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

In Memoriam: Sidney D. Drell (1926-2016)

The world lost one of its most insightful, articulate, and important scientist-arms controllers of the past half century.

January/February 2017

By Daryl G. Kimball

The world lost one of its most insightful, articulate, and important scientist-arms controllers of the past half century when Sidney D. Drell died on Dec. 21 in Palo Alto, California, due to complications from pneumonia. He was 90. 

For more than five decades, Drell was an energetic, principled, and influential adviser for the executive and legislative branches of government. His work contributed to a more rational U.S. nuclear policy and concrete steps to reduce nuclear dangers. 

Sidney Drell receives the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony with President Barack Obama on February 1, 2013. (Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)“Sid preferred to work quietly behind the scene to build consensus for policies that would reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, but he spoke truth to power and never ran away from a showdown,” according to long-time friend and collaborator James Goodby. 

Born in 1926 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Drell graduated from Princeton University in 1946. He then studied theoretical physics at the University of Illinois, completing his doctorate in 1949. After teaching stints at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, he settled at Stanford in 1956. There, he played a key role in the development and work of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). Drell served as SLAC’s deputy director from 1969 until retiring in 1998. He also co-founded and taught at Stanford’s multidisciplinary Center for International Security and Arms Control and was president of the American Physical Society in 1986.

Beginning in 1960, Drell became involved on key defense policy questions, particularly those relating to managing and reversing the accelerating nuclear arms race. That summer, he was recruited to become an original member of JASON, a group of leading scientists who provide advice to the government.

Drell became a foremost advocate for Soviet dissident and fellow physicist Andrei Sakharov, whom he met at a conference in 1974. Drell admired Sakharov’s courage in speaking out for human rights and nuclear disarmament. They struck up a friendship and continued to correspond until Sakharov’s death in 1989.

Drell served on science and defense technology advisory committees during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations and later for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He also served on President Bill Clinton’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Although Drell’s advisory work supported the maintenance of nuclear deterrence, he acknowledged he was not completely comfortable with the concept. He believed that nuclear weapons had helped get the West through the Cold War, but he agreed with the moral logic of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops 1983 Pastoral Letter, which argued that “deterrence cannot be accepted as ‘an end itself.’” 

Through the years, Drell contributed technical expertise for U.S.-Soviet arms limitation agreements, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and more accurate arms control verification and monitoring. In the early 1990s, Drell and the JASON group provided key technical advice that undergirded the decisions not to continue U.S. nuclear testing and to pursue and adopt a true “zero-yield” test ban, and helped shape the current strategy of science-based stockpile stewardship.

Drell consistently argued against nuclear first-strike concepts and “more usable” nuclear weapons and, following the end of the Cold War, pushed for deeper, verifiable nuclear cuts. Along with Goodby, he authored a report in 2005 outlining the rationale for a U.S. force reduced to 500 operationally deployed nuclear weapons by 2012.

Like other leading scientists who came to recognize the grave perils of the bomb, Drell understood the value of an informed and mobilized public. In 1983, he wrote that matters of nuclear weapons and policy are “too important to be left to the experts…. All of us are the targets of these undiscriminating weapons of mass destruction. There is, therefore, no excuse for us not to constitute an informed and an effective public constituency insisting on the imperative of arms control.” 

Drell was a key leader of the Arms Control Association, serving on the Board of Directors from 1978 until 1994, and he continued to generously provide his advice and support until his last days. In the last decade of his life, he was also an important catalyst and adviser for the influential 2007 call to action by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry for a “world free of nuclear weapons” and the joint work they did to promote their proposals.

Drell is survived by his wife, Harriet, and his children, Daniel, Persis, and Joanna.

When I saw him last spring, along with Shultz, at their Hoover Institution office at Stanford University, he was clearly frustrated that more of the actions outlined by the group had not been achieved. But he was still optimistic. He said that although progress may have slowed, “the key is to stay on the path” toward a world without nuclear weapons and “keep pushing things in the right direction.”

Clearly, it will be more difficult to do so without him. As Secretary Perry said on Jan. 3, “The world lost a powerful voice of reason on nuclear issues with the passing of Sidney Drell.”

What's New Text: 

Posted: January 11, 2017

New Arms Race? No, Thanks

Trump’s cryptic pronouncements suggest a radical shift in U.S. policy that could accelerate global nuclear tensions.

January/February 2017

By Daryl G. Kimball

The most serious test for any U.S. president is reducing global nuclear dangers. For decades, Republican and Democratic leaders have negotiated agreements to limit and cut nuclear arsenals, worked to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, and sought to reduce the risk of miscalculation and catastrophe. 

Since the administration of Ronald Reagan and the end of the Cold War, the United States has drastically reduced the size of its nuclear arsenal. In fact, Republican presidents have cut the arsenal far more aggressively than have their Democratic counterparts. Since 1992, presidents—regardless of political party—have observed a nuclear test moratorium.

