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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Daryl Kimball

Nuclear Ban States Solidify 2017 Treaty

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Strongly Condemn Recent Threats of Use of Nuclear Weapons As Violation of International Law

For Immediate Release: June 24, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington/Vienna)— At their first formal meeting since entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), states parties meeting in Vienna this week formally agreed on a series of 50 action steps to implement the 2017 agreement and condemned recent threats of use of nuclear weapons as a violation of international law.

In the statement, dubbed the “Vienna Declaration,” the governments condemn all threats to use nuclear weapons as violations of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations,” citing "increasingly strident nuclear rhetoric.” The document also demanded, “that all nuclear-armed states never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances.”

The conference's condemnation of threats of nuclear weapons use is a direct response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's threats of nuclear use against any who might interfere in Russia's war against Ukraine.

"The Vienna Declaration is the strongest statement against the threat of nuclear weapons use since Russia's war against Ukraine began and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued threats of possible use of nuclear weapons against any who might interfere," noted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. "It is a much stronger condemnation of these nuclear threats than any statements from the leaders of the United States, Britain, or France, by the UN General Assembly, and any consensus statement that is likely to emerge from the forthcoming 10th Review Conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).” 

In the document, the states parties condemned “unequivocally any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances. Far from preserving peace and security, nuclear weapons are used to coerce and intimidate; to facilitate aggression and inflame tensions. This highlights the fallacy of nuclear deterrence doctrines, which are based and rely on the threat of the actual use of nuclear weapons and, hence, the risks of the destruction of countless lives, of societies, of nations, and of inflicting global catastrophic consequences.”

To date, 89 states have signed the TPNW. Sixty-five states have ratified and another 24 have signed the treaty, which prohibits the possession, development, transfer, testing, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Eighty-three countries participated in the first meeting of states parties in Vienna from 21 to 23 June 2022, including observer states.

Kimball, who was a participant in the first meeting of TPNW states parties, also spoke at the June 20 Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons about the “Nuclear Risk Dimension of the War on Ukraine.”

In addition to the Vienna Declaration, dozens of states parties strongly condemned the recent nuclear threats by President Vladimir Putin against any state that might interfere with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in their national statements.

“We commend the four NATO member states, including Germany and the Netherlands, who chose to attend the meeting as observers and who pledged to engage ‘in constructive dialogue and exploring opportunities for practical cooperation’ with TPNW states,” Kimball said.

The TPNW meeting also underscored the strong support states parties for the NPT and the complementarity between the two treaties.

“The next global gathering about nuclear weapons will take place in August at the 10th NPT Review Conference,” Kimball noted. “It is no ordinary NPT review conference. States must act with urgency and boldness.”

“In the face of the growing danger of nuclear war, the 191 NPT states-parties must build on the TPNW meeting outcomes by reinforcing the norms against nuclear weapons, condemning any threat of nuclear weapons use, and agreeing to specific actions necessary to fulfill the treaty’s Article VI disarmament provision. This should include an explicit call upon the United States and Russia to begin negotiations to conclude new disarmament arrangements, and a call for all NPT nuclear-armed states to freeze their nuclear stockpiles, and agree to engage in disarmament negotiations,” Kimball suggested.

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At their first formal meeting since entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, states parties formally agreed on action steps to implement the 2017 agreement and condemned recent threats of use of nuclear weapons.

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The Nuclear Risk Dimension of the War On Ukraine

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Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball
Executive Director, Arms Control Association
June 20, 2022

“No matter who tries to stand in our way ... they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history ....” Russian President Vladimir Putin, February 24

"If someone wants to interfere in the situation in Ukraine from the outside and creates an unacceptable threat of a strategic nature for Russia, the response will be lightning-fast, decisions on this matter have been made,” Mr. Putin said at a meeting with members of the Council of Legislators April 27.

"Russia's response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences that you have never faced in your history. We are ready for any development of events," the Russian president added. He said that Russia has all the tools for this, "such as no one can boast of now. We will use them, if necessary," Vladimir Putin warned.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, along with his implied threats of nuclear weapons use against any who would interfere, have raised the specter of a nuclear conflict in ways we have not experienced in the post-Cold War era.

