"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."

– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
January/February 2020

Arms Control Today January/February 2020

Edition Date: 
Friday, January 10, 2020
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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).


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.

Opportunities for Nuclear Arms Control Engagement With China

January/February 2020
By Tong Zhao

The clock is ticking on an extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). To complicate matters, instead of extending the treaty as is, Washington seeks to broaden the existing U.S.-Russian agreement by including China in a new trilateral arms control framework. There is no chance that Beijing would change its long-held views on arms control within the next 12 months before New START expires. Nonetheless, China’s growing military power and influence are producing counterpressures for China to deepen its participation in arms control. At a time when President Xi Jinping said China should “take center stage in the world,”1 China may find itself having to seriously prepare for major-power competitions and major-power arms control.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on April 6, 2017.  (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)Over time, China’s own interest will align with arms control for several reasons. At the strategic level, the major-power competition between Washington and Beijing is going to be a long-term reality. It is driven by fundamental conflicts in world views, values, and ways of governance. Nonetheless, it is in no one’s interest, including China’s, to allow this competition to become completely uncontrolled and unregulated. Just as U.S. and Soviet leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev agreed during the Cold War that “nuclear wars cannot be won and should never be fought,” Beijing and Washington should set some basic boundaries to their competition so that they do not half-wittingly destroy everything worth competing for. In particular, they need to assure each other that neither intends to threaten the survival or the most critical security interests of the other. To this end, they must commit to maintain strategic stability, avoid a repetition of a Cold War-style arms race, and agree on redlines and basic rules of major-power competition. Against an uncertain future geopolitical landscape at regional and global levels, arms control can and should serve as guardrails and a stabilizer of the major powers’ strategic relationship.

China has benefited from the U.S.-Russian arms control process without having to contribute directly to it. That situation is no longer tenable. Indeed, China’s stand-aside policies have already unwittingly contributed to the demise of one U.S.-Russian nuclear treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. In the mid-2000s, Russia openly complained about restrictions on its missile programs while other nations, particularly China, were unconstrained. If China had acknowledged and addressed Russian concerns, Moscow would have had one less reason to develop and deploy the alleged treaty-violating 9M729 missile, which led the United States to withdraw from the pact. With the treaty’s demise, China is now presented with a much larger security problem. In this sense, arms control can be a preventive measure that helps China manage and mitigate future security challenges. If China’s involvement in some arms control measures today can contribute to the continuation of U.S.-Russian arms control in the future, it would be worth serious Chinese efforts.

Domestically, China is facing a new economic reality. Decades of very fast economic growth have revealed deep structural problems in its economic system. With accumulating governmental debts, looming stagnation, a rapidly aging society, and external troubles in its trade relations, economists worry not only about a growth slowdown but about a possible economic crisis.2 One thing seems clear: China will probably be unable to increase defense spending at its prior rate without undermining its population’s key socioeconomic interests. A timely decision to enter arms control can help avoid a costly reciprocal arms buildup with the United States, including at the regional level over INF Treaty-range missiles and at the global level over other strategic military capabilities that will not improve any party’s security. This decision can also contribute to China’s foreign image as a responsible power. As the United States suffers huge reputation losses by withdrawing from key arms control institutions, Washington creates opportunities for Beijing to win global support for demonstrating leadership in advocating cooperative arms control as a necessary step toward achieving Xi’s vision on “building a community with a shared future for mankind.”3

How to Engage With China

The current U.S. approach to include China in arms control will not work. Statements by senior U.S. officials leave China with two main impressions. First, the White House is not really serious about including China in arms control and simply uses it as an excuse to end New START. U.S. officials have not been able to suggest specific and substantive proposals for including China. Second, China believes the United States seeks to impose constraints only on Chinese capabilities and intends to use arms control as a tool to advance its own competitive advantage and win the military competition with China. There is no hint that the Trump administration imagines reciprocity or mutual restraint.

China displays a DF-41 ICBM at a 2019 parade in Beijing. Despite China's program to modernize its strategic nuclear forces, the nation's arsenal is much smaller than those of the United States or Russia. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)This approach will backfire in Beijing, as it would anywhere else. The United States cannot coerce China to participate in arms control. If Washington wishes to copy the 1980s European dual-track game plan by stepping up pressure on China and deploying new INF Treaty-type missiles in the Asia Pacific, Beijing would be much more likely to respond with more of its own missile deployments than to agree to conduct arms control under U.S. military pressure. Without a reformist leader in China like Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, who prioritized rapprochement with the West, a coercive U.S. strategy would likely be met with strong pushback. China believes it has acquired technological advantages and better operational experience in areas such as INF Treaty-type missiles. This confidence in China’s capacity to outcompete the United States makes security policymakers even less likely to consider arms control proposals that impose more constraints on China than the United States.

The United States needs to make its objective practical. Arms control with China cannot be aimed at helping Washington win future military competition with China. The goal should be to help manage the competition so that it will not be as dangerous and costly as in the Cold War, which is a common interest that China shares. Arms control proposals offered to China need to involve fair give-and-take between all parties. Given China’s lack of experience in arms control, it is unrealistic to expect Beijing to introduce detailed options. The United States and Russia should take the responsibility to think creatively and propose concrete ideas. Two proposals may stimulate thought experiments for feasible models of arms control cooperation with China.

