"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Treaties and Agreements

Abandonment of Open Skies Treaty Would Undermine U.S. and European Security



For Immediate Release: October 9, 2019

Media ContactsKingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext 110.

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The Trump administration is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from yet another key arms control treaty: the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. If President Trump decides to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty, it would undermine the security of the United States and European allies, including Ukraine, say leading arms control and national security experts.

The Open Skies Treaty entered into force in 2002 and currently has 34 states-parties, including the United States and Russia. The treaty allows for information-sharing that increases transparency about military forces among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.

The treaty allows aerial imaging through short-notice, unarmed observation flights over each other's entire territory. The flights allow observing parties to identify significant military equipment, such as artillery, fighter aircraft, and armored combat vehicles. Open Skies aircraft can only be equipped with cameras verifiably limited to a resolution below state-of-the-art technology, and the treaty disallows the collection of any other electromagnetic signals. The 34 states-parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the collected information available to all treaty parties.

Since entering into force, the United States has conducted almost 200 flights over Russian territory. Russia has carried out more than 70 flights over U.S. territory. U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection.

National security officials, members of Congress, and arms control experts are warning the Trump administration that withdrawal would be "reckless" and would reduce the ability of the United States and European allies to monitor and counter Russian aggression against Ukraine.


"The Open Skies Treaty provides information about Russian military activities for the U.S. and our allies and provides the Russians with insight on our capabilities. Such transparency reduces uncertainty and the risk of conflict and miscalculations due to worst-case assumptions."
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

"U.S. flights over Ukraine and western Russia have yielded valuable data, easily shared between allies. The flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery. Withdrawing from the treaty would be another step in the collapse of U.S. leadership and further alienate U.S. allies and partners."
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy



To schedule an interview with or appearance by an expert on U.S-Russian arms control agreements, please contact Tony Fleming, director for communications, (202) 463-8270 ext 110.

  • Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, [email protected], (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

  • Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Department of State, and member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association, [email protected], (571) 264-7053

  • Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, [email protected], 202-277-3478

The treaty provides transparency about Russian military activities for the U.S. and our allies. Withdrawing from the treaty would be another step in the collapse of U.S. leadership and further alienate U.S. allies and partners, note arms control experts.

Country Resources:

Recalling the Senate Review of New START

October 2019
By Brian P. McKeon 

Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Senate approved the ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits deployed strategic weapons and launchers possessed by the United States and Russia. With 71 senators voting in favor, it was a rare act of bipartisanship in Washington. Key to this cross-party support was a commitment by President Obama to modernize aging nuclear warhead production facilities in the Department of Energy. Some observers believed a consensus had emerged in favor both of arms control and “nuclear modernization” that would provide a period of stability in nuclear policy-making.1 That promise appears to be fading, and a review of the 2010 ratification process could serve the current president and Congress.

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev prepare  to sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010.  (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)New START expires in February 2021, and the Trump administration has suggested it will let it lapse to pursue a more ambitious agreement involving the United States, Russia, and China. At a July 2019 congressional hearing on U.S.-Russian arms control, not a single Republican member voiced support for extending New START.2 Many Democrats in Congress are concerned that the Trump administration made insufficient efforts to preserve the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty before withdrawing from it in response to Russia’s violations of the agreement, oppose the new low-yield nuclear weapon requested by the president, and wonder whether current plans to sustain and modernize the nuclear deterrent, with costs projected to exceed $1 trillion in the next three decades, are affordable.3

The consensus was always fragile. Perhaps its fraying was inevitable, but it is worth recalling the events that brought a moment of bipartisan harmony in nuclear policy-making.

The linkage between modernization and New START was made before the treaty was concluded. In the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) authored a provision requiring the administration to provide a nuclear weapons plan to Congress when the treaty was submitted to the Senate, to include 10-year budget projections on “the plan to: (1) enhance the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile of the United States; (2) modernize the nuclear weapons complex; and (3) maintain the delivery platforms for nuclear weapons.”4

Senior Obama administration officials soon joined the debate. In January 2010, Vice President Joe Biden previewed the president’s budget in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal. Noting the warning of the Strategic Posture Commission, chaired by former secretaries of defense William Perry and James Schlesinger, which in 2009 lamented the deterioration of the weapons complex, Biden wrote that the proposed budget “both reverses this decline and enables [the administration] to implement the president’s nuclear security agenda.”5 In a speech the following month, he argued that these investments were “not only consistent with our nonproliferation agenda; [they are] essential to it. Guaranteeing our stockpile, coupled with broader research and development efforts, allows us to pursue deep nuclear reductions without compromising our security.”6 The president’s budget requested a nearly 10 percent increase for the weapons activities of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—raising it to $7 billion—and an increase of more than $5 billion over a five-year period.

