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

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

After the INF Treaty, What Is Next?


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

If the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty collapses in 2019, the United States, key U.S. allies, and Russia will face critical questions of how to respond, including whether to develop and deploy new intermediate-range missile systems and whether to seek restraint measures to prevent a renewed missile race in Europe and beyond.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on the screen during an annual meeting with high-ranking military officers on December 18, 2018 in Moscow. Putin told them that if the United States “breaks the [INF] treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” (Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)Washington and Moscow have not shown a willingness to go the extra mile to resolve their years-long INF Treaty compliance dispute, as the clock runs down on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Dec. 4 ultimatum, under which Russia has 60 days to return to “full and verifiable compliance” or the United States will suspend its obligations and issue a formal notice of its intent to withdraw from the treaty.

Rather, each side has been laying the groundwork to blame the other for the treaty’s demise and, in that case, to advance new weapons systems.

At the direction of Congress, the Defense Department began early research and development activities on concepts and options for conventional, intermediate-range missile systems in late 2017. If the administration moves to withdraw from the treaty, it could ramp up funding to accelerate development.

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.”

Since 2014, Washington has accused Moscow of violating its commitment not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) having a range prohibited under the INF Treaty. The Trump administration later identified the missile as the 9M729. In 2017 the Pentagon alleged that Russia began fielding the missile.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in November that Russia has “fielded multiple battalions of 9M729 missiles, which pose a direct conventional and nuclear threat against most of Europe and parts of Asia.”

Moscow has denied these charges and accused the United States of violating the treaty, most notably by deploying missile defense interceptor platforms in eastern Europe that Russia claims could be used for offensive purposes.

“If Russia admits its violations and fully and verifiably comes back into compliance, we will, of course, welcome that course of action,” Pompeo said at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Dec. 4. “But Russia, and Russia only, can take this step.”

The impasse is complicated by the fact that neither President Donald Trump, Pompeo, nor any other administration official has publicly acknowledged as legitimate Russia’s concerns about U.S. compliance or suggested that Washington would be willing to engage in talks that address the concerns of both sides.

Pompeo also cited China, which is not a party to the treaty, as a reason why the agreement no longer makes sense for the United States. This suggests the administration sees benefits to withdrawal from the treaty beyond its concerns about Russia’s noncompliance.

“There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China,” Pompeo declared, “in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.”

For its part, Russia continues to deny that the 9M729 violates the treaty while suggesting that it remains open to dialogue. But Russia does not appear to have tabled any specific proposals to address the U.S. and Russian concerns and rather has ramped up public statements blaming the United States.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in a Dec. 19 interview with Kommersant that U.S. officials made it clear to Russia that Trump’s announcement in October that he intended to “terminate” the treaty was “final and is not ‘an invitation for dialogue.’”

Although Russia has open production lines for the 9M729, the United States is still in the early stages of development of a treaty-busting missile. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required “a program of record to develop a conventional road-mobile [GLCM] system with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers,” including research and development activities. (See ACT, December 2017.)

The law also required “a report on the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, modifying United States missile systems in existence or planned as of such date of enactment for ground launch with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers as compared with the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, developing a new ground-launched missile using new technology with the same range.” Such existing and planned systems include the Tomahawk cruise missile, the Standard Missile-3 anti-missile interceptor, the long-range standoff weapon, and the Army tactical missile system.

As of the end of 2018, the Pentagon had yet to submit this report.

The Defense Department requested and Congress approved $48 million in fiscal year 2019 for R&D on and concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Prior to the conclusion of the INF Treaty in 1987, the United States deployed several hundred nuclear-armed, intermediate-range Pershing II ballistic missiles and GLCMs in Europe, the latter of which were an adaption of the Tomahawk. The Pentagon spent $2.6 billion, in fiscal year 1987 dollars, to develop and procure 247 Pershing II missiles and associated launchers and $3.5 billion to develop and procure 442 GLCMs through fiscal year 1987, according to a 1988 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

Yet, the cost today to develop a new ballistic missile system would be higher given that several decades have passed since the development of the Pershing II. In addition, the range of the new missile would likely need to be much greater than the 1,800-kilometer range of the Pershing II to have any utility against China in the Pacific region.

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in March 2017 that “there are no military requirements we cannot currently satisfy due to our compliance with the INF Treaty.” But a U.S. withdrawal could lead to the establishment of a new military requirement and accelerated efforts to develop ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles.

Even if the United States were to develop the weapons, they would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia and China. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles.

At an event in Washington on Dec. 14, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that the Pentagon should rapidly develop new intermediate-range missiles despite uncertainty about where they could be fielded. “Basing questions can obviously be controversial, but that will be a decision to be made for the future,” he said.

The collapse of the INF Treaty also raises questions about how to prevent the buildup of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia.

Russia approached the United States in 2007 and the two sides then jointly proposed in a UN General Assembly resolution to multilateralize the INF Treaty. The idea of multilateralizing the treaty has been around for more than a decade, but neither Moscow nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept, and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would require eliminating the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Other options that might be pursued include a pledge from the United States and Russia not to be the first to deploy intermediate-range missile systems anywhere in or within range of NATO members in Europe, limiting the number of intermediate-range missiles instead of banning them completely, and prohibiting nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

 

U.S. Counts Down to Quitting INF Treaty

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a 60-day countdown to notification of U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia during a Dec. 4 press conference, drawing warnings from Russian officials and criticism from congressional Democrats.

Administration officials rolled out the U.S. case supporting President Donald Trump’s decision to “terminate” the 1987 treaty after five years of unresolved U.S. complaints that Russia’s 9M729 missile violates the INF Treaty’s range restrictions. Russian officials now acknowledge the missile exists, but deny that it has been tested at or is able to fly at treaty-prohibited ranges.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, at a Nov. 30 news briefing, said that Russia’s noncompliance stems from having first conducted legally allowable tests of the 9M729 from a fixed launcher at a range well beyond 500 kilometers followed by tests from a mobile launcher at a range of less than 500 kilometers. Taken together, however, the tests show Russia has developed and fielded an INF Treaty-noncompliant missile that could be launched from a ground-mobile platform.

Coats’ briefing provided the public foundation for Pompeo’s announcement on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend treaty obligations after 60 days unless Russia returns to “full and verifiable compliance.”

Pompeo indicated that the administration would issue a formal notice of withdrawal at the end of the 60 days, which would begin a six-month withdrawal period under the treaty. The 60-day waiting period was largely attributed to the request of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Pompeo sought to respond to criticism that Trump’s decision was hasty, noting that the United States had raised the issue of Russian noncompliance “on at least 30 occasions” since 2013. Abiding by the INF Treaty constraints, which Russia is violating and which do not bind U.S. adversaries such as China, means the United States will “get cheated by other nations, expose Americans to greater risk, and squander our credibility,” he said.

Although the U.S. move worries European allies, Pompeo succeeded in having the NATO foreign ministers for the first time publicly back the U.S. conclusion that Russia is violating the INF Treaty. “It is now up to Russia to preserve the treaty,” they said in a Dec. 4 statement that did not include an endorsement of Pompeo’s ultimatum.

In response to U.S. and NATO statements, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Moscow would respond “accordingly” to a U.S. withdrawal. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Russian military chief of staff, reportedly warned European officials that U.S. missile defense sites on allied territory could become “targets of subsequent military exchanges.”

Since then, Russian Foreign Ministry officials have raised the prospect of mutual inspections to address Russian allegations of U.S. noncompliance with respect to the Mk-41 U.S. missile defense launch system in Europe, which can also be used to fire cruise missiles.

Russian media reported there was no U.S. response after Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu, in several messages sent to the U.S. embassy in Moscow, suggested holding discussions with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Any prospective movement on such a high-level military-to-military dialogue is uncertain given Mattis’ protest resignation following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and to reduce their numbers in Afghanistan.

At the United Nations, Russia sought General Assembly approval of a resolution calling on states-parties to renew their efforts to preserve and strengthen the INF Treaty through “full and strict compliance,” continue consultations on compliance with treaty obligations, and resume a “constructive dialogue on strategic issues premised on openness, mutual confidence and real opportunities.” The resolution failed on Dec. 21 by a vote of 43–46, with 78 abstaining.

Meanwhile, congressional reaction to Trump’s withdrawal plan was divided along partisan lines.

On the Republican side, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) led a Nov. 29 letter to Trump signed by more than 40 House Republicans commending the decision to withdraw, and Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) led 24 other Republican senators in a Nov. 28 letter to Trump against extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because of Russia’s INF Treaty noncompliance.

