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"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."

– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
October 20, 2014
Events

The Nuclear Risk Dimension of the War On Ukraine

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Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball
Executive Director, Arms Control Association
June 20, 2022

“No matter who tries to stand in our way ... they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history ....” Russian President Vladimir Putin, February 24

"If someone wants to interfere in the situation in Ukraine from the outside and creates an unacceptable threat of a strategic nature for Russia, the response will be lightning-fast, decisions on this matter have been made,” Mr. Putin said at a meeting with members of the Council of Legislators April 27.

"Russia's response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences that you have never faced in your history. We are ready for any development of events," the Russian president added. He said that Russia has all the tools for this, "such as no one can boast of now. We will use them, if necessary," Vladimir Putin warned.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, along with his implied threats of nuclear weapons use against any who would interfere, have raised the specter of a nuclear conflict in ways we have not experienced in the post-Cold War era.

  • Russia’s war on Ukraine and the ongoing possibility of military conflict between Russian and NATO forces have significantly increased the risk of nuclear weapons use.
     
  • Unlike the extremely dangerous 13-day-long Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, the war in Ukraine, will likely last many more months. And unlike the 1962 crisis, which did not involve a sustained exchange of fire, the war in Ukraine does. As a result, the world will remain in a condition of heightened nuclear danger for some time to come.
     
  • President Putin’s statements threatening possible nuclear use, and his announcement early in the conflict that he was raising the readiness level of Russian strategic nuclear forces, are designed to ward off outside military interference by U.S. and NATO forces in his attack on Ukraine.
     
  • From a legal perspective, the International Court of Justice unanimously determined in its 1996 advisory opinion that a threat to engage in nuclear weapons use, particularly under the circumstances suggested by Mr. Putin, is contrary to international humanitarian law, and, of course, the threat to use nuclear weapons, violates the UN Charter, and under any circumstance, is prohibited by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
     
  • Putin’s threats also violate Article II of the 1973 bilateral Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, which pledged the United States and Russia to “refrain from the threat or use of force against the other Party, against the allies of the other Party and against other countries, in circumstances which may endanger international peace and security.”
     
  • So far, President Joe Biden has not engaged in inflammatory nuclear rhetoric or raised the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces. U.S. and NATO leaders have made it clear their military forces will not directly enter the conflict. Nevertheless, the risk of escalation is real. A close encounter between NATO and Russian warplanes or an attack by Russia on NATO territory or vice versa could become a flashpoint for a wider conflict.
     
  • Because Russian and U.S. strategies reserve the option—under extreme circumstances—to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear threats, fighting could quickly go nuclear. Russian nuclear doctrine states that nuclear weapons can be used in response to an attack with weapons of mass destruction or if a conventional war threatens the “very existence of the state.” Right now, these conditions do not exist. But if the Kremlin believes a serious attack on Russia is underway, it might order the use of short-range, tactical nuclear weapons to tip the military balance in its favor. Such a scenario would seem unlikely, but it cannot be ruled out.

    U.S. President Joe Biden’s new Nuclear Posture Review states that the “fundamental role” of the U.S. arsenal will be to deter nuclear attacks while still leaving open the option for nuclear first use in “extreme circumstances” to counter conventional, biological, chemical, and possibly cyberattacks.
     
  • In addition to the possibility of an escalation of the fighting beyond the borders of Ukraine to involve NATO and Russian forces and territory, there is the potential, albeit small this time, that Russia might consider the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine itself. In April, CIA Director William Burns said that although there is no sign that Russia is preparing to do so, “none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons."
     
  • Since then, Russian officials have denied there is any intention to do so because the Russian state is clearly not under imminent threat from either Ukraine or NATO. But if the Kremlin thought an attack from the United States or NATO was underway or if the Kremlin finds that Russian forces are on the verge of a catastrophic defeat in Ukraine, Putin might consider the nuclear option, perhaps beginning with the use of short-range, “tactical” nuclear weapons, to try to tip the balance in Russia’s military favor or to try to end the conflict.
     
  • Once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict, particularly between nuclear-armed adversaries, we are in completely uncharted territory. Theories that a nuclear war can be “limited” are just theories. In practice and in the fog of nuclear war, once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict involving the United States and Russia, there is no guarantee it would not quickly become an all-out nuclear conflagration. A recent Princeton Program on Science and Global Security simulation estimates the use of nuclear weapons in war between NATO and Russian forces could lead to the death and injury of nearly 100 million people in just the first few hours. As the head of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten said in 2018 after the annual Global Thunder nuclear wargame: “It ends bad. And the bad meaning it ends with global nuclear war.”
     
  • Nuclear threats and alerts of various kinds were not uncommon during the Cold War, before the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and after. But Russia’s implied nuclear threats to shield an attack by a nuclear-armed state against a non-nuclear-weapon state is unprecedented—and unacceptable—in the post-Cold War era. And since the Soviet Union dissolved, no U.S. or Russian leader has raised the alert level of nuclear forces to try to coerce a potential nuclear adversary’s behavior.
     
  • Such actions are dangerous for all sides. Nuclear threat rhetoric and orders to raise the operational readiness of Russian or U.S. nuclear forces could be also misinterpreted in ways that lead the other side to make nuclear countermoves that trigger nuclear escalatory moves, fears of an imminent attack, and potentially nuclear weapons use.
     
  • We must also understand that another feature of the war is that Russia is “using” its nuclear weapons to provide cover for a major conventional military intervention against an independent, sovereign non-nuclear-weapon state. We must also recognize that this is not a uniquely Russian idea. Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said in February 2021 that “[w]e must acknowledge the foundational nature of our nation’s strategic nuclear forces, as they create the ‘maneuver space’ for us to project conventional military power strategically.”
     
