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"I want to tell you that your fact sheet on the [Missile Technology Control Regime] is very well done and useful for me when I have to speak on MTCR issues."

– Amb. Thomas Hajnoczi
Chair, MTCR
May 19, 2021
Daryl Kimball

International Day Against Nuclear Tests: Translating Words Into Action

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Prepared Statement of Nongovernmental Organization Representative
Coordinated and Delivered by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
September 2, 2011

On behalf of the many nongovernmental organizations with an interest in ending nuclear testing and achieving a nuclear weapons free world, I would like to thank the organizers of this year’s meeting—including the office of the United Nations Secretary General and the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan—for granting NGOs a seat at this table.

It is important to recognize the pivotal role of nongovernmental organizations—and ordinary people the world over—in the long struggle to end nuclear testing.

For example, beginning in the 1950s, American pediatricians and civil society activists documented the presence of strontium-90 in the deciduous teeth of young children, prompting a large and effective public outcry against atmospheric nuclear testing. These protests had a direct impact on the negotiation and adoption of the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

In fact, civil society organizations have played a vital role in ensuring that the evidence compiled by physicians and scientists about the health and environmental consequences of nuclear test explosions—regardless of whether they are conducted in the atmosphere or aboveground—has consistently been put forward as an essential reason to ban testing permanently.

Nongovernmental organizations played a catalyzing role in more recent efforts to halt nuclear testing. Some twenty years ago, a popular movement in Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan forced Moscow’s communist regime to halt nuclear weapons testing at proving grounds in their homeland where more than 456 explosions had contaminated the land and its people.

In February 1989, the renowned poet Olzhas Suleimenov called upon his fellow citizens to meet in Alma Ata to discuss how to respond to fresh reports of radioactive contamination at the Soviet’s Semipalatinsk Test Site. Five-thousand people responded and collectively issued a call for closing the test site, ending nuclear weapons production, and a universal ban on testing. The movement, which became known as Nevada-Semipalatinsk, grew and held demonstrations throughout Kazakhstan and later in Russia.

On August 6, 1989, 50,000 people attended one of its rallies, which was the largest independent event of its type in the former Soviet Union. Eventually over a million people signed its antinuclear weapons testing petition.

In August 1989, Suleimenov pushed the Supreme Soviet to adopt a resolution calling for a U.S.-Soviet test moratorium. The movement also worked to prevent Moscow from simply shifting all Soviet nuclear testing to the Novaya Zemlya site in northern Russia. To appease the growing protests, Moscow would later acknowledge it had cancelled 11 out of 18 planned nuclear tests.

In May 1990, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement teamed up for an International Citizens Congress that brought together 300 delegates, including downwinders and disarmament leaders, from 25 countries to Alma Ata. A crowd of 20,000 gathered in support. Before the conference convened, Dr. Bernard Lown of IPPNW and Suleimenov met with Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to reinstitute an earlier Soviet test moratorium.

Under pressure from President Nazarbayev, the people of Kazakhstan, and the international disarmament community, then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would authorize only one more test (in Russia) and then declare a moratorium on October 5, 1991, prompting U.S. legislators to introduce nuclear test moratorium legislation in Congress.

With strong grassroots support in the United States, the legislation, which mandated a 9-month U.S. testing halt and negotiations on a CTBT, gathered strong support and was approved in September 1992. The last U.S. nuclear test explosion was conducted on September 23, 1992.

The following year, U.S. nongovernmental organizations and legislators successfully pressed President Clinton to indefinitely extend the U.S. test moratorium in July 1993 and launch multilateral negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. With the help of international protests over French and Chinese nuclear testing in 1995 and 1996, NGOs exerted strong pressure on governments negotiating the treaty at the Conference on Disarmament to pursue a zero-yield test ban and to complete talks by the end of 1996.

The actions of the people of Kazakhstan and other test ban opponents are but one dramatic example of how leaders from civil society have raised awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and demanded that their governments act decisively to permanently halt nuclear weapons testing.

As we mark the second official International Day Against Nuclear Tests, we should recognize the courageous efforts of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement and generations of other citizen activists and leaders, which have been the driving force behind governmental effort to permanently and verifiably bring an end to all nuclear test explosions.

The Tasks Ahead

Although the CTBT was opened for signature fifteen years ago this month, our work is far from complete.

We representatives of civil society call upon leading governments to:

1)    redouble their stalled efforts to push for a permanent and verifiable end to nuclear testing;

2)    improve national and international programs to better understand and responsibly address the health and environmental damage caused by past nuclear testing; and

3)    take further steps to reinforce the purposes of the CTBT and move with greater speed to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

The International Security Value of the CTBT

It is time to finally recognize that nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the past and, fifteen years after its completion, finally bring the CTBT into force.

As General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded in 2001: “For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would.”

By banning all nuclear weapon test explosions, the CTBT prevents the established nuclear-weapon states from proof-testing new, more sophisticated warhead designs. Without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer members of the club cannot perfect smaller, more easily deliverable warheads.

Unfortunately, the CTBT does not also expressly forbid other activities that can lead to qualitative improvements to nuclear weapons, the pursuit of which undermines the stated objectives of the treaty.

The CTBT also serves to reinforce the nonproliferation system by serving as a confidence-building measure about a state’s nuclear intentions and, in this regard, it can help head-off and de-escalate regional tensions.

For these and other reasons, CTBT entry into force has long been considered a key part of the fulfillment of Article VI of the NPT and the goal of “effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

With the CTBT in force, global and national capabilities to detect and deter possible clandestine nuclear testing by other states will be significantly greater. Entry-into-force is essential to making short-notice, on-site inspections possible and maintaining long-term political and financial support from other nations for the operation of the International Monitoring System and International Data Center.

Accelerating Entry Into Force

Although 182 states have signed the CTBT, the treaty must still be ratified by the remaining hold out states—the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, and North Korea—before it can formally enter into force.

In three weeks, CTBT states parties will gather here at the UN to speak about the value of the treaty and the need for prompt entry into force. We appreciate those statements, but actions speak louder than words. That conference must help produce a serious diplomatic action plan for getting the remaining hold out states on board.

