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former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

CTBTO Announces Pledges to Limit Xenon

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) announced Nov. 13 that four medical isotope makers have pledged to reduce radioxenon emissions, a step that the organization said would help it in its mission of identifying nuclear test explosions.

Tom Z. Collina

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) announced Nov. 13 that four medical isotope makers have pledged to reduce radioxenon emissions, a step that the organization said would help it in its mission of identifying nuclear test explosions.

The producers also have agreed to share information on emission levels, the CTBTO said in the announcement.

The increasing global production of medical isotopes has led to higher emissions of the radioactive noble gas xenon, the CTBTO said, and could affect one of the CTBTO’s key verification technologies by masking a potential xenon release from an underground nuclear test. CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said the cooperation with the medical isotope producers “helps us to provide confidence to our member states that, now and in the future, no radioactive release from a nuclear test will go unnoticed.”

The four companies that signed the pledge are the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals Corp. in the United States, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, and PT Batan Teknologi Company Indonesia. The CTBTO will assist producers in clarifying any concerns due to elevated xenon levels.

The Belgian-based Institute for Radio Elements signed the pledge in June.

The agreement was signed during a workshop at the CTBTO’s Vienna headquarters on the radioactive signatures of medical and industrial isotope production. The permanent representatives to the UN office in Vienna of Belgium, Indonesia, South Korea, and the United States attended the ceremony, along with 70 representatives from established and prospective producers of medical isotopes from 24 countries and representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, in outer space, underwater, and underground. The CTBTO’s global verification regime, which is to have 337 facilities when it is fully operational, monitors the globe for nuclear explosions. Once the CTBT has entered into force, on-site inspections can also be used to search for evidence of a nuclear explosion.

Foreign Ministers Urge Action on CTBT

More than 50 foreign ministers and senior government representatives met Sept. 27 at the United Nations to call for prompt action toward entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Daryl G. Kimball

More than 50 foreign ministers and senior government representatives met Sept. 27 at the United Nations to call for prompt action toward entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

One hundred eighty-three states have signed the treaty, and 161 have ratified it. But under the terms of the treaty, eight more listed in Article XIV of the treaty, including the United States and China, must ratify it to achieve entry into force.

This year’s conference on facilitating entry into force, the eighth such meeting held since 1999, adopted a final declaration reaffirming the participants’ “determination to take concrete steps towards early entry into force” and pledging “support for bilateral, regional, and multilateral outreach initiatives” to that end. The conference did not produce a work plan for such an effort.

In an effort to spur progress, the new executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, announced the formation of 18-member Group of Eminent Persons to boost national and international efforts to bring the treaty into force. It includes several former foreign and defense ministers and senior diplomats, plus the co-chairs of the Sept. 27 conference, Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

U.S. and Chinese officials reiterated their support for the treaty, but did not make any commitments on ratification. Mirroring comments made at the 2011 conference, Rose Gottemoeller, the acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said that “there are no set time frames to bring the treaty to a vote, and we are going to be patient, but persistent in our outreach efforts.” Pang Sen, director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Department, pledged that his government would continue to “push forward the deliberation process” for Chinese ratification.

In August, following a visit by Zerbo to Beijing to meet with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, China agreed to transmit data from the CTBTO’s monitoring stations in China to the organization’s International Data Center (IDC) in Vienna. According to an Aug. 7 CTBTO press statement, “This is part of the testing and evaluation process that marks the first formal step towards certification of the monitoring stations in China.”

The International Monitoring System will consist of 337 monitoring facilities when complete. Around 85 percent have already been installed and are sending data to the IDC. To date, 10 of the 11 CTBTO monitoring stations hosted by China have been built.

Civil Society Pushes Key States to Act on Nuclear Test Ban Treaty



(New York/Washington) -- At a meeting of more than 100 senior government officials at the United Nations to discuss pathways to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force, a diverse set of nongovernmental nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament leaders, as well as former government officials and diplomats are calling on all states to translate their words of support for the Treaty into concrete action.


For Immediate Release: Sept. 27, 2013

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Director, Arms Control Association, (202-463-8270 ext. 107)

(New York/Washington) -- At a meeting of more than 100 senior government officials at the United Nations to discuss pathways to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force, a diverse set of nongovernmental nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament leaders, as well as former government officials and diplomats are calling on all states to translate their words of support for the Treaty into concrete action.

