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former IAEA Director-General

INF Treaty

TAKE ACTION: 800 Warheads. 10 Minutes. One Decider.



Action Alert for Madam Secretary Viewers (May 2018)



U.S. President Donald Trump leaves CIA headquarters accompanied by the omnipresent officer carrying the nuclear "football" (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The U.S. president has sole authority to order the launch of roughly 800 of the United States' 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads within 10 minutes—no Congressional authorization is required. Still more weapons are available for him or her to launch within hours of an initial strike.

Concern about this authority is not limited to President Trump, though his confrontational style in responding to critics and experts, his cavalier approach to nuclear weapons, and his naiveté about protocol undermines confidence in his ability to act responsibly in a crisis. 

We need to restrict the President's power to make the ultimate bad decision and to unilaterally trigger a nuclear war. Here's how: 

A growing number of Senators and Representatives have become cosponsors of the "The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017," introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). This legislation would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.

Current House cosponsors 
Current Senate cosponsors


On May 3, signatures of over 500,000 Americans were delivered to Congress in support of this legislation. Seventeen national membership and advocacy groups, including the Arms Control Association, brought the signatures in several boxes to Capitol Hill. 

But we need your name to be added to those. 

Contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to become cosponsors of this urgently needed legislation (S. 200 in the Senate, H. 669 in the House) to check the president's authority to launch nuclear weapons.

Because, as President Reagan concluded in 1984, "A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought."


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Posted: May 20, 2018

High-Level Group Calls for Extension of New START Agreement



U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race


U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

(Washington, Hamburg, Moscow)—With relations between Washington, Moscow, and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, a distinguished, high-level group is warning that urgent steps need to be taken to contain nuclear risks and tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the group notes that: “Existing nuclear arms control agreements are at risk, and both sides are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, each of which exceeds reasonable deterrence requirements. A compliance dispute threatens the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will expire in 2021 unless extended.”

Among the signatories to the statement are: Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom, Richard R. Burt, former U.S. negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; Tom  Countryman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association; retired Major General Dvorkin, a chief researcher at the Center for International Security at the Institute of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations; Gen. Victor Esin, former Chief of Staff and Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces; Volker Rühe, former Minister of Defense, Germany; Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The statement was organized by the members of a 21-member German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission, which was established in 2013 to develop proposals to overcome obstacles to sensible arms control agreements and further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

Last week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Robert Soofer announced that the administration will soon “begin a whole-of-government review of the pros and cons of extending the [New START] treaty.”
“Without a positive decision to extend New START, and if the INF Treaty comes to an end, there would be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers for the first time since 1972, and the risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition would grow,” the statement warns.

“Presidents Trump and Putin … should discuss and pursue—on a priority basis—effective steps to reduce nuclear risks and tensions, and to avoid a renewed nuclear arms race,” they write.

Their recommendations include:

  • Immediate Extension of New START Treaty. This treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers. The treaty will by its terms expire February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two sides. Extending the treaty until February 2026 would preserve its significant security advantages—both the limits and the transparency that is provided by the treaty’s verification measures.
  • Intensified Efforts to Resolve INF Treaty Compliance Questions. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty made a major contribution to European and global security by eliminating all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Unfortunately, the treaty is now at risk, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations, and the U.S. government stating that it will not allow Russia to gain a military advantage through its violation. Currently, no meetings are scheduled to address the issue. A resolution of the dispute requires high-level leadership from the White House and the Kremlin.
  • Maintaining a Regular Dialogue on Strategic Stability. U.S. and Russian officials held a round of strategic stability talks in September 2017 but they postponed a follow-up round that was to be held earlier this year. They should make that dialogue a continuing and regular part of the U.S.-Russian agenda.
  • Sustained Military-to-Military Dialogue on Key Issues. Over the past five years, the instances of U.S. and NATO military aircraft and warships and Russian military aircraft and warships operating in close proximity to one another have increased dramatically. NATO has deployed ground forces to the Baltic states and Poland, putting them in closer proximity to Russian ground forces. U.S. and Russian forces also operate in close proximity in Syria. The risk of accidents and miscalculations that could escalate to a full-fledged armed conflict is growing.