Among Democrats, 26 senators, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) called on the president in a Dec. 13 letter to redouble diplomatic efforts to salvage the treaty. In a Dec. 3 letter, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jack Reed (R.I.), and Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking members of the foreign relations, armed services, and intelligence committees, respectively, urged Trump to engage with Congress on the implications of withdrawal before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the treaty.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

U.S. and Russia trade blame as they look to develop new weapons systems.

Putin Sets Hypersonic Deployment Plan

 

Russia’s Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was successfully tested Dec. 26 in the presence of President Vladimir Putin and will be deployed during 2019, according a Kremlin statement. Putin noted the Avangard system, built to carry a nuclear warhead, will be “impervious to current and future” air and missile defenses of a “potential enemy,” a response to long-standing Russian concern that U.S. missile defense systems in combination with U.S. nuclear forces enable Washington to threaten Moscow’s retaliatory nuclear capability. The latest test is the third reported success out of six reported tests of the Yu-71 configuration since 2013. According to reports, the first two Avangard launchers will be deployed on two SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles based at Dombarovsky in 2019, and a total of 12 are expected to be deployed there by the end of 2027. A hypersonic glide vehicle, which travels at speeds of 5,000 to 25,000 kilometers per hour, can change its trajectory during flight and fly at varying altitudes.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Putin Sets Hypersonic Deployment Plan

Preventing a New Euro-Missile Race


January/February 2019
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which 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.

Russia's 9M729 missile reportedly has been tested using a mobile launcher system similar to that used by the 9K720 Iskander-M pictured here on September 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian FederationOn Dec. 4, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Russia had fielded a ground-launched missile system, the 9M729, that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit. He also announced that, in 60 days, the administration would “suspend” U.S. obligations under the treaty and formally announce its intention to withdraw in six months unless Russia returns to compliance. Suspension will allow the administration to try to accelerate the development of new missiles currently prohibited by the treaty.

Noncompliance with the treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But Trump’s public declaration that he will terminate the treaty and pursue new U.S. nuclear capabilities will not bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty. Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

Without the treaty, already severe tensions will grow as Washington considers deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere and Russia considers increasing 9M729 deployments and other new systems.

These nuclear-capable weapons, if deployed again, would be able to strike targets deep inside Russia and in western Europe. Their short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis. Any nuclear attack on Russia involving U.S. intermediate-range, nuclear-armed missiles based in Europe could provoke a massive Russian nuclear counterstrike on Europe and on the U.S. homeland.

In delivering the U.S. ultimatum on the treaty, Pompeo expressed “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance. Hope that Russia will suddenly admit fault and eliminate its 9M729 system is not a serious strategy, and it is not one on which NATO leaders can rely.

Instead, NATO members should insist that the United States and Russia redouble their sporadic INF Treaty discussions, agree to meet in a formal setting, and put forward proposals for how to resolve issues of mutual concern about the treaty.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have refused thus far to take up Russia’s offer to discuss “any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” That is a serious mistake. Failure by both sides to take diplomatic engagement more seriously since the 9M729 missile was first tested five years ago has bought us to this point.

Barring an unlikely 11th-hour diplomatic breakthrough, however, the INF Treaty’s days are numbered. Doing nothing is not a viable option.

With the treaty possibly disappearing later this year, it is not too soon to consider how to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe.

One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that none of them 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.

In the absence of the INF 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, which is now scheduled to expire in 2021.

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.

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe.

Remarks to the 17th Republic of Korea-UN Joint Conference on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Issues

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Prepared remarks by Kelsey Davenport to the 17th ROK-UN Joint Conference on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Issues
December 5, 2018

As we look toward the 10th Review Conference of the NPT in 2020, the nonproliferation treaty regime faces serious challenges.

Regional rivalries, a deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations, and qualitative nuclear buildups create significant challenges to efforts to fulfill the goals and objectives of the NPT as it enters its sixth decade.

Given these challenges, it is more important than ever that NPT states parties work together with urgency to seek consensus on steps to strengthen the treaty in this review cycle.

While the success of the Review Conference should not be solely measured by whether or not there is agreement on a final document, these texts are important guideposts to assess progress and to establish political commitments designed to fulfill treaty objectives. Coming off of the failure to garner consensus in 2015, it is more important than ever to work with urgency and creativity to develop consensus solutions in 2020.

As the UN Secretary General noted in his comprehensive disarmament agenda released earlier this year:

“The existential threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity must motivate us to accomplish new and decisive action leading to their total elimination. We owe this to the Hibakusha—the survivors of nuclear war—and to our planet.”

Over the next 20 minutes I will describe in more detail four key challenges facing the NPT and outline some possible paths forward that hopefully answer the UN Secretary General’s call for “new and decisive action.”

1) Reinvigorating Progress on Article VI

One of the most significant challenges to the NPT is the uncertain future of U.S.-Russian cooperation on arms reduction treaties and the failure to negotiate further reductions as agreed in the 2010 NPT Review Conference action plan. While it is positive that the United States and Russia met New START limits as required earlier this year, prospects for further negotiated cuts remain bleak.

U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated dramatically since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. Compounding the situation is the accelerating effort to replace and upgrade U.S and Russian nuclear arsenals, Russian and American nuclear saber-rattling, and the ongoing dispute over Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty.

The Trump administration is demonstrating a marked disinterest in providing leadership on disarmament. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review makes no mention of U.S. legal obligations to pursue arms control and disarmament measures as required by Article VI – rather Washington defers action until security conditions have improved. Nor does the NPR put forward any new proposals for working with Russia on a new round of reductions or steps to reduce risk.

Now, the Trump administration announced Dec. 4 it will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty in 60 days over Russia’s deployment of the noncompliant 9M729 missile. Diplomacy to address the problem has not yet been exhausted and should be pursued. Worse still is the U.S. equivocation about the future of the New START Treaty, which is scheduled to expire on Feb. 5, 2021, unless Moscow and Washington agree to extend it.

While Russia has offered to begin talks to extend New START and restart strategic stability dialogue with the United States, these discussions have not begun.

Without INF or New START extension, in 2021, there will be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972 – in short, the United States and Russia would be in violation of their NPT Article VI obligations.

How can states parties to the NPT prevent this dangerous reality?

First, in the short term, all NPT states parties must press the United States and Russia to agree to extend New START before the start of the 2020 Review Conference and to agree to further, sustained negotiations to reach agreement on verifiable reductions of all types of nuclear weapons, whether strategic, intermediate-range, or short-range.

Second, the United States and Russia, and the United States, Russia and China, must enter into regular strategic stability talks, and engage in an expanded dialogue that also considers the impact of new technologies and advancing ballistic missile defenses. While China may not have numerical parity with the United States or Russia, Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal and delivery systems pose a risk to strategic stability. Perhaps one area of discussion could be moving away from nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and agreement that hypersonic glide vehicles remain conventional. U.S. President Donald Trump opened the door to such discussions with Russia and China during the G20 meeting in Argentina this week.

Third, in the lead up to the 2020 Review Conference and at the conference itself, member states should refrain from using the NPT cycle to continue to debate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The TPNW plays an important role in reinforcing the taboo against nuclear weapons and advances the goal the NPT. But the TPNW is not going to lead to progress on disarmament in the near term and acrimonious debate over it risks continued polarization and entrenchment within the NPT process.

And now I’ll turn to the increased risk of use.

While the prospects of expanding arsenals pose a significant challenge, progress on Article VI cannot be measured through warhead reductions alone. Reductions are an important marker, but there are other critical steps that can and must be taken to reduce nuclear risks and realize disarmament, including checking the expanding role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines.

All five of the recognized nuclear weapon states, as well as states outside of the NPT that possess nuclear weapons, are upgrading and investing in new nuclear-capable missiles– some of which are designed with the intent to make the use of nuclear weapons “more credible.” The emphasis on lower-yield nuclear weapons, nuclear-capable cruise missiles and forays into hypersonic missiles represent a dangerous and destabilizing trend that could lower the threshold for nuclear weapons use. Investments in these new systems contravene the obligations set forth in Article VI.

The 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review expands the circumstances under which the United States would consider using nuclear weapons to include non-nuclear attacks, even if a state is complying with the NPT. Ambiguity and confusion over whether or not Russia’s nuclear doctrine includes an “escalate to deescalate” policy further heightens tensions.

