“For half a century, ACA has been providing the world … with advocacy, analysis, and awareness on some of the most critical topics of international peace and security, including on how to achieve our common, shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

– Izumi Nakamitsu
UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
June 2, 2022
September 2018
Edition Date: 
Saturday, September 1, 2018
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Can the U.S. and Russia Avert a New Arms Race?

September 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Five long years have passed since U.S. President Barack Obama proposed and Russian President Vladimir Putin unfortunately rejected negotiations designed to cut their excessive nuclear stockpiles by one-third below the limits set by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

U.S. Air Force maintenance technicians assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on a B-2 stealth bomber at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. on March 19, 2011. The unit maintains aircraft tasked with strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations. Photo credit: Kenny Holston/U.S. Air ForceSince Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated dramatically. A Russian violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty has put that treaty at risk and the nuclear arms reduction dialogue remains stalled. As a result, each side still can deploy a whopping 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads, as allowed by New START.

Reliance on outdated launch-under-attack policies means that either leader at any moment can launch as many as 800 city-destroying nuclear weapons within about 20 minutes of a “go” order. Each side would have hundreds more nuclear weapons available in reserve for counterstrikes. The result would be a global catastrophe.

Clearly, it is vital that the world’s two largest nuclear-armed powers pursue further measures to reduce their bloated stockpiles and the risk of a nuclear confrontation. Yet, Moscow’s brazen effort to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections on behalf of the Trump campaign and suspicions that then-candidate Donald Trump encouraged that effort have further complicated the bilateral relationship and cast doubt on Trump’s ability to deal with Putin.

Meanwhile, a qualitative nuclear arms race is underway, and a quantitative nuclear arms race may be just around the corner. The United States and Russia are rushing forward with costly, ambitious plans to upgrade their Cold War nuclear arsenals and develop new types of destabilizing nuclear weapons.

In little more than two years, on Feb. 5, 2021, New START is scheduled to expire. Without a decision to extend the treaty, which is allowable under Article XIV, there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest arsenals for the first time since 1972. The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition and even more fraught relations would grow.

In a March interview with NBC News, Putin voiced interest in extending New START or possibly even making further cuts in warhead numbers. In April, the Trump administration announced it is conducting a “whole-of-government review” on whether to extend New START, an effort described as still in its early stages.

At the Helsinki summit in July, Putin presented several proposals “to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.” Afterward, Trump stated that “perhaps the most important issue we discussed at our meeting...was the reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world.”

Unfortunately, the two leaders did not reach any agreements in Helsinki. Subsequently, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, following a Geneva meeting with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev on Aug. 23, did not announce a date for talks on New START or on “strategic stability.”

There is no time for further delay. New START clearly serves U.S. and Russian security interests. Failure to extend the treaty would compromise U.S. intelligence on Russian nuclear forces, open the door to unconstrained nuclear competition, and undermine U.S. and allied security.

An extension of New START also would provide additional time for Trump or his successor to pursue negotiations on more far-reaching nuclear cuts involving strategic and tactical nuclear systems, an understanding about the limits of U.S. strategic missile defenses, and limitations on non-nuclear strategic strike weapons that both sides are beginning to develop.

Fortunately, the treaty can be extended by up to five years, to 2026, by a simple agreement by the two presidents without complex negotiations, without further approval from the U.S. Senate or Russian Duma, and without unwise concessions to Moscow.

Even the toughest Democratic critics of Trump’s Russia policies support New START extension. Legislation introduced in June by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) calls for extension of the treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance.

The compliance disputes involving the INF Treaty present a more complex problem. To move forward, Washington and Moscow should agree to reciprocal site visits by experts to examine the 9M729 missile that is in dispute.

If the disputed Russian missile is still believed to have a range that exceeds the 500-kilometer treaty limit, Russia could, as a confidence-building measure, modify the missile into compliance or, ideally, halt production and eliminate any such missiles.

To address Russian concerns about the possible conversion of U.S. missile interceptor systems in Europe to offensive purposes, the United States could agree to reciprocal site visits or perhaps even physical modifications of the launchers.

Despite their many disputes, it is vital that Washington and Moscow maintain a stable, predictable nuclear relationship and avoid direct military conflict.

To do so, Trump and Putin should relaunch the strategic stability dialogue and commit to reaching an early agreement to extend New START. If not, an even more dangerous phase in U.S.-Russian relations may emerge.

Five long years have passed since U.S. President Barack Obama proposed and Russian President Vladimir Putin unfortunately rejected negotiations designed to cut their excessive nuclear stockpiles by one-third below the limits set by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

North Korea’s Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

September 2018
By Cristina Varriale

Although its nuclear and missile programs are frequently in the headlines, North Korea’s other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and their role in Pyongyang’s security strategies draw less discussion and analysis.

A South Korean rescue team wearing chemical protective suits participates in an anti-terror drill as part of a disaster management exercise at the COEX shopping and exhibition center in Seoul on May 20, 2016. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)Expanding analysis to include a consideration of North Korea’s chemical weapons capabilities allows for a better understanding of the doctrine around its unconventional weapons and thus for development of more tailored policies to deal with the WMD threats and risks they pose.

North Korea has never confirmed publicly that it maintains a chemical weapons stockpile, although the U.S. government and others have long assessed that Pyongyang has a variety of lethal chemical agents and related missile and artillery delivery systems. In 1989, Pyongyang signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare but does not ban production or stockpiling. North Korea signed that accord with reservations, outlining its right to dismiss the protocol in the case of another party that violates the use prohibition. North Korea has not joined the more comprehensive 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which extends the prohibition to include production and stockpiling.

In considering North Korea’s strategic drivers, three main elements are common throughout its history: deterrence and reunification, which are recognized as supporting the principal goal of protecting national sovereignty, and survival.1 There has been much debate on the role of nuclear weapons in this context but much less focus on the role of chemical weapons.

By developing a long-range nuclear capability and maintaining regional WMD assets, Pyongyang is able to take advantage of a difference between the United States and South Korea in calculation of strategic risks. A key South Korean security concern, as it relates to North Korea, is the use of conventional and WMD capabilities with regional ranges. U.S. officials, as North Korea’s long-range missile program develops, will have an increasing interest in protecting the continental United States, which may include a lessened desire to retaliate on behalf of South Korea. Such a divergence of strategic interests could weaken the U.S.-South Korean alliance and thus reduce the adversarial risk to Pyongyang, a motivation for North Korea to pursue capabilities that can achieve this result.

North Korea’s strategic goals have also been shaped by founder Kim Il Sung’s vision of leadership over a unified Korea and the use of military force to achieve it.2 This thinking is often used to understand the role of nuclear weapons under Kim Jong Un, the late Kim’s now-ruling grandson. Such a goal could be pursued through military actions or coercion under the shadow of nuclear weapons. Although the latter is not explicitly referenced in current North Korean discourse,3 it should not be assumed to be absent from the regime’s internal thinking.

Yet, the goal of reunification in the South Korean soldiers take part in a chemical weapons drill during a military exercise in Seoul on July 28, 2010. (Photo: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images)short term likely has declined. The same may be true of the long-term vision, although reunification remains imbedded in North Korea’s Constitution and the North Korean psyche. At the same time, given the economic and military buildup in South Korea and increased U.S. military presence in the region, the North’s worry about a potential territorial attack has increased, likely elevating deterrence for regime survival above reunification. This does not equate to a renunciation of reunification but does suggest a shift in strategic priorities, especially in the short to medium term, that prioritizes nuclear weapons.

The two overarching elements of North Korean strategic thinking—deterrence and reunification—are used to support the enduring goal of regime survival. Beyond repelling external efforts to remove the regime, it also encompasses the elimination of internal threats, economic development, and, secondarily, reunification.4 The three strategic priorities are interlinked; deterring adversaries helps preserve the regime, which is key for any possibility of reunification.

These strategic motivations have driven consecutive North Korean leaders to pursue asymmetric military assets. Given the great asymmetric value of nuclear weapons in relation to conventional military threats on the peninsula and the option of balancing perceived nuclear threats from the United States, these capabilities have visibly taken priority.

Understanding strategic goals in the context of North Korean priorities in the past, present, and future is important for understanding the role played by weapons of mass destruction. As the nuclear capability has advanced, it is worthwhile to consider what this means, if anything, for North Korea’s chemical weapons capabilities.

History of Chemical Weapons

Although North Korea’s chemical capabilities briefly hit the headlines in 2017 following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un, there has been concern for decades about North Korean chemical weapons efforts.

In 1961, Kim Il Sung’s “declaration of chemicalization” formally initiated a dual-use chemical industry in North Korea.5 The declaration came at a time when the North was attempting to recover from the Korean War, investing heavily in agricultural and industrial development,6 as well as seeking to expand military capabilities to support opportunities for reunification by force and to defend against similar attempts from the South.

By 1979, a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment reported that North Korea had acquired a defensive chemical capability.7 This assessment coincided with a 1980 statement reportedly made by Kim Il Sung to the Korean Worker's Party Central Military Committee that “poison gas” would be effective for use in combat,8 boasting that North Korea had “succeeded in producing poisonous gas and bacterial weapons through our own efforts supported by Soviet scientists in the field.”9

Information on how such activities have continued to evolve is sparse. Assessments relating to the North’s chemical weapons stockpile suggest that Pyongyang has developed chemical capabilities across a spectrum—vesicants, nerve, cyanogen, and choking agents.10 Arguably the most publicly visible of these has been nerve agents, not only appearing in the Kim Jong Nam assassination but also featuring in Chinese media reports that suggested a detected leak of sarin.11 Defector testimonies have also included accounts of prisoners being victims of chemical testing.12 Such defector accounts should be read with caution in terms of reliability, but not disregarded.

Amid evidence that chemical weapons capability exists, stockpile estimates vary, with a range of 2,000 to 5,000 tons of agent. A 2009 report noted that there had been no indication of growing storage facilities that would be necessary in the case of an expanding chemical arsenal and estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 tons of agent would be sufficient to significantly impact a war with the South.13 The South Korean Ministry of National Defense has cited similar stockpile estimates since 2008, with a relatively consistent but broad range of 2,500 to 5,000 tons of agent.14 It is widely assumed that North Korea can deliver chemical weapons via a range of systems, including artillery, multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, and aircraft.

Although there is little doubt that North Korea has produced chemical weapons, a comprehensive and public understanding of the current condition of inventories and infrastructure is limited, with some analysts citing the capability as aging and rudimentary.

In his 2015 New Year’s address, Kim Jong Un highlighted the chemical industry as an area of potential for North Korean growth and independence. In 2017 and 2018, he referenced the chemical industry as successful and expanding. Given the dual-use nature of chemical production, assessing the facilities for weapons production through open sources is challenging.

There is a widespread belief that North Korea was behind the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam at a Malaysian airport by attackers using VX, an extremely potent nerve agent. The nature of the attack challenges the assumption that North Korea is technically limited to producing rudimentary unitary munitions; two perpetrators used cloths to smear a substance on Kim Jong Nam’s face. It is unclear whether both cloths contained the same substance, providing a double dose for increased lethality, but each cloth may have been dowsed with a corresponding binary agent. (With a binary agent, the two components become lethal only when combined.)

