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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

No Winners in a Nuclear Arms Race, Mr. Trump

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Our response to comments by President Trump on New START

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(Washington, DC) -- In an interview with Reuters published today, President Donald Trump said he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the "top of the pack," saying the United States has fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity and he said he thinks the 2010 New START agreement is “one-sided.”

Mr. Trump’s comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons.

The history of the Cold War shows us that no one comes out on “top of the pack” of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship. President Trump needs to work with Russia's President Putin to build down, not build up their excessive nuclear arsenals and stop stirring up nuclear tensions. 

New START Data Exchange Number for Deployed Warheads and Deployed Delivery Vehicles (February 2017)In reality, New START has advanced U.S. and global interests by lowering and capping the two nation’s excessive strategic deployed nuclear arsenals, both of which remained poised on "launch-under-attack" alert status, meaning that thousands of nuclear weapons could be launched by the U.S. and Russian leaders within minutes of a presidential order.

Discarding New START would irresponsibly free Russia of any limits on its strategic nuclear arsenal and would terminate the inspections that provide the United States with significant additional transparency about Russian strategic nuclear forces.

A wide-range of U.S. national security leaders from, including Mr. Trump’s own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, support New START. 

With up to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons allowed under New START and no limits on the tactical nuclear weapons possessed by each side, Russia and the United States have far more weapons than is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by any other nuclear-armed country. Neither the United States nor Russia comes out of the treaty “ahead” or “behind.” 

Currently, Russia deploys 1,796 strategic warheads, the United States 1,367, but the United States deploys 681 strategic delivery vehicles (ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers) to Russia’s 508, giving the United States a substantially greater warhead upload potential. 

Both countries will be required to meet the New START limits by February 2018. The agreement expires in 2021 but the two leaders could extend the treaty for another five years and take parallel, reciprocal steps to achieve further nuclear reductions.

In 2013, President Barack Obama, with input from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other elements of the national security establishment, determined that the United States can reduce its nuclear force by another one-third below New START levels and still meet U.S. deterrence requirements.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile, 1962-2017Further nuclear reductions would reduce the price—estimated at $400 billion over 10 years by the Congressional Budget Office—to replace the U.S. arsenal at current levels. Expanding the U.S. arsenal with new or additional nuclear weapons would cost billions more.

The five most recent U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, all negotiated agreements with Russia to reduce their nuclear stockpiles. 

In his final news conference as president, Barack Obama noted that if incoming President Donald Trump can restart the stalled U.S.-Russian dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction measures in a serious way, “… there remains a lot of room for both countries to reduce our nuclear stockpiles.” 

Mr. Trump must get smart and avoid reckless statements or actions that upend decades of successful efforts to reduce bloated nuclear arsenals and renew dangerous U.S. and Russian nuclear competition.  

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Posted: February 23, 2017

Russia Must Immediately Resolve INF Treaty Noncompliance Issue

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Press Release: Russia Must Immediately Resolve INF Treaty Noncompliance Issue

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For Immediate Release: February 14, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 105

(Washington, DC)—The New York Times report based on U.S. government sources that Russia has allegedly deployed an operational unit of ground launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) that violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is extremely troubling and requires the immediate attention of senior policymakers in Moscow and Washington.

According to the report, Russia has not only tested noncompliant systems but has apparently deployed INF Treaty noncompliant missiles, a breach of a key cornerstone of the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control architecture that helped to halt and reverse the Cold War-era nuclear arms race and remove a significant threat to Europe.

General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in Washington, DC, December 8, 1987 (Photo:Wikimedia)The INF Treaty required the United States and the then-Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

We call on Russia to immediately decommission the noncompliant missiles systems and return to compliance with the INF Treaty.

We also urge President Donald Trump and administration officials to reiterate U.S. support for the agreement and convene another meeting of the treaty's Special Verification Commission (SVC) to address and resolve the compliance issues.