The full statement is available online in English and in Russian.

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Posted: April 17, 2018

U.S. and Russia Should Avoid Escalation and Commit to Resolve Lingering INF Treaty Dispute



Statement by Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball


Statement by Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed 30 years ago today, eliminated an entire class of destabilizing U.S. and Soviet nuclear-armed weapons and helped end the Cold War. Although the INF Treaty is clearly in the security interests of the United States, Europe, and Russia, the treaty is in jeopardy.

Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand among U.S. Pershing II missiles destroyed in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in a photo taken January 14, 1989. (Photo credit: MSGT Jose Lopez Jr./U.S. Defense Department)

According the U.S. government, Russia has violated the INF Treaty by testing and subsequently deploying a small number of ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with a range between 500 and 5,500 km. Russia denies that it has violated the treaty and has instead raised its own concerns about U.S. compliance with the agreement. This is a serious matter.

Both sides say they support the INF Treaty, but they have not been able to resolve the compliance dispute through the Special Verification Commission (SVC), a technical forum designed to resolve compliance concerns. The U.S. side has requested a second meeting of the SVC on December 12-14 to address the matter once again. This is an important opportunity that both sides must use to bring forward additional details about their concerns, as well as discuss concrete and practical solutions, rather than only exchange complaints and vague allegations.

The Trump administration announced today that it is committed to the INF Treaty and to bringing Russia back into compliance, which is helpful. What is not helpful is its proposal to recommit to the treaty by taking steps that would put the United States on the path to violating it. The administration announced that it is pursuing a tit-for-tat response: the development of new, INF non-compliant conventional missile.

As long as Russia remains in noncompliance with the treaty, the United States should make clear it clear that Russia will not be allowed to gain a military advantage from its violation.

But a symmetric response won’t make the United States or Europe any safer and will only make the problem worse. Earlier this year, the Republican-led Congress opened the door to this escalation of the problem by authorizing a program of record for such a weapons system.

The INF Treaty does not prohibit research or development, but going down this road sets the stage for Washington to violate the agreement at some point and it takes the focus off of Russia’s INF violation. Rather than persuading Russia to return to compliance, this action is more likely to give Moscow an excuse to continue on its current course.

New ground-launched intermediate-range missiles are not needed to defend NATO or Northeast Asian allies. U.S. forces are already stocked with formidable air- and sea-launched missiles that can cover the same targets. Furthermore, a new U.S. INF missile would take years to develop and cost billions of dollars that would drain funding from other military programs.

Most importantly, NATO does not support a new missile, and no country has offered to host it. It is thus a missile to nowhere. If the Trump administration tries to force the alliance to accept a new, potentially nuclear missile it would divide the alliance.

Instead, both sides must recommit to resolve this issue and use the existing treaty compliance resolution mechanism, the SVC, to evaluate competing technical claims and ultimately to remove from deployment any INF systems in Russia that do not comply with the treaty.

In addition to working to preserve and strengthen the existing bilateral arms control architecture, including the INF Treaty, the U.S. and Russia should begin to discuss the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which can and should be extended for another five years. These agreements constrain Russia's nuclear forces and provide stability, predictability and transparency. They have only increased in value as the U.S.-Russia relationship has deteriorated.


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Posted: December 8, 2017

Putin Slams U.S. on Nonproliferation Deals

Russian leader warns of “immediate and reciprocal” response if the United States withdraws from the INF Treaty.

