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former IAEA Director-General

Russia

Russia Destroys Last Chemical Weapons

Moscow had world’s largest chemical-weapons arsenal.


November 2017
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Russia finished destroying its chemical weapons arsenal, once the largest in the world at nearly 40,000 metric tons, and criticized the United States for its delays in doing likewise.

Ahmet Üzümcü, director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, speaks at a ceremony October 11 following the completion of the destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons. The event was held at the residence of Ambassador Alexander Shulgin, the permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW. (Photo credit: OPCW)Russia was mandated under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to destroy its chemical weapons by 2007, although it received several extensions, most recently to 2020. Similarly, the United States originally had a 2007 deadline, which was pushed to 2012 and then 2023. (See ACT, July/August 2009.)

The CWC, which entered into force in 1997, has 192 states-parties. It is implemented by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which to date has verified the destruction of 96.3 percent of declared chemical weapons stockpiles of states-parties worldwide.

Russia’s chemical weapons destruction, completed Sept. 27, was “a momentous occasion” and a “historic milestone,” said OPCW Deputy Director-General Hamid Ali Rao at a commemorative ceremony. Russia declared an arsenal of 39,967 metric tons of chemical agents, including lewisite, mustard, phosgene, sarin, soman, and VX when it signed the CWC in 1993. It established its first on-site destruction facility in 2002, eliminating about 30 percent of its arsenal by 2009 and 85 percent by 2015.

Russia eliminated its arsenal by neutralizing the chemicals. Paul Walker, director of Green Cross International’s Environmental Security and Sustainability program, described the technique in an Oct. 19 email to Arms Control Today as “a wet-chemistry process of draining all weapons and storage tanks of chemical agents, and then mixing the agents with hot water and caustic reagents such as sodium hydroxide to destroy the deadly toxic nature of the agents.”

Russia operated a total of five chemical weapons destruction facilities. All but the facility in the town of Kizner, about 620 miles east of Moscow, had finished destruction and been closed by 2015.

Russia’s method of chemical destruction produced as a byproduct large quantities of toxic waste. Russia will treat the waste in the future at chemical destruction facilities in Kambarka, Gorny, and Shchuch’ye, according to Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, who addressed the issue in remarks at the commemorative ceremony held at Kizner. He asserted that Russia would decontaminate all chemical weapons destruction facilities.

Although Russia spent more than $5 billion to destroy its chemical weapons, according to Russian state media, it also benefited from significant international assistance. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in remarks Sept. 27, credited more than 15 countries with cooperation. Vladimir Yermakov, deputy head of the foreign ministry’s Department for Weapons Control and Non-Proliferation, thanked the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, and France specifically for their financial help. Some of the U.S. funding and technical assistance was provided though the 1991 Cooperative Threat Reduction program, also known as the Nunn-Lugar program.

Other States’ Destruction

With the elimination of Russia’s chemical weapons, the burden falls on the two remaining CWC member states who have yet to complete destruction of their declared arsenals: Iraq and the United States.

The size and quality of Iraq’s chemical weapons arsenal is unknown, and ongoing conflict in the Middle East presents challenges for safe removal and neutralization. Planning is reportedly underway to begin elimination.

The United States has been destroying its declared arsenal of 28,000 metric tons of chemical agents, second in size to Russia’s, since the 1990s. It has destroyed about 90 percent and is scheduled to complete destruction by 2023. The United States, which has completed destruction of five of its stockpiles, currently operates a chemical weapons destruction facility in Colorado and plans to open one in Kentucky in a few years.

The United States has destroyed its chemical weapons at rate nearly one-third of Russia’s due in part to differences between the two countries’ stockpiles, according to Walker. Russian chemical agents were stored in large tanks without explosives or propellants, but U.S. chemical weapons stockpiles include more explosive components, requiring technically difficult and time-consuming destruction.

Since completing its chemical weapons destruction, Russia has criticized the United States for lagging. Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the Valdai International Discussion Club on Oct. 19, noted the U.S. delay to 2023, which “does not look proper for a nation that claims to be a champion of nonproliferation and control.”

