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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Press Releases

New Report Assesses the Impact of the Nuclear Security Summits, Yet Threat of Nuclear Terrorism Still Looms

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For Immediate Release: July 17, 2018

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, Director for Communications and Operations, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270, ext. 110; Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy. Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270 ext. 102; Anna Schumann, Communications Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 202-546-0795 ext. 2115; Sara Z. Kutchesfahani, Senior Program Coordinator FMWG; Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 202-546-0795 ext. 2106.

(Washington, D.C.)—A new report from the Arms Control Association and the Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG) found that the innovative use of voluntary national commitment-making during four summits held between 2010 and 2016 led states to take more than 935 actions to significantly strengthen nuclear security.

The report, The Nuclear Security Summits: An Overview of State Actions to Curb Nuclear Terrorism 2010-2016, details the national commitments made by 53 states over the course of the Nuclear Security Summit process.

“The Nuclear Security Summits’ innovative use of national commitment-making significantly strengthened global nuclear security,” said Dr. Sara Z. Kutchesfahani, senior program coordinator for the FMWG and a co-author of the report. “Delivering on national commitments drove states to take critical steps that reduced the risk of nuclear terrorism.”

The summits’ chief accomplishments include the entry into force of a key treaty that sets binding requirements for the physical protection of nuclear material in civilian programs and the removal of all weapons-usable nuclear materials from eight participating states.

Nearly three dozen states passed new laws or updated existing regulations to strengthen nuclear security and states created more than 20 new nuclear security centers to enhance training and culture development. In total, the accomplishments strengthened nuclear security and reduced the risk of nuclear terrorism.

Yet, as indicated by a recent July 3 incident in which a drone was crashed into a French nuclear facility, gaps in the nuclear security architecture remain.

“Despite the accomplishments of the summit, the threat posed by nuclear terrorism continues to evolve,” noted Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report. “Effective nuclear security requires continuous improvement to address gaps and new threats.”

“States must continue to build on the accomplishments of the summit process to minimize the risk of nuclear terrorism,” said Erin Connolly, program assistant at the FMWG and co-author of the report. “Despite the end of the summit process, states must continue to commit to national actions that will curb nuclear terrorism.”

The full report, The Nuclear Security Summits: An Overview of State Actions to Curb Nuclear Terrorism 2010-2016, is available online.

To RSVP to the July 17 Report Release and Event Panel, register here.

Posted: July 16, 2018

Trump and Putin to Talk Nuclear Arms Control

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President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin will meet in Helsinki, Finland July 16 to discuss how to reduce tensions between the nations across a range of issues, including nuclear arms control. The Arms Control Association can provide resources and experts available to shed light on what the two sides can achieve to reduce nuclear risks and what’s at stake if they fail to make progress.

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For Immediate Release: June 28, 2018

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

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin will meet in Helsinki, Finland July 16 to discuss how to reduce tensions between the nations across a range of issues, including nuclear arms control. It is widely expected that the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which will expire in 2021 unless extended by mutual agreement, and the compliance dispute over the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will both be on the agenda.

In an interview in March, Putin voiced interest in an extension of New START or even possibly further cuts in warhead numbers. The Trump administration is conducting a review of its position on the matter. 

Arms Control Association has a number of resources and experts available to shed light on what the two sides can achieve to reduce nuclear risks and what’s at stake if they fail to make progress.

QUICK QUOTES:

  • "Extending New START would be an easy win for the President. It could help create a positive atmosphere for reducing tensions in the U.S.-Russia relationship without making an unwise or impractical concession to Moscow. Failing to do so, on the other hand, will limit U.S. intelligence on the scale of the Russia nuclear arsenal." —Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy
     
  • “Without a positive decision to extend New Start, and if the INF Treaty comes to an end, there would be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers for the first time since 1972, and the risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition would grow.” —Daryl Kimball, executive director

  • "Should the INF Treaty collapse and New START expire without replacement … the consequences for effective cooperative management of nuclear risks and for nuclear nonproliferation would be severe.” —Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and chair of the ACA board of directors

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EXPERTS AVAILABLE IN WASHINGTON:
Contact Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202 463 8270 ext 110 / 202 213 6856 (mobile) to schedule media interviews with any of the experts or authors noted above.

