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“I also want to thank Daryl Kimball and the Arms Control Association for allowing me to address all of you today and for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war.”

– Joseph Biden, Jr.
Senator
January 28, 2004
Daryl Kimball

National Security Experts, Former Officials, Diplomats Urge Senate Approval of Key Biden Nominee

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For Immediate Release: June 21, 2021

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

(Washington, D.C.)—Earlier today a distinguished, bipartisan group of more than 65 international security experts and former officials delivered an open letter to all 100 U.S. Senate offices in support of a key Biden administration nominee, Amb. Bonnie Jenkins for the position of Undersecretary of State for Intl. Security and Arms Control.

The letter says, in part:

"As arms control, international security, and foreign policy experts with years of experience in and out of government, we believe President Joe Biden — or any president — needs a strong and experienced team in place to address issues of international security, particularly the difficult and urgent challenges posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the countries that possess them or that could develop them.

Five months since inauguration day, the president’s nominee for one of the most important positions in this area — Amb. Bonnie Jenkins for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security — has yet to be confirmed. Further delays of this nomination will hamper our nation’s ability to put its best diplomatic foot forward at a critical time."

The Jenkins nomination was announced Feb. 1. Her nomination hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was held April 28 and her nomination was voted out of the committee favorably May 19.

Among the signers of the letter of support for Amb. Jenkins' nomination are several senior officials who have served in Democratic and Republican administrations. Jenkins, the signers write, “ … has a comprehensive understanding of weapons-related security issues and is a very experienced international diplomat. We respectfully urge the swift confirmation by the Senate of the Jenkins nomination.”

As President Biden's Interim National Security Strategy notes: "Global dynamics have shifted. New crises demand our attention.” It is a "moment of accelerating global challenges — from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation.” The signatories on the letter note

"This means that our nation has no time to lose when it comes to putting in place the leadership team in government that can harness America's diplomatic power, which is essential to advancing effective solutions to address the most difficult security and foreign policy challenges.”

The full text of the open letter and the complete list of signers is attached below. It is also available in PDF format.


Open Letter in Support of Amb. Bonnie Jenkins to Help Lead
U.S. Efforts on Arms Control and International Security

June 21, 2021

As President Biden's Interim National Security Strategy notes: "Global dynamics have shifted. New crises demand our attention.” It is a "moment of accelerating global challenges—from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation .…"

This means that our nation has no time to lose when it comes to putting in place the leadership team in government that can harness America's diplomatic power, which is essential to advancing effective solutions to address the most difficult security and foreign policy challenges.

As arms control, international security, and foreign policy experts with years of experience in and out of government, we believe President Joe Biden—or any president—needs a strong and experienced team in place to address issues of international security, particularly the difficult and urgent challenges posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the countries that possess them or that could develop them.

Five months since inauguration day, the president’s nominee for one of the most important positions in this area—Amb. Bonnie Jenkins for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security—has yet to be confirmed. Further delays of this nomination will hamper our nation’s ability to put its best diplomatic foot forward at a critical time.

In the coming weeks and months, her leadership will be important to help the State Department and the White House:

  • follow up on the June 16 Biden-Putin summit by launching strategic stability talks with Russia to put the relationship on a more predictable footing and to reduce the risk of conflict,
  • open new diplomatic channels that bring China and its nuclear arsenal into the arms control process,
  • backstop talks designed to rein-in North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear ambitions,
  • strengthen international support for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the pivotal 10th Review Conference,
  • build international nuclear security cooperation to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring or using fissile and radiological materials,
  • bolster international biosecurity cooperation through the G7 Global Partnership and the November Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference to reduce the risk of illicit bioweapons use and to reduce the risk that dangerous pathogens escape biolabs, among other challenges and,
  • strengthen both U.S. and multilateral efforts to further strengthen the norms against the use of chemical weapons.

We also recognize the important role Amb. Jenkins will play on positions the U.S government is developing in other areas of international security, including arms sales and the effort to put human rights at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy.

We have known and worked with Amb. Jenkins, in some cases for decades. She has a comprehensive understanding of weapons-related security issues and is a very experienced international diplomat. She served as Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, was the State Department lead on the Nuclear Security Summits, the U.S. Representative to G7 Global Partnership, helped lead diplomatic efforts on the Global Health Security Agenda, and was nominated for the 2016 Secretary of State's Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs.

