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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Kingston Reif

No Arms Control Advances in U.S.-Russian Talks

The Trump administration is undecided about extending New START.


September 2018
By Kingston Reif

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not reach any specific agreements on resuming an arms control dialogue or addressing the uncertain future of two key arms reduction agreements during their controversial July 16 summit in Helsinki.

U.S. (L) and Russian delegations face one another as John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, holds talks with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on August 23 in Geneva. (Photo: Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission)A follow-up meeting between White House national security adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva on Aug. 23 also did not produce any arms control announcement, despite expectations that they might agree to resume bilateral strategic stability talks. Bolton told reporters afterward that the Trump administration has not decided how to proceed on key matters, including the possible extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Although some meaningful arms control cooperation continues, most notably adherence to the New START-imposed limits on strategic nuclear weapons, there is no ongoing U.S.-Russian dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps as both sides act to upgrade their nuclear capabilities.

Putin has previously stated his interest in negotiating the extension of New START, which otherwise expires in February 2021, as well as other arms control subjects. Trump has criticized the treaty, which was negotiated during the Obama administration.

The lack of progress on the arms control agenda, coupled with the Trump administration’s evident ambivalence, raises questions about how interested the administration really is in engaging Russia on nuclear risk reduction and whether the two sides will avert a collapse of the teetering bilateral arms control regime.

Since 2014, the United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and is reviewing what the State Department calls defensive options in case Russia’s actions “result in the collapse of the treaty.” (See ACT, January/February 2018.) Moscow denies it is violating the agreement and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord.

Both countries are investing massive sums to replace and upgrade their existing nuclear arsenals. In a pre-election address to the Russian Federal Assembly on March 1, Putin boasted about the development of several new nuclear weapons systems, including nuclear-armed hypersonic glide vehicles, globe-circling nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and very long-range nuclear torpedoes for use against U.S. port cities. (See ACT, April 2018.)

In light of these developments, Trump told reporters at the White House in March that he wanted to meet with Putin in large part “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.” Trump has characterized the costly nuclear upgrade programs being pursued by both sides as “a very, very bad policy.”

Likewise Putin, following his election victory March 18, said that “nobody plans to accelerate an arms race.”

In Helsinki, Putin presented the United States with several proposals “to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.”

These included beginning discussions about a five-year extension of New START, as allowed by the treaty; reaffirming commitment to the INF Treaty; resuming dialogue on Russian concerns about U.S. missile defense plans and joint efforts to eliminate missile threats; and measures to prevent dangerous military incidents. Russia also proposed to resume strategic stability talks as a forum to discuss those topics and related issues.

John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, addresses a press conference at the U.S. Mission in Geneva on August 23, following a meeting with his Russian counterpart. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)The United States and Russia held a first round of strategic stability talks last September in Helsinki. The specific agenda was not disclosed. (See ACT, October 2017.) A second round of talks was slated for March 7–8 in Vienna, but Russia announced that it would not participate in the talks, citing the U.S. cancellation of bilateral consultations on cybersecurity that had been scheduled to take place in late February in Geneva.

Following the summit, Trump stated that “perhaps the most important issue we discussed at our meeting...was the reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world.”

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 25 that no specific agreements were reached on arms control in Helsinki and that the administration does not have a position yet on whether to extend New START.

New START remains one of the few bright spots in the strained relationship. Ratified in 2011, the treaty limits the number of deployed strategic warheads to a maximum of 1,550 on each side, a target each met earlier this year and that is far below the tens of thousands during the Cold War. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Although it expires in February 2021, the treaty can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two presidents, without requiring further action by Congress or the Duma. If New START is allowed to expire and there is not a replacement, there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972.

Putin has repeatedly expressed interest in extending the treaty, although Russia has raised concerns about some of the procedures the United States has used to remove nuclear weapons launchers from accountability under the agreement.

The Trump administration has yet to formulate the U.S. position on the treaty. The administration views Russia’s concerns about U.S. implementation of the treaty “as being nefarious” and “there is not an administration position on what we’re going to do on New START,” Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Aug. 21.

“We’ll make that decision at the appropriate time consistent with U.S. national interests,” he said.

