Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
May 2018
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
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EU Options May Fall Short for Iran Deal

May 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

As U.S. President Donald Trump threatens to break from the Iran nuclear deal, European officials are considering options to try to sustain the international agreement, an effort that some concede is unlikely to succeed.

Trump threatened in January to withhold waivers necessary to continue the sanctions relief granted under the deal unless France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, known collectively as the E3, reach an agreement with the U.S. administration to address what the president calls “flaws” in the nuclear accord by the May 12 waiver deadline. (See ACT, March 2018.)

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump watch a military review at the White House on April 24. During his three-day state visit, Macron pressed Trump to maintain the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)Since the January ultimatum, the E3 has been negotiating with the United States to reach an agreement that would satisfy Trump but not violate the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during separate visits to Washington in late April, each urged Trump to remain in the deal. Macron said there is no “plan B” alternative and Washington should remain in the agreement.

Despite Macron’s comments, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said the European Union is considering what steps can be taken to maintain the nuclear accord if the United States reimposes sanctions or pulls out of the deal. Mogherini headed the P5+1 group (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the United States) that negotiated with Iran.

It is not clear whether the EU will be able to agree on measures to protect its banks and businesses from any reimposed U.S. sanctions. Even if the EU pursues these options, it is not clear they will provide enough economic incentives for Iran to stay in the deal.

The waivers that expire May 12 are tied to provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 that require countries purchasing oil from Iran to significantly reduce purchases every 180 days or face U.S. sanctions, which include cutting off from the U.S. financial system banks processing such transactions. Even if Trump takes the position that the United States will not immediately enforce the sanctions, countries such as China, India, Japan, and South Korea will have to begin planning to purchase less Iranian oil in anticipation of when the United States does begin to enforce the measures.

The EU is also a major purchaser of Iranian oil, and despite its commitment to stand by the deal, the measures available are unlikely to give European businesses and banks confidence that they can conduct legitimate transactions with Iran without the risk of being cut off from the U.S. financial system.

The EU can issue a blocking regulation, which would shield EU companies from U.S. extraterritorial measures, or try and set up dedicated channels to do business with Iran that are insulated from the U.S. financial system. The EU has used the blocking regulation in the past to protect against U.S. sanctions but in conjunction with a commitment from the United States not to pursue penalties against European businesses. Given Trump’s track record of trying to persuade entities to refrain from business with Iran, it is unlikely that such a guarantee would be issued.

Implementing the blocking regulation would also require consensus approval by the 28 EU states, some of which currently oppose the move because it is unlikely to be successful and risks aggravating the economic rift between the United States and the EU.

An official from one of the E3 states told Arms Control Today on April 18 that no company or bank will want to be the “first test case” and risk being cut off from the U.S. financial system. He said the best chance to sustain the deal is to reach an arrangement that addresses Trump’s concerns without violating the agreement, but he said he is increasingly pessimistic that the E3 and Iran can reach an arrangement by May 12 that Trump will accept.

U.S. and E3 officials met in Washington on April 11 to continue negotiations. Although progress was made on some areas of U.S. concern, such as ballistic missiles, “unreasonable demands” from the United States are complicating any compromise language on the timing for phasing out certain nuclear-related restrictions, the European official said. He added that European countries “cannot and will not commit to automatically reimposing sanctions” if Iran resumes permissible nuclear activities after limits expire.

Additionally, the official said European countries are still seeking commitments from the Trump administration that Washington will meet its obligations down the road and will refrain from making further demands. Even if an agreement is reached between E3 and U.S. officials, Trump’s unpredictability and his record of animosity toward the nuclear accord cast doubt on whether he will support it.

Further, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, and his new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have called for U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. Unlike their predecessors, who argued against breaking the deal, Bolton’s and Pompeo’s past comments suggest they are unlikely to urge Trump to accept what the E3 may offer.

If Trump refuses to waive sanctions, Iran may respond to the U.S. violation by breaching the deal’s constraints. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CBS News’ Face the Nation broadcast April 22 that if the “benefits of the deal for Iran start to diminish, then there is no reason for Iran to remain in the deal.”