Amb. Jenkins’ experience ranges from government service where she helped negotiate, seek advice and consent, and implement arms control and nonproliferation agreements as an international treaty lawyer, to the non-governmental sector, including establishing and leading a groundbreaking non-governmental organization, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security and its many related initiatives, to military service as a retired Naval Reserve officer called up to Active Duty on the Global War on Terrorism, to Congressional Commissions, including the 9/11 Commission.

With a Ph.D. in international relations, Amb. Jenkins has a strong record of scholarship and engagement with the academic and policy communities and has shown exemplary leadership in advancing new voices and diverse leadership in the fields of international security.

We respectfully urge the swift confirmation by the Senate of the Jenkins nomination.

Sincerely,

James Acton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for Intl. Peace*
Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America*
Daniel Baer, former U.S. Amb. to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Frederick Beinecke, Vice President & Chair, Nuclear Disarmament & Nonproliferation Program, Prospect Hill Foundation
Emma Belcher, President, Ploughshares Fund
John Beyrle, U.S. Ambassador to Russia (2008-12), Chairman, U.S.-Russia Foundation*
Jeremy Ben-Ami, President, J Street*
Reuben Brigety, former U.S. Amb. to the U.S. Mission to the African Union
Kenneth Brill, former U.S. Amb. to the IAEA (2001-04), founding Director of the U.S. National Counterproliferation Center (2005-09), and Board Member of the American Academy of Diplomacy
Rachel Bronson, President and CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists*
Lauren Buitta, Founder and CEO, Girl Security
Matthew Bunn, James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government*
Susan F. Burk, former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, and head of the U.S. delegation for the 2010 NPT Review Conference
Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Jeff Carter, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility*
Rebecca Bill Chavez, Senior Fellow, Inter-American Dialogue*
Joseph Cirincione, Distinguished Fellow, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft*
James F. Collins, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, (1997-2001), and Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Pierce Corden, Expert Adviser, Holy See Mission to the United Nations
Peter Crail, former senior advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Business Executives for International Security*
Madelyn Creedon, President, Green Marble Group, former principal deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (2014-17), and assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs from (2011-14)
Richard Cupitt, Senior Fellow, Henry L. Stimson Center,* and former U.S. Special Coordinator for UN Security Resolution 1540 (2004)
Mary Curtin, Diplomat in Residence, Humphrey School of Public Affairs*
Toby Dalton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for Intl. Peace*
Ruth Davis, Amb. (ret.), Association of Black American Ambassadors, and former Director-General of the United States Foreign Service
Edwin Dorn, Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas*
Jill Dougherty, Adjunct Fellow, Georgetown University*
Tara Drozdenko, physical scientist formerly with the Arms Control Verification and Compliance Bureau, U.S. Department of State
Stephanie Foster, Co-Founder and Partner, Smash Strategies,* and former senior advisor, Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
Robert Gelbard, President, Gelbard International Consulting*
Rose Gottemoeller, former Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, U.S. Department of State
Thomas Graham, Jr., Amb. (ret.) and former U.S. nonproliferation and arms control diplomat, and Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors Lightbridge Corporation*
Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute*
Morton Halperin, Director of U.S. advocacy at the Open Society Institute, and former senior director for democracy at the National Security Council, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Johnson administration, and as a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Nixon and Clinton administrations
Anne Harrington, former Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, National Nuclear Security Administration (2010-17)
Mark Harris, Co-founder, Inclusive America*
Newell Highsmith, former Deputy Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State
James Jeffrey, Amb. (ret.), with assignments including U.S. Amb. to Iraq (2010–12); Amb. to Turkey (2008–10); Deputy National Security Advisor (2007–08); and Amb. to (2002–04)
Lionel C. Johnson, Chairman, Foreign Policy for America
Laura Kennedy, former U.S. Amb. to Turkmenistan (2001-03), former U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and Special Representative for Biological Weapons Convention Issues (2010-13)
Duyeon Kim, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security*
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, publisher and editorial contributor, Arms Control Today
Susan Koch, former Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Arms Control, 2005-07; NSC Staff Director for Proliferation Strategy, 2001-05; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction Policy, 1994-2001; Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, NSC Staff, 1991-93; and Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Assistant Director, Strategic and Nuclear Affairs, 1990-91
Sara Kutchesfahani, Director, N Square DC Hub
Valerie Lincy, Executive Director, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control
Alexandria Maloney, Board Member, Black Professionals in International Affairs*
David Mathews, President and CEO, Kettering Foundation*
Kenneth Meyers, President, CRDF Global*
Steven Miller, International Security Program, Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School*
Silvia Mishra, New Tech Officer, European Leadership Network*
J.P. Natkin, Managing Director, Macro-Advisory Ltd.
Nancy Parrish, Executive Director, Women’s Action for New Directions
William Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*
Matthew Rojansky, U.S. Executive Secretary, U.S.-Russia Dartmouth Conference*
Amy Sands, Emerita Staff, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*
Theodore Sedgwick, former U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic (2010-15)
Andrew Semmel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear Nonproliferation (2003-07), Partnership for a Secure America*
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State (2009-11), CEO of New America
Shalonda Spencer, Executive Director, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security*
Donald Steinberg, Board Co-Chair, Women’s Refugee Commission*
Philip Stewart, Senior Associate, Kettering Foundation,* and Director of the U.S.-Russia Dartmouth Conference*
Alexandra Toma, Executive Director, Peace and Security Funders Group*
Jenny Town, Senior Fellow, Henry L. Stimson Center*
David Wade, U.S. State Department, Chief of Staff (2013-15), and Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Paul Walker, Coordinator, Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition,* and former professional staff member, House Armed Services Committee
Taylor Winkleman, International Affairs Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations*
Alexander Vershbow, former Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea (2005-08), U.S. Amb. to the Russian Federation (2001-05), and U.S. Amb. to NATO (1997-2001)
Peter Zwack, Brigadier Gen. (ret.), Wilson Center Global Fellow at the Kennan Institute*