This greater reliance on nuclear weapons – combined with some of the new systems designed to make deterrence more “credible” and the significant portion of the deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that remain on prompt launch– increases the prospect of nuclear use.

Given the global consequences of even a single nuclear strike, this is an area ripe for NPT states parties to press for additional measures that reduce nuclear risks.

First, given the polarized environment, it would beneficial during the review cycle for all NPT states parties – particularly the United States and Russia - to reaffirm the 1985 statement of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Furthermore, states should unequivocally reaffirm their support for progress on Article VI and, at a minimum, the goals outlined in the 2010 Action Plan.

Second, NPT states parties should call for an end to these “launch under attack” postures and urge all states to adopt a clear policy of nuclear no first use.

As a tangible step toward no first use, states could push all five of the nuclear weapon states to commit at the 2020 Review Conference that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack.

The United States came close to declaring sole purpose for the U.S. arsenal in 2016. as former Vice President Joe Biden said in the final days of the Obama Administration in January 2017, “The President and I strong believe we have made enough progress that deterring—and if necessary retaliating against—a nuclear attack should be the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.” And now, in the United States, momentum is gathering around moving toward no first use as policy. For instance, U.S. Representative Adam Smith – who will chair the House Armed Services Committee beginning with the new Congress– will again introduce his bill calling for no first use to be adopted as U.S. nuclear policy.

While the actions outlined previously address some specific and immediate challenges, in looking at Article VI and the NPT more broadly - it also may be to time consider pursuing a new enterprise free from the consensus-based, least-common-denominator thinking and the entrenched positions of established factions within existing forums. As the UN Secretary General noted in his disarmament agenda, existing international institutions for addressing disarmament have stagnated.

One bold idea is a new series of disarmament summits, modeled on the Nuclear Security Summit Process. An NSS-like process that emphasizes the same concept of national and multilateral commitments, would give likeminded states the option to pursue steps that push beyond the status quo on key issues and create political pressure to follow up on pledges and demonstrate progress.

Additionally, the current disarmament architecture has not been able to integrate states that possess nuclear weapons outside of the recognized nuclear order (namely India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) into multilateral efforts. Increasingly, the nuclear arsenals of these states will impact the ability to make progress on Article VI. A summit series could be a more inclusive forum that includes these states.

Ultimately, a summit-like process could help to transform bilateral tracks into multilateral talks that would include both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, creating a process of multilateral arms control and risk reduction that would lead toward a full realization of Article VI of the NPT and the broader goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

2) Preserving and building upon the JCPOA

The 2015 multilateral nuclear deal between Iran, the European Union, and six countries, resolved a decades-long crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, and brought Tehran back into compliance with its NPT safeguards obligations. The deal was endorsed by the UN Security Council, which in Resolution 2231 notes the importance of NPT compliance. The JCPOA also exemplifies the continued centrality of the NPT and the international commitment to prevent proliferation.

But, despite Iran’s record of compliance with the JCPOA and the obvious nonproliferation value of the accord, the United States withdrew from the deal, re-imposed sanctions, and is threatening states with punitive measures if they do not stop legitimate business with Iran allowed under the JCPOA and encouraged by the Security Council.

The remaining P4+1 parties to the nuclear deal with Iran, particularly the European partners, have taken significant actions not only to reaffirm their commitment to the JCPOA, but also to develop mechanisms to protect legitimate trade with Iran. While the EU’s blocking regulation and creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle to facilitate trade sends a strong political signal, these mechanisms are bound to fall short in providing the sanctions relief envisioned under the deal. This puts the long-term viability of the deal in question.

Collapse of the nuclear deal would have profound negative implications for Iran, the Middle East, and the NPT.

In the lead up to 2020, maintaining international support for the nonproliferation value of the JCPOA is critical. The NPT review cycle offers an important opportunity for states to reaffirm their support for the JCPOA and denounce the U.S. withdrawal as not only jeopardizing the deal, but also undermining nonproliferation efforts writ large.

But NPT member states should not stop at defending the JCPOA. The nuclear deal was not intended to set a precedent, but we would be foolish not to look at the unique and positive nonproliferation elements of the nuclear deal and try not to expand upon them to better serve nonproliferation and safeguards efforts in the region and writ large.

Under the JCPOA, Iran, for instance, agreed to real time monitoring of uranium enrichment levels, greater accountancy at uranium mines, and a time-bound process for allowing IAEA access to undeclared sites. Is there value in other states making similar pledges to incorporate such steps into safeguards practice? Learning from the JCPOA to further strengthen safeguards must be explored.

Additionally, we should look to build on the JCPOA to develop ideas that would reduce the threat of proliferation at the regional level. Iran, for instance, agreed to a 15-year ban on reprocessing and said it may never pursue this technology. Why not pursue a region free of reprocessing in the Middle East, initially through voluntary pledges by states? The commitments could be announced at the 2020 Review Conference. This would be a positive step toward realizing the goal of a MEWMDFZ, protect against the development of stockpiles of separated plutonium as states build up nuclear power infrastructures, and bolster the NPT.

This is particularly critical now, as there is a growing interest in nuclear power in the Middle East. This will also provide greater assurance that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful as limitations under the JCPOA begin to expire.

3) Finding a Path Forward on the MEWMDFZ

While we are on the Middle East, let me say a few words about the MEWMDFZ. Nearly 25 years after the 1995 resolution on establishing a MEWMDFZ played a critical role in securing the indefinite extension of the NPT, the promise of the zone has failed to materialize.

We cannot forget that it was disagreement over the MEWMDFZ that prevented consensus on a final document in 2015. And failure to outline a path forward ahead of 2020 risks derailing consensus on the NPT Review Conference again.

Yet few new and creative ideas are being brought forward to advance the zone. The United States and Russia appear unwilling to take a leadership role and have lost credibility since 2015.

The Arab League purports to seek progress on the zone, but it is not apparent that any of these states have reached out to Israel to engage in discussions over the zone or brought forward new and creative ideas. And when some of these states also fail to condemn statements by Saudi Arabia threatening to pursue nuclear weapons and when they fail to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria, it erodes the credibility of these states as honest brokers for the zone. It gives the impression that the politics of the issue are more important than achieving results.

Building on the JCPOA, as highlighted above, to make progress on the zone is one idea. Another positive step could be a new consultative process, similar to the lead-up to 2015. Perhaps the UK, as one of the three conveners, could take a leadership role in facilitating a new dialogue for a conference agenda ahead of 2020.

Alternatively, the UN General Assembly First Committee voted in favor of an Arab League proposal on the zone in November, which would require the UN Secretary General to convene a conference on a zone in 2019 and every year after until the zone is realized. There are critical questions yet to be answered about the scope of this process. And, as Israel voted against it, it is unclear if all states in the zone will be willing to engage with it. But a UN-led process could serve a similar consultative role in developing a path forward if states are willing to engage in good faith.

Additionally, ahead of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, members of the Arab League and the broader Non-Aligned Movement that recognize that a weakened NPT bodes ill for the zone, should make clear that realistic steps toward the MEWMDFZ will be supported, but holding consensus on the 2020 Final Document hostage by insisting on unrealistic and arbitrary demands for the zone concept will not be tolerated.

4) The North Korea Challenge

North Korea represents a dual challenge to the NPT – bringing Pyongyang back into compliance with the treaty and the current lack of agreed upon consequences of withdrawal.

At the end of 2017, the United States and North Korea were locked in a spiral of escalating tensions and increasingly hostile rhetoric. Thanks to the leadership of South Korean President Moon Jae-in in reaching out to Pyongyang, the crisis stabilized and a path for meaningful negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was opened. And in an historic meeting between the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two leaders agreed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to build a peace regime.

While North Korea’s voluntary actions early in the process, such as the long-range missile and nuclear test moratorium, and blowing up the test tunnels at Punggye-ri are positive steps that have limited qualitative advances in the country’s nuclear arsenal, North Korea continues to expand its nuclear arsenal and develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in direct contravention of its NPT obligations and UN Security Council resolutions. Continued failure by both the United States and North Korea to agree to reciprocal steps in the negotiations risks a return to the escalating tensions of 2017.

One step that the NPT member states should encourage is exploring how to convert the voluntary test moratorium and dismantlement of Punggye-ri into a legally-binding commitment to refrain from nuclear testing by securing North Korea’s signature and eventual ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In a special, high-level meeting on the CTBT at the UN in September, a group of foreign ministers led by Japan called on Pyongyang to solidify its voluntary nuclear test moratorium announced in April by signing and ratifying the treaty. Interim steps could include deploying monitoring equipment at the North Korean test site.

