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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Disarmament

Lawrence Weiler (1920-2019): Key Architect of the Global Disarmament and Nonproliferation Order

After a long and extraordinarily productive life and career that made our world a safer place, Lawrence D. Weiler, one of the early pioneers and architects who helped negotiate the first major nuclear arms control, risk reduction, and nonproliferation agreements, died last Sunday, Feb. 24 from complications of pneumonia. He was 98. Larry Weiler was in the right place at the right time to make a difference during difficult times. Weiler served as the ambassador and U.S. Coordinator for the UN General Assembly special session on disarmament and worked under six different presidents — from...

The INF Treaty Crisis: Filling the Void With European Leadership


March 2019
By Nikolai Sokov

The pending demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty indicates the larger deterioration of the U.S.-Russian arms control relationship. The chances that the parties will resolve their disagreements are extremely low or, more realistically, nonexistent.

Russia displays a purported canister and launcher for the disputed 9M729 cruise missile January 23. The gesture of transparency may have been intended to demonstrate Russian willingness to save the INF Treaty, but both the United States and Russia suspended their adherence to the treaty several days later. (Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)The United States and Russia have each announced they will suspend adherence to the treaty, and Washington has formally announced its plans to withdraw from the pact in early August.

The next likely victim is the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). All signs suggest Washington and Moscow will not be able to engage in constructive dialogue on arms control for a long time, perhaps years. Others must fill that void to prevent an unregulated arms race, and key European nations are best positioned for that role.

There is little doubt that the gap between the U.S. and Russian positions can be bridged as long as the two nations view their differences as technical issues, but the problems are virtually insurmountable at the political level. The United States will continue to insist that Russia admit to violating the INF Treaty by deploying a missile that can fly farther than the treaty allows, but Russia will never concede such a violation, even if it were to agree to remove the offending 9M729 missile. Similarly, Russia could drop its concern that the U.S. MK-41 missile defense launcher could be used to fire treaty-prohibited missiles, but the United States has so far refused to treat that issue as a valid concern or allow Russia to inspect the launcher. In other words, broader foreign policy and domestic political impulses are prevailing over substantive arms control or security considerations.

Some technical discussion was initiated, but too late. At a January 15, 2019, meeting in Geneva, Russia reportedly offered a demonstration of the 9M729 missile while the United States outlined procedures for the verifiable elimination of that missile. Predictably, the United States said the Russian demonstration would not be enough to prove the missile’s range, and Russia rejected both U.S.-proposed procedures for such a demonstration and the procedures for the verified elimination of the missiles as excessively intrusive. Such disagreements are natural at an early stage of negotiations, but the remaining time is short, and political conditions are not conducive for mutual concessions.

Worse still, the situation concerning the extension of New START, which expires in early 2021, is almost identical. Russia has declared it would agree to such an extension only if its concerns about the U.S. implementation of the treaty are addressed. Moscow says it is not able to confirm the irreversibility of the conversion of missile tubes on U.S. strategic submarines. The United States has denied any wrongdoing and rejected any additional verification measures. This conflict has remained overshadowed by the INF Treaty crisis so far, but after that treaty’s demise, New START will move to the forefront.

Given these developments, it will be vital to begin consultations on possible new arms control measures without delay because an unregulated, nontransparent, and unpredictable military balance is simply too dangerous. The collapse of arms control regimes is driven primarily by political factors, so the prospects of new consultations will depend primarily on how the INF Treaty will end, namely, whether relevant actors demonstrate, even if only indirectly, that they are prepared to start looking beyond the INF Treaty. After all, in diplomacy, signals and appearance matter as much as substance, sometimes even more.

The prospects for a renewed arms control effort will be defined by answers to two related questions: Who will agree to talk to Russia, and with whom will Russia agree to talk?

Who Will Negotiate With Russia?

The likelihood of serious U.S.-Russian bilateral engagement seems minimal. Interaction in the remaining months of the INF Treaty’s existence will continue to be rancorous, an atmosphere that will likely persist as the deadline for an extension of New START approaches. The political atmosphere in the United States is not conducive to a serious dialogue with Moscow, and the issue of INF Treaty compliance, which will remain unresolved, is bound to generate strong opposition to a new exercise in arms control because Russia will be seen as untrustworthy by definition. Resumption of a serious bilateral dialogue will likely take years.

One alternative would be for Europe to take a larger role in engaging Russia on arms control issues. Although a more proactive European role is feasible and desirable, certain challenges must be understood and addressed to ensure success.

The first is the potential risk of undermining Atlantic solidarity and having such a new role be seen as a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although the concern is certainly valid, Atlantic solidarity is not synonymous with providing unquestioning support of the United States or of taking the most unyielding position possible on Russia. Solidarity presupposes consensus on policy decisions, but at the stage of policy development, debates are feasible and welcome.

Second, the probability of Europe becoming a single actor appears low (members of both NATO and the European Union differ considerably on handling Russia), so the burden of new arms control initiatives will have to be borne by individual countries. This will become particularly vital if the United States decides to deploy new intermediate-range weapons in Europe under bilateral agreements rather than joint NATO arrangements.

The better option is for Germany or other key European nations to take the leadership reins. Germany has been increasingly active in promoting new approaches to arms control, marked in  2016 by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s initiative to launch a structured dialogue with Russia within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.1 More recently, Germany has become even more active on these issues under Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose call for a renewed dialogue on arms control, rather surprisingly, has enjoyed the support of the United States and Russia.2

Third, European countries will likely find it difficult to include China in a future dialogue. Engaging Chinese experts is possible, but the prospects are not particularly encouraging. Nonetheless, the value of restarting serious arms control dialogue will overshadow that shortcoming. If that endeavor succeeds, China could be integrated at a later date.

Areas for European Discussion

Given the challenges of Europe-wide representation, Germany and other European nations could play this vital role in several ways in the coming months and years. First, they can provide a platform for a wide-ranging discussion about a new framework for arms control. The German initiatives for renewed dialogue move in the right direction, but conferences cannot provide answers; they are good primarily for formulating questions. Perhaps even more vital is making such a platform sustainable. That will require creating a series of back-channel discussions, often called Track 1.5 and Track 2 meetings, to enable nongovernmental experts as well as national officials in unofficial capacities to begin to formulate solutions to technical, political, and legal issues on a broad variety of outstanding issues.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet the press after discussing INF Treaty issues in Moscow January 18. (Photo: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)Options for regulating weapons with nuclear and conventional capability. NATO in the 1960s and 1970s and Russia from 2000 to 2014 relied on nuclear weapons to balance their adversaries’ conventional advantage. It seems increasingly likely that the United States and NATO could respond in a similar way to the acquisition and deployment of more conventionally armed weapons by Russia. Consequently, arms control no longer can be limited to nuclear weapons.

Tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons. The traditional arms control approach, which has emphasized counting launchers and missiles, not warheads, does not apply well to this category of weapons, so it will be necessary to count warheads for limits on tactical nuclear weapons. Any breakthrough on this issue will help reframe strategic nuclear weapons arms control in the direction proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010 to address strategic and nonstrategic, deployed and nondeployed nuclear weapons.3

Sea- and air-launched intermediate-range weapons in and around Europe. None of these weapons were limited by the INF Treaty, an omission that was a major Soviet concession during the treaty’s negotiation and will not be repeated. Today, Russia has similar weapons of its own, and their number is rapidly growing along with their capabilities, especially with the planned introduction of hypersonic weapons.

The role of missile defense in European security and options for regulating it. Missile defense remains an untouchable topic for the West, but that situation is not sustainable. Russia will refuse to conclude new arms control agreements that exclude missile defense, and its own defense capability is growing. U.S. and NATO concerns about Russian defensive weapons deployments in Kaliningrad is an indicator of a much larger problem that cannot be addressed without putting Western defense assets on the table.

Confidence-building and transparency measures between military forces deployed on land, sea, and air in Europe. Although not directly weapons related, this issue is timely, given the deterioration of the security environment and the growing likelihood of unintended confrontations with escalation potential. The need to address these risks in new regimes is acute. Luckily because they are easier to achieve, they should be made an independent avenue for early action.

Developing Verification Tools

In addition to these discussions, an independent role of European countries could emphasize technical issues, especially accounting and verification. Nongovernmental and international organizations have done much forward-looking work in that area—the UN Institute for Disarmament Research has been particularly productive—but that work needs to be transferred to at least a semiofficial dialogue. Arms control negotiations have shown that these issues are particularly challenging and may take a very long time. It would help if at least some relevant work is done outside formal negotiations. There is even a vehicle that could be used for focused work in that area: the European Nonproliferation and Disarmament Consortium, which consists of a network of European think tanks and research centers.

Nongovernmental work can be complemented by groups of technical experts, which are a time-honored, efficient tool for this kind of work beginning with the development in the 1950s of measures to verify limits or a ban on nuclear testing. Such groups could be initiated and sponsored by European countries, and they could pave the way for diplomats and politicians.

European Treaty Crafters

Another role for European nations could involve developing European positions or drafts of future arms control agreements. Although there was a long-term decline in arms control expertise after the end of the Cold War, interest in these issues has surged in recent years, and there is a new generation of arms control experts. In fact, a close look suggests that the arms control community in Europe is growing as fast or faster than in the United States. European countries might produce a well-developed foundation for future agreements, including possible treaty language, and negotiate them separately with the United States and Russia so that the two Cold War superpowers would come to the negotiating table with ready text proposals.

Such an endeavor would be a long shot—Europe is simply not accustomed to that role—but it is not unthinkable. The young generation of arms controllers in Europe seems to be professionally and psychologically ready to cross the traditional boundaries that Europe has set for itself and take a more proactive and central role in arms control.

Russian Acceptance of Negotiating Partner

The second major question then is with whom Russia may be prepared to seriously engage. It is not enough for Europe to assume a leading role for interacting with Russia; it is also necessary for Russia to agree to talk with Europe in a serious, professional way without trying to utilize them for other purposes. Attempts to split NATO are, in the end, one possible goal for such interaction, and it will be vital to make such interaction focused on arms control rather than on unrelated policies.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces the U.S. suspension of its INF Treaty obligations at a Febuary 1 press briefing in Washington. The following day, the State Department also formally notified Russia that the United States would withdraw from the treaty in six months. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)There is little reason to believe that Russia will want to engage in an arms control dialogue with the United States, although it will declare its readiness to do so. The likelihood of such dialogue was further reduced by Putin’s announcement that Moscow will no longer take a proactive approach, although all its earlier initiatives will remain on the table.4 Effectively, he has said that Russia will sit patiently and wait for others to come to it to ask, even beg, for arms control. The delay in arms control interaction will be driven not just by Washington, but equally by Moscow.

Whether Russia may be interested in a meaningful dialogue with Europe will be largely determined by Europe’s behavior during the remaining months of the INF Treaty and New START. Russia offered a positive response to German initiatives when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met his German counterpart, Maas, on January 18 in Moscow expressing readiness to “jointly consider” development of new norms on nuclear weapons and, more broadly, strategic stability.5 A closer look, however, suggests that Russian post-INF Treaty interaction with Europe is far from assured.

Europe has become a meaningful player in the INF Treaty conflict rather recently, after a briefing conducted last fall by the United States for its NATO allies to explain the U.S. position. Obviously, NATO supported this position and has tried to pressure Moscow to accept everything the United States wants. Germany has been particularly active in this regard; Maas has been making relevant statements on an almost weekly basis.

Russian Outreach

A series of events launched after the failed U.S.-Russian consultations on January 15 in Geneva apparently were intended primarily for European consumption. Russia held two such events: a briefing for diplomats stationed in Moscow on January 18, which was held by the Foreign Ministry, and the display of the controversial 9M729 cruise missile—rather the purported missile in its canister and its associated launcher—by the Defense Ministry on January 22. The former was confidential, the latter was public, and significantly, Moscow disclosed new details about that missile system, which never been seen in the public domain. On January 25, Russia presented its perspective at the NATO-Russia Council, this time again behind closed doors.