In the statement to be delivered at the conference on behalf of civil society by Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute, the nongovernmental experts said: 

"If both the letter and spirit of the CTBT are adhered to, then it will help curtail improvements in existing arsenals and lower the prestige of nuclear weapons programs. It strengthens the pursuit of international order based on the rule of law. However, the promise and benefits of the CTBT remain unfulfilled because the eight key states have failed to sign and/or ratify the treaty. It is time to act. Seventeen years have already passed by since the treaty was concluded. This is already the eighth Article XIV Conference on Facilitating CTBT Entry Into Force."

The civil society statement urged the conference to "help produce what previous conferences have not: a serious diplomatic action plan for getting the remaining holdout states on board."

The full text of the statement can be found here.

"Until the remaining eight Annex II outlier states finally ratify the treaty, entry into force will be delayed and the door to the renewal of nuclear testing will remain ajar," Granoff told the conference.

Eight more states including—China, the DPRK, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, and the United States—must ratify before the CTBT can formally enter into force. To date, 183 states have signed the Treaty (including China and the United States) and 161 have ratified.


The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding and effective policies to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons: nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, as well as certain types of conventional weapons that pose a threat to noncombatants. ACA publishes the monthly journal Arms Control Today.

The Week Ahead, Sept. 21-28: Obama, Rouhani at the UN; Iran Meets IAEA; Syria Resolution

This bulletin highlights significant events in the world of arms control in the coming week, as compiled by staff and friends of the Arms Control Association. (Send your suggestions for events to be covered here .) - Jefferson Morley, Senior Editorial Consultant, Arms Control Today Obama, Rouhani to Speak at UN on Sept. 25 Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani has launched a charm offensive that opens new possibilities for the stalled talks relating to Iran's nuclear program. Those talks, between Iran and the United States and its P5+1 partners are expected to resume in October. Iran meets the...

Limited Test Ban Treaty Turns 50

Signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, 5 August 1963. Secretary of State Dean Rusk signing for the United States; Foreign Minister Andre Gromyko, signing for the Soviet Union; and Lord Hume signing for the United Kingdom. Photo: CTBTO. Note: The following essay by Daryl G. Kimball and Wade Boese was originally published in the October 2003 issue of Arms Control Today as " Limited Test Ban Treaty Turns 40" Like all first steps, it was long awaited, tentative, and not without risk. Yet, it also held out promise. The Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) , the first agreement negotiated to regulate...

Obama Calls for Deeper Nuclear Cuts

The U.S. president laid out his arms control agenda, prompting a cool reply from Russia and a partisan reaction from Capitol Hill.

Jefferson Morley and Daryl G. Kimball

President Barack Obama last month outlined a nuclear arms control agenda for his second term, calling for negotiated arms reductions with Russia, a fourth nuclear security summit, and a renewed push for treaties banning nuclear testing and the production of fissile materials.

In a June 19 address at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Obama said, “We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.” Obama’s initiatives build on the goals he announced in his April 2009 speech in Prague and on the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which mandates reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsensals by 2018.

While noting that New START would reduce deployed nuclear warheads “to their lowest levels since the 1950s,” Obama said, “[W]e have more work to do.”

“To move beyond Cold War nuclear postures,” Obama said he would seek to reduce the numbers of U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. If implemented, the reductions would trim the two countries’ strategic nuclear arsenals from the limit of 1,550 deployed warheads mandated by New START to about 1,000 to 1,100.

Obama announced that the United States would host a nuclear security summit in 2016, aimed at protecting nuclear material around the world from theft or diversion by terrorist organizations or rogue states. It would be the fourth such gathering of Obama’s presidency. The third summit is scheduled to be held in the Netherlands next year. Until Obama’s announcement, it was unclear if the summits would continue beyond 2014.

The president pledged “to build support in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,” echoing a promise he made in Prague four years ago. Obama also renewed his call for negotiations on a treaty that would end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

Obama did not provide any details about how he would promote the test ban treaty, which was rejected by the Senate in 1999. He also provided no specifics on advancing a fissile material treaty in the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, which has been thwarted by objections from Pakistan.

Obama promised to work with NATO allies “to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe,” where the United States now maintains an estimated 180 nuclear warheads. The alliance’s 2012 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review document links changes in the alliance’s nuclear posture to Russia’s nuclear policy by stating that “NATO is prepared to consider further reducing its requirement for non-strategic nuclear weapons assigned to the Alliance in the context of reciprocal steps by Russia.” (See ACT, June 2012.)