Likewise, Bolton told reporters after his Patrushev meeting that the administration remains in the “early stages” of an interagency review about whether to extend, replace, or jettison New START or to pursue a different type of approach, such as the 2002 Strategic Offensive Weapons Treaty, which only limited deployed warheads and did not include verification provisions.

Before joining the Trump administration, Bolton was a frequent and vocal critic of New START, castigating the agreement as unilateral disarmament.

In the aftermath of Helsinki, some U.S. officials said the administration was seeking to resume the strategic stability talks. “We would also like to talk more about strategic stability, making sure there are clear understandings between the United States and Russia about these terribly lethal weapons that we both control and talk about the future of nonproliferation,” John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said July 20 at the Aspen Security Forum.

Mitchell told senators in August that there “is a line of sight to continuing the process on strategic stability talks” and that there would be more information about timing following Bolton’s meeting with Patrushev. It is unclear why Bolton and Patrushev did not agree to resume the talks.

Posted: September 1, 2018

Congress Calls for Interceptors in Space

The effort still faces questions about funding and the risks of pursuing space-based defenses.


September 2018
By Kingston Reif

Lawmakers voted in July to require the Defense Department to begin developing a space-based ballistic missile defense interceptor layer regardless of whether a forthcoming review of missile defense policy recommends such an action and despite long-standing concerns about the financial costs and strategic risks of space-based defenses.

U.S. President Donald Trump signs the $716 billion John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 at Fort Drum, New York, on August 13. Addressing troops at the Army base, Trump called for increasing U.S. military capabilities in space as well as creating a sixth military branch, his proposed U.S. Space Force.  (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)The United States has conducted research and development on space-based interception concepts, most notably under the auspices of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, but has never deployed an interceptor layer in space.

It remains to be seen whether the long-delayed missile defense review, which is intended to guide policy, will endorse proceeding with development of a space-based interceptor layer. (See ACT, May 2017.) The reasons for the delay in the completion of the review, originally expected to be released in February, are unclear.

The policy provision is part of the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which establishes spending ceilings and legal guidelines for Pentagon programs and activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The final version of the bill was passed July 26 by the House and Aug. 1 by the Senate. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Aug. 13.

According to the law, the space-based system should be regionally focused and capable of intercepting missiles during their boost phase and achieve an operational capability at the earliest possible date. The law requires the Pentagon to draw up a 10-year plan outlining different phases of development, including refined requirements; cost, schedule, and performance estimates; and a testing schedule.

The prior year’s authorization law also mandated the development of interceptors in space but only “[i]f consistent with the direction or recommendations of the Ballistic Missile Defense Review that commenced in 2017.” (See ACT, December 2017.) The 2019 law amends that provision by eliminating the link to the review and instead conditioning development on “the availability of appropriations.”

The authorization law and the Senate and House versions of the fiscal year 2019 defense appropriations bill do not include funding provisions for space-based defenses.

The new authorization language is a modified version of an amendment offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s consideration of the authorization bill in late May. The committee adopted Cruz’s amendment by a vote of 16–11. The House version of the bill did not include language on space defenses.

The White House expressed its opposition to the Cruz provision in a June policy statement on the Senate bill. The Defense Department “is examining multiple ways to enhance our missile defense capabilities; directing the development of a space-based layer is premature at this point and creates a large unfunded mandate,” the statement said.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said at a symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, on Aug. 8 that the agency is “developing options to pursue” a space-based missile defense “capability if the nation decides that is what we should be doing.”

“Congress has already written some language that would push us, direct us, guide us in that area,” he added, in reference to the language in the fiscal year 2017 and 2018 authorization measures.

Supporters of such a layer claim that it would enhance U.S. security by allowing the interception of adversary ballistic missiles during their boost phase, when a missile is traveling its slowest and unable to deploy countermeasures.

Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, told reporters at the Alabama symposium that putting interceptors in space is “a relatively easy technological challenge” and has been “a victim of unrealistically high, uninformed cost estimates.”

But critics argue that space-based interceptors are an unaffordable, ineffective, and counterproductive form of defense.

