"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."

– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
October 20, 2014
January/February 2020

Arms Control Today January/February 2020

Edition Date: 
Friday, January 10, 2020
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U.S. Tests Second Medium-Range Missile

January/February 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Officials Threaten Open Skies Treaty

January/February 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Washington warns NATO allies of possible treaty withdrawal.

Congress OKs Trump Nuclear Priorities

January/February 2020
By Kingston Reif

On January 24 we updated this story to change the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the Missile Defense Agency from $10.4 billion to the correct amount of $9.4 billion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triad Fully Funded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missile Defense Oversight Increased

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The appropriations law provides $10.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $1 billion from the budget request of $9.4 billion. The increase includes more than $500 million in unrequested funding to sustain the existing Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system based in Alaska and California and design a new homeland defense interceptor in the wake of the demise of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program. (See ACT, October 2019.)

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


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

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

CEND Establishes Two-Year Work Program

January/February 2020
By Shannon Bugos

Participants in a U.S. disarmament initiative agreed in November to pursue a two-year program of work. First proposed by the United States in 2018, the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) initiative has established three working subgroups meant to make headway on disarmament issues in advance of this year’s review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December 2019. Ford is spearheading the U.S. initiative to discuss the security rationales for retaining nuclear weapons. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)The primary CEND working group held its second session in London on Nov. 20–22. (See ACT, September 2019.) According to the U.S. State Department, 62 participants from 31 countries gathered to continue “their open and realistic dialogue on improving the security environment and advancing further progress on nuclear disarmament.” Participants included nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, as well as some countries not party to the NPT.

Christopher Ford, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, told the working group that the “conceptual foundation” of the initiative was based on “the insight that disarmament can and will move forward only to the degree that the international community is able to address the security issues that underlie states’ rationales for retaining nuclear weapons.” This “fraught” security environment, Ford later said during a Dec. 2 event at the Stimson Center in Washington, is “one in which the challenges of traditional bilateral approaches to arms control mechanisms are no longer adequate.”

The CEND initiative aims to bring together “a wide range of diverse countries” to consider “how to bring security conditions to the point where disarmament will finally be achievable—and how to move forward toward that objective as best we can in a still highly imperfect security environment,” Ford said in London. “The objective of CEND is thus two-fold: to identify the questions that need to be asked to this end and to start doing the work of trying to answer them.”

In pursuit of that objective, the group’s initial plenary meeting in July established three subgroups to each tackle a specific issue: the reduction of the perceived incentives for states to acquire or increase their nuclear stockpiles, the functioning and effectiveness of existing nuclear disarmament mechanisms and institutions, and potential interim measures to reduce risks related to nuclear weapons. During the November meeting, the three subgroups set to work in order to each develop terms of reference and then a program of work. All three established that their respective programs of work will “include deliverables that would be completed within roughly two years,” according to documents obtained by Arms Control Today.

The first subgroup, focused on understanding incentives for nuclear weapons programs and chaired by the Netherlands and Morocco, determined in London that its program of work would include developing recommendations for improved dialogue among states on threat perceptions. It also decided to focus on identifying concrete measures conducive to disarmament, developing approaches for better addressing noncompliance, and recommending avenues for future dialogue on nuclear deterrence and the humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons.

Chaired by South Korea and the United States, the second subgroup turned its attention to identifying the best practices of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament mechanisms and institutions, as well as developing proposals to maintain and improve the functioning of those bodies. In addition, the subgroup aims to identify opportunities in which to build capacity, such as encouraging the next generation of leaders and civil society at large.

The third subgroup, led by Germany and Finland, aims to explore nuclear risk reduction measures and analyze the practicality of those identified measures. Its program of work also includes considering “a menu of concrete and actionable options for risk reduction measures” and conducting a dialogue on the “viability and desirability” of the options.

The third meeting of the CEND initiative is not yet scheduled, but is expected early this year, before the NPT review conference kicks off April 27.

In their second meeting, participants in a U.S. initiative identified working objectives for three subgroups.

North Korea, China, Russia Converge Positions

January/February 2020
By Julia Masterson

Russia and China proposed partially lifting UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea on Dec. 16, in an effort to reinstate a diplomatic process, according to the Russian news agency Tass. Ahead of the draft resolution’s release, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said on Dec. 11 that “sanctions will not substitute for diplomacy. It is impossible to reach an agreement without offering something in return.”

