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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Kingston Reif

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, May 2019

U.S.-Russian Arms Control Talks to Begin Amid Uncertainty Following a May 14 meeting in Sochi, Russia with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that the two countries “agreed that … we will gather together teams that will begin to work not only on [the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] New START and its potential extension but on a broader range of arms control issues that each of our two nations have.” But it remains unclear when such talks will begin, who will lead the U.S. negotiating team, what the Trump...

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State Dept. says Secretary will explore “a new era of arms control” in Sochi meeting. But first, the U.S. and Russia should extend New START to maintain a foundation for more ambitious future efforts, say security experts.

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For Immediate Release: May 13, 2019

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

(Washington, DC)—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Sochi, Russia Tuesday, May 14 to discuss what the State Department calls a “new era” in “arms control to address new and emerging threats” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Two weeks ago, senior administration officials told reporters that Trump had directed his administration to seek a new arms control agreement with Russia and China. One official told CNN that the agreement should include: “all the weapons, all the warheads, and all the missiles.” The officials criticized New START, which will expire in February 2021 is not extended, because it only limits U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons.

Pompeo acknowledged May 6 that such an agenda might be “too ambitious," noting "there are just a couple years left before New START expires. It may be that we have to do that on a bilateral basis.”

China is estimated to possess roughly 300 nuclear warheads, of which some 100 are deployed on intercontinental-range ballistic missiles. China has never been a party to any agreement that limits the number or types of its nuclear weaponry.

The United States and Russia possess far larger arsenals, estimated at 6,500 warheads (of all types) each. The two countries currently deploy roughly 1,400 New START accountable warheads on a variety of long-range delivery systems.

President Trump told reporters May 3 at the White House: “And China — I’ve already spoken to them; they very much would like to be a part of that [a trilateral nuclear arms control deal].”

But a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said May 6: "China opposes any country talking out of turn about China on the issue of arms control and will not take part in any trilateral negotiations on a nuclear disarmament agreement.”

U.S. officials also say they want to limit Russia’s stockpile of some 2,000 sub-strategic warheads in central storage inside Russia. The United States possesses several hundred, including approximately 180 deployed in five European NATO countries that can be delivered on fighter-bombers.

Russia is open broader arms control talks with Trump, but it has a long list of grievances about U.S. policies and weapons systems.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, suggested April 26 Moscow’s response would depend on the nature of any U.S. proposals. “Further steps towards nuclear disarmament will require creating a number of prerequisites and taking into account many factors that have a direct impact on strategic stability” including missile defense systems, cyber weapons, weapons development in space, and advanced conventional arms, he said.

A large number of Democratic Senators and some Republicans, have expressed strong support for New START extension. Last week, the Democratic Chair and the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs introduced a bill urging the extension of New START.

QUICK QUOTES

“At first glance, a broader nuclear arms control deal with Russia and China may sound promising. But the Trump administration does not appear to have a plan or the capacity to negotiate such a far-reaching deal, which would likely take years. Agreement on the extension of New START, which will be difficult enough, should be the first step forward."

- Kingston Reif, director of disarmament and threat reduction policy

“Without extending New START, there will be no legally-binding, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles for the first time since 1972. The risk of an unbridled arms race would grow. Extending New START would provide a necessary foundation and additional time for any follow-on deal with Russia that addresses other issues of mutual concern.”

—Daryl G. Kimball, executive director

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Trump Increases Budget for Banned Missiles

The Trump administration has requested nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2020 to develop three new missile systems that would exceed the range limits of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a pact the United States is preparing to exit in August.


May 2019
By Kingston Reif

The Trump administration has requested nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2020 to develop three new missile systems that would exceed the range limits of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a pact the United States is preparing to exit in August.

A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missile before it was destroyed in 1988 under the INF Treaty. The United States plans to test a new, ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile soon after the treaty expires in August. (Photo: Jose Lopez/U.S. Air Force)The funding proposal seeks more than twice what Congress provided last year and is likely to prove controversial in Congress. Democrats have criticized the administration’s treaty withdrawal plans and questioned the need for new missiles.

The budget submission includes $76 million in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Prompt Global Strike Capability Development account to develop a mobile, conventionally armed, land-based cruise missile and a ballistic missile system, a congressional aide told Arms Control Today. The request is $28 million more than the fiscal year 2019 appropriation to research and develop concepts and options for INF Treaty-range missile systems. (See ACT, November 2018.)