As another interim step in this vein, NPT states should encourage the United States to include the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in any visit to inspect the dismantled test site. Not only would the presence of the CTBTO aid in assessing the condition of the test site and the reversibility of North Korean actions, it would also gauge North Korea’s willingness to work with international inspectors, such as the IAEA, which must be part of any verification regime agreed to as part of a denuclearization process.

Furthermore, the North Korea case highlights the critical need to make progress on the consequences of withdrawal. Withdrawal by any state undermines the security and benefits envisioned by the NPT.

In the 25 years after North Korea first announced its intent to withdraw from the NPT, insufficient action has been taken in the NPT context to address the gaps highlighted by the North Korean case. Even if the 2015 Final Document had been adopted, it would not have addressed this serious, outstanding issue that is more urgent now than ever, given the current geopolitical climate.

States could agree, by consensus at the 2020 NPT Review Conference, that any state will be held responsible under international law for actions committed by a state in violation of the treaty prior to their withdrawal.

Similarly, a consensus endorsement of the principle that states can demand the return of materials and technology transferred to any state that choses to withdraw from the NPT, would be a common sense step and provide further assurance that peaceful programs cannot be converted to nuclear weapons programs without consequence.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude by again quoting Secretary-General Guterres: “ There are moments in history when individual and collective courage and conscience come together to change the course of events.”

The NPT faces unprecedented challenges; but with dedication, urgency, and creativity they can be overcome and goals of the treaty realized.

Thank you.

Subject Resources:

U.S. INF Treaty Termination Strategy Falls Short

Sections:

Body: 


Volume 10, Issue 10, December 4, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today declared Russia in material breach of the landmark 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and announced that the United States plans to suspend U.S. obligations under the treaty in 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance.

In a new statement on the INF Treaty also released today, NATO foreign ministers collectively declared for the first time “that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty. The ministers also stated: “It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty.”

In delivering the Trump administration’s ultimatum, Pompeo expressed the “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance with the treaty.

But hope is not a strategy.

If NATO member states want to preserve a key arms control treaty that has enhanced their security for more than two decades, they will insist that the United States and Russia exhaust diplomatic options and should put forward proposals for how the two sides can resolve issues of concern about treaty implementation.

Unfortunately, Pompeo provided no indication that the administration wants to make a final effort to save the treaty by engaging in talks with Russia to address the compliance concerns raised by Washington and Moscow.

Notably, the NATO foreign ministers statement does not express support for, or even reiterate, Pompeo's ultimatum that the United States will suspend its obligations in 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance.

Once a withdrawal notification is issued, Article XV of the treaty requires the United States to wait six months before it can leave the agreement. Pompeo said the administration will issue a withdrawal notice in 60 days. 

Reports last week indicated that the Trump administration planned to give formal notice of withdrawal from and suspend implementation of the treaty today, but the administration was persuaded to postpone that action for two months following President Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Saturday at the G-20 summit in Argentina.

European Concerns

Several NATO allies have expressed concern about president Trump’s announcement last October that he planned to withdraw from the treaty and that they had not been consulted about the decision. For example, the European Union declared in a statement that the United States should “consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF on its own security, on the security of its allies and of the whole world.”

Russia’s production, testing, and deployment of an illegal, ground-launched cruise missile with a range between 500 to 5,500 kilometers is unacceptable and merits a strong response from all nations that value arms control and the reduction of nuclear risks. Without the INF Treaty, we will likely see the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere.

A Path Forward

Clearly, diplomatic options to resolve the INF crisis and avoid a new missile race in Europe (and Asia) have not yet been exhausted. To date, diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have been limited and unsuccessful. Since Trump took office, U.S. and Russian officials have met only twice at the working level to try to resolve the compliance dispute, the last time being in June 2018.

However, the delay of the suspension notification provides little time and will be of little value unless NATO governments, along with Russia and the United States, use the time productively. The focus should be on negotiating a solution that addresses U.S. and NATO concerns about Russia’s noncompliant 9M729 missile and addresses Russia concerns about, in particular, U.S. Mk-41 Aegis Ashore missile-interceptor launchers in Romania (and by 2020 in Poland) that could be used for offensive missiles.

Averting the collapse of the treaty at this point requires NATO members (starting at the NATO foreign ministerial Dec. 4-5 in Brussels) to call on the United States and Russia to immediately meet to redouble off-and-on diplomatic efforts to resolve the INF Treaty compliance crisis. It is disappointing the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has not yet done so.

On Nov. 26, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said that Russia is “open to any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” If Washington is serious about removing the 9M729 missile threat, NATO should explore what that means and table a serious proposal.

If Russia is serious about preserving the INF Treaty, it will agree to discuss U.S. concerns, agree to implement transparency measures, and, if the 9M729 is found to be noncompliant, either modify or eliminate the illegal missile as a “sign of good faith.”

In addition, the United States needs to acknowledge Russia’s concerns about U.S. implementation of the agreement, specifically the Mk-41 launchers for the Aegis ashore missile interceptors in Romania (and soon in Poland) and agree to transparency measures that reduce concerns that the launchers could be used to deploy offensive missiles.

There is precedent for using diplomacy to resolve treaty violations. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan continued to observe the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Moscow despite its determination that a large radar located at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia violated the treaty. It also engaged in negotiations with the Soviet Union on the INF Treaty and what became the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty during this period. It took time, but diplomacy worked, and the Soviets eventually tore down the radar.

“No New Missiles” Pledge

The United States must ensure that Russia does not gain a military advantage from 9M729 ground-launched missile, which the U.S. intelligence community assesses has a range capability beyond the 500km range limit set by the INF Treaty and has been deployed in areas of Russia that enable it to reach parts of Europe. But even without the INF Treaty, there is no military need for the United States to develop a new and costly treaty-noncompliant missile for deployment in Europe.

The United States can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets that new ground-launched missiles prohibited by INF Treaty would. In addition, no European nation has agreed to host such a missile, which could take years to develop, and even if one did, it would be a significant source of division within the alliance—one Russia would be eager to try and exploit.

Instead of accepting the U.S. intention to begin “developing and deploying” new ground-based missiles to counter Russia, the U.S. Congress, as well as NATO member states should insist that if the United States and Russia do not find an 11th hour diplomatic solution to preserve the INF Treaty, they will at least pledge not to be the first to deploy intermediate-range missile systems anywhere in or in-range of NATO Europe.

And regardless of the fate of the INF Treaty, responsible governments and members of the U.S. Congress should also insist that Presidents Trump and Putin agree to extend the 2010 New START agreement by five years (from 2021 to 2026) to guard against the possibility of an unconstrained nuclear arms race.

—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director and KINGSTON A. REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Description: 

Analysis from Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, and Kingston A. Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Country Resources:

The INF Treaty: European Perspectives on the Impending U.S. Withdrawal


December 2018
By Katarzyna Kubiak

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on October 20 that he intends to have the United States “terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty took many European policymakers and security experts by surprise.

Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images)Although European NATO allies now agree with the United States on the alleged Russian material breach of the treaty, the unilateral U.S. withdrawal threat is divisive within NATO. A technical solution is possible, but it does not appear to be politically feasible. Although the ultimate decision belongs to Washington, which has yet to deliver the official withdrawal notification to Russia, its execution will incur serious implications for European security, NATO cohesion, and the future of arms control.

The landmark 1987 accord between the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States removed a major threat to European security by eliminating an entire class of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, those with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, together with their launchers.

The treaty contributes to strategic stability and reduces the risk of miscalculation that could lead to conflict, yet its future has become increasingly uncertain due to a festering U.S. dispute with Russia. In 2014, Washington publicly alleged that Moscow had violated the pact by testing and, since 2017, deploying a prohibited cruise missile system, known as the SSC-8 or 9M729 in U.S. and Russian designations, respectively.1

Russian officials have responded with counteraccusations, including that the Mk-41 launchers for the U.S. ground-based ballistic missile defense interceptors deployed now in Romania and soon in Poland could be used to launch offensive INF Treaty-range cruise missiles.2 Further, Russia takes the position that U.S. target missiles for ballistic missile defense interceptor tests and U.S. armed drones should be counted under the INF
Treaty restrictions.

