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“For 50 years, the Arms Control Association has educated citizens around the world to help create broad support for U.S.-led arms control and nonproliferation achievements.”

– President Joe Biden
June 2, 2022
November 2022
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, November 1, 2022
Cover Image: 

U.S., Marshall Islands Grapple With Nuclear Legacy


November 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball and Chris Rostampour

Negotiators from the Marshall Islands are insisting that the United States address long-standing health and environmental problems created by U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific Island chain in their discussions on an agreement governing their relationship.

Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands was the site of 23 nuclear tests conducted by the United States from 1946 until 1958 that did untold damage to the coral reef and its inhabitants, who were forcibly relocated. (Library of Congress)The agreement, known as the Compact of Free Association, defines the terms of U.S. economic assistance, allows Marshallese to live and work in the United States, and grants the United States the right to operate military facilities in the region, including Kwajalein Missile Range. It also excludes activities by the militaries of other countries without U.S. permission.

U.S. and Marshallese representatives began negotiations earlier this year on renewing the 20-year-old compact, which expires in October 2023. In March, U.S. President Joe Biden appointed Joseph Yun as a special presidential envoy for the negotiations.

In September, the Marshallese delegation declared a pause in the negotiations until Washington shows greater willingness to address ongoing health, environmental, and economic issues resulting from Cold War-era testing in their homeland.

The 67 U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958—23 at Bikini Atoll and 44 at Enewetak Atoll—spewed radiation over the Marshall Islands and produced a total explosive power of 108.5 megatons (TNT equivalent). That was about 100 times the total yield of all atmospheric tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site in the United States.

As a result, islanders still suffer such health and environmental effects as elevated cancer rates and enduring displacement from contaminated areas. But to this day, the only individuals considered by the United States as exposed to radiation effects were those physically present at Rogelap, Ailinginae, or Utrok atolls at the time of the “Bravo” nuclear test on March 1, 1954.

The chair of the Marshall Island’s National Nuclear Commission, Alson Kelen, told Agence France-Presse, “We know the big picture: bombs tested, people relocated from their islands, people exposed to nuclear fallout. We can’t change that. What we can do now is work on the details for the funding needed to mitigate the problems from the nuclear legacy.”

The U.S. State Department released a statement on Sept. 23 saying that Yun is prepared “to continue to advance the discussions” with the government of the Marshall Islands.

At a two-day summit in Washington that ended Sept. 29 between the United States and representatives from 14 Pacific Island states, including the Marshall Islands, participants agreed to strengthen their partnership. Although the United States had reportedly objected to such language in the run-up to the meeting, the joint summit statement acknowledged “the nuclear legacy of the Cold War” and stated that “the United States remains committed to addressing the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ ongoing environmental, public health…, and other welfare concerns.”

Under the existing agreement, the United States is responsible for providing radiation-related health care services and continued monitoring and environmental assessments on the affected atolls. One area of particular concern is Enewetak, where less than 1 percent of the plutonium and associated transuranic radionuclides from testing activities at the atoll are contained in the Runit Dome structure, meaning that the rest of the radioactive contamination remains in the Enewetak lagoon.

In a speech at the United Nations on Sept. 21, Marshall Islands President David Kabua said his nation has a “strong partnership” with the United States but “it is vital that the legacy and contemporary challenges of nuclear testing be better addressed.” Underscoring the importance of the issue for Pacific islanders, the Marshall Islands, with the backing of Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, and Australia, advanced a formal resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on Oct. 6 requesting assistance “in the field of human rights and to provide humanitarian assistance and capacity building” to the Marshall Islands’ National Nuclear Commission in advancing its national strategy for nuclear justice.

India, the United Kingdom, and the United States countered by saying the rights council was not the appropriate forum to discuss the issue. The U.S. delegate asserted that “the United States has accepted and acted on its responsibility to the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands concerning nuclear testing” through the compact. Nevertheless, the resolution was adopted without a vote.

The Marshallese are pushing back against the U.S. failure to address problems resulting from U.S. nuclear tests.

Biden Urged to Halt Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia


November 2022
By Jeff Abramson

Following a decision by Saudi Arabia to reduce oil production, Democratic members of the U.S. Congress are pressuring President Joe Biden to halt or alter arms transfers and other military support to the kingdom, arguing that its policies now align with Russia.

Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia broke with expectations that it would increase oil production, triggering a push by Democrats in the U.S. Congress to halt or modify arms sales to the kingdom. (Photo by Royal Court of Saudi Arabia / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)Although the Biden administration has indicated it is reviewing the Saudi-U.S. relationship, it had not detailed any specific changes related to weapons by late October.

Growing tensions between Washington and Riyadh reached what could be an inflection point when the “OPEC+” group of major oil-producing countries announced on Oct. 5 that a daily oil production decrease of 2 million barrels would begin in November, with Saudi Arabia and Russia accounting for more than half that reduction.

Democratic Reps. Tom Malinowski (N.J.), Sean Casten (Ill.), and Susan Wild (Pa.) responded that day by announcing plans to introduce a bill mandating the removal of U.S. troops and missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Four days later, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) ​said in an opinion essay in Politico that they would introduce legislation “that will immediately halt all U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.” The proposal was later clarified to be a one-year halt. Meanwhile, on Oct. 10, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said the “United States must immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests.”

With Congress out of session, no votes were taken on that or other related legislation, such as a Yemen war powers resolution that has more than 115 co-sponsors in the House.

On Oct. 16, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an interview on CNN that Biden wanted to work with Congress on revising the Saudi-U.S. relationship when it was back in session after the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

After Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July and was photographed fist-bumping Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it was widely expected that the kingdom would take steps to reduce oil prices and ease economic pressure on countries supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. Saudi Arabia defended its October decision to cut oil production, saying it was taken solely for economic reasons and that it was agreed by a group. On Oct. 15, the crown prince spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and announced $400 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the country.

Those arguments and actions have not silenced U.S. critics. In blasting the oil production cuts, Menendez said that
“[t]here simply is no room to play both sides of this conflict. Either you support the rest of the free world in trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping…an entire country off the map, or you support him.”

At the start of his presidency, Biden said that the United States would no longer support Saudi “offensive” operations in Yemen and halted precision-guided munitions sales that had been notified during the final months of the Trump administration. Since then, his administration has informed Congress of more than $4 billion in weapons sales and services via the government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program, often arguing that they were “defensive” systems.

Congressional criticism of Biden’s new arms sales to Saudi Arabia appeared to be waning until the recent oil decision. Last December, a majority of Democrats voted in support of a resolution to disapprove of a $650 million sale of Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and associated launchers, but the effort ultimately failed on a 30–67 vote. (See ACT, January/February 2022.) In August, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a resolution of disapproval against a $3 billion sale of Patriot missiles, but no senators co-sponsored the measure, and no votes were taken on it.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), frequently a leader on arms sales restraint toward Saudi Arabia, backed the administration in December on the AMRAAM weapons system sale. In a tweet thread Oct. 13, he said he now supported halting arms sales. He added that the Patriot systems should be removed and that “the Ukrainians are using (and need more) air-to-air AMRAAM missiles. These missiles are needed to defend against Russia’s criminal bombardment of civilians. The U.S. is scheduled to send 280 AMRAAMs to Saudi Arabia. These should be redirected to Ukraine.”

Some Democrats in Congress say Saudi Arabia is untrustworthy and should not be permitted to buy U.S. weapons.

Poland Reignites Nuclear Sharing Conversation


November 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

With Russian nuclear threats as a backdrop, Polish President Andrzej Duda declared on Oct. 5 that his country would be willing to host U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory.

Polish President Andrzej Duda says his country would be willing to host U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory but the Biden administration has rejected the idea. (Photo by Dominika Zarycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)“There is always a potential opportunity to participate in the nuclear sharing program,” Duda said, according to a news report by Notes of Poland. “We have spoken with American leaders about whether the United States is considering such a possibility. The issue is open.”

Duda’s announcement came amid a series of threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin to potentially use nuclear weapons as the Russian military struggles with battlefield setbacks in its war on Ukraine.

But Washington dismissed the idea. “I can say that the United States has no plans to deploy a nuclear weapon on NATO member territory that had joined NATO post-1997,” Vedant Patel, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said on Oct. 6. Poland joined NATO in 1999.

Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey—all alliance members before 1997—host up to 150 U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bombs on their territories as part of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangement with the United States.

Any deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons to Poland would mean abrogating the commitments made under the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which stipulated that NATO has no intention, reason, or plan to deploy nuclear weapons or nuclear storage sites in the territories of states that joined NATO after 1997.