*Institution listed for identification purposes only

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A bipartisan group of international security experts and former officials delivered an open letter to all U.S. Senate offices in support of a key Biden administration nominee.

Will Biden and Putin Restart Talks on Strategic Stability & Arms Control?

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For Immediate Release: June 14, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Shannon Bugos, research associate, 202-463-8270 ext 113

The June 16 summit in Geneva between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin is a pivotal opportunity to begin to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict, enhance stability, and get back on track to reduce their bloated and very dangerous nuclear stockpiles.

Amid rising tensions and growing nuclear competition between the world’s two largest nuclear-weapon states, nuclear risk reduction and disarmament discussions have been pushed to the back burner. Both countries are spending tens of billions a year modernizing and upgrading their massive nuclear stockpiles. Russia has wantonly violated several arms control and nonproliferation agreements, is developing new nuclear weapons delivery systems that echo some of the worst excesses of the Cold War, and may be increasing its total warhead stockpile for the first time in decades.

The strategic relationship has been further complicated by the development and fielding by each side of emerging technologies, such as offensive cyber and hypersonic weapons, and new advances in U.S. missile defense systems.

In February, Biden and Putin wisely agreed to extend for five years the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals: the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). But unless Washington and Moscow make progress in the next few years on new nuclear arms control agreements, there will be no agreed-upon limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons for the first time since 1972.

Mutual Interest in "Strategic Stability"

While there are many areas of disagreement between the two governments, both sides have expressed a common interest in renewing a serious dialogue on maintaining “strategic stability.”

As established in earlier bilateral agreements and previous summit communiques, such dialogue aims to ensure that neither side has an incentive to use nuclear weapons first or has an incentive to build up its nuclear forces.

Today, however, each side has a different view on what threatens strategic stability and what issues should be the focus of such talks and future potential arms control arrangements.

On June 10 National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: “We believe the starting point for strategic stability talks should be the very complex set of nuclear arms issues that face our two countries….Whether additional elements get added to strategic stability talks in the realm of space or cyber or other areas, that’s something to be determined as we go forward.”

Conversely, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated this month Russia’s support for “a comprehensive approach and taking into account all, without exception, factors influencing strategic stability in our dialogue with the United States. I mean nuclear and non-nuclear, and offensive and defensive weapons.”