Nerve agents are especially sensitive to impurities and thus prone to instability. The higher the quality, the more stable and thus the longer the shelf life. Applying this to the Kim Jong Nam case, the agent used was produced relatively recently or was of a high quality. Either of these possibilities would refute claims that North Korea only possesses degraded or rudimentary chemical capabilities.

A recent U.S. Department of Defense report on North Korea states that although the investigation of the assassination is ongoing, evidence supporting North Korea’s role would demonstrate that North Korea has a chemical weapons stockpile from a long-standing chemical weapons program.15 This case alone cannot confirm whether this agent was syphoned from a military-scale program or stockpile or was produced in a small quantity for this specific act. The agent used may not have been produced via the same program that supports a broader military chemical weapons development. The assassination was likely orchestrated by special operations personnel, potentially requiring separate production of the nerve agent in a small quantity.

Role of Chemical Weapons

Despite the focus on the nuclear weapons program to strengthen deterrence and support regime survival, chemical weapons likely continue to have value for the Kim regime. Historically, chemical weapons most likely filled a deterrence gap prior to the development of an adequate nuclear capability.16 Some scholars have observed that the threat of U.S. nuclear use in the Korean War helped drive the desire for a chemical capability; although acquisition of nuclear weapons was probably a long-term aspiration for Kim Il Sung, chemical weapons were recognized as a weapon of mass destruction that could provide deterrence as well.17

With the Korean War still very much in recent memory, Kim Il Sung focused on bolstering the military capabilities necessary for reunification of the peninsula. There have been allegations that the United States during the war used biochemical weapons against the North. To be able at least to respond in kind to such capabilities in any future military conflict, the Kim Il Sung regime believed it would need to develop WMD capabilities to successfully reunify the peninsula. With the military alliance of the United States and South Korea developing at a rate that North Korea could not match conventionally, chemical weapons could have provided an appropriate asymmetric capability less costly than nuclear weapons and that could be developed quickly with help from allies such as the Soviet Union, China, and East Germany.

A key change came in the early 1990s, following the U.S. Operation Desert Storm against Iraq. Pyongyang likely concluded from observing that event that chemical weapons could not sufficiently deter U.S. military intervention, something only a nuclear arsenal could achieve. This shift has resulted in nuclear weapons becoming North Korea’s main tool of deterrence today.

Still, chemical weapons have not become redundant or irrelevant for North Korean deterrence or its strategic thinking more broadly. Such weapons contribute to asymmetric capabilities, especially early in a conflict where a move to nuclear weapons use might be too rapid an escalation, but asymmetric tactics are required for defensive protection or offensive gain.

It has been Kim Jong Un’s intention to strengthen the asymmetric strategy of North Korea,18 and chemical weapons continue to act as a conventional-force multiplier. Chemical weapons likely would be used to hinder the movement in war of the adversary’s conventional land forces. Despite much superior conventional strength, South Korean and U.S. armed forces would be hindered for three reasons. First, chemical weapons use could deny or delay access to key areas crucial for the forward movement of on-peninsula forces, as well as to key ports needed for incoming support. Second, it would slow hostile forces by forcing them to operate in chemical protection suits. Third, it would add complexity to the military engagement because it would be impossible to distinguish between incoming conventional and chemical warheads.

The deterrence role of chemical weapons persists given the uncertainty about North Korea’s military capabilities. The ambiguity can play to North Korea’s favor by complicating an adversary’s calculus. Chemical weapons continue to back up North Korea’s conventional capabilities and underpin the nuclear deterrent through increasing the risks associated with military action to overthrow the regime. By complicating how a military scenario on the Korean peninsula could play out, chemical weapons increase the risks associated with military action and contribute to calculus against this option, thus assisting in the preservation of the regime.

Further, chemical weapons have a role for the regime in sustaining international relationships and revenue generation. Maintaining a chemical program allows North Korea to retain marketable proliferation skills and assets. A recent notable example was the 2016 visit of a North Korean technical delegation to Syria. The visit included the transfer of special resistance valves and thermometers that are known for use in chemical weapons programs.19

Although this is likely a secondary benefit of chemical weapons capabilities, it brings added value and justification for maintaining chemical weapons even as the nuclear program has grown. Proliferation of chemical weapons-related equipment and know-how will continue to be a valuable asset for North Korea, particularly if the international norms against use of such weapons continue to erode, as seen in Syria.

Despite recent diplomatic developments, North Korea has not moved formally to rollback its nuclear capability. The prospect of complete North Korean nuclear disarmament seems implausible. For North Korea’s leadership, chemical weapons alone do not have a strong enough deterrent value to provide assurance of regime survival. Nuclear weapons have not made a military chemical weapons capability redundant; a military chemical weapons program will likely continue to be maintained at least as an insurance policy against attack by superior conventional forces.

Asymmetric Advantages

Arms control discussions that focus on just one of these capabilities might not be able to lead to the removal of other types of weapons of mass destruction. Given the differing but complimentary roles of chemical and nuclear capabilities, approaching North Korea with the idea of limiting or removing these capabilities together, as some U.S. officials have proposed,20 likely would not produce fruitful results. An approach to remove both or signal an intent to remove one and then the other without significant shifts in the security context would make North Korea reluctant to engage.

Even if the current dialogue around the nuclear program can produce tangible results in at least capping the nuclear program, the opportunity for including chemical weapons will be low. North Korea has consistently maintained that it does not possess a chemical weapons program and to shift to a position of acknowledgment and a willingness to limit these capabilities will only be possible with a dramatic shift in the security environment in which North Korea sees itself and as part of a much longer-term strategy.

To limit the threat from the possession of chemical weapons in the more immediate term, policymakers must focus on two main areas. First, a priority should be to continue to engage with North Korea to reduce hostilities, thus weakening the potential for military action on the peninsula. This is where risk reduction of chemical and nuclear weapons indirectly ties together. It is widely acknowledged that any conflict on the Korean peninsula would be devastating, but inclusion of chemical weapons use would have broad implications for the international nonuse norms that have been built since the opening for signature of the CWC. Making sure the nonuse norm does not have another arena for degradation will be vital.

Second, the international community should work to ensure the chemical norm does not further erode outside of the Korean peninsula and should attempt to restore it in light of events in Syria. Getting Pyongyang to agree and explicitly commit to no onward proliferation for chemical weapons is unlikely. If the premise is accepted that much of North Korea’s onward proliferation is driven economically at least in part, reinstating the norm against chemical weapons could help reduce the risks of North Korea’s chemical program by stemming the demand side of the equation. Recent initiatives to expand the scope of investigations by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be the start of the normative shift back toward nonuse.


1.  Victor D. Cha, “North Korea’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: Badges, Shields or Swords?” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 2 (2002): 214.

2. Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, U.S. Department of Defense, “North Korea Country Handbook,” MCIA-2630-NK-016-97, May 1997, p. 43.

3. Léonie Allard, Mathieu Duchâtel, and François Godement, “Pre-empting Defeat: In Search of North Korea’s Nuclear Doctrine,” European Council on Foreign Relations, 2017, p. 5.

4. See Choi Kang and Kim Gibum, “A Thought on North Korea’s Nuclear Doctrine,” The Korean Journal of Defence Analysis, Vol. 29, No. 4 (December 2017): 495-511; Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” North Korea’s Nuclear Futures Series, 2015, p. 8, https://www.38north.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/NKNF_Nuclear-Weapons-Strategy_Bermudez.pdf. See also Joel S. Wit and Sun Young Ahn, “North Korea’s Nuclear Futures: Technology and Strategy,” North Korea’s Nuclear Futures Series, 2015, https://38north.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/NKNF-NK-Nuclear-Futures-Wit-0215.pdf.

5. “North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programs,” Asia Report, No. 167 (June 18, 2009), p. 5.

6. Bermudez, “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” p. 9.

7. “North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programs,” p. 6.

8. Ibid., pp. 5–6. The germ weapons reference here refers to North Korea’s biological weapons program, although this capability is not being covered here.

9. “North Korean Security Challenges, A Net Assessment,” IISS Strategic Dossier, July 2011, p. 162.

10. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, “Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 July Through to 31 December 2006,” n.d., https://www.odni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Reports%20and%20Pubs/Acquisition_Technology_Report_030308.pdf; “Chemical Weapons Program,” Globalsecurity.org, n.d., https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/dprk/cw.htm; Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., “North Korea’s Chemical Warfare Capabilities,” 38 North, October 10, 2013, https://www.38north.org/2013/10/jbermudez101013/.

11. “China Detects Nerve Gas at Its North Korean Border,” The Epoch Times, October 10, 2009.

12. For example, see “Testimony of Ms. Soon Ok Lee,” June 21, 2002, https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/lee_testimony_06_21_02.pdf (before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration hearing titled “Examining the Plight of Refugees: The Case of North Korea”).

13. “North Korea’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programs,” p. 7.

14. Although these estimates explicitly refer to chemical weapons stockpiles, the information may be skewed by the inclusion of biochemical capabilities.

15. U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Report to Congress,” 9-6009878, 2017.

16. Bermudez, “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” pp. 9–10; Wit and Ahn, “North Korea’s Nuclear Futures,” p. 11.

17. Bermudez, “North Korea’s Development of a Nuclear Weapons Strategy,” p. 10.

18. Seong-Yong Park, “North Korea’s Military Policy Under the Kim Jong-un Regime,” Journal of Asian Public Policy, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2016): 71.

19. UN Security Council, S/2018/171, March 5, 2018.

20.  John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, floated that idea on a CBS “Face the Nation” broadcast July 1, 2018. Hyonhee Shin and Doina Chiacu, “U.S. Has Plan to Dismantle North Korea Nuclear Program Within a Year: Bolton,” Reuters, July 1, 2018.

Cristina Varriale is a research analyst in proliferation and nuclear policy at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.

Why Pyongyang’s chemical weapons also require attention.

How to Transcend Differences in Nuclear Disarmament Approaches

September 2018
By Mitsuru Kitano

Dealing with differences in approaches to nuclear disarmament presents a fundamental challenge for global disarmament and nonproliferation efforts, along with continued tensions between the United States and Russia and several regional issues.

Japanese Ambassador Mitsuru Kitano signs the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage at the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna on January 15, 2015. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)A case in point is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in July last year with 122 states voting in favor, 1 opposed, and 1 abstention among those who gathered to negotiate this treaty.1 The treaty, opened for signature last September, has been signed by 59 states and ratified by 12 states.2

Treaty proponents assert that a step-by-step approach has proved fruitless in moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. They claim that the prohibition treaty constitutes an effective measure for nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by creating a legally binding prohibition on nuclear weapons.