Both parties have discussed their mutual allegations at two meetings of the Special Verification Commission (SVC), a treaty-mandated forum to address compliance disputes, and through other diplomatic channels.3 Yet, they have consistently failed to agree on the facts, let alone find a solution. Each side claims to be in compliance. The U.S. Department of State has “repeatedly refuted baseless Russian allegations in detail.”4 Moscow denies the “absolutely groundless [U.S.] accusations.”5 Meanwhile, however, Russia acknowledged that the 9M729 cruise missile exists, but claims that it has neither been developed nor tested for a range banned by the INF Treaty and its deployment is taking place in strict compliance with the treaty.6

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Russia considers that the INF Treaty, “though not ideal in modern conditions,” still has value, and that “scrapping one of the key arms control mechanisms would be fundamentally counterproductive.” Speaking at a Moscow news briefing November 26, he said, “We are ready to work to maintain its viability. Russia is open to any mutually beneficial proposals that takes into account the interests of both parties.”

European Reactions

Although the INF Treaty is a cornerstone of European security, most European governments have remained on the sidelines in this dispute because, for one thing, no European NATO allies are party to the agreement. Hence, they do not see themselves as empowered to pressure Moscow or Washington publicly on solutions. Further, the INF Treaty is more of a political symbol to Europeans than a military restraint because they already are within range of Russia’s conventional and nuclear missiles. In addition, some European governments initially viewed the U.S. evidence of presumed Russian violation as not compelling enough.7 As a consequence, it took Washington more than three years to persuade its NATO allies. Finally and probably most importantly, European allies differ among themselves in their preferred approach toward Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg meets with NATO forces in Trondheim, Norway, on October 30 during their Trident Juncture 2018 military exercise. Commenting on the possible demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Stoltenberg said in November that NATO “has no intention to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe.” (Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)European responses to Trump’s termination announcement reflect this variation. On one end of the spectrum, allies that support strengthening NATO in a manner that deters but does not threaten Russia prefer to remain in dialogue with Moscow. For example, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was the first to express regret about Trump’s announcement.8 Despite sympathy for U.S. frustration in dealing with Russia, he called the decision a “mistake” and pledged diplomatic engagement with Moscow and Washington to save the accord.9 Maas also made it clear that Germany has no appetite for an arms race in Europe.10 Similarly, immediately after the withdrawal announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron picked up the phone and reminded his counterpart in the White House of the importance France ascribes to the treaty, in particular for European security and strategic stability.11

On the other end of the spectrum, some European allies believe that strength is the only currency that the Kremlin understands and put very little trust in a dialogue with Moscow. Standing “absolutely resolute” with the U.S. president, UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson accused Russia of “making a mockery” of the INF Treaty.12 Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz declared “a similar” stance on and “understanding” for the U.S. decision.13

The announcement of an impending U.S. withdrawal has yet another dimension exposing the deterioration of NATO cohesion. By threatening withdrawal, Washington is acting against NATO’s official stance. At the July 2018 summit in Brussels, 29 heads of state and government of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s most senior decision-making body, declared their commitment to the “preservation of this landmark arms control treaty” and pledged to “engage Russia on this issue in bilateral and multilateral formats.”14

Three weeks before the announcement, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis assured NATO allies that any U.S. decision on the INF Treaty would be made “in concert with our allies, as always.”15 Yet, the White House acted unilaterally. As a result, the announcement only adds another setback to relations between the Trump administration and European allies, for whom display of NATO unity and solidarity is of utmost importance when facing Russia.

Europe Bears the Consequences

If the threat of withdrawal succeeds in bringing Russia back to compliance, it will certainly be an achievement that could reinvigorate arms control more broadly. Nevertheless, the attempt is risky. If it fails, its consequences could generate predominantly unfavorable side effects for Europe without visible advantages on the horizon.

First, the threat of withdrawal will not automatically bring Russia back to compliance; an actual withdrawal even less so. At the same time, dumping the treaty means that the United States and subsequently NATO give up the legal basis on which they are entitled to insist on Russia’s return to compliance. No INF Treaty means no possibility to pressure Moscow on the elements of its alleged missile and limits avenues to verify whether it violated the treaty.

Second, without the INF Treaty, Russia could freely field an unlimited number of the allegedly developed intermediate-range cruise missiles in the vicinity of Europe, while NATO has neither offensive nor defensive capablities with which to credibly respond in the short term.

Third, no European government has offered to host U.S. INF Treaty-range missiles. According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, “NATO has no intention to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe.”16 Yet, the potential appetite of some European governments to capitalize on hosting conventional intermediate-range cruise missiles, should the United States decide to field them, could deepen NATO’s divide and play into Moscow’s hands.

Fourth, what happens with the INF Treaty will likely determine the future of arms control. The death of the INF Treaty without solving the compliance issue could impede prospects for extending existing agreements, such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and negotiating new ones.

At their July 2018 Brussels Summit, 29 heads of state and government of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s most senior decision-making body, declared their commitment to the preservation of the “landmark” Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  (Photo: NATO)Finally, the way NATO deals with the INF Treaty reflects on its credibility and leadership within the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Just last year, European NATO allies stood side by side with United States in opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, aligning themselves with the position that a step-by-step approach on nuclear disarmament is a better course. With the U.S. termination of the Iran nuclear deal, an INF Treaty deathwatch underway, and an extension of New START in question, the standing of NATO’s nuclear and non-nuclear countries as trustworthy partners, although differently, will be heavily at stake.

Can the INF Treaty Be Saved?

So far, Washington and NATO have been unsuccessful in their attempts to induce Russia to address compliance concerns.17 In line with the Trump Administration INF Treaty Integrated Strategy,18 the administration pursued diplomatic measures, including convening that month the second SVC meeting. At a June 2018 round of expert-level talks in Geneva, U.S. officials called on Russia to halt testing, production, and deployment of the 9M729 missile, but there have been no follow-on discussions, apparently due to Moscow’s refusal.19

The Helsinki summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018 and the August 2018 talks in Geneva between U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev also made no progress. Neither did imposing sanctions on Russian companies involved in research and development of the disputed missile, nor pursuing research on its own INF Treaty-noncompliant missile system. Earlier this year, for its part, NATO tried to create political pressure on Moscow by stating that, absent a credible response, it will assume Russia is in violation.20

Because diplomatic, economic, and military measures have not prompted Russia to address compliance concerns in a sufficient manner, announcing the intent to withdraw appears a logical consequence. Yet, not only is its timing questionable, but both sides have failed to exhaust all potential avenues to address mutual concerns.

Although development of a noncompliant missile carries a different qualitative weight than deployment of an alleged launcher, both are legitimate concerns. In expecting Russia to prove its compliance with the INF Treaty, the United States did not offer to demonstrate its own adherence. European allies have unconditionally sided with Washington, not pressing the United States on compliance questions, judged to be spurious at best.21

Provided enough political will in Moscow, Washington, and NATO capitals, mutual inspections could shed more light on the compliance questions. In exchange for Russia addressing concerns about the alleged missile system, NATO allies could assure Russia that NATO’s ballistic missile defense launchers will not and cannot be used for offensive purposes. Such an approach has strong backing by former high-level officials and experts from Vancouver to Vladivostok.22

Yet, such a solution might be far more complicated. The United States now publicly alleges that Moscow initially flight tested the 9M729 to distances well over 500 kilometers from a fixed launcher and then tested the same missile at ranges below 500 kilometers from a mobile launcher. By putting the two types of tests together, Russia was able to develop a missile that flies more than 500 km and launches from a ground-mobile platform, which would put it in violation of the INF Treaty.23 If Moscow were to offer credible exhibitions of the alleged missile that show it to indeed be noncompliant with the INF Treaty, the logical outcome would require Russia to eliminate the missiles plus halt any further testing, production, and deployment.

If Russia does not agree to mutual verification, the United States and its NATO allies could reclaim the moral high ground by demonstrating that Moscow, not Washington, is scrapping arms control treaties. This seems like a pragmatic offer because the United States is convinced of its own compliance and because, in other spheres, military transparency is such a point of pride for the United States and NATO.

Initiating goodwill on NATO side, however, will be no a small feat. Allies predominantly blame Russia for the current state of the INF Treaty. After countless unsuccessful attempts to reach out to Moscow, they consider the ball to be in Russia’s court.24 Also, winning NATO unanimity on such a proposal will be politically challenging. Furthermore, allies endeavor not to create any impression of getting back to what they call “business as usual” with Moscow, and any offer going beyond the current agenda could be seen as crossing this line. Yet, apart from the INF Treaty, NATO has nothing to lose.

Questions for the Future

With the accord in severe jeopardy, the alliance faces the “need to assess the implications of the new Russian missile,” according to Stoltenberg.25 Such an assessment has military and arms control dimensions.