The United States considers that it is operating in compliance with CWC requirements. “We remain on track to meet our planned completion date,” Kenneth Ward, U.S. permanent representative to the OPCW, said in an Oct. 10 statement to the OPCW Executive Council.

New Phase for CWC

With Russia’s chemical weapons elimination and the revised U.S. destruction deadline six years away, experts say that the CWC will soon be moving into a “post-chemical-weapons-destruction” phase.

John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, outlined possible futures for the OPCW in a Sept. 29 blog post. “At least two visions may be realized: the first in which the OPCW is focused on chemical-weapon threats with most resources allocated accordingly, the second in which the OPCW serves as a model of international outreach and capacity building for the peaceful uses of chemistry.”

“Now the goal of a chemical-weapons-free-world is much nearer,” declared Sergio Duarte, president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and a former UN high representative for disarmament affairs, in a Sept. 27 statement. He laid out several steps for the CWC regime to pursue. “It is necessary…to ensure the 100 percent universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to further improve safeguards against any re-emergence of chemical weapons on the basis of traditional and new technologies and against any attempts by any actors to get hold of or to use these prohibited weapons.”—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: November 1, 2017

Putin Slams U.S. on Nonproliferation Deals

Russian leader warns of “immediate and reciprocal” response if the United States withdraws from the INF Treaty.


November 2017
By Maggie Tennis

Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted the United States for failing to meet nonproliferation commitments and warned that Russia would have an “immediate and reciprocal” response if the United States withdraws from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during the annual Valdai Club conference of international experts in Sochi on October 19. (Photo credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)In the speech Oct. 19, Putin praised U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation in the 1990s and early 2000s, but blamed the United States for derailing that progress. Addressing the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Putin cited the U.S. delay to 2023 in eliminating its chemical weapons stockpile, while noting that Russia completed its elimination Sept. 27. Further, he noted a shift and delays in the U.S. method for surplus plutonium disposal, which Moscow claims violates the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) between the two countries.

Putin questioned whether such delays are “proper” for “a nation that claims to be a champion of nonproliferation and control.” He cited additional grievances, including U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, failure to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and halting of implementation of a 123 agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation. President George W. Bush froze that agreement in September 2008, just four months after it was signed, in response to Russia’s war with neighboring Georgia. It was revived in 2010 as part of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic “reset” with Russia.

Putin called nuclear cooperation “the most important sphere of interaction between Russia and the United States, bearing in mind that Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility to the world as the two largest nuclear powers.”

In his remarks, Putin portrayed the United States as the unreliable partner in nonproliferation efforts. He cited Washington’s decision to push back the deadline for destroying the U.S. chemical weapons arsenal from 2007 to 2023, an effort that has been hindered by rising costs and stringent environmental restrictions. Under U.S. Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, the United States provided financial and technical support to help Russia in destroying its chemical weapons arsenal, which was completed 10 years after the original 2007 deadline set for both countries.

Putin also took aim at the troubled U.S. effort to eliminate surplus plutonium, which he called “perplexing and alarming.” He criticized the United States for canceling plans, made in agreement with Russia, to eliminate its weapons-grade plutonium by turning it into mixed-oxide fuel for nuclear power reactors.

Putin condemned the unilateral U.S. decision, saying that Moscow only learned about it after seeing a “budget submission to the Congress” seeking funding for an alternative disposal method. (See ACT, March 2016.) Alteration of the terms of the PMDA requires agreement by both parties, which the United States did not obtain when it decided to pursue the cheaper “dilute-and-dispose” method. Moscow suspended its participation in the PMDA in October 2016. (See ACT, Nov. 2016.)

Further, Putin noted apparent U.S. ambivalence toward extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as permitted under the terms of the accord. “Now we hear that New START does not work either,” he said, seeming to reference a January phone call with President Donald Trump in which Trump called New START a “bad deal.” The Russians have declared a readiness to negotiate an extension of the treaty, but the U.S. position remains unclear.

Putin stated that Russia would not withdraw from the treaty, which runs through February 2021.