The “world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one-sidedly implement a deal that has already been broken,” Zarif said. Without going into the details of any specific steps, he said Iran’s options include “resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities.”

One of those options is resuming levels of uranium enrichment now barred by the accord. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on April 21 that if a decision were made to resume enrichment to 20 percent uranium-235, it would only take Iran four days to begin doing so.

Under the accord, Iran is limited to enrichment levels below 3.67 percent U-235, suitable for fueling electric power reactors. Uranium enriched to 20 percent is not suitable for nuclear weapons, but would put Tehran significantly closer to the 90 percent-enriched U-235 necessary for a bomb.

Iran’s uranium enrichment to 20 percent and stockpiling of the material accelerated negotiations that led to the 2015 agreement curtailing Iran’s nuclear activities.

Iran threatens to resume activities barred under the nuclear accord if Trump moves to reimpose sanctions.

Congress Boosts Missile Defense Spending

May 2018
By Kingston Reif

Lawmakers in March approved a record increase in spending on U.S. ballistic missile defense programs amid concern about the significant progress North Korea made last year to advance its ballistic missile capabilities.

Congress approved $11.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $3.6 billion, or 46 percent, from the Trump administration’s May 2017 initial budget request. The appropriation is the largest Congress has ever provided for the agency after adjusting for inflation.

At a signing ceremony March 23, President Donald Trump gestures toward the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress, as Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stand behind him. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)The big jump in missile defense spending is part of the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law March 23. Fiscal year 2018 started Oct. 1, 2017, and runs until Sept. 30.

The law provides all of the extra $4 billion for missile defense programs requested by the administration in a November 2017 amendment to its fiscal year 2018 budget request. (See ACT, December 2017.) Trump said at a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, last August that he would be increasing the missile defense budget “by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with” missile defense.

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, designed to protect the United States against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack from North Korea or Iran, received $568 million more than the budget request to begin increasing the number of long-range missile defense interceptors by up to 20 beyond the currently deployed 44. Congress doled out $393 million more than requested to accelerate the development of a new, more effective kill vehicle to arm the interceptors.

In addition, the law provides $1.3 billion in extra funds for the purchase of additional interceptors for the Navy’s Aegis missile defense program and the Army’s Theater High Altitude Area Defense system.

The Defense Department is still conducting a congressionally mandated review of the U.S. approach to missile defense, which it began one year ago. (See ACT, May 2017.) The review report had originally been slated for completion in February, but the Pentagon now anticipates a May release.

The omnibus appropriations law is a nearly $1.3 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills that had to be passed to keep the government operating. For the first six months of the fiscal year, Congress passed a series of continuing resolutions that extended funding for most discretionary governmental programs at the previous year’s levels, although several programs, including some missile programs, received fresh funding at the fiscal year 2018 request level.

In February, Congress agreed to a new, two-year budget deal that lifted the spending cap on national defense funding for fiscal year 2018, imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, from $549 billion to $629 billion. That act places limits on discretionary spending, including military spending.

The omnibus law largely supports the Trump administration’s proposed budget request for programs to sustain and rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure.

The law includes $1.93 billion for the Navy’s Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program, an increase of $44 million from the request level. The law provides the requested amounts of $216 million for the Air Force’s effort to develop a replacement for the Minuteman III ICBM system, an increase of almost $102 million over 2017 levels and $489 million for a new fleet of nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles, almost five times as much as Congress appropriated last year.

The law funds the nuclear-capable B-21 “Raider” bomber program at $20 million below the budget request level of $2.0 billion.

Costs of Selected Nuclear Weapons Programs

B-21 “Raider” Long-Range Bomber
$2.3 billion: FY 2019 request
$2.0 billion: FY 2018 appropriation
$2.7 billion: FY 2019 projection (as of FY 2018 request)
Program Description and Cost: Will initially replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers. The current plan is to procure at least 100 new bombers that would begin to enter service in the late 2020s. The Air Force has refused to release the value of the engineering and manufacturing development contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015 to develop the B-21, citing classification concerns. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the program at $97 billion (in fiscal year 2017 dollars). The Defense Department attributes 5 percent of the acquisition cost of the program to the nuclear mission.