Former MDA Director Vice Adm. James Syring told the House Armed Services Committee in April 2016, “I have serious concerns about the technical feasibility of interceptors in space, and I have serious concerns about the long-term affordability of a program like that.”

A 2011 report from the Institute for Defense Analysis showed costs ranging from $26 billion for a limited mission to $60 billion for a “medium” capability system that could perform against near-term threats to more than $200 billion for a global system.

In addition to requiring development of space defenses, the authorization law mandates the development of an air-launched and/or ship-based boost-phase missile defense capability; a plan to accelerate by at least one year the deployment of 20 additional ground-based interceptors with redesigned kill vehicles at Fort Greely, Alaska; and a report on the projected costs over a period of 10 years to implement any recommendations of the missile defense review.

The law authorizes $9.7 billion for the MDA, a decrease of roughly $200 million from the administration’s initial request.

Overall, the law authorizes $716 billion for national defense programs, which matches the revised 2011 Budget Control Act spending cap for fiscal year 2019 agreed by Congress earlier this year. (See ACT, May 2018.) The last time Congress passed the authorization bill before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year was in September 1996, when Congress approved the fiscal year 1997 authorization legislation.

The authorization law supports and, in some cases, increases funding above the Trump administration’s proposed budget request for programs to sustain and rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure.

The law calls for a plan to accelerate the development of new fleets of air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). (See ACT, October 2017.) The law also authorizes an additional $85 million above the budget request of $615 million for the long-range standoff weapon program to replace the existing ALCM, and $69 million above the request of $345 million for the program to replace the Minuteman III ICBM with a missile system called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

In addition, the law provides the needed approval and requested funding authorization for the development of low-yield nuclear warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles as proposed by the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review report in February.

On arms control, the authorization law requires Trump to submit a report on whether he has raised with Russia the issue of limiting under the terms of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) Moscow’s development of several new strategic nuclear weapons systems and, if so, whether Russia has agreed to limit the systems.

In a March 1 address to the Russian Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about the development of a new heavy ICBM; an intercontinental undersea drone; a nuclear-powered, long-range cruise missile; and two hypersonic weapons, specifically the Kinzhal ALCM and the Avangard glide vehicle. (See ACT, April 2018.)

New START provides for discussions on emerging strategic offensive arms and possible limitation of them.

The authorization law includes a provision expressing the sense of Congress that, in light of Russia’s material breach of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, “the United States is legally entitled to suspend the operation of the INF Treaty in whole or in part for so long as the Russian Federation continues to be in material breach” of the treaty. The provision requires the president to certify that he is implementing requirements in prior laws to impose economic sanctions on Russia for its violation of the treaty.

The authorization law waters down language in the original House version that would have blocked the Air Force’s budget request to replace the aircraft that the United States uses to conduct Open Skies Treaty flights, including over Russia. (See ACT, July/August 2018.) Instead, the law conditions funding necessary to acquire an upgraded digital imaging system for treaty flights and implement certain decisions of the treaty’s implementing body.

Posted: September 1, 2018

Judge Blocks Closure of MOX Fuel Plant

A federal appeals court will weigh the issue in September.


September 2018
By Kingston Reif

A U.S. District Court judge in South Carolina issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Energy Department from closing down a controversial project intended to convert surplus plutonium into power-reactor fuel.

A 2011 rendering shows the exterior of the planned mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility at the U.S. Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. (Illustration: National Nuclear Security Administration)The ruling, issued in June, effectively prevents the department from moving to stop construction of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility at the department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The decision also imperils the department’s plan to re-engineer the partially constructed facility to provide a second source for plutonium cores for nuclear weapons.

The ruling came in response to a 42-page lawsuit filed in May by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson arguing that the termination of the project would cause irreparable harm to South Carolina and turn the state into a permanent nuclear repository.

The Energy Department appealed the district judge’s ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is slated to hear the case in late September.