Ratification by the United States and China is particularly important. Given their existing nuclear test moratoria and 1996 signature of the CTBT, Washington and Beijing already bear most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them—and others—the full security benefits of CTBT entry into force.

In April 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledged to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” He said, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned." We agree.

But now, President Obama must translate those lofty words into action and mount a serious public campaign to win the support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate for ratification of the treaty without conditions.

To date, the Obama administration has done too little. With the support of a wide array of NGOs in the United States and around the globe the Obama administration can and must make the case that the Treaty enhances international security, is effectively verifiable, and is essential to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in the decades to come.

To indicate the seriousness of his intention to do so, we call on President Obama to promptly name a senior, high-level White House coordinator for the CTBT effort.

The technical and political case for the CTBT is even stronger than it was in 1999 when the Senate failed to provide its advice and consent for ratification. What is necessary is the political will to pursue ratification and willingness by all Senators to review the new evidence in support of the treaty rather than arrive at judgments based on old information or misinformation.

It is also time for China’s leaders to finally act on the CTBT. For years, Chinese government representatives have reported that the CTBT is before the National People’s Congress for consideration but has apparently taken no action to win legislative approval needed for ratification. We note the January 19, 2011 Joint Statement by President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama stating that “… both sides support early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”

Washington’s renewed pursuit of CTBT ratification opens up opportunities for China and other Annex 2 states—such as Indonesia—to lead the way toward entry into force by ratifying before the United States does. Action by Beijing would increase its credibility as a nonproliferation leader and improve the chances that other states in Asia, as well as the United States, would follow suit.

India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into a legally binding commitment to end nuclear testing through the CTBT.

Unfortunately, since their tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998 that were condemned by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1172, neither India nor Pakistan have transformed their de facto nuclear test moratorium into a legally binding commitment not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

It is past time for India’s current leaders to pursue the recommendations of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s eloquent and visionary 1988 action plan for disarmament, which calls for “a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons … to set the stage for negotiations on a comprehensive test-ban treaty.” India’s security and that of Asia would be enhanced if New Delhi were to seek adoption of the CTBT along with its nuclear-armed Asian neighbors. Pakistan, which can ill-afford the expensive and senseless continuation of its fissile and missile race with India, should welcome a legally binding test ban with India.

With no shortage of conflict and hostility in the Middle East, ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would reduce nuclear-weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Likewise, if Israel were to ratify the CTBT, it would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and help encourage other states in the region to follow suit.

Iranian ratification would help reduce concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop and deploy deliverable nuclear warheads. Continued failure by Iran to ratify the CTBT raises further questions about the nature of its sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities.

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests and rumors of further detonations undermine Asian security. We call on the DPRK to declare a halt to further nuclear testing pending the resumption of the Six-Party talks and for the participants in those talks to make North Korea’s approval of the CTBT one of the key steps in the action-for-action process for denuclearization and normalization.

Addressing the Damage Caused by Nuclear Testing

Radioactive isotopes have long half-lives. The damage caused by the 2,051 nuclear test explosions conducted worldwide lingers on at dozens of test sites from Lop Nor, to the atolls of the Pacific, to Nevada, to Algeria, to Australia, to Semipalatinsk, across Russia, in Kazakhstan and beyond.

Exposure to ionizing radiation is harmful to humans. The leaders of the nuclear testing nations have exposed their people – both within their territories and outside their territories – to radiation without their informed consent.

Most of the test sites are in the lands of indigenous peoples and far from the capitals of the testing governments. The 528 atmospheric tests delivered radioactive materials that produced approximately 430,000 additional cancer fatalities by the year 2000, according to a 1990 report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The U.S. National Cancer Institute estimated in a 1997 report that the 90 dirtiest U.S. tests could cause 7,500-75,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer.

While underground nuclear blasts pose a smaller radioactive hazard than atmospheric tests, there has been widespread venting from underground explosions, especially at the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan. The United States has acknowledged that 433 of its 824 underground tests released radioactive material into the atmosphere. In addition, underground nuclear blasts leave a legacy of radioactive contamination, which eventually might leak into the surrounding environment.

Our knowledge of the extent of the harm caused by five decades of nuclear test explosions underground, in the atmosphere, and underwater is still incomplete. The governments responsible for the damage have not adequately provided the assistance to survivors and resources necessary to mitigate the environmental contamination. In fact, the major testing states have been reluctant to recognize the harm inflicted by testing and the rights of those people who have been most affected.

For example, for more than thirty years, France conducted 46 atmospheric and 147 underground nuclear tests in the South Pacific at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia. It is estimated that nearly half of France’s underground nuclear tests released radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Today, there are lingering concerns over hazards to the environment and the health of local populations. Beyond the presence of plutonium and cesium on land and in the lagoon, as reported by the IAEA in 1998, ongoing monitoring of the geology of Moruroa Atoll has revealed major hazards on the north-east flank of the atoll. There were 28 underground tests in this north-east sector, with six tests releasing radioactivity into the ocean environment through cracks in the basalt base of the atoll.

A January 2011 report by the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) outlines scenarios where a landslide of the side of the atoll – amounting to 670 million cubic meters of rock – could create a 15 to 20 meter high wave and swamp the east of the atoll. The collapse would also send out waves forming a 10 to 13 meter tsunami, which could threaten the neighboring inhabited island of Tureia.

Maohi (Polynesian) workers who staffed the Moruroa and Fangataufa test sites from 1966 to 1996 have formed "Moruroa e Tatou" (Moruroa and Us), an association to campaign for compensation from the Government of France for the health effects of their work. They have joined with former French military personnel who are members of the Association des Veterans des Essais Nucleaires in France (Association of Nuclear Test Veterans), to campaign for compensation for the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation.

Although the French government established a compensation scheme known as the Morin law in 2010, veterans groups have criticized the way the law is being implemented. (Of the first 12 cases by French military veterans put before the committee which runs the compensation scheme, only one was granted compensation). Living many thousands of miles away from France, Maohi workers often lack the necessary documentation and resources to mount their case for compensation, with many of the archives remaining closed under national security regulations.