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Posted: June 28, 2018

Trump Team Undermines Climate for Summit and Negotiated Solution

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Successful diplomatic nonproliferation outcomes do not come easily or quickly. But Trump’s top advisors contributed to creating a hostile environment around the summit. North Korea’s reaction was not surprising. Unfortunately, the president got spooked when he should have stayed calm and carried on.

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(Washington, D.C.)—Even before Thursday’s announcement by President Donald Trump to cancel the planned Singapore Summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, there was ample reason to believe that the two sides were not on the same page about the pace, scope, and sequencing of steps to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and create a peace regime in the region.

It was also clear that the Trump administration itself was not on the same page about the goals of the meeting, nevertheless, the summit would have been a critical opportunity to test the waters, de-escalate tensions, and launch a sustained, serious diplomatic process on denuclearization.

Whether by accident or by design, Trump’s top advisors contributed to creating a hostile environment around the summit. It is unsurprising that loose talk from National Security Advisor John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence about “the Libya model” for denuclearization and recent comments from Pence threatening war if North Korea does not agree to a deal triggered a strong reaction from Pyongyang.

The tone of North Korea’s reaction was clearly unhelpful, but it is not surprising.

Unfortunately, Trump got spooked when he should have stayed calm and carried on.

His strongly worded letter to Kim canceling the summit was irresponsible and risks the opportunity for future negotiations with North Korea. His language comparing nuclear weapon sizes only increases the likelihood that the United States and North Korea will return to a tit-for-tat escalation that characterized 2017 and increase the risk of war.

North Korea has long maintained that its nuclear weapons are a deterrent against U.S. "hostile policy." Threatening “total decimation" if Pyongyang does not give up its arsenal only reinforces that belief.

Comprehensive, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea and establishment of a peace regime on the peninsula remains the proper long-term goal. But achieving genuine progress requires a negotiating framework and agreement on the details of phased, reciprocal steps rather than U.S. economic rewards only after full denuclearization is achieved. Such a process requires time and patience and persistence.

Successful diplomatic nonproliferation outcomes do not come easily or quickly.

In the coming days, Trump must resist the urge to abandon diplomacy and make irresponsible threats, which will only reinforce North Korea's incentive to further improve its nuclear and missile activities and greatly increase the likelihood of a catastrophic confrontation. There is no viable military solution to the North Korean challenge.

We urge Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in coordination with our allies and partners in the region, to continue engaging with his North Korean counterparts to advance efforts to halt and reverse the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs and to reduce tensions with Pyongyang, including by supporting the inter-Korean dialogue.

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Posted: May 24, 2018

White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Nuclear Weapons Threat

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It is bad enough that the Trump administration has violated the Iran nuclear deal and threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for expanded Iranian nuclear capacity. The president and his advisors must not now compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

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For Immediate Release: May 15, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Thomas Countryman, board of directors chair, (202) 463-8270 ext 110

We are deeply disappointed by the counterproductive response from the Trump administration to the statements from senior Saudi officials threatening to pursue nuclear weapons in violation of their nonproliferation commitments.

We call on the White House to immediately reiterate the longstanding, bipartisan policy of the United States that it will actively work against the spread of nuclear weapons to any country, friend or foe.

President Donald Trump’s reckless decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has blocked Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place a robust monitoring system to detect and deter cheating, has not only opened the door to an expansion of Iran’s capability to produce bomb-grade nuclear material, but it has increased the risk of a wider nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which is already home to one nuclear-armed state.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN Wednesday, May 9, that his country, which, like Iran, is a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), stands ready to build nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its nuclear program.

Al-Jubeir also praised Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and seek to reimpose sanctions on firms and business engaging in legitimate commerce with Iran.

Asked what his country will do if Iran restarts its nuclear program, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same."

Asked to clarify whether that means the kingdom will work to acquire its own nuclear capability, al-Jubeir replied, "That's what we mean."

This follows similar comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a March 15 interview with CBS News that Saudi Arabia will quickly follow suit if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

When asked May 9 whether Saudi Arabia would “have the administration’s support in the event that that occurred,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

“Right now, I don’t know that we have a specific policy announcement on that front, but I can tell you that we are very committed to making sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons,” she stated.

The administration’s nonresponse to Prince Salman’s threat in March and Sanders’ weak response May 9 amounts to an irresponsible invitation for mischief.

They imply that Trump administration would look the other way if Saudi Arabia breaks its NPT commitments to pursue nuclear weapons.

It is bad enough that the Trump administration, by violating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capacity.