Possible Models of Arms Control Cooperation With China

Regarding INF Treaty-range missiles, China has an advantage in land-based systems, and the United States has superior capability in air-based systems. Both countries are procuring more weapons, and the trajectories of their development show that, at some time in the near future, Chinese and U.S. stockpiles of land- and air-based INF Treaty-range missiles will likely be on the same scale, counting nuclear and conventional systems. This may provide an opportunity to set an equal ceiling for the combined stockpile of these missiles in each country. The two countries could then negotiate and cooperate as equals. Each would have flexibility to decide how they would like to mix their land- and air-based systems and thus to balance their traditional advantages and future security needs. They also would have the freedom to decide how quickly and deeply they proceed with arms control. For example, they could set the ceiling somewhat higher than their existing stockpile and make this a capping agreement at the first stage, or they could set the ceiling at the same level of their existing stockpile and turn it into a freeze agreement. Still more ambitiously, they could set a lower ceiling to gradually roll back their capabilities down the road.

A second model takes longer-range strategic weapons systems into the equation. Given China’s numerical advantage in land-based INF Treaty-range missiles and the much larger U.S. and Russian stockpiles of long-range nuclear-capable systems, it would make sense to set an equal ceiling for the combined stockpile of both types of weapons for all three states. This would cover all INF Treaty-range land-based missile launchers, intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers, and heavy bombers. This type of trilateral, comprehensive framework could focus initially on the numbers of launchers before turning to the more complex issues involving missiles and warheads.

Each of the three countries currently operates approximately 600 launchers of the relevant types.4 This offers an opportunity to include China in a trilateral arms control framework on an equal footing without creating the impression of China being treated as a junior partner to two former superpowers. A comprehensive agreement along these lines would address U.S. and Russian concerns about China’s INF Treaty-range land-based missiles and helps address the Chinese concern about U.S. and Russian strategic weapons advantages. It meets the expressed goal of the Trump administration by essentially including China in a combination of New START and the INF Treaty, but in a way that is fair and makes sense to China.

Committing to a Long-Term Process

These are just two examples of many potential arms control models that could be discussed with China. They serve the goal of offering China some concrete proposals and ideas that would not be immediately unfair to Beijing, therefore creating the opportunity to start a process of talking and engagement on substantive arms control issues. Given the traditionally high level of skepticism toward arms control in China’s security expert community, even in the most optimistic scenarios it will take time before informal talks and explorations on arms control options could develop into official negotiations, and then lead to executive-level agreements and possibly legally binding treaties far down the road. Nonetheless, whether it may generate quick results in the near term, the process of talking and engaging with China on these issues in and of itself is necessary and important. Without it, there is little clear way to build confidence in each nation’s will and capability to manage major-power competition.

Indeed, because mutual confidence is in such short supply, a modest yet still worthwhile objective could be to open dialogue with the Chinese security community that gradually addresses its habitual inclination for secrecy and ambiguity and its long-standing skepticism toward arms control as a potentially effective tool to achieve cooperative security. Deeper understanding and greater appreciation of transparency, mutual restraint, and verification can be built by exposing Chinese policymakers and experts to the political practicality and technical feasibility of rival states overcoming hostility and achieving mutual security benefits through arms control, just as the two former superpowers have demonstrated in recent history. In this regard, measures such as sharing with China the U.S. and Russian perspectives and practices of exchanging missile prelaunch notifications and flight-test telemetry data, as well as inviting Chinese observers to U.S.-Russian on-site inspections or Open Skies Treaty flights without demanding a reciprocal Chinese transparency measure, would be helpful.

Washington and Beijing also need to work on removing misunderstandings about their nuclear doctrines and policies. For example, the lack of nuanced understandings about U.S. domestic policy deliberations has led most Chinese experts to believe that the pursuit of new low-yield nuclear weapons by Washington reflects a U.S. effort to deliberately lower the threshold of nuclear employment and to build up nuclear war-fighting capabilities,5 rather than as a response to the perceived Russian “escalate to deescalate” strategy. Perceiving U.S. policies this way, Chinese distrust of U.S. intentions and the value of arms control cooperation is unsurprising. Substantive and extensive exchanges and dialogue on doctrines and policies can help promote more accurate and nuanced mutual understanding.

Additionally, a comprehensive dialogue on reducing the risk of nuclear use and understanding the impact of new technologies on strategic stability can be started soon. This is low-hanging fruit for engagement with China, which has expressed clear interest in joint examination of some of these issues.6 Missile defense, conventional hypersonic weapons, counterspace technologies, cyberweapons, artificial intelligence, and autonomous weapons systems may affect the credibility of a nuclear deterrent and present an important challenge to major-power strategic-stability relations. The entanglement between nuclear and non-nuclear technologies, as well as other operational practices of existing nuclear powers, may increase the risk of inadvertent escalation of conflicts.7 The major powers have divergent views on the impact of new technologies on nuclear deterrence, and they are far from reaching a common appreciation of the risks of conflict escalation. Dedicated working groups need to be set up for technical and policy experts to study these issues jointly and thoroughly, which can take place at the unclassified level to minimize bureaucratic resistance. As long as the perception gaps on new technologies can be narrowed, even if formal arms control agreements to control and regulate such technologies are impossible initially, countries would still have stronger incentives to minimize nuclear risks through unilateral readjustments of military capabilities and postures.