  • Russia’s war on Ukraine and the ongoing possibility of military conflict between Russian and NATO forces have significantly increased the risk of nuclear weapons use.
     
  • Unlike the extremely dangerous 13-day-long Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, the war in Ukraine, will likely last many more months. And unlike the 1962 crisis, which did not involve a sustained exchange of fire, the war in Ukraine does. As a result, the world will remain in a condition of heightened nuclear danger for some time to come.
     
  • President Putin’s statements threatening possible nuclear use, and his announcement early in the conflict that he was raising the readiness level of Russian strategic nuclear forces, are designed to ward off outside military interference by U.S. and NATO forces in his attack on Ukraine.
     
  • From a legal perspective, the International Court of Justice unanimously determined in its 1996 advisory opinion that a threat to engage in nuclear weapons use, particularly under the circumstances suggested by Mr. Putin, is contrary to international humanitarian law, and, of course, the threat to use nuclear weapons, violates the UN Charter, and under any circumstance, is prohibited by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
     
  • Putin’s threats also violate Article II of the 1973 bilateral Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, which pledged the United States and Russia to “refrain from the threat or use of force against the other Party, against the allies of the other Party and against other countries, in circumstances which may endanger international peace and security.”
     
  • So far, President Joe Biden has not engaged in inflammatory nuclear rhetoric or raised the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces. U.S. and NATO leaders have made it clear their military forces will not directly enter the conflict. Nevertheless, the risk of escalation is real. A close encounter between NATO and Russian warplanes or an attack by Russia on NATO territory or vice versa could become a flashpoint for a wider conflict.
     
  • Because Russian and U.S. strategies reserve the option—under extreme circumstances—to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear threats, fighting could quickly go nuclear. Russian nuclear doctrine states that nuclear weapons can be used in response to an attack with weapons of mass destruction or if a conventional war threatens the “very existence of the state.” Right now, these conditions do not exist. But if the Kremlin believes a serious attack on Russia is underway, it might order the use of short-range, tactical nuclear weapons to tip the military balance in its favor. Such a scenario would seem unlikely, but it cannot be ruled out.

    U.S. President Joe Biden’s new Nuclear Posture Review states that the “fundamental role” of the U.S. arsenal will be to deter nuclear attacks while still leaving open the option for nuclear first use in “extreme circumstances” to counter conventional, biological, chemical, and possibly cyberattacks.
     
  • In addition to the possibility of an escalation of the fighting beyond the borders of Ukraine to involve NATO and Russian forces and territory, there is the potential, albeit small this time, that Russia might consider the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine itself. In April, CIA Director William Burns said that although there is no sign that Russia is preparing to do so, “none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons."
     
  • Since then, Russian officials have denied there is any intention to do so because the Russian state is clearly not under imminent threat from either Ukraine or NATO. But if the Kremlin thought an attack from the United States or NATO was underway or if the Kremlin finds that Russian forces are on the verge of a catastrophic defeat in Ukraine, Putin might consider the nuclear option, perhaps beginning with the use of short-range, “tactical” nuclear weapons, to try to tip the balance in Russia’s military favor or to try to end the conflict.
     
  • Once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict, particularly between nuclear-armed adversaries, we are in completely uncharted territory. Theories that a nuclear war can be “limited” are just theories. In practice and in the fog of nuclear war, once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict involving the United States and Russia, there is no guarantee it would not quickly become an all-out nuclear conflagration. A recent Princeton Program on Science and Global Security simulation estimates the use of nuclear weapons in war between NATO and Russian forces could lead to the death and injury of nearly 100 million people in just the first few hours. As the head of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten said in 2018 after the annual Global Thunder nuclear wargame: “It ends bad. And the bad meaning it ends with global nuclear war.”
     
  • Nuclear threats and alerts of various kinds were not uncommon during the Cold War, before the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and after. But Russia’s implied nuclear threats to shield an attack by a nuclear-armed state against a non-nuclear-weapon state is unprecedented—and unacceptable—in the post-Cold War era. And since the Soviet Union dissolved, no U.S. or Russian leader has raised the alert level of nuclear forces to try to coerce a potential nuclear adversary’s behavior.
     
