"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
November 2019

Arms Control Today November 2019

Edition Date: 
Friday, November 1, 2019
Cover Image: 

Concern Grows About U.S. Weapons in Turkey

November 2019
By Kingston Reif

Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish-run areas in northern Syria against U.S. wishes in October sparked unprecedented public concern among members of Congress about the wisdom of continuing to store U.S. tactical nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.

A U.S. F-15 fighter jet lands at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in 2015. U.S. lawmakers have recently questioned the wisdom of deploying U.S. nuclear weapons at the base.  (Photo: Cory Bush/U.S. Air Force)Despite the outcry against Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s attack on Kurdish allies of the United States, the Trump administration says it is not considering removing the weapons
from Turkey.

Tucked inside the Countering Turkish Aggression Act of 2019, a bill introduced on Oct. 17 by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would impose new sanctions on Turkey, is a requirement that the administration assess alternative basing options for U.S. military “personnel and assets” housed
at Incirlik.

The bill was co-sponsored at the time of introduction by 14 other senators, equally split between Democrats and Republicans.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told MSNBC on Oct. 14 that “it does worry me” that U.S. nuclear weapons continue to be stored in Turkey.

“We do have to step back and have some wholesale conversations about our relationship” with Turkey, Murphy said.

Similarly, House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) tweeted on Oct. 17 that she is “deeply concerned that strategic nuclear weapons remain on an air base within Turkish borders.” Horn later deleted
the tweet.

According to open source estimates, the United States may store as many as 50 B61 gravity bombs at Incirlik. Those make up one-third of the approximately 150 nuclear weapons thought to be housed in five nations in Europe as part of NATO nuclear sharing arrangements. (See ACT, September 2018.)

The original rationale for deploying U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe was to deter and, if necessary, defeat a large-scale attack by the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has drastically reduced the number of weapons on the continent, but still deploys a smaller number to extend deterrence to NATO allies and as a political signal of the U.S. commitment to the security of alliance members.

Unlike the other bases in Europe that host B61s, Incirlik does not host dedicated nuclear-capable fighter aircraft that can deliver the weapons. Moreover, Turkey does not train its pilots to fly nuclear missions. In the event NATO were to make a decision to use the weapons now stored in Turkey, the United States or another NATO member would fly its own aircraft to retrieve them.

As a matter of policy, the U.S. Defense Department does not comment on the presence or number of nuclear weapons in Turkey or anywhere else in Europe. But President Donald Trump appeared to confirm, at least indirectly, the existence of the weapons in Turkey in comments to reporters at the Oval Office on Oct. 16.

Asked about the security of the weapons at Incirlik, Trump said he was “confident” in their safety.

Victoria Coates, the senior director for the Middle East on the National Security Council, also appeared to acknowledge the presence of the weapons in an Oct. 15 interview.

Asked if the administration is planning to remove the weapons from Turkey, Coates said, “There are no plans for that at the moment that I’m aware of.”

Those arguing for the removal from Incirlik note that the risks of storing the weapons in Turkey have increased significantly due to a deteriorating security environment and Erdogan’s anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions. (See ACT, November 2017.)

In March 2016, the U.S. military ordered the families of U.S. military personnel to leave southern Turkey, primarily from Incirlik, due to terrorist activity in Turkey and the conflict in nearby Syria. In July 2016, following a failed coup attempt, the Turkish government arrested several high-ranking Turkish military officers at Incirlik and cut power to the base for nearly a week.

Erdogan’s invasion of northern Syria and Turkish artillery strikes near positions held by U.S. troops deployed in northern Syria has exacerbated these worries.

Supporters of keeping the weapons in Turkey counter that removing the weapons from Incirlik would raise questions about NATO’s commitment to Turkey’s security and prompt uncomfortable debates about the merits of nuclear sharing inside the other host nations. They also claim that removing the weapons could prompt Turkey to more seriously consider acquiring its own nuclear weapons.

Erdogan complained in a speech in September that the current nuclear-armed nations retain an unacceptable monopoly on nuclear weapons and suggested that his nation might acquire its own nuclear arsenal. (See ACT, October 2019.)

But analysts have noted that a Turkish nuclear weapons program would carry significant political and economic costs for Ankara and that Erdogan’s remarks may have been more an expression of desire to build its status as a world power than an actual goal.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties are seeking an assessment of alternatives to basing U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey.

