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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Shervin Taheran

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...

TAKE ACTION: Save Nuclear Arms Control (even if you don't have a Senator)

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Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with John Bolton, National Security Adviser to the US President, during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 23, 2018. (Photo credit: Maxim Shipenkov/AFP/Getty Images)Unfortunately, you don't have a Senator to whom you can write in support of S.1285. But you can still take action. 

There is similar legislation in the House which your Representative can support.  

The “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces.” (H.R. 2529) will express the sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend the New START Treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance. It's an important complement to the SAVE Act. 

Please use the form below to urge your Representative join her or his colleagues in cosponsoring H.R. 2529. 

You can also share this action alert with your friends who do have representation in the Senate by sharing this on Facebook or Twitter.

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TAKE ACTION: Thank you for writing!

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Thank you for writing and urging Congress to save nuclear arms control.

This is a critical effort if we are to protect highly successful agreements that have prevented a new arms race to date.  

We hope that you'll help us keep up the momentum by sharing this opportunity with your friends and colleagues on social media.  

A growing number of Republican and Democratic members of Congress are ready to support New START's extension and need to hear from their constituents if we are to ensure that the limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals—which help keep us from engaging in an expensive and dangerous arms race—remain in force.

  • Click here to share this on Facebook.
  • Click here to share this on Twitter.
  • Copy and paste this letter in an email to your friends:

    Dear Friend,

    Subject: Send a letter: Save Nuclear Arms Control 

    Body:

    Friend,

    I have just written a letter to my Senators in support of the Arms Control Association’s campaign to “Save New START”—a critical nuclear disarmament agreement between the United States and Russia.

    With the likely termination of the INF Treaty August 2, New START will be the only treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals.

    New START is set to expire in 2021. But the U.S. and Russian presidents can extend the treaty—and its irreplaceable verification and monitoring system—for a period of up to five years.

    Instead of working towards this goal, the Trump administration is busy arguing that China and Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons must be covered also.

    A growing number of Republican and Democratic members of Congress are voicing their support for the treaty and its extension, including the leaders of congressional national security committees.

    Pursuing talks with other nuclear-armed states, like China, and limits on all types of nuclear weapons is an admirable objective, but such a negotiation, if Trump is serious, would be complex and time-consuming. The first step should be a five-year extension of New START which would provide a foundation for a more ambitious successor agreement.

    Please join me in telling your members of Congress they need to make sure that the limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals—which help keep us from engaging in an expensive and dangerous arms race—remain in force.

    Will you join me in asking your Representative to cosponsor the SAVE Act (S. 1285) and the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces" (H.R. 2529) today?

    In peace,


Thank you!

 

Urge Your Representative to Help Save Nuclear Arms Control

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Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with John Bolton, National Security Adviser to the US President, during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 23, 2018. (Photo credit: Maxim Shipenkov/AFP/Getty Images) Thank you for supporting our campaign to support the extension of New START.

The “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces.” (H.R. 2529) will express the sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend the New START Treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance. It's an important complement to the SAVE Act. 

Please use the form below to urge your Representative join their colleagues in cosponsoring H.R. 2529 and help us disprove National Security Advisor John Bolton's view that New START's extension is "unlikely." 

Country Resources:

TAKE ACTION: Save Nuclear Arms Control

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President Trump Gets Briefed By National Security Advisor John Bolton at the White House, April 2018 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)With the likely termination of the INF Treaty August 2, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will be the only treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals and that treaty is also in jeopardy.

Given Team Trump’s antipathy to treaties, it may be up to Congress to save New START, which is set to expire in 2021. The U.S. and Russian presidents can extend the treaty–and its irreplaceable verification and monitoring system—for a period of up to five years.

A growing number of Republican and Democratic members of Congress are voicing their support for the treaty and its extension, including the leaders of congressional national security committees.

  • In the Senate, the "Save Arms control and Verification Efforts (SAVE) Act of 2019" (S.1285) calls for arms limitations in the event of New START’s non-renewal and expresses the Sense of the Senate that New START should be extended.
     
  • In the House, the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces.” (H.R. 2529) expresses the Sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend the New START Treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance.

Instead of working towards this extension, the Trump administration is busy arguing that China and Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons must be covered as well.

