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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
January/February 2020

Arms Control Today January/February 2020

Edition Date: 
Friday, January 10, 2020
Cover Image: 

Addressing the NPT’s Midlife Crisis


January/February 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

This year, the world will mark the 75th anniversary of the catastrophic atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the indispensable but imperfect nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

A view of the UN General Assembly Hall as Taous Feroukhi of Algeria (on screen), president of the 2015 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, closed the session May 22, 2015. The month-long conference concluded without a consensus on a final document that would have established specific steps to speed nuclear disarmament, advance nonproliferation efforts, and work toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. [Photo credit: Eskinder Debebe/UN]In April, NPT states-parties will gather for a pivotal review conference to attempt to bridge growing differences over the implementation of the treaty and hammer out a plan of action to strengthen the treaty. Expectations are low amid growing global tensions, the impasse over a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction, and the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to meet their NPT Article VI obligations to end the arms race and pursue good-faith measures on disarmament.

Making matters worse, U.S. officials assert that the “acquis,” the body of previous review conference commitments, no longer applies. They also argue incorrectly that the “environment” is not right for further progress on disarmament.

The reality is that the U.S. has no coherent disarmament or nonproliferation strategy. President Donald Trump has failed to respond to Russian overtures to extend by five years the only remaining U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreement (the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)), which is due to expire in early 2021. Instead, Washington demands that an unprecedented broader agreement involving Russia and China somehow must be rapidly negotiated.

Allowing New START to expire with nothing to replace it, combined with the collapse last August of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, would open the door to unconstrained great-power nuclear competition.

Russia, meanwhile, violated the INF Treaty and, like the United States, is developing new types of nuclear weapons. China is slowly expanding and upgrading its arsenal, and relations between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are as tense as they have been in decades. In addition, the U.S. decision to violate the terms of the successful 2015 Iran nuclear deal threatens to reignite a proliferation crisis in the Middle East and foul up the review conference.

In short, the global nonproliferation system is facing a serious midlife crisis that demands much more than bland statements expressing support for the treaty and calls for a “strengthened review process.” Global support for the NPT is strong, but its long-term viability cannot be taken for granted.

Many of the world’s non-nuclear-weapon states point to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as the way forward. The TPNW reinforces the NPT, helps to stigmatize nuclear weapons, and is a necessary step toward a world without nuclear weapons. But it will not change dangerous nuclear doctrines or eliminate nuclear arsenals by itself.

The situation requires new and bolder leadership from responsible states. They must work together to build majority support for a plan of action that calls for specific, concrete steps that would advance Article VI goals and create much needed momentum for further progress on disarmament. An updated NPT review conference action plan should call for:

  • an immediate decision by the United States and Russia to extend New START by five years and commence negotiations on a follow-on agreement to achieve lower, verifiable limits on all types of nuclear warheads and delivery systems;
  • a high-level political commitment by all nuclear-armed states, including China, France, and the United Kingdom, not to increase the overall size or diversity of their nuclear arsenals;
  • an annual report by each of the nuclear-armed states on the size and composition of their deployed and nondeployed nuclear forces, as well as their fissile material stockpiles of separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium; and
  • a reiteration by all nuclear-armed states that they will maintain their de facto nuclear weapons test moratoria and take all necessary steps to facilitate the prompt entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

To help reduce the risk of nuclear war, the action plan should also demand:

  • the negotiation of legally binding negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states;
  • an end to Cold War-era “launch under attack” postures, which increase the risk of accidental nuclear war; and
  • a joint statement recognizing that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought and would produce catastrophic health and environmental effects.

Given their unhealthy fealty to the dangerous illogic of nuclear deterrence, many NPT nuclear-armed states are sure to oppose these or any new disarmament measures. Nevertheless, it is essential that the majority of the world’s NPT states-parties step forward and clearly articulate a vision that is consistent with the NPT and addresses growing nuclear dangers.

As Pope Francis said in Hiroshima in November, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral…. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act.”

This year, the world will mark the 75th anniversary of the catastrophic atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the indispensable but imperfect nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

WHAT IF NEW START EXPIRES? THREE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES:

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hold documents after signing New START on April 8, 2010. If the treaty expires in one year, the United States would lose its ability to conduct on-the-ground verification in Russia and would have reduced confidence its assessment of Russian nuclear forces. (Photo: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images)With the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is now the only remaining arms control agreement limiting at least a portion of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. New START expires on February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents. If the treaty expires without an extension or replacement, there will be no legally binding constraints on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in half a century. Although Russia has indicated its support for a clean, unconditional extension, the Trump administration remains officially undecided about whether to extend the treaty and is seeking a more comprehensive arms control agreement that includes more types of Russian weapons as well as China. Arms Control Today sought the views of experts in China, Russia, and the United States to describe today’s situation and look to the future.

 


 

A U.S. Perspective: An Interview With Admiral James Winnefeld (USN, ret.)


January/February 2020

What If New START Expires? Three National Perspectives

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hold documents after signing New START on April 8, 2010. If the treaty expires in one year, the United States would lose its ability to conduct on-the-ground verification in Russia and would have reduced confidence its assessment of Russian nuclear forces. (Photo: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images)With the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is now the only remaining arms control agreement limiting at least a portion of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. New START expires on February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents. If the treaty expires without an extension or replacement, there will be no legally binding constraints on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in half a century. Although Russia has indicated its support for a clean, unconditional extension, the Trump administration remains officially undecided about whether to extend the treaty and is seeking a more comprehensive arms control agreement that includes more types of Russian weapons as well as China. Arms Control Today sought the views of experts in China, Russia, and the United States to describe today’s situation and look to the future.