The MOX fuel plant, designed to turn 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program into power-reactor fuel, has been plagued by major cost increases and schedule delays. The Energy Department has sought to end the program since 2014 in favor of a cheaper alternative, known as “dilute and dispose.” That process would down-blend the plutonium with an inert material for direct disposal at the deep underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Congress, led by South Carolina’s congressional delegation, blocked the department’s effort to transition to the alternate approach. But the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Donald Trump last November, included a provision allowing the energy secretary to stop construction if there is an alternative to dispose of the plutonium at “less than approximately half of the estimated remaining [life-cycle] cost” of the MOX fuel program. (See ACT, May 2018.)

Energy Secretary Rick Perry submitted the required waiver to Congress on May 10. (See ACT, June 2018.)

The dilute-and-dispose process would cost at most $19.9 billion, 40 percent of the $49.4 billion cost of continuing the MOX fuel program, according to a report prepared by the independent cost office of the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA, which was certified by Perry and submitted to Congress on May 10. The agency had been preparing a second, more comprehensive cost analysis to be released in June or July, but final work on the estimate ceased after the judge’s ruling.

The fiscal year 2019 version of the defense authorization bill signed by Trump on Aug. 13 mandates the continued construction of the facility and authorizes $220 million for that purpose, but like last year’s bill allows the secretary to waive this requirement.

In a June 29 internal memo, NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty warned that South Carolina’s efforts to prevent the closure of the MOX facility could force the agency to make major changes at the Savannah River Site, including relocating the site’s tritium mission.

“In light of this injunction,” the NNSA “must re-evaluate the viability to execute enduring missions at the Savannah River Site,” Gordon-Hagerty wrote.

Perry’s May waiver to begin closing down the MOX project coincided with the release of a joint statement from NNSA and Defense Department officials announcing that the MOX fuel facility would be adapted to join Los Alamos National Laboratory in the production of at least 80 pits per year by 2030.

“This two-prong approach—with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos—is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking,” the statement said.

But significant questions remain about the affordability of the proposal and whether Congress will back it.

According to a May 2018 internal NNSA assessment obtained by Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Savannah River Watch, producing plutonium pits at the Savannah River Site would ultimately cost at least $9 billion more than three alternative plans to expand plutonium-production capacity at Los Alamos.

Meanwhile, the fiscal year 2019 authorization bill requires the Trump administration to commission a federally funded research center to assess the new plutonium strategy and a separate NNSA report providing a detailed plan to produce 80 pits at Los Alamos.

The House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2019 energy appropriations bill were harshly critical of the administration’s pit production plan and would require detailed assessments of alternatives before providing funding for the plan.

Posted: September 1, 2018

Trump Says Pompeo Isn’t Going To North Korea Next Week After All

News Source: 
BuzzFeed News
News Date: 
August 24, 2018 -04:00

Posted: August 27, 2018

Pentagon sees space as next frontier

News Source: 
Boston Globe
News Date: 
August 18, 2018 -04:00

Posted: August 21, 2018

Trump and Putin Can Put the Brakes on a New, Potentially More Dangerous, Arms Race

News Source: 
InDepthNews
News Date: 
August 9, 2018 -04:00

Posted: August 9, 2018

Can Trump and Putin Head Off a New Nuclear Arms Race?

Sections:

Description: 

Trump and Putin have an important opportunity to put the brakes on a new, potentially more dangerous, arms race.

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Volume 10, Issue 8, August 8, 2018

The much-anticipated July 16 summit meeting in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin did not go well for the United States. In a news conference following the two-hour, one-on-one tête-à-tête between the two leaders, Trump, unfortunately, failed to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and said he believed Putin’s denial of involvement to be “extremely strong and powerful.”

Nor does it appear that the meeting has resulted in any tangible breakthrough toward the goal of improving the strained U.S.-Russian relationship. This includes the most important area in which U.S. and Russian security interests continue to align: reducing the risk of catastrophic nuclear war and curbing a qualitative nuclear arms race that threatens to become a quantitative arms race.

The United States is poised to spend more than $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years on maintaining and upgrading its nuclear delivery systems (bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines) and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure. The Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review spells out – with more frightening specificity than before – the circumstances under which use of American nuclear weapons will be considered and proposes two new, “more usable” types of low-yield nuclear weapons.

