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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
News Briefs

Turkey Tests Short-Range Ballistic Missile


December 2022

Turkey carried out a short-range ballistic missile test over the Black Sea on Oct. 18, Bloomberg reported. The Tayfun, or Typhoon, missile was developed by the Turkish rocket and missile center Roketsan.

The Bora short-range ballistic missile, pictured, is among the many missiles in Turkey's arsenal. It is shorter than the Tayfun ballistic missile that was tested over the Black Sea on Oct. 18. (Photo: Roketsan)Experts said the test is evidence that Turkey is continuing to make progress with its indigenous missile program and will be less dependent on external suppliers such as the United States, but that does not mean the Tayfun will enter service soon.

The weapon was fired from a mobile launcher in Rize, flew 561 kilometers, and fell into the water off the coast by the port of Sinop. That distance is twice the range of the known ballistic missiles in the Turkish arsenal, Forbes reported on Oct. 20.

In 2017, Turkey unveiled the Bora short-range ballistic missile, which has a shorter range than the Tayfun and can hit targets up to 280 kilometers away. Turkey reportedly launched a Bora missile for the first time toward a Kurdistan Workers’ Party target in Iraq’s Kurdistan region in 2019 during Operation Claw. According to Forbes, the Bora missile complies with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), in which Turkey participates.

The MTCR, a voluntary grouping, aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, or nuclear attacks. The regime urges its members to curb their exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers.

The Tayfun missile is the first one that Turkey has tested that exceeds the MTCR distance limit. The weight of the missile payload is unknown. It is also unclear whether Turkey plans to export the missile.—GABRIELA ROSA HERNÁNDEZ

Turkey Tests Short-Range Ballistic Missile

Russia Loses Bid for UN Probe of Ukraine, United States


December 2022

After months of using international forums to accuse Ukraine and the United States of prohibited biological weapons activities, Russia failed to garner support on Nov. 2 for a UN Security Council resolution that would have established a formal commission to investigate its claims. (See ACT, September 2022.)

China and Russia were the sole supporters of the draft resolution, which invoked Article VI of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). France, the United Kingdom, and the United States voted against the resolution, and the remaining 10 council members abstained.

Article VI allows any member state to request that the Security Council investigate an alleged breach of the BWC, which provides no explanation of the modalities of such an investigation. Russia’s draft resolution marked the first time any nation has called on the council to organize a commission to investigate compliance concerns. The draft did not contain any insight into how the commission or the investigation would have operated.

The draft resolution came on the heels of a special session of the BWC, convened in September at Russia’s request, which ended inconclusively. (See ACT, October 2022.) Ukraine and the United States formally responded to each of Russia’s accusations during the week-long meeting, but in an Oct. 24 letter to the Security Council president, Russia claimed that the two accused nations did not provide the “necessary explanations” and that its questions about treaty compliance remain unanswered.

Following the vote, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield discounted Russia’s pursuit of “answers” as disingenuous, stating that “We know this, because for nearly two decades, Russia participated in this very kind of cooperation with us, including on biological threats.”

It is likely that this issue will dominate discussion at the BWC review conference Nov. 28–Dec. 16 in Geneva.—LEANNE QUINN

Russia Loses Bid for UN Probe of Ukraine, United States

Explosive Weapons Declaration Endorsed


December 2022

More than 80 countries have endorsed a political declaration that aims to reduce the harm to civilians caused by attacking towns and cities with explosive weapons.

The text of the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians From the Humanitarian Consequences Arising From the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas was finalized in Geneva in June under the leadership of Ireland and adopted at a ceremony in Dublin on Nov. 18.

Irish officials confirmed that 82 countries endorsed the declaration, including the United States and 23 other NATO members. The declaration recognizes the devastating harm to civilians from bombing and shelling in towns and cities and commits signatory states to take action to address harm to civilians. (See ACT, July/August and November 2022.)

Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said, “This political declaration marks a milestone in collective efforts to better protect civilians.” The secretary-general’s message also stated, “Parties to conflict and states must avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and work to remove conflict from urban areas altogether.”—JEFF ABRAMSON

Explosive Weapons Declaration Endorsed

Seven Countries Join ASAT Test Ban


November 2022

Seven countries have committed formally to a U.S.-led initiative to ban destructive direct-ascent, kinetic-energy anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons testing.

India displays an anti-satellite weapon during Republic Day Parade in New Delhi in January 2020. One of five countries to have conducted tests against satellites, India has not joined the ASAT ban. (Photo by Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images)The United States became the first nation to declare the self-imposed ban in April. (See ACT, May 2022.) Canada followed in May, New Zealand in July, Japan and Germany in September, and the United Kingdom and South Korea in October. Other countries, such as France and Ireland, have expressed support for the ban, but have not made a commitment.