The SVC was convened in November 2016 at the request of the United States for the purpose of addressing U.S. charges that Russia had conducted several tests of the INF Treaty prohibited system.

We also call upon the administration to seek new ways to provide further details about the nature of the Russian violation, particularly to U.S. allies threatened by the missiles. 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.

Retaliating to Russia's violation by withdrawing from the INF Treaty, or stopping U.S. implementation of the successful 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), would be counterproductive and self-defeating.

A wide-range of U.S. national security leaders, as well as U.S. military officials, continue to assess that New START remains squarely in the U.S. national interest and that terminating or withdrawing from the agreement would undermine U.S. security.

Without continued U.S. support for existing nuclear 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.

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 INF Treaty noncompliant 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.

RESOURCES:
1) The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at a Glance (February 2017)
2) U.S., Russia Discuss INF Disputes (Arms Control Today, December 2016)

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Posted: February 14, 2017

Trump Ill-Informed About Value of U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty

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In his first call with President Putin, Trump denounced the 2010 New START agreement despite not being aware of what the treaty was.

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(Washington, DC)—According to an exclusive Reuters story published this afternoon, President Donald Trump denounced the landmark 2010 New START agreement in his first telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reuters also reported that when Putin raised the option of extending New START, Mr. Trump had to ask his aides what the treaty was.

Signing of Russian-US Treaty on Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. With US President Barack Obama, April 2010. (Photo: Office of the President of Russia)The 2010 New START agreement has advanced U.S. and global interests by lowering and capping the two nation’s excessive strategic deployed nuclear arsenals, both of which remained poised on launch-under-attack alert status, meaning that thousands of nuclear weapons could be launched by the U.S. and Russian leaders within minutes of the go order.

The most important responsibility of any American president is to reduce nuclear dangers and to avoid nuclear catastrophe. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump appears to be clueless about the value of this key nuclear risk reduction treaty and the unique dangers of nuclear weapons.

A wide-range of U.S. national security leaders, as well as U.S. military officials, continue to assess that New START remains squarely in the U.S. national interest and that terminating or withdrawing from the agreement would undermine U.S. security. Ending New START would irresponsibly free Russia of any limits on its strategic nuclear arsenal and terminate the inspections that provide us with significant additional transparency about Russian strategic nuclear forces.

It has been longstanding U.S. policy to seek to further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy. The five most recent U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, negotiated agreements with Russia to reduce their nuclear stockpiles. During his confirmation hearing last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his support for New START and continued engagement with Russia and other nuclear-armed countries on seeking further verifiable reductions of nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Trump and his team must get smart about New START and the unique dangers of nuclear weapons. Before the end of his term in office, Trump will need to decide whether to invite Russia to extend New START for another five years and/or negotiate a new arms reduction treaty.

The United States and Russia should work together to build down, not build up. With up to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons allowed under the 2010 New START agreement and no limits on the tactical nuclear weapons possessed by each side, Russia and the United States have far more weapons than is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by another nuclear-armed country.

Further nuclear reductions would also save both countries tens of billions of dollars in their ongoing programs to replace their current arsenals and would strengthen global nonproliferation and nuclear risk reduction efforts.

In 2013, President Barack Obama, with input from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other elements of the national security establishment, determined that the United States can reduce its nuclear force by another one-third below New START levels and still meet deterrence requirements.

As President Obama said in his last news conference Jan. 18 “… there remains a lot of room for both countries to reduce our nuclear stockpiles.”

RESOURCES:

  1. U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START (February 2017)
  2. Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START (October 2016)
  3. New Report Calls for Russia and the West to Move Back from the Brink (June 2016) 
  4. New START at a Glance (August 2012)

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Posted: February 9, 2017

Recalibrating U.S. Policy Toward North Korea

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The new administration has a narrow window to shift U.S. policy toward North Korea in ways that halt its nuclear activities.