Pursuing talks with other nuclear armed states, like China, and limits on all types of nuclear weapon is an admirable objective, but such a negotiation, if Trump is serious, would be complex and time consuming. The first step should be a five-year extension of New START which would provide a foundation for more ambitious successor agreement.

Use the form below to urge your Senators and Representative to support these bills.

We need your members of Congress to support these efforts to make sure that the limits on Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal—which help keep us from engaging in an expensive and dangerous arms race—remain in force.

Country Resources:

U.S. Conducts ‘Salvo Engagement’ GMD Test


May 2019
By Shervin Taheran

U.S. missile interceptors successfully destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 25 in the most realistic test so far of U.S. defenses against long-range missile attacks, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.

A ground-based interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., March 25. This and another interceptor successfully destroyed a long-range missile target, according to the Missile Defense Agency. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)After launching a “threat representative” ICBM target from the Kwajalein Atoll, the agency dispatched two ground-based interceptors (GBIs) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to destroy the target. It was the first time such a salvo engagement had been tried, and MDA Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves called the test a “critical milestone.”

The two interceptors launched exoatmospheric kill vehicles (EKVs) to identify and destroy the mock warhead. The first EKV attacked the target. The second assessed the resulting debris field, determined that the initial target was no longer present, and then struck “the next ‘most lethal object’ it could identify,” an MDA press release reported.

The test was “the most complex, comprehensive, and operationally challenging test ever executed,” Greaves said in April 3 congressional testimony. The test’s success in assessing the debris field meant that “any concept of operations which seek[s] to confuse our missile defense system by launching junk or debris would not be successful. That’s why it was a success,” he added.

Congress first required a salvo test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in 2001, passing legislation that said the “early stages of system development” should incorporate “events to demonstrate engagement of multiple targets, ‘shoot-look-shoot’, and other planned operational concepts.”

The March test was the 19th overall and the 11th reported as successful. The previous test was conducted May 30, 2017. (See ACT, July/August 2017.) The next test has not been announced.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has raised concerns that none of the previous GMD tests included “realistic decoys” or “other countermeasures that the system could be expected to face in a real attack,” according to a January 2019 report, which said that some of the tests included decoy balloons, which are easier for EKVs to distinguish from mock warheads or other objects because of their distinguishing characteristics. The May 2017 test included at least one decoy, but it is unclear whether the 2019 test used any decoys or other countermeasures designed to fool the kill vehicles.

The GMD system currently consists of 40 GBIs deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four more at Vandenberg. In its 2019 Missile Defense Review, the Trump administration proposed raising the total number to 64 by 2023 by adding new GBIs at Fort Greely armed with the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle, which the review calls “more effective, reliable, and affordable.” Developmental delays, however, could slow the fielding of the new version to fiscal year 2025, according to recent budget request documents. (See ACT, April 2019.)

The Missile Defense Agency declares success after first-of-its-kind missile defense test.

Congress Seeks Light on U.S. Nuclear Transfers


May 2019
By Shervin Taheran

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation in April to increase transparency into U.S. efforts to export civilian nuclear technology. The action followed reports that the Trump administration quietly issued routine notifications about nuclear information transfers to Saudi Arabia and withheld them from public view in a break from traditional practice.

Hashim Yamani, president of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, addresses an IAEA meeting in September 2017. International pressure has grown on Saudi Arabia to upgrade its IAEA safeguards agreement as the nation works to develop a nuclear energy program. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)After news reports revealed the existence of the notifications, Energy Secretary Rick Perry confirmed in late March that he had approved seven authorizations for the transfer of nuclear information to Saudi Arabia. The authorizations are known as Part 810 authorizations, referring to the portion of the U.S. Code that permits the transfer of certain intangible nuclear technology and assistance to foreign nations.

Perry said the Saudi authorizations were kept private to protect proprietary information provided by U.S. nuclear vendors, but several U.S. senators expressed concern that the Trump administration was trying to conceal its efforts to transfer U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

In an April 2 letter viewed by Arms Control Today, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs nonproliferation subcommittee asked the Energy Department to provide details of the approvals. “I fully understand and respect the need for U.S. companies to protect their proprietary information from competitors,” Sherman said. “At the same time, however, Congress must be given sufficient information to fulfill its constitutional oversight responsibilities.” Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) shared their “deep concerns” about the authorizations in another letter the same day, seeking the contents of the Part 810 authorizations.