A U.S. Perspective: An Interview With Admiral James Winnefeld (USN, ret.)

Arms Control Today: The five most recent U.S. presidents negotiated agreements with Russia to control and reduce both nuclear arsenals, and only President George W. Bush negotiated an agreement that did not contain detailed verification provisions. Do you think arms control still serves an important role in curtailing threats to the United States and its allies?

Admiral James Winnefeld: Properly constructed arms control agreements serve several important purposes. The principal reason for limiting the number and type of nuclear arms and delivery vehicles in a mutually balanced and adequately transparent manner is to maintain strategic stability, which lowers the likelihood that one nation believes it could win a nuclear war. Second, all other safeguards considered, fewer nuclear weapons reduces the likelihood of accidents or proliferation. Finally, fewer strategic systems allows smaller national expenditures to defend the nation’s most vital interest, which frees those resources for other purposes.

ACT: Do you support extending New START for five years, as allowed by the treaty?

Adm. James Winnefeld, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2015. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)Winnefeld: Extending New START will bolster U.S. security while future arms control arrangements are negotiated. New START is not perfect. No treaty ever is or will be, but this treaty has served the principal purpose of arms control: maintaining strategic stability. I applaud the administration’s desire for a new treaty that would account for recent Russian activity, but it would be difficult to negotiate such a treaty today given the prevailing geopolitical environment and the U.S. and Russian domestic political environments. Extending the treaty could provide a window of opportunity in which those environments could evolve and set the conditions for a successful negotiation. It would be better for both sides to negotiate such a treaty from an existing baseline rather than in a vacuum, and we have little to lose by extending it.

To be sure, crafting a new treaty will be difficult. The U.S. team will need to negotiate from a position of strength and avoid a tendency to reveal its bottom line early or negotiate with itself. After all, a bad treaty is worse than no treaty at all. Both sides will have to account for changes that have occurred since New START was ratified, including advances made by Russia in systems not covered by the existing treaty, such as hypersonic weapons and new types of undersea weapons. The United States will need to continue developing ballistic missile defenses to counter North Korean and Iranian threats, but this remains a major irritant for Russia and is what probably stimulated their development of unorthodox systems. Russia will resist the solid verification measures needed to preclude their tendency to cheat, but just because talks will be difficult does not mean we should not try, as long as the U.S. side can maintain the discipline to negotiate a treaty that serves our nation’s interests well.

ACT: Why has the U.S. military been a strong proponent of strategic arms control, including New START? What is it about strategic offensive armaments that have led the United States and Russia, through the ups and downs in the political relationship, to continue to pursue limits on these weapons? If we have less visibility into Russia's nuclear capabilities, their force structure, and their modernization plans, which would be the case without New START, what impact could that have on U.S. military planning and spending?

Winnefeld: The U.S. military fully recognizes the benefits of well-constructed arms control treaties, for all the reasons outlined above. Moreover, the predictability provided by these treaties permits more stable defense planning, especially in an era in which defense budgets are highly unstable. Although a future treaty negotiation will be shaped by the nation’s strategic force modernization plans, the reverse is also true. For example, New START limited the number of sea-based ballistic missile launch tubes, which required the United States to decommission some existing launchers in its submarines. This limit clearly guided plans for the next generation of U.S. submarines. An absence of boundaries and transparency over Russia’s program development could lead to program disruption when a response is required by an unanticipated change in the trajectory of Russian strategic systems development.

ACT: Is there any way to replace the information gained through the “boots on the ground” inspections provided by New START if the treaty disappears? If we lose the New START verification regime, would the Pentagon and the intelligence community have to spend more on national technical means of verification to make up for this loss?

Winnefeld: Sadly, unlike the U.S. security culture of strict compliance with treaties, Russian security culture permits and perhaps encourages getting away with anything they can. It is why the Russian side always resists verification measures, which underscores the importance of verification. High-confidence arms control verification requires a multifaceted approach in which actual visits on the ground augment other measures, technical and nontechnical. These other means are no doubt how the United States discovered Russia’s plain violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eventually caused the United States to withdraw from the treaty after two successive administrations tried to bring Russia back into compliance. Loss of an on-the-ground verification regime might not cause the Pentagon and intelligence community to spend additional money on other means of verification, but it would stress existing means and lower U.S. confidence in Russian compliance.

ACT: With respect to the administration's desire to bring China into the arms control process, China has stated repeatedly that it is not interested in entering negotiations on a multilateral agreement, citing the large disparity between the size of the Chinese arsenal and the arsenals of the United States and Russia. Do you think it is possible to negotiate an agreement to limit China's nuclear forces before New START expires in February 2021? Would extending New START buy time to engage Russia and China on a more comprehensive arms control approach? Short of limiting China's nuclear forces, what are some practical steps the United States could pursue to bring China into the arms control process?

Winnefeld: It is relatively easy to predict the motions of two celestial bodies as governed by gravitational forces. Predicting the motion of three bodies, however, involves heretofore unsolvable differential equations, the so-called three-body problem. Similarly, bringing a third party into an arms control negotiation dramatically raises the already high level of complexity of reaching a bilateral agreement, especially if one party is reluctant to participate. Meanwhile, it is difficult to imagine circumstances that would make it possible to negotiate a bilateral agreement with China before 2021, especially given other ongoing tensions, such as trade disputes. That said, every effort should be made to explore how a negotiation, whether bilateral or trilateral, might work and to encourage it. This would be probably best initiated by Track 2 discussions to lower the political risk of setting prematurely high expectations.