In sum, arms control engagement with China is not impossible. It is important, however, that the United States, Russia, and other relevant parties approach this issue with China in the correct way. Otherwise, they could destroy the prospect of arms control cooperation with China before it starts, and the existing U.S.-Russian arms control regime might be negatively affected as a result. With the growing need to effectively manage major-power competition, the stakes of getting it right are high. Fair, equal, and concrete proposals are necessary to start a process of arms control talks with China. Commitments to long-term efforts to build capability, address entrenched fears, and cultivate nuanced understandings are also imperative to pave the way for more substantive cooperation down the road.



1. “Xi Jinping: ‘Time for China to Take Centre Stage,’” BBC, October 18, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-41647872.

2. Hal Lambert, “Is China About to Cause the Next Asian Economic Crisis?” Real Clear Politics, August 13, 2019, https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/08/13/is_china_about_to_cause_the_next_asian_economic_crisis_140996.html.

3. Cao Desheng, “Nation Helping World to Create Shared Future,” China Daily, August 20, 2019, https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201908/20/WS5d5b06c2a310cf3e35566a15.html.

4. U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019,” May 2, 2019, p. 117, https://media.defense.gov/2019/May/02/2002127082/-1/-1/1/2019_CHINA_MILITARY_POWER_REPORT.pdf; Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2019,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 75, No. 4 (2019): 171–178; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Russian Nuclear Forces, 2019,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 75, No. 2 (2019): 73–84; Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “United States Nuclear Forces, 2019,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 75, No. 3 (2019): 122–134.

5. Xianrong Li and Yang Min, “U.S. Will Further Enhance Nuclear Warfighting Capability,” PLA Daily, March 1, 2018, p. 11.

6. Cong Fu, “Maintain Global Strategic Stability and Reduce Risks of Nuclear Conflicts” (speech, 16th PIIC Arms Control Conference, October 16, 2019.)

7. James M. Acton, “Escalation Through Entanglement: How the Vulnerability of Command-and-Control Systems Raises the Risks of an Inadvertent Nuclear War,” International Security, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2018): 56–99; James M. Acton et al., “Entanglement: Chinese and Russian Perspectives on Non-Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Risks,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, November 2017.

Tong Zhao is a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

Engaging China in strategic arms control is possible with fair, equal, and concrete proposals.

Russian Perspective: New START and Beyond

January/February 2020
By Andrey Pavlov and Anastasia Malygina

Unless Russia and the United States choose to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for up to five years, the treaty is scheduled to expire in just one year. It represents the last vestige of the Cold War-created arms control foundations that have served to stabilize U.S.-Russian relations, and its collapse could create high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability. A complete collapse of these foundations, coupled with the deepening conflict between Russia and the West, could create a situation of high uncertainty and unpredictability.

Revising the Cold War Legacy

The U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements signed after the Cold War adopted their foundations from the principles and criteria pursued during strategic arms limitation talks in the 1970s. These elements included a general vision of strategic stability, the principle of equal and indivisible security for all, equal limitations of weapons, and the types of nuclear weapons regarded as strategic and to be limited. Today, Russia continues to believe in the first three elements, while the fourth requires revision in changing circumstances.

Russia will reportedly deploy its first Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles atop SS-19 ICBMs, such as this display model photographed in 2016. (Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin)Efforts to define strategic stability under the present world order are currently developing quite intensively. Some Russian experts say that the traditional understanding is outdated and has lost its meaning,1 but most officials and analysts in Moscow continue to hold to Russia’s long-standing definition of strategic stability as a situation in which no party has an incentive to initiate a nuclear first strike.2 Maintaining parity with the United States in strategic nuclear armament also remains essential to Russian experts and officials.

The list of launchers and delivery vehicles subject to reductions and restrictions was formed during the period of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. At that time, the list included intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers. The same scope was preserved in the New START, but Russia is no longer satisfied with the status quo. Russia’s political and military leadership believe that future arms control agreements should account for weapons that are not included in the traditional set, but may be of strategic importance in the present or the near future.

Primarily, Moscow is concerned with the unregulated development of U.S. ballistic missile defenses. In 2002 the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and began to develop and deploy previously prohibited missile defense systems. When negotiating New START, Russia tried and largely failed to incorporate missile defenses into the talks. New START’s main provisions do not address missile defense, but the two sides agreed to include preambular language on ballistic missile defense: the two sides recognized “the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.” The scope of the treaty remained unchanged, and there is no reference to missile defense in the main provisions of New START. In connection with the development of missile defenses, Russian arms control rhetoric also often refers to the dangers posed by U.S. plans to deploy weapons in space.

Moreover, Russia is concerned by the growing strategic importance of non-nuclear offensive weapons and their impact on strategic stability. Although New START’s title does not mention nuclear weapons, attention is still directed at them. Only the treaty’s preamble stipulates that the parties are to be “mindful of the impact of conventionally armed ICBMs and SLBMs on strategic stability.”

