ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Daryl G. Kimball

The UN and the Test Ban

Twenty years ago this month, in a major nonproliferation breakthrough, more than 158 nations came together to adopt a resolution at the United Nations in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

By Daryl G. Kimball

Twenty years ago this month, in a major nonproliferation breakthrough, more than 158 nations came together to adopt a resolution at the United Nations in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Since then, the treaty has been signed by 183 states and has established a powerful taboo against nuclear test explosions, which for decades were used to perfect new and more deadly warhead designs and fueled the global nuclear arms race. Only one country—North Korea—has conducted nuclear test explosions in this century.

The Icecap tower in this undated photo houses the diagnostic cannister for a planned Los Alamos National Laboratory underground nuclear test scheduled for the spring of 1993; however, all operations ceased with the announcement of the testing moratorium. (Photo credit: National Nuclear Security Administration)As U.S. President Bill Clinton said when he signed the treaty on Sept. 24, 1996, “The signature of the world’s declared nuclear powers…along with the vast majority of its other nations will immediately create an international norm against nuclear testing, even before the treaty enters into force.”

But the door to renewed nuclear testing remains ajar, largely due to the U.S. Senate’s rejection of the treaty in 1999 and failure to reconsider it in the 16 years since. U.S. inaction in turn has given a cynical excuse for delay to the seven other states that also must ratify the treaty to trigger its entry into force.

Unfortunately, even if the next U.S. president and a new U.S. Senate can work together to reconsider and ratify the treaty, its entry into force is some time away.

In the meantime, it is clearly in the self-interest of the United States and all other treaty signatories to strengthen the taboo against testing. That is why President Barack Obama’s new proposal for a UN Security Council resolution and a separate political statement from the council’s five permanent members, who are the major nuclear powers, to reinforce the existing norm against testing is sensible and prudent. 

The initiative would not establish any new binding, legal limitations on nuclear testing. Yet, it would strengthen the barriers against testing in the years ahead, encourage action by CTBT holdout states to sign and ratify, and reinforce support for the treaty’s nearly complete International Monitoring System to detect and deter clandestine testing.

Unfortunately, some Republicans in the Senate, including Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (Tenn.), erroneously claim that the initiative would “cede the Senate’s constitutional role” on advice and consent of the CTBT. 

In fact, the initiative being pursued by the administration would, as other UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions have done several times previously, exhort states to take the steps necessary to ratify the treaty so that it can enter into force. The proposed resolution is not a substitute for Senate advice and consent for ratification.

In a letter to the White House, Corker also claims that the administration’s proposal for a political statement that says nuclear testing “would defeat the object and purpose” of the test ban treaty “could trigger a limitation on the ability of a future president to conduct nuclear weapon tests.” Wrong again.

This would not be a new obligation but would give public expression to an existing one. The United States, as a signatory state that seeks to ratify the CTBT, is obligated under customary international law not to take any action that would defeat the object or purpose of the treaty, which is to halt “any nuclear weapon test explosion and any other nuclear test explosion.”

Unless Corker wants to make it easier for other states, including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, to conduct nuclear test explosions, he and other senators should support efforts to reinforce the existing but fragile legal norm against testing.

Ultimately, U.S. ratification of the CTBT is essential to shut the door on all nuclear test explosions. In 1999 the Senate rejected the treaty after a brief and highly partisan debate that failed to resolve questions about the then-unproven nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program and the unfinished global test ban monitoring system. A decade and a half later, those programs are fully functioning and have been proven effective. 

It has been 24 years since the last U.S. nuclear test explosion in the Nevada desert. Today, the three U.S. nuclear weapons lab directors report that they are in a better position to maintain the arsenal than they were during the era of nuclear weapons test explosions. No ally or foe questions the lethal power of the U.S. arsenal. All U.S. allies want Washington to ratify the CTBT. 

Although the United States no longer needs or wants nuclear weapons testing, other states could use nuclear testing to create more sophisticated and deadly arsenals. Our ability to ensure that states like Russia are not conducting clandestine tests will be improved after the CTBT’s entry into force, which will allow short-notice, on-site inspections to investigate suspicious events.

When the United States does eventually ratify the treaty, it will put pressure on other holdout states to follow suit. Until then, it is prudent to reduce the risk that other nations might resume testing and trigger a new and more dangerous cycle of global nuclear arms competition.

Posted: August 30, 2016

Terry Atlas, Veteran Journalist, Joins Arms Control Association as New Editor-in-Chief



The Arms Control Association today announced the appointment of veteran Washington journalist Terry Atlas as editor of Arms Control Today (ACT), the association’s respected monthly publication.


For Immediate Release: August 8, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Terry Atlas, editor, Arms Control Today, 202-463-8270 ext. 108

(Washington, DC)—The Arms Control Association today announced the appointment of veteran Washington journalist Terry Atlas as editor of Arms Control Today (ACT), the association’s respected monthly publication.

