"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
May 2014
Edition Date: 
Friday, May 2, 2014
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The April 2014 news article “Drone Proliferation Tests Arms Control” misstated the year in which the Missile Technology Control Regime covered unmanned aerial vehicles. It was 1987.

Future of ‘3+2’ Warhead Plan in Doubt

Tom Z. Collina

Amid mounting congressional and military concern about the program’s high cost and untested approach, the Obama administration has slowed key parts of its plan announced last year to rebuild the U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads, raising the possibility that the initiative will not be fully implemented.

Announced in June 2013 by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the “3+2” strategy has a sticker price of $60 billion and calls for extending the service life of five nuclear warhead types, three of which would be “interoperable” on land- and sea-based ballistic missiles, an approach that has not been tried before. Two other warhead types would be used on bombers, and two of the seven current warhead types would be retired.

The administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2015, which was released in March, delays funding for much of the program. The administration released further details in its fiscal year 2015 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, released April 11 by the NNSA, a semiautonomous part of the Energy Department that is responsible for maintaining nuclear warheads.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces on April 10, Acting NNSA Administrator Bruce Held said that the first interoperable warhead had been delayed for five years due to fiscal constraints, but warned that additional delays would “break” the stockpile strategy and “put the nation in a very difficult position.”

More delays, however, may be coming. In an April 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a senior Democratic congressional staffer said that the future of interoperable warheads “is uncertain because the costs seem to outweigh the benefits—very expensive, high technical risk… and no clear military requirement [for it].” He added that resolving these problems “will be very difficult, if not impossible, especially for an agency that has a long list of governance and project management problems.”

Speaking at George Washington University on March 24, former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Penrose “Parney” Albright, who supports the 3+2 plan, said, “I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” according to an account in the Nuclear Security and Deterrence Monitor.

Costs and Risks

Congress has repeatedly questioned the wisdom of the 3+2 approach, citing the cost and risks involved with the interoperable warheads. The NNSA plans to use insensitive high explosives in the first of three interoperable warheads, known as the IW-1. Such explosives are less prone to accidental detonation than conventional high explosives, but take up more space inside a warhead.

To use insensitive explosives, the NNSA would have to use parts from two different, existing warheads; those parts never have been used together. Such combinations have never been introduced into the nuclear stockpile without nuclear tests, which the United States no longer conducts. (See ACT, September 2013.)

Insensitive explosives are already used in warheads on the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers but not on the Navy’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The Navy has questioned whether the use of insensitive explosives is worth the added cost for its missiles, which spend most of their time protected inside submarines under the sea.

The 2015 stockpile plan makes clear that although the administration still supports the 3+2 plan and that near-term efforts are on track, other projects have been significantly slowed. The life extension program for the Navy’s W76 SLBM warhead is on schedule for completion in 2019, and the B61-12 gravity bomb would be produced from 2020 to 2024, a slight delay. The B61 project, costing about $10 billion, would refurbish about 400 of the gravity bombs that are used on long-range bombers in the United States and tactical fighter aircraft in Europe. Under the administration’s request, the program would be funded at $643 million for fiscal year 2015, an increase of $106 million, or 20 percent, over the fiscal year 2014 congressional appropriation. (See ACT, April 2014.)

The next warheads in the 3+2 queue, however, are increasingly in doubt. A rebuilt warhead for a new Air Force cruise missile for the new long-range bomber that the Air Force is planning has been delayed by up to three years, from 2024 to 2027. The IW-1 has been delayed from 2025 to 2030. These delays mean that key development decisions will not be made until well into the next administration, increasing program uncertainty.

Donald Cook, NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs, testified before the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on April 3 that the NNSA needed to defer development of the IW-1 “based on budget availability” and that the two warhead types it would replace, the W78 ICBM warhead and the W88 SLBM warhead, “are aging as predicted. We believe we understand where they are.” The administration’s proposed budget provides no money for the next five years for this program, which is receiving $38 million in fiscal year 2014.

Albright, who resigned in October, said the IW-1 delay could undermine the entire 3+2 strategy. According to the Monitor account, Albright noted that the NNSA plans to upgrade non-nuclear parts of the Navy’s W88 warhead and said that once that happens, the Navy “almost certainly will argue” that replacing the W88 with an interoperable warhead would cost “too much money.” Albright said the Navy would prefer to simply refurbish the W88, “which is what they did on the W76.” The W76 life extension program cost $4 billion, compared to a projected $11 billion for the IW-1.

In turn, extending the service life of the W88 separately could decrease the Air Force’s incentive to refurbish the W78, which could instead be retired and replaced by the W87 as the only ICBM warhead, Albright said.

Beyond that, the proposed IW-2 and IW-3 warheads are distant prospects, with no production planned until 2034 or later, at costs of $15 billion and $20 billion, respectively.

In an April 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a senior Republican congressional staffer said he was concerned by the IW-1 delay, since it means also delaying refurbishment of the W78 warhead. That “adds risk to the ICBM hedge force if something ages out in the W78,” he said.

“If there isn’t meaningful work for our weapons designers, they could look outside the labs for meaningful employment,” he said.

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Pentagon Sets Numbers for New START

Tom Z. Collina

The Defense Department announced in April that it had finalized its plans for implementing nuclear arsenal reductions under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia. The final numbers differ only slightly from projections the administration made four years ago.

New START limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 long-range delivery vehicles, composed of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and bombers. The treaty also limits each country to 800 deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers.

In May 2010, soon after President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed New START, the White House informed the Senate that its 700 delivery vehicles would comprise 420 Minuteman III ICBMs, 60 B-2 and B-52 bombers, and 240 Trident D-5 SLBMs, for a total of 720, or 20 more than allowed. (See ACT, June 2010.)

As of last year, the United States fielded about 450 ICBMs, 260 SLBMs, and 90 bombers, according to the State Department.

As required by the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon issued a report last month stating that the extra 20 delivery vehicles will be taken from the overall number of ICBMs, bringing the total down to 400. The United States had previously said that all Minuteman III ICBMs are to be reduced to a single warhead and that the number of SLBM launch tubes will be reduced from 24 to 20 on each of 14 Ohio-class submarines, only 12 of which are deployed at a time.

50 ‘Warm’ Silos

The recent Pentagon announcement specifies the number of nondeployed missile launchers and bombers that the United States will retain. The major surprise, according to congressional staffers, was that the United States will maintain all 454 ICBM silos, with 400 silos holding missiles and 54 sitting empty but “warm,” meaning they can be reactivated. The 50 extra ICBMs will be kept in storage. New START places no limits on delivery vehicles in storage.

The Air Force will determine which 50 missiles will be pulled from the 450 silos currently in use across the three missile fields. Four test launchers at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California are also counted as nondeployed launchers.

The decision to keep all of the ICBM silos came after a strong push by members of Congress from the states with ballistic missile bases—Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming—against eliminating any silos.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) called the Pentagon’s announcement “a big win for our nation’s security and for Malmstrom Air Force Base,” home of the 341st Missile Wing with 150 Minuteman III missiles. “ICBMs are the most cost-effective nuclear deterrent, and keeping silos warm is a smart decision,” Tester said.

Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Air Force commander of all U.S. ICBMs, said keeping the silos warm would avoid any personnel cuts. He told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on April 18 that “We still have to maintain 45 launch control centers, we still have to maintain the three wings, and we still need the same amount of maintenance people.”

Nominations Unblocked

Senators from the ICBM coalition had said they would block nuclear policy-related nominations unless their demands were met. For example, the only Democratic senators to vote against the nomination of Rose Gottemoeller to be undersecretary of state for arms control and international security were Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and John Walsh (Mont.), all from ICBM states. (See ACT, April 2014.) Lawmakers from ICBM states had also put a hold on the nomination of Madelyn Creedon, currently an assistant secretary of defense, for a top position with the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and of Frank Rose to replace Gottemoeller at the State Department as an assistant secretary.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told The Wall Street Journal on April 8 that, with the decision to preserve the ICBM silos, the coalition would lift its holds and allow the nominations to proceed.

To keep all 450 silos, the military will have to make other cuts to the nuclear force to meet the limits of 800 deployed and nondeployed launchers. The Navy will remove 40 SLBMs from two submarines in dock, a plan it had previously announced, and the Air Force will convert 30 B-52H bombers to conventional aircraft so they cannot carry nuclear weapons.

Under the treaty, the United States does not have to reach New START limits until February 2018. It plans to make “many reductions toward the end” of the implementation period, according to the Pentagon announcement. The treaty specifies that each party can decide for itself how to structure its forces to comply with the limits.

Defense officials said the force structure plan was announced now because the first submarine is scheduled for maintenance in October and the number of launch tubes needs to be reduced from 24 to 20 during that time. The submarine conversions need to be planned within a strict schedule, officials said.

The Pentagon report said implementation of New START would cost $301 million from 2014 to 2018.

According to State Department figures released April 1, the United States remains above New START limits with 1,585 strategic warheads deployed on 778 delivery vehicles. Russia is below treaty limits with 1,512 warheads on 498 delivery vehicles.

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Getting to Know Eric Schlosser

Interviewed by Jefferson Morley

“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that will introduce Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety (2013), is perhaps an unlikely nuclear expert. Best known for his 2001 book Fast Food Nation, the 54-year-old author has never worked in academia, the military, or the government. Yet, Command and Control has won rave reviews and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in history. It also earned Schlosser an invitation to give a talk at the nuclear security summit in The Hague. That is where Arms Control Today caught up with him by phone March 26. The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

You wrote books about fast food and illicit drugs [Reefer Madness]. How did you get from there to nuclear weapons?

In the late 1990s, I became interested in the future of warfare in space. Many of the officers I spent time with at the Air Force Space Command talked about their experiences in the Cold War. One of the stories I heard was the Damascus accident story [in which a fuel-leak explosion destroyed a nuclear missile launch pad in rural Arkansas in September 1980]. It lodged in my mind. I was originally just going to write [it] as a minute-by-minute description of a nuclear weapons accident. When I heard about the safety problems with our arsenal, [the book] got bigger. And as I learned about command and control machines and nuclear targeting, it just got bigger and bigger.

Did you study the subject in school?

When I was an undergraduate, I studied game theory and nuclear strategy. During the 1980s, as the Cold War really heated up, I was a supporter of the nuclear freeze movement. So I was more conversant with these issues than maybe an ordinary student might be.

What was the moment that made you want to write Command and Control?