To be effective, the discussions need to amount to more than brief exchanges of grievances, as was the case during the Trump years. Instead, as many nuclear security and disarmament experts and organizations, including the Arms Control Association, have suggested, the dialogue needs to be regular, frequent, and comprehensive. It should set the stage for actions and agreements that meaningfully reduce the nuclear risk.

As a tangible step to help defuse tensions and provide some positive momentum, a wide range of experts and former senior officials are also calling on the two presidents to reaffirm the common-sense statement issued by Gorbachev and Reagan at their 1985 summit that: “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Next Steps on Arms Control

Initiating strategic stability talks is overdue and essential. Achieving new agreements to reduce nuclear excess will be even more challenging.

To make progress before New START expires in 2026, they will need to pursue solutions that:

  • achieve deeper, verifiable reductions in the total number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems;
  • address nonstrategic (i.e., tactical) nuclear weapons;
  • put in place constraints on non-nuclear weapons that impact the strategic balance, such as long-range missile defenses; attempt to mitigate the negative impacts on stability that could ensue from the collapse of the INF Treaty; and
  • seek to broaden the arms control and disarmament dialogue to include other nuclear-armed states, particularly China, France, and the United Kingdom.

In 1979, during the depths of the Cold War, then-Senator Joe Biden told an Arms Control Association gathering that “pursuing arms control is not a luxury or a sign of weakness, but an international responsibility and a national necessity.”

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Background for Reporters Covering the Geneva Summit

Country Resources:

High-Level Group Issues Appeal to Biden and Putin to Reduce Nuclear Weapons Dangers

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For Immediate Release: June 8, 2021

Media Contacts: Ira Helfand, past president, IPPNW (1-413-320-7829); Sergey Batsanov, Pugwash Conferences (+41-791-554-610); Rachel Bronson, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1-312-404-3071); Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association (1-202-463-8270 ext. 107).

(Washington, D.C./Moscow)—In advance of the first summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joseph R. Biden in Geneva on June 16, a group of more than 30 American and Russian organizations, international nuclear policy experts, and former senior officials have issued an appeal to the two Presidents calling upon them to launch a regular dialogue on strategic stability, to take meaningful steps to reduce the risk of nuclear war, and to make further progress on nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The statement was organized by leaders of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Pugwash Conference on Science and Global Affairs, the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Peace, and the Arms Control Association.

In the statement, which was delivered to the two governments on June 7, the signatories urge the two presidents to: "Commit to a bilateral strategic dialogue that is regular, frequent, comprehensive and result-oriented leading to further reduction of the nuclear risk hanging over the world and to the re-discovery of the road to a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Sergey Batsanov of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs emphasized that the summit "could be a launching point for talks on strategic stability in all its aspects. Stability is being eroded by multiple factors—geopolitical, technological, military, doctrinal, and others—raising the threat of nuclear war and undermining the security of all states. Addressing this issue would also facilitate new nuclear arms control and disarmament negotiations.”

Ira Helfand, past president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said: “It is urgent that President Biden and President Putin reaffirm the ground-breaking statement issued by Gorbachev and Reagan in 1985 that 'a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’”

“U.S. and Russia are still armed with thousands of nuclear weapons. It is by no means certain that the two sides will continue to have enough good luck, responsible leadership, and managerial competence to avoid catastrophe,” warned Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “We urge the two presidents to seize the opportunity their summit provides to put us back on the road toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Among the other signatories of the Appeal are: Peter Buijs, M.D., chair of the Netherlands IPPNW, who initiated the Appeal; Igor Ivanov, former Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation; Academician Alexandre Dynkin, Chair, Russian Pugwash Committee; William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense; Amb. Sergio Duarte, president of the Pugwash Conferences; General Vyacheslav Trubnikov, IMEMO (Institute of World Economy and International Relations); Joan Rohlfing, president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative; Edmund G. Brown Jr., former Governor of California Executive Chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; and Colonel General Victor Esin, former chief of staff, Russian Strategic Missile Forces.

The full text of the appeal and the complete list of signers is available online at the websites of the Arms Control Association, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Pugwash Conference.

Description: 

In advance of the June 16 summit between Presidents Biden and Putin, more than 30 American and Russian organizations, international nuclear policy experts, and former senior officials have issued an appeal to the two Presidents calling upon them to launch a regular dialogue to reduce the risk of nuclear war.

