherently capable of [the] delivery [of] nuclear weapons.” The three countries did not describe the action as a violation of Resolution 2231, but said it constituted “an activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” saying it was “destabilizing and increased regional tensions.”

Iran acknowledged targeting terrorists in Syria that Tehran says were linked to an attack in Iran and argued that it was acting in “legitimate self-defense” recognized by the UN Charter.

Pompeo said the United States would work with other states to bring back more stringent restrictions on Iranian ballistic missiles, similar to those adopted by the Security Council in Resolution 1929 in 2010. That required Iran to halt development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which is commonly understood to include systems capable of delivering a 500 kilogram nuclear warhead a distance greater than 300 kilometers.

The restrictions in Resolution 1929 were superseded by Resolution 2231, but could be snapped back into place if one of the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States) overturns Resolution 2231. Pompeo did not indicate that the United States is planning to take that step at this time.

 

EU Advances Payment Channel for Iran

The European Union is making progress on an alternative payment channel for doing business with Iran, but the so-called special purpose vehicle will likely be limited to humanitarian transactions exempt from U.S. sanctions.

France and Germany reportedly have agreed to host the special purpose vehicle and are aiming to have it set up by early this year.

An alternative payment mechanism is necessary because U.S. sanctions, reimposed after President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, target Iranian banks and foreign financial institutions that facilitate financial transactions with Iran.

In September, the EU and Iran announced that they would set up the alternative payment mechanism, which is designed to preserve legitimate trade by setting up a barter-like system for entitles importing and exporting goods to Iran. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini initially said the special purpose vehicle would be designed to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran permitted by the 2015 nuclear deal, including payments for oil.

European officials have since indicated that the scope of the mechanism will be reduced to cover humanitarian trade exempt from U.S. sanctions, such as food and medicine. Despite the U.S. sanctions exemptions for humanitarian goods, it is difficult to find financial entities willing to process the transactions.

Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, rejected the idea that the special purpose vehicle will be limited to medicine and food. The mechanism “must cover a range of transactions and economic and industrial cooperation,” he said Dec. 17.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Dec. 12 that the United States will examine the payment mechanism when it is set up. The United States will not pursue sanctions penalties for activities consistent with humanitarian exemptions, but “to the extent that there are violations of our sanctions, we intend to enforce them with great rigor against any party who is a participant in those violations,” he said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a Dec. 8 report on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called on all states to support it, that he welcomes “initiatives to protect the freedom” of entities pursing “legitimate business” with Iran.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: January 8, 2019

U.S. Conducts Special Open Skies Flight

Treaty dispute with Russia grounded routine transparency overflights last year.


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

The United States and several allies on Dec. 6 conducted an “extraordinary flight” over eastern Ukraine under the Open Skies Treaty, the first and only treaty flight worldwide during 2018.

A U.S. Air Force OC-135B Open Skies aircraft parked on a ramp at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., September 14, 2018. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)The flight followed a Russian attack in late November on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea and as Ukraine said Russia has been increasing its forces near its border with Ukraine.

The U.S. Defense Department said U.S., Canadian, French, German, Romanian, UK, and Ukrainian observers were aboard the OC-135B aircraft during the observation flight, which was requested by Ukraine.

“The timing of this flight is intended to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Ukraine and other partner nations,” the Defense Department said in a Dec. 6 news release.

“Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait is a dangerous escalation in a pattern of increasingly provocative and threatening activity,” the statement added.

The treaty, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states-parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency of military activities, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants for information-gathering purposes. The parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all treaty parties.

For example, the treaty permits up to 42 overflights of Russia by states-parties, of which 16 can be flown by the United States.

A dispute between Georgia and Russia over the inclusion of Russian observers on treaty flights over Georgia prevented agreement on quotas for 2018, thereby freezing flights for all member states.

But the treaty includes a provision allowing for two states-parties “on a bilateral and voluntary basis to conduct observation flights over the territory of each other.” The last such extraordinary observation flight over Ukraine took place in 2014 as part of the U.S. response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Normal flights appear set to resume in 2019. States-parties at an Oct. 22 meeting of the Open Skies Consultative Commission, the treaty’s implementing body, agreed to active quotas for observation flights this year.

In recent years, disputes over implementation and concerns from some U.S. officials and lawmakers about the value of the treaty have threatened to derail the pact.