President Trump and his advisors must not compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

We call on the White House to immediately clarify that it is the longstanding policy of the United States, as an original party to the NPT:

 “…not to in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons …” and “… to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

We also call on the U.S. Congress to reject any proposed agreement with Saudi Arabia that permits U.S. nuclear cooperation if Saudi Arabia seeks to or acquires sensitive uranium enrichment or plutonium separation technology which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

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Posted: May 15, 2018

Trump Decision on Iran Deal is Foreign Policy Malpractice

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For Immediate Release: May 8, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Thomas Countryman, Chair of the Board, 301-312-3445.

(Washington, DC)—Experts from the Washington-based Arms Control Association denounced President Donald Trump’s reported decision not to renew U.S. sanctions waivers in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“President Trump’s decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal, which has successfully blocked Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, is an irresponsible act of foreign policy malpractice,” charged Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent Arms Control Association.

"Reimposing sanctions absent Iranian violations is a twofold abrogation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA* and it is critical that members of Congress and Washington’s P5+1 partners denounce Trump’s actions as a breach of the accord. Not only did the United States commit not to reimpose sanctions, Washington also committed not to interfere with the full realization of sanctions relief,” explained Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy for the Arms Control Association.

“Trump’s action today does not kill the agreement, but it jeopardizes the future of the deal unless other partners, particularly the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), take immediate steps to insulate their companies and banks which are engaged in trade with Iran from U.S. secondary sanctions,” warned Davenport.

"We call on the E3, Russia, China, and other responsible states to pursue implementation of the JCPOA without the United States and implement measures that block the application of U.S. secondary sanctions. We also urge Tehran to continue abiding by the limits of the deal. Resuming troublesome nuclear activities limited by the accord will not serve Iran’s interests and risks provoking a deeper crisis,” Davenport said.

"European-U.S. efforts to negotiate a supplemental agreement intended to address Trump's complaints failed to yield results because Trump stubbornly refused to guarantee that he would uphold U.S. commitments under the JCPOA and demanded that Europe help to unilaterally impose major changes to the original terms of the agreement," Kimball said.

“The Iran nuclear deal is a strong nonproliferation agreement that delivers permanent and robust international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities, strictly limits its capacity to enrich uranium and prohibits other sensitive nuclear activities. Through his reckless actions, Trump is precipitating a proliferation crisis rather than working with our allies to develop a long-term diplomatic strategy to build on the agreement in the years ahead,” Kimball charged.
 

Relevant sections from the JCPOA on sanctions relief:

Paragraph 26 of the JCPOA requires:

“The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realisation of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA.”

Paragraph 29 of the JCPOA requires:

“The EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with their commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of this JCPOA.”

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Posted: May 8, 2018

High-Level Group Calls for Extension of New START Agreement

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2018

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

(Washington, Hamburg, Moscow)—With relations between Washington, Moscow, and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, a distinguished, high-level group is warning that urgent steps need to be taken to contain nuclear risks and tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the group notes that: “Existing nuclear arms control agreements are at risk, and both sides are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, each of which exceeds reasonable deterrence requirements. A compliance dispute threatens the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will expire in 2021 unless extended.”

Among the signatories to the statement are: Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom, Richard R. Burt, former U.S. negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; Tom  Countryman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association; retired Major General Dvorkin, a chief researcher at the Center for International Security at the Institute of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations; Gen. Victor Esin, former Chief of Staff and Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces; Volker Rühe, former Minister of Defense, Germany; Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The statement was organized by the members of a 21-member German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission, which was established in 2013 to develop proposals to overcome obstacles to sensible arms control agreements and further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

Last week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Robert Soofer announced that the administration will soon “begin a whole-of-government review of the pros and cons of extending the [New START] treaty.”
 
“Without a positive decision to extend New START, and if the INF Treaty comes to an end, there would be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers for the first time since 1972, and the risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition would grow,” the statement warns.

“Presidents Trump and Putin … should discuss and pursue—on a priority basis—effective steps to reduce nuclear risks and tensions, and to avoid a renewed nuclear arms race,” they write.