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Volume 9, Issue 1, February 2017

North Korea’s advancing nuclear and ballistic missile program is one of the most serious national security challenges that Donald Trump faces as president. The new administration has a narrow window of opportunity to recalibrate U.S. policy toward North Korea and seek a lasting arrangement that halts and then ultimately rolls back Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a coastal defense unit on Mahap Islet in this undated photo released by the official Korean Central News Agency on November 11, 2016. (Photo credit: KNS/AFP/Getty Images)Currently, North Korea is assessed to have the capability to deliver a warhead on a short- or medium-range ballistic missile, threatening allies and U.S. troops in the region. But if North Korea remains on its current trajectory, it could soon begin testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and deploy the system within the next decade, which would pose a direct threat to the continental United States and upset the security situation in East Asia.

A concerted diplomatic effort aimed first at freezing North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing, followed by negotiations designed to roll back Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, will be difficult and may not succeed. However, when compared to other policy options, it stands the best chance of halting North Korea’s program.

The Obama administration’s policy toward North Korea, known as ‘strategic patience,’ failed to halt Pyongyang’s illicit nuclear and missile activities. The strategic patience approach involved increasing sanctions pressure on North Korea and returning to negotiations only after Pyongyang took steps toward denuclearization, which it committed to in the Six Party Talks with the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan in 2005.

The onerous preconditions in the Obama administration’s policy approach, coupled with the failure to provide sufficient incentives, prevented the resumption of negotiations with North Korea. Instead, over the past eight years, North Korea expanded its stockpile of weapons-usable nuclear material, conducted four nuclear tests, and accelerated its missile activities.

North Korea’s leadership is likely waiting for Washington to signal what its approach will be. They will not likely wait long. The Financial Times reported February 1 that the White House launched a review of its North Korea policy.

A new U.S. policy that first seeks to resume negotiations, followed by pressure if North Korea scuttles diplomatic efforts, is still no guarantee of success. But is the most promising approach.

North Korea’s Advancing Programs
North Korea is currently estimated to possess about 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough material for more than 10 warheads, and activities suggest that its stockpile will continue to expand.

Kim Jong-Un stated his intention to continue expanding the country’s nuclear arsenal. Most recently in his annual New Years address on Jan. 1, 2017, he said that North Korea "will continue to build up” its nuclear forces… as long as the United States and its vassal forces keep on nuclear threat and blackmail and as long as they do not stop their war games they stage at our doorstep disguising them as annual events.”

To that end, Pyongyang restarted its 5mw nuclear reactor at Yongbyong in August 2013, which has since operated intermittently. The reactor produced the plutonium that North Korea used for its nuclear program, but was shut down in 2007 as part of the Six Party Talks. Satellite imagery from 38 North, a site run by the U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) suggests that North Korea’s reprocessing facility, which separates plutonium for weapons from the reactor’s spent fuel, is also operating.

North Korea is also known to possess centrifuges, and may enrich uranium for weapons purposes. Based on estimates from North Korea’s known centrifuge facility, Pyongyang could have produced enough highly-enriched uranium for an estimated 6-8 warheads, bringing the total count to 16-18 as of late 2016. Independent experts assess that North Korea could have as many as 20-100 warheads by 2020.

It is highly likely that North Korea is also taking steps to refine its warhead design, both to increase the explosive yield and develop a miniaturized weapon that can be mounted on a ballistic missile.

After the February 2013 test, North Korea claimed it had tested a miniaturized device. Pyongyang announced after the January 2016 test that it exploded a hydrogen bomb. While it is extremely unlikely that Pyongyang did test a hydrogen bomb, North Korea may have tested a boosted fission device. Boosted fission increases the explosive yield of a warhead by using isotopes of hydrogen to increase the efficiency of the reaction. While the assertions that North Korea tested a miniaturized or boosted fission device cannot be ascertained with certainty, continued testing gives Pyongyang more information about the performance of its warheads.