It was something in the zeitgeist. I felt that this was the greatest national security threat we face. And then, going back to the Damascus accident, I had tracked down one of the principal people, and it was just an extraordinary narrative. Then I came upon the work of the Drell panel, appointed by Congress in 1990, to look at problems in our arsenal. Reading their report, [I thought] “My God, maybe this weapon really could have detonated in Arkansas.” I don’t want to exaggerate how likely detonation would have been. It was a low probability. But it was also a low probability that dropping a socket wrench would destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Do you think the book is having an impact?

I feel like the book has been read at a high level in our own country and in other countries. It’s very gratifying that the book has been read by the people who have the power to do something.

What was your biggest frustration?

The [Freedom of Information Act] requests took a couple of years. By comparing the documents I received that had been censored by different people, I was able to piece together what had been excised. Overwhelmingly, what was excised was information that [would] embarrass the national security bureaucracy. I found that frustrating. This secrecy has helped to prevent real debate and discussion.

What’s the best comment you’ve heard from a reader?

The comments that have meant the most have been from enlisted personnel in the Air Force who served in the nuclear mission [and] who felt that their service was honored and recognized.

Are you hopeful about the nuclear weapons issue?

When I was writing the book, I was less hopeful. I was just so immersed in the minutiae of war planning and weapons designs…. Now that it’s done, I am hopeful, but I’m deeply concerned too. The Ukraine crisis has increased my concerns. It’s a real setback in disarmament…. [It] is worth keeping in mind that the first Cold War was not a nuclear war. Most of the people who I spent time with in this world [of nuclear weapons] were stunned by the fact that there wasn’t a nuclear exchange, that there wasn’t even an accidental detonation. That helps me feel optimistic.

There are still 17,000 nuclear weapons; at one point there were 50,000 to 60,000. It doesn’t have to end badly, but I think we as a people need to make sure it doesn’t end badly.

The author of Command and Control talks about the origins of the highly praised book and about the risks of nuclear weapons.

A Work in Progress: UN Security Resolution 1540 After 10 Years

Igor Khripunov

The first decade of the 21st century saw the international community take new legal measures to prevent weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from falling into the hands of nonstate actors. Together with the discovery of the Abdul Qadeer Khan nuclear proliferation network in 2004, the September 11 attacks in 2001 represented a wake-up call. These events triggered a search for viable options to expeditiously remedy the most glaring gaps in existing international practices, which were not originally intended to meet the terrorist threat.

This search culminated on April 28, 2004, when the UN Security Council unanimously enacted Resolution 1540, a binding legal instrument to deal with new threats that traditional WMD policies could not adequately address. The rationale behind the resolution was to complement and reinforce existing treaties rather than replace them. Indeed, its text explicitly states that none of its obligations alter or conflict with the rights and obligations of parties under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, or the Biological Weapons Convention or alter the responsibilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.[1] Seen in the context of previously established regimes, Resolution 1540 was meant to spur states to carry out their responsibilities under these accords, enlist nongovernmental stakeholders in the fight against WMD proliferation, and widen that fight to include nonstate groups.

In remarks last year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “welcome[d] stronger international measures to prevent terrorist groups” and other nonstate actors “from gaining access to the most lethal weapons and materials” and said that “[b]olstering [the] rule of law in this field is essential.”[2]

Expectations and Reality

From the vantage point of 2014, Resolution 1540’s main accomplishment was to create a universal, legally binding standard out of a patchwork of diverse and potentially conflicting international commitments. In addition, the resolution reinforced nonbinding arrangements such as export control regimes while facilitating the advancement of these arrangements toward the status of customary international law.

In the decade since the adoption of the resolution, the global community has endorsed a range of common practices with regard to international WMD law. Many were introduced with a view toward complying with Resolution 1540 and thus contributed to the development of customary law. Because it was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the resolution is mandatory for all UN member states. This compulsory measure began laying the groundwork for the United Nations to enforce laws and accords pertaining to WMD proliferation.

Like any innovation, however, Resolution 1540 elicited a mixed reaction. One main reason for skepticism was that not all UN member states considered the threat of WMD terrorism and illicit trafficking in related materials to be their top priority. Some countries initially questioned the UN Security Council’s role in addressing this threat, particularly the council’s decision to impose binding nonproliferation obligations outside the traditional process of negotiations.

UN member states cannot openly disregard their obligations under Chapter VII. In the absence of clearly defined compliance criteria, however, they could lower the bar for implementation by addressing some of the resolution’s provisions, especially those requiring changes to domestic law, at their own discretion. Some governments did just that shortly after the resolution’s adoption.

Resolution 1540 demanded the following actions from UN member states:

  • Refraining from providing any form of support to nonstate actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer, or use nonconventional weapons and their means of delivery.
  • Adopting and enforcing laws prohibiting any nonstate actor from undertaking, assisting, or financing such activities.
  • Establishing domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of unconventional weapons and related materials, including measures pertaining to accounting, security, physical protection, border and law enforcement, and export- and trade-related controls.

In other words, Resolution 1540 instructed states on what to do but not how to do it. It left methods to the discretion of individual countries.

Despite this latitude for national discretion, many political and resource challenges have impeded compliance. For instance, rank-and-file citizens often doubt the scale of domestic and global terrorist threats. Such doubts are compounded when little concrete evidence exists showing that such groups operate in some regions.

Another obstacle is competing national priorities, which often limit governments’ ability to channel sufficient resources into compliance with Resolution 1540. Inadequate expertise and numbers of personnel keep some governments from producing the comprehensive reports required by the resolution to document steps taken to meet their obligations.

Some member states are more vulnerable to proliferation than others, particularly those with nuclear power, chemical, and biological infrastructure susceptible to malicious acts. Others are only minor participants in world trade, either as producers or transshippers, and have limited ability to control their borders. Lastly, civil society and the business community may not be aware of Resolution 1540 and thus may not be doing their part to manage the WMD problem.

Critical support for efforts to meet these challenges has come from the 1540 Committee and the committee’s group of experts. The committee, a subsidiary body of the UN Security Council, monitors compliance by reviewing country reports and connecting states in need of assistance with available sources of assistance. Its four working groups represent its four areas of work: monitoring and national implementation, assistance, cooperation with international organizations, and transparency and media outreach.

As the name implies, the group of experts is a compact body of subject-matter experts that renders advice on technical matters associated with the resolution. This group of nine experts was established under Resolution 1977, passed in 2011, and Resolution 2055, passed in 2012, to help the committee carry out its mandate. The experts undertake country visits, peer reviews, analysis of states’ national reports and updates, communication with national points of contact, assistance in developing voluntary national action plans, and other operational activity.

Among their most significant contributions was a matrix for evaluating national legislation and other measures to implement Resolution 1540 and for identifying and plugging gaps in these measures. The group of experts prepared a matrix for each state. Each matrix includes 389 fields covering activities related to the operative part of the resolution. To ensure that the matrices remain “living documents,” the committee and experts continuously examine incoming state reports while conducting research on websites of governments and international, regional, and subregional organizations.

The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) lends support to the committee and its group of experts in several areas. It coordinates implementation efforts on a regional basis with help from its regional centers, and it fosters partnership among international organizations and key stakeholders, including civil society. Since 2006, the office has organized or supported more than 30 regional or thematic workshops to raise awareness of WMD-related problems and solutions, help governments build the capacity to make and enforce the necessary laws and regulations, and facilitate assistance to governments that need it.

A Way Forward

From the outset, three principles have underlain Resolution 1540: national discretion, cooperation, and assistance.

National discretion. Neither the 1540 Committee nor its experts are attempting to impose standard or model laws on states. This is a task for national authorities and relevant international organizations qualified to provide advice in this area. Nevertheless, the resolution’s across-the-board mandate helps nurture best practices among UN member states for preventing WMD proliferation and terrorism and harmonize laws and practices dealing with that issue.

Cooperation. The 1540 Committee’s mandate is to work with states to help them implement the resolution and cooperate with one another in doing so. The committee does not constitute a sanctions regime in the UN system. States, however, are free to impose sanctions on nonstate actors should they deem such measures necessary for effective compliance with the resolution.

Assistance. Some states require assistance to build up their capacity to implement the resolution in an efficient and affordable way. The 1540 Committee itself does not provide assistance, but it does play a matchmaking role, connecting available donors with prospective recipients of assistance.

Once a state exercises its prerogative to request assistance, the committee can seek potential partners and donors among other states or relevant international, regional, or subregional organizations. Assistance raises the average level of capacity among UN member states so that they can cooperate among themselves and with international bodies as fully competent partners.

In 2011, UN Security Council Resolution 1977 extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee for another decade, to 2021. Resolution 1977 was a landmark event in the evolution of the nonproliferation system created by Resolution 1540, in part because it represented a major step in institutionalizing that system.

One practical effect of the extension was to expand the tool kit for putting the three principles into practice. New tools include country-specific visits and dialogue among the committee, governments, and assorted stakeholders within countries. Closer contact with national stakeholders helps the committee obtain first-hand information about legislative and enforcement measures.

The first 1540 Committee visit to a state took place in September 2011, just a few months after Resolution 1977 was enacted. The U.S. government invited the committee to pay a visit. Since then, several more countries have invited the committee to make use of this new tool.

Generally, these visits include three segments: high-level meetings, working sessions, and on-site visits. The details of the programs for these visits are worked out by the host country in cooperation with the 1540 Committee experts. The three segments complement one another and provide the 1540 Committee delegation a very broad and complete perspective of progress toward implementation of Resolution 1540 and challenges that remain to be overcome. Country visits have become a well-established practice, but the first visit in Asia occurred only recently, in November 2013, when South Korea invited the 1540 Committee to discuss the country’s third national implementation report and hold consultations with several government agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nuclear Security and Safety Commission, and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

As noted above, cooperation with international, regional, and subregional organizations is crucial to sharing experiences, lessons learned, and effective practices. The 1540 Committee is developing ways of operating with those organizations on a case-by-case basis, reflecting the variation in each organization’s capacity and mandate. Among available options is the development of formal and informal working relationships with UN bodies and nonproliferation arrangements such as nuclear-weapon-free zones and initiatives launched by the nuclear security summits. The preamble of Resolution 1977 recognized the contribution of the 2010 nuclear security summit to the effective implementation of Resolution 1540.

Voluntary national implementation action plans are prepared with assistance from the 1540 Committee to map out national priorities and plans for implementing the key provisions of the resolution. The resulting plans are then submitted to the committee. Drafting an action plan involves conducting a gap analysis—unearthing defects in laws, institutions, or enforcement capacity; ascertaining whether these gaps are serious problems; and establishing priorities for closing the gaps. Following this preliminary analysis, planners identify opportunities or courses of action to help close the gaps. Governments then execute these actions, and, at the request of the government, the committee evaluates them.