Country Resources:

Biden and Putin Summit: A Chance to Move Back from the Brink

This week’s summit meeting in Geneva is a pivotal opportunity for the leaders of the world’s two largest nuclear weapons possessors to reduce the growing risk of nuclear conflict and get back on track to reduce their bloated nuclear stockpiles. For months and weeks, we’ve been working hard to highlight and explain what can be done on strategic stability and arms control and to build political support for meaningful post-summit follow-through actions by President Biden and President Putin. Last week, our board chair Tom Countryman and I met with NSC staff at the White House and delivered a...

Engage China on Arms Control? Yes, and Here’s How


June 2021
By Daryl G. Kimball

For more than six decades, the United States has been worried about China’s regional influence, military activities—and nuclear potential. For instance, in 1958, U.S. officials considered using nuclear weapons to thwart Chinese artillery strikes on islands controlled by Taiwan, according to recently leaked documents. Then, as now, a nuclear conflict between the United States and China would be devastating.

 (Photo by TEH ENG KOON / AFP/Getty Images)“There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state,” Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, warned in February.

Worse yet, as tensions between the United States and China continue to grow, many members of Congress, along with the U.S. nuclear weapons establishment, are hyping China’s ongoing nuclear weapons modernization effort as a major new threat.

During testimony before Congress in April, Richard claimed that China’s military is engaged in a “breathtaking expansion” of its arsenal of some 300 nuclear weapons. He argued that this requires fortifying the U.S. nuclear armory, which is already 10 times larger than China’s.

Instead, U.S. policymakers need to avoid steps that stimulate nuclear competition with China and pursue serious talks designed to prevent miscalculation and reduce the risk of conflict. The United States also needs to develop a realistic strategy for involving China and the other major nuclear-armed states in the nuclear disarmament process.

According to U.S. projections, China could increase the size of its arsenal. It is deploying new solid-fueled missiles that can be launched more quickly than its older liquid-fueled missiles, increasing the number of its long-range missiles that are armed with multiple warheads, putting more of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on mobile trucks, and continuing to improve its sea-based nuclear force.

These moves, while concerning, do not justify alarmism. China is not seeking to match U.S. nuclear capabilities. Rather, it is clearly seeking to diversify its nuclear forces so it can maintain a nuclear deterrent that can withstand potential U.S. nuclear or conventional strikes.

Beijing’s nuclear plans are also likely designed to hedge against advancing U.S. missile defense capabilities, such as the sea-based Standard Missile-3 Block IIA system, which could potentially compromise China’s nuclear retaliatory potential.

Although China’s arsenal may be smaller, it is still dangerous. Beijing’s nuclear modernization efforts make it all the more important to pursue meaningful progress on nuclear arms control.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has vowed that the Biden administration will “pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal,” but has not explained how it will do so.

Leaders in Beijing claim to support nondiscriminatory disarmament and minimum deterrence, yet they have said they will engage on arms control only when U.S. and Russian leaders achieve deeper cuts in their much-larger nuclear arsenals. The United States and Russia can and should do more to cut their bloated nuclear stockpiles. But as a nuclear-weapon state party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, China is also obligated to help end the arms race and achieve disarmament sooner rather than later.

Yet, simply demanding, as the Trump administration did, that China join the arms control process is a recipe for failure. Instead, the Biden administration should adopt a more pragmatic approach that takes into account China’s concerns, and Chinese leaders need to be prepared to respond with constructive ideas.

To start, U.S. President Joe Biden could propose a new bilateral nuclear security dialogue designed to clarify each other’s nuclear postures and establish better lines of communication that could reduce the risks of miscalculation in a crisis.

The U.S. State Department should invite Chinese diplomats to join in developing a plan for fortifying the existing dialogue on nuclear weapons policy and risk reduction among the five nuclear-weapon states: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For instance, these states could consider joint arms control verification exercises based on the U.S.-Russian experience and negotiate a common system for reporting on their respective nuclear weapons holdings. They could also formulate a joint understanding that cybercapabilities will not be used to interfere with other states’ nuclear command and control.

An even more ambitious approach would be for Washington and Moscow to propose that China, France, and the UK freeze the size of their nuclear stockpiles so long as the United States and Russia continue to achieve deeper verifiable reductions in their arsenals.

