"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Daryl Kimball

Arms Control Experts Urge Trump Administration to Agree to New START Extension



For Immediate Release: Oct. 16, 2020

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

(Washington, DC)—Arms control experts are urging President Donald Trump to agree to a Russian proposal to extend a key 2010 arms control agreement for at least one year, and ideally for five years, without preconditions to allow additional time for negotiations on a follow-on deal on range of related issues before the treaty expires on Feb. 5, 2021.

Without an extension, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will lapse with nothing to replace it, removing all legally-binding limits on the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972. The treaty permits an extension “for a period of no more than five years” so long as both the U.S. and Russian presidents agree to it.

“New START extension is vitally important for U.S., Russian, and international security," noted Thomas Countryman, former acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and current chair of the board of Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan group in Washington, DC. "We strongly urge President Trump to take ‘yes’ for an answer to Russia’s proposal to extend New START without conditions, ideally for five years." 

"Unless Trump somehow overrules his hard-line advisors and adjusts course—or Joe Biden wins the presidential election and makes good on his pledge to extend New START—the treaty very likely will disappear," remarked Daryl Kimball, the group's executive director.  

"The loss of New START would open the door to an ever-more dangerous and costly global nuclear arms race. In the absence of New START, Washington and Moscow could quickly 'upload' several hundred additional warheads on existing deployed delivery systems to exceed the treaty’s 1,550 warhead ceiling. Such unconstrained nuclear arms racing would be unaffordable and dangerous for both sides," Kimball noted.

"A five-year, clean extension of New START would provide a foundation and the time for follow-on discussions and agreements to address unconstrained nuclear warheads and non-nuclear weapons that impact strategic stability, and to improve opportunities to more fully include other nuclear-armed states, including China, the U.K., and France, in the arms control process," Kimball said.

Experts Available in Washington:

  • Thomas Countryman, former​ ​acting​ ​under secretary of state for​ ​arms​ ​control and ​international security, and ​​chair of the board for the Arm​​s Control Association, [email protected], 301-312-3445
  • Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, [email protected], 202-277-3478
  • Kingston Reif, ​director for ​disarmament​​ and ​threat reduction​ ​policy​, ​[email protected], 202-463-8270, ext. 104

Arms control experts are urging President Donald Trump to agree to a Russian proposal to extend a key 2010 arms control agreement for at least one year, and ideally for five years, without preconditions.

Country Resources:

WEBINAR: "The Future of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the NPT"



Thursday, October 1, 2020
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time
via Zoom webinar 

The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has led Iran to retaliate by exceeding key nuclear limits set by the deal. The U.S. strategy has hobbled but not unraveled the agreement and increased tensions with Iran and the international community. Unless Washington and Teheran return to compliance, however, the deal could collapse entirely creating a serious new nuclear crisis in the region.

In this edition of the “Critical NPT Issues” webinar series sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Arms Control Association, our panelists reviewed the benefits of the JCPOA, the current status of noncompliance, pathways to repair the situation, and the potential effects on the global nonproliferation system and the upcoming 10th Review Conference of Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.


  • Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association;
  • Ellie Gerenmyah, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program and Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations; and
  • Emad Kiyaei, Director, Middle East Treaty Organization (METO)

Our next webinar in the Critical NPT Issues series will address steps to fulfill Article VI of the NPT. We encourage you to sign up to receive invitations to future webinars and other updates from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Arms Control Association.


For more information on the JCPOA, subscribe to the P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert from the Arms Control Association, which provides periodic news and analysis on the negotiations and implementation of the nuclear deal. 

If you want to follow discussions on nuclear weapons during the 2020 session of the UNGA First Committee, subscribe to the First Committee Monitor, a publication of WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will, or visit their resource page for more information.



In this edition of our “Critical NPT Issues” webinar series, we will review the benefits of the JCPOA, the current status of noncompliance, pathways to repair the situation, and the potential effects on the upcoming NPT Review Conference.

Country Resources:

Trump’s Disingenuous Disarmament Diplomacy

October 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

For the first three and a half years of President Donald Trump’s term in office, he and his team have dithered and delayed on nuclear arms control matters.

In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in February 2017, Donald Trump reportedly denounced New START, and when Putin raised the possibility of extending the treaty, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was. (Photo: Joyce N. Boghosian/White House) Now, at the 11th hour, they are pursuing an ill-advised strategy that has little chance of success and is probably designed to run out the clock on the last remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals: the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Unless Trump somehow overrules his hard-line advisors and adjusts course or Joe Biden wins the presidential election and makes good on his pledge to extend New START, the treaty very likely will disappear. That would open the door to an ever-more dangerous and costly global nuclear arms race.

With the treaty’s Feb. 5, 2021, expiration date and the U.S. presidential election fast approaching, the Trump administration continues to reject Russia’s proposal of a five-year extension of the treaty.