U.S. Seeks ‘New Era of Arms Control’

November 2019
By Shannon Bugos and Kingston Reif

The Trump administration continues to say it would like a new arms control agreement with Russia and China while remaining silent on the possibility of extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Moscow, according to U.S. and Russian officials.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speaks at a White House press conference on Oct. 2, when he publicly called for extending New START in the presence of U.S. President Donald Trump.  (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)During a session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Oct. 10, Thomas DiNanno, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, stated that the administration is seeking “a new era of arms control, one in which Russia and China are at the negotiating table and willing to reduce nuclear risks rather than heighten them.”

“Today, the Cold War approach, with its bilateral treaties that covered limited types of nuclear weapons or only certain ranges of adversary missiles, is no longer sufficient,” he added. DiNanno did not mention New START except to say that some of the new long-range nuclear delivery systems under development by Russia would not be subject to the agreement.

In an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times, he referenced New START specifically, saying that “technology has rapidly changed” and pointing out “not what New START does, but what it doesn’t do in the 2020 deteriorating security environment.”

DiNanno did not explain how the United States plans to achieve a broader agreement with Russia and China.

Details on such an agreement also were not forthcoming from the White House. In an Oct. 21 interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump said, “I believe that we’re going to get together with Russia and with China, and we’re going to work out our nuclear pact so that we don’t all continue with this craziness.” China has repeatedly stated that it is not interested in joining multilateral talks with the United States and Russia on arms control at this time.

In the aftermath of the end of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August, New START is the only remaining arms control agreement limiting the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. The Trump administration is expected to make a decision on whether to extend the treaty next year. New START allows for an extension of up to five years, until 2026, if the presidents of the United States and Russia agree to do so.

In an Oct. 11 interview, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called on the United States “to stop wasting time” regarding an extension of New START. “There is almost no time left” before the treaty expires, he said. “At least, it is important to understand what they plan to do with the treaty.”

Ryabkov added that “the extension period is subject to discussion. We are poised to exercise flexibility in this respect.”

Although Russia emphasizes the importance of extending New START, Moscow argues that any future nuclear arms reduction agreement should be multilateral and address a broad array of factors that impact strategic stability.

In a statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11, Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said these factors include “unrestricted deployment of the U.S. global missile defense, development of high-precision strategic offensive non-nuclear weapons, prospects for deployment of strike weapons in outer space, destruction of the international system of arms control treaties and agreements, [and] attempts to weaken defense potential of other countries by using illegitimate methods of unilateral pressure, bypassing the UN Security Council.”

Meanwhile, Fu Cong, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reiterated Beijing’s position that it does not plan to participate in talks on arms control with the United States and Russia. Instead, he urged the United States to respond to the Russian call to extend New START, “while substantially reducing its gigantic nuclear arsenal and creating favorable conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to join in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.”

U.S. allies in Europe continue to express their support for prolonging New START.

In October, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto became the first head of state to publicly call for an extension of New START in a public appearance with Trump.

During a joint press conference on Oct. 2, Niinisto said, “Some of us remember the worst years of cold war in [the] 1960s. There was no agreement at all, just Cold War. We can't let the situation return [to having] no agreement at all about arms control, and that is why it is important to try to negotiate new agreements and to continue…New START.”

Trump did not respond to Niinisto’s comments on the treaty.

New START, set to expire in February 2021 unless extended, caps deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 warheads and 700 missiles and heavy bombers each.

The U.S. State Department in October released updated information on the current status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces limited by the treaty. As of Sept. 1, the data show the United States deploys 1,378 warheads on 668 missiles and heavy bombers. Russia deploys 1,426 warheads on 513 missiles and heavy bombers.

In addition, the State Department reported that as of Oct. 17, the United States has conducted 14 inspections in Russia this year, and Moscow has conducted 14 inspections in the United States. A total of 18,889 notifications have also been exchanged according to New START requirements.

NATO Rejects Russian Missile Proposal

NATO rejected an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin in September to impose a moratorium on deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, shown here in Munich in February, said recently that a Russian proposal on intermediate-range missiles was not "credible."  (Photo: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)The proposal, according to NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a Sept. 26 statement, was not “a credible offer” and “ignored the reality on the ground.” Lungescu specifically pointed to Russia’s deployment of the formerly illegal ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729 as a reason why Putin’s offer was not legitimate.