Atlas, who starts this month, has extensive experience as a reporter and editor covering U.S. foreign policy and national security issues, including arms control negotiations from the Reykjavik summit to the recent Iran nuclear accord.

“I am very pleased that Terry will bring his experience and skills to Arms Control Today, which is widely considered a top publication in its field, and will contribute in other ways as part of the senior staff,” said Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball. “I look forward to seeing ACT continue its role as a vital forum for analysis of weapons-related security issues as it has been since it began in 1974. With the introduction of our new mobile app, the content is now more readily available to anyone interested in arms control topics.”

The Arms Control Association, founded in 1971, is a national nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to prompting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies. Arms Control Today serves as an authoritative source of news and analysis and as a forum for original ideas in the field of arms control and nonproliferation.

Most recently, Atlas was an editor and senior writer on the national security team at Bloomberg News in Washington, and he traveled with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during the Iran nuclear negotiations. Previously, he was foreign editor at U.S. News and World Report, where he directed and edited the newsweekly’s coverage of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as well as other international developments. Subsequently as managing editor at U.S. News, he was responsible for news content and was involved with the publication’s print-to-digital transition.

Atlas has reported from more than 100 countries, including from Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, and he covered many arms control negotiations as the Chicago Tribune’s chief diplomatic correspondent before joining U.S. News & World Report. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, who is a Fairfax Public Schools teacher. He succeeds Daniel Horner, who has edited ACT since 2009, and nonresident senior fellow Jeff Abramson, who has been interim editor.

Atlas's email address is [email protected].


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Posted: August 8, 2016

Reinforcing the Taboo on Nuclear Testing is in the United States' National Security Interests



In response to a report in The Washington Post, Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball made the following comments.


For Immediate Release: August 4, 2016

Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director (202) 463-8270 x110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director (202) 463-8270 x107

In response to a column written by Josh Rogin in The Washington Post, Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball issued the following comments:

President Obama addresses the Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation and resolution 1887 (2009), expressing the Security Council's resolve to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. (Photo credit: UN)We applaud President Obama’s consideration of a politically-binding UN Security Council resolution this fall that would reinforce the global norm against nuclear weapon test explosions and strongly dispute the allegation made by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that such an effort would "cede the Senate’s constitutional role” on advice and consent of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
It is our understanding that the initiative being pursued by the administration would, as other UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions have already done several times before, exhort those states that have not yet ratified the CTBT to do so and call upon all states to refrain from further nuclear testing and to support ongoing efforts to maintain the monitoring system established to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing.

With President Bill Clinton’s signature of the CTBT in 1996, the United States ended the practice of nuclear testing and today all but one state—North Korea—respects the de facto moratorium on nuclear testing. 
More than two decades after the last U.S. nuclear test in 1992, the United States' nuclear weapons labs are in a better position to maintain the reliability of the U.S. arsenal than during the era of nuclear weapons test explosions.
Clearly, in order for the United States to ratify the CTBT and the treaty to enter into force, the U.S. Senate would have to reconsider the treaty and provide its advice and consent to ratification. 
In the meantime, it is clearly in the interests of the United States to seek ways to reinforce the de facto global nuclear testing moratorium and make it more difficult for states, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Iran, from conducting nuclear test explosions.
We would hope that Sen. Corker and other members of Congress would not attempt to sabotage efforts to increase the political barriers against nuclear testing by other states and to reinforce the existing, but fragile, legal norm against testing that already exists.
As President Bill Clinton said upon his signature of the CTBT in September 1996: “The signature of the world’s declared nuclear powers… along with the vast majority of its other nations will immediately create an international norm against nuclear testing, even before the treaty enters into force.”

The most effective way to verifiably end nuclear testing is to bring the treaty into force. To succeed, U.S. leadership is essential.

Bringing the CTBT back to the Senate for another vote requires a lengthy, intensive educational and outreach campaign to present the new information, answer detailed questions, and dispel old myths and misconceptions.

It was through such a process that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was approved in 2010. Unfortunately, in recent years, the Senate has shown it is not prepared for a serious discussion of the CTBT. 

The Obama administration has made it clear in congressional hearings, including on December 1, 2015 and July 14, 2016, that it is not pursuing "a prohibition of nuclear testing through a U.N. Security Council resolution.” 

The initiative that the administration is seeking, while not legally binding, would have tremendous political value in reinforcing the global norm against testing and reduce the risk that other nations might use nuclear testing to improve or develop nuclear weapons capabilities that threaten U.S. and global security.

Finally, any efforts by Congress to withhold the U.S. contribution for the global test monitoring system could undermine long-term U.S. security by eroding our ability to detect and deter clandestine nuclear test explosions by countries such as Russia and Iran.