Putin dismissed U.S. allegations of Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty. He said that Russia might be “tempted” to violate the treaty if it did not possess air- and sea-based missiles, such as Kalibr cruise missiles, that match U.S. capabilities. The INF Treaty, which eliminated U.S. and Russian land-based cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, left both countries free to deploy air- and sea-launched missiles with that range.

“You can see how effective the Kalibr missiles are, from the Mediterranean Sea, from the Caspian Sea, from the air or from submarines, whatever you wish,” said Putin. “Besides Kalibr, with an operational range of 1,400 kilometers, we have other airborne missile systems, very powerful ones with an operational range of 4,500 kilometers.”

He warned that Moscow would offer an “immediate and reciprocal” response to a U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty, a step advocated by some Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Putin did not specifically address U.S. accusations that Russia has deployed a ground-launched cruise missile with a treaty-prohibited range. (See ACT, Oct. 2017.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at an Oct. 20 nonproliferation conference in Moscow, criticized the United States for “refusing to specify” its allegations of Russia’s INF Treaty violations. The United States provided some specifics to Russia at a meeting of the treaty’s Special Verification Commission in November 2016, according to U.S. officials.

Lavrov expressed certainty that the “bilateral dialogue between Russia and the United States on strategic stability will continue,” but doubts that the bilateral format would be sufficient for negotiating future nuclear weapons reductions. (See ACT, Oct. 2016.) Russia has stepped up calls in recent years for multilateral arms reductions.

Lavrov emphasized the need to “prevent a spiral of confrontation” between Washington and Moscow over arms control from becoming “unstoppable.”—MAGGIE TENNIS

Posted: November 1, 2017

Russian Veto Threatens Chemical Weapons Accountability in Syria

Russia’s dangerous disregard for holding Syria accountable for using chemical weapons reached a new high Tuesday as Russia’s permanent representative to the UN vetoed a resolution to extend the mandate of the independent investigative body charged with assigning blame to parties that use chemical agents in Syria. The body, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), is a United Nations – Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons partnership forged in August 2015 to bring accountability to chemical weapons attacks in Syria . Thus far, it has found the Assad government guilty...

Russia needs to get tough on chemical weapons

While Russia completing the destruction of its once 40,000-metric-ton chemical weapons arsenal last week is cause for celebration, its continued denial of the Assad regime’s use of deadly chemical weapons in Syria is most certainly not. Russia, which destroyed all of its chemical weapons due to its obligation as a state-party to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), nevertheless still shields the deliberate and inexcusable violation of the CWC by another state-party, Syria. Syria joined the CWC after international outrage erupted following a brutal chemical attack in a Damascus suburb...

Trump's UN Address a  Failure of Nuclear Leadership

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Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 19, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270, ext. 102; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

Since 1945, U.S. presidents have sought to rally global support and action toward practical solutions curbing the spread of nuclear weapons and reducing the dangerous likelihood of their use. 

US President Donald Trump waits after addressing the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, in New York on September 19, 2017. (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)Sadly, President Donald J. Trump, in his first, fiery address before the UN General Assembly has demonstrated that he is not up to this most important of U.S. presidential responsibilities. 
 
Instead, Trump threatened to unravel the widely-supported, hard-won 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers that verifiably blocks Iran’s path to a bomb. Allies and security and nonproliferation experts agree that Iran is meeting its nuclear-related commitments under the deal. Any further steps by the Trump administration to undermine the Iran nuclear deal will isolate the United States, make it harder to confront Iran’s misbehavior in the region, and worst of all, potentially lead to the undoing of the agreement, thereby increasing the threat of war and a spiral of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and beyond.
 
On the growing tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile program, Trump likewise failed to appeal to the international community to better implement existing sanctions and to support efforts for a realistic, negotiated solution, instead recklessly threatening to destroy North Korea. It is naive to think that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

As President John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”
 
Trump missed an opportunity to outline a coherent approach on how the United States, Russia, and other nuclear-weapon states could responsibly reduce nuclear tensions and work together to prevent nuclear conflict. At this point in his first term as president, Barack Obama had convened a special meeting of the UN Security Council and won the adoption of a comprehensive strategy (UNSC 1887) to reduce nuclear risks worldwide.
 