The Energy Department is leading U.S. discussions with Saudi Arabia on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, commonly called a 123 agreement for a section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act. This agreement is necessary for the export of U.S. nuclear materials, equipment, or components and requires congressional approval. Unlike a 123 agreement, the Part 810 authorizations do not require congressional approval, but there are several provisions for congressional notification. The fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act required the energy secretary to submit an annual report of the department’s review of Part 810 authorization applications, and Section 303b of the Atomic Energy Act requires any agency to “furnish any information requested” by the relevant Senate and House committees “with respect to the activities or responsibilities of such agency in the field of nuclear energy.”

In April, Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Rubio, and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced a bill to amend the 1954 Atomic Energy Act and require the executive branch to regularly disclose when it allows companies to engage in nuclear energy cooperation with foreign countries through Part 810 authorizations.

Part 810 authorizations often cover information transfers before a 123 agreement is needed. According to the Congressional Research Service, the energy secretary must consider several factors before determining whether a specific authorization would serve U.S. interests, such as whether a 123 agreement is already in place with the United States and whether the state is a party to and in full compliance with its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The Saudi Part 810 authorizations reportedly include approvals for U.S. vendors to share information, but not at a level that would require a 123 agreement.

Ongoing U.S.-Saudi 123 agreement negotiations have been slowed by Saudi reluctance to adopt the “gold standard” of nuclear cooperation agreements, which call on nuclear importers to forgo uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing activities and to adopt an additional protocol to their International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, which empowers the agency with enhanced monitoring and verification tools.

Saudi Arabia plans to generate 50 percent of its electricity from nonfossil fuels by 2032, according to the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, and it intends to build nuclear power reactors to contribute to this aim. The kingdom has begun exploratory discussions with multiple nations with nuclear exporters, and it was recently reported that it would select a vendor in 2020.

Saudi Arabia has expressed possible interest in purchasing nuclear powers from South Korea like these under construction in the United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation)Sherman and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), supported in the Senate by Markey and Rubio, introduced legislation on Feb. 28 to require affirmative congressional approval of a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia, different from the current process in which the agreement, after it is submitted, goes into effect unless Congress specifically disapproves it. (See ACT, April 2019.) Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) spearheaded a Feb. 12 sense of Congress resolution that a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia must adhere to the strongest possible nonproliferation standards.

Adding controversy to U.S.-Saudi 123 agreement talks is an ongoing congressional investigation into potential conflicts of interest among members of the Trump administration and congressional concerns about Saudi Arabian human rights practices. (See ACT, March 2019.)

Further complicating the issue was an April 15 report from the Daily Beast describing how U.S. nuclear vendors are considering expanded partnerships with foreign vendors, particularly from South Korea, as a way to reduce or eliminate the need for a U.S. 123 agreement.

Menendez and Rubio also requested on March 15 that the Government Accountability Office conduct an “urgent review” into the Trump administration’s efforts to promote nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia since January 2017. Their request letter asked for the probe to cover all Trump administration interactions with official or nonofficial Saudi organizations, to describe all related negotiations conducted by the executive branch between December 2009 and January 2017, and to investigate “the specific initiatives or proposals for nuclear cooperation that have been presented or discussed in those interactions.” That investigation is ongoing.

Saudi Research Reactor and IAEA Safeguards

Saudi Arabia has made progress constructing a small nuclear research reactor in the kingdom with Argentine collaboration, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asked Riyadh in April to enable stricter IAEA oversight of the facility before nuclear fuel is loaded.

Saudi Arabia currently has a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA that has a Small Quantities Protocol (SQP), which allows reduced monitoring for nations that have no or limited amounts of nuclear material.

As the first Saudi reactor nears completion and the nuclear program grows, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano told reporters on April 5 that the IAEA has “proposed to Saudi Arabia to rescind and replace [the SQP] by the full-fledged comprehensive safeguards agreement.” He added, “They didn’t say no, they didn’t say yes, and they are now giving thoughts. We are waiting. For now, they don’t have the material, so there is no violation.”

Amano has been encouraging all nations to go beyond the standard comprehensive safeguards agreement by voluntarily adopting an additional protocol that gives the IAEA substantially more monitoring and verification capabilities.