In the report of the Nuclear Posture Review, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates took a similar tack. He wrote that funds he transferred to the Department of Energy for weapons work would allow the United States to sustain and support its nuclear deterrent while enabling future arms control reductions by “allowing us to hedge against future threats without the need for a large non-deployed stockpile.”7

Twice in 2010, while New START was under Senate consideration, the Obama administration reported on proposed investments for the weapons complex. The first report in May promised some $80 billion over 10 years.8 The second, submitted in November at the behest of Kyl, pledged another $5 billion over the ensuing decade, for a total of $85 billion.9

To push the treaty across the finish line, the president put his full weight behind the budget promises. Two days before the Senate vote on the treaty, Obama pledged to four key senators on the Appropriations Committee that he “recognize[d] that nuclear modernization requires investment for the long-term. That is my commitment to the Congress—that my administration will pursue these programs and capabilities for as long as I am president.”10 The president’s personal assurance achieved its purpose: 12 Republican senators joined 59 Democrats to approve the treaty’s ratification.

What did both sides gain? Kyl, who ultimately opposed the treaty, and other Senate Republicans succeeded in leveraging the treaty to secure long-term commitments designed to restore the health of the Energy Department enterprise. During much of 2010, Kyl was able to persuade Republican senators to stay neutral on the treaty, forcing the administration to deal with him. For its part, the administration gained progress on a central pillar of the president’s ambitious nuclear weapons agenda, which he had outlined in April 2009. He was able to do so consistent with that vision, which called for the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” but also promised that as long as nuclear weapons existed, the United States would “maintain and safe, secure and effective arsenal.”11

The bipartisan compromise advanced strategic stability and the health of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. New START remains in effect, with the United States and Russia abiding by its limits, and both taking full advantage of the verification regime. The nuclear complex enjoyed a decade of relative stability in funding. Although the Budget Control Act in 2011 slowed the rate of budget increases for a time, since 2010 the NNSA weapons budget has increased by more than 60 percent and is on track to receive more during fiscal years 2011–2020 than originally promised by the Obama administration.12

The current administration would do well to consider this history and the continued importance of linking arms control and nuclear modernization. Supporters of arms control will surely be reluctant to buy into a long-term nuclear modernization plan that does not involve a realistic plan for mutual restraint between the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals, namely the United States and Russia. At the same time, supporters of the nuclear deterrent should appreciate the benefits of predictability and stability for the complicated undertaking that is the nuclear enterprise.



1. Whether there was an actual consensus is debatable, given that less than one-third of the Republican caucus—12 of 41 senators—voted for the Treaty.

2. Arms Control Association Board Chair Thomas Countryman and the author were witnesses at the hearing. U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “Russia and Arms Control: Extending New START or Starting Over?” July 25, 2019, https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearings?ID=CC4C4917-AD41-4EF2-A99A-B2C69B2D7ECB.

3. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of maintaining the nuclear deterrent and modernizing it over three decades would total $1.2 trillion in 2017 dollars, of which more than $800 billion would go to operate and sustain the nuclear forces and about $400 billion to modernize them. U.S. Congressional Budget Office, “Approaches for Managing the Cost of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017-46,” October 2017, https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/reports/53211-nuclearforces.pdf.

4. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Public Law 111-84, October 28, 2009, sec. 1251.

5. Joseph R. Biden Jr, “The President’s Nuclear Vision,” The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2010.

6. Office of the Vice President, The White House, “Remarks of Vice President Biden at National Defense University,” February 18, 2010, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/remarks-vice-president-biden-national-defense-university.

7. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, p. i, https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/defenseReviews/NPR/2010_Nuclear_Posture_Review_Report.pdf.

8. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) sponsored the legislation that was eventually passed into law requiring this report. The report was classified, but the White House released an unclassified fact sheet. “The New START Treaty - Maintaining a Strong Nuclear Deterrent,” n.d., http://www.airforcemag.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Reports/2010/May%202010/Day18/NewSTARTsection1251factsheet.pdf.

9. “November 2010 Update to the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2010 Section 1251 Report: New START Treaty Framework and Nuclear Force Structure Plans,” n.d., https://www.lasg.org/budget/Sect1251_update_17Nov2010.pdf.