The president announced that, after a “comprehensive review,” he approved new nuclear weapons employment guidance for the Defense Department that will lay the groundwork for the additional reductions, according to a June 19 White House summary.

The guidance directs the Pentagon to align U.S. military plans with the policies of Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which resulted in a report stating that the U.S. government will consider the use of nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners. Sources familiar with the review say that it was completed approximately 18 months ago.

The resulting strategy, says the summary, “will strengthen regional deterrence, and reassure U.S. allies and partners, while laying the groundwork for negotiations with Russia on how we can mutually and verifiably reduce our strategic and nonstrategic nuclear stockpiles.”

Administration sources say that senior U.S. and Russian officials soon will begin discussions on the options for further strategic nuclear reductions. “We are in close contact with our Russian counterparts and will be in the days and weeks and months ahead,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters June 20.

In their public comments, senior Russian officials have responded coolly to Obama’s proposal. On June 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that reductions beyond the levels in New START will make nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia comparable to those of other countries with nuclear weapons.

“This means that further moves possibly proposed for reduction of actual strategic offensive arms will have to be reviewed in a multilateral format. And I’m talking not just official nuclear powers, but all countries that possess nuclear weapons,” Lavrov said on Rossiya 1 television. Russia has insisted that further offensive nuclear reductions also depend on a resolution of its concerns about U.S. strategic missile defense plans.

Obama’s speech was met with praise and criticism in the U.S. Senate. In a June 19 statement, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the intelligence committee, said that “the world will be better off without an unnecessarily high number of these powerful weapons. The Cold War is long gone and the United States and Russia must do more to adjust their deterrents to practicable standards.” Feinstein, along with 22 other Democratic senators, wrote to Obama earlier this year to encourage further action on nuclear reductions, the test ban treaty, and securing nuclear materials.

In a separate June 19 statement, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that additional limitations of the U.S. nuclear arsenal without modernization of existing forces could amount to “unilateral disarmament.” The same day, Corker and 23 other Republican senators wrote a letter to Obama insisting that “any further reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal should only be conducted through a treaty subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.”

Arms control advocates have said reciprocal, parallel reductions in strategic deployed nuclear forces can be implemented without a treaty and verified under the inspection procedures established by New START. A November 2012 report from the secretary of state’s International Security Advisory Board recommends a similar approach if the United States and Russia cannot agree on a new treaty. The report suggests the United States could accelerate its reductions under New START, allowing both sides to avoid “costly or destabilizing” programs to modernize strategic forces. (See ACT, November 2012.)

In his statement, Corker said Secretary of State John Kerry had assured him that any further reductions would occur in bilateral treaty negotiations subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. But a State Department spokesman denied that, saying Kerry had only agreed that the Senate would be “consulted.”

“At this point, it’s premature to speculate on precisely what such agreement…might encompass or how it would be established,” the spokesman said.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at 45

President Lyndon Johnson looking on as Secretary of State Dean Rusk prepares to sign the NPT, 1 July 1968.(Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.) By Daryl G. Kimball Forty-five years ago today, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and dozens of other countries signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at ceremonies in Washington, Moscow, and London. In his remarks at the July 1, 1968 signing ceremony , U.S. President Lyndon Johnson called it "... a very reassuring and hopeful moment in the relations among nations. We hope and expect that virtually all the...

Obama's Nuclear Challenge

In his June 19 address in Berlin, President Barack Obama sought to jump-start progress on his second-term nuclear risk reduction agenda. The president declared,”[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.”

Daryl G. Kimball

In his June 19 address in Berlin, President Barack Obama sought to jump-start progress on his second-term nuclear risk reduction agenda. The president declared,”[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.”

Doing nothing in the face of grave nuclear weapons threats is not an option. Obama’s renewed call to action for further nuclear cuts and U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is welcome and overdue.

Obama’s centerpiece announcement was that he had completed a review of nuclear weapons employment guidance and determined that the United States can reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons it deploys by up to one-third—from 1,550 under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to between 1,000 and 1,100—and would seek reciprocal Russian reductions through negotiations.

Unfortunately, the scope of Obama’s nuclear disarmament proposals is too modest and the pace of action too slow. The cuts outlined by the president are a good start, but a level of 1,000 to 1,100 is only 200 to 300 warheads below the number to which the United States was prepared to agree during the negotiations on New START four years ago if Russia had not insisted on setting a ceiling of 1,550 through the year 2021.