Instead, Trump’s new arms control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, is demanding that Russia agree to changes to New START verification rules and U.S. terms for a future arms control agreement involving all types of warheads and eventually including China. Even if Russia agrees to the U.S. terms, Billingslea and other officials say Trump would only consider a short-term extension.

If Russia refuses, Billingslea said in September, “we will be extremely happy to continue...without the [New] START restrictions.” He added that the United States would redeploy weapons that had been removed from deployment in order to meet New START limits once the treaty expires.

Washington and Moscow could quickly “upload” several hundred additional warheads on existing deployed delivery systems to exceed the treaty’s 1,550 warhead ceiling.

Billingslea’s threat to build up the U.S. deployed arsenal, something the nation has not done in decades, follows his warning in May that if Russia and China do not agree to Trump’s terms for a new agreement, “we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.”

In reality, unconstrained nuclear arms racing would be unaffordable and dangerous for both sides. A Congressional Budget Office report published in August estimates the Pentagon could incur costs as high as several hundred billion dollars if Washington tries to build additional delivery systems to increase the arsenal above New START levels.

These costs would be in addition to the $1.5 trillion in minimum planned spending to sustain and upgrade the existing arsenal, which is based on New START limits, over the next several decades.

No one wins an arms race. Each side already deploys far more weapons than it needs to deter nuclear attack.

Billingslea is also demanding unnecessary “fixes” to New START’s monitoring and verification system. No such demands were raised by the United States until Billingslea arrived on the scene in May 2020, for good reason.

As Rose Gottemoeller, the lead U.S. New START negotiator, has written, the treaty “contains detailed, streamlined procedures that make inspections reliable in confirming information that the Russians provide to the United States, and, of course, vice versa.”

Billingslea also rejects Russia’s suggestion that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and growing strategic missile defense capabilities should be on the negotiating table. In addition, he says Washington rejects Moscow’s long-standing insistence that if China joins future arms control talks, France and the United Kingdom should also be involved.

Not surprisingly, Russia is not budging. Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sept. 21, “[T]here are no grounds for making any deal in the format proposed by our Washington colleagues. We believe that the...[U.S.] preconditions for extending the New START...do not include any positive elements.”

Russia can and should adjust its long-standing terms for a New START follow-on agreement, but it is naive to think President Vladimir Putin, on the eve of U.S. elections, would agree to unilateral concessions in the hope that Trump might agree to a short-term extension of New START.

In the event of a Biden victory in November, he would have just 16 days after Inauguration Day to reach agreement with Russia on its offer of a clean extension of New START “and use that as a foundation for new arms control agreements.” In that case, it is imperative that Washington and Moscow move swiftly to secure a five-year extension.

No matter who occupies the White House, the sensible path forward is a clean extension of New START and pursuit of follow-on discussions and agreements to address unconstrained nuclear warheads, non-nuclear weapons that impact strategic stability, and the inclusion of other nuclear-armed states in the arms control process.

The Trump administration, which to this point has only dismantled nuclear risk reduction agreements, wants you to believe that its 11th-hour arms control offer to Russia is a reasonable policy that Putin could accept “tomorrow.” On closer examination, it is a losing strategy for Trump, for the United States, and for the world.

For the first three and a half years of President Donald Trump’s term in office, he and his team have dithered and delayed on nuclear arms control matters.

CTBTO Begins Leadership Selection Process

October 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

Divisions among states-parties to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) are creating uncertainty as nations work to select the next leader of the treaty’s implementing body. Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso is in the final nine months of his second four-year term at the helm of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), and treaty members intend to select the organization’s next executive secretary at their semiannual meeting on Nov. 25-27. Normally a delicate political undertaking, this year’s selection process is further complicated by questions over which states-parties are eligible to vote, given that many are behind in paying their CTBTO financial dues.

Robert Floyd, director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office, has been nominated to lead the CTBTO. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)The process for formal nomination of candidates began Sept. 16 and will close Oct. 9. So far, one candidate, from Australia, has formally been nominated to lead the organization. Additional candidates are expected to come forward before the October deadline, according to diplomats in Vienna.

The executive secretary leads the 260-person organization’s work in building up and operating the treaty’s global verification regime in preparation for the treaty’s entry into force, as well as promoting its universality and entry into force. The Vienna-based organization has an annual budget of $128 million, which comes from member state contributions assessed on the UN dues scale.

More than a quarter-century after its conclusion, the CTBT has not entered into force due to the failure of eight holdout states that have failed to sign or ratify the treaty: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. But the CTBTO International Monitoring System (IMS) is more than 90 percent complete, and its International Data Center is fully operational.

In the run-up to the latest meeting of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, which began on June 25, the commission chair, Faouzia Mebarki of Algeria, consulted with states-parties on the election process. On June 12, Mebarki sent a note to Zerbo asking about his “availability to serve for another term.” On June 24, Zerbo indicated he would be available “to serve for another term” if member states so chose.