NATO leaders did not abandon the founding act during their 2022 summit in Madrid, but it was a subject of discussion. A NATO official told Arms Control Today at the time that NATO was looking at conventional deployments beyond the limits of the act. (See ACT, July/August 2022.)

The issue of Poland potentially hosting U.S. nuclear weapons is not new. In May 2020, Georgette Mosbacher, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, suggested that if Germany withdrew its nuclear partnership, then “perhaps Poland, which pays its fair share, understands the risks and is on NATO’s eastern flank, could house the capabilities.”

Russia and its ally Belarus have been discussing their own possible nuclear sharing arrangement in which Russian weapons would be located in Belarus.

Russia has used Belarus as a base from which to launch its air operations in Ukraine and as an operation staging ground for the unprovoked assault. At the start of the war, Belarus revised its constitution to renounce its non-nuclear status, thus allowing the prospect of hosting nuclear weapons on its territory.

Putin and Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko have cited NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement as justification for their recent deployments in Belarus. On June 25, Putin agreed to transfer to Belarus the nuclear-capable Iskander-M, a ballistic missile system that has been fielded by Russian ground forces since 2018. He also agreed to start retrofitting some Belarussian combat aircraft to make them nuclear capable and to train Belarussian pilots.

“Do you think it was all blather?” Lukashenko asked reporters on Aug. 26, according to the Associated Press. “All of it has been done.”

In the past, Lukashenko has said that he would offer to host Russian nuclear weapons if the United States moved U.S. atomic bombs from Germany to eastern Europe.

NATO’s nuclear posture remains unchanged. In mid-October, NATO conducted its annual nuclear deterrence exercise, Steadfast Noon, which coincided with Russia’s Grom nuclear deterrence exercise. “The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear deterrence has always been to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Oct. 12.

 

Amid Russian war in Ukraine, Poland offered to host U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory.

Finland, Sweden, Ukraine Face Hurdles Joining NATO


November 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

As Russia pressed its brutal war on Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, and Ukraine intensified their efforts to become NATO members, but all continued to face obstacles.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, shown at a news conference in October, announced plans to apply for “accelerated ascension” to NATO in response to Russian aggression but alliance members have discouraged such a move.  (Photo by Volodymyr Tarasov/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)After Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions on Sept. 30, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine had signed a fast-track application to join NATO, similar to what Finland and Sweden did in May.

“It is in Ukraine that the fate of democracy in the confrontation with tyranny is being decided,” Zelenskyy said, according to The New York Times.

Although Ukraine has long aspired to NATO membership, the idea is very controversial within the alliance. Zelenskyy’s government largely had set the goal aside as it focused on prosecuting the war against Russia with Western military and economic assistance.

NATO leaders responded enthusiastically when Finland and Sweden applied for membership last summer, but the reaction to the Ukrainian announcement has been noncommittal. “Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Sept. 30 when asked if Ukraine’s accelerated membership was possible.

Like Sullivan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that every democracy in Europe had the right to apply for NATO membership and that Ukraine’s application had to be taken up by all 30 alliance members. “Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine, to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian brutal invasion,” Stoltenberg said, also on Sept. 30.

NATO said at its 2008 summit that it would welcome membership bids from Ukraine and Georgia, but it has never offered them membership action plans, which assist aspiring allies in preparing for membership. The main reasons were the concerns of France, Germany, and others about the potential impact on regional stability. Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008.

On Oct. 13, Alexander Venediktov, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said that Ukraine is well aware that its NATO accession could be a guaranteed escalation into World War III and that Russia’s position remained unchanged, according to the TASS news agency.

After getting off to a swift start, the NATO bids of Finland and Sweden also have run into trouble. They formally submitted their applications on May 18. (See ACT, June 2022.) Since then, Turkey and Hungary have resisted joining the other allies in ratifying the new NATO accessions.

On Oct. 6, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that Finland and Sweden should join the alliance separately and renewed his threat about blocking Swedish accession, The Washington Post reported. Previously, Turkey had accused Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Finland of aiding groups that Turkey identifies as terrorists, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish separatist group, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey perceives as an extension of the PKK.

“As long as the terrorist organizations are demonstrating on the streets of Sweden, and as long as the terrorists are inside the Swedish parliament, there is not going to be a positive approach from Turkey towards Sweden,” Erdoğan said at a news conference after a summit of the European Political Community.

In late June, U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Turkey’s decision to agree to a trilateral memorandum, under NATO auspices, with Finland and Sweden that was supposed to pave the way for the Nordic nations to join the alliance. Finland and Sweden affirmed their support for Turkey against threats to its national security and insisted that they should join NATO together.