Action plans have been submitted to the 1540 Committee by the United States in 2007, Argentina in 2009, Canada in 2010, France in 2011, Serbia and Belarus in 2012, and Kyrgyzstan in 2013. Governments are not required to submit plans, but one hopes more countries will emulate these early examples to make the implementation process more transparent and predictable. An important rationale for developing such plans is to encourage the establishment of an interagency process, where it is missing, as an indispensable decision-making instrument to address WMD risks.

Efforts are under way to include in the implementation process a wide range of stakeholders, including the business community and civil society. To this end, Germany launched in April 2012 the so-called Wiesbaden process by convening in that city the first conference of international, regional, and subregional industry associations. Its objective was to raise awareness of the resolution’s objectives and promote the effective sharing of best practices among industry actors involved in the implementation of Resolution 1540.

The conference was followed by other sector-specific and subregional events. In recognition of civil society’s growing role in supporting states’ implementation of Resolution 1540, the UNODA in January 2013 held the first Civil Society Forum, which was designed to incorporate civil society more fully into international and national efforts to achieve the objectives of the resolution.

Additional tools that can contribute to effective implementation of the resolution may emerge as the 1540 Committee conducts two comprehensive reviews to determine how fully the resolution has been implemented. Under the terms of Resolution 1977, one review must take place before December 2016 and the other before April 2021, which is before its mandate is due to be renewed. After receiving these reports from the committee, the UN Security Council may adjust the committee’s mandate or authorize other initiatives to combat the danger of nonconventional weapons. Charting the way forward, in short, means constructing arrangements that are as nimble and adaptive as possible.

A Source of Sustainability

Making implementation of Resolution 1540 sustainable is still a long-term challenge. As the regularly extended resolution becomes an institution, there clearly is a need to identify a common foundation for threat perception and compliance motivation among those who are, in the long-term perspective, supposed to organize, promote, and implement this process in an environment of changing threats.

One way to achieve this goal is to promote a comprehensive concept of security culture that would be applicable to the broad mission of Resolution 1540. This comprehensive approach would focus on the human performance in several key functional areas, including security of relevant materials and associated facilities, strategic trade and trafficking controls, cybersecurity, and knowledge management.

These areas have common culture elements across all three WMD domains—nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons[3]—but also unique features specific to each of them. In this sense, such culture can be defined as an assembly of beliefs, attitudes, and patterns of behavior that can reinforce or complement operational procedures, rules, and practices, as well as professional standards and ethics designed to achieve WMD nonproliferation goals and prevent WMD terrorism.[4] This approach, which is based on the “human factor,” is vital to the creation of a comprehensive security culture.

There are at least four reasons a common model of comprehensive security culture is becoming a necessity for sustainable implementation of the resolution.

First, if the extension of Resolution 1540 represents a step toward institutionalizing the resolution, then organizations active in this area must instill common beliefs, assumptions, and values among national stakeholders. In short, they need to adjust their cultures to the new norms codified by the resolution. Without a robust, comprehensive culture reinforcing the counter-WMD mandate, the emerging institution built on Resolution 1540 risks falling short of expectations. The goal of sustainability will remain out of reach, and the new institution will fail to accomplish its mission without an integrating culture.

Second, although the strength of Resolution 1540 unquestionably lies in its mandatory legal status for all UN member states and in states’ recognition that it helps fill gaps in the international legal nonproliferation framework, the challenge is how to enlist nongovernmental stakeholders whom the resolution is not likely to bind. Such stakeholders include the business community, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and the public. Culture is crucial in motivating adherence to norms where the force of law is weak or lacking.

Third, breakthroughs in science and technology tend to blur the traditional dividing lines among the chemical, biological, and nuclear domains, affecting more than one domain at the same time. Moreover, modern technologies and their products tend to evolve more quickly than the regulatory process. Control of them, at least in the initial stages, depends increasingly on the vigilance and discretion of human decision-makers and their perception of security. A strong security culture will help create a workforce that is strongly motivated to carry out an in-depth analysis before making any decisions that are potentially proliferation sensitive.

Fourth, developing a comprehensive model for a sustainable WMD culture would help countries that lack relevant experience and expertise understand the role of the human factor and enhance their standards for implementation of Resolution 1540. A universal methodology and common foundation would help them build national human capacity. On the other hand, if WMD specialists continue to pursue their own separate agendas and lack lines of communication or compete with one another for attention and funding, the nation’s defenses will remain porous and unsustainable.

WMD security culture is intrinsic to high standards of professionalism as applied to key elements of the regime created by Resolution 1540. It enables a person to respond to familiar and unfamiliar security threats out of carefully nurtured habit rather than improvisation. In strategic trade and trafficking control, the culture can enhance due diligence in the process of issuing export licenses, verifying end users, and preventing illegal transfers. Cybersecurity benefits from enhanced vigilance, attention to details, and questioning attitudes. In research on advanced dual-use technologies, professional standards in knowledge management require a mindset focused on WMD proliferation prevention and discretion in sharing sensitive information.


No institution tasked with addressing an item atop the global agenda can reach maturity after 10 years. The record of Resolution 1540 and the 1540 Committee is mixed and clearly demonstrates recurring problems. Much-needed assistance has yet to be targeted effectively to meet the specific needs of recipient countries. Security-focused priorities have to be balanced by multipurpose assistance projects visibly addressing, where possible, not only WMD risks but also countries’ economic and development needs. Doubtless part of the problem is the rigid and bureaucratic decision-making characteristic of multilateral programs locked in a narrow definition of security objectives.

On the positive side, innovative methods have been applied, and there have been notable achievements. More than 90 percent of UN member states have submitted national reports detailing measures that they have taken or plan to take to implement the resolution’s requirements. Some 170 states and 50 international and regional organizations have participated in regional events designed to raise awareness of WMD-related problems and solutions, exchange best practices, and invigorate networking among the resolution’s stakeholders. A voluntary fund with a mandate of bolstering implementation and cooperation has been established, drawing on grants from donor countries and the European Union.

Realistically, a world free of WMD terrorism is unlikely to be achieved soon, but the world community is doing its best to prevent such acts from happening. In this sense, the 1540 Committee needs to focus on two fundamental issues: making implementation of Resolution 1540 sustainable and keeping the system flexible enough to continue addressing both current threats and new threats that are bound to emerge from scientific and technological progress. Prospects for accomplishing these goals depend on whether all UN member states take seriously their individual responsibility under the resolution to protect the world from catastrophic acts of WMD terrorism. This is a matter of vision, commitment, and leadership.

Igor Khripunov is a distinguished fellow and adjunct professor at the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia. He is also editor in chief of the 1540 Compass, a journal published by the center in cooperation with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.


1. UN Security Council, S/RES/1540, April 28, 2004.

2. UN Department of Public Information, “‘There Are No Right Hands That Can Handle These Wrong Weapons,’ Secretary-General Says of Mass Destruction Weapons, at 1540 Event, Urging Their Total Elimination,” SG/SM/14968, DC/3432, April 22, 2013.

3. Although there initially was a consensus among drafters of Resolution 1540 that radiological weapons are not covered by the resolution, there is now a growing recognition among experts that “nuclear” in the footnote definition can be interpreted as including “radiological.” Terence Taylor, “Is ‘R’ Covered by 1540?” 1540 Compass, No. 5 (Winter 2014), p. 6.

4. See International Atomic Energy Agency, “Nuclear Security Culture: Implementing Guide,” IAEA Nuclear Security Series, No. 7 (2008), p. 3.

The resolution created a universal, legally binding standard out of a patchwork of diverse and potentially conflicting international commitments. Its implementation has been innovative in many ways, but the record also demonstrates some recurring problems.

From Sprint to Marathon: The 2014 Nuclear Security Summit and the Path Ahead

Deepti Choubey

The nuclear security summits, catalyzed by the United States and first held in 2010, have been described as a sprint within a marathon. They are an accelerated effort to achieve rapid and concrete progress globally in thwarting access by terrorists or other malicious actors to the building blocks for a nuclear bomb, such as highly enriched uranium (HEU) or separated plutonium.[1]

Unlike most ad hoc multilateral processes, the summits, now involving 53 countries represented by their leaders, are not a coalition of the willing.[2] Instead, these countries bring with them a wide range of, at times, conflicting views and varied experience on nuclear security. Diversity within a process based largely but not exclusively on consensus can create challenges. Summit outcomes therefore are vulnerable to facile criticisms that they are “lowest common denominator” or simply “not enough.”

Certainly, more needs to be done to prevent the real, persistent, and urgent threat of nuclear terrorism. Frequently overlooked, however, are groundbreaking gains, often fragile and hard won, in moving toward that goal. The 2014 nuclear security summit hosted by the Netherlands in The Hague on March 24 and 25 made such gains. This third summit can be credited with laying the foundation for organizing and holding accountable the community of governments, institutions, practitioners, and other stakeholders needed to sustain the ongoing nuclear security mission long after leaders leave the summit spotlight.

In 2016 the United States will host what may be the last summit. The transition from a sprint to a marathon will not be easy. Summit countries that have been racing to diminish rapidly the risk of a globally consequential threat will face a far longer and more complex test of endurance. Generating truly effective nuclear security nationally and globally and supporting the ongoing nuclear security mission require countries to be accountable for securing all materials. Understanding recent evolutions in thinking about nuclear security, highlighting meaningful results from the Hague summit, and identifying potential problems on the path to the 2016 summit are crucial preparation for leaders and others as they begin the last stretch of the sprint.

Evolving Approaches

Given the catastrophic and worldwide consequences of a nuclear terrorist attack, people could reasonably presume that the endeavor to put in place adequate protection for nuclear materials around the world is mature, commensurate to the threat, and equally well understood globally and that leaders therefore agree on the threat and what to do about it. That is not the case. Before the summits began, the international approach to nuclear security and the majority of national approaches to that issue could be described as underdeveloped, lagging behind the established rules, norms, mechanisms, and forums for long-standing nuclear issues such as nonproliferation, arms control, disarmament, and nuclear safety.

For instance, in the world of nuclear security, rules are established but not followed, other rules to fill gaps remain unwritten, effective practices are unevenly applied, and responsible behaviors are not fully defined or demonstrated by all. These shortcomings, combined with a disjointed understanding of the threat, make everyone vulnerable and greatly complicate global efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. Five years ago in Prague, U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for leaders to prioritize and combat “the most immediate and extreme threat to international security”[3] was necessary and overdue. Since then, effective national and international approaches to nuclear security are burgeoning, and the recent summit provided signs of rapid maturity.