Their recommendations include:

  • Immediate Extension of New START Treaty. This treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers. The treaty will by its terms expire February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two sides. Extending the treaty until February 2026 would preserve its significant security advantages—both the limits and the transparency that is provided by the treaty’s verification measures.
  • Intensified Efforts to Resolve INF Treaty Compliance Questions. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty made a major contribution to European and global security by eliminating all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Unfortunately, the treaty is now at risk, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations, and the U.S. government stating that it will not allow Russia to gain a military advantage through its violation. Currently, no meetings are scheduled to address the issue. A resolution of the dispute requires high-level leadership from the White House and the Kremlin.
  • Maintaining a Regular Dialogue on Strategic Stability. U.S. and Russian officials held a round of strategic stability talks in September 2017 but they postponed a follow-up round that was to be held earlier this year. They should make that dialogue a continuing and regular part of the U.S.-Russian agenda.
  • Sustained Military-to-Military Dialogue on Key Issues. Over the past five years, the instances of U.S. and NATO military aircraft and warships and Russian military aircraft and warships operating in close proximity to one another have increased dramatically. NATO has deployed ground forces to the Baltic states and Poland, putting them in closer proximity to Russian ground forces. U.S. and Russian forces also operate in close proximity in Syria. The risk of accidents and miscalculations that could escalate to a full-fledged armed conflict is growing.

The full statement is available online in English and in Russian.

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Posted: April 17, 2018

After the Missile Strikes: Toward More Effective Responses to Chemical Weapons Use and an End to the Syrian Conflict

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Statement from Tom Countryman, Chair of the Board,
and Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For Immediate Release: April 14, 2018 (Updated*)

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-277-3478 (cell); Thomas Countryman, chair of the board, 301-312-3445 (cell)

As the Arms Control Association has long-argued, Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons against its own people, including the April 7 chlorine attack in Douma, is reprehensible, it is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, it is a war crime, and it cannot be tolerated.

It is vitally important that the international community respond in a manner that effectively deters further use of such weapons and reinforces the nearly universal norm against such inhumane and indiscriminate attacks. The erosion of the taboo against chemical weapons use can lead to further, more significant use of these or other mass destruction weapons in the future.

Today’s military strikes by the U.S., UK and France against Syrian regime targets associated with chemical weapons research and production followed efforts to reach agreement at the UN Security Council to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable. They were intended to provide a strong response to the reprehensible actions of the Syrian government and to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capacity.

Military force cannot be the only means of responding to these atrocities, and, so far, it has not been an effective means of deterring the further use of chemical weapons in Syria. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s latest strike in response to Syrian chemical weapons use is not embedded within a broader U.S. strategy to deter further chemical weapons use, protect Syrian civilians caught in the horrible Syrian civil war, and bring a political resolution to the seven-year misery of the people of Syria.

We are deeply concerned that the latest U.S., UK, and French military operation was taken without specific authorization by the U.S. Congress, and with (apparently) little consultation with Congress. The sweeping claim that the President can take military action under only his own authority raises Constitutional questions, and causes concern about the potential for the President to initiate military action in other theaters, including against North Korea in ways that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

It is important to note that President Donald Trump's April 13 statement that “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents," creates the potential for further strikes and an expanded U.S. role in Syrian conflict, and the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia. If President Trump intends to continue military action in Syria in response to further chemical weapons use or in retaliation to Russian actions, he must go to Congress to request legal authorization for the use of military force.

Although this military strike, unlike the April 2017 U.S. strike, was executed in cooperation with France and the UK, we remain concerned that it was inconsistent with international law. The UN Charter prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” This portion of the UN Charter has three exceptions, none of which apply in this case: Syria has not consented to the strikes; the U.N. Security Council has not authorized the strikes; and the United States is not acting in self-defense.

Though U.S. military planners say they took care to design the strikes in Syria so as to avoid casualties among the substantial Russian military presence in Syria, there remains a risk of Russian casualties which could lead to an escalation of hostilities in Syria or elsewhere. Given the combustible rhetoric emanating from both the White House and the Kremlin, such an escalation could lead to direct, unintended and dangerous confrontation between U.S. and Russian forces.

At one point Russia, the United States and other members of the Security Council worked together, particularly in 2013-2014, to approve investigations into chemical weapons use in Syria, to force Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to remove and eliminate its stockpile of chemical weapons, precursors and production equipment. Under the auspices of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and with the support of more than 20 nations, the 2014 operation successfully removed and destroyed 1300 tons of chemical weapons, significantly reducing options for the regime to use its most advanced chemical weapons, and reducing the risk to Syrian civilians.