On the occasion of the first International Day against Nuclear Tests the government of Kazakhstan made an important proposal: the establishment of an international fund—to be managed by the United Nations—to support the survivors of nuclear testing.

We endorse this idea and call upon the UN Secretary-General to organize a conference under the auspices of the United Nations to help mobilize resources for the remediation of contamination and health monitoring and rehabilitation of downwinders near nuclear test sites around the world.

States responsible for the testing at major test sites should report to the conference—and on an annual basis every year thereafter—on their current and future efforts and resource allocations to address the health and environmental impacts of nuclear testing and to rehabilitate populations that have been particularly impacted.

Independent nongovernmental experts, and especially members of affected communities should be invited to participate help develop a multi-year program of action.  Many nuclear testing survivors are minorities on the own land whose views have too often been overlooked. That must no longer be the case.

Reinforcing the Test Ban

We must also guard against actions by the nuclear weapon states and would-be nuclear weapon states that could undermine the de facto test moratorium and slow entry into force of the CTBT. Specifically:

a)     We urge states armed with nuclear weapons to refrain from pursuing new types of nuclear weapons or modifying weapons to create new military capabilities through testing or in the laboratory.

The Obama administration declared in its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report that “The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs [LEPs] will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.” However, there is a potential loophole. As noted by Thomas D’Agostino, the head of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration at an April 14, 2010 Congressional hearing, the NPR will allow the national nuclear weapons laboratories to “study all options for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear warheads, and we’ll do so on a case-by-case basis.”

In addition, the multibillion dollar U.S. warhead Life Extension Programs will, in some cases, result in warheads with greater accuracy on target. In addition, the LEPs may introduce new complexities that diminish confidence and increase the risk that some future president will be pressured to proof-test the modified design.

Other nuclear-armed nations have not even made “no new nuclear weapons pledges” and some are believed to be working on new warhead designs.

We urge responsible governments to seek clarification regarding their plans and to call upon them to halt the development of new nuclear warheads or modernization of existing warheads, delivery systems, or related infrastructure, for any reason. Such activities may not violate the letter of the CTBT, but they are contrary to one key purpose, which is to halt the qualitative improvement of nuclear arsenals;

b)    We urge nuclear armed states to halt activities at the test sites, including so-called subcritical experiments, which might raise concerns about compliance with the CTBT or could undermine the purpose of the treaty by facilitating qualitative improvements in nuclear weapons;

c)     The five original nuclear weapon states should reiterate that the CTBT bars all nuclear explosions of any yield, anywhere, and adopt transparency measures prior to entry into force that would increase confidence that they are in full compliance with the CTBT prohibition on all nuclear test explosions; and

d)    We call upon all states to fully pay their assessments to the CTBTO, fully assist with work to complete the IMS systems, and continuously and without interruption transmit data from the monitoring stations to provide the most robust capability to detect and deter future nuclear testing; and

e)     In order to further reinforce the de facto global taboo against nuclear testing and deter any state from considering nuclear test explosions in the future, we call upon the UN Security Council to outline appropriate actions that would be considered in response to the resumption of nuclear testing by any state.

We sincerely urge you to take these ideas forward and to explore them at the seventh Article XIV Conference on Facilitating CTBT Entry Into Force on September 23.

Nongovernmental supporters of the CTBT the world over stand ready to contribute to the effort to bring the CTBT into force and address the deadly legacy of nuclear testing.

Thank you.

 

Endorsers:

Dr. Rebecca Johnson,
Author of Unfinished Business: The Negotiation of the CTBT the End of Nuclear Testing (United Nations: 2009), andExecutive Director, Acronym
Institute for Disarmament and Diplomacy

Dominique Lalanne,
Co-Chair,
Armes Nucléaires STOP (France)

Daryl G. Kimball,
Executive Director,
Arms Control Association

Mary Dickson,
a founder of
Downwinders United (United States)

Yasunari Fujimoto,
Secretary General,
Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN)

Paul F. Walker,
Ph.D.Director,
Security and Sustainability,
Global Green USA
(U.S. affilliate of Green Cross Intl., Mikhail Gorbachev, Founding Chairman)

Jonathan Granoff,
President,
Global Security Institute

Christopher Thomas,
Executive Director,
Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (United States)

Dr. Kathleen Sullivan,
Program Director,
Hibakusha Stories

John Loretz,
Program Director,
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War(Recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize)

John Burroughs,
Executive Director,
Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

Aaron Tovish,
International Director,
2020 Vision Campaign,
Mayors for Peace

Roland Pouira Oldham,
President,
Moruroa e tatou (French Polynesia)

Irma Arguello
Chair and CEO,
Nonproliferation for Global Security Foundation (Argentina)

David Krieger,
President,
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Patrice Bouveret,
Directeur
Observatoire des Armements/CDRPC (France)

Susi Snyder,
Nuclear Disarmament Program Leader,
IKV Pax Christi (Netherlands)

Akira Kawasaki,
Executive Committee Member,
Peace Boat (Japan)

Ichiro Yuasa,
President,
Peace Depot (Japan)

Peter Wilk, M.D.,
Executive Director,
Physicians for Social Responsibility (USA)

Jean-Pierre Dacheux,
Co-Chair,
Pour la Maison de Vigilance (France)

Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala,
President,
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs(Recipient of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize)

Susan Shaer,
Executive Director,
Women’s Action for New Directions

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

 

Description: 

Prepared Statement of Nongovernmental Organization Representative coordinated and delivered by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association  on September 2, 2011 to the UN General Assembly in New York.

In Memoriam: Jonathan B. Tucker (1954–2011)

Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina

Jonathan B. Tucker, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and leading biological and chemical weapons expert, died recently at his home in Washington, D.C. He will be deeply missed. His departure leaves a tremendous vacuum in the field of biological and chemical weapons arms control.

For those who met or worked with him, Jonathan stood out as someone who was always willing to help. He was thoughtful and never rash, possessed of a quiet determination to find answers to the deeper questions and come up with practical answers to international security challenges.