Trump’s address is yet another sign that we are entering a dark and difficult phase in the long-running effort to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

In the long run, the United States will continue to play an essential and useful role in reducing the risks of nuclear weapons. But in the near term, other responsible U.S. and world leaders must step forward to provide the nuclear leadership that Mr. Trump is failing to demonstrate.

Country Resources:

Posted: September 19, 2017

Nuclear Restraint Agreements Under Serious Threat

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Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen these four key pillars of arms control and nonproliferation.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, September 5, 2017

Since the dawn of the nuclear age over 70 years ago, rarely has the world faced as difficult an array of nuclear weapons-related security challenges as it is facing now. Unfortunately, Congress will soon enact legislation that could further imperil the global nuclear order.
 
The Senate is scheduled to take up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Authorization Act as early as this week. The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81. Both bills contain several problematic provisions that if enacted into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to several longstanding, bipartisan arms control and nonproliferation efforts and increase the risks of renewed nuclear arms competition with Russia.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have worsened over the past few years, thanks to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, alleged violation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and support for the Assad regime in Syria. Nevertheless, the two countries continue to share common interests. In particular, as the possessors of over 90 percent of the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, they have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. The downward spiral in relations makes these objectives all the more urgent.
 
While some meaningful cooperation continues, such as adherence to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, there is no ongoing dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps.
 
Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen the existing architecture of arms control and nonproliferation agreements, key pillars of which have their origin in the vision of President Ronald Reagan. These agreements constrain Russia’s nuclear forces, provide for stability, predictability, and transparency in the bilateral relationship, and have only increased in value as the U.S.-Russia relationship has deteriorated.
 
Below is a summary of the current status and arguments in support of four key agreements put at risk by the Senate and/or House NDAAs. 
 


The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)
 
Background: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) requires that the United States and Russia each reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. The agreement, which is slated to expire in 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.
 
Current Status: So far both sides are implementing the agreement and there are no indications that they do not plan to continue to do so. Russia has indicated that it is interested in beginning talks with the United States on extending the treaty, but the Trump administration has yet to respond to these overtures. In January phone call with President Putin, President Trump reportedly dismissed the idea of an extension and called the treaty a “bad deal.” The House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would prohibit the use of funds to extend the New START treaty unless Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART

Key Points:

  • New START caps the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and provides the United States with additional tools to monitor Russia’s forces. The treaty includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with treaty limits and enable the United States to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile, which aids U.S. military planning.
  • The deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relationship has only increased the value of New START. The treaty provides for bilateral stability, predictability, and transparency, thereby bounding the current tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
  • The U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START. For example, in March 2017, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), “I am big supporter of the New START Agreement.” Hyten added that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”
  • Connecting New START extension with INF treaty compliance is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021. If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
 
Background: The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia and the United States destroyed a total of 2,692 short/medium/intermediate-range missiles by the 1991 deadline.
 
Current Status: The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the treaty. Moscow denies it is violating the agreement, and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord. Both the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the FY 2018 NDAA would authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/INFtreaty
 
Key Points:

  • The United States and Russia need to work to preserve the INF Treaty. This should include using the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution mechanism, to address mutual concerns. The Trump administration should make it clear to Moscow that so long as Russia remains in violation of the treaty, the United States will pursue steps to reaffirm and buttress its commitment to the defense of those allies threatened by the treaty-noncompliant missiles.
  • Development of a new GLCM sets the stage for Washington to violate the agreement and would take the focus off Russia's violation. Russia could respond by publicly repudiating the treaty and deploying large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.
  • Development of a new GLCM is militarily unnecessary and Pentagon has not asked for one. The United States can legally deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets. There is no reason to believe that development of a new GLCM will convince Russia to return to compliance. A new GLCM would also take years to develop and suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements. The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the INF provision on requiring a new GLCM.
  • NATO does not support a new GLCM and attempting to force it upon the alliance would be incredibly divisive. It is thus a weapon to nowhere. A divided NATO would also be a gift to Russia.
  • Mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the INF treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

The 1990 Treaty on Open Skies
 
Background: The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency on the military activities of states, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants for information gathering purposes. The parties have equal yearly quotas of overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all Treaty parties.
 