The budget documents do not specify the purpose of the proposed funding other than to note that it is for “a classified munitions program” and to address “strategic policy and treaty issues.” In the past, the prompt global-strike program has focused on the development of hypersonic missile technologies, but the two treaty-busting missiles funded in this account are currently slated to fly on traditional cruise and ballistic trajectories.

Defense Department officials told reporters in March that the Pentagon is planning to test a ground-launched variant of the Navy’s Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that has a range of about 1,000 kilometers in August and a ground-launched ballistic missile with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers in November. (See ACT, April 2019.) The INF Treaty required the United States and Russia to eliminate permanently all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Prior to the INF Treaty’s conclusion in 1987, the United States deployed several hundred nuclear-armed, intermediate-range Pershing II ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe, the latter of which were an adaptation of the Tomahawk. The Pentagon spent over $6 billion, in fiscal year 1987 dollars, to develop and procure the missiles.

The officials estimated that the new cruise missile could be deployed in 18 months while the new ballistic missile would not be ready for at least five years.

The announcement of the planned tests came just more than a month after the Trump administration announced on Feb. 2 that it would withdraw from the INF Treaty on Aug. 2 unless Russia corrects alleged compliance violations with the agreement. U.S. officials also announced in early February the immediate suspension of U.S. implementation of the pact.

The officials said the Pentagon would cancel the tests if Russia returns to compliance with the treaty, but the likelihood of that happening is low. (See ACT, March 2019.) They also noted that there have been no discussions with allies in Europe and Asia about hosting the missiles. One official said the new ballistic missile could be deployed in Guam, a U.S. territory, which would allow the missile to strike targets in mainland China.

U.S. officials have said Russia has deployed several battalions of the allegedly treaty-noncompliant 9M729 cruise missile, including some at locations within range of European targets. Russia, which denies any treaty violation, formally suspended its implementation of the agreement in March and has pledged to begin development of new INF Treaty-range missiles.

A New, Third Weapon

The budget request also contains $20 million for the Army to begin development of a mobile, land-based, medium-range missile “that can attack specific threat vulnerabilities in order to penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit in the strategic and deep maneuver areas.” The Army is planning to request to total of $900 million for the missile through fiscal year 2024.

A U.S. Army Tactical Missile System is tested in South Korea in 2017.  The United States is considering replacing the system with a missile that could fly further than currently allowed by the INF Treaty. (Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)The budget documents do not specify the type or range of the missile, but the congressional aide confirmed that the weapon would fall within the range prohibited by the INF Treaty. The Defense Department classifies a medium-range missile as having a range between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers.

In addition, the Army is pursuing several other ground-launched missile systems with ranges that could exceed 500 kilometers.

The service is requesting $164 million to continue development of a Precision Strike Missile to replace the aging Army Tactical Missile System. The current range requirement for the new ballistic missile is up to 499 kilometers, as dictated by the INF Treaty, but Army officials have stated the missile could eventually fly as far as 700 kilometers. The service aims to begin fielding the missile as soon as 2023.

The budget request seeks $228 million to begin developing a land-based hypersonic missile “to provide the Army with a prototype strategic attack weapon system” and $92 million for a Strategic Long-Range Cannon program “to further enhance range, lethality, and precision enablers for extended range cannon and munition systems.”

Gen. John Murray, the chief of Army Futures Command, told Congress last September that the service is “looking very hard and starting down the path of hypersonics and then also looking at what we call the Strategic Long-Range Cannon, which conceivably could have a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles.”

It is unclear whether these weapons would meet the INF Treaty’s definition of a ground-launched ballistic missile and thus be limited by the agreement, but this question now appears moot given the impending collapse of the treaty.

Supporters of developing new INF Treaty-range missiles argue that such weapons would provide additional military options against Russia and especially China, which is not a party to the agreement and has deployed large numbers of missiles with ranges that the United States and Russia are prohibited from deploying.

Critics argue that the U.S. military can counter Russia and China by continuing to field air- and sea-launched cruise missiles that do not violate the accord. They also note that such intermediate-range weapons would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia or China to be of meaningful military value. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles. Several countries, including Poland, have made it clear that any deployment of the new systems in Europe would have to be approved by all NATO members.