Meanwhile, the general relationship between strategic nuclear and non-nuclear weapons is enshrined in Russian military doctrine. The 2010 military doctrine did not mention non-nuclear deterrence, but the latest version published in 2014 offered a clarification of “nuclear and non-nuclear” in brackets after the words “strategic deterrence.” The increased range, speed, and accuracy of these weapons, as well as their growing number, dramatically intensify their negative impact on strategic stability.

Not all Russian experts agree on the impact on strategic stability of weapons outside of New START’s restrictions, but Russian leaders strongly believe in their negative impact and in the need to take this impact into account in any future arms control agreements.

Expanding the Arms Control Agenda

Even in the most difficult times, Russia has managed to maintain parity with the United States in the field of strategic nuclear arms, in part thanks to U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements. This situation will not change as long as the generally agreed restrictions on offensive strategic nuclear weapons are maintained.

New START is quite convenient for Russia. Unlike the previous two strategic arms reduction agreements, the current treaty does not constrain Russia’s ability to determine the structure of its nuclear forces or create new weapons systems. In addition, the verification system established by this treaty is much more favorable for Russia than it was previously.

Russian leaders appear satisfied with New START, but the development of U.S. weapons systems outside of it remains a cause for concern. If the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was seen as the beginning of the process of reducing strategic nuclear weapons, further arms reductions after the implementation of New START seemed very unlikely in Russia. Consequently, when U.S. President Barack Obama announced his 2013 proposal to discuss further arms reductions, the Russian side did not react positively.3

Technicians load a U.S. Ground-Based Interceptor into its silo at Fort Greely, Alaska, in 2004. Russian officials have repeatedly expressed interest in discussing missile defenses at any future arms control talks with the United States. Almost immediately after New START’s entry into force, Russia determined its main direction of further development of policy within the framework of bilateral arms control, which remains relevant to the present day. Unable to match this technological development, Russia has expressed interest in engaging the United States regarding weapons systems that are not on the traditional list. Any form of dialogue is seen as a possible beginning of a complex negotiation process that would allow for more comprehensive agreements that expand the scope of strategic arms control. The main problem for Russia has been that neither the Obama administration nor the Trump administration was interested in such talks, preferring to limit only ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers.

Russia has employed several different tactics in an attempt to persuade the United States to expand the scope of the arms control conversation. During the Obama administration, implementing and maintaining New START appeared to be very important to the United States. At the time, Russian officials repeatedly said that Russia might consider withdrawing from New START if the U.S. development of weapons systems outside of the treaty restrictions threatened Russia’s security. At first, all attention was directed at the development of the ballistic missile defense system. In November 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a special statement about a potential response to the further deployment of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system.4 Among the retaliatory measures, he noted the possibility of Russia’s withdrawal from New START. Russian officials have persisted with this position for some time. In May 2012, for example, the statement was repeated by the Chief of Russian General Staff General Nikolay Makarov5 and in February 2014 by Michail Ulyanov, the director of the Department for Security and Disarmament of the Russian Foreign Ministry.6 The last known mention of the possibility of leaving New START as a response to U.S. missile defenses was made in May 2016 by Viktor Ozerov, the Chairman of the Committee of the Federation Council on Defense and Security.7

After 2016, Russian officials no longer publicly explored the possibility of unilateral withdrawal from New START. The Trump administration policy increased the chances of the United States itself withdrawing from New START or simply waiting for its expiration date and refusing to renew it. This option is clearly not in Russia’s interest, and currently Moscow emphasizes Russia’s desire to keep New START in force.

At the same time, this does not mean Russia completely let go of the previous desire to encourage the United States to engage in a broader dialogue on arms control. While responding to the further development of U.S. missile defenses in his State of the Nation address to the Federal Assembly in March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not mention the possibility of leaving New START. Instead, his message was about new weapons systems that Russia intends to develop and deploy to enable a credible deterrence. In 2011, Medvedev also listed the military systems that Russia intends to use to reduce the destabilizing effect of U.S. missile defenses. At the time, there was nothing new on the list, whereas Putin identified four types of weapons that definitely could be considered as strategic nuclear: the hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard, the heavy ICBM RS-28 Sarmat, the nuclear-powered cruise missile Burevestnik, and the intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo Poseidon.

Sarmat is nothing radically new, so when it comes into operation, it will fall under existing New START limitations. This was less clear for the Avangard vehicle because the reentry vehicle’s flight path is not considered ballistic over most of its flight path, but Russia has deployed the weapon on treaty-limited ICBMs, and the Russian leadership has decided not to remove this system from the limitations under the treaty. In November 2019, missiles armed with this warhead were demonstrated to U.S. inspectors conducting inspections in accordance with New START verification procedures.

The other two strategic nuclear systems are not subject to New START restrictions and Russia is not obligated to provide information about them to the United States. The role of these systems in strengthening Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrence is quite unclear, but their importance in the development of the U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and arms control may be significant. Today, it appears that the development of weapons systems not limited by New START may raise concerns in Moscow and Washington. There is one more change in Russia’s tactics: During 2011–2016, Russia regarded withdrawal from New START as an extreme measure in case the United States radically improved its missile defense capabilities. Now, Moscow is already willing to proceed in development and deployment of the new strategic nuclear weapons systems.