This activism can be interpreted in different ways. Some see it as evidence that “pressure is working” and that the INF Treaty could be saved with more pressure by the unified West to eventually force Moscow to accept U.S. demands before the treaty’s six-month withdrawal period. Such a development, which is not impossible but highly unlikely, would require a major Russian retreat and effectively return its policy to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s era, which is perceived today in Russia as bordering on high treason. More likely, Moscow will declare, “Well, we tried,” and happily allow the INF Treaty to end.

Another explanation for Russia’s recent outreach entails a two-fold goal. The first is to demonstrate that Moscow had “gone the extra foot”—it would be too much to say “extra mile”—so that the collapse of an important arms control treaty could be blamed on Washington. This will hardly succeed. Alternatively, Russia’s recent engagements could be an attempt to find a better interlocutor in the West, one capable of listening to Russia. It is difficult to say whether Moscow truly hopes to split the West—such an endeavor is doomed to failure—but an attempt to open a new channel for dialogue on arms control cannot be ruled out. At the very least, Europe could transfer Moscow’s messages to Washington even if it refuses to develop its own, independent approach. In other words, the recent steps might indicate that Russia is already looking beyond the INF Treaty.

Europe’s Next Steps

Moving forward, Europe will need to fashion its statements and actions in such a way that they signal Atlantic solidarity and open-mindedness about future arms control regimes. As long as the latter is present, the former will hardly be seen in Moscow as discouraging.

To achieve a proper balance between the two goals, Europe must demonstrate its ability and willingness to listen. Therefore, the decision by the majority of NATO members, including Germany, to decline the invitation to Russia’s January 22 missile demonstration was a mistake. It would have been better to attend and then criticize the insufficient transparency. After all, diplomacy is not about acceptance but about engagement. Refusal to talk does not improve prospects of an agreement; it makes agreement less likely.

A riskier but still tenable proposition for Europe would be a demonstration of some understanding of Russian concerns about the implementation of the INF Treaty, in particular by hearing Russian complaints about the MK-41 launcher and maybe others. During U.S. President George W. Bush’s first term, Moscow proposed to address armed unmanned aerial vehicles through an amendment to the INF Treaty, which would have excepted them from the definition of cruise missile, but that proposal was rejected. It is not too late to return to
that option.

With today’s U.S.-Russian animosity, illustrated by the almost-dead INF Treaty and the similarly fated New START, the only actor who can successfully talk to Russia and with whom Russia may talk is Europe or, more precisely, certain individual European countries. They have the capacity to play that role.

They can translate capacity into real action on two conditions. First, they need the political will to emerge from their traditional place on the margins to a more proactive role. Second, they need to start sending the correct signals now, without waiting for the end of the INF Treaty. The manner in which the treaty ends will determine how long the world must wait for renewed arms control. The longer the security environment is unregulated, the lower the chances for survival. During the Cold War, arms control efforts resulted from the Cuban missile crisis. Waiting for a similar stimulus is not the wisest course of action, as the world might not survive this time.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “More Security for Everyone in Europe: A Call for a Re-launch of Arms Control,” Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, n.d., https://www.osce.org/cio/261146?download=true (article originally published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on August 26, 2016).

2. “National Statement by Heiko Maas, Member of the German Bundestag, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the OSCE Ministerial Council,” MC.DEL/25/18, December 7, 2018, https://www.osce.org/chairmanship/405665?download=true.

3. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, p. 47, https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/defenseReviews/NPR/2010_Nuclear_Posture_Review_Report.pdf.

4. “Meeting With Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoigu,” February 2, 2019, http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59763 (in Russian).

5. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Statement and Answers to Media Questions During a Joint News Conference Following Talks With Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas,” January 18, 2019, http://www.mid.ru/ru/vizity-ministra/-/asset_publisher/ICoYBGcCUgTR/content/id/3478159?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_ICoYBGcCUgTR&_101_INSTANCE_ICoYBGcCUgTR_languageId=en_GB.

 


Nikolai Sokov is a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a program of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. A former official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he participated in negotiations for the first and second strategic arms reduction treaties.

 

In the absence of active U.S.-Russian efforts to resolve disagreements over the INF Treaty, other nations may be
able to lead the way toward preventing a new arms race.

As INF Treaty Falls, New START Teeters


March 2019
By Kingston Reif

Following President Donald Trump’s announcement last October that he planned to “terminate” the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the chances were remote that the United States and Russia could achieve an 11th-hour diplomatic miracle to save the treaty and reduce the growing risk of a renewed missile race in Europe.

Russia displays a purported canister for the 9M729 cruise missile near Moscow on January 23. The United States has charged that the missile can fly farther than allowed by the INF Treaty. (Photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)German Chancellor Angela Merkel persuaded Trump to hold off on withdrawal for 60 days to give diplomacy one last chance, but Washington and Moscow spent more time assigning blame for the crisis than discussing ways to resolve their concerns. Those issues revolve around the years-old U.S. charges that Russia developed and deployed a treaty-prohibited, ground-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile, known as the 9M729, and Russian countercharges that the United States is violating the treaty. (See ACT, January/February 2019.)

It came as no surprise, therefore, that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally declared on Feb. 2 that the United States would withdraw from the treaty effective in August. Pompeo also stated that Washington would immediately suspend its obligations under the pact. The announcement reflected National Security Advisor John Bolton’s long-held opposition to the INF Treaty and other negotiated arms limitation agreements.

Russia immediately reciprocated by announcing that it too would suspend its treaty obligations.

To make matters worse, as the INF Treaty draws its final breaths, the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is increasingly uncertain. If New START is allowed to expire without a replacement in 2021, there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972.

The INF Treaty required Russia and the United States to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Pompeo left open the possibility that the United States would return to the treaty if Russia verifiably eliminates “all 9M729 missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment in this six-month period.”

Russia, however, has given no indication that it would meet U.S. demands for an inspection of the missiles; and the United States is similarly unwilling to address Russia’s concerns about U.S. treaty compliance, notably the fielding of U.S. missile defense interceptor launchers in Europe that Moscow says could be used to launch offensive missiles in violation of the agreement.

New Missile Deployments in Europe?

Although apparently eager to end the treaty, the White House has yet to articulate a strategy to prevent Russia from building more and new types of land-based, intermediate-range missiles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a Feb. 2 meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Russia would retaliate to the U.S. abrogation of the agreement by beginning research and development on “land-based modifications of the sea-based Kalibr launching systems” and “land-based launchers for hypersonic intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.”

Putin added that Russia would “not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons, if we develop weapons of this kind, neither in Europe nor anywhere else, until U.S. weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world.” If there were such U.S. deployments, however, Putin vowed Feb. 20 that Russia would “be forced to respond with mirror or asymmetric actions” such as Russian “weapons that can be used not only in the areas we are directly threatened from [Europe], but also in areas that contain [U.S.] decision-making centers for the missile systems threatening us.”

In his Feb. 6 State of the Union address, Trump alluded to negotiating a new intermediate-range missile agreement that would also include China, but the administration has not yet raised the issue with China, which possesses hundreds of land-based, intermediate-range missiles. Joining the INF Treaty would mean that China would have to eliminate 95 percent of its missile arsenal.

Some European leaders have suggested diplomatic options that could avert a new missile race that would undermine European security.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto proposed on Feb. 16 at the Munich Security Conference that the United States and Russia could agree to keep Europe “free” of INF Treaty-prohibited missiles.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before Feb. 12 meetings with NATO defense ministers that the alliance is “planning for a world without the INF Treaty.”

“Any steps we take will be coordinated, measured, and defensive,” he added. “We do not intend to deploy new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe.” Stoltenberg did not say whether the alliance, which has expressed support for the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, would also forgo the deployment of conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles.

Congress approved $48 million in fiscal year 2019 to research and develop concepts and options for such conventional missile systems. (See ACT, November 2018.) The status of the development work is unclear.

Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told PBS NewsHour on Feb. 7 that the United States is not currently planning to deploy banned missiles in Europe, but noted that “when we develop next steps, it will be in consultation with partners and allies.”

The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, due for release in mid-March, is likely to include additional funding for developing new ground-launched missile systems.

Even if the United States were to develop such weapons, they would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles. If one did, a bilateral arrangement that circumvents NATO decision-making would likely be controversial.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said at the Munich conference on Feb. 15 that Poland is “against” hosting U.S. ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles. If a decision is made to deploy such missiles, he added, “it will be a decision of all the [NATO] alliance.”

Consequences for Strategic Arms Control

In the likely event that the INF Treaty collapses, the only remaining U.S.-Russian arms control agreement would be New START, which expires in 2021 but can be extended by up to five years by mutual agreement.

The Trump administration has yet to formulate the U.S. position on New START’s future. (See ACT, September 2018.) Thompson said on Feb. 7 that the administration “has an interagency process addressing that.… We will see what 2021 holds.”

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

Russia has repeatedly expressed interest in extending the treaty, but it has raised concerns about U.S. procedures to remove submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and some B-52 bombers from treaty accountability.

Thompson last year described the Russian concerns about U.S. implementation of New START as manufactured and raised concerns about Russia’s development of new strategic-range nuclear weapons systems, such as globe-circling, nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and very long-range nuclear torpedoes. Russia claims that these systems would not be limited by New START because they do not use ballistic flight trajectories.

In an 11-page paper sent to members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last December, Russia described the U.S. conversion procedures as “unlawful” and warned that “these problems might potentially disrupt prospects” for New START’s extension after 2021.

New START gives each party the right to formulate its own conversion procedures. The treaty does not require conversions to be irreversible or that the other side agree with the conversion procedure.

According to the Russian paper, the Trump administration in December 2017 proposed two steps to address Russia’s concerns, including “a cabinet-level written political commitment that the United States does not intend to reverse the conversion of any of the converted Trident II SLBM launchers or B-52H heavy bombers for the duration” of New START. Russia characterized these proposals as “a step in the right direction,” but ultimately deemed them insufficient. It is not clear if the U.S. proposals remain on the table.

Pranay Vaddi, a former State Department official and now a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in a Feb. 19 email that this Russian concern “is a silly issue to stand in the way of a potential extension of the treaty, but can be resolved with minimum effort if the sides have the will to do it.”

“The United States and Russia should focus discussions on increased transparency using existing treaty mechanisms as a model, rather than attempting major changes to the [conversion] procedures, or to the regular operations of U.S. submarines and bombers,” he added.

The White House appears to believe that there is plenty of time left for the two sides to make a decision on an extension, but Russia is warning that time is short.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow on Feb. 7 “that there is almost no time left” to discuss Russia’s continuing concerns about U.S. implementation of the treaty and other issues necessary to pave the way for an extension.

“It gives reason to suspect our American counterparts of setting ground to…just let the treaty quietly expire,” Ryabkov said.

 

How Did We Get Here? Documenting the Demise of the INF Treaty

On Feb. 2, the United States formally issued its notification of withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, to take effect in six months, and it also announced the immediate suspension of its treaty obligations, raising concerns about a renewed missile race in Europe and beyond.

Russia immediately followed the U.S. announcement by declaring that it would also suspend its treaty obligations.

The treaty’s withdrawal clause sets a six-month waiting period before a party’s withdrawal takes effect, and the Trump administration stated that it would reverse its decisions if Russia returns to “full and verifiable” compliance with the pact during that time.