When the chair announced this just two days later, some states were surprised by the announcement. Although it was not a formal proposal to do so, a few delegations were concerned this was an effort to bypass a more open process, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the proceedings.

The European Union, in a June 26 statement, noted that “nothing in the applicable rules prevents the current executive secretary…from running for a third term in a fair, transparent, and competitive process.”

Zerbo, a geophysicist by training, has a long history with the CTBTO. He first joined the organization in 2004 to head its International Data Center (IDC), and he was chosen to be executive secretary in 2013. Since then, he has led work to complete the monitoring and verification system, including by bringing key monitoring stations in China online, strengthening the connections between the CTBTO and the global scientific community. He has also overseen efforts to provide access to IMS data products for member states in real time to assist with tsunami early warnings, responses to North Korean nuclear tests, and other applications.

The potential for a third term was received positively by several delegations as a way to provide continuity during a challenging time for the CTBTO amid the COVID-19 pandemic and disagreements between major nuclear powers. In a July 6 statement posted online, Alexey Karpov, Russia’s deputy permanent representative in Vienna, said “it would be the most painless decision, oriented for consolidation rather than division of member states.”

Several other key member states, however, expressed different views. In a June 25 statement, the U.S. delegation, in understated terms, expressed its opposition to reappointing Zerbo. “The United States generally does not favor more than two terms for the head of an international organization,” the statement said, reiterating the U.S. accusation that Russia has engaged in activities inconsistent with the treaty’s zero-yield standard.

According to sources familiar with the Preparatory Commission discussions, some EU states, including Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, also oppose a third term for Zerbo, as do other notable countries such as Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Australia, historically a strong supporter of the CTBT, has put forward Robert Floyd as its own candidate for the executive secretary position. He is currently the director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), which implements the CTBT, Australia’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty safeguards and physical security commitments, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, and Australia’s 25 bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements. As head of ANSO, Floyd oversees operation of Australia’s 23 IMS facilities.

“A successful candidature would build on Australia's continuing commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and would be the first appointment from the Indo-Pacific, a region that was the scene of so much nuclear weapons testing in the past,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in a Sept. 18 press statement.

States-parties will resume consultations on Oct. 8. As of press time, Zerbo’s name has not been formally put forward into nomination.

One key factor that may affect decisions regarding additional candidates and the selection process itself will be which countries will have a vote on the matter.

As of July, some 73 CTBTO member states had not fully discharged their financial obligations to the CTBTO, which has resulted in the withholding of their voting rights. With this in mind, the Group of 77 and China said in their June 25 statement that “the inclusive participation of all state signatories in the election process is essential for the legitimacy of the entire process.”

Other states, primarily from Europe, countered that allowing voting by states-parties that have not fulfilled their financial obligations would set a bad precedent.

Unpaid dues are a chronic problem for many intergovernmental organizations that depend on a prorated system of contributions from member states. The problem has become more acute this year as many countries’ economies have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several delegations, including Australia, the EU, Japan, and Russia have said the issue could affect the organization's financial stability and urged all states to fully pay their assessed dues.

After considerable debate and unable to reach agreement on the selection process or eligibility, the June commission meeting was suspended to allow for further consultations in July to try to resolve the matter. The Preparatory Commission meeting was reconvened on July 10, 20, and 24 to reach an agreement on procedures for the executive secretary election, including on how to decide whether states in arrears will be allowed to vote.

According to the final report of the June-July meeting, it was decided that states must meet their financial obligations to the CTBTO by Sept. 15 to be able to vote and put forward a candidate, but exceptions for certain circumstances will be allowed for “conditions beyond the control of the state signatory.” Consideration will be given to states who are making progress toward their annual assessed contribution or to states, such as Iran, who have negotiated a payment plan to meet their financial obligations.

As of Sept. 13, 17 states had made partial payments toward their current-year assessment, a group that includes smaller states such as Côte d'Ivoire and Niue and wealthier states including South Korea and the United States. A group of 65 states, including the Marshall Islands, which was subjected to atmospheric nuclear testing by the United States; Yemen; and even wealthier countries such as Brazil are in financial arrears with voting rights suspended. To date, only 79 of the treaty’s 184 states-parties have fully paid their assessed contributions.

Sources indicate that more than 30 states in arrears have filed for exceptions in order to be granted voting rights for the executive secretary selection process.

On Sept. 10, the African Group issued a joint statement calling on all state signatories to make efforts “within their means, to meet their financial obligations” and for the Preparatory Commission to grant voting rights to countries that are unable to pay their contributions due to factors outside their control.