New START is a stabilizing force that should be extended while future arms control options are explored.

REMARKS: Extend New START to Enhance U.S. Security


January/February 2020
By Adm. Michael Mullen

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) contributes substantially to the U.S. national security by providing limits, verification, predictability, and transparency about Russian strategic nuclear forces. New START limits the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems and contains a robust set of verification and transparency measures, including extensive exchanges of data, notifications regarding the number and status of each side’s strategic offensive arms and facilities, and on-site inspections to confirm that data.

(Photo: Allen Harris/Arms Control Association)As of August 2019, the United States and Russia have exchanged approximately 18,500 notifications; and U.S. inspectors have conducted more than 150 on-site inspections in Russia, providing us a high confidence that Russia is complying with the treaty’s limits and other provisions and vice versa. New START also contains provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. Indeed, without the treaty and its verification provisions, we would be flying blind.

It is strongly in the U.S. national interest to extend New START for five years so that the United States and Russia can continue to realize the mutual benefits and stability it provides. I support a straightforward extension of the treaty; measures that change or add new obligations to the treaty, such as bringing in another country like China or new categories of weapons such as nonstrategic nuclear weapons, cannot, as a legal matter, be pursued through the extension. Such measures would require a new agreement and a new Senate advice-and-consent process.

That said, it is certainly appropriate for the United States to seek an understanding with Russia about how the treaty will apply to any new strategic systems it deploys while the extended treaty is in force. This can be done in the treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC).

Some specific concerns have been raised in the United States in the debate over the extension of New START: Russia’s new systems and bringing China into the negotiations. New START will apply to the new strategic weapons systems Russia is most likely to deploy during the treaty’s extended lifetime, and it provides the best means for discussing Russia’s novel and emerging systems that could be deployed later. In the near term, we have very effective means to address the new Russian strategic systems that are most likely to be deployed in the next five years, and that is to extend New START. Both the Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and the Avangard hypersonic vehicle deployed on a Russian ICBM will be accountable under the treaty, as recently confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and by Russia’s BCC commissioner. Getting that commitment in writing in the context of extension would be a great accomplishment for the administration.

With respect to other strategic systems that are much less likely to be deployed during the lifetime of an extended New START, the treaty includes a provision stating a party can raise questions in the BCC about the emergence of a new kind of strategic offensive arms.

If New START lapses, we will lose the limits and verification we have on Russia’s existing strategic systems as well as the only available vehicle for subjecting limits and verification to the two new systems most likely to be deployed. The alternative to New START extension is a nuclear free-for-all: no limits, no verification, no predictability regarding Russian strategic nuclear forces.

Any additional agreements the United States wants to pursue with Russia or other countries, such as China, will have a better prospect for success if the foundation of New START remains in place. It is critical to conduct a strategic stability dialogue with China, pursue transparency and confidence-building measures, and lay the groundwork for future arms control measures. But it would be an uncontainable mistake to sacrifice the benefits the national security of mutual restraints with Russia to the pursuit of an unlikely near-term arms control agreement with China.

Regular and sustained bilateral nuclear dialogue between the United States and China is also essential for building transparency and trust as well as reducing risk of miscalculation and blunder. Robust U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and bilateral and multilateral crisis management mechanisms is essential and should be reinvigorated. Congress should encourage and support this.

I urge you to support and encourage the expansion and deepening of these channels of communication with Russia to enhance the security of the American people and our allies.


Adapted from testimony by Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee,

 

The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testifies to the strategic value of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Iran Abandons Uranium Limits


January/February 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

Iran announced it will cease abiding by all of the limits on uranium enrichment put in place by the 2015 nuclear deal that restricted its nuclear activities, according to a Jan. 5 statement. The Iranian government said the announcement “eliminates the last key operational restriction” put in place by the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But Iran will continue “full cooperation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on Jan. 5. This includes additional monitoring provisions established by the JCPOA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, shown speaking last year, announced in January that Iran would no longer be constrained by the 2015 nuclear deal that limited its nuclear activities. (Photo: by Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)This is the fifth step Iran has taken to violate the deal after announcing in May 2019 that it would reduce compliance with its obligations every 60 days until its demands on sanctions relief are met. Zarif said that all five steps are “reversible upon effective implementation of reciprocal obligations.”

Specifically, Iran has demanded that the remaining parties to the JCPOA (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union) find a way for Tehran to engage in banking transactions and oil sales.

Although those nations still support the agreement, they have struggled to provide Iran with sanctions relief envisioned by the deal after the United States reimposed sanctions in violation of the deal and withdrew from it in May 2018. (See ACT, June 2019.)

EU foreign policy chief Josep Fontelles said on Jan. 6 that he deeply regrets Iran’s announcement but will “continue working with all participants on a way forward.”

Iran’s announcement came amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran over the U.S. drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Jan. 6 that “IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!”

Iran did not announce what specific steps it will take that violate the uranium-related limits put in place by the JCPOA. Tehran has already breached most of the restrictions on uranium enrichment put in place by the deal, including the limit on enrichment to a level of 3.67 percent uranium-235, the stockpile limit of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to that level, and the prohibition on enrichment at the Fordow site. (See ACT, June and December 2019.)

Iran’s statement said there will “no longer be any restriction on the number of centrifuges,” indicating that Tehran may install machines that were dismantled and moved into storage under the nuclear deal.