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya speaks to the UN Security Council meeting in January 2019. He has advocated using fewer sanctions and more diplomacy as part of a threeway effort to ease international tensions about North Korea. (Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)Starting in 2018, China, North Korea, and Russia have held trilateral talks that have received less international attention than the stalled U.S.-North Korean diplomatic efforts to reach a settlement on denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula. The talks appear to have focused so far on converging the three countries’ positions to strengthen Pyongyang’s stance in negotiations with Washington. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Nov. 8 that the independent trilateral initiative should not be considered a substitute for the U.S.-North Korean dialogue, but the co-sponsored draft resolution purportedly calls for the “prompt resumption of the six-party talks or re-launch of multilateral consultations in any other similar format, with the goal of facilitating a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue,” signaling Russia’s and China’s mounting interest in collaborating formally on North Korea’s denuclearization process.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui met with Russian officials twice in Moscow in November to discuss “international issues of mutual concern” and shared “views on the situation of the Korean peninsula,” according to statements issued by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Choe met for the first time with counterparts in Beijing and in Moscow in October 2018.

Based on reporting by the South China Morning Post, initial conversations appear to have centered on gaining support for Pyongyang’s preference for reciprocal concessions, trading North Korean steps toward denuclearization for a gradual alleviation of U.S. and UN sanctions, as well as actions to address Pyongyang’s security concerns. According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement released after the October meeting, “it is time to start considering the adjustment of the UN Security Council’s sanctions regime” against North Korea.

The Dec. 16 draft resolution reiterated this call and specifically recommended exempting from sanctions “certain industrial machinery and transportation vehicles which are used for infrastructure construction and cannot be diverted to…nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” among other things. It also urged “further practical steps to reduce military tension on the Korean Peninsula and probability of any military confrontation by all appropriate means, such as, but not limited to, conclusion of agreements between military officials, and adoption of formal declaration and/or a peace treaty for the end of the Korean war.”

Faced with mounting pressure from Pyongyang, the Trump administration, which has long maintained that North Korea’s full denuclearization must precede sanctions relief, may be moving toward an increasingly more flexible negotiation stance. At a UN Security Council meeting on Dec. 11, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft noted that Washington “remain[s] ready to take actions in parallel, and to simultaneously take concrete steps toward this agreement” and added that the United States is “prepared to be flexible in how we approach this matter.” At the same meeting, a Chinese representative reminded that it is “imperative” that economic sanctions on North Korea be eased, and Nebenzya affirmed that progress is impossible for as long as North Korea is “told to unequivocally agree to all conditions that are imposed for the promise of future benefits.”

Nebenzya’s comments closely echoed those of Lavrov’s at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference on Nov. 8, where he spoke on Moscow’s and Beijing’s preference for an “action-by-action, step-by-step” approach to North Korean denuclearization.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held summits with Russian and Chinese leaders throughout 2018 and 2019 in addition to his two with U.S. President Donald Trump. Kim met Russian President Vladimir Putin once, in April 2019, and Chinese President Xi Jinping most recently in June 2019.

The three nations have been engaged in discussions while U.S.-North Korean diplomacy gains larger headlines.

Mine Ban Treaty Members Reaffirm Goals

January/February 2020
By Owen LeGrone

Parties to the 164-nation Mine Ban Treaty recommitted to their plans to eradicate landmines by 2025 during the treaty’s fourth review conference in Oslo on Nov. 25-30. More than 700 delegates gathered to mark the treaty’s 20 years since entry into force.

De-miners work to clear mines in Muhamalai, Sri Lanka in 2019. The Mine Ban Treaty held its fourth review conference in November 2019. (Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images)Conference participants adopted the Oslo Action Plan and the Oslo Declaration on a Mine-Free World, documents that reaffirmed their intent to achieve full treaty compliance, including mine destruction and clearance, “to the fullest extent possible” by 2025. Full compliance was a goal originally stated in the Maputo Action Plan, created at the 2014 review conference.

The Oslo Action Plan established a 50-point program of action, which included measures to facilitate treaty universalization, stockpile destruction, mine clearance, risk education, and international cooperation. It also highlighted the need to provide continuing assistance for victims of mines. Margaret Arach Orech, a Ugandan landmine survivor and ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), told the conference that “mine-free does not mean victim-free” and that “victims will remain a core pillar of the convention” once its goal of eradicating mines around the world is accomplished.

Treaty members have made significant progress over the past two decades. Thirty-two states-parties and one other state with mine contamination have declared themselves mine-free, according to the 2019 report of the monitoring organization Mine Action Review. One state, Nigeria, announced new contamination in 2018 after having declared itself mine-free in 2011.

Treaty parties have destroyed more than 55 million landmines of the estimated 160 million that existed globally in 1999, according to statistics released in November in the annual “Landmine Monitor” report. The report estimates that there may now be fewer than 50 million landmines stockpiled globally, an estimated 45 million of which are held by nonsignatories such as Russia, Pakistan, India, China, and the United States, in descending order of stockpile size.

Conference participants noted recent challenges to the global norm against anti-personnel landmines created by the Mine Ban Treaty. Particularly concerning is an upswing in landmine deaths worldwide, due partly to increased violence in Afghanistan, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Syria, Ukraine, and other conflict regions. Although 2018 was marked by the lowest number of deaths and injuries in three years, 6,897 people were killed or injured by mines and explosive remnants of war, roughly twice the 2013 total.