China, India, the Soviet Union and Russia, and the United States are the only nations to have conducted such tests against satellites, which are known to create massive amounts of debris in space.

The U.S. announcement preceded the inaugural session in May of the UN open-ended working group aimed at reducing space threats, which was created out of a 2021 UN resolution that promised to address military movements in space through norms, rules of the road, and principles of responsible behavior. (See ACT, December 2021.)

The working group held its second session in September. The third session is planned for early 2023, and the fourth in August 2023.

At the UN General Assembly in October, the United States tried to make the ban fully multilateral by introducing a resolution calling on all countries to commit not to conduct ASAT tests. Belarus, China, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Russia denounced the resolution as “insufficient” in an Oct. 26 statement.
—SHANNON BUGOS

Seven Countries Join ASAT Test Ban

Mexico Files New Gun Lawsuit in U.S. Court


November 2022
 

Aiming to curb arms trafficking into its territory, Mexico has filed a new lawsuit in U.S. courts after its 2021 suit was dismissed in late September.

A boy holds a makeshift gun as a community police force in Mexico in 2020 teaches a group of children how to protect themselves from area drug gangs. Mexico is suing to stop the flow of guns from U.S. manufacturers and dealers into Mexico. (Photo by Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images)The new lawsuit, filed Oct. 10 in federal court in Tucson, names five Arizona gun distributors whose guns are among those most frequently recovered in Mexico and states that those dealers knowingly break U.S. law to enable trafficking. In a video message that day, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard explained that his country cooperates with the United States on drug trafficking and other issues and would like assistance in stopping the flow of weapons into Mexico.

The earlier suit, filed in Massachusetts, was dismissed on Sept. 30. (See ACT, September 2022.) In his decision, Judge F. Dennis Saylor mentioned the limitations placed by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which provides gun manufacturers wide immunity. He added that “while the Court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law.” (See ACT, September 2021.)

Mexico promised to appeal the September ruling and drew a distinction between that case against gun manufacturers and the new case against gun dealers. In a press release Oct. 10, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it was confident both cases would succeed in court and that they “have already contributed to promoting conversations and actions around the world about halting arms trafficking and the dangerous practices of the arms industry.”JEFF ABRAMSON

Mexico Files New Gun Lawsuit in U.S. Court

IAEA Chief Visits Israel to Discuss Iran


July/August 2022

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Israel for talks with the prime minister on June 3 as international tensions rose over Iran’s accelerating nuclear program.

In a statement issued by his office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities were approaching dangerous levels and called for an international mobilization against Iran. He said Iran was “deceiving the international community by using false information and lies.”

Although Israel “prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, it reserves the right to self-defense and to take action against Iran in order to block its nuclear program should the international community not succeed in the relevant timeframe,” the statement added.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi made the trip ahead of a June 8 meeting in which the IAEA Board of Governors censured Iran, which is continuing to ratchet up its nuclear program, for failing to provide technically credible answers for the presence of undeclared uranium at three locations in Iran. Tehran responded by disconnecting cameras used by the IAEA to monitor Iranian nuclear activities.

These developments occurred in the context of stalled efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Iran accepted limits on its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. Israel has long opposed the deal and reserved the right to respond militarily to perceived Iranian threats. Israel is suspected of assassinating a number of Iranian nuclear scientists and conducting other attacks on Iranian facilities.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on June 13 criticized Grossi’s trip as showing bias toward Israel. Grossi, in a tweet, said he discussed important issues with Bennett, including the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran, which has no nuclear weapons, is a treaty member while Israel, widely accepted as possessing as many as 90 nuclear weapons, is not.—MICHELLE LIU

IAEA Chief Visits Israel to Discuss Iran

Brazil, IAEA in Nuclear Submarine Negotiations


July/August 2022
 

Brazil is negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to use nuclear fuel for its submarine program, which has been in development for decades.

A computer-generated image of Brazil's first nuclear-powered attack submarine, the Álvaro Alberto, which is under  construction by the Brazilian state-owned naval company ICN. (Image by Brazilian Navy)The talks between the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) and the IAEA Secretariat were launched in late May, with plans to reconvene before the end of the year, Reuters reported on June 6.

The negotiations center on the safeguards and verification process that Brazil must implement to be allowed to produce or acquire nuclear fuel. Nuclear-powered submarines face heightened regulation under the IAEA because they can remain at sea for a prolonged duration while operating outside of the watchdog agency’s supervision.

During a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors on June 6, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi praised Brazil’s “transparent approach and decision to work closely with the agency on this important project.”