“When Finland, together with Sweden, eventually becomes a NATO member, our one Nordic family will finally be welded together by a common alliance, too,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said on Oct 10.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has accelerated such shifts in the European security architecture by altering the threat perceptions of its Western neighbors. “The threat is real," said Col. Magnus Frykvall, commander of Sweden’s Gotland Regiment during BALTOPS 2022, an annual NATO military exercise in which Finland and Sweden traditionally have trained in the Baltic Sea alongside NATO forces. "[W]e have seen what, in this case, Russia is prepared to do to a neighboring country.”

It is unclear when the Hungarian National Assembly will consider Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications. Turkey’s support will still be needed.

Once on a fast-track, the Nordic states are being delayed by Turkey and Hungary. Ukraine is more complicated.

U.S. Joins Call for Limits on Lethal Autonomous Weapons


November 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

In a joint statement on Oct. 22, a diverse, cross-regional group of UN member states led by Austria and including the United States expressed concern about “new technological applications, such as those related to autonomy in weapons systems.”

The Sea Hunter, an autonomous unmanned surface ship launched in 2016. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)The statement also emphasized “the necessity for human beings to exert appropriate control, judgment, and involvement...to ensure any use of force is in compliance with international law, particularly international humanitarian law, and that humans remain accountable for decisions on the use of force.” It was delivered by Alexander Kmentt, the Austrian director for disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation, on behalf of 70 UN delegations.

Several major powers are developing and, in some cases, fielding various types of autonomous combat systems, including unmanned aerial vehicles, ground vehicles, surface vessels, and undersea vessels. Many of these weapons utilize artificial intelligence to improve capabilities to identify, track, and attack enemy targets.

The joint statement follows more than eight years of inconclusive discussions among the 125 states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on the subject of lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In CCW discussions, held in Geneva, many have called for binding agreements to limit or ban these weapons systems, while the states that are building autonomy into certain weapons systems, including Russia and the United States, have resisted calls for a binding agreement and instead advocated for a less restrictive “code of conduct.” The CCW operates by consensus.

In their national statements delivered in October at the UN General Assembly First Committee, many of the signatories of the statement, including France, the United

Kingdom, and the United States, expressed support for the ongoing work of the CCW group of governmental experts on lethal autonomous weapons issues, which is chaired by Brazil. The Netherlands expressed the need for the experts group to produce “concrete results.”

The Oct. 21 joint statement indicates there is a growing concern among key states about the adverse impacts of lethal autonomous weapons systems and, as the statement suggests, growing support for action leading to the adoption of “appropriate rules and measures, such as principles, good practices, limitations and constraints,” including “through internationally agreed rules and limits.”

 

In a statement, UN member states stress that humans must remain accountable for decisions on using force.

 

North Korea Ramps Up Missile Tests


November 2022
By Heather Foye

North Korea continued to ramp up its missile testing in October partially in response to recent military exercises involving South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

In this image released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korean Air Force F-15Ks and U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets fly over the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea's intermediate-range ballistic missile launch earlier on Oct. 4.  (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)North Korea has launched more than 40 ballistic and cruise missiles in more than 20 different testing events this year, a greater number than in any previous year since leader Kim Jong Un assumed power in 2011, according to the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Associated Press. (See ACT, July/August 2022.) By mid-October, there had been six tests in that month alone.

Of particular concern was the Oct. 4 test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that, Japan officials said, flew approximately 2,800 miles over Japan for 22 minutes. This was the first North Korean missile to fly over Japan since 2017 and was the longest-known North Korean missile flight yet. Pyongyang has other missiles that can travel further but have not been tested at full range.

In a statement, the Japanese government condemned the Oct. 4 launch as a “grave and imminent threat to Japan’s national security…[which] threatens the peace and security of the region and the international community.” It chided Pyongyang for failing to give prior notice, which endangered citizens in the area and threatened “the safety of aircraft and vessels.”

In response, South Korea and the United States held a round of military drills, which included launching short-range missiles. One of the South Korean Hyunmoo-2 missiles tested Oct. 5 malfunctioned and crashed near the city of Gangneung, South Korea, causing a fire to erupt, although no injuries were reported. Seoul is expanding its ballistic missile capabilities as a response to Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Initial media reports suggested that the Oct. 4 launch involved a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam, but some experts now think the weapon may have been a newly designed missile that had not been previously tested by Pyongyang. On Oct. 10, North Korean state media described the new missile as a “new-type ground-to-ground” missile, which was deployed “to send more powerful and clear warning to the enemies.”