November 2017
By Maggie Tennis

Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted the United States for failing to meet nonproliferation commitments and warned that Russia would have an “immediate and reciprocal” response if the United States withdraws from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during the annual Valdai Club conference of international experts in Sochi on October 19. (Photo credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)In the speech Oct. 19, Putin praised U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation in the 1990s and early 2000s, but blamed the United States for derailing that progress. Addressing the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Putin cited the U.S. delay to 2023 in eliminating its chemical weapons stockpile, while noting that Russia completed its elimination Sept. 27. Further, he noted a shift and delays in the U.S. method for surplus plutonium disposal, which Moscow claims violates the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) between the two countries.

Putin questioned whether such delays are “proper” for “a nation that claims to be a champion of nonproliferation and control.” He cited additional grievances, including U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, failure to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and halting of implementation of a 123 agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation. President George W. Bush froze that agreement in September 2008, just four months after it was signed, in response to Russia’s war with neighboring Georgia. It was revived in 2010 as part of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic “reset” with Russia.

Putin called nuclear cooperation “the most important sphere of interaction between Russia and the United States, bearing in mind that Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility to the world as the two largest nuclear powers.”

In his remarks, Putin portrayed the United States as the unreliable partner in nonproliferation efforts. He cited Washington’s decision to push back the deadline for destroying the U.S. chemical weapons arsenal from 2007 to 2023, an effort that has been hindered by rising costs and stringent environmental restrictions. Under U.S. Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, the United States provided financial and technical support to help Russia in destroying its chemical weapons arsenal, which was completed 10 years after the original 2007 deadline set for both countries.

Putin also took aim at the troubled U.S. effort to eliminate surplus plutonium, which he called “perplexing and alarming.” He criticized the United States for canceling plans, made in agreement with Russia, to eliminate its weapons-grade plutonium by turning it into mixed-oxide fuel for nuclear power reactors.

Putin condemned the unilateral U.S. decision, saying that Moscow only learned about it after seeing a “budget submission to the Congress” seeking funding for an alternative disposal method. (See ACT, March 2016.) Alteration of the terms of the PMDA requires agreement by both parties, which the United States did not obtain when it decided to pursue the cheaper “dilute-and-dispose” method. Moscow suspended its participation in the PMDA in October 2016. (See ACT, Nov. 2016.)

Further, Putin noted apparent U.S. ambivalence toward extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as permitted under the terms of the accord. “Now we hear that New START does not work either,” he said, seeming to reference a January phone call with President Donald Trump in which Trump called New START a “bad deal.” The Russians have declared a readiness to negotiate an extension of the treaty, but the U.S. position remains unclear.

Putin stated that Russia would not withdraw from the treaty, which runs through February 2021.

Putin dismissed U.S. allegations of Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty. He said that Russia might be “tempted” to violate the treaty if it did not possess air- and sea-based missiles, such as Kalibr cruise missiles, that match U.S. capabilities. The INF Treaty, which eliminated U.S. and Russian land-based cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, left both countries free to deploy air- and sea-launched missiles with that range.

“You can see how effective the Kalibr missiles are, from the Mediterranean Sea, from the Caspian Sea, from the air or from submarines, whatever you wish,” said Putin. “Besides Kalibr, with an operational range of 1,400 kilometers, we have other airborne missile systems, very powerful ones with an operational range of 4,500 kilometers.”

He warned that Moscow would offer an “immediate and reciprocal” response to a U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty, a step advocated by some Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Putin did not specifically address U.S. accusations that Russia has deployed a ground-launched cruise missile with a treaty-prohibited range. (See ACT, Oct. 2017.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at an Oct. 20 nonproliferation conference in Moscow, criticized the United States for “refusing to specify” its allegations of Russia’s INF Treaty violations. The United States provided some specifics to Russia at a meeting of the treaty’s Special Verification Commission in November 2016, according to U.S. officials.

Lavrov expressed certainty that the “bilateral dialogue between Russia and the United States on strategic stability will continue,” but doubts that the bilateral format would be sufficient for negotiating future nuclear weapons reductions. (See ACT, Oct. 2016.) Russia has stepped up calls in recent years for multilateral arms reductions.