One sign is the large community of countries that now understands the risks and likely consequences of nuclear terrorism and sees global approaches to nuclear security as integral to national security. In The Hague, Hungary’s foreign minister reasoned further that “although the responsibility of establishing, implementing, maintaining, and sustaining a nuclear security regime rests entirely with States, in our globalized world, no state can ensure effective nuclear security on its own.”[4] Many other countries expressed similar perspectives.

Nevertheless, some participants cast the summits as being driven by a U.S. rather than global agenda. A review of the 2014 summit documents, such as national progress reports, suggests otherwise. The summits’ approach to this global threat has generated global leadership: Chile used regional trade agreements to create Mercosur’s[5] Specialized Working Group on Illicit Traffic in Nuclear and/or Radioactive Material; China and Canada are assisting Ghana and Jamaica, respectively, with their HEU research reactor conversions; Pakistan’s center of excellence,[6] the National Institute for Safety and Security, has been established as a national and regional resource for nuclear security training; Japan and the United States developed the Security-by-Design Handbook for other countries, capturing best practices for identifying security considerations early when designing new nuclear facilities; and Morocco has contributed to radiological threat reduction by conducting exercises and sharing best practices and has declared that it “will spare no effort to strengthen regional and international cooperation for the promotion of nuclear security culture between and among all stakeholders.” These examples, among many others, of countries doing their part should inspire other countries to match or surpass them.

Gains and Challenges

Against this backdrop, the Hague summit should be credited with two types of meaningful results: individual and group actions that tangibly reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and systemic solutions that help organize the international community to address the threat holistically, effectively, and sustainably.

Tangible risk reduction. The most difficult problem for a terrorist to solve is obtaining the nuclear material for an improvised nuclear device. Permanently reducing the quantities of material and the number of locations at which materials are found is the most efficient method for frustrating terrorist aims and making everyone safer.

Tangible risk reduction since the 2012 summit in Seoul is best illustrated by the leadership of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, and Vietnam,[7] who have rid themselves of nuclear bomb-making materials. Further minimizing material quantities is important, and at the Hague summit, Australia,[8] Belgium,[9] and Italy[10] announced that they had successfully removed excess nuclear materials with U.S. assistance. Further reductions will occur through Japan[11] pledging to remove all unnecessary weapons-usable nuclear material at a research facility, Kazakhstan[12] shipping additional HEU to Russia in 2014, and Canada[13] eliminating HEU use in isotope production by 2016 and completing removal of U.S.-origin fuel by 2018.

In 1992, 52 countries had weapons-usable nuclear materials. Fourteen countries were able to rid themselves of these materials over the 17 years until Obama’s speech in Prague launching the summits. In only the five years since then, 13 countries have done the same. Much, although not all, of that progress has been facilitated by the summits. Today, 25 countries have a kilogram or more of these materials, and there will be at least one fewer once Poland fulfills its commitment to be free of HEU by 2016.[14] More progress may be on the horizon as the summits continue to support countries’ work to review the risk associated with material holdings and determine the fate of these materials.

Other progress in nuclear terrorism risk reduction includes measures to increase the physical protection of hundreds of facilities, build human and resource capacity within and among countries in areas such as combating nuclear smuggling, make international institutions and organizations more durable, and strengthen the international legal foundation for nuclear security. Unlike five years ago, there is now an extensive network of nuclear security officials that are in day-to-day contact.[15]

Planning for the future, governments have focused on the durability of international institutions such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and essential organizations such as the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS), which develops and promulgates best practices to more than 1,700 members in 98 countries around the world. Many countries made notable financial pledges to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund at the Hague summit. Even more have underscored the value of sharing best practices, which are tomorrow’s standards. Therefore, the IAEA and WINS are two complementary entities indispensable for creating the binding rules and dynamic practices needed to counter the possibility that terrorists could exploit the gaps that exist in today’s patchwork of rules and practices.

Finally, one of the largest vulnerabilities in global nuclear security is that rules governing the domestic use, storage, and transportation of nuclear materials are not in place. They will be once the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) enters into force. Twenty-five more countries still need to ratify the amendment or take action to that effect. As of the Hague summit, 10 summit participants are nearing the final stages of ratification.[16] The summits have elevated this issue and galvanized countries to take action. A notable example is Pakistan, a country perceived to be unbound by nuclear security rules and outside the international nuclear order. At the summit, Pakistan’s prime minister announced that Islamabad is “actively conducting a review to meet [the amendment’s] requirements.”[17]

Holistic, effective, sustainable, and systemic solutions. The Hague summit’s breakthrough results demonstrated long-range and systemic problem solving. The summit laid the foundation for a global nuclear security system,[18] or “architecture,” for securing all nuclear materials under a common set of standards and best practices while holding all states accountable. Such a system will yield security benefits now and does not require a new treaty or overarching institution.

To bring the implementation of the national and international nuclear security mission to maturity and leave no gaps for malicious actors to exploit, an effective global nuclear security system would be based on the following principles:

  • It is comprehensive, meaning all nuclear materials, military as well as civilian, are covered.
  • International standards and best practices are employed consistently around the world.
  • Countries are taking steps to build the confidence of others about the effectiveness of their nuclear security without disclosing sensitive information.
  • Risk reduction occurs as countries continually assess their options to further consolidate or eliminate nuclear materials and related facilities.[19]

The foundation of a global nuclear security system, including elements of its key principles, is captured explicitly in the Hague summit communiqué and other summit initiatives. The communiqué distills the key concept of the system and the first two of the principles listed above when it highlights “the need for a strengthened and comprehensive international nuclear security architecture, consisting of legal instruments, international organizations and initiatives, internationally accepted guidance and good practices.”[20]

In the list of principles, “compre-hensive” directly refers to the idea that all nuclear material should be covered in an effective global system. Among the nine nuclear-armed[21] states, which possess the 85 percent of global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material that is in military use,[22] each has its own security measures. Recent nuclear security incidents related to military materials in the United Kingdom[23] and the United States[24] provide reminders that there is no such thing as perfectly protected material. Former defense ministers and officials from France and the United Kingdom have argued that the fears of any “confidence[-]building measures or any form of standards or accountability” compromising state secrets are overblown as there is a long history of U.S.-Russian cooperation involving these sensitive materials.[25] They recommend that France, the UK, and the United States lead by example in parallel with bringing the other nuclear-armed states into the process.

At the close of the Hague summit, Obama included military materials in his outline of the forthcoming agenda.[26] Ensuring that these vast quantities of military materials are effectively secured and building the confidence of others in the security pertaining to those materials will be a central issue for the 2016 agenda. For nuclear-armed states that are reflexively defensive about this topic, a review of how the summit documents shared valuable information without compromising national security interests should ease their anxiety.

A good place to start is the U.S. national progress report and the last section, “Security of Military Materials,” which provides information about the measures in place around U.S. military materials and makes a new commitment to use existing mechanisms such as UN Security Council Resolution 1540 to report on the security of these materials. Additionally, the United States provides an important insight when it states in the report that the latest IAEA nuclear security guidance (INFCIRC/225/Revision 5)[27] is taken into account in military security provisions. Interestingly, Russia in its progress report makes a statement to the same effect when it discloses that, “[i]n Russia, all nuclear materials, their storage sites and associated facilities, as well as transportation of nuclear material are protected by the relevant security measures, including physical protection, at least at the levels recommended by the IAEA in INFCIRC/225/Rev.5.”

Important cooperative efforts have occurred bilaterally among the nuclear-armed states while protecting sensitive details, but the cooperative relationships and scope of activities are not widely known. Even without knowing the specific details of best-practice exchanges, tabletop exercises, and, some day, peer reviews, other countries would feel assured to know that such activities were taking place. For instance, Russia, the UK, and the United States discuss nuclear weapons security through an ongoing nuclear security trilateral exchange.[28] Official press releases can make the existence of these discussions visible to the public while protecting the sensitive content of such meetings. In the face of an ever-changing threat, the nuclear-armed states should drop their reluctance to share information and seize the opportunity to learn from one another.

With regard to the second principle, adherence to internationally agreed standards and best practices is the goal. Yet, nuclear security does not have binding international standards. The IAEA, through a process including member states, has developed guidance that is voluntary and communicates what countries should do regarding nuclear security. Improvements to on-the-ground implementation are learned through the sharing of best practices. Countries that support best-practice exchanges, including by participating in WINS, demonstrate that they can elevate their nuclear security practices and security culture to a world-class level through international collaboration.

The third principle of assurance or confidence-building measures stems from countries’ recognition that inadequate security in one country can affect all other countries; therefore, nuclear security is a shared responsibility. The inclusion of this concept in the communiqué represents a tectonic shift in international norms. Establishing a basis for mutual accountability for nuclear materials security is a sea change in the previously pervasive attitude of “just trust me.” Those days are over as countries now need to match words with deeds when asserting the “effective security of their nuclear materials and facilities.”[29] These assurances enable countries to do the necessary confidence building without compromising national security interests.[30] These assurances vary in terms of whether they are provided unilaterally, bilaterally, or multilaterally to internal stakeholders, partner countries, international organizations, or the public and how much confidence is built from any given measure. Examples include publishing information about laws and regulations to demonstrate the existence and nature of a legal and regulatory structure, initiating best-practice exchanges, inviting peer reviews, and training and certifying nuclear security personnel. These measures, and others, could apply to military materials as well.

Through existing activities, many countries already provide assurances, and the national progress reports demonstrate the viability of the concept. For instance, eight countries announced at the Hague summit that they would be hosting peer reviews provided by the IAEA, and 16 countries highlighted peer reviews already conducted. Finland’s president urged the use of all resources, including the IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS), but cautioned that “we do not make full use of this opportunity if there is no follow-up mission in which the progress accomplished is observed and confirmed.”[31]

Having outside experts regularly evaluate a country’s legal and regulatory regime and at least one facility, which is selected by the host country, is a good start. Yet, countries should strive to make the reviews more meaningful by expanding the scope of the mission to include as many relevant facilities as possible, to publish the nonsensitive parts of the report, and appropriately share follow-up actions in response to the report’s recommendations. The Netherlands has already created a model for others to follow by having all of its facilities evaluated through regular peer review, publishing the report absent the facility-specific appendix, and providing a concise summary of the recommendations made and actions taken in the national progress report. That summary could be used for the successor arrangement to the summits or in existing forums such as the IAEA General Conference.