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during a 2016 operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Photo credit: Senior Airman Kyla Gifford/U.S. Air Force)President-elect Donald Trump has made some promising remarks about nuclear policy and some irresponsible comments. He reportedly told Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, “There is no more important issue than nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation to be addressed in a global context,” according to a Kazakhstan-isssued statement on their Nov. 30 phone call.

But last month, Trump strongly implied he is contemplating a radical break from decades of bipartisan U.S. policy to reduce nuclear stockpiles and avert global nuclear competition. On Dec. 22, he launched a tweet declaring, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” 

When asked by MSNBC to clarify, Trump reportedly said, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them…and outlast them all.” Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer offered an interpretation to NBC News that Trump is sending a “warning” to other countries “that this president’s going to take action.”

If Trump and his advisers really believe nuclear “warnings” and calls for a global arms race are in the interest of the United States, they should think again. History suggests that nuclear threats do not intimidate the likes of Russia, China, North Korea, or terrorist groups. Such bravado is reckless and dangerous. It confuses close allies, undermines global nonproliferation efforts, and motivates adversaries.

The United States already has the world’s most formidable nuclear arsenal. It is on track to spend more than a half-trillion dollars over the next two decades to replace and refurbish delivery systems and warheads. There is no room in the federal budget to “expand” the scope and the cost of U.S. nuclear weapons modernization programs. Pentagon officials have already warned that the plan cannot be sustained without significant cuts to other domestic and military priorities.

There is certainly no need for more nuclear weapons. Today, the United States has about 4,600 nuclear warheads. Under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), it is allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads. About 900 can be fired within minutes of a presidential decision to do so. 

Russia has an arsenal of similar size. But there is only one other potential nuclear adversary, China, that has intercontinental-range missile systems that can reach the United States, and that force is currently armed with fewer than 100 warheads. That is among the reasons why President Barack Obama, with input from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other elements of the national security establishment, determined in 2013 that the United States can reduce its nuclear force by another one-third below New START levels and still meet deterrence requirements. 

Trump, before the end of his term in office, will need to decide whether to invite Russia to extend New START for another five years and/or negotiate a new arms reduction treaty. He should choose to build down, not build up.

The New York Times reported Dec. 28 that Trump’s energy secretary-designate, Rick Perry, will face pressure to develop new, “more usable” types of nuclear warheads, which could require the resumption of nuclear explosive testing. But there is no military requirement for new, battlefield nuclear weapons, and the U.S. nuclear laboratory directors say explosive testing is not required to maintain existing U.S. warheads. That is why the United States and 182 other states have signed and support the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and why Washington helps to finance the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System to detect and deter clandestine tests even before the treaty enters into force.

Twitter is hardly the appropriate medium for the president-elect to communicate possible changes in U.S. nuclear policy. Trump’s cryptic pronouncements suggest a radical shift in U.S. policy that could accelerate global nuclear tensions and complicate the job of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, an effort closely linked to the legally binding commitment of the nuclear-armed states to “the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

If Trump hopes to reduce and not increase nuclear dangers, he must maintain the previous bipartisan policy of engaging with Russia to cap and reduce the two nations’ still enormous and deadly nuclear arsenals, strengthen the global taboo against nuclear testing, and bring the world closer to the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Posted: January 6, 2017

Trump Tweet Could Signal Dangerous Nuclear Policy Shift

Today president-elect Donald Trump used his ever-active Twitter feed to say: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” As with most 140-character Trump pronouncements, deciphering its actual meaning and intent can be a difficult task. Trump’s comments today might simply be an expression of support for current U.S. efforts to maintain, upgrade, and replace U.S. nuclear forces, the price of which is likely to exceed $1 trillion over the next 30 years. On the campaign trail, Trump expressed...

NSG Membership Proposal Would Undermine Nonproliferation

Six years ago, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged his support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapon test blast, which used plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the United States. According the official NSG website , India’s 1974 test explosion “demonstrated that peaceful nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused.” NSG membership currently requires that the state is a member in good standing with the nuclear...

The Role of NGOs in the New Nuclear Age



Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball at the 26th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues, Nagasaki, Japan, December 2016


The Role of NGOs in the New Nuclear Age
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director
26th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues
Nagasaki, Japan, December 2016

Thank you Akira. Thank you to the organizers and hosts of this very important conference.

It is an honor to be here once again in Nagasaki for this important gathering.

As several other panelists and speakers have noted, civil society has an important role and responsibility to play in the cause of disarmament. 

The rebuilt Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan. It was 500m from the hypocenter of the world’s second atomic attack on a city. Urakami was the largest Catholic cathedral in the eastern hemisphere before it was destroyed on August 9, 1945. (Photo: Arms Control Association)For decades, citizen diplomats, scientists, physicians, students, and concerned people the world over have successfully pushed their leaders to achieve nuclear disarmament.

But there are tough challenges ahead.

Tensions between the world’s nuclear-armed states are on the rise once again, and progress on nuclear disarmament is stalled.

Nuclear-armed states are engaged in technological arms race.