The motivation for the alleged Russian breach remains largely unclear. Successive U.S. administrations have not attributed a motive either. Only the recent U.S. Nuclear Posture Review report states that “Moscow believes these systems may provide useful options for escalation advantage.”26 A new, land-based, INF Treaty-range missile could compliment already existing Russian sea- and air-launched cruise missiles with additional mobility and agility, more difficult detection capabilities, and reduced warning time,27 enabling a faster or surprise attack (e.g., against U.S. Aegis Ashore installations in Europe).

European allies and Washington reportedly have been weighing a set of some three dozen military and diplomatic responses to the Russian breach.28 The former could include extending NATO ballistic missile defense with capabilities to defend against cruise missiles, increasing the readiness level of NATO dual-capable aircraft proscribed for its nuclear mission, strengthening the credibility of U.S. extended nuclear deterrence in Europe, deploying a conventional INF Treaty-range ground-launched cruise missile in Europe,29 and introducing new nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles to the U.S. arsenal.30 Except for cruise missile defense,31 however, these measures would neither directly defend Europe from noncompliant Russian cruise missiles nor plausibly be explained as a response to the INF Treaty violation.

To some degree, military responses could worsen NATO-Russian relations. Additional military measures bear the risk of fueling Moscow’s sense of being under siege and thus leading to a Russian military counterreaction. Pledges to refrain from deploying INF Treaty-class missiles in Europe, provided the other side does not deploy them, would be one option to mitigate an unnecessary and costly arms spiral in Europe.

The demise of the INF Treaty and internal NATO deliberations over an appropriate response could require reopening a broader discussion on the NATO deterrence and defense posture. Allies went through this difficult process a decade ago and were barely able to find agreement. Although the security situation differs today from when NATO perceived Russia its “partner,” reopening such discussions holds the potential risk of strengthening the role of nuclear weapons, an issue tremendously sensitive for individual NATO allies.

At the same time, the current INF Treaty crisis marks yet another blow to the European security architecture and raises a more general question: What shall future arms control look like? Should the INF Treaty eventually collapse, Europe and the United States could offer Moscow the chance to work on a modern successor. Utilizing the INF Treaty as a blueprint, they could think of limiting the number of intermediate-range missiles instead of banning them completely, limiting cruise missile deployments geographically, prohibiting nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, or multilateralizing and extending the treaty’s scope.

Such a preservation effort should not be seen as a reward for Russia’s bad behavior. Rather, it should be recognized as an investment in preventing an arms race, as a step to realize the European commitment to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, and as a way for Europe to remain central in shaping the global nuclear weapons landscape. As with the Iran nuclear accord, Europe has a major role to play and a major stake in the outcome.

ENDNOTES

1. U.S. Department of State, “2014 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” July 2014, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/230108.pdf. See Gen. Paul Selva, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, March 8, 2017, https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/military-assessment-nuclear-deterrence-requirements. See also Gen. John E. Hyten, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, March 20, 2018, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Hyten_03-20-18.pdf.

2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Comment by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Regarding the Report of the U.S. Department of State on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” August 1, 2014, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/675835.

3. U.S. Department of State, “INF Diplomacy Highlights Timeline,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287411.htm.

4. U.S. Department of State, “Refuting Russian Allegations of U.S. Noncompliance With the INF Treaty,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287413.htm.

5. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Russia’s Assessment of the U.S. Department of State’s Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” April 14, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3192916. See “Russian Ambassador Calls U.S. Accusations of INF Treaty Violation ‘Ungrounded,’” Tass, March 2, 2018.

6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova,” December 21, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/diverse/-/asset_publisher/zwI2FuDbhJx9/content/brifing-oficial-nogo-predstavitela-mid-rossii-m-v-zaharovoj-moskva-21-dekabra-2017-goda?_101_INSTANCE_zwI2FuDbhJx9_redirect=http://www.mid.ru/en/diverse%3Fp_p_id%3D101_INSTANCE_
zwI2FuDbhJx9%26p_p_lifecycle%3D0%26p_p_
state%3Dnormal%26p_p_mode%3Dview%26p_p_col_id%3Dcolumn-1%26p_p_col_pos%3D2%26p_p_col_count%3D6#8
.

7. U.S. Mission to NATO, “October 2, 2018: Press Briefing by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison,” October 2, 2018, https://nato.usmission.gov/october-2-2018-press-briefing-by-ambassador-kay-bailey-hutchison/.

8. German Federal Foreign Office, “Foreign Minister Maas on the U.S. Announcement That It Is Withdrawing From the INF Treaty,” October 21, 2018, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/newsroom/news/maas-inf-treaty/2151874, German Federal Government, “Zur Ankündigung der USA, sich aus dem INF-Abkommen zurückzuziehen,” October 21, 2018, https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/zur-ankuendigung-der-usa-sich-aus-dem-inf-abkommen-zurueckzuziehen-1540744.

9. German Federal Foreign Office, October 24, 2018, https://twitter.com/AuswaertigesAmt/status/1055114684083462144; German Federal Foreign Office, “Preventing a New Arms Race,” October 23, 2018, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/newsroom/news/maas-funke-mediengruppe-inf-treaty/2152660.

10. German Federal Foreign Office, “Preventing a New Arms Race.”

11. Embassy of France in London, “France Reminds U.S. of Nuclear Treaty’s Importance,” October 21, 2018, https://uk.ambafrance.org/France-reminds-US-of-nuclear-treaty-s-importance.

12. Peter Stubbly, “UK Stands 'Absolutely Resolute' With the U.S. After Trump Pulls Out of Russia Nuclear Weapons Treaty,” Independent, October 21, 2018.

13. “Jacek Czaputowicz: Polska ze zrozumieniem dla decyzji USA w sprawie INF,” PolskieRadio24.pl, October 22, 2018, https://polskieradio24.pl/5/3/Artykul/2205658,Jacek-Czaputowicz-Polska-ze-zrozumieniem-dla-decyzji-USA-w-sprawie-INF.

14. NATO, “Brussels Summit Declaration,” July 11, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_156624.htm.

15. “U.S. Withdrawal From Nuke Treaty Worries Europeans,” Der Spiegel, October 30, 2018.

16. NATO, “Keynote Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ‘NATO Talk Around the Brandenburg Tor’ Conference,” November 12, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_160241.htm.

17. U.S. Department of State, “Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” n.d., https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/index.htm (accessed November 22, 2018).

18. U.S. Department of State, “Trump Administration INF Treaty Integrated Strategy,” December 8, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/12/276363.htm.

19. U.S. Department of State, “INF Diplomacy Highlights Timeline,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287411.htm.

20. German Federal Government, “Regierungspressekonferenz vom 22. Oktober 2018,” October 22, 2018, https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/regierungspressekonferenz-vom-22-oktober-2018-1541072. See NATO, “Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Ahead of Exercise Trident Juncture 2018,” October 24, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_159666.htm?selectedLocale=en.

21. U.S. Department of State, “Refuting Russian Allegations of U.S. Noncompliance With the INF Treaty,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287413.htm.

22. European Leadership Network, “ELN Group Statement: A European Response to U.S. Withdrawal From the INF Treaty,” November 7, 2018, https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/group-statement/eln-group-statement-a-european-response-to-us-withdrawal-from-the-inf-treaty/; “Letter to POTUS on US-RF Arms Control 11-7,” November 7, 2018, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kdGky0NumiWz4MWwyFNirxP9NTB9a37h/view; “Statement of the Deep Cuts Commission on the INF-Treaty Crisis and the Way Forward,” November 16, 2018, http://deepcuts.org/files/pdf/Statement_of_the_Deep_Cuts_Commission_on_the_INF_Treaty_final.pdf; “No Nuclear Arms Race in Europe!” n.d., https://kein-wettruesten.de/en/ (accessed November 22, 2018).

23. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, "Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats on Russia’s INF Treaty Violation," November 30, 2018, https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/speeches-interviews/item/1923-director-of-national-intelligence-daniel-coats-on-russia-s-inf-treaty-violation

24. NATO, “NATO-Russia Council Beets in Brussels,” October 31, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_160005.htm?selectedLocale=en.

25. NATO, “Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Ahead of Exercise Trident Juncture 2018.”

26. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, p. 9, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF (hereinafter NPR Report).

27. NATO, “Keynote Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ‘NATO Talk Around the Brandenburg Tor’ Conference.”