  • Putin’s invasion also underscores the fact that nuclear weapons don’t prevent major wars. Rather, they can facilitate aggression by nuclear-armed states and make wars waged by nuclear-armed states far more dangerous—especially when nuclear-armed states become pitted against one another and there is an increased risk of miscalculation and miscommunication.
     
  • Of course, Russia’s 2014 occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and its more recent invasion violates the security assurances extended to Ukraine in 1994 by the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States through the Budapest Memorandum—and makes a mockery of the negative security assurances extended to nonnuclear weapons states in the context of the NPT.
     
  • NATO countries may argue that because Russia has not attacked a NATO member, this shows the utility of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. In reality, U.S. and NATO nuclear weapons have proven to be useless in preventing Russian aggression against Ukraine.

    Instead, Ukraine’s allies and friends have responded with political, economic, and diplomatic means to help defend Ukraine and thwart the aggressor, along with military and humanitarian assistance to help Ukraine defend its territory. Even for a state or alliance possessing a robust nuclear arsenal, conventional military capabilities are key to deterring conventional attacks and to battlefield success, or failure.
     
  • Russia’s explicit nuclear threats, which President Biden and other leaders have criticized as “irresponsible,” also create a dilemma for NATO, which is a self-declared nuclear alliance that depends on maintaining the credible threat of nuclear use.

    The more NATO emphasizes the value of nuclear deterrence and the value of possessing nuclear weapons, the more legitimacy it lends to Putin’s nuclear threats and the mistaken and dangerous belief that nuclear weapons are necessary for self-defense. As Pope Francis declared in 2017: “[Nuclear weapons] exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race [and] create nothing but a false sense of security.”

Finally, the conflict has derailed the “Strategic Stability Dialogue” between Washington and Moscow that was intended to lead to negotiations on new nuclear arms reduction agreements designed to supersede the New START agreement, which will expire in early 2026.

In a statement issued to the Arms Control Association on June 2, President Biden said: “Our progress must continue beyond the New START …” But it remains unclear whether and when the U.S.-Russian dialogue will resume, let alone whether they can reach agreement on capping or further reducing their bloated arsenals beyond 2026.

As a result, neither side can say they are meeting their legally binding nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations under Article VI of the treaty, and it is more likely than not that after 2026, there will be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles—something the world has not seen in more than five decades.

Response Options: As the war drags on, it is vital that Russian, NATO, and U.S. leaders maintain lines of communication to prevent direct conflict. They must refrain from threatening nuclear rhetoric and actions that increase the risk of nuclear escalation, such as moving to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, putting strategic weapons on higher alert levels, or developing new types of nuclear weapons designed for fighting and “winning” a regional nuclear war.

In particular, the international community needs to take stronger action to strengthen the legal and political norms against nuclear weapons use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons.

We must also press the nuclear-armed states to finally take the actions necessary to fulfill their commitments to verifiably reduce and eliminate their nuclear weapons and adopt non-nuclear approaches to defense that can more effectively preserve international peace and human security.

The March 2 vote in the General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion and Putin’s decision to increase the readiness of his nuclear forces, was important but is not sufficient. We should recall that the UNGA issued a declaration in November 1961 that said that “any state using nuclear…weapons is to be considered as violating the Charter of the UN, as acting contrary to the laws of humanity and as committing a crime against mankind and civilization.”

The first meeting of states parties to the TPNW is a crucial and timely opportunity to reinforce the norms against nuclear weapons. States attending the 10th NPT Review Conference must also seek to reinforce the norm against nuclear use and nuclear threats and steer the nuclear possessor states away from nuclear confrontation and arms racing and toward a resumption of disarmament negotiations.

Bottom Lines: The nuclear dimensions of the war on Ukraine are reminders that outdated nuclear deterrence policies create unacceptable risks. If we are to eliminate the danger, we must actively reinforce the legal prohibitions and norms against nuclear weapons development, testing, possession, proliferation, and use—and press for disarmament diplomacy that leads to concrete actions that put us on the path toward the complete, irreversible, and verifiable elimination of all nuclear weapons in our lifetimes.

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WEBCAST | 2022 Annual Meeting: Marking 50 Years of Accomplishments and Charting the Course for Challenges Ahead

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We were thrilled to see friends, colleagues, and supporters again after several years at our 2022 Annual Meeting to mark a half-century of accomplishments in arms control and to chart our course of action in the years ahead. You are invited to review the program in the webcast above. 

We are grateful for the support of our 50th Anniversary Sponsors for their commitment to our efforts in the coming years. If you would like to join this select group as a 50th Anniversary sponsor, please select from the available tiers below or contact Kathy Crandall Robinson at (202) 463-8270 ext. 101. 

EVENT PROGRAM (PDF) and SPEAKERS LIST (Bios)  
0 a.m. Registration
9:15 a.m. Welcome
Daryl Kimball, executive director

Special Remarks
Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State

Special Remarks
Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, and Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima
9:30 a.m. PANEL | “The Nuclear Threat in the Wake of Russia's War on Ukraine - Lessons and Next Steps”

Elayne Whyte, former Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United Nations - Geneva

Nina Tannenwald, director of the international relations program at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies and author of The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945

Oliver Meier, senior researcher at the Berlin office of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH)

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, moderating
10:45 a.m. PANEL | “Restoring Nonproliferation and Disarmament Guardrails”

Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation

Eric Brewer, senior director of the Nuclear Materials Security Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative

Jamie Kwong, Stanton pre-doctoral fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Kelsey Davenport, policy director at the Arms Control Association, moderating
12:00 p.m. Special Presentation
The Arms Control Association: 50 Years of Accomplishment"
Keynote Speaker
Mallory Stewart, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance

Introduced by Carol Giacomo, editor, Arms Control Today
1:00 p.m. PANEL | “Arms Control for Tomorrow: Mitigating the Dangers of New Weapons Technologies"

Michael Klare, senior visiting fellow on emerging technologies at the Arms Control Association

Victoria Samson, Washington office director for the Secure World Foundation

Lindsay Rand, research assistant at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)

Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, Arms Control Association, moderating
2:00 p.m. Special Remarks
Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8)
2:15 p.m. Keynote Speaker
Izumi Nakamitsu
, Under-Secretary-General and UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

Introduced by Randy Rydell, board of directors member, Arms Control Association
2:45 p.m. PANEL | “Revitalizing the Movement for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association

Joan Rohlfing, president and chief operating officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative

Denise Duffield, associate director of Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles

Zia Mian, co-director of the Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security

Chris Wing, acting board chair of the Arms Control Association, moderating
3:35 p.m. Special Remarks
Amb. Bonnie Jenkins
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)
3:45 p.m. Closing Remarks
Future Goals for the Arms Control Association

Daryl Kimball, executive director

Following the day's discussions and keynote speakers, attendees are invited to our 50th Anniversary Reception in the gardens at the DACOR-Bacon House, located near the White House and State Department (directions).

We also invite you to become a 50th Anniversary Sponsor to help propel the Arms Control Association forward in the coming years. Visit our Sponsors page to review giving options available.

“The Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons and Russia’s War on Ukraine: Meeting the Legal and Political Challenge"

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022
11:00 am to 12:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time

Prior to and during Russia’s war against Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has threatened the possible use of nuclear weapons should other states “interfere” in Russian military operations. Such threats of the use of force are the cornerstone of nuclear deterrence but, especially where states hold the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, open the door to escalation and the actual use of nuclear weapons.

How can the international community meet the urgent challenges from the threat of use of nuclear weapons?

Our panelists included: 

  • Amb. Alexander Kmentt (Director of Disarmament, Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; President-designate for the first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW)
  • Zia Mian (co-director, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University)
  • John Burroughs (Senior Analyst, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy)
  • Alicia Sanders-Zakre (Policy and Research Coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)
  • Daryl Kimball (Executive Director, Arms Control Association)
  • Ariana N. Smith (Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy) - moderator

Sponsored by the Arms Control Association, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, and the Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security  

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President Vladimir Putin has threatened the possible use of nuclear weapons should other states interfere in Russian war in Ukraine. How can the international community meet the urgent challenges from such threat of use of nuclear weapons?

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2022 Annual Meeting: Marking 50 Years of Accomplishments and Charting the Course for Challenges Ahead

Ten Years of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria: A Look Back and A Look Ahead

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Feb 22, 2022
10:00 AM Eastern Time

In July 2012, the Syrian government publicly acknowledged for the first time what had long been suspected: that Syria possessed an arsenal of chemical weapons stockpile. A year later, in August 2013, Syrian military forces launched a large-scale Sarin gas attack outside Damascus where Syrian forces had been attempting to expel rebel forces, killing more than 1,000 people. The attack prompted international condemnation and led to international pressure for Syria to abandon its chemical weapons program.

Under pressure, Syria agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and the bulk of its chemical arsenal was removed and neutralized.

Since then, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report that Syria has not fully declared all of its chemical weapons elimination and that chemical attacks have occurred.

Our expert panel assessed the progress that has been achieved to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal, what is left to be done, and how to ensure chemical weapons are never used again.

Opening Remarks: 

  • H.E. Fernando Arias, Director-General of the OPCW

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A decade ago, credible reports began to surface about the use of chemical weapons by combatants involved in the brutal civil war in Syria. Our expert panel will assessed the progress that has been achieved to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal, what is left to be done, and how to ensure chemical weapons are never used again.

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Comments on the Nuclear Posture Review to the NPR Working Group

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Comments on the Nuclear Posture Review
to the NPR Working Group Meeting, Nov. 22, 2021
by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Thank you for the opportunity to present our perspectives on the NPR. My comments today are based on recommendations put forward in a Sept. 15 memo to the President from the Arms Control Association and about two dozen of my fellow experts and nongovernmental leaders.1

Given time constraints I am going to focus on some, but not all the points in that memo, but I would be interested in engaging on any of the points we raised in our memorandum.

Allow me to start with a couple of comments about the NPR process.

We believe this NPR working group has a responsibility to produce a full and diverse range of options for the president to consider and not to exclude options designed to deliver on the president’s clearly stated goal in the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance to “take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in [U.S.] national security strategy …”

We are deeply disturbed by press reports quoting unnamed Pentagon officials that its “not likely” to present certain nuclear policy options that the President has said he supports and wants to operationalize.

Quite frankly, a review that omits certain options or unfairly represent the pros and cons of programmatic or policy alternatives because they do neatly fit in with the views of certain agency officials would be a disservice to the president and our national security.

This review also needs to comprehensively re-examine existing assumptions calculations about issues such as the size of the arsenal, current nuclear modernization programs, and legal and political judgments about existing nuclear use doctrine, especially in consideration of the president’s stated goal of restoring the United States role as a leader on arms control.

If this working group’s NPR output does not undertake such a re-examination, it should explain to the President and the American people why it chose not to do so.

In fact, the rationale for certain judgments should also be presented to the President should also made far more transparent, especially if the NPR does not produce a standalone document but is instead more of an insert or annex to the National Defense Strategy.

Following our discussion today, I will share a written request to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy regarding whether this NPR study will or will not examine certain questions or provide the analysis behind certain judgments that will inform the options it examines.

Now, I’ll turn to some thoughts on how this NPR can advance the goals of:

  • reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use by any state,
  • narrowing the role and salience of nuclear weapons, and
  • advancing effective arms control and disarmament, particularly with Russia and China.
  1. The NPR can and should adopt a declaratory policy that substantially narrows the role of nuclear weapons, consistent with the president’s stated views.

