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former IAEA Director-General

News Briefs

NATO Sees Defense Spending Rise

NATO Sees Defense Spending Rise


NATO expects to see a 3.8 percent increase in defense spending by its European members and Canada this year, as President Donald Trump hammers the closest U.S. allies to shoulder more of the defense burden.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press briefing June 7 during a Defense Council meeting at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels. (Photo: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)The increase would be the fourth in a row, although it lags behind last year’s estimated 5.2 percent increase, according to a chart released June 7 by the alliance. “All allies have stopped the cuts,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said following a defense ministers meeting. “All allies are increasing defense spending.”

The increases mean European allies and Canada will have spent an additional $87 billion on defense since 2014, he said. Trump has wrongly claimed credit for this turnaround, which began in 2015 spurred by Russia’s military moves against Ukraine and its subsequent annexation of Crimea, as well as by pressure from the Obama administration.

The increases are unlikely to end the criticism from Trump, who is scheduled to join the leaders of the other 28 countries at the NATO summit July 11–12. Trump’s souring relationship with key European leaders, particularly over his trade policies, may spill over to the defense alliance talks. Following this year’s Group of Seven summit in Canada, Trump tweeted his criticism that the United States spends money “protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on trade.”—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: July 1, 2018

New Contract for Los Alamos National Lab

New Contract for Los Alamos National Lab


The Los Alamos National Laboratory will be led by a new management partnership starting in 2019, the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced June 8. Los Alamos is one of the three national laboratories that design and develop nuclear weapons for the U.S. stockpile.

The contract was awarded to Triad National Security, LLC, which is a partnership of Battelle Memorial Institute, Texas A&M University, and the University of California. The group was granted a contract that includes a five-year base with five one-year options at an estimated annual value of $2.5 billion. The current contract is set to expire on Sept. 30, but will be extended for four months to allow for a transitional period.

The University of California is also a partner in the lab’s current management company, along with Bechtel, AECOM, and BWX Technologies Inc. The lab’s management has come under scrutiny in recent years. The issues include security breaches, electrical incidents, mishandling of plutonium, accidental transport of nuclear materials on a commercial cargo aircraft, and improper packaging of nuclear waste that led to a radiation release costing $2 billion and a three-year closure of the only U.S. nuclear waste repository.––MONICA MONTGOMERY

Posted: July 1, 2018

Fissile Material Report Points Toward Treaty

Fissile Material Report Points Toward Treaty


An expert group tasked by the United Nations with laying the groundwork for the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) completed its work June 8 with consensus recommendations that could be taken forward by a new subgroup of the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

“With this report, which has been aptly described as ‘two inches from a negotiating text’, the range of possible treaty provisions is further distilled in a manner that makes clear there is little more to be done on an FMCT other than to negotiate it,” Canadian Ambassador Heidi Hulan, who chaired the high-level preparatory group, told Arms Control Today in a June 18 email.

The FMCT preparatory group, mandated by a 2016 UN General Assembly resolution, was made up of representatives from 25 states who met for two weeks in 2017 and 2018. It followed on from the meetings of a group of governmental experts, convened in 2014 and 2015, on the same subject. The UN General Assembly in 1993 approved the negotiation of an FMCT in the CD, but the consensus-based CD has failed to start negotiations due to a few states’ objections.

The preparatory group’s discussions sought to clarify issues concerning a potential treaty’s scope, definitions, verification measures, and legal and institutional arrangements before negotiations begin. Its recommendations will go to the UN secretary-general, the General Assembly, and the CD, where they could inform the work of a new subsidiary body, created in February in part to discuss the negotiation of an FMCT. With the preparatory work completed, the CD “needs to be held to account for its negotiation, and finally end the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons,” wrote Hulan.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: July 1, 2018

UK Passes Safeguards Bill

UK Passes Safeguards Bill


The United Kingdom passed a nuclear safeguards bill and signed a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in preparation for withdrawal from the European Union in March 2019.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano and David Hall, resident representative of the United Kingdom to the IAEA, shake hands following the signing of UK’s additional protocol at IAEA headquarters in Vienna June 7.  (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)The UK’s exit from the EU includes withdrawing from Euratom, a body established by a 1957 treaty to coordinate European civil nuclear research and power and conduct safeguards in conjunction with the IAEA.

The UK, as a recognized nuclear-weapon state under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, does not have the same legal obligation to conclude a safeguards agreement as non-nuclear weapon states, but London reached a voluntary safeguards agreement with the IAEA and Euratom for its civil program in 1978 and concluded an additional protocol to strengthen its IAEA safeguards in 2004.

The UK’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA, signed June 7, replaces the Euratom arrangements and helps ensure that inspection and verification activities continue uninterrupted. The safeguards bill enables the UK to establish a domestic safeguards regime.

Richard Harrington, UK minister for business and industry, said that the new agreements emphasize the UK’s “continued commitment” to safeguards and nonproliferation and demonstrate that the country will continue to act as a “responsible nuclear state.”

Concluding a safeguards agreement was also critical for reaching new nuclear cooperation agreements to replace Euratom arrangements that facilitate the UK’s importation of nuclear materials necessary for its civil nuclear program. The House of Lords had warned in a January report that failure to reach a safeguards arrangement would have “severe consequences for the UK’s energy security.”

