“[My time at ACA] prepared me very well for the position that I took following that with the State Department, where I then implemented and helped to implement many of the policies that we tried to promote.”
– Peter Crail
Business Executive for National Security
June 2, 2022

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



Feb 22, 2022
10:00 AM Eastern Time

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

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

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

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

Opening Remarks: 

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



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


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Comments on the Nuclear Posture Review to the NPR Working Group



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We agree with that statement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The MDR and the NPR

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your attention.


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

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

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

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

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


by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Download Professor Lin's slides (pdf format).

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Toward a Balanced Outcome at the Tenth NPT Review Conference



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Disarmament Deficit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Excuses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such deflection of responsibility for inaction is unconstructive and irresponsible.

Next Steps on Disarmament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

US Chemical Weapons Stockpile Elimination: Progress Update



Thursday, September 23, 2021
10:00am - 11:30am Washington, DC time

As part of its treaty obligations to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States must finish destroying all of its declared chemical weapons stockpiles by September 2023. 

With two years remaining before the stockpile elimination deadline, the CWC Coalition seeks to discuss what has been accomplished, what still lie ahead, and the importance of meeting the 2023 deadline. 

Since becoming a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, the United States has worked steadily to destroy its declared chemical weapons stockpiles. As of May 2021, the United States has destroyed 96.52% of its Category 1 chemical weapons stockpile and all of its Category 2 and Category 3 chemical weapons. The United States is the last of eight declared stockpile possessor states to complete its safe and permanent demilitarization of chemical weapons. 


  • Dr. Brandi Vann, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense
  • Irene Kornelly, Chair of the Colorado Citizens' Advisory Commission
  • Paul Walker, Coordinator, Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition, moderating

This discussion was on the record. This recording can also be found on the CWC Coalition website.


Subject Resources:

Kazakhstan: How Events 30 Years Ago Spurred Action to Halt Nuclear Testing Worldwide



Thursday, September 9, 2021
9:00am - 10:30am Washington / 4:00pm - 5:30pm Vienna / 7:00pm -8:30pm Nur-Sultan time

Thirty years ago on August 29, the main Soviet nuclear testing site, located in eastern Kazakhstan, was officially shut down. The closure was the result of a remarkable and often overlooked anti-nuclear movement that arose in opposition to Soviet nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk site. Kazakhstan's anti-nuclear movement Nevada-Semipalatinsk was linked closely with Western anti-nuclear testing movements, and together they leveraged the Soviet testing halt to advance a series of steps that would lead to the conclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996.



HE Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States

Speakers and topics:

Kazakhstan’s Closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site -
Togzhan Kassenova, senior fellow with the Project on International Security, Commerce, and Economic Statecraft at the Center for Policy Research at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is the author of the forthcoming book Atomic Steppe: How Kazakhstan Gave Up the Bomb (Stanford Press, Feb. 2022)

The impact of Kazakhstan’s anti-nuclear movement on the global anti-nuclear movement -
Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford, International Physicians Against Nuclear War Canada

The impact of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site on the Soviet and U.S. moratoriums on nuclear testing, and subsequent opening for signature of the CTBT -
Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association

Dr. Francesca Giovannini, Executive Director, Managing the Atom project at the Belfer Center, Harvard University and author of “The CTBT at 25 and Beyond” in the September issue of Arms Control Today

Following comments from the speakers, there will be a question-and-answer session.

Cohosted by the Arms Control Association, the Center for Policy Research at the University at Albany, SUNY and the Embassy of Kazakhstan to the United States



Thirty years ago, the main Soviet nuclear testing site in eastern Kazakhstan was officially shut down. Join us for a special virtual briefing on the events that led to the end of nuclear testing in Kazakstan and how it helped change the course of nuclear history.

Smarter Options on U.S. Nuclear Modernization



Monday, May 17, 2021
2:00 - 3:30pm Eastern time

The debate about how the United States should approach nuclear modernization is once again a hot topic in Washington ahead of the imminent release of the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request and as the administration prepares to begin a more comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear policy.