North Korea may soon have an operational arsenal of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that can hit all of East Asia.

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is under increasing stress.

The election of Donald Trump to the White House will not make things any easier.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who came into the White House with a detailed nuclear threat reduction game plan, Trump has no discernable strategy for managing today’s most daunting nuclear dangers.

As a result, Mr. Trump cabinet appointees will likely have wide latitude in determining policy, which could mean that the administration seek significant changes in established U.S. nonproliferation and disarmament policy.

Hard-won nonproliferation, nuclear risk reduction, and nonproliferation successes, and even the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons, cannot be taken for granted.

What can NGOs do in these difficult times?

As we have successfully done years past when nuclear dangers were growing, we must:

  • act with even greater urgency to defend and build upon past disarmament and nonproliferation gains, particularly the CTBT; INF and New START;
  • The successful and effective Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) is at risk. I would note that the Israeli PM has in an interview aired Sunday said that he would advise Mr. Trump on ways to unravel the JCPoA. Responsible diplomats and experts understand that such actions would set back the nonproliferation and disarmament cause. Civil society groups in Israel, the United States and elsewhere must counter such developments.
  • continue to make the security case for deeper nuclear reductions, removing weapons from prompt-launch status, banning nuclear testing, preventing new warhead development;
  • encourage meaningful diplomatic engagement with North Korea to cap its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities and reduce tensions in the region;
  • strengthen ties with governmental and nongovernmental partners around the globe. In the United States, a number of NGOs are discussing the formation of a new, cross-sector “Campaign to Reduce and Eliminate Nuclear Dangers;"
  • engage with new constituencies and stakeholders who have not been engaged on the nuclear weapons and disarmament issue, particularly members of the younger generation in the nuclear armed-states and nonnuclear weapon states; and
  • put meaningful pressure on government officials to advance practical, concrete nuclear risk reduction and disarmament initiatives.

There are many different NGOs and strategies. Each is valuable and has something to offer. Each has their approach and policy prescription. There is no all-in-one solution.

The Negotiation of a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

One important new step that can reduce the salience of nuclear weapons is the forthcoming negotiation of a new instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Contrary to some skeptics, this process is not a distraction, nor will it undermine the NPT, as some fear.

The strong support for negotiations on a ban treaty needs to be understood as a logical international response to the underwhelming pace of progress by the world’s nine nuclear-armed states on nuclear disarmament in recent years.

Let be clear: these underlying trends are what threaten the NPT, not the ban treaty negotiations.

In order to attain a world free of nuclear weapons, it will be necessary, at some point, to establish a legally-binding norm to prohibit such weapons. As such, the pursuit of a treaty banning the development, production, possession and use of nuclear weapons is a key step along the way.

This new process has the potential to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use—a worthy goal.

The coming ban treaty negotiations are not an all-in-one solution, but do represent an important new contribution.

Those states and NGOs involved in the negotiation – and we plan to be among them – have some difficult work ahead. To be effective, the instrument will need to:

  • Specify which activities related to nuclear weapons possession, planning, development, production, and testing are prohibited. Each of these prohibitions must be effectively verifiable, even if this negotiation does not elaborate the monitoring and verification regime.
  • Compliment and perhaps enhance existing treaties that prohibit or limit certain nuclear weapons-related activities, including the CTBT, the current nuclear weapons free zone treaties, and the NPT, among others.
  • Provide a pathway or pathways for states that now possess nuclear weapons or are part of alliances with nuclear-armed states to join the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

The negotiators should seek a formula that is meaningful but also draws the widest possible support from states participating in the negotiation. Consensus should be the goal but not a requirement for agreement on the final outcome. States such as Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and China that expressed some reservations about the initiative should nonetheless participate in the negotiations.

The coming ban treaty negotiations are not a substitute for necessary, progressive steps on nuclear disarmament, Nor will the process necessarily lead the nuclear-armed states to act with urgency to fulfill their nuclear disarmament obligations.

Repeating the mantra that “we must patiently pursue a step-by-step approach on disarmament” does not constitute an effective or responsible strategy.

Diplomats, NGOs and political leaders can and must do better.

Certainly, the nuclear-armed states—particularly the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan—can and should do more to overcome old obstacles and animosities to advance disarmament and nuclear risk reduction measures. But we cannot count on these governments to provide leadership.

Middle powers, including Japan, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Poland, Malaysia, and others, have an important role to play to provide leadership and fresh ideas on key nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives.

One way to bridge the growing divide on disarmament and to create new momentum might be to convene a series of conferences or a series of “summits” that bring together high-level representatives of nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states for disarmament discussions and outside of the moribund Conference on Disarmament.

Achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons requires bold and sustained action.

As President Obama said earlier this year when he visited Hiroshima: “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.”

Country Resources:

Posted: December 12, 2016

Nuclear Suppliers Discuss Membership

Representatives from the 48 member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met in Vienna last month to discuss possible common membership.

