In each month's issue of Arms Control Today, executive director Daryl Kimball provides an editorial perspective on a critical arms control issue.
U.S. and Russian negotiators, with a push from Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, have concluded the most important strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty in nearly two decades. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will be signed in Prague April 8, puts Washington and Moscow back on the path of verifiable reductions of their still-bloated Cold War nuclear arsenals and renewed cooperation on other vital nuclear security priorities.
The treaty would limit each side to no more than 700 deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, which is 30 percent below the existing warhead limit. Just as importantly, New START would replace the 1991 START verification regime, which expired last December, with a more effective and up-to-date system to monitor compliance for the 10-year life of the new pact. (Continue)
Nearly 50 years ago, the United States introduced so-called tactical nuclear weapons into NATO forces in Europe to deter and, if necessary, use against a Soviet land attack. Not long after, the Soviet Union followed suit.
The U.S.-Soviet military rivalry is now over. Yet, both countries cling to the remnants of their massive tactical nuclear arsenals. An estimated150-250 U.S. nuclear gravity bombs remain at six bases in five NATO countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Russia is estimated to possess about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons in various states of readiness. (Continue)
President Barack Obama’s campaign to confront global nuclear weapons threats started with a bang. In April in Prague, Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” beginning with renewed U.S. leadership to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons and permanently outlaw nuclear testing. (Continue)
After eight rounds of talks over nine months, U.S. and Russian negotiators are expected to complete work this month on a new strategic nuclear arms reduction deal that would replace the highly successful 1991 START, which expires Dec. 5.
Lower, verifiable limits on still-bloated
Twenty years ago this month, the Berlin Wall came down, hastening the end of the Cold War. Less than three years later, Moscow and Washington agreed to halt nuclear testing. In 1996, after more than 2,000 nuclear test explosions, the world’s nations concluded the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in order to prevent proliferation and help end the nuclear arms race. (Continue)
Global problems require global solutions, along with effective leadership and cooperation. For years, as leading players have failed to agree on how to bolster the beleaguered nonproliferation system, the threats posed by nuclear weapons have become more complex and difficult to solve. (Continue)
As the administration of President Barack Obama works to complete the congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) by early 2010, it is clear to most that yesterday’s nuclear doctrines are no longer appropriate for today’s realities.
In an April address in Prague, Obama made clear that he wants “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged that “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.” (Continue)
Ten years ago this month, tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers faced off in a confrontation over the disputed Kashmir region. If not for intensive U.S.-led crisis diplomacy, that standoff and another in 2002 could have led to war between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
Since then, Indian and Pakistani nuclear and missile stockpiles have grown even larger, and the underlying conditions for conflict still persist. Indian military planners foolishly believe they can engage in and win a limited conventional conflict without triggering a nuclear exchange even though the Pakistani army's strategy relies on nuclear weapons to offset India's overwhelming conventional superiority. (Continue)
North Korea's second and the world's 2,052nd nuclear weapon test explosion represents yet another low in the long-running multilateral diplomatic effort to freeze and verifiably dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang's test blast is also a stark reminder of the need to finally bring about a permanent, global test ban.
Coming just two years after North Korea agreed to refreeze its plutonium separation operations and disable some of its key nuclear facilities in accordance with the 2005 Six-Party denuclearization agreement, North Korea's estimated 2-4 kiloton test blast, missile launches, and renewal of plutonium separation are reckless and exasperating. (Continue)
In his stirring April 5 speech in Prague, President Barack Obama outlined his vision for strengthening global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and moving forward on practical, immediate steps "to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Appropriately, his short list of such steps includes re-establishing U.S. leadership on the achievement of a global, verifiable ban on nuclear weapons testing. Obama pledged to "immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT]."
Indeed, the CTBT remains an essential part of a commonsense strategy to reduce nuclear dangers. By banning the bang, the CTBT constrains the ability of nuclear-armed states to perfect new and more sophisticated warheads. For instance, without additional testing, China cannot perfect the technology to arm its missiles with multiple warheads. (Continue)
The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago, but U.S. and Russian leaders have missed opportunities to implement agreements that would have achieved deeper, irreversible cuts in their nuclear and missile stockpiles. As a result, their nuclear weapons doctrines and capabilities remain largely unchanged, and mutual suspicions linger.
Beginning with their inaugural meeting April 1, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev have the opportunity to reset the U.S.-Russian relationship with the negotiation of a new and far-reaching nuclear arms reduction treaty before the year’s end. If a new treaty is not concluded and the 1991 START is allowed to expire as scheduled on Dec. 5, there will effectively be no limits on the two country’s still bloated nuclear stockpiles. (Continue)
The world's most notorious nuclear proliferator is once again a free man. Worried about what he might reveal in court about Pakistan's complicity and eager to demonstrate its independence from Washington, the fragile government of Prime Minister Asif Ali Zadari allowed the release last month of the country's former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan.
For more than a decade, Khan was the mastermind of a far-flung global black market network that delivered advanced nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps others. (Continue)
Beginning Jan. 20, U.S. nuclear weapons policy can and must change. The U.S.-Soviet standoff that gave rise to tens of thousands of nuclear weapons is over, but the policies developed to justify their possession and potential use remain largely the same.
Previous post-Cold War efforts to update the U.S. nuclear posture fell woefully short. Deployed arsenals have been halved, yet the United States and Russia still retain approximately 5,000 warheads each, mainly to deter a surprise attack by the other. Current policies also call for the possible use of nuclear weapons to defend U.S. forces and allies against conventional attacks and counter suspected chemical or biological weapons threats. (Continue)
President-elect Barack Obama's November victory represents a clear mandate for change on a number of national security issues. One of the most decisive ways in which Obama can restore U.S. nonproliferation leadership and spur action toward a nuclear-weapons-free world is to win Senate support for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) within the next two years.
By banning the "bang," the CTBT limits the ability of established nuclear-weapon states to field new and more sophisticated warheads and makes it far more difficult for newer members of the club to perfect smaller, more easily deliverable warheads. The CTBT is one of the key disarmament commitments made by the nuclear-weapon states at the 1995 and 2000 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conferences. (Continue)
During his 2000 presidential campaign, Gov. George W. Bush pledged to "leave the Cold War behind [and] rethink the requirements for nuclear deterrence." Today, the United States and Russia each still deploy about 3,000-4,000 strategic nuclear warheads, many of which are primed for launch within minutes in order to deter a surprise attack by the other. The Cold War may technically be over, but the practical reality is that the weapons and outdated nuclear deterrence thinking of that era persist.
Although the United States is on track to deploy no more than 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads by 2012 as mandated by the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the agreement's limit expires the day it takes effect. It also allows each side to store thousands of reserve warheads and missiles as a hedge against unforeseen threats. The treaty fails to establish new verification mechanisms, relying instead on those contained in the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). (Continue)