10. 156 Cong. Rec. S10850 (daily ed. Dec. 12, 2010) (letter from President Barack Obama to Sen. Lamar Alexander [R-Tenn.]).

11. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama in Prague as Delivered,” April 5, 2009, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-barack-obama-prague-delivered.

12. Kingston Reif and Shervin Taheran, “U.S.-Russian Arms Control Talks to Begin Amid Uncertainty,” Arms Control Association, May 24, 2019, https://www.armscontrol.org/blog/2019-05-24/us-russian-nuclear-arms-control-watch-may-2019.


Brian P. McKeon is a senior director at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington. He served as deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden from 2009 to 2012. While in that position, he coordinated the administration’s efforts to seek Senate approval of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The linkage between New START ratification and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal offers useful lessons for today.

Iran Announces Third Nuclear Breach

October 2019
By Julia Masterson

Iran will no longer adhere to limits on its nuclear research and development activities, as it once agreed in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Sept. 4. Just three days later, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said that technicians had begun introducing uranium hexafluoride to cascades of 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges, exceeding the number of machines permitted in a cascade by the R&D terms of the nuclear agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron, shown in September, proposed establishing a $15 billion line of credit to incentivize Iran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. (Photo: Philippe Wojazer/AFP/Getty Images)If confirmed, the move would constitute Iran’s third breach of the six-party nuclear deal in retaliation to the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement in May 2018 and Washington’s reimposition of U.S. sanctions that had been lifted. Iran’s latest step away from the nuclear accord follows its May and July 2019 decisions to enrich and accumulate uranium beyond the thresholds designated by the JCPOA. According to the agreement, Iran can store no more than 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 3.67 percent uranium-235, and it may not enrich uranium to levels higher than that for 15 years after the implementation day.

The nuclear accord limits Iran to operating 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges and permits R&D work on a very limited number of IR-4, -5, -6, and -8 centrifuges, as long as the work does not result in an accumulation of enriched uranium.

Tehran’s September decision to breach the agreement’s centrifuge R&D limits poses risks that Iran could increase the output of its centrifuges, should it begin to operate and withdraw enriched uranium from the more advanced designs.

The latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report confirmed that Iran has installed or is in the process of installing 22 IR-4 centrifuges, one IR-5 centrifuge, and 33 IR-6 modeled centrifuges. Although prepared for testing, the IAEA indicated that as of Sept. 8, no uranium hexafluoride had been introduced into these centrifuges.

Until now, Iran had been complying with the R&D restrictions. A May 2019 IAEA report said that “no enriched uranium has been accumulated through enrichment R&D activities, and Iran’s enrichment R&D with and without uranium has been conducted using centrifuges specified in the JCPOA.” Should Iran begin to enrich and accumulate uranium using advanced centrifuge models or test the centrifuges installed at the Natanz pilot fuel-enrichment plant, then Iran’s actions would signify a further breach of the nuclear accord.

The September IAEA report also verified that Iran has taken steps toward configuring cascades, or chains of centrifuges used to optimize enriched uranium output, at the Natanz plant. The report cited a Sept. 8 letter from Tehran to the agency expressing a plan to install two cascades: one of 164 IR-4 centrifuges and one of 164 IR-2m centrifuges. Both cascades were under development prior to the JCPOA’s implementation, but Iran was obligated to remove them from the Natanz plant under the terms of the 2015 agreement.

Iran’s latest potential breach of the JCPOA comes one month after its Aug. 5 plea to European leaders to do more to compensate the Iranian government for assets lost through the imposition of U.S. sanctions. (See ACT, September 2019.) In May the Trump administration announced it would not renew the sanctions waivers previously granted to countries importing Iranian oil in a strengthened effort to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear and missile provocations and to disengage from regional conflicts.

At the Group of Seven summit in France in August, French President Emmanuel Macron offered a proposal to extend Iran a $15 billion line of credit guaranteed by future Iranian oil sales in return for Iran’s return to compliance with the JCPOA and commitment to negotiations on regional security and the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

On Sept. 3, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said that talks on the credit arrangement were underway but U.S. approval would be crucial. “All this (pre)supposes that President [Donald] Trump issues waivers,” he told reporters.

Earlier this year, the Europeans established INSTEX, a state-owned trade intermediary to facilitate trade in nonsanctioned goods with Iran. When the U.S. oil sanctions waivers were eliminated in May 2019, oil imports were halted. Only China and Syria continue to buy Iranian oil, albeit at a lessened rate, in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

Without the reissuance of U.S. sanctions waivers, France and other countries are unlikely to move forward due to the cost of the U.S. Treasury Department sanctions on the institutions and businesses involved in the French plan.