The final principle of risk reduction through the elimination and minimization of materials has pre-summit origins. The biennial gatherings have likely helped foster an ethos for countries to more deliberately weigh the benefits and risks of materials they have in civilian use, specifically HEU, and to ask for help when needed. The Hague summit communiqué marks the first time that the summits took action on plutonium, encouraging states to “keep their stockpiles of separated plutonium to the minimum level, as consistent with national requirements.”[32] A literal interpretation of this provision could allow countries employing plutonium in their civilian programs to do nothing different. The intent of the “national requirements” qualifier was for countries to establish some internal justification for their policies. Leadership is necessary from countries and the nuclear industry to provide a model of responsible, low-risk behavior. Developing that model will be difficult without attending to the economic and political dynamics stymieing efforts to reduce the potential risks from large stockpiles of civilian plutonium.

Each nuclear security summit has done better than the last in organizing and integrating the views of industry through a forum held in conjunction with the official summit. Yet, these industry summits have not sufficiently addressed the challenge of civilian plutonium, largely because of complicated dynamics in which industry entities that are state owned or state reliant have blocked discussions. Consequently, there is little hope of curtailing activities that have required large financial and political investments. Moreover, potential solutions cannot be implemented by industry alone because they require government action. Therefore, the preparatory process leading to 2016 should address this dynamic to specifically resolve this outstanding problem and not leave it to industry to manage this alone. Not doing so would create an odd imbalance in the nuclear security record. Just as HEU is phased out and minimized in civilian use, countries would be running the risk of heedless production of separated plutonium coupled with increasing transportation of this material.

Putting principles into practice. Encouragingly, 35 countries, or two-thirds of summit participants, have committed to practicing the principles on which an effective global nuclear security architecture would operate through the Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation initiative created by the Netherlands, South Korea, and the United States. Commitments under this initiative include meeting or exceeding the objectives of IAEA guidance through national regulations or other government measures; improving national nuclear security regimes by conducting self-assessments, hosting peer reviews regularly, and acting on the recommendations from these reviews; and ensuring that people with nuclear security responsibilities are demonstrably competent.[33] Viewed together, the commitments add up to a specific list of what a country wanting to demonstrate responsible nuclear security behavior would do.

The sheer number joining this initiative at the outset provides a strong foundation on which to build further. Notable signatories include nuclear-armed states such as France, Israel, the UK, and the United States. Bureaucratic challenges may have hindered China’s ability to join in time for the summit, but its national progress report indicates the improvements it is making in updating its regulations and says that it is “positively considering” inviting peer review from the IAEA.

The three summits have provided an invaluable start in defining the parameters for responsible nuclear security behavior within and among countries. Yet, several countries remain reluctant to join with others in actions to support larger nuclear security goals and international security.[34]

This lack of participation is puzzling when matched against the stated concerns of some of these countries. Those that have expressed anxiety over how much information should be shared still chose not to involve themselves in joint initiatives such as the UK-led one on nuclear information security. The 35 countries that supported this initiative recognize the fundamental need to protect sensitive information and take actions to strengthen national capacities to do so. India, Pakistan, and Russia, which have voiced strong concerns about transparency and insufficient protection of sensitive information, chose not participate, while France, which has similarly strong concerns, joined, along with Israel, the UK, and the United States. Ostensibly to defend the concept of “consensus,” Argentina, India, and Russia took a “principled” stance against the concept of group initiatives,[35] but most group initiatives are not relevant to all countries. Considering that the “principled” stance seems more a strategy to overemphasize consensus as a way to avoid binding commitments, this strategy is self-defeating when a country is essentially exempting itself from actions that would strengthen its own security.

A Path to 2016 and Beyond

The Hague summit delivered bold, substantive proposals and implemented effective format changes. The organizers of the 2016 summit should aim to continue the trend by keeping in mind lessons from the recent past as they plan for future success.

Operating assumptions. Re-evaluating the operating assumptions about the outputs of the next summit can ease an already challenging path to 2016. As countries near the end of the sprint, extensive negotiations over another detailed communiqué may not be a good use of limited time. The first summit communiqué was accompanied by a work plan that entailed a political commitment by countries to take steps to prevent nuclear terrorism.[36] Some of the commitments countries have made since then exceed the aspirations of the work plan. If leaders will contribute their political will en masse once more, the best use of that asset would be to design the global nuclear security architecture and formulate plans for building it. The outcome could be a very short statement articulating enduring principles paired with an implementation plan for building the global nuclear security system that includes provisions to keep countries accountable.

Summit planners should think about the process and the desired results together at every stage to anticipate, diminish, and deter potential problems. For example, the assumption that all previous summit participants are automatically invited to the next summit should be examined. After three summits, it is not unreasonable to ask whether a country’s actual contribution to the shared global agenda is commensurate with its rhetorical commitments to nuclear security, particularly if a country wants to keep shaping the agenda. For countries that did not meet the mark at the end of the Hague summit, there would still be time to join initiatives requiring actions announced there or to choose from a menu of other meaningful actions to credential themselves.

The same system could be used to address persistent complaints about the exclusionary nature of the summits. A mechanism could be developed for including other countries without compromising the effectiveness of the format and could subscribe new countries to meaningful measures.

Finally, particularly for sensitive topics such as military materials, incentives should be crafted for the most affected countries to take the lead in coming up with proposals while making sure that no countries engage in counterproductive behavior.

Outreach. Outreach will be instrumental for securing buy-in. Summit organizers can strengthen their outreach capabilities by taking advantage of the experience and relationships of the previous hosts and other leading participants. This joining of forces could prove powerful, especially when the U.S. voice may not be the most persuasive.

Team selection. People matter. Governments must have continuous representation from empowered and informed officials leading and populating the sherpa teams. In the preparatory meetings leading to the Hague summit, there was silence too frequently during major policy debates from countries thought to support important proposals to strengthen the nuclear security system due to staff turnover.[37] That silence is not benign. Instead, it amplifies the counterproductive views of the few countries that actively seek to stall progress. The counterpoint in those debates must come from many voices and not just from the expected few. Countries that have demonstrated their leadership tangibly through cooperative contributions must do their part by lending their informed voice to the debate.

The path ahead. The discussions, development of proposals, and decisions to come have the potential to reorient the expectations that countries have of one another, reform institutions and initiatives, and revise rules, thereby fundamentally reconstituting what comprises responsible nuclear security. This may be the most pivotal period to make effective global nuclear security a reality.

The lead-up to the 2016 summit is likely the last relay in the sprint among world leaders to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism globally. This last leg is difficult as it demands continuing the existing efforts to tackle the threat tangibly while also planning for how to sustain the ongoing nuclear security marathon.

The game-changing results of the Hague summit are embodied in the actions completed and promised as well as principles crafted and put into practice. These results should be used to facilitate the further adoption of bold approaches, innovative ideas, and practical proposals for securing a strong finish and converting that into the momentum needed for the marathon. The path forward has challenges, but they are surmountable. Favorable conditions, such as the considerable progress on this agenda, exist. If countries can continue and intensify their work together in common cause, they will be better prepared for the long race ahead.


Deepti Choubey is senior director for nuclear and bio-security at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), where she co-leads the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities involving nuclear security summit officials, nuclear industry representatives, and other international experts. She also co-led the inaugural 2012 NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index and helped develop the 2014 index.




1. The communiqué from the 2010 summit in Washington references nuclear materials and specifically references highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium when noting they require special precautions. The 2012 Seoul communiqué included a section on “Radioactive Sources,” reflecting an additional area for actions to prevent malicious acts using radioactive dispersal devices, sometimes called “dirty bombs.”

2. For the 2010 summit, the United States invited 47 countries, including those with weapons-usable nuclear materials (HEU and separated plutonium) and those without, countries from the global North and South, countries considered leading voices within the Non-Aligned Movement, and countries outside the usual boundary on nuclear issues, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

3. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama—Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic,” April, 5, 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered.

4. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Address by H.E. Janos Martonyi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, Nuclear Security Summit 2014, The Hague,” n.d., https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/nss_2014_address_janos_martonyi_0.pdf.

5. For more information on Mercosur and the countries that participate, see Joanna Klonsky, Stephanie Hanson, and Brianna Lee, “Mercosur: South America’s Fractious Trade Bloc,” Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder, July 31, 2012, http://www.cfr.org/trade/mercosur-south-americas-fractious-trade-bloc/p12762.

6. Nuclear security training and support centers and centers of excellence engage in activities that provide for exchanges of information and best practices that would strengthen capacity building and nuclear security culture and would maintain a well-trained cadre of technical experts in countries. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres/Centres of Excellences for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit,” n.d., https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/joint_statement_nssc-coefinal_24_march_2014.pdf .

7. Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), “NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index: Building a Framework for Assurance, Accountability, and Action (Second Edition),” January 2014, p. 13. Austria is not a participating country in the nuclear security summits, but the removal of its weapons-usable material in December 2012 occurred through cooperation with the U.S. Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which facilitated similar removals for other summit participants.

8. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “National Progress Report: Australia,” n.d., https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/australia.pdf.

9. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Fact Sheet: Belgium Highly Enriched Uranium and Plutonium Removals,” March 24, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/belgium_heu.pdf.

10. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Fact Sheet: Italy Highly Enriched Uranium and Plutonium Removals,” March 24, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/italy_heu.pdf.  

11. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “National Progress Report: Japan,” n.d., https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/national_progress_report.pdf.

12. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Fact Sheet: U.S.-Kazakhstan Cooperative Activities in Nuclear Security,” March 25, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/fact_sheet_u.s._-_kazakhstan_cooperative_activities.pdf.

13. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “National Progress Report: Canada,” March 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/canada.pdf.

14. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “National Progress Report: Poland,” n.d., https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/poland.pdf.

15. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Advancing Global Nuclear Security,” n.d., https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/advancing_nuclear_security.pdf.

16. The 10 countries nearing ratification are Brazil, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States. Seven other summit participants also have yet to ratify the amendment.

17. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Statement by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague,” March 24, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/pakistan-pm_remarks_at_first_plenary_session_on_24_mar_2014.pdf.

18. “System” and “architecture” are often used interchangeably. In some instances, “architecture” has a more circumscribed definition, referring to legal agreements, standards, practices, and institutions. “System” is meant as a broader concept that includes all materials, as well as norms of behavior such as mutual accountability.

19. Deepti Choubey, “No Time to Waste: Steps for Success for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit and Beyond,” European Leadership Network, February 25, 2014, http://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/no-time-to-waste-steps-for-success-for-the-2014-nuclear-security-summit-and-beyond_1227.html.

20. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “The Hague Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué,” March 25, 2014, para. 8, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/the_hague_nuclear_security_summit_communique_final.pdf (hereinafter Hague summit communiqué).

21. The term “nuclear-armed” includes the five acknowledged nuclear-weapon states under the NPT (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea. All but North Korea participate in the nuclear security summits.

22. NTI, “Comprehensiveness—Understanding Non-Civilian Materials,” NTI Non-Paper, No. 3 (n.d.), https://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/Non-Paper_3_-_Comprehensiveness_-_Understanding_Non-Civilian_Nuclear_Materials_1.pdf?_=1353507850 (released November 2012).

23. Allegations were raised in December 2013 that as many as 50 Defense Ministry law enforcement personnel had been sleeping on the job and had not completed their patrols at the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment’s Burghfield site, which is engaged in constructing, maintaining, and disassembling nuclear warheads for the country’s submarine-based ballistic missiles. See “British Nuclear Arms Guards Accused of Sleeping on Job,” Global Security Newswire, December 16, 2013, http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/british-nuclear-arms-guards-accused-sleeping-job/.

24. In July 2012, three peace activists gained access to the HEU storage facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. See “Antiwar Protesters Infiltrate Y-12 Nuke Plant,” Global Security Newswire, July 30, 2012, http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/antiwar-protesters-infiltrate-y-12-nuke-plant/. In May 2013, 17 officers at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota were stripped of their duties amid safety and security violations. See Robert Burns, “Air Force Sidelines 17 ICBM Officers,” Associated Press, May 8, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/ap-exclusive-air-force-sidelines-17-icbm-officers-070914385.html.

25. Paul Quiles et al., “The 85%,” European Leadership Network, March 21, 2014, http://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/the-85_1315.html.

26. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands in a Joint Press Conference,” March 25, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/remarks_by_president_obama_and_prime_minister_rutte_of_the_netherlands_in_a_joint_press_conference.pdf.

27. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities (INFCIRC/225/Revision 5),” IAEA Nuclear Security Series, No. 13 (2011), http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1481_web.pdf. “INFCIRC” is short for “information circular.”

28. National Nuclear Security Agency, “NNSA, Rosatom, UK Ministry of Defence Hold Trilateral Nuclear Security Best Practices Workshop,” November 19, 2013, http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/trilat.

29. Hague summit communiqué, para. 20.

30. For the definition of assurances, see ibid.

31. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Remarks by Mr. Sauli Niinistö, President of the Republic of Finland, Nuclear Security Summit, General Debate,” March 25, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/finland_speech_general_debate.pdf.

32. Hague summit communiqué, para. 21.

33. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, “Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation,” March 25, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/strengthening_nuclear_security_implementation.pdf.

34. Dominic Contreras, “Nuclear Security Summit Joint Commitments: By Country and By Statement,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, March 26, 2014, http://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/blog/nuclear-security-summit-commitments-country-and-statement.

35. Officials involved in preparatory meetings for the Hague summit, conversations with author, January 2014, March 2014, and April 2014.

36. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Work Plan of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit,” April 13, 2010, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/work-plan-washington-nuclear-security-summit.

37. Officials involved in preparatory meetings for the Hague summit, conversations with author, September 2013, October 2013, December 2013, and January 2014.

At the March summit, world leaders made several ground-breaking gains in establishing a foundation for effective nuclear security around the world. Some of the victories are fragile.

Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT?

Hans M. Kristensen

Nearly half a century after the five declared nuclear-weapon states in 1968 pledged under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament,”[1] all of the world’s nuclear-weapon states are busy modernizing their arsenals and continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons.

None of them appears willing to eliminate its nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.

Granted, the nuclear arms race that was a main feature of the Cold War is over, and France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have reduced their arsenals significantly. Nevertheless, huge arsenals remain, especially in Russia and the United States. China, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and possibly Israel are increasing their stockpiles, although at levels far below those of Russia and the United States. All nuclear-armed states speak of nuclear weapons as an enduring and indefinite aspect of national and international security.

As a result, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states still possess more than 10,000 nuclear warheads combined, of which more than 90 percent are in Russian and U.S. stockpiles. In addition to these stockpiled warheads, those two countries possess thousands of additional nuclear warheads. These warheads, retired but still relatively intact, are in storage awaiting dismantlement. Counting both categories of nuclear warheads, the world’s total combined inventory includes an estimated 17,000 nuclear warheads (fig. 1).

Moreover, many non-nuclear-weapon states that publicly call for nuclear disarmament continue to call on nuclear-armed allies to protect them with nuclear weapons. In fact, five non-nuclear-weapon states in NATO have volunteered to serve as surrogate nuclear-weapon states by equipping their military forces with the necessary tools to deliver U.S. nuclear weapons in times of war—an arrangement tolerated during the Cold War but entirely inappropriate in the post-Cold War era in which NATO and the United States are advocating strict adherence to nonproliferation norms as a foundation for international security.

Thus, although the numerical nuclear arms race between East and West is over, a dynamic technological nuclear arms race is in full swing and may increase over the next decade. Importantly, this is not just a characteristic of the proliferating world but of all nuclear-armed states. New or improved nuclear weapons programs under way in those countries include at least 27 for ballistic missiles, nine for cruise missiles, eight for naval vessels, five for bombers, eight for warheads, and eight for weapons factories (fig. 2).

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United States

The United States has embarked on an overhaul of its entire nuclear weapons enterprise, including development of new weapons delivery systems and life extension programs (LEPs) for and modernization of all its enduring nuclear warhead types and nuclear weapons production facilities. Moreover, rather than constraining the role of nuclear weapons, the Obama administration’s 2013 nuclear weapons employment strategy reaffirmed the existing posture of a nuclear triad of forces on high alert. There are currently approximately 4,650 warheads in the U.S. stockpile, down from 5,113 in 2009, and another 2,700 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement.

Unlike other nuclear-armed states, the United States has modernized its nuclear arsenal over the past two decades mainly by upgrading existing weapons rather than fielding new types. The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force is the final phase of a decade-long, $8 billion modernization intended to extend its service life until 2030. Similarly, beginning in 2017, the Navy will begin to deploy a modified version of the Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to extend its service life through 2040. The Air Force has begun LEPs for the air-launched cruise missile and the B-2 and B-52 bombers.

Beyond these upgrades of existing weapons, work is under way to design new weapons to replace the current ones. The Navy is designing a new class of 12 SSBNs, the Air Force is examining whether to build a mobile ICBM or extend the service life of the existing Minuteman III, and the Air Force has begun development of a new, stealthy long-range bomber and a new nuclear-capable tactical fighter-bomber. Production of a new guided “standoff” nuclear bomb, which would be able to glide toward a target over a distance, is under way, and the Air Force is developing a new long-range nuclear cruise missile to replace the current one.

As is often the case with modern-izations, many of these programs will introduce improved or new military capabilities to the weapons systems. For example, the LEP for the B61 gravity bomb will add a guided tail kit to one of the existing B61 types to increase its accuracy. The new type, known as the B61-12, will be able to strike targets more accurately with a smaller explosive yield and reduce the radioactive fallout from a nuclear attack. Other modifications under consideration, such as interoperable warheads that could be used on land- and sea-based ballistic missiles, could significantly alter the structure of the nuclear warheads and potentially introduce uncertainties about reliability and performance into the stockpile. These uncertainties could increase the risk that the United States would need to conduct a nuclear test explosion in the future.[2]

All told, over the next decade, according to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, the United States plans to spend $355 billion on the maintenance and modernization of its nuclear enterprise,[3] an increase of $142 billion from the $213 billion the Obama administration projected in 2011.[4] According to available information, it appears that the nuclear enterprise will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 30 years.[5]

These sums are enormous by any standard, and some programs may be curtailed by fiscal realities. Nevertheless, they indicate a commitment to a scale of nuclear modernization that appears to be at odds with the Obama administration’s arms reduction and disarmament agenda. This modernization plan is broader and more expensive than the Bush administration’s plan and appears to prioritize nuclear capabilities over conventional ones. The Obama administration entered office with a strong arms control and disarmament agenda, but despite efforts by some officials and agencies to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons, the administration may ironically end up being remembered more for its commitment to prolonging and modernizing the traditional nuclear arsenal.


The new B61-12 is scheduled for deployment in Europe around 2020. At first, the guided bomb, which has a modest standoff capability, will be backfitted onto existing F-15E, F-16, and Tornado NATO aircraft. From around 2024, nuclear-capable F-35A stealthy fighter-bombers are to be deployed in Europe and gradually take over the nuclear strike role from the F-16 and Tornado aircraft.

Slightly more than 180 B61 bombs are currently deployed in underground vaults inside 87 protective aircraft shelters at six bases in five NATO countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey). About half of the bombs are earmarked for delivery by the national aircraft of these non-nuclear-weapon states, although they all are parties to the NPT and obliged “not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly.” In peacetime, the weapons at the national bases are under the control of a U.S. Air Force munitions support squadron, but in a war, the United States would hand over control of the weapons to the national pilots who would deliver the weapons and effectively violate the NPT at that moment.

The combination of a guided standoff nuclear bomb and a fifth-generation stealthy fighter-bomber will significantly enhance the military capability of NATO’s nuclear posture in Europe.[6] The upgrade contradicts the Obama administration’s pledge that LEPs “will not…provide for new military capabilities”[7] and NATO’s conclusion that its nuclear force posture “currently meets the criteria for an effective deterrence and defence posture.”[8] Neither the administration nor NATO has officially addressed this contradiction, but officials privately insist, incorrectly, that the B61-12 will not add military capabilities to NATO’s posture in Europe. Some NATO countries scheduled to receive the B61-12 have recently begun to ask questions about the B61-12 program via diplomatic channels.[9]

The modernization also undercuts the U.S. goal to seek “bold reductions” in Russian and U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons in Europe[10] and NATO’s stated resolve “to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”[11] Moreover, the modernization sends a clear signal to Russia that it is acceptable to enhance nonstrategic nuclear forces in Europe, effectively removing NATO’s ability to appeal to Russian restraint.

The extension and modernization of the U.S. nuclear deployment in Europe competes with increasingly scarce resources needed for more-important conventional forces and operations. Conventional forces would be much more credible than tactical nuclear weapons in providing security assurance to eastern NATO allies.