Nuclear-weapon states, however, have made it abundantly clear that they oppose the prohibition treaty.3 The report on the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review specifically mentions that the treaty was “fueled by wholly unrealistic expectations of the elimination of nuclear arsenals without the prerequisite transformation of the international security environment.”4 Such skepticism is shared by so-called nuclear umbrella states. These countries generally attach importance to the security situation and favor a step-by-step approach for advancing nuclear disarmament. Thus, the rift is obvious, and these divergent nuclear disarmament approaches may present a serious stumbling block for the upcoming 2020 NPT Review Conference, a key meeting to protect and advance the global nonproliferation effort.

When deliberating ways to mitigate and reconcile the differences in approach, it is important to consider the reality of nuclear weapons, which differs from one region to another. For instance, the “nuclear shadow” is imminent in North America, Northeast Asia, South Asia, Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, the regions which have nuclear-weapon states under the NPT and de facto nuclear possessors. This is not the case in Latin America, Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific, where there are no nuclear weapons possessors whatsoever.

The expression “nuclear shadow” encompasses a host of elements related to nuclear weapons ranging from numbers and types of nuclear weapons to nuclear doctrine, deterrence, nuclear signaling, saber-rattling, and political significance. Nuclear shadow consists of all these relevant factors and the significance which nuclear weapons-possessing states attach to them.

Not surprisingly, in the regions with the nuclear shadow, there are many pressing issues. In the context of the U.S.-Russian relationship, there are the issues of extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and implementation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, on which there are compliance disputes.5 There is also the issue of how to bring into the strategic calculus various new factors, such as precision-guided conventional strike systems and developments in the cyber and space domains. Further, in recent years there has been more nuclear saber-rattling. The “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine, which allegedly has been promoted in Russia, has also been cited as a matter of concern.

On other regional fronts, North Korea’s nuclear advances continue to present a serious threat, despite the historic meeting in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un. The Iranian nuclear issue is in flux following Trump’s announcement in May of the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Frustration is mounting over the lack of progress on a Middle Eastern zone free from weapons of mass destruction, an issue in NPT discussions since the 1990s. In South Asia, India and Pakistan continue to enhance their nuclear arsenals. All these pressing challenges are inherent in regions with nuclear shadow.

Proponents of the prohibition treaty consider these nuclear issues to be a global threat affecting all humanity, thus calling for the drastic measure of nuclear weapons prohibition. Critics of the treaty are generally more directly exposed to or involved in these issues and see no option other than pursuing a realistic step-by-step approach.

With a view to advancing nuclear disarmament, it makes sense to go beyond this division over nuclear disarmament approaches. The following issues should be examined in order to mitigate and reconcile differences.

Disarmament and Security

The first question to contemplate is the relationship between nuclear disarmament and the security environment. The divergence between advocates and critics of the prohibition treaty reflects the contrast between those who underscore the cause of disarmament and those who give greater weight to the security situation.6 Those in regions without the nuclear shadow tend to be the former, while those from regions with the nuclear shadow tend to be the latter. The Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, a group organized by Japan, observed that “this divide has deepened and become so stark that states with divergent views have been unable to engage meaningfully with each other on key issues.”7 How then to address this conundrum?

As is often stated, disarmament does not occur in a vacuum. Whether a security situation is favorable or not makes a fundamental difference to expectations toward disarmament. Looking at the past, important nuclear reduction measures were realized when the security situation was favorable. It is no coincidence that such major steps as the 1987 INF Treaty; voluntary disarmament measures for strategic, theater, and tactical nuclear weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia in 1990 and 19918; and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991 (START I) were achieved when the Cold War was ending and there was a relaxation of the East-West security environment.

A favorable security situation is an essential prerequisite to achieving good progress on nuclear disarmament. This applies not only to U.S.-Russian relations but also to other dyads such as the Indian-Pakistani relationship. Thus, it is with good reason that U.S. policymakers underlined the importance of “creating the conditions for nuclear disarmament.”9

The relationship between disarmament and the security situation is a two-way street. As discussed, the security environment affects what can be achieved in disarmament. At the same time, undertakings in the area of disarmament and arms control also affect the security situation. For instance, the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty had many implications on the security relationship between the United States and Russia.10

As is often argued, today’s security situation is not in a good state. The nuclear shadow has become more prominent in many parts of the world. Since the mid-1990s, some see the coming of the “second nuclear age.”11 The most recent UN report on the disarmament agenda asserted that “Cold War tensions have returned, but in a much more complex and dangerous environment.”12 In this sense, the endeavor to advance nuclear disarmament is an uphill battle.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted July 7, 2017 with 122 states voting in favor, one opposed, and one abstention. The treaty opened for signature September 20, 2017. (Photo: Ralf Schlesener/ICAN)Under these circumstances, it is necessary to consider what measures may be possible even in an unfavorable security situation. Those who favor nuclear disarmament should be reminded that they are not operating in a closed system. Like it or not, the external environment comes into play. It is sometimes argued, from those who attach importance to the provisions and logic of the NPT, that a favorable security situation should not be a precondition for nuclear disarmament because Article VI of the NPT does not refer to a security situation.

Yet, the NPT preamble highlights the importance of “the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between States” in advancing nuclear disarmament. On the other hand, an unfavorable security situation does not provide justification for not moving forward because several paths to address this security-disarmament nexus do exist.

On the security side, easing tensions is imperative. Building confidence and enhancing trust are important. Addressing regional proliferation concerns is vital. On the disarmament side, it is essential to avoid backsliding. There are concerns about the durability of the INF Treaty and New START, which impose legally binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers.13 The international community should also endeavor to move the security-disarmament nexus in a positive direction through measures such as raising transparency, risk reduction, and verification of nuclear disarmament.

Applicability and Time Frame

The second question is the issue of applicability and time frame for disarmament measures, particularly global disarmament measures. As noted earlier, there is a clear difference in the situation between regions with nuclear shadow and regions without nuclear shadow. Tailored measures are needed to address some of the region and country specific issues, but global measures cannot be forsaken in order to advance disarmament and nonproliferation.

For global disarmament measures to be effective, they should be appropriate in applicability and time frame. As for the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, it would be fair to say that this is a goal with general applicability but of a long time frame. Discussions of this goal refer, of course, to the global situation, including those regions with imminent nuclear shadow. It is meant to be a goal of general application.

At the same time, realization of this goal will not occur overnight. U.S. President Barack Obama, who clearly and fervently expressed his wish to realize the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, acknowledged that “this goal will not happen quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence”14 It is certainly a goal with a long time frame.

Taking another example, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a measure to be applied generally, and its entering into force is a current challenge. The treaty was adopted in 1996 with almost unanimous support from the international community.15 Although there remain eight countries needed to ratify the treaty in order to bring it into force, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and the United States have signed the treaty. As for the three remaining, India and Pakistan have committed to a voluntary moratorium, and North Korea announced the discontinuation of further nuclear testing in April and took a destructive measure for its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in May. Prohibiting nuclear testing has been judged as a meaningful and feasible global measure. Striving for the CTBT to enter into force is an issue for immediate action.16

How then to evaluate a measure for the legal prohibition of nuclear weapons, as exhibited by the prohibition treaty, from this standpoint? There can hardly be any argument about the significance of the legal prohibition of nuclear weapons if it is proposed as a measure of limited application, as in the form of nuclear-weapon-free zones. Currently, there are five such regional zones17 in Latin America (Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (Bangkok Treaty), Africa (Pelindaba Treaty), and Central Asia (Treaty of Semipalatinsk). Such nuclear-weapon-free zones provide for legal prohibition of nuclear weapons in these specific regions.

The central question is whether a legal prohibition of nuclear weapons can be a measure for general application.18 Nuclear-weapon-free zones are established in regions without nuclear shadow and not in regions with nuclear shadow. In this context, an examination should explore how such zones have dealt with nuclear weapons existing in these regions or the nuclear ambitions of the countries concerned.

The Treaty of Pelindaba became a reality after South Africa renounced nuclear weapons.19 For the Treaty of Semipalatinsk, the proposal for a Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone was advanced after Kazakhstan renounced nuclear weapons left on its territory following the breakup of the Soviet Union.20 The Treaty of Tlatelolco is a more complicated case, but the essence remains the same.21 The treaty was signed in 1967 and entered into force in 1968 between Mexico and El Salvador,22 but the biggest challenge for the region was that the military leaderships of Brazil and Argentina did not forgo a nuclear option.23 Brazil ratified the treaty in 1968, but did not waive the requirements for its entry into force then. The important evolution took place hand in hand with domestic political change in these two countries, namely a shift from military to civilian rule, which led to a historic agreement between the presidents of each country to establish a bilateral nuclear inspection system in 1990. Both countries subsequently changed their stance to fully committing themselves to this treaty. Both countries ratified the amended treaty in 1994.

The experiences of such nuclear-weapon-free zones suggest that the function of such zones is to ensure the absence of nuclear weapons in regions without nuclear shadow, rather than the removal of nuclear weapons in regions with nuclear shadow. This indicates that, given the current situation, the legal prohibition of nuclear weapons is bound to be a measure of limited applicability if it is intended as a measure of immediate action. It is enlightening, from this perspective, that many of the signatories of the prohibition treaty come from regions without nuclear shadow.24 On the other hand, if considered to be a measure of global applicability, its time frame should be long term. As often stated, it is when the global stock of nuclear weapons comes closer to a minimum point that the general legal prohibition can best be argued.

This characteristic, however, does not negate the significance of the legal prohibition of nuclear weapons. Even though this measure does not enjoy universal application, it does represent recommitment for nonpossession of nuclear weapons by those who go along with it. Regarded as a long-term measure, it acts as a reminder of a goal to pursue over time, if not right now.


These considerations lead to several practical steps that can be taken. First, it is important to reaffirm the essential, that being measures of general applicability that should remain irrespective of the immediate security situation. In this regard, together with staying committed to a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, the NPT stands out for its importance.25 The NPT is an irreplaceable cornerstone for disarmament and nonproliferation, as has been stressed by chairs of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference.26 We should exert our best efforts to maintain and strengthen the NPT-based regime of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

The NPT regime is upheld by its review process. The health of the NPT regime depends on a well-functioning review process. The importance of the NPT and its review process tends to be underestimated. Voices sometimes challenge its significance, but we will be confronted with many more challenges if the NPT regime does not function well. Dysfunction of the NPT review process could undermine the NPT, raising the probability of the emergence of further outliers. This is not in the interest of the international society. In order to avoid such a situation, we should reaffirm the importance of the NPT and produce a tangible result at the 2020 NPT Review Conference. We should steadfastly remain committed to this essential element even in an unfavorable security situation. Indeed, there is all the more reason to do so in such a difficult situation.

Second, backsliding must be avoided, given that it can lead to further deterioration of the security situation and the emergence of a new nuclear arms race. Under current circumstances, the United States and Russia hopefully will agree to extend New START’s duration, as permitted by the treaty, and preserve the INF Treaty while resolving the compliance disputes which jeopardize the accord. Deterioration in nonproliferation files can also be a serious setback. Hence, the unraveling of the Iranian nuclear deal should be avoided.