Iran has begun to test advanced centrifuges as it furthers its noncompliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. 

U.S. Raises Treaty Compliance Concerns

October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The United States has concerns about Russian and Chinese compliance with nuclear weapons-related treaties, according to a newly released State Department report. The annual compliance report provides additional background details on Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and repeats Trump administration concerns about possible nuclear testing by Russia and China.

The U.S. State Department's annual compliance report reiterated that Russia's 9M729 cruise missile violated the INF Treaty, leading to the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. (Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)The report, made public on Aug. 22 and titled “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” primarily covers activities during 2018. The State Department released a shorter version of the report in April, which sparked controversy in Congress about the potential politicization of intelligence with regard to Iran, as well as other countries.

The full report said that Russia continued to violate the INF Treaty in 2018, a charge the Trump administration cited before formally withdrawing the United States from the treaty on Aug. 2. The 1987 pact banned the possession or testing of all nuclear and conventional, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Since 2014, the United States has accused Russia of violating the treaty by testing, possessing, and fielding an illegal ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729. The report asserts that Russia began development of the missile “probably by the mid-2000s” and concluded in 2015 a “comprehensive” flight-test program. By the end of 2018, Russia fielded multiple battalions of the 9M729, the report says.

“The history of Russia’s anti-INF [Treaty] overtures leading up to missile tests, its attempt to covertly exploit a treaty exception permitting ground-based flight tests of intermediate-range missiles not subject to the treaty, its lack of an explanation for these tests, and its overall secrecy” about the 9M729, the report declares, “provide important context for Russia’s violation.”

The compliance report also raises concerns about alleged Russian nuclear weapons testing and compliance with the 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), which prohibits nuclear tests with explosive yields exceeding 150 kilotons. The report states that “based on available information, Russian activities during the 1995–2018 timeframe raise questions about Russia’s compliance with its TTBT notification obligation.”

In addition, the report echoes remarks made earlier this year by the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) regarding Russian nuclear testing. In May, DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said that “Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard outlined” in the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). (See ACT, July/August 2019.) The CTBT, although not yet in force, goes a step farther than the TTBT by prohibiting nuclear tests, no matter what the yield.

The August report said, “The United States…has assessed that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons tests that have created nuclear yield.” In an apparent attempt to back up this statement, the report adds that, “[d]uring the 1995–2018 timeframe, Russia probably conducted nuclear weapons-related tests at the Novaya Zemlya Nuclear Test Site.”

The report also mentions Ashley’s remarks regarding China. In May the DIA director said that China may be preparing to operate its nuclear test site year-round and is continuing to use explosive containment chambers at that site. According to the compliance report, these activities, as well as a lack of transparency from China, “raise questions” about Beijing’s adherence to the zero-yield nuclear weapons testing moratorium.

On Iran, the compliance report states that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons development activities judged necessary to produce a nuclear device” and that the United States will continue with its “maximum pressure campaign” on Tehran until Iran agrees to “a comprehensive deal that resolves all U.S. concerns.”

The report says that the information in the cache of documents seized by Israel on Iran’s past nuclear weapons-related activities, known as the nuclear archive, has not revealed evidence of any ongoing weapons work. The report argues, however, that Tehran retained those documents, which are still under review by the U.S. intelligence community, to potentially “aid in any future decision to pursue nuclear weapons” and may have “taken active measures to deliberately deceive” officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As for North Korea, the compliance report states that the United States “believes there is a clear likelihood” of “unidentified nuclear facilities in North Korea” besides those at Yongbyon, the country’s nuclear center. The report does not provide additional information on those secret facilities.

In response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s declaration in 2018 that Pyongyang would end all nuclear testing and demolish the P’unggye Nuclear Test Site, the report states that the results of the demolition at the test site in May 2018 “are almost certainly reversible.”

The compliance report emphasizes that the administration “remains committed to continued diplomatic negotiations with North Korea toward the goal of achieving the final, fully-verified denuclearization of North Korea.”


An annual State Department report reinforces Trump administration charges of arms control treaty violations. 

French Proposal on Hold as Tensions Mount | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 24, 2019

French Proposal on Hold as Tensions Mount The latest attempt by European powers to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal hit a roadblock this month when the Trump Administration hesitated to engage in a French-sponsored initiative. In August, French President Emmanuel Macron offered a proposal before world leaders at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France for a $15 billion line of credit to Tehran in exchange for its full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). According to the plan, the $15 billion credit line would be guaranteed by Iranian oil and would help compensate...