President Biden’s views are quite clear: “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats — it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary,” he said in 2017. “Or make sense.”

We agree with that statement.

In 2020, Mr. Biden said that “the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring— and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack” and that he “will work to put that belief into practice.”

To our knowledge, no major-party presidential nominee has ever expressed such views on a declaratory policy before taking office.

The 2018 NPR, in contrast, envisioned a greater role for nuclear weapons against a wider range of threats. Unlike the Obama administration, the Trump administration defined the “extreme circumstances” under which the United States would consider nuclear use more broadly to include “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” against “U.S., allied or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”

The risks to the United States and our allies, particularly front-line states, of the possible U.S. first use of nuclear weapons in conflict would be grave.

As McGeorge Bundy, George Kennan, Robert McNamara, and Gerard Smith wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1982 about nuclear weapons first-use contingency plans in Europe: “No one has ever succeeded in advancing any persuasive reason to believe that any use of nuclear weapons, even on the smallest scale, could reliably be expected to remain limited….”

We believe, the NPR should support a declaratory policy that reflects the President’s support for President’s previously stated views.

Whether the updated U.S. declaratory policy is described as a “no first use” policy or a “sole purpose policy,”2 I believe the NPR should communicate that the United States:

  • does not intend to use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike (before an adversary launches a nuclear attack) or on warning of attack (before a reported attack arrives), and
  • has no intention of using nuclear weapons in response to a non-nuclear attack on the U.S. or our allies.

Such a shift in declaratory policy would reduce the risk of nuclear war in response to bad intelligence or a false alarm or circumstances that do not threaten the survival of our nation. It would increase strategic stability and help operationalize the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

This would send an important signal about U.S. intentions and value to the world, and it would distinguish the United States policies from those of some other bad nuclear actors.

Some argue that shifting to a “sole purpose” policy would undermine extended U.S. nuclear deterrence. This assertion doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

Such a policy would still protect U.S. allies from the threat of nuclear coercion or attacks. Due to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear conflict, the United States and its allies must be able to deter and defeat conventional attacks with conventional responses.

Moreover, the most important element of extended deterrence is the strength of the U.S. political commitment to the security of allies. President Trump’s assault on the U.S.-led alliance system has been a far greater threat to the underpinnings of extended deterrence than any potential U.S. changes to the nuclear declaratory policy.

It is certainly the case that in a few scenarios—such as a conflict with China over Taiwan, or a confrontation with Russia in the Baltic region—the United States and its allies could have difficulty promptly countering an attack with conventional weapons alone. It’s possible that China and Russia could even threaten the very existence of these nations using conventional weapons.

Yet retaining a nuclear first use option in such cases is not an effective or credible solution to this problem. Russia and China do not appear willing to forgo the ability to challenge and impose costs on the United States in a conventional conflict in their respective near abroad.

In any conflict over Taiwan, the United States is likely to have much lower interests at stake than Beijing. Threatening nuclear first use won’t ameliorate these problems and actual first use will almost certainly trigger a Russian and Chinese nuclear response resulting in devastation disproportionate to the damage inflicted by the initial aggression. The United States and its allies have no choice but to rely on conventional deterrence and non-military measures.

I hope to learn today whether the reported survey produced by the administration of allied views on this topic asked, as President Biden has suggested we should, whether “they can envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary, or would make sense?”

  1. The NPR should facilitate renewed U.S. leadership on nuclear arms control.

To strengthen U.S. and global security, the NPR should support a realistic strategy for risk reduction and nuclear arms control opportunities with our primary nuclear rivals: Russia and China. Accordingly, the NPR should reaffirm U.S. support for continued, mutual reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Before the review is completed, the U.S. government should be able to express its support at the upcoming NPT Review Conference for:

  • energetic efforts by the United States and Russia to reduce nuclear risks and maintain strategic stability, and to conclude talks on a New START follow-on agreement or agreements that achieve further, lower limits on strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems and limits for the first time on nonstrategic weapons no later than 2025
  • a pledge by all the NPT nuclear-armed states to freeze the size of their nuclear arsenals and reduce their fissile stockpiles, as the United States and Russia seek to achieve new agreements to reduce their offensive nuclear arsenals and address non-nuclear weapons that impact the strategic nuclear equation; and
  • deeper engagement between the five nuclear-armed states on nuclear disarmament pathways and on nuclear risk reduction, either bilaterally and/or through a new multilateral format.

Forging new arms control arrangements to address the range of nuclear and non-nuclear systems—strategic warheads and launchers, short-range and intermediate-range weapons, new hypersonic weapons, and missile defenses—will be difficult and time-consuming.

But such arrangements are possible and are the best way to reduce the threats posed by Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

The president also recently proposed options for a nuclear risk reduction and arms control dialogue with China. If arms control with China is going to stand a chance of success, U.S. and Chinese leaders will need to exercise restraint and be willing to address the concerns of the other.

It would be unwise to condition any further arms control engagement with Russia, including further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, on the participation or cooperation from China. The Trump administration pursued such an approach and it failed.

  1. The NPR should put the U.S. in a position to further reduce the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Despite reckless behavior on the part of Russia and China and their pursuit of a more diverse array of nuclear weapons, we believe the size and diversity of the U.S. nuclear arsenal still exceeds what is necessary to maintain an effective deterrent.

President Obama announced in 2013 that the United States could safely reduce its deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third below New START levels. The analysis concluded the United States could independently reduce is deployed arsenal to this level and still hold adversary targets at risk so as to deter nuclear attack. But the administration made a political decision to pursue such reductions bilaterally with Russia. The rationale for a smaller force still holds.