After the UN-OPCW removal operation, and to no one’s surprise, Syria has violated its CWC commitments by repeatedly using chlorine and in some cases Sarin. Since 2015, Russia has used its veto to block efforts to block credible investigation of these attacks. As a result, there is no longer a UN mechanism with the independence, technical expertise, and mandate to promptly identify responsibility for these chemical weapons attacks.

We urge:

  • the governments of the United States, the UK, and France, and other responsible states to provide as much detail as possible to demonstrate - beyond challenge - the Syrian government’s responsibility for the latest chemical weapons attacks in Douma and elsewhere in Syria.
  • all states, including Russia and Syria, to fully support the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Fact-Finding Mission, which is now in Syria to investigate and provide their independent assessment of the chemical weapons attacks for the international community.
  • members of the United Nations Security Council must redouble efforts to reconstitute an investigative mechanism that would be empowered to ascribe responsibility for such attacks. If this does not succeed, we strongly encourage the UN secretary-general to activate, under his existing authorities, an independent UN mechanism to attribute responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria. Previous UN Secretaries General have created similar inquiries.
  • A like-minded coalition of states should announce the commitment of resources to assemble a strong case, to be submitted to the International Criminal Court, charging the Syrian leadership with war crimes. Perpetrators of these chemical weapons crimes, and other war crimes committed in the Syrian civil war, can and should be held to account to make clear to the world that the use of chemical weapons and the targeting of civilians with other types of munitions will not be tolerated.

There is no purely military solution to the human tragedy of Syria. Now is the moment for the United States, and all concerned nations, to recommit to a concerted political and diplomatic effort to deter future such abominations, and to refrain from the most dangerous military options.

*This statement was updated at 2pm EDT, April 14

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Posted: April 14, 2018

The Wrong Choice for National Security Advisor

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Press release on the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor

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For Immediate Release: March 23, 2018

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

(Washington, D.C.)—The United States already faces an array of complex and dangerous foreign policy challenges that require pragmatic decision and sober diplomatic engagement with American allies and foes alike.

With the choice of John Bolton as his National Security Advisor, President Donald Trump has chosen someone with a record of a hostile attitude toward multilateral security and arms control agreements and effective international institutions designed to advance U.S. national security and international peace and security.

Bolton's extreme views could tilt the malleable Mr. Trump in the wrong direction on critical decisions affecting the future of the Iran nuclear deal, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and the strained U.S. relationship with Russia, among other issues.

Bolton is a nonproliferation hawk, but he has a disturbing and bellicose record of choosing confrontation rather than dialogue, politicizing intelligence to fit his worldview, and aggressively undermining treaties and negotiations designed to reduce weapons-related security threats. 

  • Bolton has long advocated for bombing Iran instead of pursuing negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program and he has called on the United States to abrogate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is working to verifiably block Iran’s pathways to the bomb. 
  • In the early 2000s, Bolton was among those in the George W. Bush administration who opposed further dialogue with North Korea which allowed North Korea to advance its nuclear program and test nuclear weapons. More recently, has argued that the United States should launch a “preventive attack” on North Korea, which would result in a catastrophic war. His approach runs counter to Mr. Trump’s own stated policy of using sanctions pressure and diplomatic engagement, including a summit with Kim Jong-un, to halt and reverse North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
  • Bolton has repeatedly criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, which is one of the few bright spots in the troubled U.S.-Russia relationship and continues to enjoy strong support from the U.S. military. Last year Bolton called the treaty “an execrable deal.”
  • While undersecretary of state for arms control and international security during the George W. Bush administration, Bolton cherry-picked the findings of intelligence community assessments of that country’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities, and was a key player in making the Bush administration’s flawed case for the war in Iraq—a war that Donald Trump has correctly ridiculed as a catastrophic American foreign policy blunder.

If Bolton succeeds in imposing his worldview on Donald Trump’s improvisational and impulsive foreign policy approach, we could be entering in a period of crisis and confrontation.

In particular, if Bolton convinces Trump to unilaterally violate the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May when the U.S. is due to renew sanctions waivers, it would not only open the door to the re-emergence of Iran as a nuclear weapons proliferation risk, but it would undermine President Trump’s very tentative diplomatic opening with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In the next year or so, Trump will need to decide whether or not to engage in talks with Russia about extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is due to expire in 2021. Without the treaty, there would be no verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

We can ill-afford two nuclear proliferation crises, as well as abandoning a key brake on the growing risks of renewed U.S. and Russian nuclear competition and arms racing. 