After a Dec. 4, 2018 announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the United States had found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and that the United States would suspend its treaty obligations unless Russia returned to compliance within 60 days, U.S. and Russian officials held several discussions. Most notable were a two-hour Jan. 15 meeting in Geneva between Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, which came to no conclusion, and a Jan. 31 meeting at the same level on the sidelines of a major powers meeting in Beijing, again to no resolution.

Although the United States rejected Russian offers to demonstrate and exhibit the contentious 9M729 cruise missile in exchange for U.S. demonstrations of its MK-41 missile launchers in Europe, Russia went ahead and held a Jan. 23 event to display equipment purportedly related to the 9M729 for an audience of foreign military attachés. No U.S. or NATO officials attended, and Thompson argued later that a static display would not address questions of the missile’s flight range.

For some time, the U.S. intelligence community, reinforced by NATO findings, has charged that the Russian missile exceeds the INF Treaty’s range limits and Russia has violated the treaty by testing and deploying the missile.

Russia has refused to acknowledge any noncompliance and has countered with questions about U.S. treaty compliance. Chief among those concerns is Russia’s assertion that the MK-41 missile launchers of the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense systems, currently deployed in Romania and under construction in Poland, can be easily converted to launch treaty-prohibited ground-launched missiles. The United States has refused to address the Russian concerns and has not appeared interested in reciprocal transparency site inspections, as several U.S. allies have proposed.

Following the Feb. 1 U.S. public announcements that official notice of suspension and withdrawal would occur the next day, NATO’s North Atlantic Council, quickly said that “allies fully support” the U.S. withdrawal. Some key NATO partners, however, showed less enthusiasm for the official statement. The French Foreign Ministry said Feb. 1 that France “regrets reaching a situation” that resulted in the withdrawal, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted Feb. 16 that the treaty’s termination was the “really bad news this year” for Europeans. Non-NATO allies shared similar sentiments, with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stating that due to the historic role the treaty played in arms control, it was “undesirable” for the agreement to end.

Responding to the U.S. decisions, Russian President Vladimir Putin directed his foreign and defense ministries “not to initiate talks” on disarmament matters “until our partners are ready to engage in equal and meaningful dialogue.” He further directed that Russia “will not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons…neither in Europe nor anywhere else until U.S. weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world.” This promise may have been undermined by The Wall Street Journal reporting on Jan. 31 that Russia currently has four deployed battalions of the 9M729 system, estimated to be nearly 100 missiles, including some within range to strike NATO countries.

In his Feb. 6 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump reaffirmed his decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty and raised questions of U.S. post-treaty military and diplomatic plans. “Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t, in which case we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far,” Trump said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said several times, including after a NATO defense ministerial meeting on Feb. 13, that NATO has no plans to deploy ground-based “nuclear missiles,” leaving open the possibility of deployments of conventionally armed INF Treaty-range missiles in NATO countries.

Meanwhile in Congress, public reactions to the Trump administration’s treaty withdrawal announcement have fallen along partisan lines, with Republicans supporting the withdrawal and Democrats opposing the action. Democrats have also rallied behind several pieces of legislation to restrict funding for ground-launched, INF Treaty-range missiles unless several specific conditions have been met, the key one being a requirement that any deployment of such a missile in Europe come from a NATO-wide decision, not a bilateral agreement.

The “Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019” was first introduced in the Senate on Jan. 31 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and 11 Democratic co-sponsors, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), plus Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). A companion version was introduced on the House side Feb. 14 by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and co-sponsored by fellow Democrats Ted Lieu (Calif.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), and Mark Pocan (Wis.). Separately, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation Feb. 14 limiting funding for INF Treaty-range missiles with Democratic colleagues Ilhan Omar (Minn.), James McGovern (Mass.), and Mark Pocan (Wis.).—SHERVIN TAHERAN

The INF Treaty crisis threatens far more than the INF Treaty.

How Congress Can Leverage Action on New START


March 2019
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Every U.S. president since John Kennedy has successfully concluded at least one agreement with Russia or the Soviet Union to reduce nuclear dangers. These agreements have helped to slash nuclear stockpiles, manage nuclear competition, and provide greater stability, thereby reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe between the world’s two largest nuclear actors.

The sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol on December 17, 2010, when the full U.S. Senate debated its Resolution of Ratification for New START. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)In March 2018, President Donald Trump said he wanted to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.”

Since then, however, Trump and Putin have barged ahead with costly plans to replace and upgrade their massive nuclear arsenals. The bilateral nuclear relationship has gone from bad to worse.

The July 2018 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki yielded nothing, not even an agreement to resume “strategic stability” talks. The simmering dispute over Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty reached the boiling point in October 2018 when Trump said he would terminate the pact, which had eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.

Worse still, the United States and Russia have not begun talks to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which caps each side’s deployed strategic warheads to no more than 1,550 and delivery vehicles to no more than 700.

Without the INF Treaty or New START, there would be no legally binding, verifiable limits on U.S. or Russian nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

Because there is no realistic chance to negotiate a New START replacement by 2021, the logical step for both sides is simply to extend the treaty by five years to 2026, as allowed in Article XIV of the agreement. Putin has indicated he would like to begin talks to extend the treaty, but Trump remains undecided.

The U.S. military continues to see great value in New START. In a December 2018 report to Congress, the Defense Department said that, without the treaty “the United States would lose access to valuable information on Russian strategic forces, as well as access to Russian strategic facilities.”

Unfortunately, National Security Advisor John Bolton, who called for abandoning New START before he joined the Trump administration, is leading the ongoing interagency review on the treaty’s extension. Sources indicate Bolton, true to form, is pushing to nix New START.

With the future of New START in jeopardy, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle need to step in and use the power of the purse to attempt to prevent Trump and Bolton from blowing up the last remaining U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreement and to bring nuclear weapons costs under control.

As Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, noted last September, “[B]ipartisan support for nuclear modernization is tied to maintaining an arms control process that controls and seeks to reduce Russian nuclear forces.… We’re not interested in writing blank checks for a nuclear arms race with Russia.”

To send a message to the administration, Congress this year should prohibit funding to increase the number of nuclear weapons above the limits set by New START, so long as Russia continues to stay below treaty ceilings. Such an approach would guard against a breakout by either side and help to maintain strategic stability.

As the Defense Department reported to Congress in 2012, Russia “would not be able to achieve a militarily significant advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces, even in a cheating or breakout scenario under the New START Treaty, primarily because of the inherent survivability of the planned U.S. strategic force structure.”

Congress should also take steps to challenge the Trump administration’s excessive nuclear force plans, especially if the administration is going to default on its obligation to limit and reduce excess Russian and U.S. nuclear forces.

The Trump plans call for spending roughly $500 billion over the next 10 years to maintain and replace U.S. nuclear delivery systems and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This enormous and growing bill is unsustainable and unnecessary. According to a 2013 Pentagon assessment, U.S. strategic nuclear force levels are at least one-third larger than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

More realistic and affordable options to maintain a credible nuclear arsenal can and should be pursued regardless of whether New START is extended. But Congress must also make clear to the administration that the evisceration of arms control is unacceptable.

One option Congress could pursue is to freeze funding for the major nuclear delivery system and warhead modernization programs at today’s levels, which would force delays in the schedules for these programs. This would get the attention of the White House and Pentagon and put pressure on the administration to make the right decision on New START.

If Trump is not ready or able to take the steps necessary to prevent a dangerous new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms race, Congress should be ready to do so.

Every U.S. president since John Kennedy has successfully concluded at least one agreement with Russia or the Soviet Union to reduce nuclear dangers. These agreements have helped to slash nuclear stockpiles, manage nuclear competition, and provide greater stability, thereby reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe between the world’s two largest nuclear actors.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress No Funding for U.S. INF Missiles in Europe

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The INF Treaty prohibited all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The official figures above show missiles deployed November 1, 1987, shortly before the INF Treaty was signed. The treaty also required destruction of 430 U.S. missiles and 979 Soviet missiles which were in storage or otherwise not deployed. The treaty prevented the planned deployment of an additional 208 GLCMs in the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. The Pershing IAs, under joint U.S.-German control, were not formally covered by the INF Treaty but were also to be eliminated by U.S. and West German agreement. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty led to the verifiable elimination of over 2,500 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe and helped bring an end to the Cold War.

But now, the United States and Russia are on course to withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months over a long-running dispute over Russian compliance with the treaty.

Termination of the INF Treaty opens the door for Russia and the United States to develop and deploy more and new types of ground-launched intermediate-range missiles–a move that would increase the risks of a destabilizing new missile race.

You can help stop this!

A group of leading U.S. Senators has re-introduced the "Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019," which would prohibit funding for the procurement, flight-testing, or deployment of a U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missile until the Trump Administration meets seven specific conditions, including identifying a U.S. ally formally willing to host such a system, and in the case of a European country, have it be the outcome of a NATO-wide decision.

This bill is a step in the right direction. New U.S. ground-launched cruise deployments in Europe or elsewhere would cost billions of dollars, take years to complete, and are militarily unnecessary to defend NATO allies because existing weapons systems can already hold key Russian targets at risk.

Your Senators need to hear from you.

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Select Reactions to the INF Treaty Crisis

*Updated August 2019 President Donald Trump’s sudden decision and announcement on Oct. 20, 2018, to “terminate” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty due to Russian violations of the treaty was met with bipartisan and international concern. On Dec. 4, 2018 , Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia to be in "material breach" of the treaty and announced that the United States planned to suspend U.S. obligations under the treaty in 60 days unless Russia returned to compliance. On Feb. 1, 2019, the administration confirmed that the United States would simultaneously...

INF Treaty Crisis: Background and Next Steps

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Volume 11, Issue 4, February 1, 2019

The Trump administration announced today that effective tomorrow, Feb. 2, the United States will suspend implementation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and formally notify other parties to the treaty that it will withdraw in six months if Russia does not return to compliance by eliminating its ground-launched 9M729 missile, which the United States alleges can fly beyond the 500-kilometer range limit set by the treaty.

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. intelligence agencies assess that the Russians now have four (up from three) battalions of the offending missile, with a total of just under 100 missiles, including spares. The compliance dispute has festered since 2014 and it has worsened since Russia began deploying the system in the field in 2017.

The 1987 INF Treaty, negotiated and signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, is one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements in history.

The INF Treaty led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe. The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and paved the way for agreements to slash bloated strategic nuclear arsenals and to withdraw thousands of tactical nuclear weapons from forward-deployed areas.

The INF Treaty continues to serve as a check on some of the most destabilizing types of nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia could deploy. Without the treaty, there is a serious risk of a new intermediate-range, ground-based missile arms race in Europe and beyond.

Trump Policy Is Counterproductive and A New Approach Is Needed

Unfortunately, the U.S. threat to terminate the treaty will not bring Russia back into compliance and could unleash a dangerous and costly new missile competition between the United States and Russia in Europe and beyond.

Worse yet, the Trump administration has no viable strategy to prevent Russia from building and fielding more intermediate-range missiles in the absence of the agreement.

Diplomatic options that could bring Russia back into compliance are possible but have not yet been explored. Each side appears to be more interested in winning the blame game than taking the steps necessary to save the treaty.

Any new efforts by the Trump administration to develop or deploy missiles once prohibited by the treaty will be strongly opposed by many NATO members, and the U.S. Congress should withhold funding for procurement of such weapons systems.

This week, 11 U.S. senators reintroduced the "Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019," which would prohibit funding for the procurement, flight-testing, or deployment of a U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missile – with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers – until the Trump Administration provides a report that meets seven specific conditions, including identifying a U.S. ally formally willing to host such a system, and in the case of a European country, have it be the outcome of a NATO-wide decision.

Any new U.S. intermediate-range missile deployments would cost billions of dollars, take years to complete, and are militarily unnecessary to defend NATO allies because existing weapons systems can already hold key Russian targets at risk.