Today, the United States is calling Russia’s attention to the fact that new strategic weapons outside the traditional set of ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers should be considered somehow. In other words, the United States might now be interested in expanding the dialogue with Russia on strategic arms control beyond the traditional framework. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, speaking in November 2019 at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, expressed an openness to the new U.S. willingness but only in conjunction with all the other strategic arms “negatively affecting strategic stability.”8 In particular, Ryabkov mentioned missile defense, as well as the possible deployment of weapons in space. While appearing on Russian TV recently, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also mentioned U.S. conventional strategic weapons developed in the prompt global-strike programs.9

Arms Control: Bilateral or Multilateral?

Although dodging the question of extending New START, Trump administration officials have often said that bilateral nuclear arms control is outdated and that China should be included in future arms limitation agreements. Russia has historically endorsed the idea of adding partners to arms control talks. Even during the Cold War, the Soviet Union wanted to negotiate not just with the United States, but also with other NATO countries possessing nuclear weapons. At a minimum, Moscow sought to have the nuclear arsenals of other NATO countries taken into account when determining bilateral U.S.-Soviet arms limits. So while the Trump administration aims to multilateralize talks by adding China, Russia has always focused on France and the United Kingdom. In November 2019, for example, Vladimir Ermakov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, confirmed that further reductions in strategic offensive weapons were “unlikely” without the involvement of France and the UK.10 Yet, the modern problem lies in the preservation of the current arms limitations established by New START while further reduction is generally seen as just a possibility.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements about the need to involve China in future negotiations are perceived by Russia rather skeptically at best. Russia has nothing against China’s involvement in the negotiations, but is clearly not going to actively support the initiative. China’s position is clear and unchanged: China will not participate in the negotiations as long as there exists such a large quantitative gap between the nuclear arsenals, deployed or in storage, of Russia and the United States on the one hand and China on the other.

Without changes to the scope of arms control, the system that has helped U.S.-Russian stability could disappear in just one year. Expansion of bilateral dialogue beyond the traditional Cold War framework is the main aim of Russia’s current arms control policy, and it will remain relevant regardless of whether New START is extended by up to five years as allowed by the treaty. Nevertheless, Russia prefers to participate in such discussions with New START in force.

Russia and the United States have expressed interest in addressing new types of weapons and technologies in future talks, as well as more nuclear-armed nations, but they have disagreed on which weapons and nations to include. Unless they can agree to a new scope, there is a serious risk that both nations will embark on a dangerous new arms race.



1. For example, see Sergei Karaganov and Dmitry Suslov, “Сдерживание в новую эпоху,” Russia in Global Affairs, September 12, 2019, https://globalaffairs.ru/number/Sderzhivanie-v-novuyu-epokhu-20174.

2. Andrey Pavlov and Anastasia Malygina, “The Russian Approach to Strategic Stability: Preserving a Classical Formula in a Turbulent World,” in The End of Strategic Stability? Nuclear Weapons and the Challenge of Regional Rivalries, ed. Lawrence Rubin and Adam N. Stulberg (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2018), pp. 41–65.

3. Jefferson Morley and Daryl G. Kimball, “Obama Calls for Deeper Nuclear Cuts,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2013.

4. Dmitry Medvedev, Statement of the president of the Russian Federation on NATO missile defense in Europe, November 23, 2011.

5. Nikolaj Makarov, speech at a ballistic missile defense conference held by the Russian Defense Ministry, May 5, 2012, http://stat.mil.ru/conference_of_pro/news/[email protected] (in Russian).

6. Mikhail Uljanov, interview, Interfax, February 1, 2014, http://www.interfax.ru/russia/355289 (in Russian).

7.  “Россия может выйти из договора СНВ в ответ на новые ПРО,” Izvestiya, May 12, 2016, https://iz.ru/news/613368.

8. See “Moscow Non-Proliferation Conference plenary session ORI,” November 7, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5vV7WiVx50.

9. “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Answers to Questions in The Great Game Show on Channel One,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, December 22, 2019, https://www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3968263.

10. For Vladimir Ermakov’s comments on future strategic arms reductions, see “В МИД прокомментировали перспективы дальнейшего сокращения СНВ,” RIA Novosti, November 7, 2019, https://ria.ru/20191107/1560655230.html.

Andrey Pavlov chairs the Strategic and Arms Control Studies master’s degree program at Saint-Petersburg State University. Anastasia Malygina is an associate professor at Saint-Petersburg State University.


Russia seeks to broaden the scope of traditional strategic arms agreements.