Current Status: The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russia’s compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would annually bar, for each of the next five years, any U.S. Open Skies Treaty skies flights until Pentagon and intelligence community submit a plan for all of the treaty flights in the coming year. The bill would also bar DOD from acquiring a more effective, more timely, more reliable digital imaging system for conducting flights over Russian territory.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/openskies

Key Points:

  • The Open Skies Treaty provides a significant contribution to the security and stability of North America and Europe. According to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear and Strategic Policy Anita E. Friedt, almost a dozen U.S. and NATO member flights over Ukraine and Western Russia in 2014 during the Ukraine crisis “resulted in valuable data and insights.” The treaty mandates information-sharing about military forces that increases transparency among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.
  • U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection. The United States and its allies typically carry out many more overflights than Russia. These flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery.
  • Russia would gain a unilateral advantage as a result of restricting funding for upgrading aircraft used by the United States for treaty observation flights. This would stymie U.S. efforts to match Russian sensor upgrades, thereby limiting the value of the Open Skies treaty to U.S. national security.
  • The Russian sensors and cameras in question do not pose a threat to U.S. security. According to Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs, all states party to the Open Skies treaty are permitted to certify new sensors and aircraft. Furthermore, he said, “the resolution of Open Skies imagery is similar to that available in commercial satellite imagery.” He added that Russian information compiled as a result of Open Skies flights is “of only incremental value” among Russia’s many means of intelligence gathering. 

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
 
Background: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is the the intergovernmental organization that promotes the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has yet to enter force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System (IMS) to deter and detect nuclear test explosions.
 
Current Status: The United States currently contributes nearly a quarter of the annual CTBTO budget. In April 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined with other Foreign Ministers at the G-7 foreign minister summit in a statement expressing support for the CTBTO. The Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request would fund the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO at roughly the same level as the Obama administration. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would prohibit funding for the CTBTO and calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2310 does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/test-ban-treaty-at-a-glance

Key Points:

  • The CTBTO and IMS support and provide detection capabilities that supplement U.S. national intelligence capabilities to detect nuclear testing. Reducing U.S. funding for the CTBTO would  adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS.
  • The CTBTO is a neutral source of information that can help to mobilize international action against any state that violates the global norm against nuclear testing. U.S. action to restrict funding could prompt other states to reduce their own funding for the CTBTO or lead states to withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing. Contrary to what the Cotton-Wilson bill implies,
  • Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states, including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, it encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so. It also takes note of a Sept. 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 
  • Asserting that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory would signal to other states that that the United States may be seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear testing. With North Korea having conducted a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the CTBTO and the global nuclear testing taboo. 

—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Country Resources:

Posted: September 5, 2017

Disputes Cloud U.S.-Russian Arms Talks

Disputes Cloud U.S.-Russian Arms Talks


By Kingston Reif
September 2017

The United States and Russia are preparing to resume talks on strategic stability amid deep divisions on a host of bilateral issues, including arms control, and in the wake of new congressionally imposed sanctions on Moscow that U.S. President Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law last month.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Manila, Philippines on August 6, 2017. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of State/Public Domain)U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached an agreement in principle at their May meeting in Washington to resume dialogue on nuclear and related issues. Such talks would provide an important venue for discussions between Washington and Moscow at a difficult time in the relationship on steps to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons use and to reinforce and build on existing arms control mechanisms.

But the two sides have yet to agree on when the talks will begin and who will attend. There is no indication that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed nuclear weapons issues during their July 7 bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

“We have agreed in principle to hold a bilateral, interagency exchange on a number of issues related to maintaining strategic stability between Russia and the United States,” a State Department official wrote in an Aug. 23 email to Arms Control Today. “We do not have any scheduled meetings to announce at this time.”

Russia wants talks on arms control, nonproliferation issues, “and, accordingly, strategic stability,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in an interview with Kommersant published Aug. 8. “Unfortunately, so far under the new administration, a dialogue on this topic is extremely slow,” he said. “But we expect that in the near future the relevant contacts will resume.”