For the third year in a row, the highest number of landmine casualties, more than 50 percent, were incurred by improvised mines used by nonstate armed groups. Three nonsignatory states—Myanmar, North Korea, and Syria—were also confirmed as having used mines since the previous review conference. None of the treaty’s signatories employed them, but Greece and Ukraine were identified by the 2019 report as continuing to violate their stockpile destruction commitments. The treaty requires states-parties to destroy their landmine stockpiles in four years.

Conference attendees also highlighted the gendered aspects of landmine issues. A group of 32 women and girls from 18 countries arrived with the ICBL delegation to take part in the Nov. 30 closing ceremony. Finland presented a report concerning gender mainstreaming within the membership of the treaty.

Sudan will preside over the next meeting of states-parties, scheduled to convene in Geneva in November 2020.

Now 20 years in force, the treaty has made significant progress toward its goal of ridding the world of anti-personnel landmines.

France Seeks Dialogue on Post-INF Treaty Arms Control

January/February 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a global U.S.-Russian moratorium on deploying intermediate-range missiles, but emphasized that Paris remains open to dialogue with Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after their meeting in Paris in November 2019. Macron has expressed a desire for European nations to become more involved in nuclear arms control.  (Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images)“We did not accept the moratorium offered by Russia, but we considered that we should not just ignore it because it was open for discussion,” Macron said at a Nov. 28 press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. It is in France’s interest, he said, to discuss such matters of security in a dialogue with Russia. NATO previously rejected Putin’s proposal in September, calling it not “credible.” (See ACT, October 2019.)

Macron also argued that Europe must be involved in any potential agreement that might replace the INF Treaty. “We cannot leave our security into the hands of a bilateral treaty to which no European country would be part of,” Macron stated.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Dec. 4 that Moscow supported Macron’s argument that Europe must be involved in the talks for any replacement arms control agreement. A day later, Putin commented in a meeting with defense officials that, apart from Macron, “[t]here is no response from our other partners. This forces us to take measures to counter these threats.”

At the end of the NATO leaders meeting Dec. 4 in London, the heads of state issued a declaration stating, “We are addressing and will continue to address in a measured and responsible way Russia’s deployment of new intermediate-range missiles, which brought about the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and which pose significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

France Seeks Dialogue on Post-INF Treaty Arms Control

Senator Refreshes Hold on Firearms Export Changes

January/February 2020

Trump administration proposals making changes to how certain firearms are exported were put on hold in December, just days before they could have been published. It was the second time in 2019 that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, asked the administration to delay the changes.

His Dec. 10 request came one day after the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act was announced, which dropped a House-approved amendment to prohibit the changes. (See ACT, December 2019.) The latest version of the revised rules had been sent to Congress on Nov. 12, starting a 30-day clock before they could be formally published. The administration can now choose to ignore the hold, risking upsetting Menendez and others.

Under the proposed rules, export controls for semiautomatic and nonautomatic firearms and their ammunition, as well as certain other weapons, would be moved from the State Department-led U.S. Munitions List to the Commerce Department-led Commerce Control List. In making such a change, Congress would no longer receive notifications of proposed sales.

As he did in a letter dated Feb. 22, when he first had placed a hold on the proposed rules, Menendez insisted that Congress continue to be notified. He indicated, however, that he would no longer insist on a hold related to 3D printing concerns. Revised rules proposed in November said that the Commerce Department would mandate licenses for online publication of 3D printing plans. Menendez still indicated concern and demanded that Commerce “maintain a policy of ‘presumption of denial’ for any license application."—JEFF ABRAMSON

Senator Refreshes Hold on Firearms Export Changes

BWC States Discuss New Technologies

January/February 2020

States-parties to the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) discussed the implications of emerging technologies and strategies to bolster emergency preparedness during their annual meeting in Geneva on Dec. 3–6.

The BWC bans the development or possession of biological weapons, but rapid advances in the biotechnology field require treaty participants to keep abreast of developments that could have military applications. The treaty has 183 states-parties and four signatory states. Only 10 states have not signed the treaty.

One expert recently stressed the BWC’s fundamental role in creating a global norm against the use of biological weapons. “Any government with any life science capability can now sequence and synthesize whatever it would like to do. Genomes can be engineered to give them new, potentially dangerous characteristics, transforming pathogens that are now benign into pathogens that have the ability to spread or be lethal,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health and Security at Johns Hopkins University, in Nov. 20 testimony before the Senate Armed Services emerging threats subcommittee. To adequately respond to genome sequencing and other emerging, destabilizing technologies, Inglesby advocated for governmental efforts to strengthen the BWC and its implementation by states.—JULIA MASTERSON

BWC States Discuss New Technologies


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