Jonathan joined the ACA board in 2003 and provided thoughtful advice to the organization on many occasions. Readers of Arms Control Today will know him from his frequent contributions on biological and chemical weapons issues through the years. Most recently, he helped with our interview of Laura Kennedy, a senior U.S. official, on the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) review conference; his January/February article provides a cogent analysis of the challenges facing the BWC.

For ACA staff and fellow board members, as well as many others in the field, Jonathan was the first person to call for all things having to do with biosecurity, biological and chemical weapons, and more. He had that rare ability to understand complex issues as well as explain them lucidly to those who were not as knowledgeable as he was.

On one memorable occasion, Jonathan helped ACA explain the case for continuing inspections in Iraq rather than launching an invasion to halt Saddam Hussein’s suspected unconventional weapons programs. His analysis then, as on other occasions, was carefully formulated but clear and easily understood. At that Oct. 7, 2002, briefing, Jonathan astutely said, “[A] realistic goal of the UN inspection regime is not to eliminate every last weapon, which is probably impossible, but to deny Iraq a militarily significant mass-destruction capability. I believe that goal is probably achievable if [the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] is given full access to relevant facilities throughout Iraq, supplied with accurate and timely intelligence, and supported by a united Security Council.”

Jonathan was an expert’s expert. He held a biology degree from Yale and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in political science. His career included a number of U.S. government positions, including in the Department of State, the Office of Technology Assessment, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the preparatory commission for the Chemical Weapons Convention and served as a biological weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq in 1995.

Jonathan later worked at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the U.S. Institute of Peace. In 2008 he served on the professional staff of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. In 2011 he joined the Federation of American Scientists to lead its Biosecurity Education Project.

Jonathan was a prolific writer, producing many highly regarded books, including Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (2001), Biosecurity: Limiting Terrorist Access to Deadly Pathogens (2003), and War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare From World War I to Al-Qaeda (2006), and editing volumes such as Germany in Transition: A Unified Nation’s Search for Identity (1999), and Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (2000).

We will always remember Jonathan as an extremely dedicated, talented, and warm human being. We will miss his spirit and wise counsel.

Jonathan B. Tucker, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and leading biological and chemical weapons expert, died recently at his home in Washington, D.C. He will be deeply missed. His departure leaves a tremendous vacuum in the field of biological and chemical weapons arms control.

In Memoriam: Mark O. Hatfield (1922–2011)

Daryl G. Kimball

Mark O. Hatfield, the former Republican senator from Oregon, died August 7 in Portland at the age of 89. He was a political maverick, a pragmatic idealist who worked across the aisle to take on big issues, including the long-running U.S. war in Vietnam, the insanity of the nuclear arms race, excessive military spending, and the global arms trade.

Hatfield was first elected to Oregon’s legislature in 1950 and was elected governor in 1958. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1967 to 1997. Throughout his long Senate career, Hatfield pursued policies to reduce the risk of war and help the disadvantaged at home, even when it put him at odds with his party’s leaders. Oregon’s voters responded by making him the longest-serving senator in the state’s history.

Hatfield was a veteran of World War II and a deeply religious man. As a naval officer stationed in the Philippines in 1945, he was among the first Americans to witness the immediate aftereffects of the devastation of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima on August 6 of that year. The experience of the war in the Pacific and the sight and smell of the devastated city would shape his views and his politics for decades to come.

As Hatfield explained in an interview published in the April 1987 issue of Arms Control Today:

[A]round September 10, we went into Hiroshima. We saw the defeat, the indiscriminate devastation in ever direction. And you try to comprehend that one bomb had done that . . . . We couldn’t.

. . .

We would destroy all human creation, the entire ecosystem, either directly or indirectly. Now, there you come down to a basic question . . . . Is this not the ultimate obscenity, and the ultimate arrogation of power when the creation can say to the creator, “I have the right to divest you of the creation”[?]
. . .

Because we are living on the edges of the abyss, it seems to me that we can and should have only one goal: ­ridding ourselves of this curse.

“If you’ve been in a war, you cannot but have your views altered,” he told the Associated Press in 1986. “The devastation, the terrible devastation, is not something one ever forgets.”

At the 1965 National Governors Association convention, Hatfield was one of only two governors to oppose President Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Once in the Senate, he teamed up with Senator George McGovern (D-S.D.) to offer multiple amendments seeking to draw down and bring home U.S. soldiers from Indochina. He would later oppose U.S. intervention in civil wars in Central America and was one of only two Republican senators who voted against the 1991 Persian Gulf War resolution.

Hatfield was a champion of effective nuclear arms control and disarmament from the 1970s until the end of hisSenate career. Hatfield worked with nongovernmental leaders such as Arms Control Association president Herbert J. Scoville in opposing the Carter and Reagan administrations’ plans for the MX missile, and he criticized President Jimmy Carter’s Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) II as insufficient.

In the 1987 interview, he said SALT II was a “great example of our inability to deal with the technology behind the arms race.” That treaty, he said, “attempted to limit the weapons of the time but it had nothing to do with…the technology” or “retarding, and ultimately, obliterating all of these weapons.”

During the 1979 SALT II debate, Hatfield introduced an amendment that called for a “strategic weapons freeze,” which helped provide the impetus for the popular Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and would ricochet back into Washington and prompt Hatfield and other members of Congress to act.

As tensions between Washington and Moscow mounted in 1982 and the two countries built up their nuclear arsenals even further, Hatfield and other members of Congress heard from their constituents, who sought a way off the escalatory ladder and were calling for a “nuclear freeze” with the Soviet Union on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

“We heard from people at every stop who knew about the nuclear freeze proposal and wanted us to support it. ‘Why not?’ they asked. We found that question difficult to answer,” Hatfield and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) later explained in their 1982 book Freeze! How You Can Help Prevent Nuclear War. “A new arms control initiative was needed to offer leadership in Congress and respond to the growing public concern,” they wrote.