Experts say the North Korean tests likely responded to trilateral anti-submarine drills by the United States, South Korea, and Japan in late September, the first joint military exercises in five years. More than 20 naval ships were involved in the exercises off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, including the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

North Korea also fired hundreds of artillery shells in October in response to South Korea’s annual Hoguk military drills conducted from Oct. 17–28. U.S. troops participated in parts of those exercises.

Kim, working to meet new objectives for the North Korean nuclear program, last month announced a new law that updated the country’s nuclear doctrine and declared its irreversible status as a nuclear-weapon state. (See ACT, October 2022.)

The uptick in Pyongyang’s missile testing came days after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris made a four-day trip to the region. After visiting the Demilitarized Zone, Harris said on Sept. 29 that the North’s ballistic missile program was “destabilizing the peace and security” of the region. She reaffirmed the shared U.S.-South Korean goal of “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.

After the Oct. 4 test, U.S., Japanese, and South Korean leaders reiterated their commitment to trilateral cooperation. U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida spoke by phone on Oct. 4, condemning the North Korean test as an “outrageous act” and calling for nuclear disarmament by North Korea. During an Oct. 6 phone call, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Kishida asserted the need for “strong solidarity with the international community, including the UN Security Council.”

Since 2006, North Korea has been prohibited from conducting ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests under Security Council resolutions that it regularly violates. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called Pyongyang’s Oct. 4 test “reckless” and urged dialogue.

During an emergency Security Council session on Oct. 5, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield criticized the council’s inability to hold North Korea accountable. Apparently referring to China and Russia, she said that North Korea “has enjoyed blanket protection from two members of this council [who]…justify [the North’s] repeated provocations and block every attempt to update the sanctions regime.”

China and Russia have rationalized North Korea’s missile launches as a response to U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The council meeting ended without consensus or new sanctions against North Korea.

Repair work at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site suggests Pyongyang soon may conduct its seventh nuclear test, presenting “a whole new level of threat,” according to a high-ranking South Korean official quoted by The Chosun Ilbo. Seoul recently asked Washington to share U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, a request Washington has rejected.

North Korea conducted six nuclear weapons tests between 2006 and 2017.

Pyongyang has launched more missile tests in 2022 than any year since 2011.

New U.S. Security Strategy Prioritizes China, Russia


November 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Facing growing Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals, the United States for the first time will need to deter two major nuclear powers simultaneously, thus requiring the modernization of its own nuclear triad and infrastructure, according to the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy released in October.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping confer during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand in September. The Biden administration national security strategy says the United States must modernize its nuclear triad to deter the nuclear rivals that these leaders represent.  (Photo by Sergei Bobylyov/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)“By the 2030s, the United States for the first time will need to deter two major nuclear powers, each of whom will field modern and diverse global and regional nuclear forces,” the long-awaited, congressionally mandated document stated. “To ensure our nuclear deterrent remains responsive to the threats we face, we are modernizing the nuclear triad, nuclear command, control, and communications, and our nuclear weapons infrastructure, as well as strengthening our extended deterrence commitments to our Allies.”

The Biden administration officially released the strategy on Oct. 12, nearly two years into its term and after, according to media reports, a rewrite of at least portions of it due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The Pentagon released several related security documents—the National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review—on Oct. 27, after delivering classified versions to Congress in March. (See ACT, April 2022.)

Alongside the nuclear modernization effort, the strategy emphasizes that the United States remains “equally committed to reducing the risks of nuclear war…[including by] taking further steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our strategy and pursuing realistic goals for mutual, verifiable arms control.” The U.S. nuclear modernization effort will cost $634 billion over the next 10 years, according to a May 2021 projection by the Congressional Budget Office. (See ACT, June 2021.)

The Biden administration “retains an interest” in developing a new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control framework to replace the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in 2026, the document says.

Overall, the strategy prioritizes maintaining a competitive edge over China, but underscores the need to constrain Russia at the same time.

China has been rapidly expanding and diversifying its nuclear forces. U.S. researchers using satellite imagery last year discovered at least 250 new long-range missile silos on Chinese territory, and the Pentagon estimates Beijing aims to amass 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads by 2030. (See ACT, September and December 2021.)