  • Such actions are dangerous for all sides. Nuclear threat rhetoric and orders to raise the operational readiness of Russian or U.S. nuclear forces could be also misinterpreted in ways that lead the other side to make nuclear countermoves that trigger nuclear escalatory moves, fears of an imminent attack, and potentially nuclear weapons use.
     
  • We must also understand that another feature of the war is that Russia is “using” its nuclear weapons to provide cover for a major conventional military intervention against an independent, sovereign non-nuclear-weapon state. We must also recognize that this is not a uniquely Russian idea. Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said in February 2021 that “[w]e must acknowledge the foundational nature of our nation’s strategic nuclear forces, as they create the ‘maneuver space’ for us to project conventional military power strategically.”
     
  • Putin’s invasion also underscores the fact that nuclear weapons don’t prevent major wars. Rather, they can facilitate aggression by nuclear-armed states and make wars waged by nuclear-armed states far more dangerous—especially when nuclear-armed states become pitted against one another and there is an increased risk of miscalculation and miscommunication.
     
  • Of course, Russia’s 2014 occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and its more recent invasion violates the security assurances extended to Ukraine in 1994 by the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States through the Budapest Memorandum—and makes a mockery of the negative security assurances extended to nonnuclear weapons states in the context of the NPT.
     
  • NATO countries may argue that because Russia has not attacked a NATO member, this shows the utility of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. In reality, U.S. and NATO nuclear weapons have proven to be useless in preventing Russian aggression against Ukraine.

    Instead, Ukraine’s allies and friends have responded with political, economic, and diplomatic means to help defend Ukraine and thwart the aggressor, along with military and humanitarian assistance to help Ukraine defend its territory. Even for a state or alliance possessing a robust nuclear arsenal, conventional military capabilities are key to deterring conventional attacks and to battlefield success, or failure.
     
  • Russia’s explicit nuclear threats, which President Biden and other leaders have criticized as “irresponsible,” also create a dilemma for NATO, which is a self-declared nuclear alliance that depends on maintaining the credible threat of nuclear use.

    The more NATO emphasizes the value of nuclear deterrence and the value of possessing nuclear weapons, the more legitimacy it lends to Putin’s nuclear threats and the mistaken and dangerous belief that nuclear weapons are necessary for self-defense. As Pope Francis declared in 2017: “[Nuclear weapons] exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race [and] create nothing but a false sense of security.”

Finally, the conflict has derailed the “Strategic Stability Dialogue” between Washington and Moscow that was intended to lead to negotiations on new nuclear arms reduction agreements designed to supersede the New START agreement, which will expire in early 2026.

In a statement issued to the Arms Control Association on June 2, President Biden said: “Our progress must continue beyond the New START …” But it remains unclear whether and when the U.S.-Russian dialogue will resume, let alone whether they can reach agreement on capping or further reducing their bloated arsenals beyond 2026.

As a result, neither side can say they are meeting their legally binding nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations under Article VI of the treaty, and it is more likely than not that after 2026, there will be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles—something the world has not seen in more than five decades.

Response Options: As the war drags on, it is vital that Russian, NATO, and U.S. leaders maintain lines of communication to prevent direct conflict. They must refrain from threatening nuclear rhetoric and actions that increase the risk of nuclear escalation, such as moving to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, putting strategic weapons on higher alert levels, or developing new types of nuclear weapons designed for fighting and “winning” a regional nuclear war.

In particular, the international community needs to take stronger action to strengthen the legal and political norms against nuclear weapons use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons.

We must also press the nuclear-armed states to finally take the actions necessary to fulfill their commitments to verifiably reduce and eliminate their nuclear weapons and adopt non-nuclear approaches to defense that can more effectively preserve international peace and human security.

The March 2 vote in the General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion and Putin’s decision to increase the readiness of his nuclear forces, was important but is not sufficient. We should recall that the UNGA issued a declaration in November 1961 that said that “any state using nuclear…weapons is to be considered as violating the Charter of the UN, as acting contrary to the laws of humanity and as committing a crime against mankind and civilization.”

The first meeting of states parties to the TPNW is a crucial and timely opportunity to reinforce the norms against nuclear weapons. States attending the 10th NPT Review Conference must also seek to reinforce the norm against nuclear use and nuclear threats and steer the nuclear possessor states away from nuclear confrontation and arms racing and toward a resumption of disarmament negotiations.