Columbia-Class Submarine
$3.7 billion: FY 2018 request
$1.9 billion: FY 2018 appropriation
$3.7 billion: FY 2019 projection (as of FY 2018 request)
Program Description and Cost: Would replace the current fleet of 14 Ohio-class submarines with 12 new submarines. The first new submarine is scheduled to enter service in 2031. Estimates put the acquisition cost of the program at $128 billion (in then-year dollars).

B61-12 Warhead Life Extension
$794 million: FY 2019 request
$789 million: FY 2018 appropriation
Not Available: FY 2018 projection (as of FY 2018 request)
Program Description and Cost: Would refurbish the aging B61 nuclear gravity bomb by consolidating four of the five existing versions into a single weapon known as the B61-12. The first B61-12 is slated to be produced in 2020. The upgraded weapon will be equipped with a new tail-kit guidance assembly. The National Nuclear Security Administration estimates the cost of the life extension program will be $7.6 billion, but the agency’s independent cost estimate is $10 billion (in then-year dollars) and says it will take longer to complete.

Long-Range Standoff Weapon
$615 million: FY 2019 request
$489 million: FY 2018 appropriation
$620 million: FY 2019 projection (as of FY 2018 request)
Program Description and Cost: Would develop a replacement for the nuclear-capable AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The new missile will be compatible with the B-2 and B-52 bombers, as well as the planned B-21. The first missile is slated to be produced in 2026. The current Air Force procurement plan calls for about 1,000 new nuclear-capable missiles, roughly double the size of the existing fleet of ALCMs. The Air Force estimates the program will cost $10.8 billion (in then-year dollars).

W80-4 Warhead Life Extension
$655 million: FY 2019 request
$399 million: FY 2018 appropriation
Not Available: FY 2019 projection (as of FY 2018 request)
Program Description and Cost: Would refurbish the aging air-launched cruise missile warhead for delivery on the Long-Range Standoff Weapon. The National Nuclear Security Administration estimates the cost of the program will be between $8 billion and $11.6 billion (in then-year dollars). The first refurbished warhead is scheduled for production in 2025.

B61-12 Life Extension (Tail Kit Assembly)
$254 million: FY 2019 request
$180 million: FY 2018 appropriation
$231 million: FY 2018 projection (as of FY 2017 request)
Program Description and Cost: Would provide the B61-12 with a guided tail kit for accuracy. The Air Force plans to procure more than 800 tail kits. The program also supports integration of the warhead system on existing long-range bombers and short-range fighter aircraft. The Air Force estimates the tail kit will cost $1.6 billion to develop (in then-year dollars). A 2013 Pentagon
report put the total life-cycle cost for the program at $3.7 billion.

Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent System
$345 million: FY 2019 request
$216 million: FY 2018 appropriation
$348 million: FY 2019 projection (as of FY 2018 request)
Program Description and Cost: Would design, develop, produce, and deploy a replacement for the current Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system and its supporting infrastructure. The system is slated for initial fielding in fiscal year 2028. The Air Force is planning to procure 666 missiles and modernize the supporting Minuteman III infrastructure. The program is estimated to cost $85 billion (in then-year dollars) over 30 years, although the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office projects the cost could be as high as $140 billion.

Kingston Reif
Sources: Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Arms Control Association

The law also provides $10.6 billion for nuclear weapons activities conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an increase of $1.4 billion, or 15 percent, from the fiscal year 2017 appropriation.

The law does not provide funding for the new nuclear capabilities proposed by the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review report, which was released in February. These “supplements,” as the report describes them, include the near-term deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and, in the longer term, development of a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.

The Defense Department’s budget request for fiscal year 2019, released Feb. 12, includes $22.6 million for developing the missile variant. The department plans to spend a total of $48.5 million on the effort over the next five years.

The proposed budget for the NNSA, which maintains nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure, initially did not include the funds needed to modify SLBM warheads. (See ACT, April 2018.) But the White House notified Congress on April 13 that it seeks to reallocate $65 million within the NNSA weapons budget to modify a small number of 100-kiloton W76-1 SLBM warheads to detonate at a less powerful yield.