Posted: August 4, 2016

Leaders Convene to Push Test Ban Treaty

In an effort to jump-start progress toward entry into force, foreign ministers met in Vienna to focus attention on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which opened for signature two decades ago.

July/August 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Foreign ministers and representatives from more than 69 states and international organizations gathered in Vienna on June 13-14 for a special meeting to mark the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to explore options for advancing its entry into force. Following a visit from the head of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to Jerusalem on June 20, the Israeli government pledged to ratify the treaty “at the right time.”

In his welcoming remarks, Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the CTBTO Provisional Technical Secretariat, noted that “we cannot really approach the anniversary as a cause for celebration. Until it enters into force, the CTBT is unfinished business. Until we finish what we started, there is a risk that the world will backslide into nuclear testing.”

The gathering included a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and formal public statements from treaty signatories and nonsignatory Pakistan, as well as a closed ministerial roundtable discussion. 

Speaker after speaker expressed support for the prohibition on nuclear test explosions, praised the significant advances in operationalization of the global monitoring systems to verify compliance with the treaty, condemned North Korea’s ongoing nuclear testing, and called for action from the remaining eight states listed in Annex 2 of the treaty that must still ratify to trigger formal entry into force: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States.

Only a few ministers, however, offered new proposals for catalyzing progress or new arguments for why the remaining holdout states should ratify. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini suggested the CTBT could contribute to the realization of a Middle Eastern zone free of nuclear weapons, all other weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery.

“As a stepping-stone towards this long-term objective, a ‘nuclear-test-free zone’ could be created in the Middle East, by way of CTBT ratifications by the remaining states of the region,” Mogherini said.

New Zealand’s ambassador in Vienna, Deborah Geels, pledged that her delegation would work in “close cooperation” with Australia and Mexico to bring forward a “strong and supportive” resolution at the UN General Assembly this year.

Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov, in the ministers’ roundtable discussion, raised the possibility of the UN Security Council taking up the issue of the CTBT later this fall with the goal of encouraging entry into force and reinforcing the norm against nuclear testing.

The United States did not send a cabinet-level official to the meeting, which prompted other members of the group of five original nuclear-weapon states to downgrade their level of representation, according to diplomatic sources. Instead, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, read a written message from President Barack Obama in which he said that the treaty’s “full potential has not been fulfilled.” 

In her own statement, Gottemoeller also said that “the United States acknowledges that we have not completed our work on ratification and that our delay gives cover to other Annex 2 countries who have also failed to secure ratification of the Treaty.”

She told the meeting, “[W]e are building support for this Treaty, state by state, and sometimes person by person, because we know that a global ban on nuclear explosive testing is good for our country. We are certain that we have a good case to make. We will continue to make it.” But on June 6, at the Arms Control Association annual meeting in Washington, Benjamin Rhodes, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said bluntly, “Senate ratification of CTBT is not going to happen this year.” 

“Following the 2010 midterm elections,” Rhodes said, “the composition of the Senate changed, leaving us with no viable path for [the] CTBT.” 

Rhodes added, however, that “we will continue to consider ways to affirm the international norm against testing nuclear weapons.”

In his remarks at the Vienna meeting, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the department for nonproliferation and arms control in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reiterated Moscow’s support for the treaty, which it ratified in 2000, and chided the United States for its failure to ratify.

“Unfortunately, despite repeated statements on plans to ratify [the] CTBT and facilitate its soonest entry into force…no concrete steps in this direction have been made,” he said. 

Echoing the U.S. comments on its ratification situation, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Baodong pledged that the Chinese government “will continue to encourage the National Peoples Congress to discuss the ratification of the treaty…and continue to enhance public recognition and support for the Treaty.” 

Baodong also announced that China has “made progress” through cooperation with the CTBTO on building and certifying the five seismic monitoring stations on its territory that are part of the International Monitoring System. CTBTO officials told Arms Control Today that as of June 13, data from these stations had begun to flow to their International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna.

Iranian representative Hamid Baeidinejad, the foreign ministry’s director-general of international political and security affairs, asserted that the nuclear-weapon states “bear the main responsibility in entry into force.” Iran has signed the treaty, but has not ratified it and does not allow data from monitoring stations on its territory to be transmitted to the IDC. 

Baeidinejad asserted that “banning the development of nuclear weapons is vital in the region of the Middle East,” complained that Israel is the only state in the region that has not joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and urged progress on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. At the same time, he reiterated Iran’s long-standing concern about the regional grouping of states in the text of the CTBT for the Middle East and South Asia because it recognizes Israel as a state in the region.

Following a meeting in Jerusalem on June 20 with Zerbo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement expressing Israel’s support for the treaty, adding that “the issue of ratification depends on the regional context and the appropriate timing.” Netanyahu signed the treaty in 1996. 