With the INF Treaty’s days numbered, new arms control arrangements are needed to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe. One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that no alliance member will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory.

And if the treaty is terminated, it becomes more important than ever for Washington and Moscow to agree to extend the New START agreement by five years beyond its 2021 scheduled expiration date. Otherwise, there will be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

The INF Treaty prohibited all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The official figures above show missiles deployed November 1, 1987, shortly before the INF Treaty was signed. The treaty also required destruction of 430 U.S. missiles and 979 Soviet missiles which were in storage or otherwise not deployed. The treaty prevented the planned deployment of an additional 208 GLCMs in the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. The Pershing IAs, under joint U.S.-German control, were not formally covered by the INF Treaty but were also to be eliminated by U.S. and West German agreement.

Where Do Efforts to Resolve the Compliance Dispute Stand?

Since President Trump threatened on Oct. 20, 2018 to “terminate” the INF Treaty, there have been two meetings between U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov (in Geneva on Jan. 16 and in Beijing Jan. 31 on the margins of a P5 meeting on disarmament issues). Neither meeting led to progress.

While the recent Russian offer to exhibit the 9M729 is a useful first (and overdue) step in the direction of greater transparency, it has been deemed insufficient by the U.S. side (because it doesn’t allow for independent verification). U.S. officials could propose an alternative that does, but they do not seem to pursue this path because they believe the missile violates the treaty.

Another problem is that the United States is not recognizing the validity of the Russian concerns that U.S. Mk-41 launchers (that are part of the Aegis Ashore missile defense deployment in Romania) could be used to launch offensive missiles. To be clear, Russia is not saying the Mk-41s are an INF violation, they are saying they could be in the future. This is a valid concern and one that could be addressed through site visits or other confidence-building arrangements.

U.S. officials want Russia admit it has violated the treaty (which of course it will not do) and eliminate all of the 9M729s. The U.S. government believes that Russia has, to this point, deployed four battalions of the missiles (probably just under100 total, including spares) with some of those located in Western or Southern Russia, which puts targets in Europe within their estimated range (probably around 1,500-2,000 kilometers). It is not clear whether these missiles are nuclear-armed (probably not), but they are nuclear capable.

Russia claims the 9M729 has a range of 480 kilometers and that they have not conducted any surface-to-surface missile flight tests between 2008 and 2014 that exceeded 500 kilometers. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence says Russia did test the 9M729 from a fixed launcher at a range in excess of 500 kilometers, which means the 9M729 has that capability and is noncompliant.

Diplomatic Options Before August Termination Deadline

Both sides can still pursue diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue. But there is no chance for progress so long as the two sides refuse to adjust their current positions.

The Arms Control Association and our independent, nongovernmental colleagues in the U.S.-Russian-German "Deep Cuts Commission" and others have proposed the following solution that begins with reciprocal verification and inspections of the two systems at issue. This could be negotiated and implemented bilaterally. So far, the United States has rejected this idea, which has been proposed to Trump administration officials by some NATO governments:

  • Washington and Moscow should agree to reciprocal site visits by their respective technical experts to examine the missiles or launchers in dispute (the 9M729s and the SM-3/Mk-41s) at their deployment sites. If the 9M729 missile is determined to have a range that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit (which the U.S. experts will likely claim it does) Russia should, as a matter of ‘good faith’ agree to either modify the missile to ensure it no longer violates the treaty or, ideally, halt production and eliminate any such missiles in its possession, including those 9M729s that have been deployed.
     
  • For its part, the United States should agree to modify the Mk-41 missile-defense launchers that Russia believes could be used for offensive purposes, in a way that allows to Russia to clearly distinguish them from launchers that fire offensive missiles from U.S. warships, or agree to other transparency measures to allay Russian suspicions that the launchers contain offensive missiles.

This could be a win-win deal. Such an arrangement would address the concerns of both sides and restore compliance with the treaty without Russia having to acknowledge its original violation of the treaty.

What Missiles Could Each Side Deploy in the Absence of the INF Treaty?

As Kingston Reif reports in Arms Control Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Dec. 18 that if the United States “breaks the treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” He further warned that Russia could easily conduct research to put air- and sea-launched cruise missile systems “on the ground, if need be.” This could include additional numbers of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile on mobile launchers.

For its part, the Trump administration is already seeking to develop new conventionally armed cruise and ballistic missiles to “counter” Russia’s 9M729 missile. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required “a program of record to develop a conventional road-mobile [ground-launched cruise missile] system with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers,” including research and development activities.

The Defense Department requested, and Congress approved, $48 million in fiscal year 2019 for research and development on and concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty.

One option might be a ground-launched variant of the Air Force’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile or the Navy’s Tomahawk sea-based cruise missile. Another option could be an intermediate-range ballistic missile could be derived from the U.S. Army’s short-range Army Tactical Missile System, a surface-to-surface missile with a reported range of just under 500 kilometers. The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. officials say, "It is unlikely that flight tests of these new systems would be conducted before the end of the [the INF Treaty’s] six-month withdrawal period.”

However, key NATO states have already expressed opposition to basing any such systems in Europe. Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister told Spiegel Online Jan. 11, 2019: "Even if we are unable to save the INF Treaty, we cannot allow the result to be a renewed arms race. European security will not be improved by deploying more nuclear-armed, medium-range missiles. I believe that is the wrong answer."

Alternative Risk Reduction Strategies in the Absence of INF

Because the loss of the INF Treaty would open the door to a new Euro-missile race, there are steps that can and must be pursued that would benefit the security interests of Russia, Europe, and the United States, as well as the prospects of future arms controls agreements.

  • One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that no alliance members will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory. This would require Russia to remove those 9M729 missiles that have been deployed in western Russia. This would also mean forgoing Trump’s plans for a new ground-launched, INF Treaty-prohibited missile. Because the United States and its NATO allies can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten key Russian targets, there is no need for such a system. Key allies, including Germany, have already declared their opposition to stationing new intermediate-range missiles in Europe. Key members of Congress have introduced legislation that would block procurement funding for any U.S. system currently banned by the treaty.
     
  • Another possible approach would be to negotiate a new agreement that verifiably prohibits ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. As a recent United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research study explains, the sophisticated verification procedures and technologies already in place under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) can be applied with almost no modification to verify the absence of nuclear warheads deployed on shorter-range missiles. Such an approach would require additional declarations and inspections of any ground-launched, INF Treaty-range systems. To be of lasting value, such a framework would require that Moscow and Washington agree to extend New START by five years. New START is now scheduled to expire in 2021 and talks on extension have not yet begun.
     
  • A third variation would be for Russia and NATO to commit reciprocally to each other – ideally including a means of verifying the commitment - that neither will deploy land-based, intermediate-range ballistic missiles, or nuclear-armed cruise missiles (of any range), capable of striking each other’s territory.

There may be still other options that would meet each sides’ security and help to avoid a replay of the 1980s, in which each side had a justifiable fear of sudden nuclear attack.

INF Termination Is Bad. Failure to Extend New START Would Make Things Worse.

If the INF Treaty collapses, as appears likely, the only remaining agreement regulating the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles will be New START. That 2010 treaty, which limits the two sides’ long-range missiles and bombers and caps the warheads they carry to no more than 1,550 each, is due to expire in 2021 unless Trump and Putin agree to extend it by a period of up to five years, as allowed for in the accord’s Article XIV.

Key Republican and Democratic senators, former U.S. military commanders, and U.S. NATO allies are on record in support of the treaty’s extension, which can be accomplished without further Senate or Duma approval.

Unfortunately, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton may try to sabotage that treaty too. Since arriving at the White House in April, he has been slow-rolling an interagency review on whether to extend New START and refusing to take up Putin’s offer to begin extension talks.

Extension talks should begin now, in order to resolve outstanding implementation concerns that could delay the treaty’s extension.

Without New START, there would be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972. Both countries would be in violation of their Article VI nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation 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....”

Bottom Line

The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Without serious talks and new proposals from Washington and Moscow, other nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, Executive Director

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The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.

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U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agreements at a Glance

August 2019

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Over the past four decades, American and Soviet/Russian leaders have used a progression of bilateral agreements and other measures to limit and reduce their substantial nuclear warhead and strategic missile and bomber arsenals. The following is a brief summary.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

SALT I

Begun in November 1969, by May 1972, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) had produced both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which limited strategic missile defenses to 200 (later 100) interceptors each, and the Interim Agreement, an executive agreement that capped U.S. and Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) forces. Under the Interim Agreement, both sides pledged not to construct new ICBM silos, not to increase the size of existing ICBM silos “significantly,” and capped the number of SLBM launch tubes and SLBM-carrying submarines. The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads (MIRVs) onto their ICBMs and SLBMs and increasing their bomber-based forces. The agreement limited the United States to 1,054 ICBM silos and 656 SLBM launch tubes. The Soviet Union was limited to 1,607 ICBM silos and 740 SLBM launch tubes. In June 2002, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM treaty.

SALT II

In November 1972, Washington and Moscow agreed to pursue a follow-on treaty to SALT I. SALT II, signed in June 1979, limited U.S. and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a SLBM launch tube, or a heavy bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces. The agreement would have required the Soviets to reduce their forces by roughly 270 delivery vehicles, but U.S. forces were below the limits and could actually have been increased. However, President Jimmy Carter asked the Senate not to consider SALT II for its advice and consent after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, and the treaty was not taken up again. Both Washington and Moscow subsequently pledged to adhere to the agreement’s terms despite its failure to enter into force. However, on May 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan said that future decisions on strategic nuclear forces would be based on the threat posed by Soviet forces and not on "a flawed SALT II Treaty.”

START I

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), first proposed in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan and finally signed in July 1991, required the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,600 delivery vehicles, carrying no more than 6,000 warheads as counted using the agreement’s rules. The agreement required the destruction of excess delivery vehicles which was verified using an intrusive verification regime that involved on-site inspections, the regular exchange of information (including telemetry), and the use of national technical means (i.e., satellites). The agreement’s entry into force was delayed for several years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and START I agreements. START I reductions were completed in December 2001, and the treaty expired on Dec. 5, 2009.

START II

In June 1992, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin agreed to pursue a follow-on accord to START I. START II, signed in January 1993, called for reducing deployed strategic arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. START II would have counted warheads in roughly the same fashion as START I and, also like its predecessor, would have required the destruction of delivery vehicles but not warheads. The agreement's original implementation deadline was January 2003, ten years after signature, but a 1997 protocol moved this deadline to December 2007 because of the extended delay in ratification. Both the Senate and the Duma approved START II, but the treaty did not take effect because the Senate did not ratify the 1997 protocol and several ABM Treaty amendments, whose passage the Duma established as a condition for START II’s entry into force. START II was effectively shelved as a result of the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

START III Framework

In March 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to a framework for START III negotiations that included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000-2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.

SORT (Moscow Treaty)

On May 24, 2002, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty) under which the United States and Russia reduced their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. The warhead limit took effect and expired on the same day, Dec. 31, 2012. Although the two sides did not agree on specific counting rules, the Bush administration asserted that the United States would reduce only warheads deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service (i.e., “operationally deployed” warheads) and would not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. The agreement’s limits are similar to those envisioned for START III, but the treaty did not require the destruction of delivery vehicles, as START I and II did, or the destruction of warheads, as had been envisioned for START III. The treaty was approved by the Senate and Duma and entered into force on June 1, 2003. SORT was replaced by New START on Feb. 5, 2011.