Russia is also replacing and upgrading its bloated nuclear arsenal. Worse yet, Russia is in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and Putin has boasted of new, Strangelovian weapons, including nuclear-armed hypersonic glide vehicles, globe-circling nuclear-powered cruise missiles and very long-range nuclear torpedoes for use against American port cities.

Neither the planning nor the boasting needs to become our reality. Indeed, Trump told reporters at the White House in March that he wanted to meet with Putin in large part “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control” and has characterized the costly nuclear upgrade programs being pursued by each side as “a very, very bad policy.”

In Helsinki, Putin presented the Trump administration with several proposals “to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.” These included: beginning discussions about an extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which verifiably limits U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear forces and expires in early 2021; reaffirming commitment to the INF Treaty; resuming dialogue on Russian concerns about U.S. missile defense plans and joint efforts to eliminate missile threats; and measures to prevent dangerous military incidents. Russia also proposed to resume “strategic stability” talks as a forum to discuss the above and related issues.

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet at the 2017 G-20 Hamburg Summit, July 2017 (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Following the summit, Trump stated that “[p]erhaps the most important issue we discussed at our meeting...was the reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world.”

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee July 25 that no specific agreements were reached on nuclear arms control in Helsinki and the administration doesn’t yet have a position on whether to extend New START. U.S. officials have said that Washington has been seeking to resume the strategic stability talks, but the two sides have not agreed upon a date.

As the United States and Russia work to build on the dialogue that began in Helsinki and prepare for a possible second summit meeting between Trump and Putin, there are four relatively simple decisions the two leaders could make that could reduce nuclear risks and lay a more positive foundation for further steps not just in nuclear arms control, but in the still thornier disputes that divide the two powers.

Immediately Extend New START

Like the larger relationship, the U.S.-Russian arms control architecture is under significant strain. New START remains one of the few bright spots in the relationship. Ratified in 2011, the Treaty limits the number of deployed strategic warheads to a maximum of 1,550 on each side, a target each met earlier this year, and which is far below the tens of thousands we pointed at each other during the Cold War. The Treaty imposes important bounds on strategic nuclear competition as long as it is in force.

Although it expires in February 2021, the treaty can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two Presidents, without requiring further action by the Congress or the Duma. If New START is not extended, then in 2021 there will be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972. Unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition - in both numbers and technology - could spark an arms race as dangerous as that of the 1950s and 1960s and add scores of billions in additional costs to an already unrealistic U.S. nuclear upgrade plan.

For his part, Putin has repeatedly voiced interest in extending the treaty. This seems due in part to the fact that if the New START limit on deployed strategic warheads (1,550 each) were to expire, the United States would have a significant “upload” potential by virtue of its higher number of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles.

The most recent New START data exchange shows that the United States has 652 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers, while Russia has 527. Russia appears to be seeking a similar upload capability. This means that in the absence of New START, each side could quickly increase the number of warheads deployed on these systems.

In his first call with Putin after inauguration day, Trump reportedly described New START as another flawed deal negotiated by his predecessor, like the Iran deal that he recently upended. Before joining the Trump administration as National Security Advisor, John Bolton also castigated the agreement. The administration is currently conducting a review of the pros and cons of extending the treaty.

But a decision to extend the Treaty can be packaged so that it is a personal victory for President Trump, rather than an extension of an Obama achievement. Extension until February 2026, would preserve its significant security advantages – not only the numerical limits, which aid U.S. military planning, but also the mutual transparency provided by the treaty’s verification measures (including data exchanges, notifications, and inspections).

An extension would also buy more time for the two sides to discuss other stabilizing measures while improving the bilateral political atmosphere. It would provide a venue to discuss and possibly limit several of the new systems under development by Russia (the treaty allows for the limitation of new strategic arms developed after the treaty entered into force) and lay the base for talks to further reduce each side’s nuclear stockpiles.

Moreover, while many observers are rightly concerned about what Trump might give away in diplomacy with Putin, extending New START could help create a positive atmosphere for reducing tensions in the U.S.-Russian relationship without making an unwise or impractical concession to Moscow. Key Senate Democrats have called for an extension of the treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance with it.