Congress Moves to End MOX Fuel Project

Congress in March took a significant step toward terminating the construction of a controversial mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant in South Carolina in favor of a cheaper alternative.

The plant, located at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site, is designed to turn 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program into fuel for power reactors. The MOX fuel effort has experienced major cost increases and schedule delays that put the project in jeopardy. The Energy Department has sought to end the program since 2014, but Congress, led by South Carolina’s congressional delegation, has blocked such moves.

The fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill includes $335 million to continue construction of the MOX fuel facility, an increase of $65 million from the initial budget request. But the bill, which was signed by President Donald Trump on March 23, accepts a provision in the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the energy secretary to stop construction if there is a cheaper alternative. (See ACT, December 2017.)

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous Energy Department agency, estimates the total construction cost of the MOX fuel project at $17 billion, of which approximately $5.4 billion has been spent. The agency projects the annual cost to operate the facility at $800 million to $1 billion.

The authorization act requires that a life cycle cost report on the non-MOX fuel alternative be delivered to Congress and that the alternative option “be less than approximately half of the estimated remaining [life cycle] cost” of the MOX fuel program. The Energy Department has identified what it describes as a cheaper alternative, known as “dilute and dispose.”

The dilute-and-dispose process would down-blend the plutonium with an inert material for direct disposal in a repository. The omnibus bill provides $10 million to continue preliminary work on this option, an increase of $1 million from the initial budget request.

The NNSA claims that the dilute-and-dispose process can be implemented decades sooner at a much lower cost and with fewer risks. (See ACT, June 2015.) The agency said in 2017 that it planned to spend $500 million to get the alternative approach operational and $400 million annually to implement it.

Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a March 23 blog post that “the ball is in the [Energy Department’s] court to complete its life-cycle cost analyses for both dilute-and-dispose and the remainder of the MOX program as accurately, comprehensively, and quickly as it can.”

The department “needs to document that conclusion in an iron-clad fashion to protect its analysis from the MOX supporters in Congress who may seek to undermine it,” Lyman added.

The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget request submitted in February would provide $220 million to continue termination of the MOX fuel project and $59 million to support the dilute-and-dispose option.—KINGSTON REIF

The Congressional Budget Office estimated last fall that the plans Trump inherited from the Obama administration to maintain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years would cost $1.2 trillion. (See ACT, December 2017.) The figure does not include the effects of inflation.

The law includes $2 billion for NNSA fissile material security and nonproliferation efforts, an increase of $206 million above the budget request and $116 million above last year’s appropriation. The additional funding supports stepped-up efforts to secure and eliminate radiological materials that could be used in a so-called dirty bomb and to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium to produce molybdenum-99, a medical isotope.

This increase could be short-lived. The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget request proposes to reduce funding for NNSA programs to secure and eliminate nuclear weapons-usable materials by $115 million, a 26 percent reduction from the omnibus level.

The spending is part of the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations law.

Hawkish Advisers Get Key Trump Roles

May 2018
By Terry Atlas

President Donald Trump’s national security team has taken on a more hawkish profile with the addition of former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who has advocated regime change in Iran and military strikes against North Korea, as national security adviser and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, an outspoken critic of the Iran nuclear deal, as secretary of state.

Protesters wave placards as Secretary of State-nominee Mike Pompeo, the outgoing CIA director, begins testimony April 12 during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)In his second overhaul of his national security team, Trump has shown his diminishing patience for those around him urging caution or offering opinions at odds with his own, as demonstrated by his unceremonious dumping of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and respected national security adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Senate Democrats said the latest air strikes against Syrian chemical weapons-related targets, undertaken without specific authorization by Congress, added to their fears about the use of military force by the president and his new advisers.

“A vote for Mr. Pompeo is a vote for Trump’s war cabinet,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Only a last-minute switch by former opponent Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave Pompeo an endorsement by the committee, and he went on to win confirmation by the Senate.

At his April 12 confirmation hearing, Pompeo, a West Point and Harvard Law School graduate, fielded questions about how he would address perils involving Russia, North Korea, Iran, China and elsewhere. But the subtext for many of the questions had to do with managing the volatile situation closer to home, just two miles down Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House.