Prior to the deal, Iran had installed nearly 19,000 centrifuges, including about 1,000 advanced IR-2 machines, at its Natanz and Fordow sites.

The deal permitted Iran to enrich uranium at Natanz using 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges, retain 1,044 IR-1 machines at Fordow for medical isotope research and production, and limited numbers of advanced machines for testing. The remaining centrifuges were dismantled and stored under IAEA monitoring at Natanz.

The impact that Iran’s most recent step will have on its nuclear program and the time it would take to produce enough nuclear material for one bomb will depend on how many machines Iran installs and operates and whether Iran decides to enrich uranium to higher levels.

Iran announced in July that it would no longer abide by the 3.67 percent U-235 limit and began enriching uranium to 4.5 percent. Prior to negotiation on the nuclear deal, Iran enriched uranium to 20 percent U-235. Resuming 20 percent enrichment and stockpiling material enriched to that level would decrease more quickly the time it would take for Iran to produce enough nuclear material for a weapon.

The Jan. 5 statement said that Iran’s uranium-enrichment program would be based on its “technical needs,” but it is unclear what Tehran is including in that assessment because Iran’s current needs for uranium to fuel its research reactor and power reactor at Bushehr are being met.

The IAEA said in a Jan. 6 statement that its “inspectors continue to carry out verification and monitoring activities” in Iran and will “keep its member states informed of any developments.”

In response to Iran’s resumption in November of enrichment at Fordow, which was its fourth violation of the deal, the Trump administration announced that waivers allowing cooperative work at that site would be terminated on Dec. 15.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran is prohibited from enriching uranium at Fordow for 15 years and is required to convert the site into a research and medical isotope production site. The JCPOA specified that Russia would assist in the conversion.

Russia announced on Dec. 5 it would suspend its cooperation at that site because the resumption of uranium enrichment caused contamination that prevents further work on medical isotope production.

The Russian Foreign Ministry originally stated that the work at Fordow would continue, but several weeks later, TEVL, which is part of the Russian state-run Rosatom nuclear company, announced that further work would not be possible.

Abbas Mousavi, spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said on Dec. 16 that “Iranian and Russian technical experts are working to solve the problem” and that Russia has not “withdrawn from the cooperation” at Fordow.

 

 

In announcing it is no longer bound by key 2015 nuclear deal limits, Iran nevertheless pledged to continue its cooperation with the IAEA.

Kim Announcement Caps Tumultuous Year


January/February 2020
By Julia Masterson

North Korea closed the decade by announcing it would no longer be constrained by self-imposed moratoriums leader Kim Jong Un had followed since just before he first met U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018. At their Singapore summit that year, Kim agreed to refrain from testing nuclear weapons or long-range missiles. Unable to negotiate progress since, the two leaders have returned to issuing fiery rhetoric.

In more hopeful days, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greet each other at their Hanoi summit in February 2019. Nearly one year later, their inflammatory rhetoric has resumed. (Photo: Vietnam News Agency/Getty Images)North Korea’s “powerful nuclear deterrent capable of containing the nuclear threats from the U.S.” would be placed on “constant alert,” Kim said at the fifth plenary meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Worker’s Party of Korea, held Dec. 28–31 in Pyongyang. “The scope and depth of [North Korea’s] deterrent will be properly coordinated depending on the U.S. future attitude towards the DPRK,” he said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Citing Washington’s failure to ease its “hostile policy,” Kim declared that North Korea is no longer “unilaterally bound” to its commitments, alluding to a possible resumption of testing this year.

Taken with Kim’s mention of a “promising strategic weapon system” and an announcement that North Korea would be “chilling [its] efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation,” Kim’s speech at the plenary meeting suggests that North Korea’s nuclear weapons development may intensify in the new year.

Pyongyang’s decision to step further back from the negotiating table—where the conclusion of a North Korean denuclearization agreement with Washington was once possible—did not occur within a vacuum. In the last month of 2019, Washington and Pyongyang resorted to hostile rhetoric and provocative threats that further strained their already inimical bilateral relationship. A look back at the year in review indicates that both the United States and North Korea missed opportunities to make progress toward goals of denuclearization and peacebuilding agreed upon at the 2018 summit between Kim and Trump.

Kim and Trump met Feb. 27–28 in Hanoi, Vietnam, for the first time after the historic June 2018 summit in Singapore. In Hanoi, they discussed objectives enshrined in a joint declaration released after their Singapore meeting, namely denuclearization and peacebuilding on the Korean peninsula. According to North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, the Hanoi summit ended abruptly after the Trump administration demanded “one more thing” of Pyongyang in addition to its offer to trade permanent dismantlement of uranium and plutonium production facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex for a partial removal of UN sanctions. At a news conference in Hanoi, Trump said North Korea wanted sanctions lifted “in their entirety” for partial denuclearization, signaling a clear disconnect between Washington and Pyongyang’s interpretation of the summit.

Kim remarked in an April 12 speech before the Supreme People’s Assembly that Pyongyang would entertain negotiations “one more time,” if Washington were to propose a third summit. The North Korean leader demanded that the United States amend its “methodology” to “lay down unilateral requirements and seek constructive solutions,” adding that Pyongyang had already initiated “crucial and significant measures,” referring to North Korea’s self-imposed moratoriums. Kim gave the Trump administration until the end of the year to change its negotiating stance, or the “prospects for solving a problem will be bleak and very dangerous.”

The two leaders met once more, in Panmunjom at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on June 30, where they agreed to resume working-level talks.