Resolve the INF Treaty Compliance Dispute

The INF Treaty made a major contribution to European and global security by verifiably eliminating all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

However, the treaty is now at risk, with the United States charging that Russia has deployed an illegal ground-launched cruise missile – the 9M729. Moscow, for its part, alleges, far less credibly, that Washington may be violating the treaty too. Its major gripe is that the U.S. is deploying missile defense systems in Europe that could be used to launch offensive missiles.

Russia’s flagrant violation of the treaty, as well as other key agreements such as the Chemical Weapons Convention, is unacceptable and requires a firm U.S. response, including enhancements to U.S. and NATO conventional military preparedness if the violation persists.

Complicating matters further, the Trump administration is pursuing a response to Russia’s violation that includes the development of our own treaty-prohibited missile. Some in Congress are also suggesting that we respond to Russia’s violations by declaring the agreement null and void if Russia doesn’t immediately return to compliance. Both moves play directly into Moscow’s propaganda interests.

Efforts to address the reciprocal accusations through the treaty’s dispute mechanism – the Special Verification Commission – have done little to resolve either side’s concerns. This is the moment when Trump and Putin need to provide a political impetus to those stalled expert discussions. The problems are technically complex, but they can be resolved.

Independent U.S. and Russian experts who are familiar with the nature of the Russian INF violation agree that in order to break the impasse, both sides need to acknowledge the concerns of the other side. They argue that Washington and Moscow should agree to reciprocal site visits by experts to examine the missiles and the deployment sites in dispute. If the 9M729 missile is determined to have a range that exceeds 500 km, Russia could modify the missile to ensure it no longer violates the treaty or, ideally, halt production and eliminate any such missiles in its possession.

For its part, the United States could modify its missile defense launchers to clearly distinguish them from the launchers used to fire offensive missiles from U.S. warships or agree to transparency measures that give Russia confidence the launchers don’t contain offensive missiles. Such an arrangement would address the concerns of both sides and restore compliance with the treaty without Russia having to acknowledge its original violation of the treaty.

Resume the Dialogue on Strategic Stability

Russian-American consultations on strategic stability are neither a luxury nor “business as usual.” They provide a means for each side to express concerns about new technologies and capabilities that may disrupt the tenuous balance of nuclear terror that has held – with a good deal of luck – for more than 60 years. This dialogue provides the forum at which military officials can make agreements that reduce the risk of a non-nuclear conflict. It also provides the ‘circuit breaking’ signal mechanisms that can prevent an incident from escalating from conventional to nuclear combat.

As Bernard Brodie noted in 1946 at the onset of the nuclear age, the chief job of the military is now not to win wars, but to avert them. A strategic stability dialogue serves the function of enhancing understanding and avoiding misperceptions between two military establishments with world-killing power that can be unleashed within minutes of an order to do so.

There is much of concern to discuss through the strategic stability format as first envisioned by the Obama administration. In addition to the development of new nuclear weapons and the erosion of key arms control guardrails, technological change and advances in conventional weapons are raising concerns about new escalation dangers. Both sides are developing hypersonic missiles, new missile defense capabilities, offensive cyber weapons, and anti-satellite and counterspace weapons.

U.S. efforts to convene such a bilateral dialogue have led only to intermittent meetings in the last five years, with no hard results. The United States and Russia held a round of strategic stability talks in September in Helsinki, but Russia pulled out of the second round of talks slated to take place in March in Vienna.

The Nuclear Posture Review did not offer any proposals to advance U.S.-Russian arms control or address these growing challenges to strategic stability more broadly. But with Trump’s State Department team finally in place, it’s time for the two leaders to commit to an intensified dialogue to reduce the immediate risk and to lay the basis for eventually achieving a less threatening nuclear posture on both sides. To succeed such a dialogue must include topics which the United States has always been reluctant to put on the agenda, such as ballistic missile defense and the development of rapid-strike conventional weapons.

Making Avoiding Nuclear War Great Again

When Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for a summit meeting in 1985 in Geneva, they issued a joint statement that was both self-evident and reassuring: “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” It set the right tone for the resumption of nuclear arms reduction negotiations that would eventually yield dramatic results in the years that followed.