On Oct. 23, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the proposal was not “credible,” but also stated that, “at the same time, we aspire for a constructive relationship with Russia.”

Russia has repeatedly floated the moratorium proposal in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty. The 1987 pact led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet conventional and nuclear-armed, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

At the beginning of October, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov called for the two countries to “come to grips” on the issue of deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. He also echoed comments made by Putin after the U.S. test on Aug. 18 of a ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty. “We will produce such [ground-launched intermediate-range] missiles,” Putin said, “but we will not deploy them in the regions where no ground-based missile systems of this class manufactured by the U.S. have emerged.”

John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said on Sept. 30 that although the Defense Department has “started development programs on intermediate-range missiles,” the department does not “have any specific plans at this time for deployments anywhere.”—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

Washington hopes to include China in future nuclear arms control talks.

U.S. Reveals Assessment of Russian Explosion

November 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The United States has determined that a Russian recovery mission of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, known as Skyfall by Western intelligence agencies, prompted a major explosion in the White Sea in August.

The explosion, said Thomas DiNanno, deputy assistant secretary of state for defense policy, emerging threats, and outreach, was “the result of a nuclear reaction” that occurred during the recovery mission of the missile, which “remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year.” DiNanno made the remarks on Oct. 10 at the UN General Assembly First Committee in New York.

DiNanno elaborated on the Skyfall incident in an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times. “From what I understand, the actual radiation cloud was not dangerous per se,” he said, “but our issue is with the lack of transparency and the cover-up and the misinformation.”

Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department on Nonproliferation and Arms Control, delivered Russia’s statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11. Yermakov did not mention the August incident, instead focusing on the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the need for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The Aug. 8 blast occurred at the Nenoksa Missile Test Site, on the coast
of the White Sea. According to a statement from Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation issued two days later, five employees died in the accident, which involved “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.” Two military personnel also reportedly died from the blast.

Initial reports claimed that Russia was testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile, named the 9M730 Buresvestnik by Russia and the SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO, that Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed in March 2018. (See ACT, September 2019.)

A mysterious August explosion in Russia occurred during efforts to recover a sunken, nuclear-powered cruise missile, according to a U.S. official.

U.S. Bomb Programs Face Delays, Cost Hikes

November 2019
By Kingston Reif

Technical problems with electrical components will delay production of the upgraded U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bomb and W88 submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead by around 20 months and cost as much as $850 million, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

A Sandia National Laboratories engineer adjusts a microphone for an acoustic test on a B61 gravity bomb. (Photo: NNSA)The setback raises fresh fears about the affordability and executability of the agency’s ambitious plans to modernize U.S. nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure. (See ACT, September 2019.)

“Stress testing concluded that commercially available capacitors” to be used in the weapons “did not meet reliability requirements,” said Charles Verdon, deputy administrator for defense programs at the NNSA, at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 24. The NNSA “determined that the prudent approach is to replace those components rather than risk component failure in future years.”

Verdon told lawmakers that although the original capacitors cost around $5 per part, the “replacement capacitors, which are built to now a new standard that did not exist at the time the original capacitors were procured, are more like $75 per part.”

The NNSA, a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department, first revealed the technical issue earlier this year but did not disclose the length of the schedule delay or the cost to fix the problem until September. (See ACT, June 2019.)

The NNSA estimates that swapping capacitors will increase the cost of the program to rebuild the B61 by $600-700 million and delay the first production unit until the first quarter of fiscal year 2022. The cost of the program to modify the W88 will increase by $125-150 million and delay the beginning of production until the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021.

Verdon said that the NNSA hopes to address the cost overruns without requesting additional funds by using money that the agency had planned to spend on, but may no longer need for, future warhead modernization programs.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed concern about the impact of the technical issues facing the two programs.

The NNSA Cost Estimating and Program Evaluation Office “publicly predicted these delays years ago and has raised concerns about future warhead programs as well,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) at the House hearing.

For the past several years, the NNSA has estimated the cost of the B61 life extension program (LEP) at $7.6 billion and a first production unit date of March 2020. But the agency’s independent cost estimating office in 2016 projected a total cost of approximately $10 billion and a two-year delay to the agency’s estimated March 2020 first production-unit date. (See ACT, June 2017.)

The Senate Appropriations Committee warned in the report accompanying the panel’s version of the fiscal year 2020 energy and water appropriations bill released in September that the NNSA must “ensure any technical challenges or production issues, particularly in the electronic components, are discovered quickly and mitigated to minimize impacts” to other agency priorities.