The Obama administration had sought to begin talks with Russia on strategic stability last year, but Russia demurred, preferring to await the new U.S. administration.

Trump Seeks Better Relations

Before and after taking office, Trump stated repeatedly that he would like to improve relations with Moscow. Reflecting that sentiment, Tillerson said on May 14 on “Meet the Press” that the United States needs to “improve the relationship between the two greatest nuclear powers in the world.”

“I think it’s largely viewed that it is not healthy for the world, it’s certainly not healthy for us. . . for this relationship to remain at this low level,” Tillerson added.

Still, tensions between the two countries remain due to disagreements over a growing list of issues that, from the U.S. viewpoint, include Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election, continuing involvement in the war in Ukraine, alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and support for Syria’s Assad regime. Russia has complaints of its own, including U.S. sanctions, construction of missile defense systems in Europe, and NATO defensive activities described by Moscow as threatening.

As long as the cloud of the continued congressional and FBI investigations into the Trump campaign’s conduct prior to and after the 2016 election hangs over the administration, there will be significant domestic political constraints on its ability to seek a grand bargain with Moscow, including on significant nuclear arms control measures.

For example, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly in July to increase sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine and Syria, as well as allegations that it interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Notably, the bill gives Congress the power to block the president from making any changes to sanctions policy on Russia.

Trump signed the bill Aug. 2, but in a statement said the law was “significantly flawed” and “included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.” The next day, Trump tweeted that Congress, not Russia, is to blame for the bilateral relationship being “at an all-time & very dangerous low.” 

Challenges to Arms Control

Key pillars of the U.S.-Russian arms control architecture, like the bilateral relationship more broadly, are under siege. 

Although some meaningful arms control cooperation continues, such as adherence to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, there is no ongoing dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu as they attend a ceremony for Russia’s Navy Day in Saint Petersburg on July 30. (Photo credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP/Getty Images)Putin rebuffed President Barack Obama’s June 2013 proposal to reduce U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear stockpiles by one-third below the ceilings set by New START, which caps the deployed strategic nuclear arsenal of each country at 1,550 accountable warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles. Progress was stymied due in part to disagreement between the two sides about non-nuclear issues that could impact the strategic balance, such as missile defense and advanced conventional weapons.

To make matters worse, the United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) in violation of the 1987 INF Treaty. Moscow denies it is violating the agreement and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord. Ryabkov said that the INF Treaty is a “very important and stabilizing factor” and that Russia remains committed to the accord.

Meanwhile, some Republican members of Congress are seeking to escalate the dispute by requiring the Pentagon to begin research and development on a U.S. GLCM to counter Russia’s violation. Furthermore, U.S. and NATO officials have expressed concern that Russia is developing new nuclear weapons and lowering the threshold for when it might consider using them.

It remains to be seen how the Trump administration will approach the arms control relationship with Russia. The administration is conducting a Nuclear Posture Review that is examining U.S. nuclear policy and strategy. (See ACT, March 2017.) The review is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

The president has said that global nuclear weapons inventories should be significantly reduced, but he also has pledged to strengthen and expand U.S. nuclear capabilities, denounced New START, and reportedly responded negatively to Putin’s suggestion in a January phone call to extend the treaty. 

An Agenda for Talks

Christopher Ford, special assistant to the president and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation, told the Arms Control Association annual meeting on June 2 that the Trump administration is “working very hard to try to re-engage” with Russia “on matters that relate to strategic stability.”

Ford said this engagement includes “broader questions. . . of how various pieces of our security postures fit together and either are conducive to or detrimental to broader questions of global peace and security.”

This would suggest a wide-ranging agenda for talks, including the growing number of factors that influence U.S. and Russian thinking about nuclear force policy, including missile defense, third-country nuclear forces, advanced conventional weapons, the cyber domain, and more.

An early focus of discussion could be forging a better common understanding of strategic stability and how it can be bolstered by arms control and more frequent dialogue.

Another early deliverable from the talks could be agreement on an extension of New START and its verifications provisions by five years until 2026, as allowed by the treaty.