In an Oct. 24, 2018, letter to the secretaries of defense and state, Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), now the chairmen of the House armed services and foreign affairs committees, respectively, said they had seen “no validated military requirement for withdrawing from the INF Treaty and deploying INF-range missiles.”

Other congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to restrict funding for ground-launched, INF Treaty-range missiles unless several specific conditions have been met, the key one being a requirement that any deployment of such a missile in Europe come from a NATO-wide decision, not a bilateral agreement.

U.S. Seeks Broader Nuclear Arms Pact

Administration opens door to negotiations on new weapons, new partners.


May 2019
By Kingston Reif and Shervin Taheran

President Donald Trump has ordered his staff to seek a new agreement on nuclear weapons that would encompass all Russian and Chinese nuclear arms, senior administration officials told reporters in April. Currently, the United States and Russia abide by the bilateral 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that limits only deployed strategic weapons and does not involve China. The treaty is due to expire in February 2021, but the pact allows the two sides to extend it for up to five years.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (center), speaking here at January conference in Beijing, suggested in April that any future U.S.-Russian arms control talks would need to address a variety of previously unnegotiated issues. (Photo: Thomas Peter/Getty Images)“The president has made clear that he thinks that arms control should include Russia and China and should include all the weapons, all the warheads, all the missiles,” said a senior White House official on April 25. “We have an ambition to give the president options as quickly as possible to give him as much space on the calendar as possible.”

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, suggested Moscow’s response would depend on the nature of any U.S. proposals. “Further steps towards nuclear disarmament will require creating a number of prerequisites and taking into account many factors that have a direct impact on strategic stability” including missile defense systems, cyber weapons, weapons development in space, and advanced conventional arms, he said in an April 26 news briefing.

The Trump administration has shown no indication that it would be willing to limit these weapons in an agreement with Russia and China. Even if it were willing to do so, it is highly unlikely an agreement could be reached before New START expires in less than two years.

The president’s new order followed his April 4 comments at the White House, while sitting next to Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, on the need for the United States, Russia, and China to reduce the numbers of and spending on nuclear weapons.

“Between Russia and China and us, we’re all making hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including nuclear [weapons], which is ridiculous…. We have to be the leader. I think it’s much better if we all got together and we didn’t make these weapons…. And those three countries, I think, can [come] together and stop the spending and spend on things that maybe are more productive toward long-term peace,” Trump said.

Senior administration officials echoed the president’s desire to include China in arms control. The Trump administration is “at the very beginning of conversations about renewing” New START, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in April 10 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If we can get the deal right, if we can make sure that it fits 2021 and beyond, President [Donald] Trump has made very clear that if we can get a good, solid arms control agreement, we ought to get one.”

Remaining unclear is whether Pompeo was referring to conversations within the Trump administration, conversations with Russia, or both. Administration officials have been saying for months that they are in the early stages of formulating the U.S. position on an extension, arguing that plenty of time remains before the treaty lapses. Several factors would guide a decision, according to the officials, including how Russia pursues its concerns about U.S. compliance with the pact, whether Russia would agree to limit new strategic weapons it is developing, and Russian compliance with other arms control agreements.

Pompeo appeared to add additional factors at the hearing, suggesting that future arms control agreements should incorporate more nations. “We need to make sure that we've got all of the parties that are relevant,” he said. “It’s very different today in the world than it was” when New START was completed, he added. Asked to clarify which nations should be included, Pompeo said, “[I]t’s certainly China that has large numbers.”

Russian officials have also offered ambiguous projections for New START’s future. Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, said Russia is ready to discuss extending the treaty, but repeated previously stated concerns about U.S. compliance with some of the pact’s conversion procedures.

“The extension of the New START is not a simple technicality that could be resolved in a couple of weeks,” he said at the Arms Control Association’s April 15 annual meeting. “Serious issues must be settled.”

Antonov also said that the full array of Russia’s planned new nuclear weapons would not be covered by New START, so any limits on them would need “another round of negotiations,” which would require Senate and Duma approval.

Meanwhile, the treaty’s dispute resolution forum, the Bilateral Consultative Commission, met in April, according to an April 12 release from the U.S. State Department. It was 17th meeting of the commission, which meets twice yearly.

Several current and former U.S. military officials have recently lamented the reduced level of communication and dialogue between the United States and Russia.

“During the Cold War, we understood each other’s signals. We talked,” said U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top military commander in Europe, in an April interview. “I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today.”

 

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