Ahead of the subsequent round of talks, held Oct. 4–5 in Stockholm, Sweden, Vox reported that the United States would propose trading a three-year suspension of UN sanctions on North Korea’s textile and coal exports in exchange for verifiable closure of the Yongbyon facility and an additional measure—likely ending uranium enrichment. The offer appeared to build on what Ri Yong Ho disclosed was on the table in Hanoi and included, as the Trump administration demanded, an additional concession by North Korea.

While unconfirmed, this proposed exchange aligned with the Trump administration’s apparent shift in negotiating approach. Trump said in September he was open to a “new method” for talks, and, while Trump did not provide any details, North Korea’s chief negotiator Kim Myong Gil praised Trump for taking a more flexible approach. Until then, the Trump administration’s strategy had largely centered on demanding North Korea’s full denuclearization in return for sanctions alleviation.

Kim Myong Gil said that a new method was the “best option” and suggested that “second thought” be given to the possibility of a “step-by-step solution starting with the things feasible first while building trust in each other,” likely referring to North Korea’s preference for an incremental approach that exchanges steps toward denuclearization for actions by the United States to lift sanctions and address Pyongyang’s security concerns. While the details of the Stockholm meeting remain unclear, a spokesperson for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry described the talks as “sickening” in an Oct. 6 statement released by the Korean Central News Agency.

Just as after Hanoi, it appears that Washington and Pyongyang left Stockholm with vastly different takeaways from their working-level talks. Washington proposed meeting again two weeks later, according to an Oct. 5 press release published by the State Department. But North Korea’s foreign ministry, in the spokesperson’s Oct. 6 statement, said it was “not likely at all” that the United States could “propose a proposal commensurate to the expectations of the DPRK and to the concerns of the world in just [a] fortnight.” The Oct. 4–5 working-level talks marked the last formal diplomatic exchange between the United States and North Korea of 2019.

Though Kim’s year-end deadline for negotiations with the United States expired on Dec. 31, Kim acknowledged in his plenary meeting speech that North Korea “urgently need[s]” engagement with the international community for “economic construction.”

Kim did not entirely denounce the possibility of continued bilateral talks with the United States, but he warned that “the more the U.S. stalls for time and hesitates in the settlement of the DPRK-U.S. relations, the more helpless it will find itself.” North Korea could “never sell [its] dignity,” Kim said, reiterating Pyongyang’s long-standing refusal to concede its nuclear weapons program without U.S. concessions in return.

North Korea will no longer bide earlier unilateral commitments to refrain from nuclear and long-range missile testing.

Putin Invites U.S. to Extend New START


January/February 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December that Moscow is open to extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) unconditionally, but the Trump administration remains undecided about the future of the accord.

Russian President Vladmir Putin greets dignitaries during his visit to Vatican City in 2019. In December, he said Russia is ready to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty without conditions. (Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)“Russia is willing to immediately, as soon as possible, before the year is out, renew this treaty without any preconditions,” Putin told a meeting of Defense Ministry officials on Dec. 5. He noted that Moscow has not received a response from Washington to its proposal to renew the treaty.

Putin reiterated his offer at his end-of-year news conference on Dec. 19, saying that “we stand ready until the end of the year to extend the existing New START as is.” New START is slated to expire on Feb. 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years subject to the agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents.

Russian officials subsequently offered a rationale for the urgency of Putin’s offer.

In a Dec. 27 interview, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that an extension requires the Russian Federal Assembly to “complete certain procedures,” and time needed to do so is running short.

“If we keep dragging our feet on this, we might end up under intense time pressure,” added Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on Dec. 26. “We would not like to be forced to bring the attention of the Trump administration to this matter as the [presidential] election campaign reaches its peak,” he added.

Signed in 2010, New START caps U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers.

At the NATO leaders meeting in London in early December, U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to acknowledge Putin’s interest in making a deal on arms control. Trump did not specifically mention New START, and he instead repeated his goals of reaching a more comprehensive deal that covers additional types of nuclear weapons and also includes China. (See ACT, November 2019.)

“Russia wants very much to make a deal on arms control and nuclear,” Trump said on Dec. 3 during a press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “We’ll also certainly bring in…China,” he said. “We may bring them in later, or we may bring them in now.”

As he has in the past, Trump described Beijing as “extremely excited” about such an agreement, but numerous statements from Chinese officials have contradicted Trump’s assertion. Currently, the United States and Russia are estimated to have more than 6,000 total nuclear warheads each, while China has about 300.

Russia has also expressed concern about the Trump administration’s desire for a broader agreement. Commenting on the administration’s approach following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Dec. 10, Lavrov said that “our U.S. colleagues have yet to put their formal proposals down on paper.”

Lavrov, who spoke at a joint press conference with Pompeo, added that if China were included in trilateral negotiations, “we will have to take other nuclear powers into consideration as well, including both acknowledged and unacknowledged nuclear-weapon states.” In the past, Moscow has specifically mentioned involving the United Kingdom and France.

Pompeo did not say whether the administration would extend New START, calling it “an agreement that was entered into many years ago when powers were very different on a relative basis around the globe.”

He reiterated that “the conversations need to be broadened to include the Chinese Communist Party.” Arms control talks with China would not “necessarily mean that we would cap any one country at any particular level,” Pompeo said, but the objective would be to develop “a set of conditions” that would create “global strategic stability.”

Although administration officials have provided few details on goals for arms control with China, Lavrov said on Dec. 23 that “the Americans…did not insist on arms control or reduction, but would rather like to discuss a set of mutually acceptable conditions, transparency, and rules of behavior.”