In a July 18 interview with Kommersant, Ryabkov reiterated Russia’s offer to begin talks with the United States on extending the treaty. He said the United States has been “too slow,” particularly in hiring senior personnel empowered to discuss New START implementation and a possible extension.

If the treaty is allowed to lapse with nothing to replace it, there would be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

Strategic stability discussions also would provide a high-level forum to discuss preservation of the INF Treaty and ways to resolve the compliance dispute. A prerequisite for progress would likely require that each side acknowledge the other’s concerns.

The collapse of the treaty could unleash a costly new arms race in intermediate-range missiles, which would undermine security in Europe and Asia, and make continued strategic arms control measures practically impossible.

Posted: September 1, 2017

Republicans Aim to Produce Banned Missile

Republicans Aim to Produce Banned Missile


By Maggie Tennis
September 2017

Republicans in Congress are advancing legislation to have the United States develop a cruise missile prohibited by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an action that would escalate a dispute with Russia over alleged violations of the only treaty to successfully eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons.

House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018 each contain provisions that threaten the integrity of the INF Treaty by establishing research and development programs for a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range prohibited by the treaty. The treaty required the two countries to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. It does not prohibit activities related to research and development of this category of weapons.

Ambassador Eileen Malloy, the then-chief of the arms control unit at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, is pictured May 11, 1990 at the destruction site in Saryozek, (former Soviet Union) Kazakhstan, where the last Soviet short-range missiles under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty were eliminated in spring 1990. (Photo credit: American Foreign Service Association) Since 2014, the United States has accused Russia of violating its INF Treaty commitment “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” an intermediate-range GLCM. Those accusations expanded this year after the United States determined that Russia is fielding the noncompliant system. Moscow denies the allegations.

The House and Senate bills authorize programs and funding for research and development of a road-mobile GLCM with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The House version provides $25 million to develop a conventional system, while the Senate version would provide $65 million for a nuclear-capable system.

The House version, which passed on July 14 by a vote of 344–81, also requires the president to submit a report on Russian INF Treaty compliance within 15 months of enactment. According to the bill, if the president’s report finds that Russia is still violating the treaty, then the United States will no longer be bound by it.

The legislation has strong support among Republican lawmakers. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty Preservation Act of 2017 in the Senate in February. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) introduced a companion bill in the House. These pieces of legislation provided much of the text for the section in the authorization bill on the treaty. “The only way to save the INF Treaty is to show the Russians that we will walk away from it if they don’t come back into compliance,” Cotton said July 17 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Yet, Cotton questioned whether to remain a party to the treaty even if Moscow does return to compliance. Specifically, Cotton expressed concern about China’s “complete freedom to deploy intermediate-range missiles” because it is not party to the INF Treaty. The United States needs a ground-based intermediate-range missile system given an “increasingly aggressive China with more than 90 percent of its missile forces falling into the intermediate range,” he said.

Many Democrats and experts in the arms control community say that the legislation puts at risk bipartisan nuclear cooperation and the security of European allies. Steven Pifer, nonresident senior fellow in the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an April 26 blog post, “U.S. allies and other countries in Europe and Asia would find themselves under threat from an unlimited number of Russian intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles.” Furthermore, Pifer warns that an end to the INF Treaty would “virtually ensure that no new U.S.-Russia arms control treaty could secure the Senate votes needed for consent to ratification.”

In a July 11 statement on the House legislation, the White House criticized the congressional initiative, saying it “unhelpfully ties the administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options” and “would also raise concerns among NATO allies.”

Christopher Ford, senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation on the National Security Council staff, has stated that the Trump administration is discussing with allies a “very broad” range of measures to pressure Russia into compliance. Further, lawmakers in Congress do not appear to have considered the question of whether European allies, given public opinion, would be willing to host U.S. nuclear-capable intermediate-range GLCMs were they produced.

Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand January 14, 1989 among several dismantled U.S. Pershing II missiles as they view the destruction of other missile components. The missiles are being destroyed in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. (Photo credit: MSGT Jose Lopez Jr./U.S. Department of Defense)The House bill may exceed congressional authority by declaring that the United States would no longer bound by the treaty if Russia does not return to compliance after 15 months. Cotton’s office did not return a request for comment.