Key ministers from CTBT states-parties plan to convene again in New York in September to mark the Sept. 24 anniversary of the treaty opening for signature.

Posted: July 5, 2016

Nuclear Suppliers Divided on Indian Bid

At its meeting last month in Seoul, the Nuclear Suppliers Group did not reach consensus on India’s bid to join the 48-nation group, but agreed to continue discussions on the matter.

July/August 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Despite a high-level lobbying effort by the U.S. and Indian governments, the 48 participating governments of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) did not reach consensus at their plenary meeting in Seoul on a controversial bid from nuclear-armed India to join the nuclear technology control body as a full-fledged member.

In recent weeks, Washington and New Delhi had ramped up diplomatic efforts to convince the participating governments of the NSG, which operates by consensus, to agree to allow India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), to join the group. (See ACT, June 2016.

In a public statement issued after its June 20-24 plenary meeting, the NSG said it “had discussions on the issue of ‘Technical, Legal and Political Aspects of the Participation of non-NPT States in the NSG’ and decided to continue its discussion.”

Outgoing NSG chair Rafael Mariano Grossi of Argentina was tapped to facilitate the ongoing discussions. “I have to go back to each government about their stand, what they discussed and what they will agree too,” Grossi told The Hindu in a June 28 interview.

In 2008, following heavy U.S. lobbying, the NSG agreed to exempt India from its full-scope safeguards requirement for nuclear trade with non-nuclear-weapon states.

Following that decision, India concluded a number of bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with nuclear supplier states, including Australia, Canada, France, Kazakhstan, and Russia. 

The issue of Indian membership in the NSG has been discussed informally within the group since 2011. Deliberations took on new urgency with the submission of a formal membership bid from India on May 15 and another from Pakistan several days later. 

On May 19, a call for an “Extraordinary Plenary Meeting” of the NSG was issued with “NSG Participation Process to review submissions for participation by non-NPT states” listed as an agenda item. That meeting was held in Vienna on June 9.

On June 3, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sent a two-page letter to several states believed to be skeptical of the Indian membership bid, asking them to “agree not to block consensus on Indian admission” to the NSG, according to a report published by Bloomberg News.

“India has shown strong support for the objectives of the NSG and the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and is a ‘like-minded’ state deserving of NSG admission,” Kerry wrote in his June 3 letter. Other major nuclear suppliers, including France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, support the Indian bid for membership. 

In a letter dated June 7, however, China’s ambassador in Vienna, Shi Zhongjun, wrote to Grossi to object to a formal discussion of the new membership bids at the June 9 meeting or at the plenary meeting in Seoul.

“NPT membership constitutes one of the prerequisite factors for consideration of NSG participation,” the Chinese ambassador wrote. “[M]ore discussions are needed before the Group is in a position to review…participation by any specific non-NPT state at the meetings of the Group.”

“The NSG stands to benefit from the active participation of Indian technical specialists in helping the Group strengthen the international control of nuclear goods and technologies and help strengthen domestic controls on nuclear exports,’’ Canada’s acting high commissioner, Jess Dutton, told The Times of India on June 20. Canada is a major supplier of uranium for India and supports India’s membership bid.

According to a number of NSG representatives who spoke with Arms Control Today on a not-for-attribution basis, however, the June 9 and 20-24 meetings revealed widespread concern about a “politically based” approach to allow Indian membership rather than a new criteria-based policy for considering NSG members. 

“The door is open for the admission of the non-NPT members. It is never closed. It is open. But the members of the NSG should stay focused on whether the criteria should be changed and whether non-NPT members should be admitted into the NSG,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a media briefing June 21 in Beijing.

In an effort to win support for its membership bid, senior Indian officials reportedly reached out to many NSG member states, including China. Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar arrived at the Seoul meeting June 21. Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on June 23 for the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization where he lobbied Chinese President Xi Jinping to support Indian membership in the NSG.

“China doesn’t support Pakistan or India to enter NSG until they follow rules established by members. NSG consensus is in favor of the Non Proliferation Treaty,” said Wang Qun, director-general of the arms control department in the Chinese Foreign Ministry on June 24. “The meeting on Thursday was an effort to find consensus on non-NPT state applications, but differences remain,” Wang said.

A number of NSG participating governments, including some who publicly said they support Indian participation in the NSG, joined China in calling for further consultations to arrive at a consensus approach to any new membership bids, according to diplomatic sources involved in the NSG meetings.

Many participating governments were weighing the potential technical and political costs of allowing one or more non-NPT states to participate in the group, according to the NSG diplomats who spoke with Arms Control Today

One concern cited by one participating state representative regarding Indian membership was that it would require the group to reconsider the definition of a “nuclear-weapon state” in administering NSG guidelines. The guidelines specify that the “fundamental principles for safeguards and export controls should apply to nuclear transfers for peaceful purposes to any non-nuclear-weapon State.” 