Lavrov emphasized the need to “prevent a spiral of confrontation” between Washington and Moscow over arms control from becoming “unstoppable.”—MAGGIE TENNIS

Posted: November 1, 2017

Nuclear Restraint Agreements Under Serious Threat



Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen these four key pillars of arms control and nonproliferation.


Volume 9, Issue 7, September 5, 2017

Since the dawn of the nuclear age over 70 years ago, rarely has the world faced as difficult an array of nuclear weapons-related security challenges as it is facing now. Unfortunately, Congress will soon enact legislation that could further imperil the global nuclear order.
The Senate is scheduled to take up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Authorization Act as early as this week. The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81. Both bills contain several problematic provisions that if enacted into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to several longstanding, bipartisan arms control and nonproliferation efforts and increase the risks of renewed nuclear arms competition with Russia.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have worsened over the past few years, thanks to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, alleged violation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and support for the Assad regime in Syria. Nevertheless, the two countries continue to share common interests. In particular, as the possessors of over 90 percent of the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, they have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. The downward spiral in relations makes these objectives all the more urgent.
While some meaningful cooperation continues, such as adherence to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, there is no ongoing dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps.
Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen the existing architecture of arms control and nonproliferation agreements, key pillars of which have their origin in the vision of President Ronald Reagan. These agreements constrain Russia’s nuclear forces, provide for stability, predictability, and transparency in the bilateral relationship, and have only increased in value as the U.S.-Russia relationship has deteriorated.
Below is a summary of the current status and arguments in support of four key agreements put at risk by the Senate and/or House NDAAs. 

The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)
Background: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) requires that the United States and Russia each reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. The agreement, which is slated to expire in 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.
Current Status: So far both sides are implementing the agreement and there are no indications that they do not plan to continue to do so. Russia has indicated that it is interested in beginning talks with the United States on extending the treaty, but the Trump administration has yet to respond to these overtures. In January phone call with President Putin, President Trump reportedly dismissed the idea of an extension and called the treaty a “bad deal.” The House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would prohibit the use of funds to extend the New START treaty unless Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART

Key Points:

  • New START caps the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and provides the United States with additional tools to monitor Russia’s forces. The treaty includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with treaty limits and enable the United States to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile, which aids U.S. military planning.
  • The deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relationship has only increased the value of New START. The treaty provides for bilateral stability, predictability, and transparency, thereby bounding the current tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
  • The U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START. For example, in March 2017, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), “I am big supporter of the New START Agreement.” Hyten added that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”
  • Connecting New START extension with INF treaty compliance is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021. If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
Background: The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia and the United States destroyed a total of 2,692 short/medium/intermediate-range missiles by the 1991 deadline.
Current Status: The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the treaty. Moscow denies it is violating the agreement, and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord. Both the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the FY 2018 NDAA would authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/INFtreaty
Key Points:

  • The United States and Russia need to work to preserve the INF Treaty. This should include using the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution mechanism, to address mutual concerns. The Trump administration should make it clear to Moscow that so long as Russia remains in violation of the treaty, the United States will pursue steps to reaffirm and buttress its commitment to the defense of those allies threatened by the treaty-noncompliant missiles.
  • Development of a new GLCM sets the stage for Washington to violate the agreement and would take the focus off Russia's violation. Russia could respond by publicly repudiating the treaty and deploying large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.
  • Development of a new GLCM is militarily unnecessary and Pentagon has not asked for one. The United States can legally deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets. There is no reason to believe that development of a new GLCM will convince Russia to return to compliance. A new GLCM would also take years to develop and suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements. The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the INF provision on requiring a new GLCM.
  • NATO does not support a new GLCM and attempting to force it upon the alliance would be incredibly divisive. It is thus a weapon to nowhere. A divided NATO would also be a gift to Russia.
  • Mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the INF treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