28. Lena Kampf and Georg Mascolo, “Nato: Russlands Atomprogramm verstößt gegen Abkommen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 31, 2017.  

29. NPR Report.

30. Ibid.

31. Because cruise missile defense is not an off-the-shelf-product, its development would require years. Only the U.S. Congress has shown an interest in funding the development of active defenses to counter ground-launched missile systems within the INF Treaty ranges. See National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-91, 131 Stat. 1283 (2017).

 


Katarzyna Kubiak is a policy fellow on nuclear and arms control policy at the European Leadership Network in London.

 

With Russia and the United States at an impasse, what can be done to save a landmark arms control treaty?

DOCUMENT: Bipartisan Experts Urge Trump to Save Nuclear Treaties With Russia

 

November 7, 2018

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Dear Mr. President:

As national security professionals and public servants who have spent their careers working for and with Republican and Democratic presidents to protect our nation’s national security, we urge you to ensure that we sustain meaningful, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals in order to provide more predictability, transparency, and stability in our nuclear relationship with Russia.

We have been deeply troubled by the unresolved problem of Russia’s noncompliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. In July, NATO members, including the United States, affirmed their commitment to the INF Treaty, stating that it was “crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.” We agree. The INF Treaty has prevented the unchecked deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe, significantly reducing the risk of rapid escalation towards nuclear war.

Rather than move to terminate the INF Treaty, however, we urge you to direct your team to redouble efforts to negotiate technical solutions to U.S. (and Russian) INF compliance concerns. Russia’s deployment of a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile must be addressed; Moscow is concerned that launchers at the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense sites in Romania (and the planned site in Poland) are capable of firing offensive missiles. A senior adviser to President Putin has said that Russia is still ready to address “mutual grievances” related to the treaty. We urge you to pursue this option.

In the absence of the INF Treaty, the only remaining agreement regulating our nuclear stockpiles will be the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits the two sides’ long-range missiles and bombers, and caps the warheads they carry to no more than 1,550 each. U.S. military leaders continue to see value in New START. Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress last March that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”

New START is due to expire on February 5, 2021 unless you and President Putin agree to extend it by up to five years (to 2026), as allowed for in Article XIV of the treaty. We urge you to take up Russia’s offer to engage in talks on the extension of New START. These talks should begin immediately to address any outstanding treaty compliance concerns before the treaty expires.

With your decision to extend New START, the two sides would have the time necessary to work together on a new deal that addresses obstacles that prevented your predecessors in the White House from achieving further limits and deeper reductions in the two countries’ nuclear arsenals.

Every American president since John F. Kennedy has successfully concluded at least one agreement with Russia to reduce nuclear dangers. Without New START, there would be no legally-binding, verifiable limits on the U.S. or Russian nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

In March of this year, you said you wanted to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.” We respectfully urge you to do so.

Sincerely,

Susan Burk, former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, and head of the U.S. delegation to the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference

Richard R. Burt, former Ambassador to Germany and chief negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

Thomas Countryman, former acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and Chairman of the Arms Control Association

Thomas Graham Jr., Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, Disarmament

Jill Hruby, former Director, Sandia National Laboratories

Lt. Gen. Arlen D. Jameson, (USAF, Ret.), former Deputy Commander, U.S. Strategic Command

Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, (R-Kansas) 1978–1997

Laura E. Kennedy, former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament and former Ambassador to Turkmenistan

Sen. Richard Lugar, (R-Ind.) former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Sen. Sam Nunn, (D-Ga.) former Chairman, U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee

William J. Perry, former Secretary of Defense

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and former Ambassador to the United Nations, to Russia, India, Israel, Nigeria, Jordan and El Salvador

Joan Rohlfing, President and COO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative

George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State

Bipartisan Experts Urge Trump to Save Nuclear Treaties With Russia

Indian Submarine Completes First Patrol


December 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in November that the country’s first ballistic missile submarine completed its inaugural “deterrence patrol.”

An undated photo shows India testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile system. The missile was launched from a location in the Bay of Bengal, from a depth of 50 meters. The nuclear-capable system was developed to be deployed on INS Arihant.  (Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images)Modi described the deployment of the INS Arihant on Nov. 5 as an “open warning for the country’s enemies” and a response to “those who indulge in nuclear blackmail.” Modi did not specifically mention Pakistan, but his message was likely directed at Islamabad.

Modi’s description of the sub’s activities could mean that the submarine was armed with nuclear-tipped submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). It is unclear how long the patrol lasted.

The Arihant is India’s first domestically built, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. It was commissioned in 2016 and began sea trials at that time. (See ACT, April 2016.) The lapse between sea trials and the submarine’s first patrol is believed to have been caused by extensive damage after a hatch was left open in 2017, flooding the submarine.

The Arihant can carry 12 K-15 SLBMs, which have an estimated range of 750 kilometers. The K-15 has been tested multiple times, including in August 2018. In the future, the submarine could carry four K-4 SLBMs. The K-4 is still under development and has an estimated range of about 3,500 kilometers. The longer-range missile is likely designed with China in mind, while the shorter-range K-15 puts Pakistan in range.

The Arihant deployment completes India’s nuclear triad, that is, the ability to deliver nuclear weapons from land-, air-, and sea-based systems. It also enhances India’s second-strike capability, although India, with only one deployed submarine, will not be able to conduct continuous deterrent patrols at this time.

A second ballistic missile submarine was reportedly finished in December 2017, and an additional two submarines are under construction. India plans to build four to six nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines. These subsequent submarines are larger than the Arihant and could hold up to eight K-4 ballistic missiles.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Nov. 8 that the Arihant’s patrol “marks the first actual deployment of ready-to-fire nuclear warheads in South Asia” and is a “matter of concern” for states in the region and the international community.

Indian and Pakistani nuclear warheads are largely believed to be de-mated, or stored separately from delivery systems. On a submarine, however, de-mating is not feasible, and the warheads are stored paired with the ballistic missiles.

Mohammad Faisal, a spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, said that “no one should doubt Pakistan’s resolve and capability to meet the challenge” posed by India’s recent developments.

Pakistan is currently developing a sea-launched cruise missile, the Babur-3, likely for use with its diesel submarines. Pakistan tested the Babur-3, which has an estimated range of about 450 kilometers, from a submerged barge in 2017 and 2018. Pakistani officials said the move was prompted by India’s decision to develop SLBMs.

The INS Arihant gives India a nuclear triad.

Getting Off the Treadmill to Catastrophe


December 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “[t]he Cold War is back...but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.”

Russian Topol-M ICBM crosses Red Square in Moscow during a Victory Day parade on May 9, 2008.  (Photo: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)Indeed, the United States and Russia are planning to spend trillions of dollars to replace and upgrade their nuclear arsenals at force levels that far exceed what is required to deter nuclear attack. China is also improving its nuclear weapons capabilities.

All three countries are pursuing new strategic-range weapons systems, including hypersonic missiles, and the weaponization of other emerging technologies, such as cyberweapons, that could upset the uneasy balance of nuclear terror that exists among the world’s major nuclear actors.

Meanwhile, U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements designed to reduce nuclear risks, including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), are in serious jeopardy. Currently, there is no bilateral dialogue on strategic stability to help avoid misperception and worst-case assumptions.

President Donald Trump, unfortunately, seems to believe that if he builds up the U.S. nuclear arsenal, other nations will back down. “Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” Trump said to reporters Oct. 22 outside the White House. His simplistic notion of getting ahead in the nuclear game is a dangerous illusion.

In a nuclear arms race, the only finish line is catastrophe. As the veteran U.S. diplomat Paul Warnke wrote in 1975 as the United States and the Soviet Union were amassing new strategic nuclear weapons, “We can be first off the treadmill. That is the only victory the arms race has to offer.”

As Democrats prepare to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, there is an opportunity to check and balance Trump’s nuclear impulses. Members of Congress of both parties, along with key U.S. allies and middle powers, should encourage the United States to get off the treadmill and take the first steps to reduce the role, size, and cost of its bloated nuclear arsenal.

Rather than ape Russia’s nuclear behavior, the United States should size and orient its nuclear force on the basis of its defense requirements alone. In 2013, a Pentagon review determined that the U.S. deployed strategic nuclear force is one-third larger than necessary to deter a nuclear attack. That means the United States can reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads from roughly 1,400 today to 1,000 or fewer and challenge Russia to do the same.

A thousand deployed warheads provide far more nuclear firepower than is needed to deter any current or potential nuclear adversary. Just one U.S. nuclear-armed submarine, carrying 192 thermonuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 100 kilotons or greater, could devastate a large country and kill tens of millions of people.