At the same time, the Biden team must resist calls for new U.S. weapons deployments, including land-based, intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Asia, that would compound nuclear tensions with China and give Beijing a cynical excuse to expand its arsenal.

Engaging China on effective arms control and disarmament will be difficult and will take time, but it is necessary because there are no winners in an unconstrained arms race.

For more than six decades, the United States has been worried about China’s regional influence, military activities—and nuclear potential.

States Finally Settle on Next Leader for CTBTO

June 2021
By Daryl G. Kimball

After an unusually contentious process that lasted for months, representatives from the member states of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) finally agreed to appoint Robert Floyd of Australia to serve as its executive secretary.

After a contentious months-long contest, Robert Floyd, who heads Australia's safeguards and nonproliferation office, will succeed Lassina Zerbo, a geophysicist originally from Burkino Faso, as executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission (CTBTO). (Government of Australia)Floyd, who is currently the director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office, said in an April 12 statement on Twitter in which he outlined his candidacy that he was “hopeful for new opportunities for the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)] in 2021, a year marking the 25th anniversary of the treaty’s opening for signature.”

“I am looking forward to opportunities such as the upcoming NPT Review Conference to stress the importance of the CTBT for international peace and security and to move us closer to the goal of entry into force,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of engaging all member states and putting the organization “on firm financial footing in difficult economic times.”

Floyd will become the fourth executive secretary of the organization, succeeding Lassina Zerbo, who was seeking a third term. Zerbo’s second four-year term will expire July 31.

The process for selecting the next executive secretary has been more controversial than in the past, in part because Zerbo was seeking an unprecedented third term. Although there are no rules against that, many states, including the United States, have stressed the general practice of heads of international organizations serving two terms. Some states argued that Zerbo would provide needed continuity through the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, but others disagreed. (See ACT, October 2020.)

Floyd’s appointment was secured when he won the support of 96 states, exactly two-thirds of the states voting, in a fifth round of balloting held on May 20. Through the earlier rounds of voting, which began May 17, Floyd won the support of more than 60 percent of the member states voting, while Zerbo was supported by less than 40 percent.

The organization, with an annual budget in excess of $100 million, is responsible for maintaining and operating the test ban treaty’s global verification regime, including the International Monitoring System (IMS) and International Data Centre (IDC). It is also responsible for developing and demonstrating on-site inspection capabilities in preparation for the treaty’s entry into force, as well as for promoting entry into force of the agreement.

To date, the CTBT has been signed by 185 states and ratified by 170 states, but the treaty has not entered into force due to inaction by eight holdouts, including the United States and China.

Following an inconclusive voting process in December 2020 involving Floyd and Zerbo that left the Australian just one vote short of securing two-thirds approval (see ACT, January/February 2021), the CTBTO chair for 2020, Faouzia Mebarki of Algeria, set a Feb. 5 deadline for new nominations. 

On Jan. 8, Australia resubmitted Floyd’s nomination. Despite lagging far behind Floyd in the vote totals, Zerbo on Feb. 2 confirmed for a second time his “ability and commitment to continue working and contributing as executive secretary.” Through early 2021, the new CTBTO chair, Ivo Šrámek of the Czech Republic, engaged in intensive informal consultations aimed at reaching consensus on the selection process. 

The CTBTO decided by consensus on March 26 that all member states that had taken part in the December 2020 voting, as well as new CTBT signatories and states that had paid their assessed financial dues, would be invited to cast votes. The member states also authorized Šrámek to facilitate a process leading to a first round of balloting no later than May 17.

Zerbo, a geophysicist originally from Burkina Faso, has made a significant impact on the CTBTO. He first joined the organization in 2004 to head the IDC and was chosen to be executive secretary in 2013. Since then, he has led work to complete the monitoring and verification system by bringing key monitoring stations in China online and strengthening the connections between the CTBTO and the global scientific community. 

Zerbo also improved access to IMS-generated data on seismic events for member states, thus providing real time data for tsunami early warnings, as well as for nuclear detonations. Zerbo and his team provided detailed updates on North Korean nuclear test explosions. He also succeeded in keeping the CTBT in the international nonproliferation conversation despite the slow pace of the treaty’s entry into force.

Robert Floyd, director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office, was chosen to replace incumbent Lassina Zerbo after a contentious process.

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