The 1990 Treaty on Open Skies
Background: The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency on the military activities of states, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants for information gathering purposes. The parties have equal yearly quotas of overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all Treaty parties.
Current Status: The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russia’s compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would annually bar, for each of the next five years, any U.S. Open Skies Treaty skies flights until Pentagon and intelligence community submit a plan for all of the treaty flights in the coming year. The bill would also bar DOD from acquiring a more effective, more timely, more reliable digital imaging system for conducting flights over Russian territory.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/openskies

Key Points:

  • The Open Skies Treaty provides a significant contribution to the security and stability of North America and Europe. According to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear and Strategic Policy Anita E. Friedt, almost a dozen U.S. and NATO member flights over Ukraine and Western Russia in 2014 during the Ukraine crisis “resulted in valuable data and insights.” The treaty mandates information-sharing about military forces that increases transparency among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.
  • U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection. The United States and its allies typically carry out many more overflights than Russia. These flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery.
  • Russia would gain a unilateral advantage as a result of restricting funding for upgrading aircraft used by the United States for treaty observation flights. This would stymie U.S. efforts to match Russian sensor upgrades, thereby limiting the value of the Open Skies treaty to U.S. national security.
  • The Russian sensors and cameras in question do not pose a threat to U.S. security. According to Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs, all states party to the Open Skies treaty are permitted to certify new sensors and aircraft. Furthermore, he said, “the resolution of Open Skies imagery is similar to that available in commercial satellite imagery.” He added that Russian information compiled as a result of Open Skies flights is “of only incremental value” among Russia’s many means of intelligence gathering. 

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
Background: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is the the intergovernmental organization that promotes the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has yet to enter force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System (IMS) to deter and detect nuclear test explosions.
Current Status: The United States currently contributes nearly a quarter of the annual CTBTO budget. In April 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined with other Foreign Ministers at the G-7 foreign minister summit in a statement expressing support for the CTBTO. The Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request would fund the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO at roughly the same level as the Obama administration. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would prohibit funding for the CTBTO and calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2310 does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/test-ban-treaty-at-a-glance

Key Points:

  • The CTBTO and IMS support and provide detection capabilities that supplement U.S. national intelligence capabilities to detect nuclear testing. Reducing U.S. funding for the CTBTO would  adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS.
  • The CTBTO is a neutral source of information that can help to mobilize international action against any state that violates the global norm against nuclear testing. U.S. action to restrict funding could prompt other states to reduce their own funding for the CTBTO or lead states to withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing. Contrary to what the Cotton-Wilson bill implies,
  • Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states, including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, it encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so. It also takes note of a Sept. 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 
  • Asserting that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory would signal to other states that that the United States may be seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear testing. With North Korea having conducted a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the CTBTO and the global nuclear testing taboo. 

—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

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Posted: September 5, 2017

Congress Puts Bipartisan Arms Control Policies at Risk



The House and Senate Armed Services Committee are currently considering defense authorization legislation that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.


Volume 9, Issue 5, July 17, 2017

The future of U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense policy is at a crossroads. The Trump administration is conducting comprehensive reviews—scheduled to be completed by the end of the year—that could result in significant changes to U.S. policy to reducing nuclear weapons risks.

As the possessors of over 90 percent of the world's roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. Yet, the U.S.-Russia relationship is under significant strain, due to to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, and support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria. These tensions have also put put immense pressure on the arms control relationship.

It is against this backdrop that the House and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) include provisions that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.

The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81 and the Senate could take up its bill later this month. 

The problematic arms control provisions in the bills would undermine U.S. security by eroding stability between the world's two largest nuclear powers, increasing the risks of nuclear competition, and further alienating allies already unsettled by President Donald Trump’s commitment to their security. In fact, some are so radical that they have even drawn opposition from the White House and Defense Department.

The bills also fail to provide effective oversight of the rising costs of the government’s more than $1 trillion-plan to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and propose investments in expanding U.S. missile defenses that make neither strategic, technical, or fiscal sense.