On March 10, 1982, Hatfield and Kennedy joined House proponents of the freeze, including Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), to introduce a “sense of Congress” resolution based directly on a widely disseminated document, “Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race,” developed by Randall Forsberg, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology defense policy expert who would later join the board of directors of the Arms Control Association. With the backing of Hatfield and Kennedy, the effort gained broad-based popular and expert support, national attention, and increasing political momentum.

Freeze Vote

After months of debate, a much-amended freeze resolution passed the House in May 1983, but fell short by a 40–58 margin when the Senate considered it in October. Nonetheless, the effort showed Congress and the White House ahead of the 1984 election that public support for renewed arms control was running high and that the appetite for further nuclear armament was running low. The campaign prompted President Ronald Reagan to negotiate limits on nuclear arms ­during his second term.

Hatfield’s efforts hardly diminished after the freeze resolution of 1983. He turned his focus to achieving progress on a U.S.-Soviet nuclear test ban, which he recognized as a critical barrier to the further technological improvement of superpower nuclear arsenals.

Following new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s announcement in July 1985 that the Soviet Union would forgo tests and that the Soviet Union would not test until and unless the United States began testing, the Reagan administration declined to reciprocate. In October 1986, a bipartisan group of 63 House and Senate members, led by Hatfield, Senator Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Representative Les Aspin (D-Wis.), and others, sent a letter to Reagan urging him to reciprocate and call off the next scheduled test in Nevada, code-named Glencoe.

Cranston and Hatfield also introduced legislation seeking to bar the spending of money to carry out U.S. nuclear tests if the Soviet Union was not doing so. Their initiative did not succeed, but it would get another chance.

Test Moratorium

Five years later, following the October 5, 1991, announcement that the Soviets would suspend nuclear testing, Hatfield, along with Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) and Representatives Mike Kopetski (D-Ore.) and Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), introduced the Nuclear Testing Moratorium Act, which called for a one-year U.S. testing moratorium. The idea gained bipartisan support over the next several months, picking up additional political momentum as France declared a testing moratorium in April and Russia’s new president, Boris Yeltsin, extended the Russian moratorium in June.

On September 13, 1992, after a sustained, months-long, national grassroots lobbying campaign led by disarmament groups, the Senate voted 55–40 for ­legislation jointly sponsored by Hatfield, Mitchell, and Senator James Exon (D-Neb.) that called for a nine-month U.S. testing moratorium, placed strict conditions on any further U.S. testing, and required the pursuit of negotiations on a comprehensive global test ban and a prohibition on U.S. testing after September 30, 1996, unless another country conducted a test. On September 24, the House of Representatives adopted the amendment by a margin of 224–151. On October 2, President George H.W. Bush reluctantly signed into law a bill containing the test moratorium legislation.

In the spring of 1993, Hatfield again led the way. Along with Exon, Mitchell, and Kopetski, he expressed strong opposition to a draft Clinton administration plan to renew U.S. testing and to substitute a one-kiloton threshold treaty for a ­comprehensive one.

On the morning of April 30, when a report in The Washington Post first revealed the administration’s draft threshold test ban proposal, senior staffers from the Hatfield, Exon, and Mitchell offices huddled around a keyboard in the Hart Senate Office Building  to craft a joint letter to respond to the White House. Hatfield told the Post he was “dismayed” by the report. The three senators’ letter said the administration’s proposal to allow continued underground nuclear tests would conflict with the nuclear test moratorium law, which called for a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. They would soon rally the support of 38 senators and 159 representatives in support of a test moratorium extension and negotiations leading to a ban on all nuclear testing.

Their decisive action helped change the course of the administration’s test ban policy decision. Soon after, editorials from more than 40 leading newspapers called for extending the moratorium. Public opinion polls showed that 72 percent of the U.S. public favored ­continuing the moratorium.

On July 3, 1993, President Bill Clinton announced that he would extend the moratorium at least through 1994 unless another nation conducted a test and that he would pursue completion of negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) by September 1996. Clinton determined that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was “safe and reliable” and that there was no immediate need for further tests—a policy that has been sustained by every ­president since then.

Shortly before Hatfield’s departure from the Senate, talks on the treaty were concluded, and the CTBT was opened for signature on September 23, 1996. Clinton was the first to sign it.

The final chapters in the history of the causes Hatfield championed are not finished. Hatfield sought to put in place a code of conduct to prohibit U.S. arms sales to undemocratic regimes and human rights violators. He noted shortly after his departure from the Senate that the United States is “still the largest arms peddler in the world, and we infect the rest of the world with our lust for weapons.” Today, there is a renewed global push to negotiate commonsense standards for international weapons sales—an arms trade treaty—which the Obama administration supports but many Senate Republicans oppose.

Today, nearly 20 years since the last U.S. nuclear test, the logic and value of the CTBT are even more powerful. Winning Senate approval for ratification of the CTBT and other arms control initiatives yet to come, however, will require a few more leaders with the courage of conviction, the bipartisan touch, and the political savvy of Mark Hatfield.

Mark O. Hatfield, the former Republican senator from Oregon, died August 7 in Portland at the age of 89. He was a political maverick, a pragmatic idealist who worked across the aisle to take on big issues, including the long-running U.S. war in Vietnam, the insanity of the nuclear arms race, excessive military spending, and the global arms trade.

America and the Arms Trade Treaty

Daryl G. Kimball

Each year, thousands of civilians around the world are slaughtered by weapons sold to unscrupulous regimes and transferred to criminals and illegal militias. The enormous human toll of this cycle of violence undermines economic development and political stability in fragile regions.

As the world’s top conventional arms exporter with one of the most robust export control systems, the United States, along with its allies and partners, stands to benefit from tougher, global standards for the arms trade. Five years after the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for talks “establishing common international standards for the import, export, and transfer of conventional arms,” a widely supported arms trade treaty (ATT) text is within reach.

Since 2008, the United States has participated in expert talks, and in October 2009, Washington supported the UN resolution laying out a schedule for talks on an ATT. A final negotiating conference is scheduled for July 2012. At the United States’ insistence, agreement on the treaty text requires consensus.