Suella Braverman, parliamentary undersecretary of state at the UK Department for Exiting the European Union, said on June 7 that the agreements “help ensure our cooperation with third countries in the field of nuclear energy” and provide confidence that there will be “no disruptions” when the UK exits the EU.
—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: July 1, 2018

Syria’s CD Presidency Sparks Boycotts

Syria’s CD Presidency Sparks Boycotts

Syria took the helm of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on May 28 under the four-week presidency rotation among member states, sparking boycotts and threatening to unravel recent progress in the long-stalled forum. Syria’s presidency drew anger due to its repeated use of chemical weapons and its past suspected covert nuclear weapons program.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood walks out during a statement by Syria at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on May 29 in protest of Syria’s four-week presidency of the body. (Photo: Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission)The United States attended the plenary meetings, but skipped in protest meetings of the body’s subsidiary bodies and informal consultations called by Syria during its presidency. Some other delegations participated on a reduced level, by sending low-level officials or only listening to the proceedings. The European Union, while stating it regretted Syria’s presidency, stated it still would participate fully in the disarmament body so as not to hamper its work.

Work in the consensus-based CD has been stalled for decades, but there has been recent movement. On Feb. 16, it created five subsidiary bodies to advance different disarmament topics, such as negative security assurances and risk reduction measures. (See ACT, April 2018.)
—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: July 1, 2018

China Develops, Deploys New Missiles

China Develops, Deploys New Missiles


China is advancing its missile capabilities, with the official deployment of an intermediate-range ballistic missile and the reported development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters on April 26 that China had deployed its first intermediate-range ballistic missile, the DF-26. The missile has a range of 4,000 kilometers and was first unveiled in September 2015. (See ACT, June 2016.) The U.S. Defense Department said that China had deployed the missile in a 2017 report on Chinese military developments. (See ACT, July/August 2017.)

Military vehicles carrying China’s DF-26 ballistic missiles are displayed at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 3, 2015 during a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan and the end of World War II. (Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)China tested the air-launched ballistic missile, designated as CH-AS-X-13 by the United States, five times between 2016 and January 2018, according to an April report in The Diplomat. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that the missile will be ready for deployment by 2025, according to a source who spoke to The Diplomat. No other country has deployed this missile type, although others have developed it. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced the Kinzhal missile, which some analysts have characterized as an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: June 1, 2018

Trump Weighs Creating a ‘Space Force’

Trump Weighs Creating a ‘Space Force’


President Donald Trump said he is weighing the creation of a sixth branch of the military, a space force, “because we’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons.” Trump made the comment May 1, while speaking to the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights football team at the White House. Trump previously floated the idea in March, when he told troops at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego that “my new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.” Currently, the Air Force’s Space Command is responsible for elements of military activities related to space and cyberspace.

Military activities are constrained by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space. The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution annually urging all states to refrain from actions contrary to the peaceful use of outer space and calling for negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament on a multilateral agreement to prevent an arms race in outer space.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: June 1, 2018

Ex-Spy Survives Nerve Agent Poisoning

Ex-Spy Survives Nerve Agent Poisoning


Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was diYulia Skripal, who was poisoned along with her father, Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, speaks to news media representatives in London on May 23. (Photo: Dylan Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)scharged from a UK hospital, two months after being poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4. His daughter Yulia, also poisoned, was discharged in early April and moved to a secure location. Although Russia has denied responsibility, UK officials have blamed Moscow for the use of a toxin known as Novichok against the Skripals. At a May 18 news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin disputed UK allegations, saying that “if, as our British colleagues have insisted, a military-grade poison had been used, the man would have died right away.” Noting his hospital discharge, Putin wished Skripal “good health.”—TERRY ATLAS

 

Posted: June 1, 2018

Pakistan Advances Sea Leg of Triad

Pakistan Advances Sea Leg of Triad


Pakistan’s conducted its second test of the Babur-3 nuclear-capable, sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) in late March, more than a year after its first test, in January 2017. The continuing Pakistani development of the sea-based nuclear deterrent is a response to India’s triad of land-, sea-, and air-launched nuclear weapons. A Pakistani military statement, without citing India by name, states that the Babur-3 will provide a “credible second-strike capability, augmenting existing deterrence” especially in light of “provocative nuclear strategies and posture being pursued in the neighborhood through induction of nuclear submarines and ship-borne nuclear missiles.”

As with the 2017 test, the Babur-3 was reported by the Pakistani military to have an estimated range of 450 kilometers and to have “successfully” hit its target with “precise accuracy.” (See ACT, March 2017.) Slight differences include the military reporting that the missile launched from a “dynamic” underwater platform, rather than a “mobile” one, and video released by the military seems to confirm the missile ejecting horizontally, which could eventually lead to deployment through submarine torpedo tubes rather than a vertical launch system. The Babur-3 SLCM is widely expected to be carried on Pakistan’s diesel-powered Agosta 90B submarine.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: June 1, 2018

Putin Says New ICBM Set for 2020

Putin Says New ICBM Set for 2020


Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s new, heavy, long-range missile, capable of carrying up to 15 independently targetable nuclear warheads, will be operational in 2020, the Russian state news agency Tass reported May 18. The RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has been under development since the 2000s to replace the R-36M2 Voevoda ICBM operational since 1988, Tass said. The missile system is one of the weapons Russia is advancing to reduce the impact of U.S. missile defenses on Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Putin told the same meeting of military and defense sector officials that Russia will deploy the Avangard hypersonic-glider warhead beginning in 2019, according to Russia’s RT news service. RT described the Avangard as able to carry a nuclear warhead through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, making it virtually impossible to intercept.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: June 1, 2018

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