In itself, such a statement from Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at their next meeting would not immediately reduce bloated U.S. and Russian arsenals or eliminate the launch-under-attack nuclear doctrines that still could lead us to a civilization-ending conflict. But it would demonstrate to a world on edge about Moscow and Washington’s nuclear bluster that those who fashion themselves as world leaders recognize their most basic responsibilities to humanity.

For decades, U.S. leadership has limited the spread of nuclear weapons, drastically reduced the global inventory of these weapons, brought about a halt to all nuclear testing by all but one state (North Korea), and sustained a strong taboo against nuclear weapons use.

But today—five decades after the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons was negotiated—the global nuclear order is under increasing strain due to the North Korean threat, stalled progress on global disarmament, rising tensions between several nuclear-armed states, and global technological advances that are putting new pressures on nuclear stability.

Trump and Putin have an important opportunity to put the brakes on a new, potentially more dangerous, arms race. Important steps in that direction would come from extending New START, preserving the INF Treaty while resolving compliance disputes, and resuming discussion of the strategic stability agenda, from which both sides and the broader world community will benefit.

THOMAS M. COUNTRYMAN, former acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security and chairman of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association; KINGSTON A. REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy; DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director

Country Resources:

Posted: August 8, 2018

Midterm Elections Could Derail Plans for Low-Yield Nukes

News Source: 
National Defense Magazine
News Date: 
August 6, 2018 -04:00

Posted: August 6, 2018

Study Finds Congressional Attention on Nuclear Security Waning as Nuclear Terrorism Threat Persists

News Source: 
InDepthNews
News Date: 
July 26, 2018 -04:00

Posted: July 27, 2018

First-Ever Study Finds Congressional Attention on Nuclear Security Waning as Nuclear Terrorism Threat Persists

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A new report reveals a concerning loss of congressional leadership and interest in critical efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism.

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For Immediate Release: July 26, 2016

Media Contacts: Nathan Sermonis, Executive Director, Partnership for a Secure America, (202) 293-8580; Jack Brosnan, Program Associate, Partnership for a Secure America, 202-293-8580; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy. Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Tony Fleming, Director for Communications and Operations, Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270 ext. 110
 

(Washington, D.C.)—A new report from Partnership for a Secure America and the Arms Control Association reveals a concerning diminution of congressional engagement and interest in critical efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism.

The report, Empowering Congress on Nuclear Security: Blueprints for a New Generation, assesses current congressional staff attitudes about nuclear security and explores the role of Congress and case studies in congressional leadership on this issue. The report also offers action items for lawmakers in enhancing nuclear security efforts and reducing global stockpiles of nuclear materials.

“As the threat of nuclear terrorism continues to loom, America must maintain its leadership of global efforts to keep dangerous nuclear and radiological materials out of the wrong hands,” said Nathan Sermonis, Executive Director of Partnership for a Secure America. “Unfortunately, congressional interest has steeply declined with nuclear security faded from the headlines. We need, however, an all-of-government approach to advance the most effective measures against this threat.”

This joint report, made possible by funding provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, comes at a time when national attention on the security of nuclear and radioactive materials is decreasing even as these materials remain at risk from theft and more countries express interest in nuclear research and development.

“Despite significant progress in securing and eliminating nuclear materials around the world and the continued dedicated leadership role of several lawmakers, there is a need for Congress to play a more active role in shaping nuclear security policy,” noted Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association. “We provide an important blueprint to build upon Congress’ historic bipartisan achievements on nuclear security and engage a new generation of policy advisers on Capitol Hill.”

To mark the publication of the report, Partnership for a Secure America and the Arms Control Association will be hosting an invitation-only event July 26 on Capitol Hill for congressional staff. The event will feature Ambassador Linton Brooks, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, and General Frank Klotz.

For more information about the report, please contact Partnership for a Secure America at [email protected] or (202) 293-8580, or the Arms Control Association at [email protected] or (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

The full report, Empowering Congress on Nuclear Security: Blueprints for a New Generation, is available online.

Posted: July 25, 2018

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