December 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Representatives from the 48 member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met in Vienna last month to discuss possible common membership criteria for countries that have not joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The meeting on Nov. 11 was the first since the NSG’s June plenary meeting in Seoul, where states considered but did not agree to separate membership bids from India and Pakistan, neither of which is a member of the NPT. (See ACT, July/August 2016.)

South Korean Ambassador Song Young-wan, chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, speaks at an event in Vienna on May 6. (Photo credit: Kresimir Nikolic/IAEA)

In 2008, after a long and contentious debate, the group exempted India from the NSG’s long-standing full-scope safeguards requirement for nuclear trade with non-nuclear-weapon states on the basis of political commitments made by India, including a commitment to abide by its unilateral nuclear testing moratorium. 

Earlier this year, Washington and New Delhi launched a diplomatic push for full Indian membership in the NSG. Pakistan submitted a separate membership bid. But at the group’s meeting in June, China and several other states insisted that NPT membership must be one of the key criteria.

At the Nov. 11 meeting, which was convened by the current chair of the NSG, South Korean Ambassador Song Young-wan, the delegates continued to exchange views on the “two-step” process on non-NPT states’ participation begun at their Seoul meeting. 

Since the June plenary, Song, with the assistance of outgoing NSG chair Rafael Mariano Grossi of Argentina, have consulted states on possible criteria for membership. According to senior diplomats involved in the confidential consultations, NSG states have begun to seriously engage on potential options, but the discussion has not yet reached the point at which a consensus decision might be achieved.

Several states involved in the consultations have suggested that signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) should be included as one of the common criteria for NSG membership, according to diplomats who spoke with Arms Control Today

In September, the UN Security Council approved a resolution reaffirming the importance of the CTBT. (See ACT, October 2016.) Last month, India, which has not signed the nuclear test ban accord, concluded a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan that would be terminated if India conducts a nuclear test.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement Nov. 11 saying that “China maintains that any formula worked out should be non-discriminatory and applicable to all non-NPT states; without prejudice to the core value of the NSG and the effectiveness, authority and integrity of the international non-proliferation regime with the NPT as its cornerstone; and without contradicting the customary international law in the field of non-proliferation.”

Posted: November 30, 2016

Mr. Trump and the Bomb

The Trump administration must discard reckless campaign rhetoric and learn how to build on his predecessor’s substantial nonproliferation record.

December 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

For decades, U.S. presidents from both parties have been confronted with a range of nuclear weapons perils. So far, despite several near misses and close calls, we have avoided catastrophe and limited the spread of nuclear weapons to nine states. But with the election of Donald Trump, the United States and the world move into uncharted and dangerous nuclear territory.

(Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)Beginning Jan. 20, the devastating power of the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be under the control of an impulsive and unpredictable commander-in-chief. During the 2016 campaign, Trump made a number of casual and deeply troubling statements that suggest he has a poor understanding of the unique dangers posed by nuclear weapons and may not be up to the task of managing the risks. 

When asked in January 2016 when he might consider using nuclear weapons, Trump said, “Well, it is an absolute last stance…[but] you want to be unpredictable,” implying that he might engage in dangerous nuclear brinksmanship in a crisis.

Trump said it would be acceptable if Japan or South Korea sought their own nuclear weapons to counter North Korea’s because, he claimed, “it’s going to happen anyway.” Such an attitude contradicts decades of U.S. policy and undermines the global consensus against proliferation.

Trump also pledged to “dismantle” the 2015 agreement between six world powers and Iran, which is verifiably working to block Iran’s pathways to the bomb. If he tries even to “renegotiate” the deal, he would open the door to the rapid reconstitution of Iran’s capabilities, alienate all major U.S. allies, and trigger another disastrous war in the Middle East. If Trump or the Republican-led Congress sabotage the deal, they will own the grave geopolitical consequences.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who came into the White House with a detailed nuclear threat reduction game plan, Trump has no discernable strategy for managing today’s most daunting nuclear challenges.

The most urgent problem is North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons capability. Even with tougher international sanctions, the North’s program will continue to advance, and calls for nuclear weapons in South Korea will grow. With additional nuclear and missile tests, Pyongyang could have an operational arsenal of several dozen nuclear-armed, medium-range ballistic missiles by the end of Trump’s first term.

During the campaign, Trump said he would be willing to talk with North Korea’s leader, but he also suggested the problem could be outsourced to China. In reality, Beijing will not exert what influence it has without clear U.S. support for a renewed and wide-ranging dialogue with Pyongyang.

Shortly after Inauguration Day, Trump should direct a personal representative to communicate the United States’ interest in a deal leading to denuclearization and a formal end to the Korean conflict. As a first step, the parties should agree to a verifiable halt of further North Korean longer-range missile and nuclear tests and fissile material production and a temporary cessation of major U.S. military exercises in the region. This approach does not guarantee success, but maintaining the current policy assures failure.

Trump must also engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin to defuse rising tensions and head off a NATO-Russia confrontation that could lead to nuclear war. To do so, his still-to-be-named team will need to revitalize existing risk reduction and confidence-building mechanisms, ensure that Russia respects international borders, preserve the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, address Russian fears about U.S. missile interceptor capabilities, and develop rules of the road to prevent destabilizing cyberattacks.