Third, all parties should exert efforts to move forward. Despite a deteriorating security situation, it is important to make progress on those fronts where it is possible. There are a number of areas on which to focus. We should continue to work for realization of disarmament measures of general application, such as the entry into force of the CTBT and early start of the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty. We should also strive for measures to move the security-disarmament nexus in a positive direction through measures that promote transparency and reporting of nuclear weapons, risk reduction measures such as de-alerting and improving lines of communication, negative security assurances, and verification of nuclear disarmament.

We find ourselves in an uphill battle. It is not a good time to argue over different approaches. There is a need to transcend differences and gather forces in support of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Accordingly, it is important to respect other's positions.

The aforementioned Group of Eminent Persons asserted that “civility in discourse and respect for divergent views must be restored to facilitate a joint search for a common ground for dialogue, where all parties even though they might have different perspectives can work together to reduce nuclear dangers.”27 Civility derives from the frankness to recognize the limitation of one’s belief and openness to acknowledge the significance of opponents’ ideas.


1. Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, “The Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty: Negotiations and Beyond,” Arms Control Today, September 2017.

2. International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, “Signature/Ratification Status of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” n.d., http://www.icanw.org/status-of-the-treaty-on-the-prohibition-of-nuclear-weapons/ (numbers as of July 25, 2018).

3. Shatabhisha Shetty and Denitsa Raynova, eds., “Breakthrough or Breakpoint? Global Perspectives on the Nuclear Ban Treaty,” European Leadership Network, December 2017, https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/ELN-Global-Perspectives-on-the-Nuclear-Ban-Treaty-December-2017.pdf.

4. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF.

5. Thomas M. Countryman and Andrei Zagorski, “Urgent Steps to Avoid a New Arms Race,” Arms Control Today, June 2018.

6. Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, “Building Bridges to Effective Nuclear Disarmament: Recommendations for the 2020 Review Process for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” n.d., http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000349264.pdf.

7. Ibid.

8. “Factfile: Comparison of U.S. and Soviet Nuclear Cuts,” Arms Control Today, November 1991; Matthew Bunn, “News and Negotiations: Bush and Yeltsin Press New Nuclear Cutbacks,” Arms Control Today, January/February 1992.

9. Christopher Ashley Ford, “Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament: A New Approach” (remarks at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies Nonproliferation Workshop, Annecy, France, March 17, 2018), https://www.state.gov/t/isn/rls/rm/2018/279386.htm; Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament (CCND): Working Paper Submitted by the United States of America,” NPT/CONF.2020/PC.II/WP.30, April 18, 2018.

10. Brad Roberts, The Case for U.S. Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016), pp. 110–113; Angela E. Stent, The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), pp. 72–73.

11. Fred Ikle, “The Second Coming of the Nuclear Age,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 75, No. 1 (January/February 1996); Keith B. Payne, Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996). See Paul Bracken, The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics (New York: Times Books, 2012); Therese Delpech, Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century: Lessons From the Cold War for a New Era of Strategic Piracy (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2012).

12. UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, “Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament,” May 2018, https://front.un-arm.org/documents/SG+disarmament+agenda_1.pdf.

13. Countryman and Zagorski, “Urgent Steps to Avoid a New Arms Race.”

14. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama in Prague as Delivered,” April 5, 2009,

15. Rebecca Johnson, Unfinished Business: The Negotiation of the CTBT and the End of Nuclear Testing (Geneva: UN Institute for Disarmament Research, 2009), pp. 141–142; Jaap Ramaker et al., “The Final Test: A History of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Negotiations,” Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, 2003, p. 38.

16. Daryl G. Kimball, “Revitalizing Diplomatic Efforts to Advance CTBT Entry Into Force,” Arms Control Association Policy White Paper, April 25, 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/policy-white-papers/2018-04/revitalizing-diplomatic-efforts-advance-ctbt-entry-into-force.

17. Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation (VCDNP), “Cooperation Among Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zones: History, Challenges and Recommendations; VCDNP Task Force Report,” March 2018, https://vcdnp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/NWFZ-TF-Report-final-1.pdf. Mongolia has one-country nuclear-free status.

18. See Sara Z. Kutchesfahani, “The NPT at 50: A Staple of Global Nuclear Order,” Arms Control Today, June 2018.

19. Jozef Goldblat, “Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones: A History and Assessment,” The Nonproliferation Review (Spring-Summer 1997), pp. 24–25; Helen E. Purkitt and Stephen F. Burgess, South Africa’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005), pp. 190–191.

20. Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANWFZ),” April 30, 2018, http://www.nti.org/learn/treaties-and-regimes/central-asia-nuclear-weapon-free-zone-canwz/.

21. Goldblat, “Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones,” pp. 19-22; Mitchell Reiss, Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1995), pp. 64–65.

22. The Treaty of Tlatelolco further entered into force for 11 countries in April 1969, thereby meeting the condition for setting up and commencing the work of the Agency for Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America.

23. Reiss, Bridled Ambition, pp. 45–88.

24. Some signatories are from regions with nuclear shadow: Austria, Ireland, and Lichtenstein from Europe; Nepal and Bangladesh from South Asia; and the state of Palestine from the Middle East.

25. See Jackie O’halloran Bernstein, “The NPT at 50: Successes, Challenges, and Steps Forward for Nonproliferation,” Arms Control Today, June 2018; Kutchesfahani, “NPT at 50.”

26. Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Towards 2020: Reflections of the Chair of the 2017 Session of the Preparatory Committee,” NPT/CONF.2020/PC.I/14, May 15, 2017; Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Chair’s Reflection’s on the State of the NPT,” NPT/CONF.2020/PC.II/12, May 4, 2018.

27. Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, “Building Bridges to Effective Nuclear Disarmament.”

Mitsuru Kitano is Japan’s ambassador to the international organizations in Vienna and previously was director-general of the Disarmament, Nonproliferation and Science Department of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.



A Japanese diplomat envisions ways to handle differences in order to protect and advance arms control efforts.

‘Synergies of Strengths’: A Framework to Enhance the Role of Regional Organizations in Preventing WMD Proliferation

September 2018
By Sarah Shirazyan

The threat that terrorists could obtain and use nuclear or radiological material prompted a set of innovative counterproliferation strategies in the years since the September 11 attacks and the revelation of the Abdul Qadeer Khan nuclear smuggling network.

The Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1540 on April 28, 2004, directing all states to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. (Photo: United Nations)One important yet underappreciated element has been to augment broad, international counterproliferation strategies with buy-in from regional organizations, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the African Union (AU). Tapping into the strengths and resources of regional organizations could bolster the implementation of global counterproliferation strategies. On this, more can and should be done.

A web of international programs aims to reduce the risk of nonstate actors accessing and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction (WMD) materials, to counter terrorism financing, and to strengthen global nuclear security architecture. The effort includes mechanisms such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Container Security Initiative, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Second Line of Defense, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the nuclear security summits, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1540.

These initiatives represent the international community’s efforts to set up a more robust transnational legal infrastructure to respond to the threat of WMD terrorism. Some involve formal organizations while others are voluntary regimes without any formal bureaucracy. Some are legally binding, and others rely on the existing national or international law to conduct counterproliferation activities, such as interdiction on international waters or in international airspace.

Of these efforts, UN Security Council Resolution 1540, enacted in 2004, is the most far-reaching international instrument of this post-September 11 nonproliferation infrastructure. The resolution, which affirmed that WMD proliferation is a threat to international peace and security, obligates all states to adopt and enforce three broad sets of effective domestic regulations to keep such weapons and related materials out of the hands of nonstate actors.

First, the resolution condemns and outlaws any type of state-sponsored WMD proliferation. States shall refrain from taking any steps that could support nonstate actors in acquiring, using, and transferring nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems.1 Second, the resolution calls for criminalization of proliferation-related activities. States are required to adopt effective domestic controls and enforcement mechanisms over WMD materials and criminalize possession, manufacturing, acquisition, development, transportation, transfer, financing, and use of such materials.2 Third, the resolution requires states to address the illicit trafficking of WMD materials by establishing and enforcing controls related to accounting and securing; physical protection; border and law enforcement, including combating illicit trafficking and brokering; and export, transit, and transshipment.3

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and a United Nations group hold a training session on implementation of Security Council Resolution 1540 for officials from Central Asian countries in June 2016 in Kaliningrad, Russia. The training seeks to improve understanding of 1540-based commitments. (Photo: UNODA/Russian Foreign Ministry)Resolution 1540 broke new ground in the global nonproliferation regime by its scope and legally binding nature. Enacted under the binding powers of UN Charter Chapter VII,4 it was designed to address the gaps in existing nonproliferation architecture. As such, it provides a consolidated approach to deal with all three types of WMD materials and all aspects of weapons proliferation, including but not limited to dual-use materials and technology and delivery means, as well as export-import regimes and physical security.

Many pre-existing multilateral arms control treaties and export-import regimes already contained some obligations comparable to those in the resolution.5 Despite the overlap, these legal instruments, unlike Resolution 1540, were neither universally binding nor targeted to nonstate actor proliferation. The resolution integrated a range of WMD obligations in one parcel and made these obligations mandatory for all UN member states.

To oversee member state compliance, the Security Council introduced a mandatory national reporting mechanism for states and created an institutional framework to monitor this process. States must submit a national report about the domestic measures they have taken or intend to take to meet their obligations under the resolution. To facilitate and examine countries’ domestic implementation, the Security Council formed a subsidiary body—the 1540 Committee.6 The committee’s work is further supported through a group of governmental independent experts and the UN Secretariat. On the secretariat side, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) provides material and logistical support to the committee.

From the outset, the drafters of the resolution acknowledged the role regional organizations could play in promoting domestic implementation. Resolution 1540’s preamble explicitly recognizes the need to enhance coordination on regional levels to intensify efforts in the fight against proliferation activities by nonstate actors.7 That is why the UNODA and the 1540 Committee have long sought engagement with regional and subregional organizations through planned and ad hoc initiatives.

Because the United Nations lacks the necessary resources to carry out the ambitious mandate of Resolution 1540, successful implementation requires maximizing the strengths and resources of different actors involved in the process. The pooling of resources is often referenced as “synergies of strengths.”

What are the opportunities and challenges such synergies may create? In thinking about expanding Resolution 1540’s global architecture, what broader conclusions can be drawn from the existing regional cooperation mechanisms based on Resolution 1540?

International Peace and Security

Strategies to involve regional organizations8 in security-related topics, including in the maintenance of international peace more broadly, have frequently appeared in UN work.9 Article 52 of the UN Charter explicitly recognizes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies in addressing issues related to the maintenance of international peace and security. In doing so, the activities of regional arrangements must be consistent with the purposes and principles of the UN and its charter.10 Moreover, Article 53 gives the Security Council a mandate to use regional arrangements for enforcement action.11

The end of the Cold War enhanced the role and prospects of regional organizations to address peace and security issues.12 The UN started to seek avenues for task sharing and cooperation with regional organizations amid a growing number of security challenges.13 In his 1992 report titled “Agenda for Peace,” UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali referred to burden sharing between the UN and regional organizations, which not only lightens the workload of the Security Council but also creates a deeper sense of participation in international affairs for many states.14 Over more than two decades, UN leaders have continued to raise the profile of regional organizations and sought their assistance in combating a diverse set of security dilemmas.15

 With respect to countering nonstate-actor WMD proliferation, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed a conviction in 2006 that interactions between the world body and regional organizations could strengthen states’ domestic capacity to implement obligations under Resolution 1540.