Civil Society Leaders Demand the Entry into Force of Nuclear Testing Ban Treaty



For Immediate Release: Sept. 25, 2019

Media Contacts: Alexandra Bell, senior policy director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation (202-546-0795, [email protected]); Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association (202-277-3478, [email protected]); Shannon Bugos, research assistant, Arms Control Association (630-999-0022, [email protected])

(New York)—At a major United Nations conference this week, more than 40 nongovernmental leaders in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, as well as former government officials and diplomats, voiced their demand for the entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, delivered a statement on the CTBT on behalf on nongovermental organizations at the 11th Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT at UN headquarters in New York.

“The CTBT helps to reduce dangerous nuclear competition and creates the necessary conditions for further verifiable steps to reduce the nuclear threat and the role of nuclear weapons,” the statement read. “With a global end to explosive nuclear testing, humanity will move closer to a world without nuclear weapons.”

Currently, there are eight states—China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—that have yet to ratify the treaty in order for it to formally enter into force. Given those states’ intransigence, the civil society leaders called for “new, creative, and sustained diplomatic initiatives” to “replace vague calls to action.”

In addition, the leaders highlighted the severe human and environmental costs of nuclear testing and recommended that the 184 signatories to the treaty support the CTBT’s International Monitoring System. They also called upon states-parties to work together to address any credible charges of noncompliance and correct erroneous claims by Trump administration officials that there are different interpretations of what activities the treaty prohibits. All of the P5 powers—the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France—have publicly affirmed the treaty’s prohibition on all nuclear test explosions, no matter what the yield.

“For the safety and security of future generations and out of respect to the people harmed by nuclear testing, this generation must act,” Bell said, representing the civil society leaders. “It is time to close and lock the door on nuclear testing forever.”

The full text of the statement is below, or click here for the PDF.

Closing the Door on Nuclear Weapons Testing

Civil Society Statement to the 11th Article XIV Conference
on Facilitating Entry into Force of the CTBT
Sept. 25, 2019

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is an essential pillar of the international nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament infrastructure.

The CTBT has successfully established a global norm against nuclear test explosions of any yield. With North Korea’s 2018 decision to unilaterally halt nuclear testing, now, for the first time in 74 years, no country is actively engaged in explosive nuclear weapons testing.

By halting all nuclear weapon test explosions—no matter what the yield—the CTBT and the de facto global nuclear test moratorium create an important barrier against the development of new and more advanced nuclear warhead designs.

The CTBT helps to reduce dangerous nuclear competition and creates the necessary conditions for further verifiable steps to reduce the nuclear threat and the role of nuclear weapons. With a global end to explosive nuclear testing, humanity will move closer to a world without nuclear weapons.

Signatory states, working with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, maintain and operate the 300+ station International Monitoring System. That system provides detection capabilities significantly more sensitive than originally envisioned.

The continuous flow of data from the IMS stations to the International Data Centre at CTBTO headquarters helps to detect and deter clandestine nuclear test explosions anywhere in the world, in any environment. This was amply demonstrated by the IMS’ data collected on the six nuclear tests by North Korea, which showed that the IMS is more technologically capable than envisaged in 1996 when the CTBT was finalized.

The Human and Environmental Effects

The CTBT and the de facto global nuclear testing moratoria have also prevented further health and environmental injury from nuclear testing.

We can never forget that since 1945, there have been 2,056 nuclear weapons tests by at least eight countries. The United States conducted 1,030 of those tests in the atmosphere, underwater, and underground, while the Soviet Union carried out 715 nuclear test detonations.

Not only did these nuclear test explosions fuel the development and spread of new and more deadly types of nuclear weapons, but also hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions more have suffered—and continue to suffer—from illnesses directly related to the radioactive fallout from nuclear detonations in the United States, islands in the Pacific, in Australia, China, Algeria, across Russia, in Kazakhstan, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and elsewhere.

In Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test 70 years ago, there were more than 450 nuclear test detonations, including 116 in the atmosphere. Large areas of the Semipalatinsk Test Site remain contaminated 30 years after a grassroots movement forced the end of nuclear testing at the site in 1989. Now, in their fourth generation, people living in that vicinity still suffer from poor health, such as cancers, major birth defects, and blood diseases. Many other areas will also remain unusable until and unless the radioactive contamination can be remediated. The government of Kazakhstan estimates that some 1.5 million people were harmed by the Soviet-era nuclear tests.