The risk of catastrophic miscalculation remains far too high. Until 2021, each side is allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads, hundreds of which are primed for launch under attack. For a start, Trump and Putin should reaffirm that there can be no winner in a nuclear war and agree to a sustained dialogue on strategic stability. 

If Trump can persuade Congress not to expand costly missile interceptor programs and respects the U.S. nuclear test ban and no-new-nuclear-warhead policies, he may find Russia willing to jointly slash strategic nuclear forces by one-third below the limits of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Such a step would ease tensions and reduce fears of a new nuclear arms race, plus it would reduce the skyrocketing price of nuclear weapons. The current all-of-the-above plan to replace and upgrade the U.S. nuclear triad and supporting infrastructure is projected to cost more than half a trillion dollars over the next 20 years and is unsustainable. By reducing nuclear excess and delaying program schedules, deterrence requirements can be met while saving tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. 

The most serious test of any president is whether and how they reduce global nuclear dangers and avoid miscalculation in a nuclear crisis. To succeed or at least avoid major mistakes, the Trump administration must discard reckless campaign rhetoric and learn how to build on his predecessors' substantial efforts to strengthen the taboo against the spread and use of nuclear weapons.

Posted: November 29, 2016

Hold Syria Accountable on the CWC

Assad’s industrial chlorine barrel bomb attacks require a strong and unified international response from the UN Security Council and the OPCW. 

November 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Over the course of the horrific five and a half years of Syrian civil war, the government of Bashar al-Assad, his Russian allies, and extremist fighters, have committed numerous war crimes. Some 500,000 people have died, and more than 10 million have been displaced. There is no military solution to the conflict, yet the killing continues.

Among the most heinous aspects of the war has been the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime beginning in late 2012, including the massive August 2013 sarin gas attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

Screenshot from a video posted to YouTube on April 11, 2014 shows substantial yellow coloration at base of the cloud over Keferzita, Syria, drifting with main cloud. (Via Human Rights Watch)The Ghouta attack led the United States to threaten the use of force to try to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. This threat prompted Moscow to work with Washington to develop and to help compel Assad to accept an ambitious agreement mandating the expeditious and verified removal and elimination of Syria’s massive arsenal of 1,308 metric tons of chemical agents, storage and production facilities, and associated equipment under the auspices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). 

The UN Security Council unanimously approved the OPCW timeline for destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal under Resolution 2118 and allowed for measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if Syria does not comply or otherwise violates the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The complex, multinational disposal operation was a major milestone that effectively eliminated the threat of further large-scale chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime against the Syrian people and neighboring states.

But in October, after a 13-month-long investigation, the fourth report of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) confirmed what has been suspected for some time—that the Assad regime has continued to drop barrel bombs filled with chlorine from Russian-supplied military helicopters on civilian areas. The JIM reported that the helicopter flights originated from two bases where the 253rd and 255th Syrian Army air squadrons belonging to the 63rd helicopter brigade are located. 

Although less destructive and deadly than sarin nerve agent, Assad’s industrial chlorine barrel bomb attacks violate the CWC and are war crimes. These are the first-ever documented cases that a CWC member state has used chemical weapons. 

This serious matter concerns all states and requires a strong and unified international response from the UN Security Council and the 192 states-parties of the OPCW. Russian diplomats will try to shield the Syrian regime from tough UN sanctions, but other states must act with clarity and conviction.

For example, under Chapter VII the Security Council could demand the immediate grounding of the Syrian Army helicopter units involved in the attacks and a halt to all forms of assistance to these units, including Russian military support. Individuals involved in authorizing and conducting the chlorine attacks should be prosecuted for war crimes. Entities providing such assistance should be subjected to sanctions. 

The OPCW Executive Council should revoke Syria’s rights and privileges within the body until such time that it is determined to be in full compliance with its CWC obligations. To help deter additional barrel bomb attacks, the mandate for the JIM should be extended as requested to investigate additional reported chemical weapons attacks in Syria further.

The OPCW Declaration Assessment Team must be authorized to continue to press Syrian government officials to fill in the large gaps in their 2013 official declaration to the OPCW in order to ensure that Syria fully eliminates its chemical warfare capacity, including any more production of barrel bombs. 

An inadequate international response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime will only increase the risk that the world’s most dangerous, indiscriminate, and inhumane weapons will be used to commit atrocities in the future, erode the integrity of the CWC, and undermine the authority of the Security Council.

Russia, which has backed the Syrian regime and become directly involved in aerial bombardments of civilians itself, has a special responsibility to support and not block a strong response at the OPCW and on the Security Council. After all, Syria has brazenly violated the terms of the 2013 agreement that Moscow helped broker. 

Likewise, Iran, which was a victim of horrible gas attacks during its war with Iraq in the 1980s but now backs Assad, must also support strong action or lose credibility as a defender of chemical weapons victims.