It is in the United States’ interest to take the lead in supporting an effective, bulletproof ATT. By preventing military equipment, including small arms and light weapons, from reaching the hands of terrorists, criminals, and dictators, an ATT would assist U.S. partners and allies abroad in their efforts to protect human rights, promote stable democracies, and build more secure and productive societies.

An ATT should require states-parties to enact laws regulating the export, import, transfer, and brokering of arms. These regulations should apply to all major military equipment and small arms that are transferred from one party to another across international borders.

An ATT also should call on states to identify possible criteria for denial of international arms transfer licenses; this list should address human rights, security, and development concerns. In addition, a strong treaty should require member states to report regularly and publicly on their arms sales and purchases, transfer approvals, and reasons for license denials.

To be effective, an ATT needs to be comprehensive and cover not only the many types of arms transfers such as sales, gifts, and transfers of technology, but also weapons components and ammunition.

An unregulated arms trade increases the availability of weapons in conflict zones. Arms brokers can exploit these conditions to sell weapons to criminals and insurgents fighting U.S. troops.

For example, the Italy-based smuggling ring of Alessandro Bon sent multiple shipments of military sniper scopes and other military goods via a Romanian front company through Dubai to Iran in violation of a UN arms embargo. This equipment, in turn, found its way into the hands of insurgents fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan. By requiring states to license or otherwise regulate the activities of brokers and importers, an ATT could aid in the prevention of similar operations.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the value of an ATT has been obscured by the misleading lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association and its proxies in Congress who allege that the still-to-be-negotiated treaty will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. That is not the case.

Some of these concerns are reflected in two recent letters circulated by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and signed by 55 other senators. Although both letters recognize the security and humanitarian benefits of the treaty, the Moran letter notes that certain states have called for certain internal arms transfers to be monitored.

Although some states might seek such provisions, such measures are undeniably outside the scope of the treaty. The 2009 UN General Assembly resolution establishing the ATT negotiation process explicitly acknowledges the exclusive right of states “to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections.”

A second concern outlined in the Moran letter relates to the inclusion of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition within the scope of the treaty. The letter claims this makes the treaty too “broad” and therefore unenforceable.

This argument ignores the fact that the U.S. government already controls the export and import of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. It is in the interest of the United States to ensure that other states are required to follow similar practices.

Allegations that an ATT would infringe on the right of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. Advocates of legal civilian gun possession should recognize the value of an ATT in reducing the carnage created by illicit and irresponsible international arms transfers. As governments work to finalize a treaty by next year, the Obama administration and Congress should join together to support a meaningful outcome.

Each year, thousands of civilians around the world are slaughtered by weapons sold to unscrupulous regimes and transferred to criminals and illegal militias. The enormous human toll of this cycle of violence undermines economic development and political stability in fragile regions.

Nuclear-Weapon States Meet in Paris

Daryl G. Kimball

Senior officials from the five original nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—reaffirmed their commitment to the 64-point action plan agreed at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and “called on all States Parties to the NPT to work together to advance its implementation,” according to a July 1 joint press statement at the end of a two-day meeting in Paris.

The meeting follows the five countries’ initial September 2009 session on confidence-building measures on disarmament.

The July 1 statement reported that they “continued their previous discussions on the issues of transparency and mutual confidence, including nuclear doctrine and capabilities, and of verification, recognizing such measures are important for establishing a firm foundation for further disarmament efforts.” They also said they would “continue working on an agreed glossary of definitions for key nuclear terms and established a dedicated working group.”

According to the statement, they “shared information on their respective bilateral and multilateral experiences in verification…[and] will continue their discussion of this issue later this year at an expert-level meeting in London.”

The joint statement calls for the “swift entry into force” of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and its “universalization.” All five states have signed the treaty; the United States and China have not yet ratified it.

The countries reiterated their support for immediate commencement of negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty. They pledged to “renew their efforts with other relevant partners to promote such negotiations.” Pakistan has blocked negotiations at the CD on the issue.

The statement said the group would meet for a third time in the context of the next NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in 2012.

 

Senior officials from the five original nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—reaffirmed their commitment to the 64-point action plan agreed at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and “called on all States Parties to the NPT to work together to advance its implementation,” according to a July 1 joint press statement at the end of a two-day meeting in Paris.

New Nuclear Suppliers Rules a Net Plus

Daryl G. Kimball

After years of discussion, the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has agreed on a clearer, tougher set of guidelines designed to prevent the spread of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing equipment and technology. The action should help guard against the further proliferation of sensitive equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Although country neutral, the new NSG rules fix one of the holes created by the NSG’s ill-conceived 2008 decision to exempt India from most NSG trading restrictions and should ensure that sensitive enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies will not be transferred to India and used in its unsafeguarded military nuclear program.

The new guidelines, which were approved at the NSG's June 23-24 meeting in the Netherlands, bar enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology exports to states that have not signed or are not in compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), do not allow comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, and do not allow more extensive monitoring under the terms of an additional protocol, among other criteria.

Only three states have not signed the NPT: India, Israel, and Pakistan. Iran, North Korea, and Syria are currently in noncompliance with their IAEA safeguards obligations. Dozens of states have not yet approved an additional protocol, including Algeria, Egypt, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia, whose ambassador to Washington recently threatened that his country would build nuclear weapons if Iran does.

The NSG was formed in 1975 in response to India’s misuse of civilian nuclear assistance for its nuclear weapons program. Its guidelines are voluntary and designed to reinforce legal prohibitions in the NPT and elsewhere on the use of peaceful nuclear technology for military purposes.

The NSG’s policy is a commonsense precaution: Enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology cannot be safeguarded against misuse for military purposes, and all NSG states are under a legal obligation not to assist other countries, directly or indirectly, in the production of nuclear weapons. Unlike the five original nuclear-armed states, India continues to produce nuclear bomb material and refuses to transform its nuclear test moratorium into a legally binding pledge by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Not surprisingly, Indian politicians are complaining that the NSG’s latest decision detracts from the so-called clean waiver from NSG rules that the Bush administration rammed through the group in 2008.

U.S. officials have responded like candidates eager not to offend campaign contributors. U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer insisted June 30 that “the White House and the Obama administration strongly and vehemently support the clean waiver for India.”