The New Synergy Between Arms Control and Nuclear Command and Control

January/February 2020
By Geoffrey Forden

There are renewed worries that the U.S. nuclear command, control, and communications system (NC3) might be attacked with cyberweapons, potentially triggering a war.1 These concerns have been present since at least 1972 when the Air Force Computer Security Technology Planning Study Panel found that the “current systems provide no protection [against] a malicious user.”2

A U.S. nuclear missile combat crew rehearses procedures at Malmstrom Air Force Base in 2014. Improved encryption technology for messages from the U.S. commanders to the launch crews could reduce the risks of adversaries ordering unauthorized launches or preventing properly ordered ones. (Photo: John Turner: U.S. Air Force)The situation has not improved in the intervening years, and a 2013 Department of Defense Science Board report stated that the Pentagon is “not prepared to defend against” cyberattacks and that the military could lose “trust in the information and ability to control U.S. systems and forces [including nuclear forces].”3 Clearly, something must be done to ensure that malicious actors cannot launch U.S. nuclear weapons or prevent them from being launched.

The risk of the United States possibly losing control over its nuclear forces has spurred many people to suggest a variety of solutions to address the problem. Former Secretary of the Air Force Mike Wynne has suggested returning to analog computers, something that was state of the art in the 1950s, to combat cyberattacks on NC3.4 Such computers use a set of discrete electronic circuit elements—resistors, capacitors, and solenoids—to process information, a so-called analog computer. Fixed in place, these circuits cannot be “hacked” by malicious, off-site users because their physical position or parameters would need to be changed. The philosophy behind such proposals is the realization that entry into any computer or communications system is inevitable, but an analog system would be less vulnerable to intrusions. Still, it is not clear how vulnerable such systems would be to malicious insiders.

Returning to analog computers, however, would have tremendous limitations on how much information could be processed and would almost certainly require two entirely separate systems: one for processing highly classified information gathered about real-world situations and a second, completely separate system for sending emergency action messages directing the targeting and launch of nuclear weapons. The lack of flexibility of such a system would likely limit the ability to tailor U.S. deterrence.

A better solution would entail using encryption tools known as physically unclonable functions (PUFs) that ensure protection against cyberthreats. This concept would assume that an actor will inevitably break into the U.S. NC3 and that its launch codes and the ability to use them must not depend on preventing hacking. Instead, the launch codes would not be stored in memory in any computer but instead rely on PUFs located at the National Command Authority to generate the encrypted codes when needed and only then. These would be interpreted only by the nuclear weapons themselves and only by using another physically unclonable device that generates the decryption key.

The use of these tools could have far-reaching and beneficial implications for arms control. The technology could enable a new generation of arms control agreements that could verify actual nuclear warheads, not just nuclear delivery vehicles, with greater levels of confidence that treaty parties are complying with treaty limits on deployed warheads and not diverting the real ones to covert storage.

Understanding Encryption Keys

Today, state-of-the-art cybersecurity is based on Public Key Infrastructure. This protocol involves a pair of encryption keys: a private one not shared with anyone and a public one that can be distributed around the world. This procedure is standard today. The unique feature being introduced is that the nuclear command center is communicating directly with each nuclear weapon.

These keys are “matched” and must be used as pairs. For example, if the command center wants to send a message that only the nuclear weapon can read, it uses the public key generated by the weapon, which is matched with the weapon’s private encryption key that only the weapon knows. It is the weapon’s public key because it does not matter who sends messages that only it can decrypt. The command center uses the weapon’s encryption key to encode its message and send it to the weapon, which has the matched private key that can decrypt it. The command center wants to ensure that the nuclear weapon knows the message is from the commander and not from some hacker who has broken into the system, so it encrypts the message with its own private encryption key—no one else can “sign” the message, and the weapon and anyone else who sees it knows the message is genuine and coming from the command authority.

The usual public/private key encryption method has a major risk: if hackers or malicious insiders have invaded the system, then they might have been able to find both the command center’s and the weapon’s private encryption keys. With the weapon’s private key, they could read all the messages sent to the weapon and, stamping fake messages they write themselves with the commander’s private encryption key, fool the weapon into believing a message is from the commander when really it was from
an adversary.

An illustration of how a country’s national command authority sends a launch command (the Emergency Action Message, or EAM) to the warhead. The EAM is encrypted with the warhead’s public key and the command center’s private key in the upper left-hand corner. The warhead re-generates its private key—from the PUF-based device—each time it is needed and combines it with a stored copy of the Command Center’s public key (upper right-hand corner). These are combined to unlock the Emergency Action Message in the center.  (Illustration by Jason Bolles.)



One solution to this problem of hackers inside the command and control system is not to store the private encryption keys anywhere but to randomly generate the same unique and unguessable private key every time you need it. This private-key generation could be done with some physical process that cannot be controlled by computer. This would be immune to hackers inside the system and the insider threat as well, although a full vulnerability assessment would still need to be done.

How can the same, unique private encryption keys be generated each time one needs them? Fortunately, PUFs do just this. They are based on the fact that even precisely manufactured microelectronic circuits still have some variation that can be measured but not reproduced. A PUF that measures whether each of these variations is above some threshold can generate a string of 0s (below threshold) or 1s (above threshold) as long as needed, certainly several million digits.

When the command authority sends a message to a weapon using PUFs, they both generate their own private keys only when needed. Without storing the private keys somewhere on a computer, the hackers and insiders cannot gain access to them.

The arms control connection arises from the ability to verify individual weapons and the possibility of using this in future arms control treaties.