Unfortunately, there are no international laws against war itself, but there are rules about how wars can and cannot be conducted. Holding the line against further chemical weapons use is a core U.S. and international security interest because chemical weapons produce horrible effects and because the erosion of the global taboo against chemical weapons use can lead to more and more significant use of weapons of mass destruction in the future.

Posted: October 28, 2016

Vote to Begin Treaty Negotiations to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons a Step Forward



Statement by Arms Control Association's Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball, on the adoption of a resolution by the United Nation's First Committee to begin treaty negotiations on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.


Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: October 27, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 105; and Zia Mian, member of the board of directors & co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, and co-author of Unmaking the Bomb, 609-258-5468.

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, members of the United Nations' disarmament and international security committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to launch formal negotiations in 2017 on a “legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” 

Acting on recommendations of its First Committee in December 2012, the General Assembly adopted 58 texts related to disarmament. (Photo: UN/Paulo FilgueirasSponsored by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa, the resolution (A/C.1/71/L.41) was approved by a vote of 123 to 38 with 16 abstentions. The United States and other nuclear-armed states voted against the resolution. The proposal will be considered and likely approved by the General Assembly in the coming weeks.

The resolution follows three international conferences in 2013 and 2014 to consider the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use and discussions by an open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in 2016.

The following is a statement from Executive Director Daryl Kimball, on the initiative:

“Today’s vote marks a new phase in the decades-long struggle to eliminate the threats posed by nuclear weapons. In order to attain a world free of nuclear weapons, it will be necessary, at some point, to establish a legally-binding norm to prohibit such weapons. As such, the pursuit of a treaty banning the development, production, possession and use of nuclear weapons is a key step along the way.

Although the world’s nuclear-armed states will likely boycott the negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban, this unprecedented new process could help to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use—a worthy goal.

The strong support for negotiations on a ban treaty needs to be understood as a logical international response to the growing risks and catastrophic consequences of a conflict between nuclear-armed states, the accelerating global technological nuclear arms race, and underwhelming pace of progress by the world’s nine nuclear-armed states on nuclear disarmament in recent years.

The coming ban treaty negotiations are not a substitute for necessary, progressive steps on nuclear disarmament, but they do have the potential to strengthen the taboo against the further development and use of nuclear weapons. In the coming months and years, the non-nuclear-weapon states and nuclear-armed states—particularly the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan—can and should do more to overcome old obstacles and animosities to advance disarmament and nuclear risk reduction measures, which are essential if we are to avoid nuclear conflict.”

Additional background resources: 

Posted: October 27, 2016

Next Steps on U.S.-Russian INF Treaty Dispute



Relations between Russia and the West have sunk to an historic low and tensions have worsened across a range of issues, some new and some old.


Volume 8, Issue 6, October 25, 2016

Relations between Russia and the West have sunk to an historic low. Since President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex Crimea and foment a low-level conflict in eastern Ukraine nearly three years ago, tensions between the United States and Russia have worsened across a range of issues, some new and some old.

Several key nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements that helped bring an end to the Cold War nuclear arms race continue to serve to constrain nuclear competition and maintain strategic stability.

These include the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in Washington, DC, December 8, 1987 (Photo:Wikimedia)The INF Treaty was a major breakthrough that helped to halt and reverse the Cold War-era nuclear arms race and remove a significant threat to Europe. It marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to actually eliminate nuclear weapons and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. The treaty, which is of unlimited duration, required both sides to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The two sides eliminated 2,692 short, medium, and intermediate-range nuclear-armed missiles by 1991.

There are growing signs, however, that the INF Treaty is under serious and increasing stress. Failure to resolve the festering compliance dispute could threaten the treaty and impede further efforts to reduce bloated U.S. and Russia nuclear arsenals in the years ahead.

In July 2014, the U.S. State Department officially alleged that Russia is violating its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

Russia denies that it is breaching the INF Treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in December that the allegations are “groundless” and the United States has “not provided any proof” that Russia is “allegedly producing and deploying” banned missiles.

Moscow has instead raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance with the agreement, charging that America is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles.

To this point, bilateral political discussions at senior levels have not led to a resolution of the compliance dispute. Neither side had sought to use the dispute resolution mechanism allowed for by Article VIII of the treaty – the Special Verification Commission (SVC).

Until at least January of this year, senior Defense and State department officials said that Russia had not deployed the prohibited missile.

But according to an Oct. 19 The New York Times report, “American officials are now expressing concerns that Russia is producing more missiles than are needed to sustain a flight-test program, spurring fears that the Kremlin is moving to build a force that could ultimately be deployed.”

The report also revealed that the United States has called for a meeting of the SVC to discuss and seek to resolve the U.S. compliance concerns. The U.S. State Department has since confirmed that a meeting has been requested and Russia has indicated that it plans to attend.

Both sides could be facing a new and even more difficult situation if they do not effectively use the SVC to bolster the INF Treaty.