As the United States faces an array of dangerous challenges, Democratic senators questioned whether Pompeo, the CIA director for just more than a year, would lower the risks that an impulsive Trump might stumble into a war. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the committee’s ranking member, was blunt: “Will you stand up to President Trump and say ‘No, you are wrong in that view,’ or will you be a yes man?”

Although Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and other Senate Republicans greeted his nomination with approval, except for military-intervention skeptic Paul, Corker told Pompeo that “it’s fair for our members to ask” about the nature of his likely influence on the president.

In some respects, Pompeo is an unlikely figure to moderate the president, given the hawkish and outspoken positions the former Kansas congressman has taken in the past.

In talking up his prospective role, Pompeo told the Senate panel that he would press to rebuild and re-energize a State Department diminished by budget cutbacks, high-level resignations, presidential neglect, and reduced influence under the enigmatic Tillerson, a former CEO of Exxon Corp. But Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who had voted to confirm Pompeo as CIA director, said April 15 that he found that pledge unconvincing. In opposing his confirmation, Kaine cited Pompeo’s strong opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and his support for Trump’s military action in Syria without first seeking congressional approval.

A president, in many instances, selects someone with a significant degree of bipartisan support for a post as the nation’s top diplomat, which can buffer U.S. foreign policy from the immediate pressures of domestic politics. Not so with Pompeo, who during his time in the House of Representatives was an outspoken partisan, politically attacking then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over alleged failures related to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and denouncing President Barack Obama’s multinational agreement thwarting Iran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons. “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Pompeo tweeted in November 2016.

As CIA chief, Pompeo wrongly said the intelligence community had assessed that Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election had no impact on its outcome. His comment inaccurately reflected the intelligence community’s finding, which did not address the issue of impact on the outcome, although his assertion mirrored Trump’s false statements on the findings. In a sign of confidence in Pompeo, Trump dispatched him over Easter weekend, days before the confirmation hearing, on a then-secret trip to North Korea to work on arrangements for the anticipated high-stakes summit with leader Kim Jong Un.

“I think Mike Pompeo will go down as one of the great secretaries of state,” Trump said April 18 at a working lunch with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Yet, Trump may find he is facing an assertive tag-team duo on matters involving Russia, with Bolton and Pompeo advocates of taking a tough line toward Moscow and President Vladimir Putin. In prepared remarks for the Senate panel, Pompeo wrote that “Russia continues to act aggressively, enabled by years of soft policy toward that aggression.” The United States should “push back in each place and in every vector” against Russian challenges, he told senators.

Trump has advocated better relations, even saying in March that he hoped to meet with Putin “in the not too distant future” to address the arms race “that is getting out of control.” Pompeo was not asked to discuss U.S.-Russian arms control matters and did not offer any views.

Despite Democratic opposition, Mike Pompeo is confirmed as secretary of state.

Legislatures Act on Ban Treaty

May 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

A number of legislatures are taking steps for ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, while some other states, including two NATO members, are launching studies on the implications of ratifying the landmark treaty opposed by the major nuclear powers.

When the treaty opened for signature in September 2017, 50 states signed and three ratified the treaty. (See ACT, October 2017.) Since then, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela, as well as Palestine, have ratified the treaty, and eight other states have signed it.

Supporters of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) gathered February 5 in Sydney to urge the Australian and Japanese governments to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)Further, the treaty is being considered in other countries, such as Austria, where legislation supporting ratification passed the Austrian National Council on March 21 and the Austrian Federal Council on April 5, in both cases unanimously. Once Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has signed the legislation, and the country will soon submit its instrument of ratification.

Ireland is drafting treaty-implementation legislation, which could pass before the parliamentary recess in July. Campaigners in Ireland are advocating inclusion of the treaty’s prohibition of assistance with banned activities in the implementing legislation, which could mean limiting foreign investment in companies whose products or action contribute to nuclear arsenals.