In reality, the 2008 exemption for India was not clean and unconditional. The United States and other nuclear suppliers did not then and do not now intend to provide India with enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology, but rather electricity production reactors and fuel. India remains in a special category, outside the nonproliferation mainstream.

The 2008 NSG decision specifically did not apply to enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology transfers. The decision also notes that the exemption will be reconsidered and probably revoked if India conducts another nuclear explosive test or if it breaks any of its other nonproliferation pledges. In addition, the 2008 U.S. legislation that allows reactor and fuel sales to India includes a similar condition, which was strongly supported by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), that makes it clear that the United States has the right to terminate all nuclear trade with India if New Delhi’s leaders resume nuclear explosive testing.

If the NSG allows India to become a member, as the Obama administration is now proposing, the group’s ability to hold India accountable would be severely undermined, compounding the damage created by the India-specific exemption. Furthermore, given that India already has made a commitment to meet NSG export guidelines, it is not clear whether or how Indian membership would strengthen the NSG.

The Indian nuclear deal has prompted Israel and Pakistan to lobby for similar exemptions, so far unsuccessfully. Pakistan has accelerated its efforts to increase its capacity to produce plutonium for weapons and has blocked negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. China has announced it will sell Pakistan two additional nuclear power plants in violation of NSG rules.

Before considering membership options for India, NSG members should actively encourage India to curtail the production of fissile material, sign the CTBT, and freeze further development of long-range ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons.

The 2008 India exemption was a strategic blunder that has complicated relations with India and damaged the nonproliferation effort. The NSG’s new policy on sensitive enrichment and reprocessing items is an important adjustment, but the effort to curtail proliferation and slow down nuclear weapons competition in Asia requires more principled and effective leadership from Washington, New Delhi, and other capitals.

After years of discussion, the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has agreed on a clearer, tougher set of guidelines designed to prevent the spread of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing equipment and technology. The action should help guard against the further proliferation of sensitive equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Administration Gearing Up for CTBT Push

Daryl G. Kimball

The Obama administration is preparing to kick off a public education campaign to generate support in the Senate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said May 10.

Speaking at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting in Washington, Tauscher said the focus of the campaign, which will be aimed at the public as well as senators, “is to get the facts out.”

The United States has no need to conduct nuclear tests, in part because the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship Program “go[es] a step beyond explosive testing by enabling the [U.S. national laboratories] to anticipate problems in advance and reduce their potential impact on our arsenal, something that nuclear testing could not do,” she said. The CTBT’s entry into force “will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests,” she said. Also, she argued, the United States has increased its ability “to catch those who cheat.”

When the CTBT last came up for a vote, in 1999, it drew the support of 48 senators, well short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval of a treaty. The debate leading up to that vote was “too short and too politicized,” Tauscher said. Vowing not to “repeat [the] mistakes” of 1999, Tauscher said, “[W]e will make a more forceful case when we are certain the facts have been carefully examined and reviewed in a thoughtful process.”

Tauscher said she “cannot predict” when the vote will take place. Two senators who spoke at the May 10 meeting and are members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), said they did not expect it before the 2012 presidential elections. Casey said it “obviously [would] be preferable” to act before then, but said, “I don’t have a high degree of confidence that we will.”

 

The Obama administration is preparing to kick off a public education campaign to generate support in the Senate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said May 10.

Oldthink on New Nuclear Reductions

Daryl G. Kimball

After months of review and debate, a bipartisan Senate majority approved the resolution of ratification for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) on Dec. 22, 2010.

The 71-26 vote is a step forward for U.S. security. Not only did the vote open the way for long-overdue U.S.-Russian nuclear stockpile reductions and renewed inspections, but the ratification package endorsed a long-term plan for maintaining the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal, called for efforts to reduce the number of tactical nuclear weapons, and reiterated U.S. policy to seek cooperation with Russia on missile defense.

But now, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) and the leading critic of New START in the Senate, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are trying to rewrite New START policies and understandings approved only six months ago.

Turner and Kyl say they simply want to lock in long-term commitments for costly upgrades to the nuclear weapons complex and replacement of strategic nuclear delivery systems and to create “speed bumps” for further nuclear reductions.

In reality, their so-called New START implementation legislation is a poison pill for U.S. nuclear security. If enacted, it effectively would block implementation of New START, halt the retirement of excess weapons, and undercut the authority of the president and senior military leaders to set U.S. nuclear policy requirements.

Each of the main provisions, now being considered as part of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, is counterproductive and counterintuitive. Turner and Kyl propose halting New START reductions unless the administration’s $185 billion, 10-year plan to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and delivery systems is being carried out.

The New START resolution of ratification already states that “the United States is committed to providing the resources…at the levels set forth in the President’s 10-year plan” and requires the president to report on how any future funding shortfall would be addressed and whether it impacts U.S. security.

The Turner-Kyl approach is based on the erroneous premise that if Congress appropriates even a dollar less than the president requests for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) weapons activities, the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is somehow in doubt.

In fact, the technical strategy for maintaining the effectiveness and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile has been in place for more than a decade. Over that time, the NNSA’s life extension programs have successfully refurbished existing types of nuclear warheads without nuclear test explosions and can continue to do so indefinitely.

Not only do the nuclear weapons laboratories have a deeper understanding of the arsenal than before, they also have more resources than ever. The Obama administration’s $88 billion, 10-year plan to operate the nuclear complex represents a 20 percent increase above funding levels proposed during the Bush administration. Minor cuts and cost savings in the NNSA budget will not change the fact that the weapons activities budget, at $7 billion, provides more than enough to get the job done.

Worse still, the Turner-Kyl legislation would prohibit funding to retire, dismantle, or eliminate any nondeployed nuclear weapons until two new nuclear weapons facilities—the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility and the Uranium Processing Facility—are fully operational and can produce components for 80 warheads. These buildings are still in the design phase and are not scheduled to be operational until the mid-2020s.