Nuclear weapons systems from early-warning systems to national command authority centers to the delivery systems themselves are increasingly dependent on computers. All of these NC3 system components of the United States and other nations become potential targets for adversaries during and immediately prior to war. They are also subject to cyberterrorist attacks at any time. One systematic way of thinking about these threats describes them by three general threat categories: misinformation introduced to the nuclear “infosphere” that might make command authorities unaware of a nuclear attack or believe there is one when there is not; cyberattacks intended to disable or destroy nuclear weapons, preventing them from being launched when the national authority wants them to be launched; and cyberattacks intended to launch nuclear weapons under false circumstances, such as issuing counterfeit launch orders.5

Some of these attacks, particularly planting misinformation into the nuclear infosphere, are more relevant for national command centers than the nuclear weapons themselves. As an illustration of a cyberattack in the misinformation category, a cyberattack on an air defense system intercepted signals sent from the radar to the command center and prevented the controllers from even knowing there was an attack underway. Others could be aimed at the launch systems themselves. It is these later cases where embedded NC3 becomes most important. If the warheads themselves generate public/private encryption keys and do not share the private key with other elements of the nuclear enterprise, the cybersecurity of launch control can be greatly enhanced. Not doing so continues to leave the command system for launching nuclear weapons susceptible to a number of cyberattacks that have been known to jump even “air gaps” such as those separating NC3 networks from the public internet.

Moving verification of the president’s launch orders into the weapon itself can be thought of as embedding NC3 into the nuclear weapon and conversely integrating the weapon into the NC3 architecture. In this implementation of using PUFs in NC3, the warhead uses the PUF to generate public and private encryption keys. The weapon’s public key is sent to the national command authority while the warhead generates the corresponding private key to decrypt messages each time the weapon is signaled. The weapon’s public key is then used by the command authority to encrypt its commands to that warhead.6 The national command authority further encrypts a message to the warhead with its private key, which the warhead authenticates by using the command authority’s public key.

The dual process of encrypting the message and authenticating it is analogous to making a lock whose tumblers are a combination of the receiver’s public key (encryption) and the sender’s private key (authentication). The message can only work when both pairs are present.

Questions have been raised about whether PUFs are truly unclonable. If someone has unlimited access to the PUF, they might be able to send it enough challenge-response pairs (CRPs) that another device could be constructed to respond in exactly the correct way. A PUF-protected NC3 system would therefore limit the number of times CRPs can be sent to the warhead. Once the limit is reached, the warhead would need to be returned to the warhead assembly facility to have its PUF replaced. Yet, if the right type of PUF is used, this limit can be set high enough so that this should almost never be necessary during normal use. In fact, the limit can be high enough so that only if the owner of the warhead tries to hack it, for example, while trying to break the arms control aspects and cheat on any treaty agreement, will the warhead have to be sent back.

It is theoretically possible to use the same PUF-based device for the NC3 and arms control mission, but it would be best to have two separate PUF-based devices in the nuclear weapon. The NC3-devoted PUF-based device would generate the public/private key pair and decode messages from the national command authority. The arms control-dedicated PUF would use the communications infrastructure internal to the weapon that the NC3 PUF-based device does, based on a large number of CRPs generated at the time the warhead was assembled Arms control inspectors would have a record of those CRPs, but not the owner of the weapon. Cheating by testing the PUF with enough queries will be prevented by breaking the arms control PUF after a fixed number of queries have been sent to it.

Separating these two functions into different devices completely removes any possibility that the treaty partner could access the weapon’s private launch code during the proposed treaty-mandated manufacturing process while still facilitating the arms control aspects.

Arms Control Opportunities: Warhead Accounting

The most likely direction for future arms control treaties is a move from limiting the number of delivery systems to restricting the actual number of warheads allowed. The basic idea behind these treaties is to prevent a treaty partner from possessing undeclared warheads or diverting declared warheads to a covert stockpile. Early concepts of a warhead-accountable treaty foresaw each treaty party periodically declaring the location of each nuclear weapon (mounted on a missile at a specific base or at a declared weapons storage depot). On a random but controlled basis, inspectors from a treaty partner country would come and “verify” that a randomly selected subset of warheads declared to be at that facility was actually present. Most of these concepts for verification involve taking radiation measurements of the warhead in a way that protects classified information about the weapon’s design.

Although these measurements can individually be done quickly, perhaps in a minute or less, they all require the selected nuclear weapons to be moved to a central location for verification. This significantly limits the number of nuclear weapons that can be verified during any visit. Furthermore, few if any of these concepts of operations envision verifying deployed warheads—an obvious gap if one is looking for undeclared weapons. The confidence of a treaty party that a significant number of warheads have not been diverted increases rapidly as more warheads are verified.

Much of the power of warhead accounting comes from authenticating warheads over a period of time and at a variety of facilities. In this way, confidence is built between treaty partners. A PUF-based electronic interrogation should make it possible to count a large number of warheads, including warheads mounted on missiles and even on alert, although not at sea. This would greatly increase the confidence that a treaty partner has not diverted any weapons. It will also be able to verify that any warhead present at the facility and not just those requested based on declarations is actually a warhead.