In the Marshall Islands, where the United States detonated massive aboveground nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s, several atolls are still heavily contaminated, indigenous populations have been displaced, and some buried radioactive waste could soon leak into the ocean. A 1990 National Cancer Institute study concluded that fallout from nuclear blasts at the Nevada Test Site may have caused 10,000 to 75,000 thyroid cancers. There were few, if any, Americans in the contiguous 48 states at the time who were not exposed to some level of fallout.

Closing the Door on Nuclear Testing

Today, the CTBT has 184 state signatories and near universal support. The IMS and the International Data Center are continuously collecting and analyzing data to help detect and deter clandestine nuclear tests. The officials gathered here, and the governments they represent, cannot and must not lose, or forsake, the progress that has been made.

Many of today’s statements of support for the treaty were laudable, but they are not enough. They certainly will not hasten the treaty’s entry into force.

New, creative, and sustained diplomatic initiatives must replace vague calls to action. Global leaders who know that a return to explosive nuclear testing is not in the security interest of any nation on this planet must work in concert with the esteemed co-chairs of the Article XIV process to meet the challenges facing the CTBT regime.

As representatives of Civil Society, we offer the following recommendations:

1. Initiate and Sustain Energetic Diplomacy Focused on the Eight Hold-Out States.

It has been more than a quarter century since the CTBT was opened for signature. New and more creative approaches are needed to overcome the intransigence of the eight remaining Annex 2 “hold-out” states that must ratify the treaty to achieve its formal entry into force.

These states—China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—have deprived the international community, and themselves, of the full security benefits of the treaty and its extensive verification system.

Four of these eight states—China, Egypt, Iran, and the United States—are parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which will mark its 50th anniversary in 2020. Next year will also mark the 25th anniversary of the indefinite extension of the NPT and of the adoption of Decision 2 at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference that, inter alia, committed NPT states-parties to conclude the CTBT no later than 1996. Thus, it is incumbent on these four states, in particular, to ratify the CTBT in time for the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

Concrete action on ratification of the CTBT by the remaining hold-out states would strengthen international and regional security, advance the goals and objectives outlined by Article VI of the NPT, and advance the national security interests of the eight states listed in Annex 2 that must still ratify to trigger the treaty’s entry into force.

While ratifications by individual hold-out states might stimulate other hold-out states to follow suit, there is no reason for any state to make its ratification dependent upon another state’s ratification, as the treaty becomes binding for all only when all hold-out states have ratified.

  • India and Pakistan: Since their destabilizing tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in 1998, India and Pakistan have refused to reconsider the CTBT even though neither country has expressed an interest in, nor technical justification for, renewing nuclear testing. UN Security Council resolution 1172 paragraph 13 “urges India and Pakistan...to become Parties to the...Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay and without conditions.” India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments through the CTBT.
  • The Middle East: Ratification of the CTBT by Israel, Egypt, and Iran—all of which must ratify to trigger CTBT entry into force—and Saudi Arabia would reduce nuclear weapon-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary to achieve their common, stated goal of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East.
  • China and the United States: China’s leaders and officials have consistently expressed their support for the CTBT, but they have failed to follow through with ratification. Chinese leadership is important and overdue.

    U.S. leadership is also essential but has been woefully lacking. The United States no longer has a technical or military need for a nuclear explosive testing option, and it is clearly in U.S. national security interests to prevent other states from testing, which would create new nuclear tensions and enable advances in other states’ nuclear weapons arsenals. Further, it is difficult to envision U.S. citizens in any state quietly accepting the resumption of nuclear explosive testing in their backyard.
  • North Korea: After six nuclear test explosions, Chairman Kim Jong Un announced a unilateral nuclear test moratorium in the spring of 2018. This represents a very welcome shift in policy. However, the closure of North Korea’s test site has still not been verified, and North Korea has not made a legally-binding commitment to halt nuclear test explosions by signing and ratifying the CTBT. All CTBT signatory states should underscore, in multilateral and bilateral fora and in meetings with the government in Pyongyang, that signature and ratification of the treaty would represent a significant step toward denuclearization and help create the conditions for peace and normalization of relations.

If the states-parties at this conference are serious about securing entry into force, they will need to devote more significant and higher-level diplomatic pressure in the capitals of the other CTBT hold-out states to move them to sign and/or ratify the treaty.