France is in the final phase of a comprehensive modernization of its nuclear forces intended to extend the arsenal into the 2050s. Most significant is the deployment during 2010-2018 of the new M-51 SLBM on the Triumphant-class submarines. The new missile has greater range, payload capacity, and accuracy than its predecessor, the M-45. Starting in 2015, the current TN75 warhead will be replaced with the new TNO (Tête Nucléaire Océanique) warhead. France currently has a stockpile of roughly 300 warheads.

The modernization of the sea-based leg of the arsenal follows the completion in 2011 of the replacement of the ASMP (Air-Sol Moyenne Portée) air-launched cruise missile, which had a range of 300 kilometers, with the new ASMPA (Air-Sol Moyenne Portée Amélioré), which has a range of 500 kilometers. The missile has been integrated with two fighter-bomber squadrons—Mirage 2000N K3 aircraft at Istres on the Mediterranean coast and Rafale F3 aircraft at Saint-Dizier northeast of Paris. Eventually, the Istres wing will also be upgraded to Rafale aircraft. The ASMPA carries the new TNA (Tête Nucléaire Aéroportée) warhead.

A navy version of the Rafale aircraft is deployed on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier based at Toulon. The wing was upgraded to carry the ASMPA missile in 2010, but the weapons are stored on land under normal circumstance and not deployed on the carrier in peacetime.

The United Kingdom

Of all the nuclear-weapon states, the UK is the country that has progressed furthest toward potential nuclear abolition. Its current stockpile of approximately 225 weapons is scheduled to decline to about 180 by the mid-2020s. After the UK’s elimination of its air- and sea-based tactical nuclear weapons in the 1990s, there has been a lively debate about whether the country any longer needs nuclear weapons. For now, however, the government appears determined to replace the current class of four Vanguard-class nuclear-armed submarines with a new class of three to four submarines in the mid-2020s.

The UK leases its Trident II D5 SLBMs from the United States. These missiles are currently being equipped with the W76-1/Mk4A, a version of the existing warhead that has increased targeting capabilities. The W76-1 is believed to have been modified by UK warhead designers for use on UK missiles.


Russia is in the middle of a significant nuclear modernization that marks its attempt to transition from Soviet-era nuclear force structure to something more modern, leaner, and cheaper to maintain. Despite continued financial constraints, the regime of Vladimir Putin has prioritized maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces as symbols of national prestige and, to some extent, compensation for inferior conventional forces. The Russian stockpile is estimated at roughly 4,300 warheads, of which approximately 2,000 are for nonstrategic weapons, with another 3,500 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement.

Within the next decade or more, retirement of all Soviet-era ICBMs and SLBMs will be completed, and these systems will be replaced with various versions of the SS-27 ICBM and the RS-26 (possibly another SS-27 modification) on land and the SS-N-32 Bulava SLBM on a fleet of eight new Borei-class SSBNs. Work is also said to be under way on a new “heavy” ICBM known as the Sarmat to replace the SS-18. Putin promised shortly before the election in 2012 that Russia intends to produce more than 400 land- and sea-based ballistic missiles through the mid-2020s. It remains to be seen how much of that production the Russian military-industrial complex can accomplish.

Despite the modernization, the Russian ICBM force already has declined to approximately 300 missiles and is expected to drop further to roughly 250 missiles over the next decade. In order to keep some level of parity with the larger U.S. arsenal, Russia is deploying more warheads on each of its missiles.

With regard to the Russian bomber force, the Tu-160 Blackjack, Tu-95MS Bear, and Tu-22M Backfire bombers are all undergoing various upgrades to extend their service lives and improve their military capabilities. In addition, work is currently under way on the design of a subsonic replacement bomber to enter service early in the next decade. A new nuclear cruise missile, known as the KH-102 air-launched cruise missile, has been under development for a long time and may become operational soon.

As for tactical forces, the new SS-26 Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile is replacing the nuclear-capable SS-21s in 10 brigades, mostly in western and southern military districts. The Su-34 Fullback fighter-bomber is gradually replacing the old Su-24M Fencer in the tactical nuclear strike role, and the Severodvinsk-class, or Yasen-class, SSGN (nuclear-powered, guided-missile attack submarine) is about to enter service with the new long-range Kalibr cruise missile that might have nuclear capability.

The Russian government has repeatedly stated that modernizing strategic nuclear forces is its priority, but this effort competes with the modernization of conventional forces, which are much more relevant for the type of security challenges facing Russia today.

Information on Russian nuclear spending is scarce and contradictory. In 2011, Russian news media and analysts reported that Russia planned to spend $70 billion on new strategic weapons through 2018.[12] That sounds like a considerable amount, but only adds up to $10 billion per year. That is close to what the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) spends per year on weapons activities.

Likewise, Russian media in 2012 reported that Russia planned to spend 101 billion rubles on nuclear weapons from 2013 through 2015.[13] That also sounds like a very significant sum, but corresponds to only $2.9 billion over three years. This does not appear to be the entire nuclear budget; it apparently covers only the “nuclear weapons complex.” If that corresponds to the U.S. nuclear complex—that is, NNSA facilities—then it would imply that Russia spends less than half of what the United States spends on nuclear weapons infrastructure. The buying power in Russia is probably greater, but so is corruption and inefficiency.

Russia’s overall defense budget has increased. Over the next 10 years, the plan is to spend 19 trillion rubles ($542 billion) on defense. That is less than the annual U.S. defense budget. Of that amount, strategic nuclear forces are thought to account for about 10 percent, or $54 billion in total over 10 years. It is unclear what categories are included, but it appears to be roughly 20 percent of the $30 billion the United States is estimated to spend on its nuclear triad per year.

The Russian economy seems ill equipped to support such investments in nuclear forces that will only constrain resources available for conventional forces. Since 2008, Russia has scaled back and reorganized its military to save money and shed excess or outdated capacity. Ground forces, armor, and infantry battalions alone have been reduced by about 60 percent since 2008.

The Putin government’s 10-year defense procurement plan adopted in 2010 is intended to replace Soviet-era equipment and bolster deterrence, but U.S. intelligence characterizes the Russian economy as “sluggish”[14] and Putin’s defense plan as being hampered by funding, bureaucratic, and cultural hurdles. The difficulty of reinvigorating a military industrial infrastructure that deteriorated for more than a decade after the Soviet collapse is seen by the U.S. intelligence community as complicating Russian efforts.[15] The 2014 budget is “harsh,” with a projected deficit of 391 billion rubles ($12 billion), rising to 817 billion rubles ($25 billion) in 2015.[16] Additional financial constraints created by the international reaction to the Russian invasion of Crimea would exacerbate this outlook. The Russian nuclear modernization plan therefore seems headed for serious economic and organizational challenges.


Chinese nuclear forces are in the latter phase of a two-decade-long upgrade that includes deployment of new land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery vehicles. This effort is occurring in parallel with a broader modernization of China’s general military forces. Unlike the other nuclear members of the NPT, China is increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal, which is currently estimated to be around 250 warheads.

Although China does not seem to plan a significant increase in the size of its nuclear forces, it is changing the composition of that force and putting more emphasis on mobile systems. The ICBM force is expanding with deployment of the solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF-31A in limited numbers to complement the old silo-based, liquid-fueled DF-5A. The DF-31 and DF-31A do not appear to have been very successful; deployment of the DF-31 has stalled, and China may produce a new ICBM to replace the DF-31A.[17]

Another new development is the Jin-class SSBN with the JL-2 SLBM, a significant improvement over the old Xia/JL-1 weapons system, which never became fully operational. It is difficult to understand the role of the small fleet of Jin/JL-2 SSBNs under construction given the reluctance of the Chinese leadership to allow deployment of nuclear warheads on missiles under normal circumstances. Given the geographical constraints and the superiority of U.S. attack submarines, it will be a challenge for China to operate SSBNs effectively. Yet, the navy appears to have received permission to build the fleet at least to some extent because of national prestige.

There are also unconfirmed rumors that China is adding a nuclear capability to ground- and air-launched cruise missiles. If so, it would represent an important addition to the Chinese nuclear posture, particularly in light of Beijing’s stated adherence to a doctrine of minimum deterrence.


For a country with limited resources, Pakistan is spending a considerable amount on modernizing its nuclear forces. New systems under development include the Shaheen II medium-range ballistic missile, Ra’ad air-launched cruise missile, Babur ground-launched cruise missile, and Nasr short-range rocket. Infrastructure upgrades include construction of the third and fourth plutonium-production reactors and upgrades of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities. Pakistan’s current arsenal is estimated at around 120 weapons.

At the same time, the Shaheen II missile has been under development for a long time, but might only now become operational, an indication of possible technical difficulties developing the road-mobile, solid-fueled, medium-range ballistic missile. Likewise, although India has embarked on an SSBN program, there is so far no indication that Pakistan is following the example. This is somewhat surprising given the normal tit-for-tat patterns in Pakistani-Indian nuclear competition. Whether this reflects financial constrains is unclear, and it remains to be seen if the Babur cruise missile eventually will be deployed also in a sea-based version.

Development of the nuclear-capable Nasr short-range missile launcher, whose range is estimated to be 60 kilometers, signals a significant and worrisome tactical addition to Pakistan’s nuclear strategy because the weapon is intended for use before a strategic nuclear exchange.


India’s nuclear modernization is entering a new and complex phase. After the initial introduction of the Prithvi and Agni missiles, India is developing several long-range Agni systems on new launchers. The first SSBN has been launched and is expected to begin sea trials later this year as the first of a class of perhaps three to five boats with a new SLBM. Construction of a new plutonium-production reactor is expected to start soon along with fast breeder reactors, which can produce more plutonium than they consume, as well as upgrades to reprocessing facilities. India’s current stockpile is estimated at around 110 warheads.

Unlike Pakistan’s nuclear posture, which is directed against only India, India’s nuclear posture is directed against Pakistan and China. As a result, most of India’s current missile development efforts are geared toward developing long-range missiles that can reach all of China. There is a prominent internal debate about the need to deploy canistered launchers—a system in which the missile is carried inside a climate-controlled canister—and equip ballistic missiles with the capability to carry multiple warheads. It remains to be seen what, if any of this, the government will approve.


Israel has a relatively small and steady nuclear arsenal. The nuclear stockpile is thought to include around 80 nuclear warheads for delivery by aircraft and ballistic missiles. Nonetheless, there are rumors about modernization.

One rumor concerns an upgrade of the land-based ballistic missile force from the current Jericho II to a longer-range Jericho III missile based on the Shavit space launch vehicle.