Costa Rica’s legislative assembly voted unanimously March 15 for legislation in support of ratifying the treaty. Tim Wright, treaty coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), expects Costa Rica to ratify the treaty in the coming weeks. “We expect to see more ratifications from Latin America in the near future,” Wright told Arms Control Today in an April 17 interview.

Brazilian President Michel Temer is working to have Brazil ratify the treaty by the end of the year, Christian Vargas, deputy chief of mission at the Brazilian embassy in Washington, told the Arms Control Association annual meeting April 19.

In a February speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated she would pursue “early ratification” of the prohibition treaty. But an official in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Arms Control Today in an April 18 email that no parliamentary process to do so had commenced.

The Marshall Islands, where there is strong domestic support for nuclear disarmament derived from the environmental and humanitarian impact of past U.S. nuclear testing there, has begun its legislative process on the treaty. A member of the Nitijela, the islands’ legislative body, submitted a resolution in September 2017 calling for the signature and ratification of the prohibition treaty. The resolution is currently in parliamentary committee.

The committee has held one public hearing, as of mid-March, but plans to hold more, said Bonnie Docherty, lecturer on law at Harvard Law School in an email to Arms Control Today. The committee aims to release its report to the Nitijela in August so that a vote on the resolution can take place before elections in November 2019.

Some officials are concerned about the compatibility of the treaty with the Marshall Islands’ 2003 Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States. The compact guarantees U.S. defense of the island nation in exchange for its promise not to take any action that the United States deems to be against its “responsibility for security and defense matters” in the Marshall Islands. (See ACT, September 2017.) Docherty contends that the two agreements are compatible.

In Switzerland, a member of parliament introduced a motion Dec. 12 requesting that the country sign the treaty “as soon as possible” and submit it to parliament for ratification “without delay.” A National Council vote, originally planned for March 15, had to be rescheduled and will likely occur during the summer session from May 28 to June 15, according to Maya Brehm, adviser to the group Article 36, in an email to Arms Control Today.

The Swiss government recommended Feb. 21 that the parliament reject the motion, citing a “need to clarify important technical, legal and political questions.” The government raised concerns that some treaty provisions “may not be verifiable or that the treaty could weaken existing standards, instruments or forums.” It also stated that it could not sign the treaty before completion of an interdepartmental analysis of the treaty, which is expected by July.

Other states are also launching studies into the implications of joining the treaty.

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in October 2017 that it would authorize such a review to be completed within a year. The Norwegian Parliament voted Feb. 8 to launch a similar study, although the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs opposes the accord.

“A process to achieve a ban on nuclear weapons that is not supported by any of the countries that actually have weapons of this kind will not, unfortunately, advance the disarmament agenda,” asserted Audun Halvorsen, state secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an April 18 email to Arms Control Today. The prohibition treaty “is not compatible with our NATO obligations. None of our NATO allies support the prohibition of nuclear weapons, and it is not appropriate for Norway to sign a treaty that could undermine NATO’s position as a defense alliance. However, the government is now following up parliament’s request to examine what the consequences of signing the [treaty] would be.”

The study’s conclusions will be available by the end of 2018, Halvorsen added.

Iceland, another NATO member, is also looking into the implications of joining the treaty, according to Wright. Iceland’s new prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who took office in November, is a member of the Left-Green movement and, although still a member of parliament, signed ICAN’s parliamentary pledge to work toward the treaty’s signature
and ratification.

An official in the prime minister’s office, in an email to Arms Control Today, did not comment on Jakobsdóttir’s current views on prohibition treaty ratification. The official underlined Iceland’s commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the country’s desire to see progress on nuclear weapons reductions.

“With Katrín Jakobsdóttir as prime minister, Iceland is in a strong position to join the treaty and lead other NATO countries to support real steps towards nuclear disarmament,” Ray Acheson, director of the group Reaching Critical Will, said in November 2017 after Jakobsdóttir attended a talk she and Wright gave in support of the treaty.

Advocates see support for the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

New Policies Promote Arms, Drone Exports

May 2018
By Jeff Abramson

The Trump administration has revised policies guiding conventional arm transfers and drone exports, controversially placing greater emphasis on U.S. economic interests. A plan for implementing the policies is due in two months.