Chris Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said at an event in Washington on Dec. 2 that there is “plenty of time to engage” with Russia and China on a broader deal and that “we are looking forward to doing that.”

The United States and Russia last held talks on strategic stability in July. Talks scheduled for November were canceled. Ford tweeted on Dec. 23 that the State Department “has formally invited Russia to continue a Strategic Security Dialogue.” Ryabkov responded a few days later that Russia has accepted “this invitation” and said that two sides “are now agreeing on the dates.”

Trump and Putin discussed “future efforts to support effective arms control” in a Dec. 29 phone call, according to a White House readout.

Ford told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Dec. 3 that the administration has “convened teams of experts to explore the way forward [on arms control], including the question of possibly extending New START.” He added that “[w]e are hard at work on these issues and hope to have more to say about this soon.”

Contrary to Pompeo, Ford said that “what the president has directed us to do is pursue a trilateral cap on the arsenals” of China, Russia, and the United States.

Ford tweeted on Dec. 20 that the United States has invited China “to begin a strategic security dialogue on nuclear risk reduction and arms control and their future.” China has yet to publicly reply to the offer.

Other administration officials have said it is premature to extend New START. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 5 that “if the United States were to agree to extend the treaty now, I think it would make it less likely that we would have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a broader agreement.”

 

Senators Question Arms Control Policy

Several U.S. senators pressed State Department officials at a Dec. 3 hearing about the Trump administration’s unwillingness to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and lack of a plan to negotiate a new arms control agreement.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks in Moscow in June 2019. He announced in December that Russia's new hypersonic nuclear delivery vehicle has been deployed. (Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on U.S. policy toward Russia, Chris Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said Russia remains in compliance with New START, but voiced concerns about Russia’s development of new, long-range nuclear delivery systems and its possession of a large arsenal of nonstrategic weapons not addressed by the treaty.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member on the committee, responded to the concern about Moscow’s new strategic weapons systems by noting that Russia already said two of the weapons—the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile—would be covered by the treaty. On Dec. 27, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that “the Avangard strategic missile system has been put on combat duty.”

As for the two other new, long-range weapons Russia is developing, the Skyfall nuclear-powered cruise missile and Poseidon nuclear-powered torpedo, Menendez noted that they would “likely will not even reach deployment during the lifespan of New START, even if it’s extended.” (See ACT, December 2019.)

On the administration’s desire to include China in the arms control process, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), said that “we don’t want to see…China used as an excuse to blow up the existing or potential extension of an agreement with Russia that contributes to international security.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) added that “it is just highly unlikely…that we are going to be able to bring in the Chinese” before New START expires in 2021.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) argued that extending the treaty would “give us more time” to negotiate a new agreement with Russia and China. “I think this is a red herring to suggest that we can't do anything about New START without including China,” Shaheen told Ford.

Following the hearing, Menendez and Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) wrote a Dec. 16 letter to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, requesting a national intelligence estimate on how Russia and China will respond if the United States does not extend New START.

“We believe the negative consequences for the United States of abandoning New START, when Russia is in compliance with the treaty and is seeking to extend it, would be grave in the short-term and long-term,” they wrote.

Meanwhile, Congress did not hold votes before the end of the year on two bills supporting the extension of New START.

A Dec. 17 report by Reuters said that Young planned to offer a version of a bill on New START he introduced with Van Hollen last summer as an amendment to an unrelated Russia sanctions bill at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup on Dec. 18. Ultimately, however, he withdrew the amendment.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee had also planned to mark up a bill on New START on Dec. 18, but Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said that “we have a few things to work out. I will continue to work on this bill and list it for the next markup.”

The House bill was a modified version of a bill first introduced earlier this year. The bill would express the sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend New START as long as Russia remains in compliance and would require several reports on the implications of allowing New START to expire with nothing to replace it. A companion version of the bill was introduced in the Senate by Van Hollen and Young.—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

Russia appears ready to extend the treaty, but Trump administration officials continue to talk about
other options.

U.S. Tests Second Medium-Range Missile


January/February 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The United States has conducted a second test of a missile formerly banned by the defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Dec. 12 launch was described as “a prototype, conventionally configured, ground-launched ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California,” according to a Defense Department statement. The missile flew for “more than 500 kilometers,” a range capability prohibited by the treaty before the United States formally withdrew from the INF Treaty on Aug 2. (See ACT, September 2019.)

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced in December that once the Pentagon develops missile systems formerly banned by the INF Treaty, the United States will consult with allies about where to deploy them. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)The Pentagon has not disclosed the type of missile that was tested, but some experts have speculated that the test involved the Castor IVB rocket motor, which has been used in the past for military space launches and in target vehicles for the Missile Defense Agency. The joint government-industry team began work preparing for the test after the United States suspended its treaty obligations in February 2019 and “executed the launch within nine months of contract award when the process typically takes 24 months,” said a statement from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The December test followed an Aug. 18 test of a ground-launched, intermediate-range cruise missile just two weeks after the treaty withdrawal. Neither test demonstrated an operational system that the Pentagon plans to field, but rather showed initial capabilities.

The 1987 INF Treaty led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet nuclear and conventional, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles having ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Dec. 12 that “once we develop intermediate-range missiles, and if my commanders require them, then we will work closely and consult closely with our allies in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere with regard to any possible deployments.”

Pentagon officials said in March that the department would pursue the development of a mobile, ground-launched cruise missile that has a range of about 1,000 kilometers and a mobile, ground-launched ballistic missile with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers. (See ACT, April 2019.)