“That includes Saudi Arabia,” he said in early March.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, Argentina’s envoy to the IAEA, said his country would require Saudi Arabia to upgrade its IAEA safeguards agreements before Argentina would complete the project. “Saudi Arabia will have to move to a full-scope comprehensive safeguards agreement with subsidiary arrangements before the unit is fueled,” Grossi told reporters April 3.

The new reactor is likely to be a 30-kilowatt research reactor that would be used to train nuclear technicians as Saudi Arabia develops its nuclear energy program, according to an April 4 report in The Guardian, to which Grossi said that the reactor should “be operational” roughly “by the end of the year.”—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Lawmakers pursue several avenues to get more information on Trump administration efforts to promote nuclear trade with Saudi Arabia.

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, April 24, 2019

Update: April 29, 2019: Trump Directs Russia-Chinese Arms Control Effort On April 25, senior administration officials told reporters that President Donald Trump had directed his administration to seek a new arms control agreement with Russia and China. One official told CNN that the agreement should included “all the weapons, all the warheads, and all the missiles.” The officials criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for only limiting U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons. The goal of a new agreement with Russia is apparently to seek to capture...

New START Extension Debated


April 2019
By Shervin Taheran

Prospects for extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) appeared to dim in March as U.S. and Russian officials threw cold water on the idea of a quick or easy extension process. The treaty capping deployed strategic nuclear weapons in both countries is due to expire in February 2021, but it could be extended for up to five years by mutual agreement.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, testifies to Congress in 2017. He recently described himself as a supporter of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)U.S. officials have avoided expressing a public position on extending the treaty and have expressed concern about Russia’s strategic weapons plans. Yleem Poblete, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva on March 19 that Russia “remains in compliance” with the treaty, but she questioned whether Russia’s development of new nuclear weapons were the actions of a “responsible stakeholder.” One week earlier, Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told a Washington nuclear policy conference that the remaining two-year period offers plenty of time to review the pact.

For their part, Russian officials have expressed concerns about U.S. compliance with New START and have suggested that lengthy talks may be needed to resolve them. Russia has questioned U.S. procedures to convert some weapons launchers from nuclear to conventional roles. The two nations need to “solve the problem” related to the conversion procedures, which Russia “cannot certify,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Geneva conference one day after Poblete spoke. (See ACT, March 2019.)

According to Lavrov, Russia has put forth “possible solutions,” adding that “it is a question of political will in Washington.” Any such talks would require significant time, Russian officials have said, quashing the hopes of some that the treaty could be extended quickly by a new U.S. president if President Donald Trump fails to win re-election in November 2020.

“It is clear for us that first you have to have a dialogue,” said Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, at the Washington conference. “We hope to find solutions before we put our signature on any document.”

Introducing potential further complications, Lavrov said the deterioration of arms control agreements such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty shows that nuclear arms reductions “can no longer be sustained in a bilateral U.S.-Russia format” and that a multilateral process should be launched.

Meanwhile, the international community has strengthened calls for the treaty’s extension. Notably, UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke at the Feb. 25 opening of the CD’s 2019 session to urge the United States and Russia to extend the pact. The treaty is “the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals,” he said, praising the agreement’s confidence-building and inspection measures.

Contributing to the Trump administration’s consideration of New START, a senior U.S. military official expressed support for the treaty during Feb. 26 congressional testimony.

U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the treaty allows him to “understand what [Russia’s] limits are and…position my force accordingly.” New START also provides “unbelievably important” insight about Russian nuclear weapons activities, he said, adding that the United States has “very good intelligence capabilities, but there’s really nothing that can replace the eyes-on, hands-on ability to look at something.”

Hyten’s support was not unconditional, as he also expressed concerns about planned Russian strategic weapons, including a new underwater torpedo, a globe-circling nuclear-powered cruise missile, and a hypersonic glide vehicle. None of these would be constrained by the treaty, and Hyten said the State Department is “reaching out to the Russians and the Russians are not answering favorably.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to Hyten’s remarks by saying that U.S. concerns “outside of the purview of the New START Treaty could be considered in the context of a strategic dialogue” but “Washington stubbornly avoids this dialogue and prefers to whip up hysteria in the public space.”

 

U.S. and Russian officials see no quick and easy extension to New START.

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