New START

On April 8, 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding, verifiable agreement that limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers) and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800. The treaty-accountable warhead limit is 30 percent lower than the 2,200 upper limit of SORT, and the delivery vehicle limit is 50 percent lower than the 1,600 allowed in START I. The treaty has a verification regime that combines elements of START I with new elements tailored to New START. Measures under the treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. The treaty also provides for the continued exchange of telemetry (missile flight-test data on up to five tests per year) and does not meaningfully limit missile defenses or long-range conventional strike capabilities. The U.S. Senate approved New START on Dec. 22, 2010. The approval process of the Russian parliament (passage by both the State Duma and Federation Council) was completed Jan. 26, 2011. The treaty entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011 and will expire in 2021, though both parties may agree to extend the treaty for a period of up to five years. Both parties met the treaty’s central limits by the Feb. 5, 2018 deadline for implementation.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements
  SALT  I SALT II INF Treaty START I START II START III SORT

New START

Status Expired Never Entered Into Force Terminated Expired Never Entered Into Force Never Negotiated Replaced by New START In Force
Deployed Warhead Limit N/A N/A N/A 6,000 3,000-3,500 2,000-2,500 1,700-2,200 1,550
Deployed Delivery Vehicle Limit US: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs
USSR: 2,347
2,250 Prohibits ground-based missiles of 500-5,500 km range 1,600 N/A N/A N/A 700
Date Signed May 26, 1972 June 18, 1979 Dec. 8, 1987 July 31, 1991 Jan. 3, 1993 N/A May 24, 2002 April 8, 2010
Date Ratifed, U.S. Aug. 3, 1972 N/A May 28, 1988 Oct. 1, 1992 Jan. 26, 1996 N/A March 6, 2003 Dec. 22, 2010
Ratification Vote, U.S. 88-2 N/A 93-6 93-6 87-4 N/A 95-0 71-26
Date Entered Into Force Oct. 3, 1972 N/A June 1, 1988 Dec. 5, 1994 N/A N/A June 1, 2003 Feb. 5, 2011
Implementation Deadline N/A N/A June 1, 1991 Dec. 5, 2001 N/A N/A N/A Feb. 5, 2018
Expiration Date Oct. 3, 1977 N/A Aug. 2, 2019 Dec. 5, 2009 N/A N/A Feb. 5, 2011 Feb. 5, 2021*

*New START allows for the option to extend the treaty beyond 2021 for a period of up to five years.

Nonstrategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Signed Dec. 8, 1987, the INF Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to verifiably eliminate all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Distinguished by its unprecedented, intrusive inspection regime, including on-site inspections, the INF Treaty laid the groundwork for verification of the subsequent START I. The INF Treaty entered into force June 1, 1988, and the two sides completed their reductions by June 1, 1991, destroying a total of 2,692 missiles. The agreement was multilateralized after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and current active participants in the agreement include the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also parties to the agreement but do not participate in treaty meetings or on-site inspections. The ban on intermediate-range missiles is of unlimited duration.

Both the United States and Russia have raised concerns about the other side’s compliance with the INF Treaty. The United States first publicly charged Russia in 2014 with developing and testing a ground-launched cruise missile—the 9M729 missile—with a range that exceeds the INF Treaty limits.

Russia denies that it breached the agreement and has raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance. Moscow has charged that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that could also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and is making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the agreement citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s missiles, and on Dec. 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia in “material breach” of the treaty. The Trump administration provided official notice to the other treaty states-parties on Feb. 2 that it would both suspend its obligations to the treaty and withdraw from the agreement in six months—per the treaty's terms—and "terminate" the agreement unless Russia returned to compliance by eliminating its ground-launched 9M729 missiles. 

On Aug. 2, 2019, the United States formally withdrew from the INF Treaty.

Presidential Nuclear Initiatives 

On Sept. 27, 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States would remove almost all U.S. tactical (nonstrategic) nuclear forces from deployment so that Russia could undertake similar actions, reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation as the Soviet Union dissolved. Specifically, Bush said the United States would eliminate all its nuclear artillery shells and short-range nuclear ballistic missile warheads and remove all nonstrategic nuclear warheads from surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based naval aircraft. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated on Oct. 5, pledging to eliminate all nuclear artillery munitions, nuclear warheads for tactical missiles, and nuclear landmines. He also pledged to withdraw all Soviet tactical naval nuclear weapons from deployment. Under these initiatives, the United States and Russia reduced their deployed nonstrategic stockpiles by an estimated 5,000 and 13,000 warheads, respectively. However, significant questions remain about Russian implementation of its pledges, and there is considerable uncertainty about the current state of Russia’s tactical nuclear forces. The Defense Department estimates that Russia possesses roughly 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons and the numbers are expanding. The United States maintains several hundred nonstrategic B61 gravity bombs for delivery by short-range fighter aircraft. 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Extending New START Is in America's National Security Interest


January/February 2019
By Frank Klotz

On December 4, 2018, the United States officially declared that Russia’s ongoing violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty constitutes a material breach of the treaty and that the United States will suspend its obligations under the treaty in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.1

U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in Prague on April 8, 2010, committing their nations to further nuclear arms cuts. (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)If the United States ultimately follows through on this course of action, as seems likely, only one bilateral agreement would remain that mutually constrains the size of the U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Moreover, that one agreement, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), is due to expire in less than three years, that is, 10 years from the date it entered into force.2 The treaty’s terms, however, permit it to be extended for up to one additional five-year period with the approval of the U.S. and Russian presidents, without further review by the legislative bodies of the two countries.

Unlike the case with the INF Treaty, the U.S. Department of State has repeatedly certified that Russia is in compliance with the terms of New START.3 In addition, New START has been and remains in the military and national security interests of the United States. Thus, the most prudent course of action would be to extend New START before it expires in 2021 and thereby gain the time needed to carefully consider the options for a successor agreement or agreements and to negotiate a deal with the Russians.

New START was signed in April 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. It entered into force in February 2011, following approval by Russia's Duma and Federation Council and after a particularly rancorous debate in the U.S. Senate. The treaty called for the continued reduction of the nuclear forces of both countries, which had begun in the Reagan era.4 It also put in place a comprehensive verification regime, including provisions for on-site inspections at each other’s nuclear-capable bomber, missile, and submarine bases, as well as routine data exchanges and notifications regarding specific activities associated with their respective strategic offensive arms.5 Both sides met the February 2018 deadline for reducing their existing nuclear forces to the treaty's mandated limits. In addition, as of late 2018, they had each conducted more than 140 on-site inspections and together had exchanged almost 17,000 notifications related to their strategic nuclear forces and facilities.6

Whether the current U.S. administration will opt to extend New START, as permitted by the treaty, is uncertain. Shortly after entering office in January 2017, President Donald Trump reportedly referred to the treaty as a “bad deal” during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which the latter raised the possibility of extending the treaty.7 On the other hand, the U.S. president subsequently told reporters in March 2018 that he would like to meet with Putin “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.”8

Indeed, one of the issues that received considerable attention during the run-up to the July 2018 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki was whether the United States and Russia should agree during the meeting to extend New START.9 That did not happen. Putin did reveal, however, in an interview that he had “reassured President Trump [during the summit] that Russia stands ready to extend this treaty, to prolong it” but that questions regarding U.S. compliance would first have to be decided by “experts.”10

No Firm Position

The U.S. administration apparently does not have a firm position on whether to extend New START before it expires in 2021, nor has it publicly given any indication of when it might have one. In a postsummit follow-up meeting with his Russian counterpart, John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, stated in August that the administration was “very, very early in the process of considering” what to do about New START.11 Bolton was a strong critic of the treaty before joining the administration. In congressional testimony in September, senior officials from the departments of State and Defense emphasized that U.S. policy toward extension of New START was still being deliberated within the administration. David Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, noted that “any decision on extending the treaty will, and should be, based on a realistic assessment of whether the New START treaty remains in our national security interests in light of overall Russian arms control behavior.”12

So, the key question is whether it is in U.S. national security interests to extend New START before it expires in 2021. Significantly, many members of the one domestic constituency that ought to be the most concerned about the size and posture of the U.S. and Russian nuclear forces—the U.S. military—clearly believe that it is.

 

At first blush, it may seem counterintuitive that those in charge of the institution with responsibility for designing, developing, and operating nuclear-capable bombers and ballistic missiles would also support an agreement that places constraints on the number of those forces that can be deployed. Yet, ever since the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) started in 1969, U.S. military officers have been actively involved in the negotiations leading to nuclear arms control agreements as members of the U.S. negotiating teams and as participants in the interagency deliberations regarding U.S. goals and objectives. Admittedly, a principal objective of the military with respect to this process has been to ensure the U.S. negotiating teams were well versed in the practical realities of fielding and operating nuclear forces and did not inadvertently offer or accept proposals that would unduly impinge on the military's ability to effectively maintain its bombers and missiles and train their crews.

Arms Control Rationale

Senior U.S. military leaders have also accepted a more conceptually based rationale for supporting the nuclear arms control process. During the 1960s, several U.S. scholars and policymakers had advanced the notion that “armed readiness” and “arms control” can be simultaneously pursued as complementary approaches to protecting national security. Many of the seminal writings associated with this view were studied within military schools during the Cold War. For example, in the 1970s, all U.S. Air Force Academy cadets were required to take a semester-long course on U.S. defense policy that included excerpts from Thomas Schelling's and Morton Halperin's Strategy and Arms Control as assigned reading.13

Regrettably, the treatment of nuclear policy and arms control in professional military education has declined significantly over the past two decades as the focus of attention has shifted to the conduct of military operations in Southwest Asia and countering the threat of terrorism. Nevertheless, a generation of senior military leaders, schooled early in their careers in the classic texts of nuclear deterrence theory, have consistently cited, in their public statements and in their congressional testimony, the benefits that arms control agreements confer.

Foremost among these beliefs is the strongly held view that the transparency and verification measures in the more recent nuclear arms control agreements provide insight into the size, capabilities, and operations of the other side's nuclear forces beyond that provided by more traditional intelligence collection and assessment methods. For example, writing in support of the ratification of New START in 2010, seven former, four-star commanders of U.S. strategic nuclear forces stated that “we will understand Russian strategic forces much better with this treaty than would be the case without it.” They also emphasized that the treaty would contribute to a more stable relationship between the United States and Russia.14

Equally important to senior military leaders has been the role arms control agreements have played in constraining the size and, in certain instances, the capabilities of the other side's nuclear forces. The U.S.-Russian nuclear arms competition during the Cold War was fueled in part by a concern that the other side might achieve a technological breakthrough or build up its forces in such a way as to threaten the survivability of one's own nuclear forces and the ability to retaliate in response to nuclear aggression, thus increasing the incentives for one side or the other to strike or respond quickly, thereby undermining a fundamental prerequisite of stable, mutual deterrence.

Arms control agreements served to ameliorate this concern by capping the overall number of deployed nuclear forces, precluding either side from achieving an overwhelming advantage.15 For the U.S. military, this helped reduce uncertainty and enhance predictability about Russia's capabilities and intentions, allowing it to size and shape U.S. forces with greater confidence in the adequacy of its own investment plans and programs. It also helped free up funding for conventional military capability that might otherwise have been allocated to nuclear forces.