Sowing the Seeds of the INF Treaty’s Destruction

The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The treaty, which remains in force, required the United States and the then-Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill requires development of a conventional missile whereas the Senate bill would authorize a dual-capable (i.e., nuclear) missile.

The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

These provisions are drawn from legislation introduced in February by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in the Senate and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) in the House to “provide for compliance enforcement regarding Russian violations” of the INF Treaty.

Development of a new treaty-prohibited GLCM is militarily unnecessary, would suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements, divide NATO, and give Russia an easy excuse to publicly repudiate the treaty and deploy large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.

The report accompanying the Senate bill notes that the Senate “does not intend for the United States to enter into violation of the INF Treaty.” (The treaty does not ban research and development of treaty-prohibited capabilities.) But this claim is belied by the report’s statement that development of a GLCM is needed to “close the capability gap opened” by Russia. Moreover, supporters of a new GLCM also argue it is needed to counter China, which is not a party to the treaty.

Before rushing to develop a new weapon that the Pentagon has yet to ask for and NATO is unlikely to support, the administration and Congress must at the very least address concerns about the suitability and cost-effectiveness of a new GLCM. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) offered an amendment to the bill on the House floor that would have done just that, but it was defeated by a vote of 173-249.

Meanwhile, mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the House INF provision on requiring a new GLCM, stating "[t]his provision unhelpfully ties the Administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options.” The statement also noted that bill would “raise concerns among NATO allies and could deprive the Administration of the flexibility to make judgments about the timing and nature of invoking our legal remedies under the treaty.”

Instead of responding to Russia’s violation by taking steps that could leave the United States holding the bag for the INF treaty’s demise, Congress should emphasize the importance of preserving the treaty and encourage both sides to more energetically pursue a diplomatic resolution to the compliance controversy. Lawmakers should also encourage the Trump administration to pursue firm but measured steps to ensure Russia does not gain a military advantage by violating the treaty and reaffirm its commitment to the defense of those allies that would be the potential targets of Russia’s noncompliant missile.

Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face on New START

One of the few remaining bright spots in the U.S.-Russia relationship is 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Signed in 2010, the treaty requires each side to reduce its deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. It also includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with these limits.

The agreement, which is slated to expire Feb. 5, 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.  The House bill includes a provision that would prohibit the use of funds to extend New START until Russia returns to compliance with the INF treaty. This is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021.

If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

For these reasons and more, the U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START.

Undermining the Norm Against Nuclear Testing

A small but influential group of Republican lawmakers are seeking to cut U.S. funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and undermine international support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the global nuclear test moratorium.

Sen. Cotton and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the CTBTO and undermine the U.S. obligation – as a signatory to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

Rep. Wilson successfully offered the bill as an amendment to the House NDAA and Sen. Cotton could seek to do the same on the Senate bill.

With North Korea threatening to conduct a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not weaken, the global nuclear testing taboo

More information on the problematic provision in the House bill is detailed in a recent issue brief on CTBTO funding.

Nuclear Weapons Spending Run Amok

The Trump administration’s first Congressional budget request pushes full steam ahead with the Obama administration’s excessive, all-of-the-above approach to upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Both the House and Senate bills authorize the requested level of funding for these programs, and even increase funding for some programs beyond what the Trump administration requested.

As the projected costs for programs designed to replace and upgrade the nuclear arsenal continue to rise, Congress must demand greater transparency about long-term costs, strengthen oversight over high-risk programs, and consider options to delay, curtail, or cancel programs to save taxpayer dollars while meeting deterrence requirements.

A February 2017 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that the United States will spend $400 billion (in then-year dollars) on nuclear weapons between fiscal years 2017 and 2026. The new projection is an increase of $52 billion, or 15 percent, over the CBO’s most recent previous estimate of the 10-year cost of nuclear forces, which was published in January 2015 and put the total cost at $348 billion.