In 2008 the NSG agreed that the decision to except India from its comprehensive safeguards standard should not be interpreted to mean that the NSG or its members recognized that India is a nuclear-weapon state as defined by the NPT. 

In a statement issued June 24, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that “one country” raised “procedural hurdles” regarding India’s membership bid. 

“An overwhelming number of those who took the floor supported India’s membership and appraised India’s application positively. We thank each and every one of them. It is also our understanding that the broad sentiment was to take this matter forward,” Swarup said.

What's New Text: 

Posted: July 5, 2016

Take Nuclear First Use Off the Table

A U.S. no-nuclear-first-use policy would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe, improve the prospects for further Russian nuclear cuts, and draw China into the nuclear risk reduction process.

By Daryl G. Kimball

The Cold War standoff that gave rise to tens of thousands of nuclear weapons ended a quarter century ago, and U.S. and Russian deployed arsenals have been slashed through verifiable arms control agreements.

Unfortunately, the risks of nuclear weapons use are still far too high, in part because the policies developed to justify their possession and potential use remain largely the same.

President Obama in 2009 at Hradčany Square Prague, Czech Republic (Photo: White House)Early in his presidency, President Barack Obama made clear that he sought “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

On June 6, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes pledged that the president “will continue to review whether there are additional steps that can be taken to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our own strategies and to reduce the risk of inadvertent use.”

One very important step would be for Obama to declare that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Such a decision could unwind dangerous Cold War-era thinking and greatly strengthen U.S. and global security.

Limiting the circumstances under which the United States would use nuclear weapons was a goal laid out by the “Nuclear Posture Review Report” in 2010, which said the United States should pursue the objective of making deterrence against a nuclear attack the “sole purpose” of the nuclear arsenal.

Nevertheless, current policy still leaves several dangerous and destabilizing nuclear weapons-use options on the table, including the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict to pre-empt a real or suspected nuclear attack, to counter the possible use of chemical or biological weapons, or to halt a massive conventional military threat against U.S. forces or allies.

Today, the United States and Russia still deploy thousands of nuclear warheads on hundreds of bombers, missiles, and submarines. Current U.S. strategy requires that there are enough nuclear forces available to destroy nearly 1,000 enemy targets, many in urban areas, and that these weapons can be launched within minutes of a decision to do so.

Maintaining such a capability plays a large role in compelling Russia—and may soon help to lead China—to field a sizable portion of their nuclear forces in a launch-under-attack mode in order to avoid a disarming nuclear strike. This, in turn, increases the chance that nuclear weapons might be used or dispersed by U.S. adversaries in a crisis.

As Obama correctly said in 2008, the requirement for prompt launch is “a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.”

By adopting a no-first-use policy, the United States could positively influence the nuclear doctrines of other nuclear-armed states, particularly in Asia. Such a shift in U.S. declaratory policy could also alleviate concerns that U.S. ballistic missile defenses might be used to negate the retaliatory potential of China and Russia following a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear attack against their strategic forces.

Shifting to a no-first-use policy would not, in any way, undermine the U.S. ability to deter nuclear attack by another state. It is well established that U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack, and given the size, accuracy, and diversity of U.S. forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

Given the overwhelming U.S. conventional military edge, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify—legally, morally, or militarily—the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. U.S. nuclear weapons are useless in deterring or responding to nuclear terrorism or to a potential chemical, biological, or cyberattack by state or nonstate actors.

A no-first-use policy would not undermine confidence in U.S. defense commitments to key allies. Even if there were to be a conventional military conflict with a nuclear-armed state, such as Russia in the Baltic Sea region or elsewhere, the employment of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it would trigger an uncontrollable and potentially suicidal escalation of nuclear weapons use. As a result, the threat of nuclear weapons first-use to counter non-nuclear attacks lacks credibility.

In remarks delivered in Hiroshima May 27, Obama declared that “among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.” Yes, we must.

A U.S. no-first-use policy would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe, improve the prospects for further Russian nuclear cuts, and draw China into the nuclear risk reduction process. It would put a spotlight on the dangerous nuclear doctrines of Pakistan and North Korea, where the risk of nuclear weapons use is perhaps most severe, and challenge them to reconsider the first-use option.

By encouraging a new norm against first-use of nuclear weapons, Obama could help ensure, for this generation and those to come, that nuclear weapons are never used again.

Posted: June 30, 2016

Time to Translate Words Into Action: Statement by Daryl G. Kimball at the 20th Anniversary of the CTBT



The CTBT has established an effective global norm against nuclear explosive testing. This has had a profound impact for the role of civil society organizations and the future of the CTBT.