North Korea’s missile testing activity also indicates that Pyongyang is taking steps to extend the range of its ballistic missiles and develop delivery options, including a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

In 2016, North Korea tested its Musudan missile eight times, the first tests of the missile since it was unveiled in 2010. The Musudan is a medium-range ballistic missile that experts assess could deliver a 650-kilogram payload over 1,200 kilometers. There is uncertainty about the range of the system, given there was only one successful test. However, a 1,200-kilometer range puts South Korea, Japan, and parts of China and Russia within range, but falls short of Guam. Although only one of the tests was a success, North Korea gained data relevant to the performance of the Mususdan and its longer-range systems.

North Korea is also taking steps to field SLBMs. John Schilling, an aerospace engineer, suggests that North Korea could initially field this capability in the second half of 2018. If North Korea can successfully field nuclear-tipped SLBMs, it would pose a regional threat, and could allow Pyongyang to evade the regional missile defense system set for deployment in South Korea. Given the nature of North Korea’s submarines and the estimated range of the SLBM, it is unlikely to pose an intercontinental threat.

Given North Korea’s continued production of fissile material and its ballistic missile activities, the threat posed by its nuclear program will continue to grow, unless checked.

“A New Approach” Toward North Korea
The new U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, recognized the need for a new approach to North Korea during his confirmation process. In a response to written questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson said that “North Korea is one of the leading threats to regional and global security. If confirmed, I will work closely with my interagency colleagues to develop a new approach to proactively address the multitude of threats that North Korea poses to its neighbors and the international community.”

Tillerson, however, provided little insight into what his approach will be. He mentioned working with regional partners to increase pressure on North Korea and further isolate the country. He also talked about the need for China to enforce UN sanctions and mentioned the possibility of secondary sanctions if Beijing does not enhance its compliance.

Steps such as increasing sanctions on North Korea or putting in place secondary sanctions for failure to implement UN measures, do not alone constitute a strategy that will halt North Korea’s advancing nuclear weapons program and ultimately roll it back. Indeed, pursing certain types of sanctions could have the opposite effect ­‑ secondary sanctions on China could alienate Beijing.

First and foremost, the Trump administration’s new policy should focus on signaling to Pyongyang that Washington is ready and willing to engage in serious negotiations without preconditions.

To start, the new administration should deliver a message directly and carefully to North Korea’s leadership that recalls positive statements that Pyongyang has made about negotiations over its nuclear program, such as to Pyongyang’s statement from July 2016 calling for denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula: “The denuclearization being called for by the DPRK is the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in south Korea and its vicinity.” This will also make clear that the United States remains committed to denuclearization as the end state in negotiations with Pyongyang.

The United States should also simultaneously reach out to states in the region to discuss the administration’s negotiating position and provide assurances that Washington remains committed to the security of its allies. Clear communication with China, given its close relationship with North Korea, will be particularly necessary. In the communication with President Xi, the United States should emphasize importance of China strictly enforcing existing sanctions, and the U.S. intent not to seek new sanctions as long as the North acts with restraint, including no nuclear and missile flight tests.

If North Korea is willing to negotiate, initial talks should focus on obtaining a moratorium to prevent additional nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The advantage of pursuing a testing freeze is that it would prevent North Korea from continuing to advance its capabilities, halting progress toward an ICBM and an SLBM capability.

The United States will need to be prepared to put something on the table in return for North Korea’s commitment to freeze nuclear and missile tests. After consultations with Seoul, Washington might consider scaling-back or delaying its annual joint military exercises with South Korea. The United States could also commit not to take actions viewed by North Korea as deliberately threatening, such as flying nuclear-capable bombers over the Korean peninsula.

The advantage of putting military exercises on the table is that they can easily be scaled back up if North Korea breaks the agreement and conducts a test. Monitoring for nuclear and missile tests also does not require inspectors on the ground.