The committee “is concerned that a recent technical challenge demonstrates a lack of systems engineering and highlights a lack of coordination and leadership focus, which in turn jeopardizes successful program execution,” the report added.

Under the B61 LEP, the NNSA plans to consolidate four of the five existing versions of the bomb into a single weapon known as the B61-12. The upgraded weapon will be equipped with a new tail-kit guidance assembly that will make the bomb more accurate and allow it to have a lower yield than some of the existing variants. The new tail kit is being developed by the Air Force and is estimated to cost $1.3 billion.

The NNSA is expected to produce 400 to 500 B61-12s. Some of these newer weapons will replace the approximately 150 tactical versions of the B61 believed to be deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey in support of NATO nuclear sharing commitments.

The alternation program for the W88 is designed to provide the weapons with a new arming, fuzing, and firing subsystem and replace the conventional high-explosive main charges and associated components. Prior to the announcement of the capacitor problem, the NNSA projected the cost of the program at $2.6 billion and said production would begin next month.


Technical issues are slowing U.S. efforts to upgrade two nuclear warheads.

China Shows Off New Missiles

November 2019
By Julia Masterson

China displayed new and long-range missiles in an October military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China. The parade featured new unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced hypersonic missiles, and upgrades to missiles previously deployed by the People’s Liberation Army.

Chinese DF-17 hypersonic missiles are displayed in an Oct. 1 parade in Beijing.  (Photo: Sheng Jiapeng/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images)Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated at the UN General Assembly that “China has no intention of playing the ‘Game of Thrones’ on the world stage,” asserting China’s interest in global cooperation and in maintaining peaceful relations with the United States.

Nevertheless, just a week after his remarks, China paraded updated military hardware through Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Among the weapons exhibited in the parade were the Dongfeng-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a new hypersonic weapon, the Dongfeng-17.

Efforts to develop the Dongfeng-41 began in the late 1980s, and the current version is reportedly a solid-fueled ICBM equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles making it capable of delivering several nuclear warheads. The missile is believed to have a range of 15,000 kilometers, enabling it to reach targets in the continental United States in approximately 30 minutes. A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in 1999 listed the Dongfeng-41, then under development, as a missile designed to target the United States. (See ACT, September/October 1999.)

The Dongfeng-17 has a comparatively shorter range, estimated at just more than 2,500 kilometers, and is equipped to carry a conventional warhead on a hypersonic glide vehicle. According to some independent weapons analysts, the Dongfeng-17 does not dramatically strengthen the conventional threat that China poses to U.S. or allied forces in the region.

James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that China already possesses a “formidable arsenal of existing weapons” capable of flying a similar range. Other experts noted that because the Dongfeng-17 is more maneuverable, it will be more capable of evading U.S. missile interceptors designed to protect U.S. command centers and airfields in East Asia. The Dongfeng-17’s inaugural flight test was in November 2017, and further testing will be necessary before the weapon can be operationally deployed.

Officials parade a new long-range, nuclear-armed missile.

Argentine Selected to Lead IAEA

November 2019
By Greg Webb and Daryl G. Kimball

Veteran Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi will serve as the next director-general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) following his Oct. 29 selection by the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors in Vienna.

The IAEA Board of Governors voted Oct. 29 to select Rafael Mariano Grossi of Argentina to become the agency's next director-general. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)Grossi won 24 votes, a two-thirds majority of voting board members, and will be formally confirmed as director-general by a Dec. 2 special meeting of the agency’s 171 member states. He is expected to take office the next day.

Acting IAEA Director-General Cornel Feruta of Romania, Grossi’s only opponent in the fourth round of the board’s secret voting, received just 10 votes; one nation abstained. Earlier ballots had eliminated Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso, the current executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, and Slovakia’s Marta Ziakova, who heads her nation’s nuclear regulatory agency.

As part of the selection process for the four-year leadership term, the four candidates had previously delivered public remarks describing their vision for the agency, which monitors non-nuclear-armed nations to ensure they conduct only peaceful nuclear activities. The agency also promotes the use of peaceful nuclear and radioactive technologies around the world, such as in medicine and agriculture. The four candidates all promoted this technical cooperation aspect of the agency’s mission, but only Grossi highlighted the need for internal bureaucratic reforms to improve IAEA effectiveness.