Security Council’s Commitment

Over the years, the Security Council has pressed for more purposeful integration between the 1540 Committee and regional organizations. All follow-up resolutions include language promoting the role of regional organizations.16

For example, Resolution 1673, adopted in 2006, invites the committee to partner with regional organizations in exploring ways to exchange information about experiences and lessons learned and to identify programs that could potentially facilitate the implementation of Resolution 1540.17 Resolution 1810, adopted in 2008, further testifies to the council’s pledge to advance the role of regional organizations.18 The 1540 Committee’s 2009 annual review outcome document emphasized fostering interaction between regional and national agencies to help overcome domestic implementation challenges, such as reconciling competing security priorities; to assist with advisory services, such as helping countries draft domestic rules and regulations; and to match assistance requests with donors.19

Resolution 1977, adopted in 2011, contained even more explicit language on the relevance of regional organizations. In order to improve regional cooperation and information sharing, the council urged relevant organizations to designate a point of contact for matters related to Resolution 1540.20 For the first time, resolution language formally endorsed UNODA activities in support of regional implementation approaches.21 Resolution 2325, adopted in 2016, enhanced the focus of Resolution 1540 on regional strategies by asking regional organizations to incorporate Resolution 1540 obligations in their respective mandates and model legislation.22

Opportunities and Challenges

What strategic opportunities does regional engagement present, and why is it a smart policy choice to work through regional organizations? Certain characteristics of regional arrangements23 explain the importance of creating synergies. Specifically, regional organizations enjoy a higher degree of political legitimacy among their member states, may complement multilateral efforts through local knowledge, and can clarify ambitious international mandates and norms to their member states.

Regional organizations derive legitimacy from their member states’ voluntary decision to join these arrangements. States’ decision to join regional organizations are largely driven by a set of shared interests and histories. There is an inherent belief that collective regional efforts enhance countries’ national well-being and help achieve mutual gains.24 If an international mandate is internalized into a regional instrument, it could translate into a shared understanding within a particular region and ultimately create a firmer footing for domestic implementation.

This perceived-legitimacy attribute of regional organizations appears critical in the Resolution 1540 context, particularly for encouraging the countries from the global South to implement the resolution’s obligations. Policies adopted through regional arrangements closer to home ease the perceptions of “external imposition” and may enhance local buy-in.25 Cooperation with regional organizations opens doors for the resolution’s practical implementation. The most effective implementation occurs in the areas where regional institutions are most active. The involvement of a regional organization incentivizes countries to implement and internalize the resolution.26

Further, regional strategies are valuable for promoting Resolution 1540 implementation because they can complement multilateral mechanisms through channeling local knowledge and a deeper understanding of local security and sociopolitical contexts. Regions are often in a better position to address their own security challenges because they comprise a smaller group of states with relatively homogeneous strengths, weaknesses, and goals.27

Because they understand local dynamics, regional organizations are better equipped to set the resolution’s implementation priorities,28 assess the effectiveness of implementation measures taken by their members, and alert leadership when there is a need to remedy deficiencies.29 In fact, the Security Council’s decision to rely on UNODA support in implementing the resolution was motivated by the recognition that regional organizations are more sensitive to local issues and have deeper familiarity with their member states’ domestic priorities. The resolution’s drafters intended to capitalize on the UNODA’s regional knowledge through its offices in Nepal, Peru, and Togo.30

Finally, regional approaches are constructive for fostering Resolution 1540’s global implementation because regional organizations can clarify norms and reduce uncertainty over the likely impact of international agreements. Research suggests that ambiguity in international agreements is one of the main causes of poor implementation.31 The uncertainty of information is known to hinder international cooperation.32 Resolution 1540 has left many countries in a state of uncertainty because it contains imprecise language on what constitutes obligations and fails to specify consequences of noncompliance.

The UN has turned to regional organizations to reduce such uncertainty and assuage some of the initial concerns about the alleged enforcement powers of the 1540 Committee.33 For example, the UNODA organized a series of targeted regional outreach workshops. During the 2006-2013 period, the UNODA supported about 18 workshops with the participation of more than 150 countries and 45 international and regional organizations and UN entities.34

Through these workshops, the UNODA utilized regional organizations as a vehicle to reach member states, clarify Resolution 1540 obligations, assure states about the resolution’s nonintrusive nature, and facilitate regional coordination of implementation efforts. According to a former chief of the UNODA weapons of mass destruction branch, “[R]egional cooperation on Resolution 1540-related issues has become one of the most efficient means in bolstering national implementation and enhancing an open dialogue between countries of the same region facing similar challenges and benefiting—as neighboring countries—from close interaction in related areas.”35

Although regional organizations carry a great potential for advancing implementation, there may be challenges impeding global-regional resolution partnerships. For instance, in the immediate aftermath of the resolution’s adoption, regional organizations were suspicious of the mandate and so were reluctant to implement it. Some did not and still do not view the resolution as their priority. Others claimed that implementation of the regime lacks a constitutional basis; they argue that the resolution falls under the Chapter VII mandate for the Security Council, and so it is the council’s responsibility to facilitate implementation.

Regional organizations do not have direct jurisdiction to implement the resolution. Nevertheless, the UN has encouraged regional organizations to view the resolution as an opportunity to assist their members to counter WMD terrorism.36 An additional set of challenges affecting constructive global-regional security cooperation may include limited institutional resources and competing agendas between the regional organizations and the UN.37

Even when agendas overlap, task sharing can be difficult in practice. The process of cooperation may give rise to political tensions between the UN and regional organizations, and each may attempt to use the other to advance its own narrow interests.38

A Way Forward

Three regional organizations stand out for their sustained leadership in promoting Resolution 1540—CARICOM,39 the OSCE,40 and the AU.41 A closer look into the nature of these partnerships suggests a broader framework for regional cooperation on Resolution 1540 matters.

At least four ingredients are needed to turn a regional institution into a force multiplier in implementation: the regional stakeholder’s political support for the goals of the resolution, a dedicated regional coordinator, sustained programmatic funding, and a well-defined mutual benefits for both parties. First, the regional institution should manifest its political and practical support of the resolution mandate through a major decision or program.42 CARICOM, the OSCE, and the AU have institutionalized their relationships with the Resolution 1540 regime. For example, the CARICOM-United Nations 1540 Implementation Programme is a region-wide plan of action to help Caribbean states implement the obligations.43 Similarly, the OSCE regularly demonstrates its support for the resolution through ministerial declarations and a joint resolution regional implementation project. This project translates the OSCE’s resolution-related political declarations into more specific programmatic activities. Likewise, the AU added Resolution 1540 objectives to its agenda. The AU supreme organ adopted a decision to coordinate its actions with the 1540 Committee.44 The AU’s policy to support Resolution 1540 was instrumental in starting the implementation process on the African continent.

Second, appointment of a resolution regional coordinator or a liaison officer to lead implementation efforts and work on capacity-building initiatives is vital for the success of regional cooperation. For instance, Jamaican diplomat O’Neil Hamilton, who had previously handled security preparations for the Cricket World Cup in Jamaica, served as the first CARICOM regional coordinator. His understanding of local security priorities and constructive relationship with the UNODA has played a big role in making CARICOM implementation of Resolution 1540 a success story.

Hamilton led regional implementation efforts, such as overseeing a domestic legislative gap-analysis process in the Caribbean, and directing capacity-building initiatives. Hamilton’s team conducted the legislative gap analysis to identify the state of strategic trade controls in the CARICOM region and the nature of agencies with the mandates to enforce those controls. Subsequently, the team focused on understanding whether and to what extent these institutions have experience in countering proliferation activities. Legislative-gap analysis revealed that many states in the region do not have strategic trade control systems in place. This necessitated the drafting of a model legal framework to amend existing laws to meet the requirements of Resolution 1540.

In the OSCE context, Thomas Wuchte was one of the key leaders. He served as the OSCE point of contact for UN-OSCE anti-terrorism projects. Before taking this role, Wuchte oversaw Resolution 1540 matters in the U.S. Department of State. Similarly, a dedicated unit within the organization may take on the responsibility for implementation of the resolution. The AU and now the OSCE have adopted this model.

Third, there must be sustained funding to initiate and maintain regional partnerships. This funding may come from a donor country that retains a continued interest in regional capacity-building initiatives. For instance, the U.S. Department of Energy has offered financial assistance to CARICOM to implement its Resolution 1540 programmatic activities.

Fourth, cooperation between the UN and relevant regional organizations must be mutually beneficial for both sides. There are many intersections between Resolution 1540 implementation and the traditional security and development priorities of different regions. The conversation on partnerships must be based on a premise of mutual gain. For example, the geographical location of CARICOM countries makes them extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Therefore, developing local capacity for disaster response strategies and communications is important for countries in the region. Trained disaster response teams and up-to-date communications systems are also necessary in case of WMD terrorism incidents. Finding such overlaps between the goals of Resolution 1540 and local security needs and framing the partnership within the “dual benefit” narrative are key to strengthening the region’s understanding of the benefits inherent to resolution compliance and for securing local buy-in.


The push for regional organizations’ involvement in Resolution 1540’s implementation is an intentional act on the part of the UN Security Council. Regional organizations can make important contributions toward fulfilling the resolution’s mandate. They have the ability and responsibility to find linkages between their priorities and the resolution’s goals. Drawing from these linkages, each regional organization should propose two or three resolution-related actions across its membership.

This could make a real difference in the region, particularly with the exchange of information and intelligence between the countries that share borders. Each region should come up with a common position on Resolution 1540. Regional and subregional bodies are best suited to align their priorities with the priorities set forth by Resolution 1540.


1. UN Security Council, S/RES/1540, April 28, 2004, para. 1; 1540 Committee expert, interview with author, New York, November 20, 2013.

2. Ibid., para.  2.

3. Ibid., para. 3.

4. Chapter VII of the UN Charter sets out the UN Security Council’s powers to maintain international peace and security. It allows the council to take military and nonmilitary action to “restore international peace and security.”

5. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials contain obligations overlapping with UN Security Council Resolution 1540.

6. “Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council,” S/96/Rev.7, 1983, rule 28. 

7. UN Security Council, S/RES/1540, April 28, 2004, p. 2; “Program of Work of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to UNSCR 1540 (2004),” April 1–June 30, 2005, no. 5, http://www.un.org/en/sc/1540/documents/pow_22_apr_2005_e.pdf; “Programme of Work of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1540 (2004),” July 1–September 30, 2005, no. 5, http://www.un.org/en/sc/1540/documents/pow_15_jul_2005_e.pdf; “Programme of Work of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1540 (2004),” January 1–April 28, 2006, http://www.un.org/en/sc/1540/documents/pow_06_feb_2006_e.pdf.