Another option could be a U.S. commitment to delay the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, so long as Pyongyang observes a strict test moratorium. Beijing has voiced a strong opposition to the system over concerns that the THAAD radar coverage will include parts of China. In addition to alienating China, deploying THAAD could provoke Pyongyang to continue developing missiles capabilities that would allow it to evade and/or over whelm U.S. missile defenses in the region.

If the initial moratorium holds, North Korea and the United States could discuss steps that would roll back Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, including a verifiable halt to fissile material production (including plutonium production and uranium enrichment) that would be monitored by international inspectors into North Korea’s nuclear sites. In return, the United States might extend to North Korea limited sanctions relief and negative security assurances against military attack under certain conditions.

To maintain leverage, the United States and its partners should strengthen implementation of UN Security Council-mandated sanctions that have not been fully enforced thus far. This would also preserve the option to try to increase economic and financial sanctions pressure if North Korea refuses to negotiate.

 

Flawed Alternatives
Other policy approaches pose very high risks and have a low chance of success. A campaign to impose crippling sanctions on the North is likely to fail, since it will be opposed by China. Any attempt to coerce Beijing will likely be met with a strong response, creating a rift that North Korea will exploit to continue to move forward with its weapons of mass destruction programs. Preemptive military strikes will face severe operational difficulties and almost certainly a strong, likely military, response from Pyongyang that could trigger a second Korean War. It would also be opposed by South Korea and Japan and draw China into what may be an escalating regional conflict.

Conclusion
The dangers posed by North Korea—ranging from the direct threat to the United States and a growing threat to South Korea and Japan, to the possibility that Pyongyang will transfer nuclear technology abroad to earn hard currency—cannot be ignored. Simply maintaining the current policy will not slow North Korea’s advances; and more robust missile defenses provide only a partial defense for the United States and its allies, at best.

In formulating a more effective approach, the new administration must jettison flawed assumptions that have underpinned a failed U.S. policy for the past eight years. A new policy that tries negotiations first, and then puts pressure on the North if its intransigence scuttles diplomacy, is still no guarantee of success, but is the most promising approach.

DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director and KELSEY DAVENPORT, director of nonproliferation policy

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Posted: February 2, 2017

Iran’s Ballistic Missile Test: Troubling But Not Cause for Provoking Confrontation

Without question, Iran’s decision to continue testing ballistic missiles is unhelpful and inconsistent with the spirit of a key 2015 UN Security Council resolution. But the Trump administration and the Congress should measure their response to Iran’s missile test and refrain from actions that will provoke escalation or unnecessarily endanger the nuclear deal. Implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom) and Iran blocks Tehran from building nuclear weapons for more than a decade. Keeping the deal...

Markey-Lieu Legislation Underscores Undemocratic, Irresponsible Nature of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Use Protocol

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Statement by Kingston Reif and Daryl Kimball

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TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to Restrict Trump's Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons

For Immediate Release: January 24, 2017

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 105; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

The Arms Control Association applauds Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) for reintroducing legislation to highlight the unconstrained and undemocratic ability of the president to initiate the first-use of U.S. nuclear weapons. The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.

Operation Ivy, the eighth series of American nuclear tests, carried out to  upgrade the U.S. arsenal in response to the Soviet nuclear weapons program. (Photo: Wikipedia)Put simply, the fate of tens of millions depends in large part on the good judgment and stability of a single person. At any moment, there are roughly 900 U.S. nuclear warheads–all of which are far more powerful than the weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945–that can be launched within minutes of an order by the president. The president, and the president alone, has the supreme authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. Congress currently has no say in the matter. Continuing to vest such destructive power in the hands of one person is undemocratic, irresponsible, and increasingly untenable.
 
In an August 2016 HuffPost/YouGov survey, two-thirds of respondents said the United States should use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack or not at all, while just 18 percent think that first-use is sometimes justified. Indeed, it is all but impossible to imagine a scenario where the benefits of the first-use of U.S. nuclear weapons would outweigh the severe costs.
 