Grossi is currently Argentina’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna and previously served as the IAEA assistant director-general for policy under Director-General Yukiya Amano, whose July death prompted October’s selection process. (See ACT, September 2019.)

Grossi had been expected to serve as president of the 2020 review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which is expected to be a particularly contentious meeting, taking place 50 years after the treaty entered into force. (See ACT, June 2019.)

In anticipation of Grossi’s selection to lead the IAEA, diplomatic sources told Arms Control Today that the Argentine government has discussed a plan for another of its senior diplomats, Deputy Foreign Minister Gustavo Zlauvinen, to preside over the review conference. Among other diplomatic postings, Zlauvinen has served as IAEA representative to the United Nations in New York, where he represented the agency during NPT meetings from 2001 to 2009.


Rafael Mariano Grossi will head the International Atomic Energy Agency.

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack

U.S. officials have confirmed the United States believes that Syria once again has used chlorine-based weapons, this time in a May 2019 strike in Syria’s Latakia Province. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. intelligence assessment indicates that the May 19 attack was conducted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and killed at least four people.

A Syrian girl holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a makeshift hospital following a reported gas attack in Douma on the outskirts of the capital Damascus in 2018.  (Photo: Hasan Mohamed/AFP/Getty Images)The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to which Syria acceded in 2013, prohibits the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical weapons. A joint investigative mechanism led by the treaty’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations has verified the sporadic but regular use of chemical weapons and of other toxic chemicals, including chlorine, in Syria since 2014.

Although the OPCW defines chemical weapons as “any chemical intended for chemical weapons purposes” and includes chlorine on a list of chemical choking agents, chlorine gas is a dual-use chemical and not a scheduled agent explicitly banned by the CWC. Consequently, the Syrian government’s supplies of chlorine were not part of the OPCW-led removal and destruction of Syria’s sarin and mustard arsenal and precursor chemicals, executed shortly after Syria’s accession to the CWC. (See ACT, December 2014.)—JULIA MASTERSON

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack

China Considers Joining ATT


China expressed an interest in becoming a party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 27.

In a prepared speech, Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi stated that his country had “initiated the domestic legal procedures to join” the treaty. Shortly afterward, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang clarified that China is “striving for its accession to the ATT at an early date.”

China previously released a statement expressing an interest in joining the ATT on April 30, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s public rejection of the agreement. The treaty had been signed in September 2013 by the Obama administration but never ratified. At an April 26 event hosted by the National Rifle Association, Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the treaty, claiming that it would allow “foreign bureaucrats” to “trample” on freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The ATT, which entered into force on Dec. 24, 2014, establishes international standards designed to prevent illegal arms sales and sales of arms that could be used in the commission of genocide, war crimes, and other violations of international humanitarian law. It requires states-parties to create a domestic arms trade accounting system, regulate the brokering of weapons within their territory, report regularly on treaty implementation, and decline arms sales under certain conditions.

China's accession to the ATT, which now has 105 states-parties, would be significant because it is one of the world’s five largest global arms exporters.—OWEN LeGRONE

China Considers Joining ATT

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work


For the 10th consecutive year, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded in mid-September without reaching consensus on the adoption of a program of work.

The final report on the conference stated that throughout the 2019 session, successive CD presidents “conducted intensive consultations with a view to reaching a consensus on a program of work,” but despite those efforts, they “did not succeed.” Since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty opened for signature in 1996, the 65-member, Geneva-based CD has managed to adopt a program of work only twice, in 1998 and 2009.

The 2019 session involved 48 formal plenary meetings and 16 informal meetings. In February, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged states to overcome their differences and warned that “key components of the international arms control architecture are collapsing.” He specifically referenced the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which ultimately collapsed in August, and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is scheduled to expire in February 2021. “I urge you in the strongest possible terms to take a decisive action to safeguard and preserve the existing system through dialogue that will help restore trust,” Guterres said.

In addition to Guterres, representatives from nearly 40 countries addressed the conference over the course of the 2019 session, including the United States and Russia. All these dignitaries, according to the final report, “expressed concern about the Conference’s current situation.”

The CD’s permanent agenda contains 10 items, but there are four core issues: nuclear disarmament, a treaty banning the production of fissile material, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. The current deadlock is largely attributed to disagreements between members about the prioritization of those issues and attempts to link progress on one issue to progress on another.—SHANNON BUGOS

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work


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