The Defense Department requested $96 million in its fiscal year 2020 budget to develop three types of intermediate-range missiles. (See ACT, May 2019.) The final fiscal year 2020 defense appropriations bill approved by Congress in December provides $40 million less than the request.

The final version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill, also approved by Congress in December, prohibits the use of current-year funds to procure and deploy missiles formerly banned by the INF Treaty, but does not prohibit their development and testing, as the House of Representatives' version of the bill had initially proposed. The bill also requires the Pentagon to report on the results of an analysis of alternatives that assesses the benefits and risks of such missiles, options for basing them in Europe or the Indo-Pacific region, and whether deploying such missile systems on the territory of a NATO ally would require a consensus decision by NATO.

Whether the Pentagon could base the missiles in Europe and East Asia remains to be seen. Despite their concerns about Russia and China, U.S. allies have not appeared eager to host them.

Russia and China reacted negatively to the ballistic missile test. Russia has “said more than once that the United States has been making preparations for violating the INF Treaty. This [missile test] clearly confirms that the treaty was ruined at the initiative of the United States,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Dec. 13.

Russia also claimed that the test vindicated its charge that the United States violated the INF Treaty in the past by using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to treaty-prohibited missiles. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Dec. 26 that the test was “enabled by technology…which was earlier used to launch target missiles” and provided “direct proof of what we had been talking about for many years.”

A Chinese spokesperson said Dec. 13 the test “confirms…that the U.S. withdrawal is a premeditated decision. The real aim is to free itself to develop advanced missiles and seek unilateral military advantage.”

The Trump administration has now conducted two flight tests of missiles that were banned by the INF Treaty.

Trump Officials Threaten Open Skies Treaty


January/February 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The Trump administration reportedly alerted NATO allies in mid-November that the United States may withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty unless its concerns regarding Russian compliance are allayed.

A U.S. OC-135 aircraft used to conduct overflights for the Open Skies Treaty lands at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska.  (Photo: U.S. Air Force)According to a Nov. 21 report in Defense News, Trump administration officials raised several concerns about the treaty at a meeting with NATO partners in Brussels and asked allies to provide their assessment of the benefits and risks of the treaty.

“This is a U.S. position—that we think this treaty is a danger to our national security. We get nothing out of it. Our allies get nothing out of it, and it is our intention to withdraw,” a senior administration official told Defense News.

The Open Skies 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 territories of its participants for information-gathering purposes. The parties have annual quotas on overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all treaty parties.

U.S. critics of the treaty have raised concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty, citing, in particular, Russia’s refusal to allow observation flights within 500 kilometers of Kaliningrad or within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The United States has reciprocated by restricting flights over the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the missile defense interceptor fields in Fort Greely, Alaska. Critics have also argued that Russia is using treaty flights to collect intelligence on critical U.S. military and civilian infrastructure and that the flights are redundant for the United States because Washington has the most advanced reconnaissance capabilities of any country.

The administration’s threat to withdraw from the treaty, first publicized on Oct. 7 in a letter from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) to National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, has prompted an outpouring of support for the agreement from allies and other treaty partners. (See ACT, November 2019.)

Defense News additionally reported that France, Germany, and the United Kingdom issued a joint démarche in support of the treaty and that Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist sent an Oct. 24 letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper citing “deep concern” about reports of the treaty’s potential demise.

“A well-functioning Open Skies Treaty contributes to the ability to hold states, including the Russian Federation, accountable for breaches against the norms and principles that underpin the European security architecture. The treaty is vital as one of very few remaining confidence and security building measures,” Hultqvist wrote.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers also continue to raise concerns about a potential U.S. withdrawal.

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) introduced legislation on Nov. 18, co-sponsored by Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), to prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally withdrawing from the pact. “In discussions with the Pentagon, I know the Defense Department values our continued participation in this treaty, and I have yet to hear a compelling reason to end our participation,” Bacon said in a statement accompanying the act’s introduction. The legislation would require the administration to certify that exiting the treaty would be in the U.S. national security interest before it acts to withdraw.

That same day, Engel and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) wrote to O’Brien “seeking clarity regarding the administration’s intentions” toward the treaty. They expressed concern “that the White House may have used biased analysis as it pertains to potential treaty withdrawal, failing to ensure an objective process and neglecting to properly coordinate with the departments and agencies responsible for the treaty’s implementation.”

On Nov. 19, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment held a hearing titled “The Importance of the Open Skies Treaty.” The witnesses included Amy Woolf, a specialist in nuclear weapons policy at the Congressional Research Service; Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group and senior adviser at Global Zero; and Damian Leader, former chief arms control delegate for the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by Congress in December, requires the secretaries of defense and state to notify Congress at least 120 days before a U.S. notification of an intent to withdraw from the treaty. The bill also funds continuing efforts to replace the aging U.S. OC-135B aircraft that the United States uses for Open Skies Treaty flights.

 

Washington warns NATO allies of possible treaty withdrawal.

Congress OKs Trump Nuclear Priorities


January/February 2020
By Kingston Reif

Congress voted in December to continue to fund the Trump administration’s plans to expand U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities despite the strong opposition of the Democratic-led House.

The U.S. Air Force tests a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in Oct. 2019. The U.S. Congress provided most of the funds sought by the Trump administration to develop the Minuteman's replacement. (Photo: J.T. Armstrong/U.S. Air Force)Most notably, lawmakers approved the deployment beginning this fiscal year of a small number of low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) as proposed in the administration’s report of its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was released in February 2018. (See ACT, March 2018.)