“China is developing nuclear capabilities at a moderate and appropriate level,” Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe said in June. “That means being able to protect our nation’s security so that we can avoid the catastrophe of a war, especially the catastrophe of a nuclear war.”

As for Russia, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Oct. 12 that Moscow’s threats to use nuclear weapons over the course of the war in Ukraine have reminded the administration “what a significant and seriously dangerous adversary Russia is, not just to the United States but to a world that is seeking peace and stability.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats as “reckless and irresponsible” when commenting on the strategy’s release.

The goal is to deter Russia and China simultaneously.

First U.S. Hypersonic Deployment on Track for 2023


November 2022
By Shannon Bugos

After a recent flurry of prototype testing, the U.S. Defense Department is on schedule with plans to deploy its first new hypersonic weapon by the summer of 2023 and to develop other offensive hypersonic and anti-hypersonic weapons defense capabilities.

This artist's graphic from Lockheed Martin shows a launch of the U.S. OpFires hypersonic missile from a 10×10 wheeled truck.  (Graphic by Lockheed Martin)Lt. Gen. Robert Rasch, the Army’s director of hypersonic weapons systems acquisition, said in an early October interview with Defense News that the service will proceed with its schedule to field the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), a ground-launched, boost-glide missile system, by the end of fiscal year 2023. The Army completed delivery of LRHW ground equipment, including the battery operations center, transporter erector launchers, and trucks and trailers, to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state in September 2021. (See ACT, November 2021.)

Rasch noted that the Pentagon will test the LRHW missile twice more before initial deployment, with the first of those tests meant to launch the fully assembled missile from its ground-support equipment. The most recent test of the system’s glide body, which is shared with the Navy’s hypersonic weapons system program, ended in failure in June, although Rasch claimed that the booster stack performed successfully. (See ACT, September 2022.)

The LRHW weapons system is one of 24 systems that the Army plans to deploy in fiscal year 2023 and one of 35 systems that the service aims to deploy by 2030 in order to become what it considers a fully modernized force.

Meanwhile, the Air Force awarded a $985 million contract to Raytheon Technologies, including its program partner Northrop Grumman, on Sept. 22 to kick-start the development of the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile as an operational, rather than prototype, capability. Raytheon will deliver two of the missile batteries and prepare the missiles for their planned deployment on F-15 fighter jets in fiscal year 2027. (See ACT, June 2022.) The Pentagon began the program in fiscal year 2022. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

The system “will provide our commanders with tactical flexibility to employ fighters to hold high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk, while maintaining bombers for other strategic targets,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown said in the award announcement.

The Air Force also noted that the United States will continue its collaboration with Australia on the system’s design and development under a joint project arrangement. This will include the use of Australia’s test infrastructure for the system’s first all-up-round flight tests.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada struck an agreement in September for the two countries to continue cooperation on anti-hypersonic weapons defense systems. The officials “agreed to continue joint analysis on counter-hypersonic technology and, based on its progress, to begin consideration of joint research on technologies and components,” according to a Japanese Defense Ministry readout of the meeting.

The allied collaboration on new hypersonic technology comes as a response to advances by China and Russia on hypersonic weapons, as well as to tensions with China about Taiwan. Moscow thus far has deployed two hypersonic weapons capabilities, the Kinzhal short-range ballistic missile and the Avangard intercontinental boost-glide vehicle, in 2017 and 2019, respectively, while Beijing deployed the Dongfeng-17 road-mobile, boost-glide system in 2020.

Russian MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft in flight carrying the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal ballistic missile in 2018.  (Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty Images)Russia used Kinzhal hypersonic weapons against Ukraine in the spring, marking the first use of new hypersonic weapons in warfare. (See ACT, April 2022.) But U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said on Sept. 15 that the Kinzhal missiles have been used “almost to no effect.”

Relatedly, The Washington Post reported on Oct. 17 that hypersonic missile technology, including computer-aided engineering software and pieces of hardware such as interferometers, developed by U.S. defense companies have been sold through intermediary firms to Chinese military research groups working on hypersonic capabilities, such as the Chinese Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics.

“In this case, the American technology is superior,” an anonymous Chinese scientist working on hypersonic technology told the newspaper. “We can’t do certain things without foreign technology.”

The United States has prioritized the establishment of a defense architecture to combat incoming hypersonic weapons from adversaries. This defense system plans to feature anti-hypersonic missiles, known as the Glide Phase Interceptor for which Raytheon and Northrop are creating a prototype, as well as satellites for a missile warning and tracking system.