The air-based leg of Israel’s nuclear force could potentially also face modernization as the Israeli air force acquires the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from the United States.

There are persistent rumors that Israel may have converted a cruise missile to nuclear weapons capability for its new Dolphin-class attack submarines. The rumors have focused on the Popeye Turbo or Harpoon missiles, but the status of the weapon remains unclear. If this conversion is taking place, the submarines would provide Israel with a new limited-range offensive capability and more-secure retaliatory capability.

North Korea

Because the North Korean nuclear arsenal is still in its infancy, most efforts to develop a deliverable nuclear weapons capability can essentially be considered modernizations. Potential nuclear-capable delivery systems include the Scud C and Nodong short-range missiles, the Musudan medium-range missile, and the Hwasong-13 (KH-08) and Taepo Dong long-range missiles. The KH-08 and Musudan have yet to be test-flown; the Taepo Dong has been successfully flown only as a space launch vehicle. After three nuclear explosive tests, there is no authoritative public information that North Korea has yet test-flown a re-entry vehicle intended to deliver a nuclear warhead.

A technically simpler but shorter-range and more vulnerable delivery system would be an aircraft equipped with a nuclear bomb. All other nuclear-weapon states used aircraft as their first delivery system, but there is no known information that North Korea has followed suit.


Despite significant reductions in the overall number of nuclear weapons compared with the Cold War era, all of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states are busy modernizing their remaining nuclear forces for the long haul. None of the nuclear-armed states appears to be planning to eliminate its nuclear weapons anytime soon. Instead, all speak of the continued importance of nuclear weapons.

The pace of nuclear reductions appears to be slowing as Russia and the United States shift their focus to sustaining their arsenals for the indefinite future. Three of the nuclear-armed states are increasing their arsenals, and nuclear competition among the nuclear-armed states appears to be alive and well.

Despite the financial constraints facing several of the nuclear-armed states, these states appear committed to spending hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade on modernizing their nuclear forces.

Perpetual nuclear modernization appears to undercut the promises made by the five NPT nuclear-weapon states. Under the terms of that treaty, they are required to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” Nearly 50 years after this promise was first made, the non-nuclear-weapon states, who in return for that commitment renounced nuclear weapons for themselves, can rightly question whether continued nuclear modernization in perpetuity is consistent with the NPT.

Without some form of limitations on the pace and scope of nuclear modernization, the goals of deep cuts in and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons remain elusive and appear increasingly unlikely as continued reaffirmation of the value of nuclear weapons, sustained by a global nuclear competition, threatens to extend the nuclear era indefinitely.

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Hans M. Kristensen is director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.


1. UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” n.d., http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Nuclear/NPTtext.shtml.

2. The fiscal year 2015 National Nuclear Security Administation budget request delays the design and production of the first Interoperable Warhead (W78/W88-1) by five years because there are considerable cost and design uncertainties and no urgent aging-related issues affecting the current warheads.

3. U.S. Congressional Budget Office, “Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2014 to 2023,” December 2013, http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/12-19-2013-NuclearForces.pdf.

4. James Miller, Statement before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, May 4, 2011, p. 5.

5. Jon B. Wolfsthal, Jeffrey Lewis, and Marc Quint, “The Trillion Dollar Nuclear Triad: U.S. Strategic Nuclear Modernization Over the Next Thirty Years,” James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, January 7, 2014, http://cns.miis.edu/trillion_dollar_nuclear_triad/.

6. For analysis of the implications of the guided tail kit, see Hans M. Kristensen, “B61 LEP: Increasing NATO Nuclear Capability and Precision Low-Yield Strikes,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, June 15, 2011, http://blogs.fas.org/security/2011/06/b61-12/.

7. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, p. xiv, http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20Nuclear%20Posture%20Review%20Report.pdf.

8. NATO, “Deterrence and Defence Posture Review,” May 2012, sec. II.8, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-193D7980-4A881D9C/natolive/official_texts_87597.htm.

9. NATO officials, conversations with author, 2014.

10. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate—Berlin, Germany,” June 19, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obama-brandenburg-gate-berlin-germany.

11. NATO, “Deterrence and Defence Posture Review,” sec. V.24.

12. Yuri Gavrilov, “Bulava at the End of the Year” (in Russian), February 25, 2011, http://www.rg.ru/2011/02/24/pole-site.html; Russian nuclear experts, communications with author; Bruce G. Blair and Matthew A. Brown, “World Spending on Nuclear Weapons Surpasses $1 Trillion per Decade,” Global Zero, June 2011, p. 5, http://www.globalzero.org/files/gz_nuclear_weapons_cost_study.pdf (citing Pavel Podvig, “Russia to Spend $70 billion on Strategic Forces by 2020,” Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, February 24, 2011, http://russianforces.org/blog/2011/02/russia_to_spend_70_billion_on.shtml).

13. “Russia to Spend 100 Billion on Nuclear Weapons,” Pravda, October 18, 2012, http://english.pravda.ru/news/russia/18-10-2012/122499-russia_nuclear_weapons-0/.

14. James R. Clapper, “Statement for the Record: Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” April 18, 2013, p. 23 (given before the Senate Armed Services Committee).

15. Ibid., p. 24.

16. “Russia to Up Nuclear Weapon Spending 50% by 2016,” RIA-Novosti, October 8, 2013, http://en.ria.ru/military_news/20131008/184004336/Russia-to-Up-Nuclear-Weapons-Spending-50-by-2016.html.

17. Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013,” May 2013, p. 6.

All of the world’s nuclear-armed states are busy modernizing their nuclear forces for the long haul. Non-nuclear-weapon states can rightly question whether continued nuclear modernization in perpetuity is consistent with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

17 European Countries Ratify ATT

Jefferson Morley

Eighteen countries announced their ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in early April, bringing the global pact to regulate the transfer of small and conventional arms closer to entry into force. To date, 118 countries have signed the accord, and 31 have ratified it. Fifty states need to ratify the treaty for it to become international law.

All but one of the countries that presented proof of ratification on April 2 are in Europe: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The only non-European country to ratify the treaty was El Salvador, which has experienced an influx of unregulated weapons and high levels of gun violence.

Although Africa suffers from some of the deadliest conflicts fueled by small arms, only two African countries—Mali and Nigeria—have ratified the treaty so far.

April 2 marked the one-year anniversary of the date the treaty was opened for signature.

“By globally regulating the international trade in arms, nations demonstrate their common responsibility to save lives, reduce human suffering and make the world a safer place for all,” the 17 European states said in a joint statement.

“With our joint deposit, we send a strong signal that we—countries that fought for the Treaty—will spare no efforts to achieve the Treaty’s early entry into force. We are confident that entry into force towards the end of this year 2014 is well within reach,” the statement said.

The United States, which signed the treaty last September, endorsed that goal in a joint statement with the European Union after the EU-U.S. summit on March 26. The Obama administration has yet to set a date for submitting the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

The next country to ratify the treaty could be Japan, where the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill on April 10 to ratify the pact. The Japanese constitution guarantees its passage during the current session of the Diet, which runs through late June.

Eighteen countries announced their ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in early April, bringing the global pact to regulate the transfer of small and conventional arms closer to entry into force. To date, 118 countries have signed the accord, and 31 have ratified it. Fifty states need to ratify the treaty for it to become international law.

Nuclear Powers Meet in Beijing on NPT

Tom Z. Collina

Meeting for the fourth time since the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, the five countries that the treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states met in Beijing on April 14 and 15 to review their progress toward fulfilling the nuclear disarmament commitments they made at the 2010 conference.

The conference’s final document calls on the five states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to report on their progress in getting rid of nuclear weapons and preventing their use. The report is to be delivered at an April 28-May 9 preparatory meeting in New York for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

In an April 15 joint statement, the five states said they had given each other their “national reports consistent with [the NPT] reporting framework” and planned to report to the preparatory meeting on transparency, confidence building, and verification.

The five countries “reaffirmed their commitment to the shared goal of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament as provided for in Article VI of the NPT.” They said they plan to continue to seek progress on the “step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, which is the only practical path to achieving a world without nuclear weapons and in keeping with our NPT obligations.”

This is likely to be a controversial position at the preparatory meeting, where many states without nuclear weapons believe that the step-by-step process is too slow. The steps in that process include the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which China, the United States, and six other key countries have not ratified, thereby preventing the treaty from entering into force; a fissile material cutoff treaty, the negotiation of which has been blocked by Pakistan at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva; and reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons below the levels set by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Because of the downturn in U.S.-Russian relations, such reductions now appear a distant prospect.

Countries impatient for progress on nuclear disarmament are supporting a series of conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use. The first two conferences took place in Norway in March 2013 and Mexico in February of this year; a third is to be held in Austria Dec. 8-9.

The five nuclear-weapon states said they intend to meet again in London in 2015.

Meeting for the fourth time since the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, the five countries that the treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states met in Beijing on April 14 and 15 to review their progress toward fulfilling the nuclear disarmament commitments they made at the 2010 conference.

Klotz Starts at Nuclear Arms Agency

Tom Z. Collina

Retired Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz was sworn in as the new head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on April 17.

Klotz, who was approved by the Senate on April 8, takes over at a troubled time for the agency, which oversees the production and maintenance of U.S. nuclear warheads. In March, a congressionally mandated panel found that the NNSA, a semiautonomous part of the Energy Department, has “failed” in its mission to effectively oversee U.S. nuclear weapons operations.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved Klotz’s nomination in January, after the White House chose him for the post in August. He replaces acting administrator Bruce Held, who will return to his position as associate deputy secretary. The NNSA has not had a permanent administrator since Thomas D’Agostino stepped down in January 2013.

Klotz was commander of Air Force Global Strike Command from 2009 to 2011 and served from 2001 to 2003 as the director for nuclear policy and arms control on the National Security Council, where he represented the Bush administration in talks that led to the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. Earlier in his career, he served as the defense attaché at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

Klotz will have to deal with calls for “drastic reforms” at the NNSA to address “systemic” management problems, according to preliminary findings of the Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

“The unmistakable conclusion of our fact-finding is that, as implemented, the ‘NNSA experiment’ involving creation of a semiautonomous organization has failed,” former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Norm Augustine and retired Adm. Richard Mies, the co-chairmen of the bipartisan panel, told the House Armed Services Committee on March 26 in a written summary of the panel’s initial conclusions. The panel’s final report is expected this summer.

Past proposals for NNSA reforms have included eliminating Energy Department oversight, increasing contractor independence, boosting the department’s oversight, and placing the agency under Pentagon control.

Retired Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz was sworn in as the new head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on April 17.


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