The bill also would bar reductions below the New START ceilings of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 nuclear-armed delivery systems without congressional approval. The combined effect of these provisions would be to freeze the size of the current U.S. nuclear force, now at about 5,000 total warheads, and increase maintenance and security costs for the next 10 to 15 years. This would likely induce Russia to maintain a larger nuclear force and complicate the next round of negotiations, which should cover all types of warheads: deployed and nondeployed, strategic and tactical.

The Turner-Kyl legislation also would limit the president’s ability to pursue reductions in tactical nuclear weapons as called for in the New START resolution. Their bill would make it U.S. policy to seek to reduce Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons arsenal, but asserts that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons should continue to be based in Europe to contribute “to the cohesion of NATO.”

This ignores what Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright has acknowledged, that the 180 U.S. tactical nuclear bombs stored in Europe do not serve a military function not already addressed by other U.S. military assets. Keeping them in Europe does nothing to protect allies and would make it more difficult to convince Russia to consolidate and reduce its larger tactical nuclear arsenal.

Rather than unravel the bipartisan consensus on nuclear security that was established through the New START ratification process, Congress needs to support, not complicate, pragmatic steps that reduce nuclear dangers.

After months of review and debate, a bipartisan Senate majority approved the resolution of ratification for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) on Dec. 22, 2010. But now, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) and the leading critic of New START in the Senate, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are trying to rewrite New START policies and understandings approved only six months ago.

Obama Administration to Begin Effort to Engage Senate on CTBT

In the most detailed and substantive address by a senior Barack Obama administration official to date, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher spoke at the Arms Control Association's May 10 annual meeting on "The Case for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty." She made it clear that the administration would soon engage with Republican and Democratic Senators on the CTBT and provide updated information on the key technical issues that gave some Senators reason for pause during the 1999 debate on the treaty. Tauscher explained in detail why...

Trimming Nuclear Excess

Daryl G. Kimball

In the 20 years since the end of the Cold War, successive U.S. and Russian presidents have gradually reduced the size and salience of their enormous nuclear stockpiles. Nevertheless, the size of each country’s arsenal far exceeds what might be considered necessary to deter nuclear attack. Both sides can and should go lower.

Even under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), each country is allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons on 700 missiles and bombers. Thousands of additional warheads are held in reserve. Unless they adjust their thinking, both countries will spend scarce resources to modernize and maintain similar nuclear force levels for 20 to 30 years to come.

This year, as the Obama administration reviews decade-old presidential guidance on nuclear force structure and nuclear employment policy, the president has an unprecedented opportunity to discard outdated targeting assumptions, open the way for deeper reductions of all warhead types, and redirect defense dollars to more pressing needs.

The 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review Report” outlines the national security rationale for reducing the role and number of U.S. nuclear weapons and eliminating outdated Cold War policies. The document asserts that “the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the U.S. and our allies and partners.”

At the same time, the report acknowledges that the United States and Russia "each still retain more nuclear weapons than necessary for stable deterrence." Given that no other country deploys more than 300 strategic warheads and given that China possesses 40 to 50 warheads on intercontinental-range missiles, the United States and Russia could reduce their overall nuclear stockpiles substantially—to 1,000 warheads—while retaining sufficient firepower to deter nuclear attack by any current or potential adversary.

As the 2007 Arms Control Association report “What Are Nuclear Weapons For?” suggests, the United States could move to a smaller force of 500 deployed and 500 nondeployed strategic warheads on a smaller, mainly submarine-based triad within the next few years. A 2010 study by three Air Force analysts in Strategic Studies Quarterly concludes that the United States could "draw down its nuclear arsenal to a relatively small number of survivable, reliable weapons dispersed among missile silos, submarines, and airplanes." They argue that such a force might number only 311 nuclear weapons.

Maintaining and modernizing U.S. strategic forces at current, higher levels is not only unnecessary, but prohibitively expensive. If Congress and the White House are serious about reducing defense expenditures by $400 billion by 2023 to reduce the ballooning federal deficit, they should start by deferring or curtailing the Pentagon’s ambitious plan to upgrade and replace the strategic triad, which is projected to exceed $100 billion over the same period.

The Navy is seeking to begin construction of 12 new ballistic missile submarines—each with 16 to 20 launch tubes—beginning in 2019 to replace the existing 14 Trident boats that currently carry 336 ballistic missiles armed with more than 1,100 thermonuclear bombs. Research and development costs are estimated at $29.4 billion between 2011 and 2020; each new sub would cost an average of $8 billion to build.

Under New START, the Air Force will retain up to 420 single-warhead Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Pentagon plans to spend $6-7 billion to extend the missiles’ service through 2030 and is seeking funding for research on a follow-on ICBM. The Air Force also will retain 60 nuclear-capable, long-range bombers, including B-2s and B-52s. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants funding for research on a new nuclear-capable heavy bomber, which would carry a new air-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile. These items would cost billions more.

For its part, Russia will be hard pressed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads unless it undertakes an expensive ballistic missile modernization effort. Rather than induce Russia to build up, it is in the security and financial interests of both countries to pursue further, parallel reductions in their strategic nuclear forces and to cut the size of their nondeployed reserve stockpiles.

The upcoming nuclear policy review also gives President Barack Obama the chance to eliminate the Cold War practice of keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch within minutes. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said the practice is “outdated” and “increases the risk of catastrophic accident or miscalculation.” Indeed, a reliable and credible U.S. nuclear deterrent does not require the ability to retaliate immediately if U.S. nuclear forces and command and control systems can survive an attack.

Obama can and should make it clear that the United States no longer will develop or exercise plans for rapid launches and will replace such plans with new ones that would allow the president to delay a response to a nuclear attack for days. He should invite Russia to make reciprocal changes to its nuclear posture.

Now is the time for U.S. and Russian leaders to further reduce their costly nuclear arsenals and purge their military strategies of obsolete Cold War thinking.

In the 20 years since the end of the Cold War, successive U.S. and Russian presidents have gradually reduced the size and salience of their enormous nuclear stockpiles. Nevertheless, the size of each country’s arsenal far exceeds what might be considered necessary to deter nuclear attack. Both sides can and should go lower.

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