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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
October 2022
Edition Date: 
Saturday, October 1, 2022
Cover Image: 

U.S. Conditions Talks on New START Inspections


October 2022
By Shannon Bugos

The United States declared in September that any negotiation of a new nuclear arms control arrangement to follow on from the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) depends on the resumption of the treaty’s on-site inspections of nuclear-related facilities, which Russia has impeded.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Wesley Baptiste (L) and Airman Daniel Peryer perform a “simulated missile reduction” in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 2011. Such inspections, and the treaty itself, are now at risk because of Russia's failure to resume the inspections amid its war on Ukraine.  (Photo credit: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Desiree Esposito)The two countries agreed to suspend inspections in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although talks had been ongoing since last year to resume these inspections, Russia undermined such efforts and further extended the pause with its decision in August to prohibit inspections of its relevant facilities subject to New START. (See ACT, September 2022.)

“The first step is to resume inspections” under New START, “and we have been trying to work with the Russians toward that end,” a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson said on Sept. 1. New START is the last remaining U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreement and will expire in February 2026. Washington paused arms control talks with Moscow following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. (See ACT, March 2022.)

Russia claimed that its flight crew and inspectors have faced difficulties in obtaining the necessary documents, such as visas, to carry out inspections in the United States, which has imposed, alongside U.S. allies, sanctions and restrictions on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.

But U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Aug. 16 that “U.S. sanctions and restrictive measures imposed as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine are fully compatible” with New START and “don’t prevent Russian inspectors from conducting treaty inspections in the United States.” Another State Department spokesperson later added, “The United States has and will continue to engage Russia on the resumption of inspections through diplomatic channels,” such as the Bilateral Consultative Commission established by the treaty to address implementation and verification concerns.

Although the pause of on-site inspections is concerning, U.S. officials continue to assess that Russia does not appear poised to employ nuclear weapons imminently.

Since the outset of the war, the United States has consistently monitored Russian nuclear forces for any signs of impending use, thus far seeing none.

Against this backdrop of rising tensions, the United States moved ahead with a long-planned test of an unarmed nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Minuteman III, on Sept. 7. The test ICBM carried three reentry vehicles and traveled 4,200 miles from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California to a test range at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

In March, the Pentagon delayed and then cancelled an ICBM test so as not to exacerbate tensions amid the Russian war in Ukraine. It also delayed by two weeks an ICBM test in August due to heightened tensions with China over Taiwan. (See ACT, April and September 2022.)

Meanwhile, Moscow announced in mid-August the deployment of Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missiles on Mikoyan MiG-31 fighter jets based at the Chkalovsk Air Base in the Kaliningrad enclave as part of “additional measures of strategic deterrence,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Although the deployed missiles are conventional, the Kinzhal is thought to be nuclear capable.

Over the course of the war, Russia has used Kinzhal missiles to strike targets in Ukraine in March and possibly in May, leading a U.S. defense official to estimate that Russian forces have employed about a dozen hypersonic missiles in total. (See ACT, April and June 2022.)

“We have deployed [the Kinzhal system] three times during the special military operation” in Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an Aug. 31 interview with Russian media, “and three times it showed brilliant characteristics.” U.S. defense officials, in contrast, have asserted that the Russian use of hypersonic weapons has not proved to be a game-changing decision in the war.

Russia declared that the United States would become a party to the conflict if it “cross[ed] the red line” by supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles, such as the Army Tactical Missile System that has a range of up to 300 kilometers.

“We reserve the right to protect the Russian territory by all available means,” Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in a Sept. 15 briefing.

Russia and the United States suspended inspections in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; Russia has extended the pause.

Germany Investigates Firms for Chemical Exports


October 2022
By Leanne Quinn

German customs officials on Aug. 30 carried out seven search warrants on a network of German chemical companies suspected of violating export control permitting laws.

According to case documents viewed by German public broadcasters NDR and WDR and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, investigators allege that, over the last three and a half years, chemical company Riol Chemie GmbH sent more than 30 shipments of dual-use toxic substances and laboratory equipment to Russia’s Chimmed Group without export permits, violating the German Foreign Trade Act.