In the 21st century, 1,000 deployed strategic warheads provide more than enough nuclear firepower to deter any current or potential nuclear adversary. In April 2012, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who now is secretary of defense, endorsed a study recommending the United States move toward a nuclear force of 450 deployed strategic weapons by 2022.

In the weeks ahead, the president must follow up on his Berlin speech by making a stronger case for why much deeper strategic nuclear reductions improve U.S., Russian, and global security.

Although a healthy majority of the American public and most U.S. senators support further reductions of nuclear weapons deemed in excess of deterrence requirements, some senators oppose reductions of any kind, while others insist that any further nuclear cuts should be made only through a new, formal agreement subject to Senate approval.

Congress surely needs to be consulted, but it should not put unnecessary roadblocks in the way of a more cost-effective and appropriately sized nuclear force. The Joints Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, and the White House already have determined that at least one-third of the current deployed strategic nuclear force is superfluous to U.S. nuclear military requirements.

Republican senators need to recognize that, by insisting on new treaty negotiations, they could give Russian President Vladimir Putin a veto over cuts of unnecessary and expensive U.S. strategic nuclear weapons. Even after the cancellation in March of U.S. plans for more-sophisticated missile interceptors in Europe, Moscow is reluctant to begin formal treaty talks. If talks do begin, they will be more complex and time consuming than New START.

U.S. and Russian leaders need not wait for a follow-on treaty. As they explore options for a new treaty, Obama and Putin should announce parallel, reciprocal reductions to 1,000 or fewer strategic deployed warheads within the next five years, to be verified using the monitoring provisions established by New START.

This strategy would help compel Russia to build down rather than build up its strategic nuclear forces. Russia, whose nuclear force already is below the New START limits, is developing a new, heavy intercontinental ballistic missile to match U.S. force levels. More-rapid reductions of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, which comprise 95 percent of global stockpiles, also would increase pressure on China and other nuclear-armed states to join the nuclear disarmament enterprise, an objective that leaders in Russia and United States say they support.

By scaling back its nuclear force to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads, the United States can trim $39 billion from the Defense Department’s costly plan for new strategic submarines, missiles, and bombers over the next decade, according to a 2013 Arms Control Association analysis.

In Berlin, Obama pledged to “work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.” Unfortunately, NATO has been unable to reach agreement on new proposals for tactical nuclear arms control. For its part, Russia says it will not consider limits on its far larger stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons until all such U.S. weapons are withdrawn from Europe.

More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, there is no military rationale for Russia’s arsenal of 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads, nor is there any military requirement for the 180 U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe. Bolder action is required to break the impasse. Obama should call Russia’s bluff and announce he is prepared to withdraw the remaining U.S. tactical bombs within five years and put pressure on Russia to take reciprocal action.

To overcome the challenges standing in the way of a world free of nuclear weapons, Obama and his team will need to devote greater energy, creativity, and determination to the cause.

Statement on President Obama's June 19 Address in Berlin on Eliminating Nuclear Weapons Threats



President Barack Obama's proposals today in Berlin for cutting the oversized U.S. nuclear arsenal and reducing global nuclear weapons dangers are welcome and overdue.


For Immediate Release: June 19, 2013           
Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270, ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)--President Barack Obama's proposals today in Berlin for cutting the oversized U.S. nuclear arsenal and reducing global nuclear weapons dangers are welcome and overdue.

Since the days of the Kennedy administration, U.S. leadership to reduce and eliminate the nuclear threat has been critical. To succeed, however, Obama and his team will need to sustain high-level focus and energy on these urgent and tough nuclear security challenges.

The United States can and should reduce its arsenal well below 1,000 deployed strategic warheads, which is still more than enough nuclear firepower to deter any current or potential nuclear adversary. The "one-third" cuts outlined by the President are a good start, but it is only 200-300 warheads fewer than the United States was prepared to agree to during the New START negotiations four years ago.

U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty. The two presidents could achieve similar and more rapid results through parallel, reciprocal reductions of strategic warheads--to well below 1,000 within the next five years, which could be verified under the 2010 New START treaty.

Bipartisan national security leaders agree that further, deeper nuclear reductions would increase U.S. security, lead to budget savings, and help pressure other nuclear-armed states to join in the disarmament enterprise.