This general view of the benefits of arms control as a complementary strategy to maintaining a survivable, reliable, and effective nuclear deterrence force has carried over to the current considerations of extending New START for an additional five years. In contrast to the noncommittal public statements of civilian national security officials this fall, senior military leaders have been more forthcoming. For example, in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March 2017, General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, each expressed strong support for New START, the latter stating that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”16 Lieutenant General Jack Weinstein, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, publicly stated that same month that the treaty was of “huge value” to the United States, adding that it has “been good for us.”17 Trump's statements in October 2018 regarding a possible U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty has also prompted letters from former national security officials, including retired senior military officers, to salvage the INF Treaty and extend New START.18

Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command Air Force General John Hyten testifies at a House Armed Services Committee hearing March 8, 2017. He expressed support for New START, saying that that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.” (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)In addition to concerns about strategic stability and mutual deterrence, the U.S. military's support for New START reflects very practical considerations about current programs and defense budgets. The Defense Department has embarked on a comprehensive, multiyear effort to modernize its aging fleet of bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and nuclear submarines. The current “program of record” seeks to replace existing strategic nuclear delivery systems on a roughly one-for-one basis. The new systems would thus fit within the New START limits on deployed and nondeployed systems. Moreover, as long as these limits remain in force, Russian nuclear forces will also be constrained to current and predictable levels. Therefore, the U.S. military can assume with some confidence that its modernization program will be adequate to the task of providing for an effective deterrent for the foreseeable future.

Additionally, the U.S. nuclear sustainment and modernization program that Trump inherited from his predecessor, even within New START force limits, is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $1.2 trillion dollars over 30 years (in 2017 dollars and, therefore, higher when accounting for inflation).19 An unconstrained buildup would certainly cost far more. The United States and Russia would not necessarily embark on a significant buildup of their respective strategic offensive forces in the absence of New START or a subsequent agreement, but there would be no treaty obligations preventing them from doing so.

Finally, most senior military leaders acknowledge privately, but for understandable reasons do not state in public, that support for the current nuclear modernization program in Congress over the past decade has depended on a bipartisan consensus based in large part on a “grand bargain” that nuclear modernization and nuclear arms control will be pursued simultaneously. The change of leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives will surely test the resiliency of that consensus in the months ahead. Allowing New START to expire without anything to replace it, coupled with a possible formal withdrawal from the INF Treaty, would most likely place additional stress on that consensus, making it much more difficult to rally support for the current program of record to replace the existing force of aging nuclear delivery systems and revitalize the national laboratories and production facilities of the Department of Energy's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration.20

Viable Alternatives?

Are there any viable alternatives to extending New START that would provide U.S. military planners the same level of certainty about U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear balance and thus the adequacy of current and future U.S. nuclear deterrence capabilities? Although this topic requires considerable thought and discussion, a few general points can be ventured at this stage.

One possible option is to negotiate a new treaty that retains the most salient features of New START, such as limits on deployed forces and robust transparency and verification measures, but addresses matters of particular importance to the United States. The Senate resolution on ratification of New START had expressed concern about the disparity in the number of nonstrategic (theater) nuclear weapons possessed by Russia compared to the number of nonstrategic nuclear weapons deployed by the United States in Europe, and the Obama administration sought to quickly follow New START with negotiations to deal with these systems.21 Those negotiations never took place. More recently, the United States has expressed concern about several new types of nuclear delivery systems that have been developed by Russia and publicly touted by Putin.22 Of course, in any negotiations for a new treaty, the Russians will have their own list of desiderata, including limiting U.S. missile defenses and the deployment of highly precise conventional weapons that could potentially be used to attack Russian nuclear forces and command, control, and communications systems. Even in the unlikely situation that these technically complex and politically fraught issues could be set aside or speedily resolved in the interest of negotiating a successor agreement, the process would still take time, certainly longer than the two years that remain before the treaty expires, if history is any guide.

 

Another option that has been floated is to replace New START with an agreement like the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, also known as the Moscow Treaty. Bolton has reportedly described this notion as a “possibility.”23 The treaty was signed by President George W. Bush and Putin in May 2002 after negotiations that lasted only six months. It required both sides to reduce the number of “operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons” to a level between 1,700 and 2,200. Unlike previous U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements that included many pages of lengthy articles, protocols, and annexes, this treaty was less than two pages long, in large part because it did not include any verification provisions. For Bush administration officials, these were unnecessary because the treaty could rely on the verification regime established in the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which was still in force at the time and would be in place for at least another seven years.24 As it turned out, START I expired in 2009 with no replacement or verification mechanism in place until New START entered into force in 2011 and superseded the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.

For these and other reasons, this treaty has been criticized as not being “serious arms control.”25 This charge belies a rather narrow view of what constitutes arms control. Despite its brevity, the treaty nevertheless codified in a legally binding manner the desire of both sides to significantly constrain the number of warheads and bombs deployed on ICBMs, on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and on nuclear-capable bombers. For the United States, this meant reducing the existing force of these weapons by roughly two-thirds. Moreover, because it was framed as a treaty, the agreement was subject to consideration by the U.S. Senate. The resolution of advice and consent to ratification was passed by a unanimous (95-0) vote, thus placing a bipartisan stamp of approval on the process of the further nuclear arms reductions that Bush had signaled he was willing to take unilaterally.26 If that is not serious arms control, it raises the question of what is.

Whether the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty constitutes a model for replacing New START is an entirely different matter. Treaty critics have a point in arguing that it was the product of a unique set of political and economic circumstances in both countries when it was negotiated and that the strategic context and relationship between the two countries are very different today. For example, if New START expires in 2021, there would be no legally binding verification regime in place to give either side the same level of confidence that the other was abiding by the terms of a successor agreement like the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. Given the emphasis the Congress has traditionally placed on verification and compliance, this would certainly be a political deal breaker.

A third possible option would be to allow New START to expire with U.S. and Russian presidents unilaterally or jointly declaring that their countries will voluntary abide by the existing limits. They could even add that they would continue to follow the major practices of the current verification regime (e.g., data exchanges, notifications, and on-site inspections). The notion of a less formal approach to arms control certainly has a respectable scholarly pedigree. In 1961, Schelling and Halperin wrote that “a more variegated and flexible concept of arms control is necessary—one that recognizes that the degree of formality may range from a formal treaty with detailed specifications, at one end of the scale, through executive agreements, explicit but informal understandings, tacit understandings, to self-restraint that is consciously contingent on each other’s behavior.”27

In fact, all of these elements have been part of the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship at some time and in some form and fashion. During the Cold War, for instance, the two superpowers developed certain norms and modes of behavior regarding military actions that were implicit and, in some cases, explicit in nature, such as avoiding situations in which their military forces might come into direct contact during a crisis or conflict. Whether a nonbinding, informal, or tacit agreement to limit the number of strategic nuclear forces possessed by Russia would provide the level of transparency and predictability that senior U.S. military leaders have come to value is questionable.

Pursuing any of these options or some variant or combination of them will certainly take time. Given the current state of U.S.-Russian relations and the fact the 2020 presidential campaign for all intents and purposes has already begun, it is highly unlikely that two years will be sufficient to accomplish the task. Whatever happens, the existing mutual limits on strategic nuclear forces and the associated transparency and verification measures of New START should not be allowed to expire without replacement. It is manifestly in the best interests of the United States and Russia to agree to extend New START as soon as possible, rather than waiting until the last minute to broker a deal.

Difficult Environment

The difficulties of getting to “yes” on an agreement to extend New START, much less an entirely new nuclear arms control agreement or treaty, should not be underestimated. As noted earlier, the U.S.-Russian relationship is currently burdened by sharp differences in the nuclear realm, such as compliance issues and development of new strategic capabilities. The INF Treaty compliance disputes, in particular, cast a shadow over the prospects. In December, General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed this out. “I will obviously not make this decision. I’ll make recommendations,” he said. “But it’s very difficult for me to envision progress in extending (New START)…if the foundation of that is non-compliance with the INF Treaty.”28

To make matters worse, U.S.-Russian discussions on nuclear matters have virtually ground to a halt. They certainly do not exhibit the same intensity, nor do they occur with the same frequency as they did during the Cold War and the first two decades thereafter. Efforts to hold “strategic stability” talks over the past two years have unfortunately faltered due a lack of purpose and seriousness on both sides and as Washington and Moscow take various “retaliatory” measures against one another that render holding talks on any topic politically problematic.

Yet, even at the height of the Cold War and despite profound differences in many other aspects of their relationship, the United States and Russia managed to engage in substantive official and unofficial (Track II) discussions on strategic nuclear matters and, over time, to develop a deeper understanding of each other’s points of view and concerns. Moreover, this ongoing dialogue laid the groundwork necessary to successfully negotiate several different nuclear arms control agreements over a 40-year period. The best way to start the process of addressing the factors that currently cloud the nuclear relationship between the two countries would be to launch a new, more robust series of discussions on nuclear deterrence and arms control involving current and former U.S. and Russian diplomats, senior military officials, and technical experts and to consciously insulate that dialogue from other vagaries in the overall bilateral relationship.

Finally, the current political situation within the United States will present challenges in achieving a broad domestic consensus in support of extending New START. In November, bills in support of doing so and bills designed to constrain the administration's freedom of maneuver on the issue were introduced in the Senate and the House.29 Whether any of the proposed language will ever become law is questionable, especially given the new reality of divided control of the two chambers.

Yet, Congress may well become the focus of debate on extending New START before it expires, especially given the executive branch's current reticence to elaborate its views in public. Proactively engaging members of Congress and their staffs in discussions on how nuclear arms control in general and New START in particular serve U.S. military and national security interests would be time well spent.

 

ENDNOTES
 

1. U.S. Department of State, “Press Availability at NATO Headquarters,” December 4, 2018, https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/12/287873.htm. On the same day, the United States’ European allies “strongly supported” the U.S. finding of material breach. NATO, “Statement on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty Issued by the NATO Foreign Ministers,” December 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_161122.htm.

2. For the text of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), see U.S. Department of State, “New START: Treaty Text,” n.d., https://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/c44126.htm (accessed December 16, 2018).

3. U.S. Department of State, “Annual Report on Implementation of the New START Treaty,” January 2018, p. 4, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/280780.pdf.

4. The treaty limits each side to an aggregate total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments; 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments (each such heavy bomber is counted as one warhead toward this limit); and 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

5. U.S. Department of State, “New START,” n.d., https://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/ (accessed December 16, 2018).

6. U.S. Department of State, “New START Treaty Inspection Activities,” n.d., https://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/c52405.htm (accessed December 16, 2018). The United States actually carried out more reductions than Russia. The number of systems removed can be derived by comparing the aggregate numbers held by both sides in February 2011 to those held in February 2018. Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC), U.S. Department of State, “New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms," June 1, 2011, https://2009-2017.state.gov/t/avc/rls/164722.htm; AVC, “New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms," Feburary 22, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/278775.htm.

7. Jonathan Landay and David Rohde, “Exclusive: In Call With Putin, Trump Denounced Obama-Era Nuclear Arms Treaty - Sources,” Reuters, February 9, 2017.

8. Jenna Johnson and Anton Troianovski, “Trump Congratulates Putin on His Reelection, Discusses U.S. Russian 'Arms Race,’” The Washington Post, March 20, 2018.

9. For example, see Alexandra Bell and Kingston Reif, “A Real Triumph for Trump: Extend New START,” Breaking Defense, July 14, 2018.

10. “Chris Wallace Interviews Russian President Putin,” Fox News, July 16, 2018.

11. Karen DeYoung, “Bolton and His Russian Counterpart Discuss Arms Control, Syria and Iran,” The Washington Post, August 23, 2018.

12. Kingston Reif, “Republican Senators Back New START,” Arms Control Today, October 2018.

13. Mark E. Smith III and Claude J. Johns Jr., eds., American Defense Policy, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968), pp. 116-128. Smith and Johns were members of the Department of Political Science faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

14. General Larry Welch et al., Letter to Senator Carl Levin et al., July 14, 2010, https://s3.amazonaws.com/ucs-documents/nuclear-weapons/New-START-Letter-2010.pdf.

15. Thomas C. Schelling and Morton H. Halperin, Strategy and Arms Control (New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1961), pp. 9–14.