According to The Economist, Brazil started developing a nuclear submarine in 1978 after facing political tensions with neighboring Argentina. The program languished for a time, then took on new life in 2008 under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, with policymakers arguing that the underwater military platform was needed to protect fossil fuel resources along the Atlantic Coast.

Brazil is developing the nuclear-powered submarine under a contract with Naval Group, a French defense company. If the project is completed, Brazil could be the first non-nuclear-weapon state to have a nuclear submarine. The target for completion is the early 2030s. At the moment, the only countries with nuclear submarines are the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

Brazil’s move follows a decision last year by Australia, the UK, and the United States to enter into the AUKUS security pact, under which Australia would be provided with nuclear-powered submarines. That arrangement has required the AUKUS countries also to initiate nuclear technology negotiations with the IAEA. Like Brazil, Australia is a signatory of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and does not possess nuclear weapons.
—MICHELLE LIU

Brazil, IAEA in Nuclear Submarine Negotiations

Colombia, Qatar Named Non-NATO Allies


April 2022

The United States is adding Colombia and Qatar to a list of 19 countries designated as major non-NATO allies, enabling privileges that can facilitate military training and weapons transfers. President Joe Biden announced his intention to designate Qatar during a Jan. 31 meeting at the White House with its emir, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, saying, “I think it’s long overdue.”

U.S. President Joe Biden meets Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, at the White House on January 31. Biden announced that he was adding the Gulf state to the list of major non-NATO allies. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)Qatar is home to the al-Udeid air base, where the U.S. Central Command is headquartered. Qatar has contributed more than $8 billion to develop the base since 2003 and is the second-largest buyer of U.S. weapons, including the F-15 fighter jet, under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, with $26 billion in active cases, according to the U.S. State Department. The designation became official on March 10, making Qatar the third such ally in the Persian Gulf region, along with Bahrain and Kuwait.

That same day, Biden announced his intention to designate Colombia during a meeting with that country’s president, Iván Duque. Biden said Colombia “is the keystone to our shared efforts to build a hemisphere that is prosperous, secure, and democratic.” When the designation is finalized, Colombia would join Argentina and Brazil as the only Latin American countries with major non-NATO ally status. Such designations can become official 30 days after the president notifies Congress of his decision.
—HADEEL ABU KTAISH

Colombia, Qatar Named Non-NATO Allies

Declaration Expected on Explosive Weapons


April 2022

As Russia’s targeting of civilians and civilian areas in Ukraine draws widespread international condemnation, a years-long multilateral effort to address the harm caused by using explosive weapons in populated areas is nearing conclusion.

Countries involved in the effort, led by Ireland, will convene in Geneva on April 6–8 to debate a declaration stating that “armed forces adopt and implement a range of policies and practices to avoid civilian harm, including by restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.”

Using the word “avoid” to describe the military practices that adherents to the nonbinding declaration would pledge is expected to be a key point. In response to a 2021 draft, the United States recommended replacing “avoid” with “mitigate” and argued that proposed restrictions would exceed what is required under international humanitarian law.

Washington also expressed concern about stigmatizing explosive weapons because they “may be needed to protect civilians during armed conflict.” The UN Secretary-General, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and others have instead argued that an avoidance policy is warranted.

ICRC President Peter Maurer said on Jan. 27, “There is an urgent need for a change of mindset and that belligerents put the protection of civilians back at the center of their policy and practices.”
—HADEEL ABU KTAISH

Declaration Expected on Explosive Weapons

Russia Delays UN Space Threats Group


April 2022

Russia has delayed new international efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space after raising numerous procedural objections at the opening session of a UN-led group focused on orbital arms control.

The UN open-ended working group on reducing space threats first met on Feb. 7 in Geneva for a planning session. Its members were due to gather a week later for the formal inaugural session. But diplomats and observers in attendance said Russia raised many procedural concerns, and the opening meeting was postponed, perhaps until May.

The Russian representative said that too little time had passed since the creation of the group on Dec. 24 for diplomats to prepare to engage on the space agenda. He also complained that details about future meetings and the participation of civil society contained in Russia’s version of the working group’s charter differed from what was originally agreed.

Although the delay does not permanently derail efforts to rewrite the laws of war in space, it sets an ominous tone and may signal Moscow’s reluctance to cooperate on hard-hitting questions about its space activities. Earlier in February, Russia told the United Nations its testing of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons is well within the bounds of international law. Moscow has faced criticism from other UN members and space experts about the country’s Nov. 15 ASAT test that scattered 1,500 pieces of debris into low-earth orbit. (See ACT, December 2021.)

The UN General Assembly First Committee created the working group after the United Kingdom led efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space. (See ACT, December 2021.)—JOHN BEDARD

Russia Delays UN Space Threats Group

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