Implementation: How to Prevent the Warhead From Lying

An immediate objection to this plan is the possibility that a fake warhead might lie about its identity. A treaty partner might wish to do this because it wants to risk having two or more warheads with the same “identity,” thereby building up a larger arsenal than it has declared. In this case, the treaty partner might gamble that treaty inspectors are unlikely to discover the identically labeled warheads, but PUF-based accounting makes this a dangerous risk because so many more warheads can be verified.

A 10-warhead bus from a retired MX "Peacekeeper" ICBM is displayed at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Future arms control agreements could use effective encryption technology to help inspectors verify the number of deployed warheads while protecting other information about the weapons. (Photo: Mark Mauno/Flickr)A cheating treaty partner might also want to move a real warhead to a covert facility while sending a fake warhead to a dismantlement facility, again increasing the number of actual warheads in its arsenal above the agreed limit. Technical and procedural measures can prevent such lying. First, the PUF circuit, which would be developed and produced in cooperation with the treaty partners and therefore should be trusted by all,7 will not allow the host country as the owner of the warhead to interrogate the PUF enough times that it could be cloned.

To fully implement this, the PUF would need to be placed in a location in the warhead that would require shipment to a warhead assembly facility for replacement. This could be ensured by including a simple radiation detector that would report whether a threshold amount of radiation was met or surpassed, although further work must be done on this assurance.

When the PUF circuits are manufactured, their library of CRPs is recorded in a secure memory storage unit with the capability of interrogating each warhead and authenticating them by comparing their responses to this library. The information they contain is prevented from being disclosed or changed by only communicating with the inspection tool through information diodes. These units are stored in a tamperproof container and placed under dual control where both treaty partners must be present to access the device.

Finally, in any treaty that counts warheads, there must be perimeter monitoring, which checks all the containers going into and out of the warhead assembly facility without revealing any classified information other than that a warhead is present. When a new or refurbished warhead leaves the facility, the treaty partners monitoring the facility can authenticate each warhead using the PUF mechanisms. If there are doubts about whether a shipment leaving the facility contains a warhead, other steps can be taken, such radioactivity measurement or a visual search. This concept of perimeter monitoring is not new and was fully implemented under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty when U.S. and Soviet inspectors monitored everything that left the U.S. and Soviet missile production plants at Magna and Votkinsk, respectively.


In the context of NC3, enabling nuclear weapons to create their own encryption keys with PUF-based devices provides a considerable number of advantages. First, the weapon provides its own private encryption key that does not have to be stored elsewhere. Second, the same unique private encryption key is generated each time it is needed and hence cannot be accessed at other times by unauthorized users. Third, this concept mitigates the danger of a malicious insider or a foreign or terrorist actor launching or preventing the launch of U.S. nuclear weapons even if they have gained access to the NC3 system. Fourth, this concept imposes no barriers to tailoring deterrence. Finally, this solution can be implemented and still have a human in the loop before launch.

For arms control purposes, PUF-based circuits could be used to monitor stored and, potentially, deployed nuclear warheads. This would improve the confidence of all treaty partners that nobody is secretly diverting warheads from declared stockpiles. Radiation-based warhead authentication cannot assess the same number of warheads as a PUF-based verification system, so the new system would provide a higher level of confidence in the treaty partner’s stockpile.



1. For example, see Erik Gartzke and Jon R. Lindsay, “Thermonuclear Cyberwar,” Journal of Cybersecurity, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2017): 37-48.

2. James P. Anderson, “Computer Security Technology Planning Study,” U.S. Air Force, ESD-TR-73-51, Vol. 1, October 1972, https://csrc.nist.gov/csrc/media/publications/conference-paper/1998/10/08/proceedings-of-the-21st-nissc-1998/documents/early-cs-papers/ande72a.pdf.

3. U.S Department of Defense Defense Science Board Task Force on Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat, “Task Force Report,” January 2013, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB424/docs/Cyber-081.pdf.

4. Mike Wynne, “Trump DepSecDef Prospect Urges Federal Cyber to Go Analog,” Breaking Defense, November 23, 2016.

5. Andrew Futter, Hacking the Bomb: Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2018).

6. Once encrypted with the warhead’s public key, only the warhead’s private key can decode it. Hacking the command center and stealing the warhead’s encryption keys do not risk enabling the hacker launching nuclear weapons. Extreme care must be taken with the command center’s private key. It is possible that a physically unclonable function implementation of that might also be a good idea.

7. Previous projects have explored joint development projects. The Joint Verification Experiment, in which the two sides developed technical means of “calibrating” the seismic signals from underground nuclear tests at their respective test sites, is one such example. The Warhead Safety and Security Exchange project explored joint scientific research between Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories in which the countries worked together on safety and security of nuclear warheads during transportation and storage, safety issues associated with the aging of high explosives, and the assurance of the safety and security of nuclear warheads during dismantlement.

Geoffrey Forden is a physicist and principal member of the technical staff at the Cooperative Monitoring Center at Sandia National Laboratories. This article describes objective technical results and analysis. Any subjective views or opinions that might be expressed in the paper do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Energy or the U.S. government. Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory managed and operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-NA0003525.

Adopting modern encryption technology for commanding nuclear weapons could yield arms control benefits as well.

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.


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