The final outcome on the warhead deployment was one of several conclusions that reversed actions taken by the House in 2019 to counter the administration’s nuclear weapons policy and spending proposals.

In addition to prohibiting the fielding of the low-yield SLBM warhead, the House versions of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization, defense appropriations, and energy and water appropriations bills denied funding to begin a study of a low-yield warhead for a new sea-launched cruise missile. The House bills also reduced funding to sustain the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb, expand the production of plutonium pits, and build a new fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and associated W87-1 ICBM warheads.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has been sharply critical of the NPR report and maintained that the United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs for its security or can reasonably afford. (See ACT, January/February 2019.)

The White House and Republican-led Senate resisted the House policy and funding provisions, and the final authorization and appropriations bills did not include the House-sought restrictions.

Congress is providing nearly $30 million, the same as the budget request, to move forward with deployment of the low-yield SLBM warhead. President Donald Trump signed the defense and energy and water appropriations bills into law as part of two larger appropriations packages on Dec. 20. He also signed the defense authorization bill into law on Dec. 20.

The outcome of the SLBM warhead issue was one of several that “were not resolved to the satisfaction of me and the Democratic Party,” Smith said in a late December interview with Defense News.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also expressed regret that the prohibition on the deployment of the warhead was not included in the final bill.

“I maintain that this is one weapon that will not add to our national security but would only increase the risk of miscalculation with dire consequences,” he said in Senate floor speech on Dec. 17.

Triad Fully Funded

The defense appropriations law approved nearly the entirety of the Trump administration’s proposed budget request for programs to sustain and rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their supporting infrastructure, including $2.2 billion to build a fleet of 12 new ballistic missile submarines, $3 billion to build a fleet of at least 100 new long-range bombers, $558 million to build a new ICBM system, and $713 million to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile. (See ACT, March 2019.)

The House had proposed to reduce the budget request of $571 million for the program to build the new ICBM system, known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent system, by $109 million. This cut would have prevented the program from moving to the main development phase. (See ACT, September, 2019.)

The energy and water law provided $12.5 billion for nuclear weapons activities conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an increase of $49 million above the budget request and $1.4 billion more than last year’s appropriation.

In contrast, the House had proposed $11.8 billion for weapons activities, a decrease of about $650 million below the budget request of $12.4 billion.

The authorization and appropriations laws also require several reports intended to provide Congress with additional information about several key nuclear policy issues and modernization programs. The authorization law requires independent studies on the benefits and risks to the United States of adopting a no-first-use policy, the risks of nuclear terrorism and nuclear war, and the plan to replace the W78 ICBM warhead with the W87-1.

In addition, the energy and water law requires the NNSA to report on the risks to executing the W87-1 program, the estimated cost and impact on the NNSA’s workload of the options under consideration to build a sea-launched cruise missile warhead, and the current status and future plans for the B83-1 gravity bomb.

Overall, Congress provided $746 billion for national defense programs, an increase of $8 billion above the revised 2011 Budget Control Act spending cap for fiscal year 2020 agreed by Congress last summer.

Missile Defense Oversight Increased

The final authorization law retained several provisions contained in the House version of the bill designed to restrain the role of missile defense and enhance congressional oversight of it.

The law updates U.S. national missile defense policy to state that the U.S. homeland missile defenses are intended to defend against rogue states and that the United States will rely on nuclear deterrence for near-peer adversary ballistic missile threats such as Russia and China.

The new policy comports with the text of the 2019 Missile Defense Review report, released in January 2019, which limits the purpose of U.S. homeland defenses to defending against limited missile attacks from North Korea and Iran, not Russia and China. (See ACT, January/February 2019.)

But the new policy contradicts the role for these defenses outlined by Trump. In remarks at the rollout of the Missile Defense Review report, Trump stated that the goal of U.S. missile defenses is to “ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States—anywhere, anytime, anyplace.”

The new policy also revises the role for U.S. homeland defenses set in the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization law, which stated that it shall be “the policy of the United States to maintain and improve an effective, robust layered missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States and its allies against the developing and increasingly complex ballistic missile threat.” (See ACT, January/February 2017.)

In addition, the authorization law retains a House provision eliminating a requirement established in the fiscal year 2018 law requiring the development of a test bed for missile defense interceptors in space. The 2020 law does not alter the 2018 law’s requirement to pursue development of a space-based missile defense interceptor layer. (See ACT, September 2018.)

The defense appropriations law zeros out the Pentagon’s $34 million request to begin developing a neutral particle beam, a space-based laser weapon to destroy ICBMs during their boost and midcourse phases of flight, and cuts $10 million from the $30 million request to study the development of interceptors in space. (See ACT, April 2019.)

The authorization law also requires an independent study mandated by the House assessing the benefits and costs of U.S. missile defense development on the security of the United States.

The appropriations law provides $10.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $1 billion from the budget request of $10.4 billion. The increase includes more than $500 million in unrequested funding to sustain the existing Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system based in Alaska and California and design a new homeland defense interceptor in the wake of the demise of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program. (See ACT, October 2019.)

The law also funds the administration’s request to test in 2020 the Standard Missile-3-IIA interceptor against an ICBM-class target. The House had proposed to eliminate funding for the test.

 

Comparisons Among the House, Senate, and Final Versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 on U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Policy

Republicans rejected many House Democratic efforts to limit U.S. nuclear weapons spending.

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