Further nuclear reductions would also allow the administration to scale back unaffordable, overly ambitious Pentagon plan for building a new generation of strategic nuclear delivery systems and rebuilding five types of nuclear warheads. A 2013 assessment by the Arms Control Association identifies $39 billion in taxpayer savings over the next decade if the United States right-sizes its nuclear force to 1,000 or fewer strategic deployed nuclear warheads.

The President should also provide stronger leadership to overcome NATO and Russian inertia regarding tactical nuclear weapons. More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, there is no military rationale for Russia to maintain some 2,000 tactical nuclear bombs, half of which are on obsolete naval and air defense systems. Nor is there any military requirement for the U.S. to keep 180 air-delivered nuclear bombs in Europe, which could cost $8 billion or more to refurbish. The President should begin the process of removing the U.S. tactical bombs and call on Russia to reciprocate.

Stronger U.S. leadership is also necessary to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.  

The President must put renewed energy behind the on-again-off again negotiations to limit Iran's nuclear potential and achieve a more effective inspections system. There is time for diplomacy but that time should not be wasted. The President also needs to re-engage North Korea in serious talks to halt its nuclear and missile programs, which have and can again reduce the threat it poses to Asia and to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The President's renewed commitment to U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)--which prohibits all nuclear test explosions anywhere--is important and welcome, but requires serious follow-though to win the support of the Senate.

Since the days of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, a ban on nuclear testing has been a U.S. national security objective. Today, a legally binding, verifiable ban on all nuclear testing is vital to prevent states from improving their existing arsenals and it would make it harder for potential nuclear powers like, like Iran, to perfect deliverable nuclear warheads in the future.

In 2009, Obama said his administration would pursue "immediate and aggressive" steps to secure ratification and there is strong support for action from bipartisan national security leaders and U.S. allies. Ratification is possible if the administration launches the kind of effort it successfully pursued to win approval of the New START agreement in 2010.

To get the process started, President Obama should announce the appointment of a senior, high-level White House CTBT coordinator, or task force, within the next several weeks. This would help to engage Senators on the issues surrounding the CTBT and begin the fact-based conversation that such important matters deserve.

The President's decision to extend the Nuclear Security Summit to a fourth meeting in 2016 is very important and should help plug the remaining gaps in the global nuclear security regime.

While the Obama administration has focused high-level attention to the threat posed by nuclear terrorism and spurred important progress globally to lock-down vulnerable stockpiles, the current system still lacks universal standards and reporting requirements. President Obama should take this opportunity to bolster the nuclear security enterprise and augment funding for vital U.S. nuclear threat reduction programs in the years ahead.

As President Kennedy said five decades ago, "the weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us." Today every man, woman and child still lives under a threat of nuclear war through accidents, miscalculation, or terrorist madness.

In the months ahead, President Obama must re-energize and sustain the nuclear risk reduction enterprise and U.S. policymakers must overcome partisan politics to help address today's grave nuclear challenges.--Daryl G. Kimball


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


JFK’s American University Speech Echoes Through Time

The impact of President John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 “Strategy of Peace” speech at American University can be seen in the events of the years that followed and in the language that Kennedy’s successors used in speaking about nuclear weapons policy.

For a free sample of a feature article as our print and electronic subscribers receive it, check out this month's Looking Back: JFK's American University Speech Echoes Through Time by Daryl G. Kimball.

Daryl G. Kimball

In the modern age, U.S. presidents have delivered dozens of addresses on international peace and security, but few have been as profound or consequential as John F. Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” address delivered 50 years ago on June 10 on the campus of American University in Washington.

Coming just months after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis drove home the risks of an unbridled nuclear arms race and the dangers of a direct superpower conflict, the speech was intended to send an unambiguous signal to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the United States sought to “avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating defeat or nuclear war,” as Kennedy phrased it in the speech.