2. Expand Support for the CTBT Verification and Monitoring System.

All signatories should comprehensively support the effective operation of the CTBT’s International Monitoring System, including by fully meeting their assessed obligations and by helping to maintain and operate the IMS stations located on their territory.

All member states have a responsibility to sustain these operations and ensure the uninterrupted flow of IMS data. Withholding the flow of IMS data prior to the CTBT’s entry into force, for whatever reason—whether to send a political message or try to hide information relevant to the protection of public health and safety following a nuclear incident—is irresponsible.

3. Address Charges of Noncompliance and Varying Interpretations of Article I.

States-parties must address charges made by one signatory state against another and help these two signatories arrive at some common-sense solutions. In prepared remarks delivered at the Hudson Institute on May 29, the Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, Jr., charged that “Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard outlined in the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.”

The State Department’s August 2019 Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements Report repeats these charges against Russia and accuses China of activities that “raise questions regarding its adherence to the ‘zero-yield’ nuclear weapons testing moratorium.”

On June 12, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, “We are acting in full and absolute accordance with the treaty ratified by Moscow and in full accordance with our unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests.”

Any violation of the CTBT by Russia, which has signed and ratified the agreement, or any other signatory, would be a serious matter. But thus far, the Trump Administration has not presented any credible information to back up their allegations. As recently as December 2015, it was the view of the U.S. government that the only state in recent years that had tested nuclear weapons in a way that produced a nuclear yield was North Korea. This begs the question of what, if anything, has changed since then that would support a different conclusion.

The most effective way, of course, to enforce compliance is to bring the CTBT into force, which would allow for intrusive, short-notice, on-site inspections to detect and deter any possible cheating.

In response to the recent U.S. allegations, CTBT states parties should encourage the U.S. government, if it believes it has credible evidence that Russia is violating its CTBT commitments, to negotiate arrangements for mutual confidence-building visits, involving technical experts, to the respective U.S. and Russian test sites to address any compliance concerns.

States-parties at this conference should agree to develop and advance a multilateral plan for resolving charges of noncompliance based on the treaty’s provisions for confidence-building measures.

In addition, CTBT states parties should correct the DIA director’s erroneous assertion that there are different national interpretations of what activities the CTBT prohibits. According to a 2011 U.S. State Department Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance fact sheet, “Key P-5 Public Statements on CTBT Scope,” the United States, Russia, China, and all of the other NPT nuclear-weapon states have publicly affirmed that the treaty’s Article I prohibition on “any nuclear weapons test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion” bans all nuclear test explosions, no matter what the yield.

The final conference document of this, the 11th Article XIV Conference, should reaffirm that CTBT states parties agree that the CTBT’s prohibition on nuclear weapon test explosion bans nuclear explosions of any yield.


There is no doubt that the challenges facing the CTBT are serious and, in the eyes of some, perhaps even insurmountable. As representatives of Civil Society, we would like to make it clear that this is not the time or place for pessimism or defeatism. This is not the time or place for the faint of heart. Sliding back towards nuclear testing means sliding back into a nuclear arms race. That is dangerous and unacceptable.

It is the duty of the assembled delegations to complete what was started a generation ago. For the safety and security of future generations and out of respect to the people harmed by nuclear testing, this generation must act. It is time to close and lock the door on nuclear testing forever.

Endorsed by:

Nobuyasu Abe, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs

Alimzhan Akhmetov, Director, Center for International Security and Policy

Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy Director, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation

Hans Blix, Former Foreign Minister of Sweden, Director General Emeritus of the IAEA

Des Browne, Former UK Secretary of State for Defence

Susan F. Burk, Former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Jeff Carter, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Michael Christ, Executive Director, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Lisa Clark and Reiner Braun, Co-Presidents, International Peace Bureau (Nobel Peace Laureate 1910)

Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary-General of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

Thomas Countryman, Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation

Ambassador Sérgio Duarte, President of Pugwash and Former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and President of the 2005 NPT Review Conference

Marc Finaud, Head of Arms Proliferation, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP)

Dr. Trevor Findlay, former Chair, UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters

Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

John Hallam, People for Nuclear Disarmament (Sydney NSW), Co-Convenor of the Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction, Human Survival Project

Rebecca Irby, Founder and Executive Director, PEAC Institute

Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director, Project Ploughshares

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Founder and Executive Director, Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation

Derek Johnson, Executive Director, Global Zero

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Dr. Togzhan Kassenova, Senior Fellow, Center for Policy Research, University at Albany, State University of New York

Ambassador (ret) Laura Kennedy, former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association*

The Honorable Mike Kopetski, Former Member of the U.S. Congress

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder of the Stimson Center

David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Arailym Kubayeva, Project Coordinator, Friedenswerkstatt Mutlangen e.V.