The April 19 national security presidential memorandum replaces a January 2014 presidential policy directive that, like the 1995 iteration from the Clinton administration, included an unweighted list of criteria to guide decisions on U.S. conventional arms transfers. Common to these policies are goals to improve the security of the United States and its allies, prevent proliferation, and support relevant multilateral agreements. New to the Trump approach is an explicit inclusion of “economic security” as a factor in considering whether to approve arms exports.

President Donald Trump makes a point about the U.S. economic benefits from arms sales during an Oval Office meeting March 20 with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.  (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The new policy on conventional arms transfers begins with an assertion that the defense industrial base employs more than 1.7 million people and that “the executive branch will advocate strongly” on behalf of U.S. companies and “maximize the ability” of U.S. industry “to grow and support allies and partners.”

The new policy on the export of unmanned aerial systems, full details of which remain classified, lists increasing trade opportunities for U.S. companies as one of five primary objectives. It replaces an “overly restrictive policy established in 2015 that hindered American companies,” according to a short White House statement. That statement places the new policies within the president’s “commitment to peace through strength” in part by “expanding opportunities for American industry [and] creating American jobs.”

The added focus on jobs and the economy was expected from the president, who has touted arms sales and called for speeding the process for arms deliveries. Exactly how that will be done remains to be determined. The policy says that the secretary of state is to deliver a proposed action plan within 60 days, a process that is expected to include consultation with industry and civil society groups.

In a news conference shortly before the new policies were released, Tina S. Kaidanow, principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, provided insights into how the policy changes for unmanned aerial systems, commonly referred to as drones, may speed delivery of certain items by allowing their sale to be directly negotiated by companies.

Under the new policy, so-called strike enabling technology, such as laser target designators that are not themselves armed, will no longer be required to go through the government-to-government process for negotiating foreign military sales, she said. Instead, the new policy allows companies to negotiate directly with foreign government buyers through the direct commercial sales process. Such an approach involves “fewer barriers and less confusion,” which can “potentially allow for faster procurement,” she said. The policy also allows for armed unmanned aerial systems to be transferred via either procurement process.

Citing increased competition from China, Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, said the administration’s policy
on unmanned aerial systems “will level the playing field by enabling firms to increase their direct sales to authorized allies and partners.”

The policy also calls for the United States to seek changes to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as it applies to unmanned aerial systems, most likely to ease some presumptive restrictions given that drones fly more slowly than missiles. The MTCR, which has 35 member-states, works to restrict exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers, which applies to some
drone systems.

Both foreign military and direct commercial sales require that Congress be notified of certain potential arms sales. Congress can block the conclusion of an arms agreement within 30 days or act anytime until delivery. Kaidanow said that nothing in the new presidential memorandum “changes either the existing legal or regulatory requirements, and we are very respectful of Congress’ role in all of this.”

Although many worried that the new policies would jettison any mention of human rights, they do retain many of the same provisions as the Obama-era conventional arms transfer policy, although consolidating their reference to a single section rather than reiterating them throughout. The new policy also contains a commitment to “facilitate” ally and partner efforts “to reduce the risk of national or coalition operations causing civilian harm.”

Nonetheless, the administration’s approach did draw criticism. The policies “present a clear political objective by the Trump administration—to demonstrate its ‘America First’ approach and promote U.S. industry,” said Rachel Stohl, deputy director of the Stimson Center in Washington and a board member of the Arms Control Association. “The policies focus on the benefits, rather than the risks, of arms exports and take a short-term view without fully incorporating potential long-term consequences,” she added.

Trump administration emphasizes economic benefits of U.S. weapons sales abroad.

OPCW Confirms Novichok Use

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in an April 12 report confirmed UK conclusions about the chemical agent used in a March Members of the UK military work April 24 in Salisbury, England near the spot where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia became critically ill several weeks earlier due to exposure to a Russian nerve agent.   (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)4 attack that left former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in critical condition. The United Kingdom accused Russia of poisoning the Skripals using a rare Russian-developed nerve agent, Novichok. (See ACT, April 2018.)