Support in-depth analysis and alerts on U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation. Become a member of the Arms Control Association today.

Immediate Next Steps

Convening the SVC to resolve mutual compliance concerns has been a longstanding recommendation of the Arms Control Association, as well as expert colleagues involved with the 21-member U.S.-Russian-German Deep Cuts Commission, and others.

Russia’s alleged noncompliance with the treaty is a serious matter that deserves a strong and measured response. To date, the United States has imposed diplomatic costs on Russia and has taken some military measures as part of a larger response to concerns about Russian behavior, including the INF Treaty violation.

Washington has properly treated the violation more as a political problem rather than a military one. But that would likely change if Russia moved from testing to actual deployment of INF Treaty noncompliant missiles. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama at the 2015 Group of Twenty summit (Photo: Wikipedia)If it hasn't done so already, the Obama administration should craft a plan for how the compliance concerns of both sides could be addressed in the event Russia engaged and signaled its willingness to return to compliance. This could include consideration of additional confidence-building measure and information exchanges that take into account technological and political developments that have occurred since the treaty’s entry into force.

From a U.S. and European security perspective, the key goal is to prevent Russia from deploying (or conducting further tests of) INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or withdrawing from the agreement entirely.

Meanwhile, the United States should seek new ways to provide further details about the nature of the Russian violation. The inability to share more information has made it easier for Russia to deny a violation exists and harder for U.S. allies and other countries to put additional pressure on Russia.

Both sides should understand and explain why the INF Treaty and the existing bilateral and multilateral arms control architecture continues to serve U.S., Russian, and European security interests and head-off even more dangerous military competition.

Without continued U.S. support for arms control agreements and other types of cooperative nonproliferation engagement, Russian forces would be unconstrained. Not only would the United States have little leverage or basis to constrain Russian forces other than military and economic measures, it would not have verification measures in place to assess what Russia is doing. Overall, the implementation record of these treaties has been highly successful, which is why presidents from both parties have pursued them.

If Russia continues to remain in noncompliance with the INF Treaty and especially if Russia decides to deploy noncompliant missiles or threatens to pull out of the treaty, the United States should pursue firm but measured steps to reaffirm its commitment to the defense of those allies that would be the potential targets of these new missiles.

But it would not be militarily useful for the United States to deploy new offense missiles in Europe or seek to accelerate or expand U.S. ballistic missile defense capabilities in Europe, which would not increase the security of our allies and would only give the Russians a cynical excuse to withdraw from the treaty.

Receive breaking updates and issues briefs on this issue. Subscribe to the Arms Control Association's U.S.-Russian Relations email list.

Intermediate Steps on INF Treaty and Cruise Missiles

The current INF Treaty crisis comes at a time when the United States and Russia are building new nuclear and conventional cruise missile systems and a number of states are developing cruise missiles. In addition, the two sides are not currently engaged in talks on further strategic nuclear reductions beyond New START. Russian officials say that U.S. and Russian reductions must take into account the arsenals of the world’s other nuclear-armed states.

Today, only three countries possess nuclear-armed cruise missiles. The Pentagon is pursuing the production of roughly 1,000 new nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles to replace an aging legacy system. Russia is deploying the 2,000-kilometer range Kalibr land-attack cruise missile (LACM) on ships and submarines and the Kh-101 air-launched conventional and Kh-102 air-launched nuclear-armed cruise missile for delivery by bombers. France recently upgraded its nuclear air launched cruise missiles, the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée-Amélioré, and according to President François Hollande currently has 54 ASMP-A cruise missiles. 

In years past, the United States and Russia have both expressed support for “multilateralizing” the INF Treaty, but have devoted scant attention to such a project. In October 2007, President Vladimir Putin said that the INF Treaty should be made “global in scope.” Russia has argued for years that the INF Treaty disadvantages Russia vis-à-vis its neighbors, such as China, that lack the same constraints.

That same year, at the United Nations General Assembly, Russia and the United States issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for the INF Treaty and calling upon other governments to renounce and eliminate their ground-launched missiles with ranges banned by the accord. The statement declared U.S. and Russian intentions to “work with all interested countries” and “discuss the possibility of imparting a global character to this important regime.”

The time has arrived for more serious consideration of limits on nuclear-armed cruise missiles worldwide. Given that they are nuclear-capable and increasingly accurate and stealthy, these weapons pose a significant problem for global stability and security.

In the coming year, the Kremlin and the new U.S. presidential administration might explore several possible options, including:

  • As the governments of Sweden and Switzerland proposed in a May 2016 working paper, the United States and Russia could jointly engage with other states on a process to reduce risks associated with nuclear armed cruise missiles. This might include options to limit, prevent deployment of, and ultimately ban all nuclear-armed cruise missiles, regardless if they are launched from the sea, air or ground.
  • The United States and Russia could also address the challenges of horizontal cruise missile proliferation by reinforcing the relevant Missile Technology Control Regime’s restrictions and by endorsing the inclusion of land-attack cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles / unmanned combat aerial vehicles in the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
  • Moscow and Washington should exercise restraint in Russian and U.S. nuclear force modernization programs, remaining within the New START limits and acting consistent with the intent of the treaty. The United States should forego development of a new, air-launched cruise missile, and Russia should reciprocate by phasing-out of its own new nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles.
  • The U.S. and Russian presidents should reaffirm that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. The two sides should also agree to launch early discussions on a possible follow-on strategic arms reduction treaty, given that New START expires in 2021.