Time to Translate Words Into Action

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Panel on "The Role of Civil Society" at the 20th Anniversary of the CTBT

Vienna, Austria
13 June 2016

Distinguished delegates and colleagues the world over. It is an honor to address you at this important meeting on the role and perspectives of NGOs on the path forward on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) some 20 years after its entry into force.

Since the beginning of the movement to ban nuclear test explosions, ordinary people, civil society organizations, and individual scientists, doctors, and community leaders have been and will continue to be a driving force in the long journey to end all nuclear testing.

Ellen Tauscher, former Congresswoman and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, and Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of Arms Control Association, spoke on a panel on pathways for civil society organizations working on CTBT ratification. (Photo: CTBT0 Youtube channel)

Public pressure for the test ban all over the globe has been driven by the environmental and health impacts of the 2,050 nuclear detonations conducted since 1945, as well as the realization that nuclear testing fuels the development of new and more deadly types of nuclear weapons and dangerous nuclear competition.

Recall that some twenty-five years ago, a popular movement in Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan forced the government in Moscow to halt nuclear weapons testing at proving grounds in their homeland where more than 456 explosions had contaminated the land and damaged the health of its people.

As a result of their efforts and those of other nongovernmental and elected leaders, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared a test moratorium on October 5, 1991, prompting U.S. activists in Oregon to push their new member of Congress to introduce legislation mandating a 9-month U.S. test moratorium as a reciprocal measure of restraint designed to help put an end to the decades-long U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race.

With strong nongovernmental support and campaigning, the legislation was approved with a bipartisan majority.

Under pressure from civil society organizations and members of Congress, on July 3, 1993, President Bill Clinton decided to extend the moratorium and to pursue a multilateral nuclear test ban treaty at the Conference on Disarmament. There has not been a U.S. nuclear test explosion since September 23, 1992.

Just four years later, the world’s nations concluded the CTBT to prevent nuclear proliferation and help end the nuclear arms race. Since the opening for signature of the CTBT twenty years ago, the vast majority of the world’s nations have signed and ratified the Treaty. They recognize that nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the past and understand that the CTBT is a cornerstone of the international security architecture of the 21 st century.

But the CTBT has become a victim of its own success.

This has had a profound impact for the role of civil society organizations and the future of the CTBT.

Because the CTBT has established an effective global norm against nuclear explosive testing, nuclear testing has come to an end for all but one nuclear-armed state – the DPRK.

As a consequence, and despite the ongoing threat of further North Korean nuclear testing, there is low awareness about the dangers posed by renewed nuclear testing, and the need to achieve entry into force of the CTBT.

In the absence of strong leadership on the CTBT from the U.S. government and the increasingly pro forma statements of support from other states, it has become increasingly difficult to generate the pressure necessary to encourage ratification by the remaining Annex 2 hold-outs.

Unfortunately, the CTBT is not a top objective for most of the civil society organizations working in the nuclear security field and there are increasingly fewer sources of financial support for civil society education and advocacy work on the CTBT.

As a result, there is a growing risk that governments and publics will take the non-testing norm and the enormous benefits of the International Monitoring System and the International Data Center for granted.

These are important realities that we need to take into account. These realities pose unique challenges for the governmental leaders who are truly committed to seeing the CTBT enter into force – and for nongovernmental organizations seeking to close the door on nuclear testing in the years ahead.

Business as Usual Will Not Do

Bringing the CTBT into full legal force will require more energetic, more creative, more pragmatic and more focused efforts on the part of us all. As Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at a special meeting on the CTBT on Sept. 29, “business as usual” efforts will not suffice. We must also recognize that actions speak louder than words.

I sincerely hope that today’s events will help catalyze the hard work necessary to produce a serious diplomatic action plan and renewed civil society focus on the CTBT.

20th Anniversary Should Be a Catalyst

In the United States we are looking ahead to possibilities for the CTBT in 2017 or 2018, when, with stronger presidential leadership and better political conditions in the Senate, there will be another opportunity to secure Senate advice and consent for U.S. ratification.

The Arms Control Association and a network of partner organizations and experts connected through our Project for the CTBT are ready to jump into action. There is a core of Senators who support the treaty and are ready to provide their support and leadership.

In the meantime, it is essential that we take steps to reinforce the norm against nuclear testing moratorium and raise awareness about why further nuclear testing would be a threat to international peace and security.

The Sept. 24 anniversary of the opening for signature of the CTBT provides a critical opportunity. We would recommend a two-part strategy.

Part one, requires a serious, high-level diplomatic outreach effort on the part of key “friends of the CTBT states” to engage with key hold-out states regarding their concerns about signing/ratifying the treaty, to reaffirm their support for the global testing taboo, and to encourage them pledge that they will consider CTBT ratification “at the earliest possible time.”