An up-to-one-third reduction in deployed strategic forces would still leave the United States with ample nuclear capability with which to trade as part of new arms control arrangements with Russia (or in the future China). Even after such a reduction, the United States would retain rough parity with Russia in the number of strategic delivery systems and warheads. Moreover, while past strategic nuclear arms control agreements have included equal ceilings on strategic forces, some agreements have included ranges for the ceilings.

Any increase in the number of U.S. nuclear weapons above New START would not enhance deterrence in the face of China’s growing nuclear capabilities. In fact, it would make it more likely that China would pursue a more substantial buildup of its nuclear forces over the coming decade.

The NPR and the President should take a fresh look at the guidance and requirements that inform how many nuclear weapons the United States maintains to hold enemy targets at risk in order to deter nuclear attack. The development and installation of so-called super-fuze components appear to have made U.S. strategic warheads significantly more accurate and more reliable than previous warhead variants. While this may increase adversary concerns about the vulnerability of their second-strike forces, it also means that fewer deployed and reserve warheads are needed to hold key adversary targets at risk.

The Pentagon should develop a range of force sizing options based on the guidance and direction of the President, outline the damage expectancy assumptions for the targets in current U.S. nuclear war plans, and describe how combatant commands consider nuclear forces in their operational planning.

  1. The NPR should provide options for a more cost-effective nuclear modernization plan in keeping with a more integrated approach to deterring adversaries.

Supporters of the current modernization approach claim that the only choice is to proceed full steam ahead with the status quo or allow the U.S. nuclear arsenal to rust into obsolescence. This is a false choice.

The warning signs indicating that the current modernization plans cannot be achieved on budget or on schedule and will force painful cuts to other military priorities more relevant to countering Russia and China are everywhere. And they are increasingly flashing bright red. It is not at all clear that the Biden administration fully appreciates the magnitude of the challenge it is facing.

Adjusting long-standing and more recently adopted nuclear planning assumptions would enable changes to the current nuclear modernization effort that could advance U.S. arms control goals vis-à-vis Russia and China.

We have identified several options to reduce the scope of the modernization plans that would save scores of billions of dollars over the next decade and still allow the United States to maintain a devastating nuclear force.3

For example, reshaping the spending plans consistent with an up-to-one-third reduction in deployed nuclear warheads could save at least $80 billion through 2030 while still allowing the United States to maintain a nuclear triad. Such an amount would, for example, be more than enough to fulfill Indo-Pacific Command’s request earlier this year for $22.7 billion to augment the U.S. conventional defense posture in the region through fiscal year 2027 via the Pacific Deterrence Initiative.

Among other changes to the modernization program, we and others have recommended that the administration should delay the development of a new $264 billion ICBM via the GBSD program and believe the United States can continue to rely on the Minuteman III ICBM for an additional period of time and at less cost over that period than the GBSD program. We believe the assumptions undergirding the GBSD program are flawed and have called for a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility and cost of extending the life of the Minuteman III.

Past independent assessments indicate that it is possible to extend the life of the existing Minuteman III missiles beyond their planned retirement in the 2030 timeframe by refurbishing the rocket motors and other parts. In 2017, CBO projected that deferring the new missile portion of GBSD by two decades, extending the life of the Minuteman III missiles, and proceeding with the refurbishment of the system’s command and control infrastructure as planned could save $37 billion (in 2017 dollars) through the late 2030s.

It is our understanding that the Pentagon has rejected a proposal made by some Members of Congress to contract the JASON defense advisory group to assess the feasibility of extending the life of the Minuteman III and is instead working with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to host a series of meetings with a spectrum of experts and former officials to consider how to proceed with the ICBM force.

A series of expert meetings and a report summarizing their discussion is all well and good. But it is not a substitute for an independent technical feasibility assessment by the JASONs or cost estimate from DoD’s CAPE office.

If the Pentagon fails to initiate such assessments, this NPR will have failed to explore a full range of reasonable policy options. I hope to learn today whether, and if so, why the Department has refused to look more fully at potential alternatives to GBSD.

We also believe this NPR should reverse the decisions made by the Trump administration to field the new lower-yield W76-2 warhead variant on Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile and begin development of a new nuclear sea-launched cruise missile.

These weapons, which are ostensibly intended to provide more nuclear war-fighting options, are unnecessary to deter or, if needed, respond to limited adversary nuclear use and could exacerbate competition with Russia and China and invite miscalculation in a crisis by lowering the threshold for nuclear use.

We have also been disturbed to learn that the NPR is apparently not seriously evaluating potential alternatives to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) excessive and clearly un-executable warhead modernization and production facility recapitalization plans.

We also urge the NPR to scale back plans for pursuing an ever-wider array of costly new warhead types requiring the large-scale production of new plutonium pits, including the W87-1 and W93 as currently planned. By making a few commonsense choices, a sustainable stockpile can remain effective for decades at far lower cost and with substantially less risk than seeking to build new warheads with an excessive number of new pits.

To those who argue that adjusting U.S. nuclear modernization plans would reduce U.S. leverage to achieve new arms control agreements, a reality check.

First, a close examination of the history of U.S.-Russian arms control shows that increased U.S. spending on nuclear weapons does not translate into arms control success. For example, the U.S. and NATO decision to field new ground-launched nuclear missiles in Europe in the early 1980s is often cited as being essential to convincing Moscow to agree to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

But the actual fielding of the new weapons beginning in 1983 prompted Moscow to walk out of arms control talks. The talks did not resume until 1985 following the major political change in the Soviet Union that accompanied Mikhail Gorbachev’s ascension to leader.

Second, even if the current U.S. modernization program were an effective bargaining chip, the chip can’t be cashed in anytime soon. The program won’t produce an appreciable number of new delivery systems until the late 2020s at the earliest.