8. In this article, regional and subregional organizations are treated as similar entities. Regional organizations and groups with potential relevance in the context of Resolution 1540 are those that maintain some security functions. For a more comprehensive list of such organizations, see Alyson J.K. Bailes and Andrew Cottey, “Regional Security Cooperation in the Early 21st Century,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2006: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, ed. D.A. Cruickshank et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp 195–223.

9. UN Charter, arts. 52–54. For more discussions on regional organizations and the United Nations, see Inis L. Claude Jr., “The OAS, the UN, and the United States,” in International Regionalism: Readings, ed. Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1968).

10. UN Charter, art. 52, para. 1.

11. Ibid., art. 53, para. 1.

12. Michael Barnett, “Partners in Peace? The UN, Regional Organizations, and Peace-Keeping,” Review of International Studies, Vol. 21, No. 4 (October 1995): 411–433.

13. Muthiah Alagappa, “Regional Institutions, the UN and International Security: A Framework for Analysis,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 3 (1997): 421–441.

14. UN General Assembly and UN Security Council, “An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-Keeping,” A/47/277-S/24111, June 17, 1992 (suggesting a division of labor that enlists regional arrangements for preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, peacemaking, and postconflict peace-building). In January 1992, the Security Council invited the secretary-general to prepare recommendations on strengthening UN capacity for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, and peacekeeping. This was to cover the contribution by regional organizations, in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, in helping the work of the council. UN Security Council, S/23500, January 31, 1992. In January 1993, the Security Council called on regional institutions to examine ways of strengthening their functions in peace and security and improve coordination with the UN. UN Security Council, S/25184, January 29, 1993. In 1994 the UN General Assembly adopted a declaration stating that regional arrangements or agencies in peace and security should be encouraged and, where appropriate, supported by the Security Council. UN General Assembly, A/RES/49/57, December 9, 1994, para. 5.

15. UN General Assembly, A/59/565, December 2, 2004 (containing “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility” at para. 271); UN General Assembly, “A Regional-Global Security Partnership: Challenges and Opportunities,” A/61/204-S/2006/590, July 28, 2006, para. 6.

16. Resolution 1673, Resolution 1810, Resolution 1977, and Resolution 2325.

17. UN Security Council, S/RES/1673, April 27, 2006, para. 5(b).

18. UN Security Council, S/RES/1810, April 25, 2008, para. 11(e).

19. UN Security Council, S/2010/52, February 1, 2010 (containing the final document on the 2009 Comprehensive Review of the Status of Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1540).

20. Ibid., para. 18.

21. Ibid., para. 22 (a)-(c). See senior UN official, interview with author, New York, May 2, 2014.

22. UN Security Council, S/RES/2326, December 15, 2016, para. 25.

23. Gareth Evans, Cooperating for Peace (Crows Nest, Australia: 1993) (elaborating on the author’s address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 1993).

24. Lawrence Scheinman, “Introduction,” in Implementing Resolution 1540: The Role of Regional Organizations, ed. Lawrence Scheinman, UNIDIR/2008/8, 2008, p. 4.

25. Ramesh Thakur, Remarks at the Conference on Regionalization and the Taming of Globalization, October 27, 2005. See Ramesh Thakur and Luk Van Langenhove, “Enhancing Global Governance Through Regional Integration,” Global Governance, Vol. 12, No. 3 (July–September 2006): 233-240.

26. Senior UN official, interview with author, New York, October 30, 2013.

27. Thakur and Van Langenhove, “Enhancing Global Governance Through Regional Integration.” Johan Bergenas also suggests that sharing best practices among countries with similar characteristics is especially valuable. He further argues that countries might be more susceptible to peer pressure from regional and subregional bodies than from out-of-region powers or international organizations. Johan Bergenas, “The Role of African Regional and Subregional Organizations in Implementing Resolution 1540,” in Implementing Resolution 1540: The Role of Regional Organizations, ed. Lawrence Scheinman, UNIDIR/2008/8, 2008, p. 143.

28. For instance, during the workshop on national nonproliferation controls organized by Norway, Chile, and Germany, participants pointed out that it is easier to set priorities and discuss the ways of addressing national controls in regional rather bilateral or universal avenues. Peter Burian, Statement at the Workshop on National Nonproliferation Controls, March 27, 2007, http://www.un.org/ar/sc/1540/documents/Statement_Burian_Norwegian%20workshop%20final.pdf.

29. Scheinman, “Introduction,” p. 5.

30. The Regional Disarmament Branch is the operational arm of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) at the regional, subregional, and national levels. It comprises a New York-based office and three UN Regional Centers for Peace and Disarmament, in Lima, Peru; in Kathmandu, Nepal; and in Lomé, Togo. UNODA, “UNODA Structure,” n.d., https://www.un.org/disarmament/structure/ (accessed August 15, 2018).

31. Abram Chayes and Antonia Handler Chayes, The New Sovereignty: Compliance With International Regulatory Agreements (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).

32.  Emilie M. Hafner-Buron, David G. Victor, and Yonatan Lupu, “Political Science Research on International Law: The State of the Field,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 106, No. 1 (January 2012): 47–97.

33. For analysis on how regionalism facilities communication through clarifying norms and assurance strategies, see Alagappa, “Regional Institutions, the UN and International Security.”

34. The African Union (AU) and more than 20 African states have participated in UNODA workshops on the African continent. The UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean offered legislative drafting assistance to a number of states in the region. UN Security Council, S/2014/958, December 31, 2014, annex, para. 18; senior UN official, interview with author, New York, April 23, 2014; Noël Stott and Amelia Broodryk, “Making Progress Implementing UNSCR 1540 in Africa,” 1540 Compass, No. 6 (n.d.), p. 50, http://spia.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Compass6_english.pdf.

35. Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack, “The Role of UNODA in Implementing UNSCR 1540 (2004)” (remarks at the workshop for African states on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1540, November 21-22, 2012), http://wmdafricafiles.blogspot.com/p/unscr-1540-workshop.html.

36. Senior UN official, interview with author, New York, October 24, 2013.

37. UN Institute for Disarmament Research, “Research Project: Strengthening the Role of Regional Organizations in Treaty Implementation,” n.d., http://www.unidir.org/programmes/security-and-society/strengthening-the-role-of-regional-organizations-in-treaty-implementation (accessed May 29, 2016).

38. Alagappa, “Regional Institutions, the
UN and International Security”; senior UN official, interview with author, New York, October 24, 2013.

39. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) includes 15 member states and five associate members. It has four key pillars of work: economic integration, foreign policy coordination, human and social development, and security. CARICOM, “Who We Are,” n.d., http://caricom.org/about-caricom/who-we-are (accessed September 23, 2016).

40. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) maintains a “comprehensive approach to security that encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects.” OSCE, “Who We Are,” n.d., http://www.osce.org/whatistheosce (accessed May 25, 2016).

41. The AU is a continental union of 54 African countries. The AU objectives include promoting peace, security, and stability in the African continent and strengthening cooperation among member states for the benefit of all African people. African Union, “AU in a Nutshell,” n.d., http://www.au.int/en/history/oau-and-au (accessed August 15, 2018).

42. For instance, a relevant institution can incorporate Resolution 1540’s key elements into its mandate, integrate implementation of the resolution into its relevant programs, or prioritize the resolution’s implementation via various political statements.

43. CARICOM, “United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1540,” n.d., http://caricom.org/united-nations-security-council-unsc-resolution-1540/ (accessed May 23, 2016).

44. Institute for Security Studies, “Africa Guide to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 (2014).”


Sarah Shirazyan is a lecturer in law at Stanford Law School and nuclear security postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.

The capabilities of regional bodies bolster global counterproliferation efforts.

The Nonproliferation Treaty Review Process: Major Milestones and the Way Forward

September 2018
By Thomas Markram

My first encounter with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was 30 years ago when I joined a meeting held in August in Vienna between the South African foreign and mineral affairs ministers and the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and United States. The purpose of that meeting was to explore how South Africa could join the NPT. The answer from the depositaries was simple: South Africa could join without nuclear weapons.

Thomas Markram, deputy to the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, briefs the Security Council April 4 on the situation in Syria. (Photo: Manuel Elias/United Nations)Much has been written on the reasons why South Africa joined the NPT in July 1991. Most acknowledge there were in fact a combination of factors.

Geopolitically, under the 1988 Brazzaville Protocol, the Soviet-aligned Cuban forces withdrew from Angola, thereby ending what had been the security rationale for a nuclear deterrent. The top levels of the South African apartheid government had accepted that long-term security would be better assured through the abolition of nuclear weapons. South African President F.W. de Klerk had in fact regarded nuclear weapons as a “rope around our neck.” The years between the dismantlement of the program in 1991 and its disclosure in 1993 were marked by a delicate balancing act by the political leadership in South Africa, seeking to prevent a conservative backlash while undertaking serious fundamental reforms in a transition to a full democracy and obtaining reacceptance into the international community.

Important voices in the African National Congress and anti-apartheid movement had long campaigned against the regime’s nuclear weapons program. The new democratic government in 1994 was keen to demonstrate that South Africa was a responsible possessor of advanced technologies. Its disarmament and nonproliferation policy thus was integral to its commitment to democracy, human rights, sustainable development, social justice and environmental protection. These dynamics also shaped South Africa’s position within the NPT.

Another critical dynamic was the international environment, which, at the time when the treaty was negotiated, was very different than when South Africa joined, in the same review cycle that the treaty was due to expire. According to an account of the negotiations and early implementation, the 1.0 version of the NPT was primarily an affair between the nuclear blocs and about managing the dynamics of the Cold War. It put a brake on further proliferation to give political space for negotiations among the major powers on the arms race and disarmament. This version of the treaty featured a weak safeguards regime, as was eventually discovered in 1991 in Iraq, and a permissive arrangement for nuclear weapons cooperation among allies.

Nonproliferation was never meant as an end in itself, but rather the treaty was conceived as a partial measure for nuclear disarmament and for general and complete disarmament. Between 1970 and the mid-1990s, UN bodies and bilateral negotiations produced a substantial range of agreements aimed at halting the arms race, reducing nuclear arsenals, and strengthening nonproliferation. The treaty’s review process served to support progress in these various efforts.

Beginning in 1995, the review process took on a very different function. NPT version 2.0 became a framework for disarmament and nonproliferation. The negotiations that South Africa joined in 1995 regarding the extension of the treaty were very much between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states.

It was in this context that South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo proposed at the review and extension conference the “Principles for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament” and “Strengthened Review Process.” These proposals provided the means through which progress toward achieving nuclear disarmament could be achieved and provided yardsticks to accomplish the goals of the treaty. They formed an integral part of the package deal of three decisions and resolution adopted in 1995 and formed the basis on which the treaty was extended indefinitely.

Under the strengthened review process, the NPT evolved into a de facto negotiating forum for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Its function in this regard has only been reinforced by the long stalemates in the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission. Subsequent review conferences reached agreement on specific steps designed to lead to the full implementation of the treaty, especially Article VI.