The shipments were reported to include precursor chemicals that can be used in the production of banned chemical agents such as mustard gas and Novichok. Benedikt Strunz, one of the German broadcasters from NDR who broke the story, said in an interview published on Sept. 12 that the amounts of compounds shipped to Russia were too small for industrial production of those chemical agents. At this time, the intended purpose of the shipments is unknown. At least two other chemical companies and one export firm could also be implicated, Strunz said.

The new investigation comes after the managing director of a trading company in the German state of Saxony was indicted in February on suspicion of exporting dual-use chemicals to a Russian intelligence agency for the purpose of producing weapons of mass destruction.

The two cases underscore the importance of strong national laws that criminalize activities related to the proliferation of chemical weapons. Although research, production, and stockpiling of chemical weapons are banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), chemical weapons remain a threat in nations where treaty obligations have not been fully implemented.

 

Prosecutors charged a German chemical company with sending more than 30 shipments of dual-use toxic substances and equipment to Russia’s Chimmed Group, German media said.

U.S. Offering More Arms to Taiwan


October 2022
By Jeff Abramson

The Biden administration has notified Congress of its plan to offer more than $1 billion in weapons and military support to Taiwan as leaders in the Senate advanced legislation for even more armaments in the coming years, drawing new expressions of concern from China.

As tensions over Taiwan grew, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, sponsored by Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), shown in photo, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), to boost foreign military financing funds for the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own. The legislation must next be approved by the full Senate.  (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)The latest potential weapons deals, announced Sept. 2, would provide Taipei with support for its radar surveillance capabilities, as well as 60 anti-ship Harpoon missiles and 100 short-range air-to-air Sidewinder missiles. In total, the administration has proposed more than $2 billion in weapons transfers to Taiwan through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, which includes whole or parts of weapons systems or support services for tanks, combat vehicles, howitzers, ships, and Patriot air defense systems. Congress has 30 days to disapprove the latest sales before the administration can proceed, but no serious effort is being made to block them.

Thus far, the Biden administration has not proposed new sales of weapons with a higher international profile, such as F-16 fighter aircraft, or longer-range capabilities, such as the Army Tactical Missile Systems and Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response, all of which were among more than $18 billion in FMS program notifications during the Trump administration. Such weapons give Taiwan more capabilities to attack the Chinese mainland, approximately 110 miles away.

The Biden administration appears to be following what some are calling the “porcupine” strategy, whereby Taiwan is so well provisioned with weapons that any attempt by China to invade and occupy the country would prove extremely difficult and costly.

Less than two weeks after the arms sale notification, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022. A vote of the full Senate has not been scheduled.. Authored by committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the committee added an additional year and $2 billion in foreign military financing funds to the original bill, raising it to $6.5 billion through fiscal year 2027.

The legislation also directs the State and Defense departments and contractors to expedite FMS program requests from Taiwan.

Menendez welcomed the committee’s vote on Sept. 14, saying that “we are carefully and strategically lowering the existential threats facing Taiwan by raising the cost of taking the island by force so that it becomes too high a risk and unachievable.” In an op-ed in The New York Times in August, he wrote, “We saw the warning signs for Ukraine in 2014 and failed to take action that might have deterred further Russian aggression. We cannot afford to repeat that mistake with Taiwan.”

In recent months especially after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on Aug. 2–3, security concerns around Taiwan have increased, with China and the United States conducting military exercises. China reacted negatively to the latest potential arms sales and legislation, including by sanctioning directors of U.S. weapons manufacturers Raytheon and Boeing.

China claims that Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, is part of China and has vowed to reunite it with the mainland by force if necessary. U.S. President Joe Biden recently suggested that the United States would directly intervene militarily if needed on behalf of Taiwan in the event of a conflict with China. Interpreted by some experts as a change in the long-standing U.S. “One China” policy, such comments have been walked back by U.S. officials, but still have contributed to mounting tensions.

The latest U.S. offer is valued at $1 billion, as Taiwan seeks to build its defenses amid rising tensions with China.

U.S., Ukraine Refute Russian Bioweapons Charges


October 2022
By Leanne Quinn

A special session of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), convened in Geneva at Russia’s request and centered on biological weapons accusations against the United States and Ukraine, ended Sept. 9 without resolution.