Jenifer Mackby, Senior Fellow, Federation of American Scientists

Kazumi Matsui, President of Mayors for Peace, Mayor of Hiroshima

Götz Neuneck, Pugwash Germany and Federation of German Scientists

William J. Perry, The William J. Perry Project, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense

William C. Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, Chairman of the 1996 CTBT Negotiations in Geneva, Former Special Representatives of Ratifying States to Promote the CTBT (2004-2009)

Tariq Rauf, Former Head of Verification and Security Policy, Office of the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency

Susi Snyder, Don’t Bank on the Bomb Coordinator, PAX

Aaron Tovish, Executive Director of Zona Libre

Dianne Valentin, Founder & CEO, The Black Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, Inc.

Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Andrei Zagorski, Head of the Department of Disarmament and Conflict Resolution at the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, and Member of the trilateral Deep Cuts Commission

*Statement coordinated by the Arms Control Association


Forty nongovernmental leaders in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, as well as former government officials and diplomats, voiced their demand for the entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the 11th Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT.

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Thank you!


Thanks for writing to your Senators and Representative urging their engagement on extending the New START agreement with Russia by cosponsoring the "Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces" bills in the House and the Senate.

These bills are a step in the right direction if we are to prevent a new destabilizing nuclear arms race with Russia.

More Senators and Representatives need to hear from us on this. 

Can you spread the word to keep up our momentum?

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  • Copy and paste this letter in an email to your friends:

    Subject: Send a letter: Tell Congress to Extend the New START Agreement


    Dear Friend.

    I have just written a letter to my members of Congress in support of the Arms Control Association’s campaign urging them to support an extension of New START, a crucial nuclear disarmament agreement between the United States and Russia.

    In early August, President Trump officially withdrew the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which since it was signed in 1987, has led to the elimination of nearly 3,000 nuclear-armed missiles from our respective arsenals and helped to end the Cold War.

    Now, New START is the only piece of arms control limiting the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles. Under this treaty, the United States and Russia are each confined to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 bombers and missiles.

    New START is set to expire in February 2021, but Presidents Trump and Putin can choose to extend it by five years.

    However, National Security Advisor John Bolton has long been critical of the treaty, and he recently said that, although a final decision has not yet been made, an extension is “unlikely.”

    A growing number of key Republican and Democratic members of Congress are voicing their support for the treaty and its extension. There are bills in each the House and the Senate—both named, “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces”—that express support for extending New START until 2026.

    Will you join me by writing to your members of Congress today and urging them to support these pieces of legislation?

    Can you join me and write a letter? Click here: 


Thank you!

P.S. If you can help us with a small donation, this campaign will spread even further. Or better yet, become a card-carrying member of the Arms Control Association and receive 10 issues of Arms Control Today to keep abreast of this and other arms control challenges. Join here.

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With the Aug. 2 termination of the INF Treaty, the New START agreement is now the only treaty putting limits on the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals—and it too is in jeopardy.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher and Sen. Dick Lugar relentlessly pursued steps to reduce nuclear risks and to enhance strategic stability during their time in Congress and afterwards. New START, or the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, is set to expire in 2021, although the U.S. and Russian presidents can extend it—and its irreplaceable verification and monitoring system—for up to five years if they choose.

But given the Trump administration’s demonstrated antipathy toward important arms control treaties, it may be up to Congress to save it.

A growing number of Republican and Democratic members of Congress are voicing their support for the treaty and its extension. For instance:

  • In the House, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) introduced the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” (H.R. 2529) bill, which expresses the Sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend the New START Treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance.
  • In the Senate, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced a companion bill, also named the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” (S. 2394). This bill expresses the same as the House bill.

Instead of working toward an extension of New START, the Trump administration is busy arguing that China and Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons must be covered in the treaty as well.

Pursuing talks with other nuclear-armed states, like China, and limits on all types of nuclear weapons is an admirable objective, but such a negotiation would be complex and time-consuming.

The first step should, therefore, be a five-year extension of New START which would provide a foundation for a more ambitious successor agreement.

Use the form below to urge your senators and representative to support these bills.

We need your members of Congress to support these efforts to make sure that the limits on Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal—which help keep us from engaging in an expensive and dangerous arms race—remain in force.

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