The United States is planning to spend at least $1.5 trillion over the next several decades to maintain and upgrade its nuclear arsenal. The biggest bills for this effort are slated to hit over the next 10 to 15 years and poised to pose a growing challenge to other security and military priorities amid what most experts believe will be flat defense budgets over the next several years.

Competing demands such as combatting climate change and strengthening pandemic defense and response capabilities illustrate the importance of examining more cost-effective alternatives to sustaining the arsenal while ensuring a strong deterrent, enhancing stability, and pursuing additional arms control measures.

While the Trump administration expanded the role of and spending on the arsenal, the Biden administration in its interim national security strategic guidance released in March said: “We will take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, while ensuring our strategic deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective and that our extended deterrence commitments to our allies remain strong and credible.”

The Biden administration also quickly agreed with Russia a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) without conditions and pledged to “pursue new arms control arrangements.”

The expert speakers addressed how the Biden administration should approach the nuclear modernization effort, alternatives to building a new fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) via the ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) and the W87-1 warhead replacement programs, the challenges facing the National Nuclear Security Administration’s warhead and infrastructure modernization plans, and the relationship between nuclear modernization and arms control diplomacy.

Speakers included:

  • Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.)
  • Steve Fetter, associate provost and dean, University of Maryland, and a former assistant director in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Sharon Weiner, associate professor, American University, and a former program examiner with the National Security Division of the White House Office of Management and Budget
  • Amy Woolf, specialist in nuclear weapons policy, Congressional Research Service

Additional Resources:


Speakers addressed how the United States should approach nuclear modernization ahead of the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request and its comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear policy.

Reinforcing the Norm Against Chemical Weapons: The April 20-22 Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention



May 10, 2021
10:00 AM Eastern Time

The Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition, in cooperation with the Arms Control Association, hosted this briefing to review the results and implications of the 25th Conference of States Parties for the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the CWC regime. 

Opening remarks were provided by H.E. Fernando Arias, Director-General of the OPCW. Following, we heard from 

  • Amb. Lisa Helfand, Permanent Representative of Canada to the OPCW
  • Amb. Gudrun Lingner, Permanent Representative of Germany to the OPCW
  • Dr. Jean Pascal Zanders, independent disarmament and security researcher at The Trench
  • Dr. Paul Walker, moderator, Coordinator, Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition


Director-General Fernando Arias:
“The civil society community of non-governmental organizations, researchers, scientists, and other relevant stakeholders are essential partners in achieving the OPCW’s mission and raising awareness about the risks posed by certain chemicals. The Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition has played a critical role in this regard by coordinating and supporting civil society engagement with the OPCW through the Conference of the State’s Parties.”
“The report of the Fact Finding Mission related to the incident in Douma on the 7th of April 2018 is still the object of discussion between some member states. The Fact Finding Mission released its report on the 1st of March, 2019. In its report, the Fact Finding Mission concluded reasonable grounds that the use of chlorine as a weapon likely took place. ... None of the 193 member states of the organization have challenged the findings of the Fact Finding Mission that chlorine was found on the scene of the attack in Douma.”
“As we count down to mark the 25th anniversary of the organization in 2022, we need to acknowledge that our world today is very different to the one in 1997 when it was founded. To meet the challenges, it is imperative for us to keep adapting and evolving in an ever changing global landscape. Preventing re-emergence will require the commitment and the efforts of all stakeholders - civil society, government, and chemical industry.”

The following resources provide supplemental information on the topic of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and strengthening the norm against chemical weapons use. 

If you wish to remain informed on this or other topics, including future webinars, please sign up and indicate your interests at www.armscontrol.org/get-the-latest



 this briefing on the results and implications of the 25th Conference of States Parties for the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the CWC regime.

Subject Resources:


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