Third, the Trump administration’s repeated threats to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal did not force the current Russian and Chinese leadership to capitulate to maximalist U.S. demands for a new arms control agreement.

Moscow has identified constraints on U.S. non-nuclear weapons, such as missile defense and advanced conventional strike capabilities, as priority conditions for further Russian nuclear cuts, especially cuts to Russia’s new “novel” strategic range delivery systems and large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear warheads. Russia has also repeatedly said it is willing to negotiate a verifiable arrangement to limit intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles.

The success or failure of new arms control talks will rise or fall in large part based on how these issues are addressed, not whether, for instance, the United States builds a new ICBM or new ground-launched cruise missiles.

  1. U.S. nuclear plans should fully comport with international law.

In 2013, the Obama administration asserted that all U.S. nuclear weapons use plans “must …be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Law of Armed Conflict.” In 2018, the Trump administration reaffirmed that any U.S. nuclear military operations “would adhere to the law of armed conflict,” and its principles of distinction and proportionality. The United States also accepts that it is legally required, under the principle of precaution, to take all feasible measures to minimize incidental damage to civilian populations and civilian objects.

Unfortunately, as other experts have noted,4 these assurances are undermined by the fact that the United States has not to date foresworn the possibility that it might direct nuclear attacks against the civilian population, or otherwise launch attacks that cause disproportionate civilian harm, by relying on the customary international law doctrine of belligerent reprisal.

If we are to operate according to a “rules-based international order,” certain states cannot bend the rules to suit their narrow national security aims. In a democracy, we must also be transparent about what we think the rules are and why. Other states, and other serious lawyers, consider the potential use of nuclear weapons on the scale envisioned in the U.S. nuclear war plan to be incompatible with international law, particularly International Humanitarian Law.5

This NPR should provide a detailed explanation to support the assertion that U.S. nuclear weapons use plans are consistent with the Law of Armed Conflict and provide an explanation as to why the U.S. government believes it is permissible under customary international law, to target civilians intentionally or consequentially by way of reprisal using nuclear or other weapons.

  1. The MDR and the NPR

Closely related to the NPR is the Missile Defense Review. The MDR should take into account the interrelationship between strategic offenses and defenses and the effect of missile interceptor deployments that can exacerbate strategic offensive nuclear threats from Russia and China.

The stated goal of U.S. missile programs should be clearly focused on countering limited ballistic missile threats from regional adversaries, particularly North Korea and Iran. In addition, the United States should be able to define how much missile defense is enough to defend against limited rogue state missile attacks.

Further expansion of certain systems with strategic capabilities, such as the SM3 Block IIA interceptor, which has been tested against an ICBM-class target, is unlikely to provide meaningful additional capability against North Korea but will likely exacerbate Russian and Chinese offensive missile developments.

The Pentagon’s own assessments, including the annual report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, consistently note that China’s nuclear advances are, in part, a response to concerns about how missile defense can affect its strategic nuclear retaliatory capabilities.

We believe the MDR should clearly outline the scope and limits of long-term U.S. plans to develop and deploy long-range missile defenses and specify what adversary actions might change those plans to help dissuade China and Russia from pursuing potentially dangerous offensive countermeasures.

Concluding Thoughts

When it comes to addressing the threats posed by nuclear weapons, the world is watching to see whether the United States is actually “back” as a leader.

Is the United States prepared to take real actions that reduce the role of nuclear weapons, to nuclear risks, and slow and reverse a burgeoning nuclear arms race?

Or is it just another major nuclear power, not unlike Russia or China, that is, albeit more transparently, developing new nuclear capabilities, ignoring its NPT disarmament obligations, and reacting to worst-case assumptions about the intentions its adversaries?

In the end, this NPR will be measured in terms of whether the United States:

  1. Meaningfully reduces the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy;
  2. Continues the pursuit of the new nuclear weapons capabilities launched during the Trump administration; and
  3. Reaffirms the United States commitment to the steadfast and pragmatic pursuit of effective arms control and disarmament measures that help to fulfill the United States’ solemn legal obligations and commitments under Article VI of the NPT on disarmament.

Thank you for your attention.

ENDNOTES

1. “A Call for Changes to Outdated Nuclear Weapons Thinking,” letter to President Biden, Sept. 15. Online at: https://www.armscontrol.org/sites/default/files/files/documents/Letter_NPR_POTUS-09152021.pdf

2. "Sole Purpose Is Not No First Use: Nuclear Weapons and Declaratory Policy," by Ankit Panda and Vipin Narang in War On the Rocks, Feb. 22, 2021. Online at: https://warontherocks.com/2021/02/sole-purpose-is-not-no-first-use- nuclear-weapons-and-declaratory-policy/

3. U.S. Nuclear Excess: Understanding the Costs, Risks, and Alternatives, an Arms Control Association report, April 2019. See: https://www.armscontrol.org/sites/default/files/files/Reports/Report_NuclearExcess2019_update0410.pdf

4. See: Scott Sagan and Allen Weiner,“The Illegality of Targeting Civilians by Way of Belligerent Reprisal: Implications for U.S. Nuclear Doctrine,” in Just Security, May 10, 2021. Online at: https://www.justsecurity.org/76049/the-illegality-of-targeting-civilians-by-way-of-belligerent-reprisal-implications-for-u-s-nuclear-doctrine/

5. See: Charles J. Moxley, Jr., John Burroughs and Jonathan Granoff, “Nuclear Weapons and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Fordham International Law Journal (Vol. 34, No. 4, 2011). Online at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/603410a4be1db058065ce8d4/t/605b50629ac3ac26cb5d3eef/1616597090 889/Fordhamfinaljoint.pdf

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by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

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Special Briefing with Rep. Don Beyer on the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group

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Thursday, December 9, 2021
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Members of the Arms Control Association attended a special briefing with Representative Don Beyer (VA-8) on the work of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group. Mr. Beyer provided an update on the working group and its efforts to encourage U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reduction talks and support for reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons through the Biden administration's Nuclear Posture Review.