Bottom Lines: The nuclear dimensions of the war on Ukraine are reminders that outdated nuclear deterrence policies create unacceptable risks. If we are to eliminate the danger, we must actively reinforce the legal prohibitions and norms against nuclear weapons development, testing, possession, proliferation, and use—and press for disarmament diplomacy that leads to concrete actions that put us on the path toward the complete, irreversible, and verifiable elimination of all nuclear weapons in our lifetimes.

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Experts Call on Biden to Redouble Diplomacy to Restore 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal

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IAEA Director-General Warns “Fatal Blow” to Agreement Could Be 3 to 4 Weeks Away

For Immediate Release: June 10, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—Experts from the Arms Control Association strongly urge President Joseph Biden to immediately redouble efforts to break the stalemate on talks to restore compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi warned that efforts to restore the JCPOA will face a “fatal blow” within three to four weeks, after Iran announced June 9 that it was disconnecting certain cameras monitoring key nuclear facilities.

“President Biden clearly supports a restoration of mutual compliance with the JCPOA as the best way to roll back Iran’s potential to produce bomb-grade nuclear material and maintain more stringent International Atomic Energy Agency oversight of Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities,” noted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “And it is.”

“Unfortunately, the Biden administration has not treated the growing crisis, which was triggered by former President Trump’s irresponsible withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, with the necessary degree of urgency it deserves,” he charged. “In the wake of new disturbing developments, however, the White House must take immediate action.”

This week, Iran disconnected 27 cameras monitoring key nuclear facilities in retaliation for an IAEA Board of Governors resolution urging Iran to cooperate with the agency on its investigation of undeclared nuclear materials from the pre-2003 nuclear weapons program. The IAEA risks losing its continuity of knowledge about Iran’s nuclear activities—which is necessary for restoring the JCPOA—if the cameras remain disconnected for more than 3-4 weeks, Grossi warned June 9.

“A deal to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is on the table and could be quickly implemented—if the United States and Iran move away from hardline positions on the non-nuclear issue blocking agreement: whether and under what conditions to lift a U.S. foreign terrorist organization (FTO) designation on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy.

“It is past time for both sides to resolve that impasse and finally deliver on what is in the interest of all sides: an agreement to restore compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal,” she said.

“The Biden Administration continues to argue that it is up to Iran to accept the deal or negotiate over the IRGC designation. But it is a failure of leadership on the part of the White House not to announce it will immediately intensify diplomatic efforts to break the impasse on the issue. And blaming Iran, however emotionally or politically satisfying that may seem to be, doesn’t avert the imminent nuclear crisis and it doesn’t advance U.S. national security interests” Kimball said.

"Biden will pay a small political cost for lifting sanctions on the IRGC, but it pales in comparison to the enormous national and international security threat of a nuclear-armed Iran," Davenport said.

“Currently, Iran could produce enough nuclear material for a bomb in less than 10 days—a window so short Tehran’s actions may not be detected by international inspectors. Restoring the JCPOA’s limits on Iran’s nuclear program will significantly increase that margin to about six months, which provides the international community with enough time to take effective action to counter any Iranian move toward a nuclear weapon,” Davenport said. 

“If President Biden fails to promptly conclude negotiations with Iran to restore the JCPOA, it would perpetuate the failed strategy pursued by the Trump administration and allow Iran to further expand its nuclear program and defy its safeguards obligations with the IAEA. Biden risks going down in history as the president that allowed Iran to reach the brink of a nuclear bomb. It is past time the United States doubled down on creative proposals to break the impasse,” she warned. 

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Experts from the Arms Control Association are calling on President Biden to immediately redouble stalled diplomatic efforts to restore compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which is facing what the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director-General says could be a “fatal blow” within three to four weeks.

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Reinforcing Nuclear Taboos and Jumpstarting Disarmament Diplomacy

Inside the Arms Control Association June 2022 At our June 2, 2022, Arms Control Association Annual Meeting , our all-star array of panelists and speakers, along with video messages from special guests, underscored the enduring value of persistent smart civil society efforts to deliver information, solutions, and pressure on policymakers to reduce and eventually eliminate the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons. More than 140 friends and members attended the meeting, which was held at the National Press Club, and more than 400 viewed the live webcast. Our discussions made it clear...

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