To lock in mutual reductions, Washington and Moscow should agree to extend New START for another five years, to 2026, and call for talks on a new agreement on new limits on all types of strategic offensive and defensive, nuclear and non-nuclear weapons systems that could affect strategic stability. Such a strategy could prompt Russia to rethink its own new weapons projects and possibly reduce its nuclear arsenal.

Further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, which comprise 95 percent of global stockpiles, would increase pressure on China to halt its own slow but steady nuclear buildup and join the nuclear disarmament enterprise.

By scaling back its nuclear force to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads and making associated reductions to the hedge stockpile, the United States could trim billions of dollars from today’s excessive and unsustainable $1.2 trillion, 30-year plan to replace and upgrade its nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads.

U.S. policymakers also need to shift away from outdated policies that increase the risk of nuclear war by accident or design. Current U.S. and Russian strategies call for the prompt launch of land-based missiles in the event of an impending nuclear attack. Each side also retains the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. Worse still, the Trump administration wants new, “more-usable” low-yield nuclear weapons to counter Russia and has expanded the circumstances under which the United States would consider first use.

Instead, as Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, recommends, the United States should adopt a no-first-use nuclear policy, forgo new nuclear war-fighting weapons, and shed excessive nuclear force structure. There is no plausible circumstance that could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. Once nuclear weapons are employed in war, there is no guarantee the other side would not respond in kind and trigger an all-out nuclear exchange.

It is still within the power of U.S. and other world leaders to avoid a new global nuclear arms race, save billions of defense dollars on redundant and unnecessary nuclear weapons, and reduce the risk of nuclear use. The time to start is now.

 

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “[t]he Cold War is back...but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.”

What Can the EU Do to Reduce the Nuclear Threat?

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann
Polis 180 Fireside Chat
Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe
Berlin, Germany
November 28, 2018

Toward the end of October, President Donald Trump announced at a political rally that the United States would be withdrawing from the 31-year old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (“INF”) Treaty, which had banned an entire category of ground-based missiles from the U.S. and Russian arsenals. There has since been considerable discussion about what this decision portends for the entire nuclear arms control enterprise. I cannot presume to know how Germany and other European states can best protect their national security interests. But I can offer some thoughts on how Europe can help America cope with the Trump phenomenon, which I see as America’s greatest leadership crisis in my lifetime.

My first job as a diplomat in the Department of State was to help implement the 1979 “Dual-Track” decision of NATO (der Doppelbeschluss)–according to which NATO planned to deploy 572 nuclear-tipped missiles in Europe while seeking to negotiate equal but lower limits on the 600 Soviet theater missiles already deployed against NATO. The government of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt played a critical role in pushing for such action. He worried that the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks process had left Europe vulnerable to a growing force of Mittelstrecken Raketen for which it had no comparable counter. Indeed, the SS-20s being deployed were more mobile, longer-range, less vulnerable, and more accurate than the SS-4 and SS-5 missiles they were replacing. Moreover, they would carry three times as many warheads.

The only U.S. nuclear weapons based in Europe which could reach Soviet territory then were carried by medium-range bombers, themselves increasingly vulnerable to Soviet anti-aircraft weapons. And thus, the scene was set for a highly-charged contest of wills between the Soviet Union, the United States, and the five NATO countries that had agreed to station new INF missiles on their territories. Germany would have the largest and most critical contingent, including 108 very accurate and fast Pershing II ballistic missiles.

I was present in Geneva at the opening of the negotiations 37 years ago this Friday. I was also present for three years in Embassy Bonn’s Political Section, when the first U.S. deployments arrived in 1983–the “Year of the missile”–and when the Soviet negotiators walked out of the Geneva negotiations.

But with the coming to power of Mikhael Gorbachev in 1985, the mood changed and negotiations resumed the next year. By the end of 1987, the Soviet leader and Ronald Reagan had signed a “zero-zero” treaty with an even lower range floor on banned missiles than the parties had first discussed. Within three years of the treaty entering into force, nearly 2,700 missiles had been eliminated.

This saga is worth recalling–partly to appreciate how unlikely such an outcome seemed in 1979 and how much the treaty ultimately contributed to the reductions of Cold War tensions. It is also important to realize how important the treaty’s verification provisions were for establishing precedents applied to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which followed in 1991. And to remember the creative and hard-working personnel on both sides, who conscientiously fulfilled the treaty obligations.

During the last decade, there have been voices raised in both Moscow and Washington, arguing that the treaty had outlived its usefulness in a post-Cold War world where the European situation was fundamentally different and a world where third countries were increasing their arsenals of intermediate-range missiles.

In 2014, the United States officially accused Russia of testing a cruise missile with a range in excess of that allowed by the treaty. Russia, in turn, levied three charges against the United States, the most serious being that the U.S. missile defense launchers being deployed in Romania were prohibited because they were capable of launching cruise missiles banned under the treaty.

These compliance concerns have now been subject to confidential discussions between the United States and Russia for five years without resolution. Although Trump’s announcement that the United States intended to withdraw from the INF Treaty appeared to be the beginning of the end, it was not the first step taken in that direction. Moscow appears to have decided a decade ago to ignore the treaty’s range limits on cruise missiles. Last year’s U.S. defense budget included research and development funding for new ground-based missiles, which would eventually violate the treaty when they are first flight-tested.

It is my contention, and the view of the U.S.-Russian-German “Deep Cuts Commission” (of which I’m a member) that neither side has made sufficient efforts to use the treaty’s verification mechanism to address this problem.

There is still time. The treaty requires six months notice before withdrawal can occur, and that notice has still not been officially provided.

Ironically, the U.S. revelation in public last year of the Russian manufacturer and designator of the offending missile has opened up a path to resolution, which has not yet been explored. After years of Moscow saying it did not know what the United States was talking about, it now acknowledges having developed and deployed the missile in question–the Novator 9M729—but says the United States is wrong about its capabilities. There is now a curious parallelism in the U.S. response to Russia’s complaints about the missile defense launchers in Romania and Poland. Washington contends that the Aegis Ashore Mk 41 launchers are not capable of doing what the Mk 41 launchers at sea can do.

The argument is now ripe for an invitation to experts for mutual on-site inspection and technical discussions to examine the capabilities of the systems in dispute. Yet neither side has made such a proposal! Here is where Germany and its fellow NATO members can play a constructive role. Russia’s 9M729 cruise missiles threaten the territory of NATO’s European members. The U.S. missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe have been endorsed by NATO. The alliance should press hard for Washington and Moscow to get serious about resolving this issue by conducting mutual inspections and taking necessary confidence-building steps. The onus for the dissolution of the treaty should fall heavily on the side, which refuses this obvious path on INF and fails to pursue the rejuvenation of talks on strategic arms control.

Germany can buttress its diplomatic initiatives on this and other nuclear issues by fulfilling its commitment to increase its defense budget. Russia takes seriously NATO’s policy of regarding an attack on any member as an attack on all members. The best way to increase the credibility of NATO’s mutual defense commitment is for Germany to strengthen its conventional defenses, continue hosting the deployment of U.S. troops, and participating in the modest but important defense measures in the Baltic states.

I hope Germany will remember that Trump became president through our peculiar electoral college system, which awarded him the job after losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Although our system may be flawed, it does self-correct, and that slow process has begun. America is, at long last, rising to the challenge that Trump poses to our institutions and our friends in the world. Our press is vibrant; our courts remain independent; and the mid-term elections have just returned control of the U.S. House of Representatives to the opposition party; even the executive branch agencies have just delivered a stinging rebuke to the administration’s shameful denial of climate change science.

I especially want to highlight the significance of the Democratic Party winning control over the House of Representatives. Defense funding must pass the Senate and the House to become law. Democratic Party leaders have been opposed to Trump’s plan to introduce new nuclear weapons and they advocate a “no-first-use” policy for the U.S. deterrent.

There will be tensions as Germany looks after its obligations and pursues its national interests. But Americans need to remember what close friends do to protect each other from folly. My model is the refusal of Germany to join the United States and Britain in their disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Our long-term interests were betrayed by London; not by Berlin. Likewise, when the United States violated its commitments under the 7-party Iran Nuclear Deal, Germany, Britain, and France are trying to honor theirs. A focus on our mutual long-term interests is important for the difficult days ahead.

 

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann for the Polis 180 Fireside Chat: Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe, Berlin, Germany

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