Given that each country deploys far more nuclear weapons than is necessary to deter attack, they should be able to envision reductions to a level of 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles (including cruise missiles) and no more than 1,000 deployed strategic warheads. To take into account cruise missiles and sub-strategic nuclear bombs in the active arsenals of both sides, they should consider applying any new warhead ceiling to all types of nuclear weapons.

A new U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and risk reduction should also explore options for new transparency measures and reciprocal restraint measures in other related areas, including missile defenses, precision conventional strike, and sub-strategic nuclear weapons.

Reducing Risks In the “New Cold War”

As was the case during the Cold War, competition, confrontation, and selective cooperation is the new normal.

The U.S. and Russian governments continue to cooperate in some important areas of common concern, including implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and New START, and they continue to meet with the other permanent nuclear-armed members of the UN Security Council to share views on strategic stability and nuclear policy.

"Back from the Brink: Toward Restraint and Dialogue between Russia and the West," the June 2016 report of the Deep Cuts CommissionThe NATO-Russia Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which involves 57 participating states in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok, serves as another mechanism to address specific security concerns.

However, since the conflict in Ukraine the number of Russian and NATO military-to-military incidents in the Baltic region and elsewhere has increased; military-to-military contacts have been sharply curtailed; and there are no active bilateral talks on nuclear arms reductions, missile defense, or conventional arms control and transparency in Europe. Earlier this month, Putin suspended implementation of an already troubled U.S.-Russian agreement on the disposition of excess weapons-grade plutonium.

In addition, U.S. and Russian diplomats have in recent weeks clashed over Syria policy at the UN Security Council. The United States and Western European powers say that Russia’s brutal aerial bombardment of civilian areas in the besieged city of Aleppo in support of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad constitutes a war crime. Making matters even worse, U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Russian government authorities have authorized cyber hacking of U.S. entities to undermine the credibility of the U.S. electoral process.

The United States and Russia need to re-engage and move back from the brink of even more serious conflict. The 2016 report of the Deep Cuts Commission “Toward Restraint and Dialogue Between Russia and the West,” outlines several additional practical steps to help address other issues:  

  • In order to reduce current security concerns in the Baltic area, NATO and Russia should initiate a dialogue on possible mutual restraint measures. A NATO-Russia dialogue should aim at increasing the security of all states in the Baltic area by encompassing reciprocal and verifiable commitments. A sub-regional arms control regime could consist of interlocking elements such as restraint commitments, limitations, confidence and security-building measures, and a sub-regional Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.
  • In light of the increasing dangers of military incidents between Russia, the United States and other NATO member states, the United States and Russia should revive a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction measures, capable of addressing risks posed by different sorts of emergencies in near real-time. The United States and Russia could consider creating a Joint Military Incident Prevention and Communications Cell with a direct telephone link between the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian General Staff, and NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Such a cell could be linked to or established in parallel with a new European Risk Reduction Center that would link the Russian General Staff and SHAPE.
  • The 34 signatories to the Open Skies Treaty should pay more attention to the continued operation and unimpeded implementation of Open Skies, which can help provide confidence that each side is taking actions in a manner consistent with their commitments and can help guard against surprise. The treaty allows for short-notice, unarmed, observation flights over the territories of other states-parties with the aim of promoting openness and transparency, building confidence, and facilitating verification of arms control and disarmament agreements. Each states-party has quotas covering the number of observation flights a state can actively conduct over the territory of another state and the number it must allow over its own territory. Members of the U.S. Congress should recognize the value of the Open Skies Treaty and upgrades to observation capabilities rather than put roadblocks in the way of its effective implementation.
  • OSCE participating states should consider measures to give effect to the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs. For this purpose, the OSCE could set up a commission that would carefully look into the issue from a legal point of view and explore possibilities for a new OSCE states-based mechanism. OSCE participating States could also pursue a long-term effort leading to a Helsinki-like conference with the aim of reinvigorating and strengthening Europe’s guiding security principles.

As former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry wrote in the introduction to the 2016 Deep Cuts Commission report:

“Today, dialogue and restraint are needed more than ever since the end of the Cold War. In order to prevent misperceptions, miscalculations, and the potential return of a costly arms race, both Washington and Moscow have to rediscover the instruments of diplomatic dialogue, military-to-military exchanges, and verifiable arms control.”

Such an effort can begin with a serious, problem-solving approach to the INF Treaty. –BY DARYL G. KIMBALL, with KINGSTON A. REIF and ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Country Resources:

Posted: October 25, 2016


Subscribe to RSS - Daryl G. Kimball