If you wish to participate in future members-only briefings, we invite you to join or renew your membership today. 

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Mr. Beyer will provide an update on the working group and its efforts to encourage U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reduction talks and support for reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons through the Biden administration's Nuclear Posture Review.

Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons: A Book Talk with Herb Lin, Ph.D.

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Friday, December 3, 2021
12:00 noon - 1:00pm Eastern time

The technology controlling United States nuclear weapons predates the Internet. In his new book Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons, published in October 2021, Herb Lin writes that updating the technology for the digital era is necessary, but it comes with the risk that anything digital can be hacked or be subjected to offensive cyber attack. He cautions that using new systems for both nuclear and non-nuclear operations will lead to levels of nuclear risk hardly imagined before.

In this webinar, Lin summarized the scope of cyber risks to U.S. nuclear weapons and outline his recommendations on how government can manage the tensions between new nuclear capabilities and increasing cyber risk.

Download Professor Lin's slides (pdf format).

Lin is a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and is Chief Scientist, Emeritus for the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies of Science. In 2016, he served on President Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. He was a professional staff member and staff scientist for the House Armed Services Committee (1986-1990), where his portfolio included defense policy and arms control issues. Herb is also a member of the Arms Control Association and advisor for our “Arms Control Tomorrow” project of mitigating the risks of new weapons technologies.

Purchase "Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons" via our Amazon Associates store. 

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The Arms Control Association hosted a discussion with Herb Lin about the major themes and recommendations in his new book Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons published in October 2021. 

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China’s Nuclear Expansion: The Challenges, Implications, and Risk Reduction Options

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021
2:00 - 3:30pm Eastern time
via Zoom webinar

As the Biden administration continues to conduct a review of U.S. nuclear weapons policy scheduled to be completed in early 2022, China appears to be in pursuit of a significant and concerning expansion in the diversity and size of its nuclear forces.

Speakers

  • Gerald Brown, defense analyst at Valiant Integrated Services
  • Rose Gottemoeller, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and deputy secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Lynn Rusten, vice president of the Global Nuclear Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative
  • Daryl Kimball (moderator), executive director of the Arms Control Association

Our speakers addressed the factors that appear to be driving China to augment its nuclear capabilities and what those advancements mean for strategic and regional stability, the importance of dialogue and engagement with Beijing on nuclear risk reduction and options for doing so, and the implications of China’s nuclear advances for U.S. nuclear force posture and modernization.

The Defense Department now projects that China is expected to exceed the department’s earlier estimate that Beijing is poised to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile over the next decade. Recent analysis of satellite imagery by respected nongovernmental organizations has revealed the construction of at least 250 new missile silos at as many as three locations across China. Beijing also conducted over the summer two tests associated with the development of hypersonic weapons, one of which potentially involved a long-range nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space and circled the globe.

The Pentagon’s latest annual report on China Military Power slated to be released this month highlights several of these and other Chinese nuclear advances.

The Biden administration has expressed grave concerns about China’s nuclear advances and argued that “Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.” The administration seeks to commence a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction with Beijing, but thus far, China has rebuffed the prospect.

Whether China implements the projected nuclear buildup over the next several years remains to be seen and is likely to be determined by several variables. These variables include the trajectory of the overall U.S.-China strategic relationship, U.S. and allied military deployments in the Indo-Pacific, and advances in U.S. long-range conventional strike and missile defense capabilities.

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As the Biden administration continues to conduct a review of U.S. nuclear weapons policy scheduled to be completed in early 2022, China appears to be in pursuit of a significant and concerning expansion of the diversity and the size of its nuclear forces.

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Toward a Balanced Outcome at the Tenth NPT Review Conference

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Remarks by
Daryl G. Kimball
Nuclear Discussion Forum at the Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations
October 26, 2021

Executive director Daryl G. Kimball, speaking at the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, October 26, 2021 Thank you, Ambassador Ilyassov, for the invitation to speak, and thanks to the Mission of Kazakhstan for bringing us all together to refocus our attention on the pivotal, but delayed, Tenth Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference January 2-28, 2022.

As we assess what will take to achieve a balanced and successful outcome in 2022, it is important to recollect key experiences, lessons, and commitments from past NPT review cycles.

Twenty-six years ago, as states parties negotiated the terms for the extension of the NPT, the future of the treaty was not assured.

But in 1995, at the treaty’s Review and Extension Conference, world leaders and diplomats managed to come together to craft a balanced plan to advance key goals on disarmament and nonproliferation and extend this bedrock agreement to reduce nuclear dangers.

On May 11, 1995, NPT states parties committed to the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons” and specific disarmament actions as part of a balanced package of decisions. Additional specific commitments were made at the 2000 and 2010 review conferences to advance implementation and compliance with all three pillars of the treaty.

The 1995, 2000, and 2010 commitments with few exceptions remain relevant and important, but the disarmament-related commitments remain largely been unfulfilled.

They should now be reaffirmed, updated, and implemented in good faith. These commitments represent a collective determination of how to comply with Article VI. Abandoning or undercutting them would represent a lack of respect for the NPT process and cast doubt on the value of the NPT Review process itself.

Undoubtedly, NPT states parties will need to come together on many key issues at the NPT Review Conference in January, including action strengthening nuclear safeguards and steps toward addressing regional nonproliferation goals, among others.

But the success of this pivotal review conference will, more than anything, hinge on how and whether they can develop an updated, meaningful action plan on disarmament that helps to address the growing disarmament deficit.