The agreement on quotas for 2019 followed a U.S. decision in September not to certify a new Russian aircraft outfitted with an upgraded digital electro-optical camera for flights under the treaty, a decision that was reversed several days later. (See ACT, October 2018.)

Washington for several years has raised numerous concerns about Russian compliance with the pact. The State Department’s annual compliance report released in April determined that Russia is violating the treaty by restricting observation flights over Kaliningrad, which is a sensitive Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, to no more than 500 kilometers, and within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The United States said the 500-kilometer restriction is about half the distance needed to fully cover Kaliningrad and, in response, has placed restrictions on some of Russia’s treaty flights.

Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sept. 18 that “recently Russia has resolved one violation of its obligations and has made overtures that suggest it could resolve another.” But she added that Russia had refused to address the violation related to Kaliningrad.

The Open Skies Treaty has also become a point of contention in Congress. (See ACT, July/August 2018.)

The fiscal year 2019 defense authorization act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, waters down language in the original U.S. House of Representatives version of the bill that would have blocked the Air Force’s budget request to replace the aircraft that the United States uses to conduct Open Skies Treaty flights, including over Russia. Instead, the law conditions funding necessary to acquire an upgraded digital imaging system for treaty flights and implement certain decisions of the treaty’s implementing body.

Posted: January 8, 2019

Senate Bucks Trump’s Saudi Approach

Saudi Arabia faces repercussions due to its murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the civilian casualties from its war in Yemen.


January/February 2019
By Jeff Abramson

The U.S. Senate passed resolutions last month sharply critical of ally Saudi Arabia and of the U.S. military role supporting the Saudi war in Yemen, signaling that arms sales to Riyadh will be controversial even as President Donald Trump insisted that they should not be affected by Saudi behavior.

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander, U.S. Central Command, welcomes Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi ambassador to the United States, at USCENTCOM headquarters, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., on July 31, 2018. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)The Senate action on Dec. 13 took the rare path of invoking the 1973 War Powers Act and directed the president to remove U.S. forces not directly engaged in Yemen with al Qaeda and associated groups. The resolution cited aerial refueling, intelligence sharing, and targeting assistance provided to Saudi-led forces.

Actions by coalition partners, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have contributed to civilian deaths and worsened a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where a fragile, limited ceasefire was negotiated in mid-December.

The resolution is not binding without a concurring House resolution. But co-sponsor Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the vote was significant because it shows that “Congress has woken up
to the reality that the Saudi-led coalition is using U.S. military support to kill thousands of civilians, bomb hospitals, block humanitarian aid, and arm radical militias.”

The Senate resolution was originally introduced in February by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and co-sponsored by Murphy and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). An attempt to force a vote on the resolution failed in March when 44 senators sought to move it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (See ACT, April 2018.) In November, 63 senators voted to move it to full Senate consideration. Ultimately, 56 voted to approve it, including all 47 Democrats, seven Republicans, and independents Sanders and Angus King (Maine).

The resolution is expected to have enough support to pass in the new Senate even with Republicans picking
up a small number of seats in the November elections.

New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was one of 101 co-sponsors on the version introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) in September, but she has not indicated when the House may take up the issue. A provision included in the House version of the farm bill, around the time the Senate was taking up the measure, prevented consideration of it in the last days of the previous Congress.

The controversial killing of dissident journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey in early October was a spur to congressional action. Shortly after the war powers resolution passed, the Senate approved by voice vote a resolution stating that the Senate “believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder,” a claim reportedly backed by U.S. intelligence assessments even as Trump said on Nov. 20 that “maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.”

Trump also argued that U.S. arms sales should not be curtailed, frequently citing the economic importance of the $110 billion in Saudi arms sales he announced in 2017. (See ACT, November 2018; June 2017.) But only about a quarter of those notional agreements have been concluded.

According to news reports, the Saudis signed a letter of offer and acceptance in late November for the largest portion so far, a $15 billion deal for seven Terminal High Altitude Area Defense radar systems and 44 launchers, which is the same number of systems that the United States currently deploys. That potential sale had been notified to Congress in October 2017.

No new arms sales to the country via the government-to-government foreign military sales process have been officially notified to Congress since April. In June, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, effectively placed a hold on the sale of precision-guided munition kits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before they were publicly notified.

In explaining his December war powers vote, Menendez argued that the Trump administration view of the U.S.-Saudi relationship was “unhinged” in thinking that “selling weapons to the Saudis was more important than America’s enduring commitment to human rights, democratic values, and international norms.”