Top U.S. military officials say there is not a specific military need for such a GLCM. Responding to Cotton’s comment that U.S. treaty obligations create an “offensive imbalance” with Russia and China, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States under the treaty is “not restricted from fielding ballistic missile or cruise missile systems that could be launched from ships or airplanes.”

In Moscow, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the nonproliferation and arms control department in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described the INF Treaty-related measures as “provocative” in comments to the Russian newspaper Kommersant on Aug. 5. He dismissed “the strange fuss on Capitol Hill” on this issue as having “more to do with PR than real politics.”

“I would like to hope that after consideration of the bill in the Senate and connection to this process by the U.S. administration, the final version of the document will become more reasonable and acceptable,” Ulyanov said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Kommersant on July 18 that Russia has “no reason to question the viability” of the INF Treaty and “we are very worried by the attempts of the American side, under far-fetched pretexts, under the charge of accusing Russia of alleged deviations from the requirements of the treaty, to question the expediency of its preservation.”

The House legislation ties funding for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to Russian INF Treaty compliance. Cotton said on July 17 that by threatening New START and the Open Skies Treaty, two accords that Russia hopes to preserve, the United States demonstrates a “firm and unyielding response” to Russian noncompliance.

Democratic lawmakers say that linking INF Treaty compliance to cooperation on other key treaties jeopardizes U.S. national security and further strains the bilateral arms control relationship, especially because Moscow has expressed a commitment to discussing a New START extension.

In an email to Arms Control Today, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) wrote, “Tying a treaty limiting strategic weapons designed to decimate all life to compliance with a treaty that governs short- and medium-range weapons with serious, though limited, regional impacts is reckless.”

Posted: September 1, 2017

How congressional Republicans are trying to undermine U.S.-Russia relations

This op-ed originally appeared in The Washington Post . As U.S.-Russia relations continue to sour, President Trump has taken to Twitter to blame Congress for the continuing deterioration. Trump’s finger-pointing may not pass the laugh test, but the fact that Congress is not to blame for our troubles with Moscow does not mean that it can’t make matters worse. And when it comes to nuclear weapons, Congress appears determined to do just that. Republicans have urged the Pentagon to begin developing a new, potentially nuclear missile prohibited by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty...

START I at a Glance

July 2017

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: July 2017

START I was signed July 31, 1991, by the United States and the Soviet Union. Five months later, the Soviet Union dissolved, leaving four independent states in possession of strategic nuclear weapons: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. On May 23, 1992, the United States and the four nuclear-capable successor states to the Soviet Union signed the Lisbon Protocol, which made all five nations party to the START I agreement. START I entered into force December 5, 1994, when the five treaty parties exchanged instruments of ratification in Budapest. All treaty parties met the agreement's December 5, 2001 implementation deadline. START I expired on December 5, 2009.

Basic Terms:

  • 1,600 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers for each side.
  • 6,000 "accountable" warheads on ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers, of which no more than 4,900 may be on ICBMs and SLBMs, 1,540 on heavy missiles (the Soviet SS-18), and 1,100 on mobile ICBMs.
  • Ballistic missile throw-weight (lifting power) is limited to 3,600 metric tons on each side.

Counting Rules:

  • Heavy bombers equipped only with bombs or short-range attack missiles (SRAMs) are counted as carrying one warhead each.
  • U.S. heavy bombers may carry no more than 20 long-range air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) each. The first 150 of these bombers count as carrying only 10 ALCMs each.
  • Soviet heavy bombers may carry no more than 16 ALCMs each. The first 180 of these bombers count as carrying only eight ALCMs each.
  • No more than 1,250 warheads may be "downloaded" (removed from) and not counted on existing multiple-warhead ballistic missiles.

Other Provisions:

  • START I ran for 15 years with an option to extend for successive five-year periods. Based on commitments made at the March 1997 Helsinki Summit, the sides agreed in principle to negotiate an agreement making the START treaties unlimited in duration.
  • Separate "politically binding" agreements limit sea-launched cruise missiles with ranges above 600 kilometers to 880 for each side and the Soviet Backfire bomber to 500.
Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: July 25, 2017

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