The inauguration of President Donald Trump has heightened fears about the sole authority of the commander in chief to use nuclear weapons. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed deep concern about his erratic behavior and loose talk on nuclear weapons. Now is the time to put responsible checks on the use of nuclear weapons in place. Such a decision is far too important to be left in the hands of one person.
 
Numerous options can be pursued to bring greater democracy and transparency to U.S. nuclear decision-making and reduce the risk of nuclear use. In addition to the proposal in the Markey and Lieu legislation, additional options include:

  • Requiring that a decision to use nuclear weapons be made by more than one person. This could include the president, vice president, secretaries of state and defense, and perhaps one or more designated members of Congress, such as the speaker of the House.
     
  • Eliminating the requirement to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) under attack, which in some scenarios would give the president only minutes to decide whether to launch the missiles before some or all of them are destroyed on the ground. Given that a president would almost certainly not make the most consequential decision a president has ever made in a matter of minutes, retaining a launch under attack posture is unnecessarily risky and eliminating it would increase the time available to consider the possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation to a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies.
     
  • Provide Congress with more information on U.S. nuclear war plans, including targeting data, attack options, damage expectancy requirements, estimated civilian casualties, and more, which is currently not shared with Members of Congress.
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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Posted: January 24, 2017

Press Release: U.S., Russia Can And Should Reduce Nuclear Excess, But On Proper Terms

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“The sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and our European allies should only be eased if Russia changes its behavior vis-a-vis Ukraine,” Kimball said.

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For Immediate Release: January 18, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 105

(Washington, D.C.) — In his final news conference as president, Barack Obama noted that if incoming President Donald Trump can restart the stalled U.S.-Russian dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction measures in a serious way, “… there remains a lot of room for both countries to reduce our nuclear stockpiles.” 

President Obama at his final news conference, January 18, 2017 (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)“President Obama is right. The United States and Russia have an opportunity and a responsibility to further reduce their excess nuclear weapons stockpiles,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent Arms Control Association.

Before the end of his term in office, Trump will need to decide whether to invite Russia to extend New START for another five years and/or negotiate a new arms reduction treaty.

“Trump should choose to build down, not build up,” Kimball said. "With up to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons allowed under the 2010 New START agreement and no limits on the tactical nuclear weapons possessed by each side, Russia and the United States have far more weapons than is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by another nuclear-armed country,” Kimball noted.

"About 900 U.S. nuclear weapons can be fired within minutes of a presidential decision to do so, and no Congressional approval is required,” he said.

In 2013, President Barack Obama, with input from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other elements of the national security establishment, determined that the United States can reduce its nuclear force by another one-third below New START levels and still meet deterrence requirements.

Last weekend, Mr. Trump told the Times of London that "nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially,” but he suggested that such a deal might be linked to the easing of sanctions against Russia for its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is a party to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, a political understanding that the parties would respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan if they renounced nuclear weapons and joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as non-nuclear weapon states.

"Such a linkage would be unwise and impractical,” Kimball said. “The sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and our European allies should only be eased if Russia changes its behavior vis-a-vis Ukraine,” he said.

“We have recommended for some time that the U.S. and Russian sides should seek further, parallel reductions of one-third or more below the New START limits. This approach would not necessarily require that Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin negotiate a new treaty,” he said.

“However, any further U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons reductions will most likely need to consider other issues of concern for both Moscow and Washington,” Kimball said. "These include: compliance with the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a new understanding about the scope of U.S. and Russian missile defense systems, and concerns about advanced conventional weapons."

“A renewal of the U.S.-Russian strategic dialogue is in the interests of both countries. Further progress in reducing the risk and number of nuclear weapons is possible and necessary and would very much follow in the tradition of past U.S. presidential administrations,” Kimball said.

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Posted: January 18, 2017

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 4,018 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...

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