We made some limited progress in this regard at the ministerial meeting held earlier today. The gathering has been an important way to refocus high-level governmental attention on the challenges facing entry into force. But much more needs to be done. Unfortunately, some states did not send representatives at the requested ministerial level, most notably the United States, thus limiting the potential of the meeting.

Part two, could be the pursuit and adoption later this year or early next of a new UN Security Council resolution and a parallel UN General Assembly measure that:

  • Calls on all states to refrain from testing and calls upon those states that have not ratified the CTBT to do so at the earliest possible time;
  • Declares that nuclear testing would trigger proliferation and undermine international peace and security;
  • Declares that the conduct of a nuclear test explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT; and
  • Determines that it is necessary to maintain a continuous, real-time global nuclear test monitoring capability and associated data processing, analysis, and reporting to detect and help deter clandestine nuclear explosions.

Such an initiative, while not legally binding, would have tremendous political value in reinforcing the global norm against testing in the years ahead and possibly stimulating action by key hold-out states.

This initiative would be entirely consistent with the letter and spirit of the treaty. It would also help guard against the danger of treaty fatigue, including the possibility of the slow erosion of support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

The U.S. government appears to be open to such an approach. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said on June 6, that: “we will continue to consider ways to affirm the international norm against testing nuclear weapons.

As we enter the 20th anniversary year of the CTBT, the time is right for a more robust effort in support of the CTBT and international security.

Thank you.

Posted: June 14, 2016

Obama’s India Nuclear Blind Spot

Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the transfer of nuclear technology...

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the transfer of nuclear technology and concrete action by nuclear-armed states to reduce, not expand, their weapons capabilities.

As President Barack Obama said in his landmark April 2009 speech in Prague “[I]n our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons, rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.”

But just a year later, Obama announced that the United States would support Indian membership in the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)—the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapons test blast, which used plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor using U.S.-origin heavy water. 

According to the official NSG website, India’s 1974 test explosion “demonstrated that peaceful nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused.”

After low-level consultations on the issue within the NSG since 2011, U.S. and Indian officials have recently launched a quiet but high-level campaign for their proposal ahead of key NSG meetings this month in Vienna and Seoul. 

Indian membership in the NSG on the basis of an exceptional political preference rather than a common set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks would produce serious, long-term damage to strategic stability in South Asia, the NSG, and the broader nonproliferation regime.

Such a move would compound the damage caused by the 2008 NSG decision to make an India-specific exemption to its full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards requirement for nuclear trade that was pushed through by the George W. Bush administration.

NSG membership currently requires that the state is a member in good standing with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). India remains one of only three countries, with Israel and Pakistan, never to have signed the NPT. 

Based on its record, India does not meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear it shares the NSG’s core nonproliferation goals, including preventing the spread of sensitive uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies. 

India refuses to accept critical disarmament responsibilities and practices expected of responsible nuclear states, including a legally binding commitment not to conduct nuclear tests, such as signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), halting fissile material production for weapons, and reducing, not building up, its nuclear and missile arsenals.

India has actively sought to weaken the nonproliferation commitments it was required to take to receive an NSG exemption in 2008. For example, its civil-military nuclear separation plan is substandard, and its IAEA additional protocol arrangement is weaker than those of the NPT nuclear-weapon states. Although India maintains a nuclear test moratorium, leaders in New Delhi have not taken any steps toward signing the CTBT, and they have not agreed to build international nuclear test-explosion monitoring stations on Indian territory.

The NSG’s 2008 India-specific exemption has given India access to international nuclear fuel markets, which has freed domestic supplies for bomb production. Pakistan has reacted by accelerating its own fissile material production capacity and deploying highly destabilizing tactical nuclear weapons.

In April, Obama said he would “like to see progress with respect to Pakistan and India to make sure…they are not continually moving in the wrong direction.”

Another India-specific NSG exemption would undoubtedly move Pakistan in the wrong direction, hardening its resolve to keep pace with India’s ongoing nuclear weapons buildup. It would likely worsen China’s own NSG-noncompliant nuclear trade with Pakistan and make it more difficult to gain other states’ adherence to NSG trade control guidelines. Indian membership in the NSG would also reinforce the perception among NPT member states that the rules just do not apply to nuclear-armed states. 

China, which insists on further dialogue on the matter and notes that NPT membership should remain the standard for NSG membership, may block India’s admittance to the group. Nonproliferation stalwarts, including Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand, may stand firm too. But that could change if the Obama team employs the strong-arm tactics used by the Bush administration against some NSG members to push through the 2008 exemption from key NSG trade guidelines. 

Ironically, Indian membership in the NSG would empower New Delhi to block future efforts by participating governments to ensure that India respects the nonproliferation commitments that it made in order to win the NSG’s support for that 2008 decision. 