The Space Development Agency (SDA) aimed to conduct the first launch of around six to eight Tranche-0 missile tracking and transport satellites in low earth orbit in September, but supply chain delays and protests over the contracts caused a delay until at least mid-December.

The 28 satellites of Tranche-0 will include 20 communications satellites from Lockheed Martin and York Space and eight missile-tracking infrared sensor satellites from SpaceX and L3Harris. The second launch of satellites for this tranche is scheduled for March.

The 28 Tranche-1 infrared-sensing satellites, under development by L3Harris and Northrop, will begin launching in groups of seven starting in April 2025.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is simultaneously developing the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, which will be comprised of satellites in low earth orbit with medium field-of-view sensors to track missiles and produce data necessary for targeting. All of the satellites in development under the auspices of the SDA and MDA will together form an overarching, persistent overhead satellite system for early warning and tracking of missiles, including hypersonic weapons.

The Biden administration continued its predecessor’s approach to accelerate the development and deployment of new hypersonic weapons capabilities by ensuring funds for the programs at the Defense Department in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. The president has yet to sign the final national defense authorization and appropriations bills for fiscal year 2023, because not all relevant pieces have made their way through Congress. The current continuing resolution that is funding government operations expires on Dec. 16, and Congress seems likely to take up the defense spending legislation starting in mid-November.

 

The Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon will be fielded by the end of the fiscal year, a top U.S. Army commander has said.

Seven Countries Join ASAT Test Ban


November 2022

Seven countries have committed formally to a U.S.-led initiative to ban destructive direct-ascent, kinetic-energy anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons testing.

India displays an anti-satellite weapon during Republic Day Parade in New Delhi in January 2020. One of five countries to have conducted tests against satellites, India has not joined the ASAT ban. (Photo by Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images)The United States became the first nation to declare the self-imposed ban in April. (See ACT, May 2022.) Canada followed in May, New Zealand in July, Japan and Germany in September, and the United Kingdom and South Korea in October. Other countries, such as France and Ireland, have expressed support for the ban, but have not made a commitment.

China, India, the Soviet Union and Russia, and the United States are the only nations to have conducted such tests against satellites, which are known to create massive amounts of debris in space.

The U.S. announcement preceded the inaugural session in May of the UN open-ended working group aimed at reducing space threats, which was created out of a 2021 UN resolution that promised to address military movements in space through norms, rules of the road, and principles of responsible behavior. (See ACT, December 2021.)

The working group held its second session in September. The third session is planned for early 2023, and the fourth in August 2023.

At the UN General Assembly in October, the United States tried to make the ban fully multilateral by introducing a resolution calling on all countries to commit not to conduct ASAT tests. Belarus, China, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Russia denounced the resolution as “insufficient” in an Oct. 26 statement.
—SHANNON BUGOS

Seven Countries Join ASAT Test Ban

Mexico Files New Gun Lawsuit in U.S. Court


November 2022
 

Aiming to curb arms trafficking into its territory, Mexico has filed a new lawsuit in U.S. courts after its 2021 suit was dismissed in late September.

A boy holds a makeshift gun as a community police force in Mexico in 2020 teaches a group of children how to protect themselves from area drug gangs. Mexico is suing to stop the flow of guns from U.S. manufacturers and dealers into Mexico. (Photo by Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images)The new lawsuit, filed Oct. 10 in federal court in Tucson, names five Arizona gun distributors whose guns are among those most frequently recovered in Mexico and states that those dealers knowingly break U.S. law to enable trafficking. In a video message that day, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard explained that his country cooperates with the United States on drug trafficking and other issues and would like assistance in stopping the flow of weapons into Mexico.

The earlier suit, filed in Massachusetts, was dismissed on Sept. 30. (See ACT, September 2022.) In his decision, Judge F. Dennis Saylor mentioned the limitations placed by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which provides gun manufacturers wide immunity. He added that “while the Court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law.” (See ACT, September 2021.)

Mexico promised to appeal the September ruling and drew a distinction between that case against gun manufacturers and the new case against gun dealers. In a press release Oct. 10, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it was confident both cases would succeed in court and that they “have already contributed to promoting conversations and actions around the world about halting arms trafficking and the dangerous practices of the arms industry.”JEFF ABRAMSON

Mexico Files New Gun Lawsuit in U.S. Court

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