16. Military Assessment of Nuclear Deterrence Requirements: Hearing Before the Committee on Armed Services, 115th Cong. 29 (2017). See Stephen Young, “New START Is a Winner,” Union of Concerned Scientists, March 16, 2017, https://allthingsnuclear.org/syoung/new-start-is-a-winner.

17. Aaron Mehta, “Air Force Nuclear Officer: New START Treaty Is ‘Good for Us,’” Defense News, March 2, 2017.

18. Rick Gladstone, “In Bipartisan Pleas, Experts Urge Trump to Save Nuclear Treaty With Russia,” The New York Times, November 8, 2018.

19. U.S. Congressional Budget Office, “Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046,” October 2017, pp. 1–2, https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/reports/53211-nuclearforces.pdf.

20. For information on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) modernization plans and programs, see NNSA, U.S. Department of Energy, “Fiscal Year 2019 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan—Biennial Plan Summary: Report to Congress,” October 2018, https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2018/10/f57/FY2019%20SSMP.pdf.

21. “Treaty With Russia on Measures for Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,” Congress.gov, n.d., https://www.congress.gov/treaty-document/111th-congress/5/resolution-text (accessed December 16, 2018).

22. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, p. 8, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF. See Anton Troianovski, “Putin Claims Russia Is Developing Nuclear Arms Capable of Avoiding Missile Defenses,” The Washington Post, March 1, 2018.

23. DeYoung, "Bolton and His Russian Counterpart Discuss Arms Control, Syria and Iran." As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, John Bolton was a key figure in the negotiations that led to the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.

24. For the text of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and related documents, see U.S. Department of State, “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Strategic Offensive Reductions (The Moscow Treaty),” May 24, 2002, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/trty/127129.htm. The author was one of these nuclear policy and arms control officials in the Bush administration.

25. For example, Steven Pifer, “John Bolton Keeps Citing This 2002 Pact as an Arms-Control Model. It’s Really Not,” Defense One, November 4, 2018.

26. For example, see Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by the President to Students and Faculty at National Defense University,” May 1, 2001, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/05/20010501-10.html.

27. Thomas C. Schelling and Morton H. Halperin, Strategy and Arms Control (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1961), p. 77.

28. Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed, “Russia Must Scrap or Alter Missiles U.S. Says Violate Arms Treaty,” Reuters, December 6, 2018.

29. For example, Office of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, “Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Senator Cotton Introduce the Stopping Russian Nuclear Aggression Act,” November 28, 2018, https://cheney.house.gov/2018/11/28/stopping-russian-nuclear-aggression-act/; Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren, “Warren, Merkley, Gillibrand, Markey Introduce Bill to Prevent Nuclear Arms Race,” November 29, 2018, https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/warren-merkley-gillibrand-markey-introduce-bill-to-prevent-nuclear-arms-race.

 


Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Frank Klotz was undersecretary of energy for nuclear security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration from 2014 to 2018 and commander of Air Force Global Strike Command from 2009 to 2011.

The difficulties of getting to “yes” on an agreement to extend New START, much less a subsequent strategic
nuclear arms control accord, should not be underestimated.

The Guterres Disarmament Agenda


January/February 2019
By Randy Rydell

The adage “where you stand depends on where you sit” aptly summarizes the state of the literature and policies on disarmament today, especially nuclear disarmament. Hence, the nuclear-weapon states and their allies defend their possession of such weapons as fully consistent with their international disarmament commitments.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at a news briefing after presenting his disarmament agenda at a conference at the University of Geneva on May 24, 2018 in Geneva. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)Meanwhile, the non-nuclear-weapon states maintain that the “grand bargain” in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has not been implemented. In frustration, many in civil society, working with several governments, are promoting the newly concluded Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

One characteristic of this predicament is the entrenched nature of the positions and the lack of any sense that the protagonists are pursuing opportunities for dialogue in good faith. In terms of communication across these political lines, one finds two models: a “dialogue of the deaf” and a “dialogue of the like-minded.” In such a climate, dialogue degenerates into parallel monologues guided by the spirit of a zero-sum game regulated by a bizarre form of rules that could have come from the Marquess of Queensberry, complete with rounds, a winner and loser, and boisterous audiences, minus a referee and prohibited punches. This has long been the case inside and outside the UN multilateral disarmament machinery.

Rejecting this business-as-usual approach, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched his disarmament agenda with an address at the University of Geneva on May 24, 2018.1 The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) simultaneously released a 73-page non-paper that elaborated this new agenda,2 and in October, it issued the agenda’s implementation plan.3

This article will describe the initiative’s key themes and proposals and identify those features that represent continuity or change relative to proposals advanced by his predecessors. It will also discuss obstacles to implementation and opportunities for progress. Finally, it will reflect on the broader role of the United Nations, its Secretariat, and its secretary-general in advancing global disarmament objectives.

Continuity

That a UN secretary-general would speak out on disarmament should hardly evoke surprise. After all, each leader since 1946 has addressed the issue as a UN priority, especially nuclear disarmament. Dag Hammarskjöld referred to nuclear disarmament in 1955 as the UN’s “hardy perennial,” while U Thant stressed the social and economic costs of the Cold War. Kurt Waldheim elaborated on disarmament at length in his annual reports on the work of the UN. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar presided over the establishment in the Secretariat of the Department for Disarmament Affairs. Boutros Boutros-Ghali approached disarmament as part of a larger process of peace building. Kofi Annan often addressed disarmament in his speeches, emphasizing the norm-setting role of the UN and its contributions in strengthening the multilateral principles of disarmament.

Guterres’ immediate predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, was also a prominent advocate for disarmament. He was the first incumbent secretary-general to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, and the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He created the post of high representative in the new Office for Disarmament Affairs, and he was the first secretary-general to offer his own comprehensive disarmament proposal, which addressed nuclear weapons, conventional arms, missiles, space weapons, and military spending.4

All of these secretaries-general recognized that real progress, especially in nuclear disarmament, depended on actions by member states. They understood well that the lack of progress was a reflection of the interests and priorities of states, not any failure on the part of the UN. They knew the severe limitations facing their initiatives absent a good faith effort by states to fulfil their disarmament commitments.

Overall, their combined intention was less to cause disarmament than to cultivate a political environment conducive to progress on a global level. They sought to raise questions, gather data, and identify specific actions that would advance disarmament goals, elevate priorities, rally support among concerned member states and civil society groups, and educate the public about how disarmament advances the principles and goals of the UN and its charter.

New Elements

Although consistent with the views of his predecessors, the Guterres agenda contains some new elements that help to distinguish it from their proposals.

Guterres, who became secretary-general in January 2017, had been known for his competent service as Portugal’s prime minister and for his work in humanitarian affairs, having served as the UN high commissioner for refugees. As a candidate for secretary-general, he did not identify disarmament as his top priority, a stance that might not be helpful in gaining the support of the permanent members of the Security Council, which are the five NPT-recognized nuclear powers (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Yet in announcing a detailed, comprehensive disarmament agenda a year later, he clearly identified this set of issues as a personal priority and a hallmark of his incumbency.

His proposal coincides with a growing interest in multilateral arenas in the humanitarian approach to disarmament. This approach is prominent in the deliberations of the UN General Assembly and in meetings of the NPT parties. The General Assembly’s adoption of the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty in 2017 and the subsequent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize later that year to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons were direct reflections of that approach.

Izumi Nakamitsu, the current UN high representative for disarmament affairs and the secretary-general’s most senior adviser in the Secretariat on disarmament matters, also comes from a background in humanitarian affairs, most notably on issues relating to refugees and development. In the UN Secretariat, the Guterres/Nakamitsu team no doubt will have the strong support from governments and civil society groups advancing the humanitarian approach to disarmament. This, in turn, will help in gaining recognition from elsewhere in the Secretariat of the importance of disarmament to the advancement of virtually all formal UN goals as set forth in the UN Charter.

Thus, in contrast to his predecessors, Guterres has placed himself at the vanguard of a significant political movement in support of concrete progress on disarmament matters. He will undoubtedly face obstacles in convincing other parts of the UN family of the importance of disarmament in advancing their own issues—obstacles that former High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane collectively called the “disarmament taboo”—but his humanitarian credentials and his explicit linkage of disarmament to development, peace-building, and other UN mandates will likely help in overcoming many of these obstacles. The greatest barriers, however, remain those that have faced his predecessors: the unwillingness or inability of the nuclear-weapon states to fulfill their disarmament commitments and the broader, misguided assumption that national security is a direct function of the weapons a state possesses.

Broad Themes

Guterres framed his agenda to advance three priorities, each embodying a humanitarian theme: “disarmament to save humanity,” focused on weapons of mass destruction; “disarmament to save lives,” dealing with conventional arms control; and “disarmament for future generations,” examining challenges posed by new technologies.5 His agenda combines many overarching themes.

Comprehensive disarmament. The Guterres agenda is not simply a nuclear disarmament proposal. Instead, it offers a comprehensive approach to disarmament that resembles the venerable UN goal of “general and complete disarmament under effective international control,” a subject on the General Assembly’s agenda since 1959 and which the assembly declared in 1978 was the UN’s “ultimate goal” in this field.6 Although the non-paper makes only a passing reference, the agenda clearly draws on decades of efforts to advance this goal in multilateral arenas.

Then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C), a prominent advocate for disarmament, looks at a model of the 1945 nuclear bombing in Hiroshima at the Peace Memorial Museum on August 6, 2010. Ban was the first UN secretary-general to attend a Peace Memorial Ceremony on the anniversary of the attack on Hiroshima. His successor, António Guterres, became the first UN secretary-general to an annual commemoration of the attack on Nagasaki, held August 9, 2018. (Photo: Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images)This is quite significant because critics of disarmament have constantly declared that disarmament is a naive and even dangerous approach to dealing with security issues. They argue that nuclear disarmament would create inviting new opportunities for conventional war. They point to the problem of cheating, as disarming countries would inevitably become vulnerable to what amounts to general and complete noncompliance.

A comprehensive approach, by contrast, incorporates wider security issues in its treatment of disarmament. It recognizes the relationship between nuclear disarmament and conventional arms control and hence the need to pursue both simultaneously. It emphasizes verification, transparency, irreversibility, universality, and binding legal commitments. It recognizes the social and economic opportunity costs of excessive military spending, a problem also identified in the UN Charter (Article 26). It associates disarmament and arms control as vital to the future of international peace and security and frames the relationship between disarmament and security as mutually reinforcing and interdependent. The contrary view, that security is a prerequisite for disarmament, is heard from nuclear-weapon states to explain their failure to disarm.

International malaise. In making his case for disarmament, Guterres, in his agenda document, emphasizes the risks associated with the world “on the brink of a new Cold War,” characterized by a “deteriorating international security environment,” “unrestrained arms competition,” and “surreptitious interference in domestic political processes and the increasing pursuit of malicious and hostile acts just below traditional thresholds for the use of force.” He regrets the decline of multilateralism and the lack of disarmament negotiations. He calls the current nuclear risks “unacceptable” and “growing.”

The norm against using nuclear weapons. Guterres endorses the joint statements by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” adding that “[a]ny effort to expand the possible range of situations in which nuclear weapons are designed to be used could be destabilizing and jeopardizes the 72-year practice of non-use.”

Challenges facing the UN. Guterres has a great deal to say about UN shortcomings in advancing disarmament. He states, “Despite [its] proven benefits, disarmament is not well integrated in the work of the United Nations in conflict mediation and prevention. And its tool set needs to be brought up to date, especially in the collection and use of data.” He affirms that “the total elimination of nuclear weapons remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations. But our efforts towards this end remain in a state of severe crisis.” He has recommendations for improving the relevance and work of the General Assembly First Committee on disarmament and international security, the Conference on Disarmament, the UNODA, and even his own Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.