Congress will need to play a stronger role to guard against further chaos and confusion in U.S. foreign policy, prevent the White House from blundering into unwise and catastrophic military conflicts, and to halt further degradation of the credibility of the United States as a responsible global leader.

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Posted: March 23, 2018

Arms Control Association Welcomes U.S.-North Korea Diplomatic Opening: Now the Hard Work Begins

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For Immediate Release: March 8, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Thomas Countryman, chair of the board of directors, 301-312-3445

(Washington, D.C.)—The Arms Control Association welcomes the very positive signals and messages being sent by both sides this evening and over the past few days—by President Trump and the North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un—that they are interested in pursuing a diplomatic agreement that puts North Korea on the road to denuclearization and that also presumably will also seek to address North Korea's security concerns.

"South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his national security team deserve tremendous credit for their very skillful diplomacy that has made this breakthrough possible," stated Executive Director Daryl Kimball.

With North Korea's willingness to consider denuclearization if its security is guaranteed, its willingness to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile testing while there are talks with the United States, and Kim Jong Un’s acknowledgement that the regular U.S.-ROK defense exercises are not an obstacle to negotiations, the table is set for a meaningful, sustained dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.

"But now, the hard work begins," noted Kimball. "Though President Trump deserves credit for being so bold as to agree to a summit meeting with North Korea by May, this is a process that will, if it is to succeed, require patience and persistence."

"A summit meeting must be carefully prepared, with expert-level negotiations beginning immediately. Preparations must take the planned North-South summit in April into account. It is too much to expect that a single Trump-Kim summit—no matter how intensively prepared—will bring an immediate and lasting solution to the nuclear issue," he cautioned. "But if the U.S. works closely and intensively with our South Korean allies in its approach to North Korea, a summit offers the potential for starting a serious process that could move us decisively away from the current crisis."

"The near-term goal," explained Kimball, "should be to maintain a long-term freeze on North Korean nuclear and missile testing and to discuss measures that can further reduce tensions on the peninsula, and agree on a balanced framework for sustained, direct, high-level negotiations on issues of mutual concern, including steps toward the longer-term goals of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the peace regime."

An Arms Control Association fact sheet details previous presidents' efforts in using a combination of pressure and incentives to curb North Korea's nuclear capabilities. "One important difference between the efforts of Bill Clinton in 1993-1994, George W. Bush in 2005-2006, Barack Obama in 2012, and the situation in 2018 is that North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities are much more substantial and dangerous today, their bargaining power is greater, and the cost of failure is higher," noted Kimball.

"Diplomacy will not guarantee success, but it offers the best chance for curbing the North Korean nuclear threat," he said.

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Posted: March 8, 2018

Arms Control Association Hails South Korea-North Korea Breakthrough

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Urges U.S. Government to Agree to Talks Without Conditions on Issues of Mutual Concern

For Immediate Release: March 6, 2018

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

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) shaking hands with South Korean chief delegator Chung Eui-yong (R), who travelled as envoys of the South's President Moon Jae-in, during their meeting in Pyongyang. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON D.C.)—In response to today's announcement from South Korea that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, said his country is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning its nuclear weapons and that it would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while it is engaged in such talks, Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the U.S.-based Arms Control Association made the following comments:

"The results of the talks between senior South Korean officials and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang this week are an important breakthrough that the United States and the international community should welcome.

The preparations for an inter-Korean summit, the establishment of a hotline between South Korean and North Korean leaders, North Korea’s apparent willingness to consider denuclearization if its security is guaranteed, and willingness to suspend testing if there are talks with the United States, are all positive developments that strengthen the prospects for peace and security in the region.

The table is set for a meaningful, sustained dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. It is important that the United States government seize upon—and that Congress support—this important diplomatic opening that has been forged by our close South Korean allies and agree to engage in talks with North Korea at a very senior level without preconditions. It is in the U.S. national security interest to reciprocate with actions and statements that reduce tensions, including being prepared to modify planned U.S.-Republic of Korea military exercises.

The near-term goal should be to maintain a long-term freeze on North Korean nuclear and missile testing and to reduce tensions on the peninsula and begin sustained negotiations on issues of mutual concern, including steps toward the longer-term goals of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the peace regime.

Diplomacy will not guarantee success, but it offers the best chance for curbing the North Korean nuclear threat."

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Posted: March 6, 2018

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