As CTBTO member states wrangle over difficult procedural and financial matters, there are bigger issues looming on the horizon that may affect the broader CTBT regime: the slow pace of progress toward entry into force, the possibility that North Korea may soon decide to end its unilateral nuclear testing moratorium, the Trump administration’s discussions about the resumption of nuclear tests and possible withdrawal from the CTBT, and unresolved accusations from Washington about Russian violations of the treaty.


Financial difficulties among the nuclear test ban treaty’s states-parties are complicating efforts to select the next leader of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

U.S. Reinterprets MTCR Rules

September 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

The Trump administration announced on July 24 that it would unilaterally reinterpret how the United States will implement the 35-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in order to expedite sales of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to other countries. The move, which has been widely expected for some time, follows years of lobbying from major U.S. weapons manufacturers to allow more rapid export of large drones to a wider array of potential buyers. (See ACT, July/August 2020.)

A U.S. Air Force Predator drone armed with a Hellfire missile lands at a secret air base after flying a mission in the Persian Gulf region in January 2016. The Trump administration has announced a new interpretation of international export control guidelines to allow more U.S. sales of such weapons. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)The MTCR divides weapons into two categories. Exports of Category I systems, including cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft that have a range of at least 300 kilometers and the ability to carry a payload of at least 500 kilograms, are subject to a “strong presumption of denial.”

The revised U.S. policy will reinterpret how the MTCR applies to drones that travel at speeds under 800 kilometers per hour, such as the Predator and Reaper drones, which are made by General Atomics, and the Global Hawk drone, which is made by Northrop Grumman. “The U.S. government will treat a carefully selected subset of MTCR Category I [unmanned aerial systems (UAS)] with maximum airspeed less than 800 kilometers per hour as Category II,” according to a State Department fact sheet on the new policy.

In a statement, R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said, “We think this kind of reform is necessary in order to respond to a rapidly changing technological environment. With the growing proliferation of [the] technology, particularly by China, coupled with a growing demand for UAS for both military and commercial applications, we need to adjust U.S. policies to address U.S. national security concerns.”

“Not only do these outdated standards give an unfair advantage to countries outside of the MTCR and hurt United States industry, they also hinder our deterrence capability abroad by handicapping our partners and allies with subpar technology,” according to a White House statement on July 24.

The controversial move has been anticipated for weeks and has drawn criticism from several quarters. A chief concern is that the new U.S. interpretation of the MTCR, which depends on voluntary compliance, will prompt other missile- and drone-producing states to sidestep MTCR guidelines and weaken their value.

“This decision undermines a global regime, allows others to ignore international restraints, and focuses on economic benefits over U.S. national security, foreign policy and human rights concerns,” Rachel Stohl, a managing director at the Stimson Center and a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, told Reuters on July 24.

“The policy change will not give the United States more access to markets that the Chinese or Israelis already dominate,” Stohl told GovExec the same day. “The global market is increasingly focused on smaller UAVs, where Category I restraints do not apply. The decision further complicates U.S. relationships with multilateral regimes and further isolates the United States from its closest allies.”

“This reckless decision once again makes it more likely that we will export some of our most deadly weaponry to human rights abusers across the world,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in a press statement.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have bitterly complained that the Trump administration has sought to bypass congressional oversight of weapons transfers, and they have tried to block some major arms sales to states with subpar human rights records.

Among the states that could benefit from the new Trump policy on the MTCR are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have been denied requests to acquire U.S.-built drones capable of carrying large payloads. These two countries have also been found to be guilty of air strikes against civilian targets in their proxy war in Yemen, which has led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths and famine in that country.

The MTCR has been a key element for decades in U.S. and international efforts to try to constrain global exports of missile technology to nations considered to be nuclear proliferation threats, such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea.


Seeking to export more drones, the Trump administration has loosened export restrictions.

Nuclear Ban Treaty Nears 50th Ratification

September 2020

Four nations used the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to announce their ratification of the 2017 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The ratifications by Ireland, Nigeria, and Niue, announced on Aug. 6, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, announced on Aug. 9, bring the number of states ratifying the accord to 44. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after the 50th state deposits its instrument of ratification. To date, 82 states have signed the treaty.

The TPNW is the first international instrument to comprehensively ban the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons. All states-parties engaging in these activities are bound to submit and implement a plan to divest themselves completely of nuclear weapons upon ratification.

At an Aug. 6 event to mark the new ratifications, Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica, who presided over the negotiations on the treaty, called for renewed determination to ensure that no other city suffers the same as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She noted that “the presence in the room of the hibakusha ensured that we wouldn’t leave the room without completing the task.”

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, the current president of the UN General Assembly, called on “all member states to sign and ratify [the TPNW]. We must prevent such destruction from ever happening again.”

Treaty supporters hope to secure the additional ratifications necessary to bring the treaty into force by the end of 2020. More states are expected to ratify the treaty next month as the United Nations on Sept. 26 marks the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

Nuclear Ban Treaty Nears 50th Ratification


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