As the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya has made his country's case for waging war in Ukraine and for accusing the United States and Ukraine of activities that violate the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). But Russia never provided any evidence of its charges, including at a special BWC session in September in Geneva. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)During eight closed-door meetings held Sept. 5–9, 89 BWC states-parties and one BWC signatory state heard presentations from the three countries involved in the dispute. Russia has a history of mischaracterizing U.S. biological research cooperation with Ukraine and other partners, but the consultative meeting marked the first time Russia used a provision of the treaty to press the United States for answers to its allegations.

After the meeting, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price lauded the work of the U.S. and Ukrainian delegations and condemned Russian attempts to spread disinformation.

“The United States and Ukraine presented a thorough, in-depth series of presentations that strongly refuted Russia’s absurd and false claims of U.S. biological weapons development and bio-labs in Ukraine,” he said in the statement.

Russia, which called for the meeting in June, sought answers to questions concerning the “fulfillment of [the U.S. and Ukrainian] respective obligations under the convention in the context of the operation of biological laboratories on the Ukrainian territory.”

Before the meeting, the United States received a diplomatic note from Russia that “did not contain any actual questions, but rather a series of assertions and mischaracterizations of various documents that the Russian Federation claims to have obtained during Russia’s war against Ukraine,” according to a U.S. document submitted to the meeting.

Addressing allegations related to U.S. funding of Ukrainian biological research facilities, the document explained that, in 2005, the U.S. Defense Department and the Ukrainian Health Ministry entered into a cooperative agreement on preventing the proliferation of technology, pathogens, and expertise that could be used in the development of biological weapons. Such cooperation is encouraged under Article X of the BWC.

The U.S. delegation noted that Russia was a foundational partner of the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction programs and benefited from similar collaborative biological research and biosafety work that took place between the United States and Russia for many years until cooperation was terminated by Russia in 2014.

“Normal Ukraine-United States Article X cooperation is being demonised, which is dangerous” for the BWC, Aiden Liddle, UK ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said in a tweet on Sept. 7.

One series of Russian questions focused on three U.S.-issued patents for technology related to the weaponization of toxins, including whether the patents violated U.S. obligations under the BWC. The United States responded that “the decision to issue a patent does not violate the obligations” of the United States under the BWC and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on the grounds that “patent rights do not confer a legal right or authorization to produce an invention” but rather “simply serve to give the patent owner the legal means to exclude other parties from taking certain actions with respect to that invention.”

The United States responded that because multiple states-parties to the BWC and CWC have issued similar patents, including Russia, it might be beneficial to hold “further discussions on best practices for identifying and addressing such applications.”

Regarding U.S. funding of animal surveillance projects in Ukraine, the United States dismissed Russian claims that the projects are seeking to “weaponize” migratory birds. It said the two research projects collect data on avian diseases in migratory birds to support “a long-term international effort encouraged by the World Health Organization to understand the spread of avian influenza around the world.”

 

Russia called a special meeting to reaffirm bioweapons charges against Ukraine and the United States but has offered no evidence.

ATT Meeting Focuses on Post-Transfer Arms Controls


October 2022
By Jeff Abramson

Improving control over weapons after they have been delivered was the theme of the annual conference of states-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which took place during a time of massive weapons transfers by treaty members responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The annual conference of states-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty discussed improving controls over weapons after their delivery against the backdrop of the Russian war on Ukraine. In this photo, Ukrainian forces fire a U.S.-made M777 howitzer on the front line in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on Aug. 1.   (Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)Under the treaty, member states agree to consider the risks that arms transfers would undermine peace and security or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights laws. Very little discussion of specific transfers took place during the formal sessions, held in Geneva on Aug. 22–26, but a few countries spoke of the war in Ukraine, saying that the treaty should be interpreted so as to prohibit transfers to Russia.
(See ACT, October 2021.)

For example, the Netherlands called “on all our ATT partners to refrain from supplying weapons to the Russian Federation due to an overriding risk of misuse.” The United Kingdom encouraged all states-parties that have not suspended such transfers “to reconsider, in line with their treaty obligations.” The European Union argued that, “[i]n the current unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression by Russia in Ukraine, given the many grave breaches by Russia of the Geneva Conventions, including attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians, arms transfers to Russia would not be permitted under the ATT.”

Austria, while noting that its neutrality leads it not to provide weapons to Ukraine, said, “we fully acknowledge the right of Ukraine to acquire arms for self-defense against the illegal invasion by Russia.” Although Ukraine is a signatory, neither it nor Russia are states-parties to the treaty or are mentioned in the final report that was adopted by conference participants.