Russia denied responsibility for the attack and possessing Novichok-class agents, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman characterizing the OPCW report as “a continuation of a crude provocation against the Russian Federation on the part of the UK special services.” UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in an April 12 statement, extolled the independence and rigor of the OPCW analysis, which was conducted at four separate laboratories. “There can be no doubt of what was used, and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible,” he said. “Only Russia has the means, motive, and record.”—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

OPCW Confirms Novichok Use

UN Disarmament Conference Delayed

A UN high-level conference on nuclear disarmament, originally scheduled for May 14-16, was indefinitely postponed following an April 26 UN General Assembly vote. The postponement reportedly is due to the failure to select a representative to preside over the meetings.

The 2017 UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a high-level conference in 2018 to review progress on negotiations on effective nuclear disarmament measures. All nuclear-weapon states except China voted against the resolution in the General Assembly’s First Committee. Although the United States considers the meeting to be “redundant” and a “waste of resources,” it is still continuing to evaluate whether it will attend the meeting, a State Department official told Arms Control Today in an April 17 email. The conference follows a similar 2013 meeting. That meeting was divided between those, including nuclear-weapon states, that advocated for an incremental approach to disarmament and other countries, including those in the Non-Aligned Movement, which pushed for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

UN Disarmament Conference Delayed

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement announcing the closing of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has led to calls for Pyongyang to sign and ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, noted in a statement that Kim’s announcement was a positive “long-sought-after” step toward several disarmament commitments and the ratification of the CTBT. Lassina Zerbo, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) executive secretary, called for North Korea to consider signing and ratifying the CTBT, noting that a legally binding treaty is the only way to “solidify the moratorium on nuclear testing.” The CTBTO “stands ready to assist,” he said in an statement April 21, and some experts have proposed having the body engage in confidence-building site visits to Punggye-ri. —SHERVIN TAHERAN

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT

Funds Released for UK Nuclear Subs

UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in Parliament on March 28 an unexpected boost for defense spending: an extra £600 million ($850 million) for the new Dreadnought class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The funds, allocated for fiscal year 2019, will be withdrawn from the £10 billion ($14.2 billion) contingency fund set aside for the Dreadnought program in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The use of the contingency funds follows a supplemental £200 million Defence Ministry budget increase announced in February.

UK protesters rallied July 18, 2016, against spending on a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines.  (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)The Dreadnought program will comprise four new submarines designed to replace the United Kingdom’s existing Vanguard-class SSBNs, which are responsible for the country’s nuclear deterrence. Construction on the first submarine began in September 2016. The mainstay of the submarine will be the Common Missile Compartment (CMC), which is designed to support not-yet-developed ballistic missiles that will succeed the Trident D5 nuclear-armed ballistic missile. The CMC will contain 12 missile launch tubes and will house Trident D5s until their replacement in the early 2040s. The first Vanguard-class SSBN will reach the end of its extended service life in 2028, and the first Dreadnought submarine is expected to enter service in the early 2030s. The total cost of the Dreadnought program is estimated at £31 billion ($43.9 billion), and the submarines will have service lives of 30 years.—RYAN FEDASIUK

Funds Released for UK Nuclear Subs

Diplomats Debate Future of ‘Killer Robots’


The legal and moral issues surrounding lethal autonomous weapons systems were discussed April 9-13 in Geneva, the second such conference convened by the Group of Governmental Experts established by member-states of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. A total of 82 nations plus nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) attended the talks centered on developing a common understanding of the emerging technologies, potential future military use, and possible regulations and laws that could address security and humanitarian concerns about these systems.

Austria, China, and Colombia joined the list of nations urging a ban, which now totals 26, according to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. France and Germany stated that use of such weapons systems should be subject to a code of conduct based on international humanitarian law and national regulations. Jordan expressed concern that this advancing technology will lead to a new arms race. Cuba remarked on the possibility of hacking attacks on these systems and their potential use by terrorists. Germany also advocated for export controls of goods related to such autonomous weapons capabilities. The United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Russia refuse to accept any legally binding instrument to ban such prospective weapons. Another meeting is planned for Aug. 27-31.—MATTHIEU ORTIZ

Diplomats Debate Future of ‘Killer Robots’


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