During and after the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev exchanged letters expressing the need to “step back from the danger,” as Kennedy put it, by making progress on arms control. In a letter to Kennedy on October 28, 1962, as the crisis came to a close, Khrushchev wrote, “We should like to continue the exchange of views on the prohibition of atomic and thermonuclear weapons, on general disarmament and other problems relating to the relaxation of international tension.”[1]

Kennedy, writing back the same day, said that “perhaps now…we can make some real progress in this vital field. I think we should give priority to questions relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons…and to the great effort for a nuclear test ban.”[2]

Kennedy’s June 10 address was courageous because it was conciliatory at a time of high tension and grave risks. It was prepared with his assistant Ted Sorenson, without the usual interagency review process. Using simple, eloquent phrases, Kennedy praised the Soviet people for their achievements and explained the urgent necessity of pursuing a strategy for peace to avoid the horrific dangers of nuclear war, including renewed steps on nuclear arms control and a hotline for urgent communications between Moscow and Washington. The speech offered a vision of hope and cautioned against defeatism.

At its core, the speech offered a revised formula for achieving progress on restricting nuclear weapons testing, a goal that had eluded President Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Khrushchev for more than six years. Kennedy viewed the nuclear test ban treaty—ideally a comprehensive ban—as an essential first step toward U.S.-Soviet disarmament and a barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons. In a March 21, 1963, interview, Kennedy said, “[P]ersonally I am haunted by the feeling that by 1970, unless we are successful, there may be 10 nuclear powers instead of 4, and by 1975, 15 or 20.”[3]

Despite renewed efforts to negotiate a test ban in early 1963 and conciliatory offers from each side, U.S. and Soviet negotiators remained divided over the issue of on-site inspections and verification. On June 10, Kennedy sought to break the impasse with a strategy for unilateral but reciprocated initiatives. He announced that the United States “does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so,” and he suggested that this declaration could be codified through a binding treaty.

The historical and documentary record suggests that Kennedy’s June 10 address had a profound effect on Khrushchev’s thinking on the test ban issue and about Kennedy. Kennedy’s address was published in full by the Soviet newspapers Izvestia and Pravda and welcomed by Khrushchev himself. In a statement in July 1963, the Soviet leader, who had previously insisted on a comprehensive ban, accepted for the first time a ban on atmospheric testing, which did not require on-site inspections or monitoring stations.

Two weeks later, the U.S. negotiating team, led by veteran diplomat Averell Harriman, went to Moscow for talks on the limited test ban and, if possible, the long-sought comprehensive test ban. With growing resistance to the test ban concept from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and from key senators, as well as the insistence of the Soviets on a less frequent inspection system for a comprehensive ban, the negotiators focused on achieving the limited test ban treaty.

Late on July 25, after just 12 days of talks, the negotiators concluded work on the Limited Test Ban Treaty. With a strong, public push from Kennedy, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent for ratification on September 24 by a vote of 80-19.

Kennedy’s June 10 speech not only catalyzed action on this treaty, but also led to the formalization of an agreement on establishing a hotline. It ushered in a limited easing of tensions between the superpowers involving reciprocal troop reductions in Europe, U.S. grain sales to the Soviets, mutual British-Soviet-U.S. pledges to reduce production of fissile material for weapons, energetic U.S.- and Soviet-led diplomacy in Geneva from 1964 to 1968 toward conclusion of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and an agreement in 1968 to hold discussions “on the limitation and the reduction of both offensive strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and systems of defense against ballistic missiles.”[4]

Since June 1963, every U.S. president—Democrat or Republican—has echoed some of the key themes of Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” address in his own policies and statements. Kennedy’s successors have continued to pursue many of the disarmament goals outlined during his administration. As the excerpts below indicate, these presidents have recognized to varying degrees the futility of nuclear war, the need to curb proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states and subnational groups, and the importance of pursuing arms control measures to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons and increase global security. President Barack Obama’s 2009 address in Prague outlining the steps toward the “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” addresses all of these key themes.

The real test for Obama and U.S. leaders yet to come is whether they can match the conviction and the urgency with which Kennedy sought to resolve the nuclear standoff in his 1963 address and in his bold leadership in the final months of his presidency as he sought global nuclear restraint.

Excerpts from Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” Address and Subsequent Presidential Remarks on Dealing With the Threat of Nuclear Weapons

The dangers of nuclear war and the arms race

“Today, should total war ever break out again—no matter how—our two countries would become the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours…. [W]e are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counterweapons.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“The world is still engaged in a massive armaments race designed to ensure continuing equivalent strength among potential adversaries. We pledge perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world’s armaments to those necessary for each nation’s own domestic safety. And we will move this year a step toward [the] ultimate goal—the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this Earth. We urge all other people to join us, for success can mean life instead of death.”
—Jimmy Carter, inaugural address, January 20, 1977

“Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black markets trade in nuclear secrets and materials. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point when the center cannot hold.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009

Common interests in peace and security and avoiding nuclear war

“[B]oth the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours—and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

So, let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“We are committed to a pursuit of a more peaceful, stable, and cooperative world. While we are determined never to be bested in a test of strength, we will devote our strength to what is best. And in the nuclear era, there is no rational alternative to accords of mutual restraint between the United States and the Soviet Union, two nations, which have the power to destroy mankind.