The Disarmament Deficit

Since at least 2010, the nuclear disarmament process has been stalled, and the five NPT nuclear-armed states cannot credibly claim they are meeting their NPT Article VI obligations.

Today, tensions among the world’s nuclear-armed states are rising; the risk of nuclear use is growing; hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to replace and upgrade the already bloated arsenals of the world’s nine possessors of nuclear weapons; key agreements that have kept nuclear competition in check are in serious jeopardy.

The United States, Russia, China, and the U.K., to varying degrees, are all engaged in a qualitative and quantitative arms race. At the last moment, Presidents Biden and Putin extended the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty, New START, and relaunched a strategic security dialogue that could evolve into nuclear disarmament talks. Progress is possible but is by no means assured.

Meanwhile, China, the United Kingdom, and France remain on the sidelines and are not part of any serious nuclear disarmament discussion or negotiation. The so-called P5 Process, while useful in many ways, is simply not an effective forum to exchange, let alone negotiate, serious disarmament proposals. And there is growing evidence that China is preparing to double or triple the size of its long-range, nuclear-armed ballistic missile force.

Consequently, as we approach the delayed 10th NPT Review Conference, we are once again are at a crossroads in the long-running journey to reduce the threat of nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons.

All states must approach the upcoming NPT Review Conference with a sense of urgency, a spirit of cooperation, a willingness to be flexible, and a determination to produce meaningful results that transcend old fault lines, particularly regarding the disarmament “pillar” of the NPT.

To achieve a successful outcome at this NPT Review Conference, states parties must not only reaffirm their past commitments and objectively review recent progress—or lack thereof—on meeting treaty goals and commitments—they must focus on developing an updated, focused action plan on disarmament.

No Excuses

U.S. and Russian leadership on nuclear risk reduction and disarmament has been a key to the success of pivotal NPT Review Conferences in the past. Unfortunately, neither can provide any evidence of progress on disarmament in recent years.

We can expect U.S. and Russian officials to remind us that since the end of the Cold War 40 years ago, their arsenals have declined significantly. While true, nearly all those reductions occurred before 2010.

We can expect the nuclear-armed states will continue to claim that many past NPT commitments on disarmament have been overtaken by events. Some will bemoan the fact that the “environment” for progress on disarmament is challenging and they will each claim they are open to talks on disarmament under the right diplomatic terms.

History shows that progress on disarmament can be achieved during times of tension, and that tensions can be eased, trust can be rebuilt through effective negotiations on nuclear arms control.

In 1979, for instance, during the height of the Cold War, then-Sen. Biden spoke at the Arms Control Association Annual Dinner about “The Necessity of Nuclear Arms Control,” noting that “pursuing arms control is not a luxury or a sign of weakness, but an international responsibility and a national necessity.”

Some of the nuclear-armed states may continue to oppose any recognition of the fact that since the 2015 NPT Review Conference many of the NPT’s non-nuclear member states successfully concluded the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a contribution to meeting their NPT Article VI obligations.

Some may even resist recognizing the grave health and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons production, testing, and use—otherwise known as catastrophic humanitarian impacts.

Such deflection of responsibility for inaction is unconstructive and irresponsible.

Next Steps on Disarmament

Instead, the five nuclear-armed NPT states should acknowledge the continued validity of their past disarmament commitments and work with other NPT states to develop an updated action plan that sets benchmarks for progress over the next several years.

Notwithstanding tensions between the nuclear-armed states, the conference can and should develop a forward-looking action plan that:

  • commits NPT states parties to take near-term steps that meaningfully reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons,
  • seeks to bring all nuclear-armed states into the nuclear disarmament process, and
  • creates new momentum to put us back on the path toward the common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Key elements should be rooted in the 2010 NPT action plan and can be derived from statements and proposals from the NAM, the NAC, the Stockholm Initiative, and the NPDI, as well as the commitments and policies of nuclear-weapon states themselves.

It might include the following measures which might be codified in a joint statement designed to become an element of the final conference document:

  • a call for the United States and Russia to conclude talks on a New START follow-on agreement or agreements that achieve further, lower limits on strategic and nonstrategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems no later than 2025
  • a pledge by all the NPT nuclear-armed states to freeze the size of their nuclear arsenals and reduce their fissile stockpiles, as the United States and Russia seek to achieve new agreements to reduce their offensive nuclear arsenals and limit their strategic missile interceptor systems
  • a call for all five nuclear-armed states to agree to begin to engage in disarmament talks, either bilaterally and/or through a new multilateral format, no later than 2025
  • reaffirmation by all nuclear-armed states of their de facto nuclear testing moratoria, the negotiation of voluntary nuclear test confidence-building measures to address concerns about compliance pending CTBT entry into force, and action by the eight remaining CTBT holdout states to ratify the treaty before 2025
  • a call for a halt to the introduction of new types of nuclear weapons and nuclear-armed cruise and hypersonic missiles
  • a commitment by the nuclear-weapon states to adopt and report on specific policies that reduce the role and salience and risk of use of nuclear weapons, including a phaseout to Cold War-era “launch under attack” postures, which increase the risk of accidental nuclear war
  • a recognition of the fact that any use of nuclear weapons would produce catastrophic humanitarian consequences and that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

In the absence of coherent and constructive leadership from the nuclear-weapon states, other responsible and concerned NPT states parties need to fill the void and work together for a good outcome.

Sweden, Germany, Kazakhstan, and other states have made some strides toward a common framework on the next steps on nuclear disarmament. Leaders of the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons and key members of the Non-Aligned Movement also have a role to play.

We all need to act with the urgency that the threats posed by nuclear weapons demand.

If we are to reduce the nuclear threat and prevent the possible third use of nuclear weapons, we cannot afford to squander the opportunity to act while we still can.

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Remarks by Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball for the Nuclear Discussion Forum at the Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations

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