In this sense, the review conferences have functioned as more than a mere safety valve designed to vent pressure from parties disgruntled over the pace of progress. They have served as the primary multilateral body within the framework of the United Nations for elaborating agreement between the nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states.

The agreed outcomes in 1995, 2000, and 2010 were quite distinct from the political declarations of 1975 and 1985. From 1995 onward, states-parties viewed NPT outcomes as politically binding agreements that should be fully and faithfully implemented, which is where the strengthened review process of the treaty has run into real difficulty. In a sense, the 13 “practical steps” of 2000 simply gave substance to the principles and objectives of 1995.

Yet, there continued to be a sense among many parties that too little had been done to implement these agreements in the 15 years following the indefinite extension of the treaty. The 2010 action plan was a remarkable achievement by providing a well-articulated road map for implementation, albeit mostly of past commitments, and the 2015 review conference ultimately failed at continuing this scenario because the parties were unable to agree on benchmarks and timelines.

Nevertheless, 25 years after the indefinite extension, we have perhaps reached a point where even successful efforts to describe old commitments in more granular levels of detail cannot make up for divisions resulting from perceptions of insufficient implementation and their pace. This is perhaps the largest political factor that led nearly two-thirds of member-states to conclude the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty last year.

Ultimately, this leaves us with the question, What is next for the strengthened review process?

The nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime is facing stress and pressure from all sides. Unlike when the NPT was negotiated, we now have to contend with multiple spheres of power and influence; a growing multiplicity of interests, conflicts, and asymmetries; and disarmament machinery hobbled by archaic rules and practices. Rapid technological progress is also lowering political costs for the use of force, tempting states and nonstates to conduct hostile and malicious acts in circumstances that they regard as a grey area in the law and blurring the line between strategic and nonstrategic weapons.

These trends point to a real risk that norms of disarmament, nonproliferation, and common security may give in to what seems like a growing acquiescence for military solutions to international problems. These dynamics are also serving to increase the nuclear risks we face and should compel the pursuit of new measures with a sense of urgency.

So do we need an NPT version 3.0? If so, what would that look like, and how would it function?

On its surface, nothing appears to be wrong with the mechanism, especially as review conferences have succeeded in forging agreements even where less inclusive bodies such as the Conference on Disarmament have continuously failed. Thankfully, the current crossroads at which the NPT finds itself do not reflect any waning commitment to the objective of nonproliferation. It appears that the NPT will remain indispensable and its historical significance at being nothing less than the system of international security at the heart of the United Nations will continue in ensuring no conflict can escalate to the level of an existential threat to humanity.

In this sense, I have no doubt that the legacy of the NPT can continue to endure long into the future. It is the most universal body seized with elaborating effective measures relating to disarmament. It also contains the only treaty-based obligation to negotiate in good faith to this end. Thus, it represents the only forum where non-nuclear-weapon states have any effective leverage in bargaining directly with the nuclear-weapon states.

Although many characterize the 2015 review conference as a failure, I see it instead as a watershed because its result reinforced the perception among a majority of non-nuclear-weapon states that they can bring pressure to bear through various means in the absence of demonstrable steps by the nuclear-weapon states to implement previous commitments.

Reversing this trend will necessitate a return to the traditional conception of the role of disarmament as the ultimate security assurance. This will require states to come back to treating the obligation to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament as an obligation to achieve a result, not as an open-ended invitation to retain nuclear weapons. This is the distinction between making progress “in” disarmament, as opposed to progress “toward” disarmament.

It will require, at a minimum, an unequivocal recommitment by the nuclear-weapon states to their obligations and a serious demonstration of serious progress in implementing past commitments. I think this will be a key factor in ensuring the legacy of the NPT can be preserved for another 50 years.

Thomas Markram is director and deputy to the high representative for disarmament affairs, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. This article is adapted from remarks at the U.S. Department of State conference titled “Preserving the Legacy: NPT Depositary Conference on the 50th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” held June 28 in Washington. The views expressed are those of the author.

The nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime is facing stress and pressure from all sides.

REMARKS: When Disarmament Goes ‘Backward’

September 2018
By Hans Blix

Most people and governments might agree that the current global quantity of 15,000-plus nuclear weapons and the current global level of annual military expenditures of some $1.7 trillion are tragically excessive.

Hans Blix (Photo: SIPRI)Yet, much of the world is currently engaged in arms races. Even heaven is not left in peace. Outer space is already “a war-fighting domain” filled with satellites, and many can be mobilized for war. Low-level cyberwar is already here. Nuclear weapons, “Star Wars,” and missile shields are again in focus.

In 2009, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared in London that they would work for a total elimination of nuclear weapons. Today, there is no trace of such negotiations. Rather, several states, notably the United States and Russia, keep reminding the world of their arsenals.

At the 2020 review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, nuclear-weapon states-parties will no doubt argue that a step-by-step approach is the only practical way to disarmament. Non-nuclear-weapon states will remind us that step-by-step action has been urged for 50 years with meager results. Now it is practiced—backward. The stocks of nuclear weapons still suffice to end human civilization in a quick suicide, while we have added the risk of a slow suicide through global warming.

Some claim that nuclear weapons have helped to prevent armed confrontations. They point to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the fear of a nuclear exchange made the United States and the Soviet Union shy away from war and agree to a diplomatic solution. Others remind us that, on a number of occasions, misunderstandings and mistakes nearly caused nuclear exchanges and that only luck saved the world.

Last year, frustration among non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society led to the negotiation of a treaty comprehensively prohibiting possession and use of nuclear weapons. As none of the states possessing nuclear weapons will adhere to the treaty, it will not lead to nuclear disarmament. Indeed, some of them are so opposed to the treaty that they seek actively to dissuade other states from joining.

The main political aim of the treaty, perhaps, is not the unrealistic one to achieve nuclear disarmament, but rather to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and thereby add restraints to their use and strengthen a nascent general norm against use.

What restraints? The first restraint undoubtedly flows from the fear that an attack with nuclear weapons may lead to a retaliatory nuclear strike and mutually assured destruction or unacceptable devastation. This restraint and the stigma attached to any nuclear weapons use no doubt continues to weigh heavily on military planners. From time to time, military officials are heard to voice doubts that they can seriously plan for the use of nuclear weapons.

Perhaps recent proposals to introduce new types of smaller nuclear weapons are advanced in view of a perceived reduced credibility of the old nuclear weapons. Yet, low-yield, “more useable” nuclear weapons would not be fit for the possibly legal use citing the “extreme circumstance of self-defense” to which the International Court of Justice has referred. They would be battlefield weapons with a lower threshold for use. They deserve to be opposed and discredited. From this viewpoint, the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was timely and welcome.

It is rightly said that so long as nuclear weapons exist, they may come to be used. It is paradoxical that this risk may also act as a constant warning to nuclear-weapon states not to let themselves be drawn into controversies that might escalate to a nuclear conflict. In 1985, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev showed that they were fully aware of this and voiced a line that must never be forgotten: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.”

Hans Blix was director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997. This column is adapted from his May 28 lecture, “Is the World on the Road to Peace or War?,” to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Stockholm.

A warning from a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

No Arms Control Advances in U.S.-Russian Talks

September 2018
By Kingston Reif

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not reach any specific agreements on resuming an arms control dialogue or addressing the uncertain future of two key arms reduction agreements during their controversial July 16 summit in Helsinki.

U.S. (L) and Russian delegations face one another as John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, holds talks with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on August 23 in Geneva. (Photo: Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission)A follow-up meeting between White House national security adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva on Aug. 23 also did not produce any arms control announcement, despite expectations that they might agree to resume bilateral strategic stability talks. Bolton told reporters afterward that the Trump administration has not decided how to proceed on key matters, including the possible extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Although some meaningful arms control cooperation continues, most notably adherence to the New START-imposed limits on strategic nuclear weapons, there is no ongoing U.S.-Russian dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps as both sides act to upgrade their nuclear capabilities.

Putin has previously stated his interest in negotiating the extension of New START, which otherwise expires in February 2021, as well as other arms control subjects. Trump has criticized the treaty, which was negotiated during the Obama administration.

The lack of progress on the arms control agenda, coupled with the Trump administration’s evident ambivalence, raises questions about how interested the administration really is in engaging Russia on nuclear risk reduction and whether the two sides will avert a collapse of the teetering bilateral arms control regime.

Since 2014, the United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and is reviewing what the State Department calls defensive options in case Russia’s actions “result in the collapse of the treaty.” (See ACT, January/February 2018.) Moscow denies it is violating the agreement and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord.

Both countries are investing massive sums to replace and upgrade their existing nuclear arsenals. In a pre-election address to the Russian Federal Assembly on March 1, Putin boasted about the development of several new nuclear weapons systems, including nuclear-armed hypersonic glide vehicles, globe-circling nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and very long-range nuclear torpedoes for use against U.S. port cities. (See ACT, April 2018.)

In light of these developments, Trump told reporters at the White House in March that he wanted to meet with Putin in large part “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.” Trump has characterized the costly nuclear upgrade programs being pursued by both sides as “a very, very bad policy.”

Likewise Putin, following his election victory March 18, said that “nobody plans to accelerate an arms race.”

In Helsinki, Putin presented the United States with several proposals “to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.”

These included beginning discussions about a five-year extension of New START, as allowed by the treaty; reaffirming commitment to the INF Treaty; resuming dialogue on Russian concerns about U.S. missile defense plans and joint efforts to eliminate missile threats; and measures to prevent dangerous military incidents. Russia also proposed to resume strategic stability talks as a forum to discuss those topics and related issues.

John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, addresses a press conference at the U.S. Mission in Geneva on August 23, following a meeting with his Russian counterpart. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)The United States and Russia held a first round of strategic stability talks last September in Helsinki. The specific agenda was not disclosed. (See ACT, October 2017.) A second round of talks was slated for March 7–8 in Vienna, but Russia announced that it would not participate in the talks, citing the U.S. cancellation of bilateral consultations on cybersecurity that had been scheduled to take place in late February in Geneva.

Following the summit, Trump stated that “perhaps the most important issue we discussed at our meeting...was the reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world.”

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 25 that no specific agreements were reached on arms control in Helsinki and that the administration does not have a position yet on whether to extend New START.

New START remains one of the few bright spots in the strained relationship. Ratified in 2011, the treaty limits the number of deployed strategic warheads to a maximum of 1,550 on each side, a target each met earlier this year and that is far below the tens of thousands during the Cold War. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Although it expires in February 2021, the treaty can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two presidents, without requiring further action by Congress or the Duma. If New START is allowed to expire and there is not a replacement, there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972.

Putin has repeatedly expressed interest in extending the treaty, although Russia has raised concerns about some of the procedures the United States has used to remove nuclear weapons launchers from accountability under the agreement.

The Trump administration has yet to formulate the U.S. position on the treaty. The administration views Russia’s concerns about U.S. implementation of the treaty “as being nefarious” and “there is not an administration position on what we’re going to do on New START,” Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Aug. 21.