Posted: January 8, 2019

U.S. Sets Strategy Against WMD Terrorism

New report shows continuity with past administrations.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The Trump administration released a national strategy for countering terrorists’ efforts to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in an attack against the United States.

Members of a U.S. Army and New Jersey National Guard Joint Hazard Assessment Team (JHAT) perform a protective WMD sweep of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., May 4, 2018. (Photo: New Jersey National Guard)The U.S. strategy document, released in December, addresses three main elements to prevent terrorists from using chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological devices: efforts to reduce terrorists’ access to WMD materials globally, pressure on terrorist groups that seek to obtain these weapons, and plans for strengthening U.S. defenses against WMD threats.

But the report says that there are no surefire defenses, and it provides what could be pre-emptive political cover in the event there is a WMD-terrorism attack.

“Despite our technological and military advantages, we cannot eliminate all pathways for terrorists to conduct a WMD attack against the United States and its interests,” the report concludes. “Nonetheless, we can significantly reduce the probability and consequences of such attacks.”

The strategy builds on a number of existing efforts started under the Bush and Obama administrations to prevent WMD terrorism, particularly in efforts to minimize access to necessary materials and technologies. Although President Donald Trump frequently has belittled U.S. alliances, his introduction to the report stresses the need to advance “enhanced partnerships with our allies and partners worldwide” to prevent WMD terrorism.

The strategy calls for prioritizing disposition of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide that “pose the highest risk for terrorist acquisition” and minimizing the use of “highly-attractive” materials in civil programs. This objective continues priorities from the nuclear security summits held biannually from 2010 to 2016, which sought agreement on actions to minimize and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear materials in civilian programs.

On chemical weapons, the United States states its commitment to strengthening chemical security practices in academic and industrial institutions and says it will consider revising policies and best practices for “responsible conduct” in sciences that use materials applicable to chemical weapons development.

The strategy document also recognizes that terrorists have used chemical weapons and says the United States is exploring ways to work with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to prevent nonstate actors from pursuing chemical weapons.

To prevent diversion of biological materials for weapons, the United States says it will promote policies that reduce the risk of misuse and provide more effective oversight for dual-use research.

The strategy also includes objectives to strengthen U.S. defenses against WMD terrorism. The document notes deployed U.S. capabilities, such as technical means to detect certain weapons of mass destruction, rapid counterresponse teams, and intelligence capabilities to prevent WMD attacks, and commits the United States to strengthening its response capacity with an emphasis on minimizing casualties and helping communities recover in the event of an attack.

Better coordination of state, local, and federal efforts and empowerment of state governments also features in the strategy. The Trump administration will continue providing equipment and training to states, with the goal of creating self-sustaining capabilities, the report says.

The strategy recognizes that the threat posed by WMD terrorism will continue to evolve and be affected by technological advances. The report says that the United States will strengthen collaboration with public and private sector entities analyzing the applications of technological advancements. In particular, the report identifies artificial intelligence as “certain to produce security implications beyond our current understanding.”

The United States will also look for opportunities to leverage new technologies to counter WMD terrorism, and the strategy notes how machine learning is already being used to assist in identifying trends and providing insights.

 

Posted: January 8, 2019

Advances Made in Aegis Intercept Test

Advances Made in Aegis Intercept Test

 

In a December 11 test, the Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor successfully intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target.  (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)For the first time, the Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor successfully intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target using the ability to “engage on remote,” which allows for an earlier attempted intercept of a ballistic missile using a forward-based sensor. The Dec. 11 test occurred on the heels of another test of the interceptor on Oct. 26, which successfully intercepted a medium-range missile target using its native radar to guide the interceptor. Overall, the December test was the third successful intercept by the SM-3 Block IIA out of five total tests. Further tests of the interceptor are needed to validate its capability more fully.

The SM-3 Block IIA was intended to be deployed by 2018 at Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and later Romania under the third stage of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, a U.S. initiative backed by NATO to build ballistic missile defense sites in Europe. But that stage, which has caused tensions between the United States and Russia, has been delayed until 2020. (See ACT, April 2018.) The Japanese government also plans to construct two Aegis Ashore sites by 2023 to supplement its Patriot batteries. The SM-3 Block IIA is designed to destroy short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase and is a larger and faster version of the SM-3 Block IA and IB. It is a joint U.S.-Japanese development via Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: January 8, 2019

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