Delegates considered a range of recommendations for the post-shipment phase of transfers with the goal of preventing weapons diversion and addressing risks associated with the arms trade. In the final report, states-parties were encouraged to continue such discussions, which also will be taken up in the working group on effective treaty implementation.

Noting that discussion of specific transfers is often lacking, Cindy Ebbs, co-director of the civil society coalition Control Arms, told Arms Control Today on Sept. 14 that it was a positive sign that the Diversion Information Exchange Forum met for the first time during this year’s conference. Established in 2020 but delayed from meeting in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum is meant to provide an opportunity for states to share cases of suspected or detected diversion. It is controversial because it is open only to states-parties and signatories. (See ACT, September 2020.)

During the forum, four countries discussed specific diversion cases in what was reported to be a productive exchange. Ebbs continued to argue that the forum should be open to civil society, but welcomed the effort for countries to discuss concrete implementation challenges.

With the recent ratifications by Gabon and the Philippines, the ATT has 112 states-parties. The United States, whose 2013 signature to the treaty was rejected by President Donald Trump in 2019, sent a delegation to the meeting, which did not speak during the formal sessions. Last year, the U.S. delegation indicated that a new conventional arms transfer policy would be released shortly and help define Washington’s relationship to the treaty. That policy has yet to be released.

The ninth conference of ATT states-parties, led by South Korea, will be held in Geneva on Aug. 21–25, 2023, with an expected special focus on the role of industry.

As weapons shipments flood Ukraine, states-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty are discussing improving controls over weapons after they have been delivered.

Meeting Flags Cluster Munitions Harm in Ukraine


October 2022
By Jeff Abramson

States-parties to the treaty banning cluster munitions have reaffirmed their commitment to that goal amid the escalating challenges posed by the widespread use of the weapons in the war in Ukraine.

A tail section of a 300mm rocket which appears to have contained cluster bombs launched from a BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher is seen embedded in the ground on July 3 after shelling in Kramatorsk, amid the Russian war on Ukraine.  (Photo by Genya Savilov / AFP via Getty Images)The members of the Convention on Cluster Munitions held their annual conference Aug. 30–Sept. 2 in Geneva. The president of the meeting, Aidan Liddle, UK ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said in his opening address that “our determination to achieve a world entirely free of any use of these weapons…is tested by the scenes we have witnessed since Russia launched its unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine in February this year.”

In recent years, whether to name specific instances of use and how to express condemnation have been contentious issues at annual meetings of the convention. (See ACT, October 2021.)

In the final report adopted at this year’s conference, delegates said that, “in accordance with the object and provisions of the convention, [they] condemned any use of cluster munitions by any actor.” They also expressed their “grave concern at the increase in civilian casualties and the humanitarian impact resulting from the repeated and well-documented use of cluster munitions since the second review conference. This grave concern applies in particular to the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine.”

The Cluster Munition Monitor, published by the Cluster Munition Coalition, identified at least 689 casualties during cluster munitions attacks in Ukraine in the first half of 2022. That is more than four times the 149 casualties it identified for the entire previous year across nine countries plus Nagorno-Karabakh and Western Sahara, all of which were attributed to weapon remnants rather than new attacks. The vast majority of the cluster munitions use in Ukraine was done by Russian forces. Neither Russia nor Ukraine is a party to the treaty.

The treaty, which entered into force in 2010, has 110 states-parties and 13 signatories, numbers that have not changed since 2020. Under it, countries commit to clear within 10 years cluster munitions contamination from territory they control. At this year’s meeting, Chad received approval for an extension to this deadline, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Chile received new extensions after having been granted short ones at last year’s review conference.

According to the Mine Action Review, 25 countries and three other areas remain contaminated with cluster munition remnants. Collectively, they cleared more than 151 square kilometers of contaminated territory in 2021, an annual record. Of 10 states-parties having contamination, the report found that only Afghanistan was on track to complete clearance without needing another extension, although it also noted that regime changes there “could still derail its progress.”

Abdulkarim Hashim Mustafa, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, was named president of next year’s annual meeting, planned for Sept. 11–14.

 

States-parties to the treaty banning cluster munitions reaffirmed that goal as the use of the weapon escalated during the war in Ukraine.

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