“We’ll make that decision at the appropriate time consistent with U.S. national interests,” he said.

Likewise, Bolton told reporters after his Patrushev meeting that the administration remains in the “early stages” of an interagency review about whether to extend, replace, or jettison New START or to pursue a different type of approach, such as the 2002 Strategic Offensive Weapons Treaty, which only limited deployed warheads and did not include verification provisions.

Before joining the Trump administration, Bolton was a frequent and vocal critic of New START, castigating the agreement as unilateral disarmament.

In the aftermath of Helsinki, some U.S. officials said the administration was seeking to resume the strategic stability talks. “We would also like to talk more about strategic stability, making sure there are clear understandings between the United States and Russia about these terribly lethal weapons that we both control and talk about the future of nonproliferation,” John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said July 20 at the Aspen Security Forum.

Mitchell told senators in August that there “is a line of sight to continuing the process on strategic stability talks” and that there would be more information about timing following Bolton’s meeting with Patrushev. It is unclear why Bolton and Patrushev did not agree to resume the talks.

The Trump administration is undecided about extending New START.

U.S. Sanctions Russia for CW Use

September 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

U.S. sanctions on Russia for its use of the nerve agent Novichok in an alleged UK assassination attempt took effect in late August, and the Trump administration faces a legal deadline to impose still harsher measures in November.

Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok along with her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, speaks to journalists May 23 in London. The UK and United States blame Russia for the assassination attempt using a banned chemical weapon. (Photo: Dylan Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)U.S. exports to Russia related to national security are banned under the initial sanctions, including gas turbine engines, electronics, integrated circuits, and testing and calibration equipment that were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis. Waivers may be issued for some exports related to space flights and commercial passenger safety.

The United States and United Kingdom say Moscow was behind the poisoning in March of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the Russian chemical agent in Salisbury in March. (See ACT, April 2018.) “The attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, was a reckless display of contempt for the universally held norm against chemical weapons,” said a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, according to Reuters.

The sanctions were triggered by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Elimination Act of 1991, which stipulates that the United States must apply sanctions within 60 days of determining a country has used chemical weapons. The Trump administration initially missed the act’s deadline. The act has been invoked twice previously, in response to Syria’s chemical weapons use in 2013 and a fatal 2017 chemical poisoning in Malaysia attributed to North Korea. (See ACT, April 2017.)

Many of the goods sanctioned in August were already banned by military- and security-related sanctions, but the United States in November likely will impose more powerful sanctions. Under the law, Russia will face additional penalties unless it provides reliable assurances that it is no longer using chemical weapons, will not do so in the future, and will allow international inspectors to verify its assurances.

Russia is unlikely to comply with these demands given its repeated denial of use or recent possession of chemical weapons. Some options for additional sanctions include targeting multilateral bank assistance to Russia, U.S. bank loans to the Russian government, or aircraft landing rights.

In an Aug. 10 phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again denied his country’s use of chemical weapons and rejected the sanctions, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russia will “consider countermeasures to this most recent unfriendly move by Washington,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Aug. 9.


Russia denies the charge and threatens “countermeasures.”

NATO Presses Stand on Nuclear Weapons

September 2018
By Monica Montgomery

Leaders of the 29 NATO member nations approved changes to the alliance’s policies on nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation during their July 11–12 summit in Brussels.

NATO leaders gather for a working dinner at the Art and History Museum in the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels on July 11. (Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AFP/Getty Images)The 2018 Brussels summit declaration states that “NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies on United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe,” a shift from the alliance’s 2016 Warsaw declaration stating that the posture relied “in part” on U.S. forward-deployed nuclear weapons. Neither the 2014 nor 2012 summit statements explicitly referred to the need for U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. (See ACT, September 2016.)

This phrasing suggests that NATO credits an increased role to the 150 to 200 B61 nuclear gravity bombs believed to be deployed on the territory of five NATO states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey). The move comes after the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report published in February, which asserted that the B61 warheads contribute to the “supreme guarantee of Alliance security.” (See ACT, March 2018.)

The 2018 declaration also addressed in stronger terms alleged Russian violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The 2016 declaration highlighted the importance of the INF Treaty and called on Russia “to preserve the viability of the INF Treaty through ensuring full and verifiable compliance,” but the new declaration devoted greater attention to the issue. NATO leaders stated that “the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation” of the treaty, as Washington has asserted for several years, and supported a renewed dialogue between the United States, Russia, and NATO allies to bring the treaty back into full force.

Further, the 2018 declaration deviated from previous summit documents on a number of international nonproliferation agreements and treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Iran nuclear deal, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Although the 2016 declaration called for the universalization of the CTBT, the 2018 declaration called on all states “to declare and to maintain a voluntary moratorium [on nuclear testing]…pending the potential entry into force” of the CTBT.

The 2016 summit statement commended the Iran deal, but the 2018 document did not mention it. This reflects European efforts to preserve the agreement after U.S. President Donald Trump’s May 8 decision to have the United States withdraw from the accord, which he labeled “a horrible, one-sided deal.” (See ACT, June 2018.)

The 2018 declaration also praised U.S. and Russian reductions in strategic nuclear weapons under New START and expressed “strong support for its continued implementation,” while stopping short of calling for an extension of the treaty beyond its 2021 expiration date. New START had not been mentioned since the 2010 summit document.

The declaration follows the trend of recent NATO summits to highlight the importance of nuclear weapons in NATO strategy amid worsening tensions between Russia and the West.

In addition to changes on the nuclear policy front, the summit also took steps to buttress NATO’s conventional deterrence posture. These included the establishment of an Atlantic Command post, an invitation to Macedonia to join the alliance, and approval of the “Four 30s” initiative to provide in a NATO-Russia crisis 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft, and 30 warships within 30 days to bolster combat readiness.

Prior to the summit, many feared an explosive performance due to Trump’s worsening relationship with allies in recent months. Trump particularly has criticized NATO’s European members and Canada for failing to share the NATO financial burden, despite increases in their defense spending for the fourth year in a row. (See ACT, July/August 2018.)

The alliance meeting ended with leaders disputing Trump’s public assertion that he had won additional defense-spending commitments from them. Still, Jamie Shea, a NATO deputy assistant secretary-general, called the summit declaration “the most substantive…the most complete, [and] the most consensual” NATO agreement in years.

Leaders toughen language favoring forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons.

Trump Faces Resistance on Iran Sanctions

September 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The first tranche of U.S. sanctions on Iran took effect Aug. 7 as the remaining parties to the nuclear deal with Iran committed themselves to maintaining economic ties despite U.S. threats of “severe consequences” for any entity that defies the U.S. policy.

Pedestrians glace at the depressed value of the Iranian rial posted at a currency exchange shop in Tehran on August 8, the day after the reimposed U.S. sanctions took effect. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)Although the sanctions were reimposed in May, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the multilateral nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States allowed entities 90 or 180 days to wind down their activities in the Islamic republic before the U.S. restrictions would enter into full effect. (See ACT, June 2018.)

The remaining states-party to the nuclear deal—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—and the European Union said they will stand by the accord and will not abide by the U.S. measures as long as Iran meets its commitments under the agreement. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, reflecting the strains between the United States and its closest European allies, warned on Aug. 8 that U.S. actions against Iran may lead to further turmoil in the Middle East.

The Aug. 7 sanctions target the purchase of U.S. dollars; trade in aluminum, steel, coal, and precious metals; and the automotive sector. The Trump administration also revoked licenses allowing the United States to import certain foodstuffs from and export commercial aircraft parts to Iran.

In an Aug. 6 statement, Trump said that the United States is fully committed to enforcing all sanctions and that entities that fail to comply “risk severe consequences.” He later tweeted that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States” and said he was seeking “world peace, nothing less.”

While acknowledging sanctions pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Iranians to “overcome this with unity” and said Washington “will regret imposing sanctions on Iran.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement pledging to do “everything necessary” to maintain the nuclear deal, including measures to protect trade with Iran. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing will protect its commercial cooperation with Iran.

The foreign ministers of the EU, France, Germany, and the UK said on Aug. 6 that they were “determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran” in accordance with EU law and the 2016 UN Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal.

Before the U.S. sanctions went into effect, the EU adopted an update to its so-called blocking regulation to cover U.S. sanctions on Iran. Nathalie Tocci, a special adviser to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said on Aug. 7 that the EU will sanction European companies that abide by U.S. secondary sanctions.

It is unclear whether the regulation will provide EU companies enough protection from U.S. sanctions penalties for them to risk continuing to do business with Iran. A number of EU companies have announced that they are suspending operations in Iran.

In a July letter to the European officials, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear that the United States would not grant sanctions exemptions requested by the EU.

Following the Pompeo letter, 10 Republican senators hinted at retaliation if European states tried to block or get around the application of the U.S sanctions. The Republican letter, addressed to the French, German, and UK ambassadors in Washington, said it would be “particularly troubling if you sought to evade or undermine” U.S. law and steps to do so “could well prompt Congressional action” to ensure the integrity of the sanctions.

 It is unclear why the senators would describe actions to block the sanctions as “evasion” when the three countries have no legal obligation to abide by U.S. sanctions and have stated that sustaining the nuclear deal is in their national security interests.

A more significant set of sanctions, which primarily target states purchasing oil from Iran, is scheduled to go into effect Nov. 5. Oil revenue constitutes 70 percent of Iran’s total exports, and it remains to be seen how significantly oil exports will be hit, particularly given that China, Iran’s top oil purchaser, does not appear to be planning any cutback.

The U.S. law providing for the oil sanctions does not require a complete cutoff of Iranian oil purchases. A country can apply for a waiver if it makes a “significant reduction” every 180 days. The law does not define “significant reduction,” and initially the Trump administration was insisting that states completely end Iranian oil imports. Pompeo said on July 22 that the goal is to get “as close to zero as possible.”

Rouhani warned on July 22 that if Iranian oil exports are blocked, no other country in the region will be able to export oil. He appeared to be referring to Iran’s ability to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of all oil shipped by sea passes.

Rouhani also said that “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all war,” a statement that drew a threatening Trump tweet in all capital letters: “Never ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

The Trump administration continues to maintain that the goal of sanctions is to get a “better deal” with Iran that addresses not only the nuclear program but all of Iran’s ballistic missile and provocative regional activities.

Certain statements, however, suggest a broader goal of triggering major political change in Iran, although the administration denies a policy of regime change. Before joining the administration, Pompeo and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had publicly favored U.S. policies to press for regime change.

“Anyone who’s hoping for regime change must not forget that whatever follows could bring us much bigger problems,” Mass said in a German press interview.

Trump maintains that he is willing to meet with Rouhani without preconditions, but Pompeo outlined a dozen requirements that would require Tehran to unilaterally change policies and actions before sanctions relief is granted.

For his part, Rouhani said on Aug. 6 that the United States must return to compliance with the nuclear deal before talks could occur. He said that “if you stab someone with a knife and then say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”


Other countries want to maintain the Iran nuclear deal that the United States abandoned.


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