In fact, the CBO’s latest projection suggest that the cost of nuclear forces could greatly exceed $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

What makes the growing cost to sustain the nuclear mission so worrisome for military planners is that costs are scheduled to peak during the mid-2020s and overlap with large increases in projected spending on conventional weapon system modernization programs. Numerous Pentagon officials and outside experts have warned about the affordability problem posed by the current approach and that it cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending or cuts to other military priorities.

Unfortunately, the House rejected two Democratic floor amendments that would have shed greater light on the multidecade costs of U.S. nuclear forces. One amendment would have required CBO to extend the timeframe of its biennial report on the cost of nuclear weapons from 10 years to 30 years. Another would have required extending the timeframe of a Congressionally mandated report submitted annually by Defense Department and National Nuclear Security Administration from 10 years to 25 years.

In addition, the House defeated by a vote of 169-254 an amendment offered by Rep. Blumenauer that would have restricted funding for the program to develop a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles at the FY 2017 enacted level until the administration completes its Nuclear Posture Review and a detailed assessment of the need for the program.

Though the administration requested a major increase for the new missile and associated warhead refurbishment program in FY 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis has repeatedly stated that he is still evaluating the need for the weapon.

The House Rules Committee also prevented debate on a floor amendment that would have required the Pentagon to release the value of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015. The department has refused to release the contract value citing classification concerns.

Tripling-Down on Missile Defense Despite Technical Flaws

Both the House and Senate bills authorize significant increases in funding for U.S. ballistic missile defense programs. The House bill authorizes an increase of $2.5 billion above the administration’s FY 2018 budget request of $7.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. The Senate bill authorizes a $630 million increase.

The bills also include provisions that would authorize a significant expansion of the ground-based midcourse (GMD) defense system in Alaska and California, which is designed to protect against limited long-range ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, and accelerate advanced technology programs to increase the capability of U.S. missile defenses. The GMD system has suffered from numerous reliability problems and has a success rate of just over 50 percent in controlled and scripted flight intercept tests.

In addition, the House bill includes a provision that would require the Pentagon to submit a plan for the development of a space-based missile defense interceptors and authorize $30 million for a space test bed to conduct research and development on such interceptors. The House bill would also require the Pentagon, pursuant to improving the defense of Hawaii, to conduct an intercept test of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile against an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target. The interceptor, which is still under development, is designed to defend against medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and the department has no public plans to test it versus an ICBM.

Rushing to deploy more unreliable GMD interceptors or building additional long-range interceptor sites is not a winning strategy to stay ahead of the North Korean ICBM threat. Quantity is not a substitute for quality.

Any consideration of building and deploying additional homeland interceptors or interceptor sites should wait until a new ground-based midcourse defense kill vehicle under development is successfully tested under operationally realistic conditions (including against ICBM targets and realistic countermeasures). The first test of the new kill vehicle under these conditions is not scheduled until 2020 and deployment is not scheduled until 2022.

In addition, future testing and deployment of new capabilities should not be schedule-driven, but based on the maturity of the technology and successful testing under operationally realistic conditions. Accelerating development programs risks saddling them with cost overruns, schedule delays, and test failures, as has been the case with previous missile-defense programs.

Despite numerous nonpartisan studies that have been conducted during both Republican and Democratic administrations which concluded that a spaced-based missile defense is unfeasible and unaffordable, a small faction of missile defense supporters continues to push the idea. Most recently, a 2012 report from the National Academy of Sciences declared that even a limited space system geared to longer-burning liquid fueled threats would cost about $200 billion to acquire and have a $300 billion 20-year life cycle cost (in FY 2010 dollars), which would be at least 10 times any other defense approach. 

While missile defense has a role to play as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the North Korean missile threat, it’s neither as capable nor as significant as many seem to hope. More realism is needed about the limitations of defenses and the longstanding obstacles that have prevented them from working as intended.