A very stark reality has tempered America’s actions for decades and must now temper the actions of all nations. Prevention of full-scale warfare in the nuclear age has become everybody’s responsibility. Today’s regional conflict must not become tomorrow’s world disaster.”
—Gerald Ford, address to the UN General Assembly, September 18, 1974

“People of the Soviet Union, there is only one sane policy, for your country and mine, to preserve our civilization in this modern age: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
—Ronald Reagan, State of the Union address, January 25, 1984

Averting conflict and engaging in talks with adversaries

“Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy—or of a collective death-wish for the world.

[I]ncreased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of the other’s actions which might occur at a time of crisis.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given the inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it is worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.

But make no mistake: we know where that road leads. When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy and cowardly thing. That is how wars begin. That is where human progress ends.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009

The need for nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament

“We have also been talking in Geneva about the other first-step measures of arms control designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and to reduce the risks of accidental war. Our primary long-range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament—designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace, which would take the place of arms.…

The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security—it would decrease the prospects of war.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“After nearly a quarter century of danger and fear—reason and sanity have prevailed to reduce the danger and to greatly lessen the fear. Thus, all mankind is reassured.

As the moment is reassuring, so it is, even more, hopeful and heartening. For this treaty is evidence that amid the tensions, the strife, the struggle, and the sorrow of these years, men of many nations have not lost the way—or have not lost the will—toward peace. The conclusion of this treaty encourages the hope that other steps may be taken toward a peaceful world.

It is for these reasons—and in this perspective—that I have described this treaty as the most important international agreement since the beginning of the nuclear age.
It enhances the security of all nations by significantly reducing the danger of nuclear war among nations.”
—Lyndon Johnson, remarks on the signing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, July 1, 1968

“The Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union…have agreed to concentrate this year on working out an agreement for the limitation of the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems…[and] on certain measures with respect to the limitation of offensive strategic weapons.

If we succeed, this…may well be remembered as the beginning of a new era in which all nations will devote more of their energies and their resources not to the weapons of war, but to the works of peace.”
—Richard Nixon, announcement of an agreement in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, May 20, 1971

“There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we’re trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We’re not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons; we seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of mutual assured destruction—if either resorted to the use of nuclear weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?”
—Ronald Reagan, second inaugural address, January 21, 1985

“In the area of security and arms control, we’ve stepped up patrol against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The new [C]hemical [W]eapons [C]onvention will ban chemical weapons from the arsenals of all participating states. And once implemented, the agreements we’ve negotiated will ban new nuclear states on the territory of the former Soviet Union. And above all, we’ve sought to erase nuclear nightmares from the sleep of future generations.”
—George H.W. Bush, Texas A&M University, December 15, 1992

“I ask Congress to join me in pursuing an ambitious agenda to reduce the serious threat of weapons of mass destruction. This year, four decades after it was first proposed by President Eisenhower, a comprehensive nuclear test ban is within reach. By ending nuclear testing, we can help to prevent the development of new and more dangerous weapons and make it more difficult for non-nuclear states to build them.”
—Bill Clinton, State of the Union address, January 27, 1998

“There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated. Yet this consensus means little unless it is translated into action. Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. These materials and technologies, and the people who traffic in them, cross many borders. To stop this trade, the nations of the world must be strong and determined. We must work together, we must act effectively.”
—George W. Bush, announcement of new measures to counter proliferation, February 11, 2004

“[A]s a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it….

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.

…[T]he United States will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.…

To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty….
And to cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons….

[T]ogether, we will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation.…

[W]e must ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009


Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the Arms Control Association.


1. Glenn Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Test Ban (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1981), p. 176.

2. Ibid.

3. Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, “107 - The President’s News Conference,” The American Presidency Project, n.d., http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9124 (transcript of President John Kennedy’s press conference on March 21, 1963).

4. Miller Center, “Remarks on Signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” n.d., http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/4037 (remarks by President Lyndon Johnson on July 1, 1968).


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