If states in the NSG are to be asked to support the objective of Indian membership, it should only be as part of a broader strategy to strengthen the global nuclear order. Anything less represents an irresponsible disregard for long-standing nonproliferation principles.

Posted: May 31, 2016

Obama Addresses Hiroshima Experience

Barack Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, where he honored the innocent victims of wars and the 1945 atomic bombings and called for renewed energy to eliminate the nuclear threat.

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

On May 27, President Barack Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park, which honors the victims of the world’s first atomic bombing. The U.S. president’s visit followed the summit of the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations in nearby Mie Prefecture, Japan.

In a solemn ceremony in the early evening, Obama along with Japanese Prime Minister Abe offered wreaths at the Cenotaph Memorial, which lies less than one kilometer from the aim point of the U.S. atomic bomb that devastated the city and its 340,000 inhabitants. 

An estimated 240,000 people died by 1950 as a consequence of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945.

Following the wreath laying, Obama and Abe spoke before an audience of dignitaries, which included a small number of survivors from the bombing and the present-day mayors of the two cities.

Obama began by asking and answering the question, “Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima?”

“We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell,” Obama said. “We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.”

“Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering,” he noted. “But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”

In a powerful symbol of remembrance and reconciliation, the president also spoke briefly with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, known as hibakusha.

Sunao Tsuboi, chairman of the Hiroshima branch of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, who was a 20-year-old student when the bomb hit, held on to Obama’s hand while they spoke.

“I am 91 years old, but your speech was so exhilarating, I will live long,” Tsuboi told Obama according to the Japanese broadcaster NHK. 

Obama also spoke with and embraced 79 year-old Shigeaki Mori, who campaigned for the recognition of 12 American prisoners of war who were killed by the bomb. 

“Some day,” Obama noted in his address, “the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”

“Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us,” the president warned. “The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

Obama’s historic side-trip to Hiroshima follows the path-breaking visit to Hiroshima last month by the foreign ministers of the G7 nations, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who became the first serving U.S. secretary of state to visit Hiroshima.

Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima not only put a spotlight on the continuing risks posed by nuclear weapons and war, but on the U.S. nuclear policies and actions and the work left to be done to fulfill Obama’s stated goal of “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” issued in 2009.

Addressing this question, Obama said, “We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”

“We may not realize this goal in my lifetime,” he continued, “but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly materials from fanatics.”

Posted: May 31, 2016

Nuclear Suppliers Consider Indian Bid

Ahead of this month’s meeting of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have launched...

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Ahead of this month’s meeting of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have launched a high-level push to secure consensus for India’s membership in the body over the objections of several member states, including China.

Obama first expressed support for Indian membership in the NSG in a November 2010 joint statement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Since then, the NSG has discussed whether and how to revise its membership criteria with the view toward determining whether India meets the revised criteria.

Within the past year, Modi and other Indian officials have met with the leaders of NSG member states, including Ireland and New Zealand, that originally opposed an India-specific exemption to NSG nuclear trade rules in order to make the case for India’s membership bid. 

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. The NSG was established in 1975 in response to India’s 1974 nuclear weapon test, which was fueled with plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor in violation of peaceful nuclear use assurances.

In September 2008, following a high-level diplomatic push by the George W. Bush administration, the NSG agreed to make an India-specific exemption to its requirement that recipient states must subject all their nuclear facilities to international inspections in order to prevent the diversion of peaceful nuclear material or technology for weapons purposes. The NSG waiver for India was granted in return for several Indian nonproliferation “commitments and actions,” including maintaining its nuclear test moratorium, supporting negotiations to halt fissile material production for weapons, and developing a plan to separate its civilian and nuclear sectors. (See ACT, October 2008.

Obama administration officials have argued that Indian membership in the NSG would give India more of a stake in the nonproliferation regime. But critics, including Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who spoke out against the proposal during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 24, counter that India still does not meet the NSG’s membership criteria and that the administration is not pressing for further nonproliferation commitments from New Delhi in return for the benefits of NSG membership. 

On May 13, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokes-person Lu Kang made public Beijing’s view that “NPT membership” is a necessary qualification for membership. 

“Not only India, but also many other non-NPT members have voiced their aspirations to join the NSG. Many NSG members, China included, think that this matter shall be fully discussed and then decided based on consensus among all NSG members in accordance with the rules of procedure of the NSG,” Kang said. 

In response to the Indian bid for NSG membership, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Aizaz Chaudhry, told a senior U.S. official on May 17 that his country has the “credentials” to join the NSG. On May 20, Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna sent a letter to the chair of the NSG to formally apply for NSG membership.

If the NSG cannot reach consensus at its June meeting, sources suggest the matter may be taken up at a follow-on meeting in September.

Posted: May 31, 2016


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