Various dimensions of disarmament. More than his predecessors, Guterres stresses the risks facing urban populations from the lack of progress on disarmament and the perpetuation of military confrontations worldwide. “Civilians,” he states, “continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict around the globe.” He stresses that “humanitarian and security considerations are not mutually exclusive, and they both underpin and lend urgency to all the efforts of the international community…. As armed conflict has moved from open fields and into villages, towns and cities, the humanitarian impact has been devastating.”

With regard to development goals, he says that “excessive spending on weapons drains resources for sustainable development. It is incompatible with creating stable, inclusive societies; strong institutions; effective governance and democracy; and a culture of respect for human rights.” Further, he says that “mobilizing sufficient resources in support of disarmament and arms regulation is critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Reflecting on nuclear-weapon risks, he says that this “demands that disarmament and nonproliferation are put at the [center] of the work of the United Nations,” emphasizing that “the existing norms for the disarmament and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons are mutually reinforcing and inextricably linked.”

Dialogue and negotiations. His agenda places a particularly heavy emphasis on the importance of “engagement, dialogue, and negotiations.” He stresses that “[i]n order to realize an improvement in the international security environment, it will be necessary for the international community not only to work to devalue the role of military options in seeking security, but also to revalue the role of political dialogue and negotiations for disarmament and arms control as the safer, smarter, and more effective means for achieving the same ends.”

New technologies. Guterres identifies several risks from emerging technologies, including lethal autonomous weapons systems, hypersonic glide vehicles, long-range conventional weapons, maneuverable re-entry vehicles, and cyberweapons. “We could even face the creation of cyberweapons of mass destruction,” he warns.

New partnerships. He addresses the importance of diversifying the base in support of disarmament. “Disarmament initiatives have been most successful when they involved effective partnerships between all the relevant stakeholders—governments, the expert community, and civil society organizations—as well as strong interest and support from the general public and well-functioning international negotiation forums.” He adds, “There also needs to be more efforts to include other actors with a stake in the disarmament processes, including from private sector and industry, in the work of the United Nations.”

Specific Actions

Ironically, Guterres’ proposals for nuclear disarmament in many ways are the most disappointing, especially regarding the details in the implementation plan. The recommendations read like a compilation of standard proposals routinely included in annual General Assembly resolutions, with very few innovations. He is in favor of reducing stockpiles, ensuring nonuse, reducing their role in security doctrines, constraining modernization, bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force, increasing transparency, developing verification, halting the production of fissile material for weapons, resuming disarmament and arms control negotiations, strengthening and expanding nuclear-weapon-free zones, adhering to the Iran nuclear deal, and supporting the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

There is very little discussion of exactly how states are to be persuaded to implement these desired actions. He offers a recitation of ends, but with respect to means, his heaviest emphasis is on the vague recipe for dialogue and engagement.

With regard to chemical and biological weapons, he emphasizes accountability and further progress on achieving universal adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention. He stresses the Security Council’s primary responsibility to halt further erosion of the norm against chemical weapons use by ending impunity and ensuring accountability for any use.

He calls for new leadership and unity among the Security Council and secretary-general to restore respect for the global norm against chemical weapons use, including through the creation of an impartial mechanism to identify those responsible for the use in Syria. He proposes the establishment of a UN core, standing, coordinating capacity to conduct independent investigations of the alleged use of biological weapons. He also draws a connection between other UN public health-related activities and efforts to respond to or prevent the use of biological weapons.

Guterres seeks establishment of risk reduction measures, including commitments not to introduce cruise missiles, and re-engagement with the international community to address issues related to missiles. He proposes a study by the UNODA and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) on the implications of long-range conventional weapons, including those using hypersonic technologies, and encourages the United States and Russia to “resolve their dispute” over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty constraints on long-range nuclear forces. (The United States announced its intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty after the Guterres agenda was released.)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks with María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, president of the 73rd General Assembly session, during the high-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26, 2018. At left is Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs. (Photo: Ariana Lindquist/UN)Conventional arms are the focus of several of the more innovative proposals in the Guterres agenda. He supports a political declaration relating to the use of such weapons in populated areas. He supports increased transparency and accountability on the use of armed drones while favoring the development of common standards for the transfer, stockpiling, and use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles. He promotes more effective state and regional action on excessive and poorly maintained stockpiles. He recognizes the importance of exploring opportunities for regional dialogue on building confidence on military matters, including by encouraging mutual restraint in military expenditures and arms acquisitions, stockpiling, and transfers.

For the UN, he calls for creating casualty recording mechanisms among human rights components of UN peace operations. He supports the introduction of “civilian harm mitigation cells” within the military structure of UN and member states’ forces involved in conflicts. He says that the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy should include, as part of risk assessments, information from UN entities about the types of weapons and their use on the battlefield. He urges a strengthened and coherent UN interagency coordination on improvised explosive devices to ensure a whole-of-system approach.

Guterres says that he will pursue a new UN model for sustained funding for international assistance for the control of small arms and light weapons and will establish a UN multipartner trust facility through the Peacebuilding Fund to provide a more sustainable solution with a strong development focus. He calls on the UNODA and UNIDIR to study how knowledge of the impact of arms, especially excessive and destabilizing accumulations, can be incorporated into analyses of risk.

Addressing new and emerging weapons technology, his goals include preventing the emergence of new and destabilizing strategic weapons, including in outer space; fostering a culture of accountability and adherence to norms, rules, and principles for responsible behavior in cyberspace; exploring how UN entities can facilitate the exchange of information on new weapon reviews; facilitating the exchange of information and experiences between states on reviews of new weapons; working with scientists, engineers, and industry to encourage responsible innovation of science and technology; ensuring that humans remain at all times in control over the use of force; and making the secretary-general’s good offices available to contribute to the prevention and peaceful settlement of conflict stemming from malicious activity in cyberspace.

The Guterres agenda identifies some additional reforms, largely procedural, relating to the Conference on Disarmament, General Assembly, UNODA, and UNIDIR. More generally, it calls for efforts to improve coordination among the disarmament organs, reduce redundancy in their deliberations, utilize available expertise better and achieve more equitable representation, and undertake studies by the UNODA and UNIDIR on ways to better coordinate and integrate the work and expertise among the various disarmament bodies. Yet, there is little discussion of reforms needed in the Security Council, except with respect to arrangements to ensure accountability for chemical or biological weapons use.

The agenda calls for efforts to facilitate strategic security dialogue at the regional level and to revitalize existing regional forums or establish new ones aimed at developing common regional approaches to global problems. It calls for increased engagement between the UNODA and the UN Department of Political Affairs to strengthen existing platforms for regional dialogue on security and arms control. It encourages the establishment of new regional nuclear-weapon-free zones. The agenda underscores the need for UN efforts to ensure equal, full, and effective participation of women in all decision-making processes related to disarmament and to make gender parity “a moral duty and an operational necessity.”

The agenda’s goals for civil society and youth include efforts to facilitate participation by nongovernmental organizations in disarmament forums; encourage greater public engagement on security priorities, including on military spending; ensure that civil society investments are fully consistent with international legal norms; engage entrepreneurs and business leaders to build further momentum for societal engagement in advancing the shared norms of humanity; achieve the greater integration of experts, industry, and civil society representatives into the meetings of all UN disarmament bodies; establish more disarmament education and training opportunities for youth; and facilitate the public’s access to tools, training, and networks useful for addressing local problems “where measures for disarmament, demilitarization and the prevention of armed violence can make a difference.”

Looking Ahead

This agenda faces numerous obstacles. Some are political, the most challenging being to win the support of the nuclear-weapon states. Developing countries will generally support the agenda, but some may resist its full implementation, especially on issues such as the use of explosives in cities, the arms trade, reductions in military expenditures, and enhanced transparency.

Other obstacles are economic: How will the agenda be funded? Will the UN’s work in disarmament receive additional financial and personnel resources? The agenda does not address this challenge. There are also many technical problems to be resolved relating to evolving weapons technologies and including some familiar problems of developing the means to verify effectively that nuclear disarmament is actually occurring and verifying that fissile material is not being produced for use in weapons. Other work remains to be done at the International Atomic Energy Agency and among states on solving the technical problems of verifying stocks of fissile material and their movement within and across borders.

Yet, the agenda may open up new opportunities for progress in disarmament. The emphasis on data collection is surely an area where the UN has a potential contribution to make. Unfortunately, the agenda failed to mention the UNODA’s own repository of nuclear weapons information, which it created following a mandate established at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.7 Although meager in its present state, it at least offers an opening for future improvement, which would be fully consistent with the secretary-general’s emphasis on data collection elsewhere in his agenda.

The agenda’s repeated emphasis on the importance of cities in the field of disarmament offers many possibilities for constructive action in the years ahead. The international nongovernmental organization Mayors for Peace has members from more than 7,600 cities worldwide.8 Each year for the last dozen years, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has adopted a resolution in support of nuclear disarmament, arms control, and reductions in military spending and the redirection of such resources to meeting the needs of cities.9 City mayors, joined by state and local governments, have much to contribute in building political support for disarmament, mainly by bringing the issue down to earth by establishing its relevance to individual citizens. Yet, they were not in the agenda.

The Guterres agenda has only just been announced, and it remains a work in progress. Its weaknesses, especially apparent in the nuclear disarmament field, should not obscure its many contributions to the evolution of national and multilateral efforts to advance disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control while limiting military spending. It has already contributed to advancing the humanitarian approach to disarmament and has the potential to deepen cooperation between the UN and city, state, and local governments in addition to national parliaments.10

The agenda’s implementation plan will require some modifications over the years to come, and if U.S.-Russian relations improve and enable a resumption of strategic nuclear arms control, if not progress in disarmament itself, this agenda will have gone far in establishing an overarching framework for enhancing security through disarmament.

States view the world through the lenses of their own particular interests, but Guterres has attempted to approach disarmament as a challenge facing the entire world community, actually all of humanity, including future generations. His disarmament agenda offers a view from the world community’s “center,” a welcome contrast to the prevalent countervailing trends of rising nationalism and militarism.

 

ENDNOTES

1. António Guterres, “Remarks at the University of Geneva on the Launch of the Disarmament Agenda,” May 24, 2018, https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2018-05-24/launch-disarmament-agenda-remarks (hereinafter Guterres remarks).

2. UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), “Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament,” 2018, https://front.un-arm.org/documents/SG+disarmament+agenda_1.pdf.

3. UNODA, “Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament,” December 4, 2018, https://www.un.org/disarmament/sg-agenda/en/#actions (Implementation Plan).

4. Ban Ki-moon, Address before the EastWest Institute, SG/SM/11881-DC/3135, October 24, 2008.

5. Guterres remarks.

6. Final Document of the Tenth Special Session of the General Assembly, A/S-10/2 (28 June 1978), https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/A-S10-4.pdf.

7. This repository was established pursuant to Action 21 as agreed at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. UNODA, “Repository,” n.d., https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/repository/ (accessed December 16, 2018).

8. For more information, see Mayors for Peace, http://www.mayorsforpeace.org/english/ (accessed December 16, 2018).

9. The latest resolution was adopted this year in Boston. U.S. Conference of Mayors, “Resolutions,” n.d., https://www.usmayors.org/the-conference/resolutions/?category=c9179&meeting=86th%20Annual%20Meeting (accessed December 16, 2018).

10. Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) has been working for many years to promote parliamentary support for disarmament. PNND, http://www.pnnd.org/ (accessed December 16, 2018).

 


Randy Rydell, executive adviser to Mayors for Peace, was a senior political affairs officer in the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs from 1998 to 2014. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Mayors for Peace.

 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has attempted to approach disarmament as a challenge facing the entire
world community, actually all of humanity, including future generations.

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