The potential blowback of an expansion of U.S. missile defense capabilities from Russia and China must also be considered. Missile defense does not provide an escape route from the vulnerability of our allies, deployed forces, and citizens in the region to North Korea’s nuclear and conventional missiles.—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament policy

Posted: July 17, 2017

U.S. May Act on Russian INF Violation

U.S. May Act on Russian INF Violation

July/August 2017
By Maggie Tennis

The Trump administration is considering actions to take in response to Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, according to senior national security officials.

Christopher Ford, senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation on the National Security Council staff, and Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, signaled in recent comments that the White House may move beyond talks to military measures intended to pressure Russia to return to compliance with the INF Treaty.

Christopher Ford, senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counter­proliferation on the National Security Council staff, addresses the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on June 2 in Washington. The White House is considering a “very broad” range of options in response to Russia’s violation, he said. (Photo credit Terry Atlas/Arms Control Association)Addressing the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting June 2, Ford said that the White House is considering a “very broad” range of options that go beyond just reconvening the Special Verification Committee, the body established by the treaty for dispute resolution. That group, convened most recently in November 2016, has failed to resolve the issue.

“You would be wrong to conclude that this is an administration likely to be content just with another round of finger waving,” Ford said.

U.S. countermoves could add new strains to the U.S.-Russian relationship, already taxed by Moscow’s military action against Ukraine, Russian involvement in the U.S. elections, and NATO’s buildup of defenses in allies closest to Russia, such as the Baltic states. Russia has disputed the U.S. claim that it has developed and deployed a missile banned under the INF Treaty and has countered with complaints of U.S. violations tied to missile defenses in Europe.

The United States will consult with allies in developing a response, according to Ford, who said a resolution of the issue is needed because of the importance of the INF Treaty to “the future of the arms control enterprise.”

Addressing Russia’s treaty violation is a “top priority” for the Trump administration, Soofer said in testimony June 7 to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said the United States needs to understand the military capability that Russia gains from fielding the SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), which the United States says violates the treaty ban on ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

“We came to the conclusion that there must be some military capability that outweighs the political repercussions of actually violating the INF Treaty,” he said. “So, for Russia, this has a meaningful military capability, and we need to assess what that is and how to address it.”

Soofer noted two reviews underway, one by the Pentagon as part of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and the other by the National Security Council. The latter is examining “steps to place more meaningful pressure on Moscow, both in terms of diplomatic and military measures, to return them to compliance,” according to Soofer.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at a congressional hearing in March about the NPR, at which time he publicly confirmed the U.S. view that Russia had deployed the SSC-8 missile. (See ACT, April 2017.)

The Obama administration considered a military response to the Russian violation in 2014, after the State Department initially assessed Russia as having de­veloped and tested a noncompliant GLCM.

In 2014, Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, described three possible categories of military action at a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees. These consisted of “active defenses to counter intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles, counterforce capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile attacks, and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces.” Only some of these options would comply with the treaty.

In February, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Republican Reps. Ted Poe (Texas) and Mike Rogers (Ala.), introduced legislation called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Preservation Act. It lists measures that the United States could take to pressure Russia to return to compliance, including funding counterforce, active-defense, and countervailing-strike activities; creating a program for and testing a dual-capable road-mobile GLCM within INF Treaty limits; expanding missile defense assets in the European theater; and coordinating the transfer of INF Treaty-range systems to U.S. allies.

But even if the Pentagon had the budget for these activities, it is not clear that NATO allies, Japan, or South Korea would cooperate with placing these systems on their territory.

Some experts and politicians support developing a long-range standoff cruise missile, capable of penetrating Russian air defense systems and being armed with nuclear or conventional warheads, to re­place the aging U.S. air-launched cruise missile.

In April, the State Department released its annual assessment of Russian compliance with arms control agreements, in which it repeated its accusation that Russia is violating the INF Treaty and stated that it had submitted “detailed information” to Moscow on the nature of the violation. The Russian Foreign Ministry refuted the allegation and maintained that the United States has not provided adequate evidence to back up the claim. (See ACT, June 2017.)

In remarks at the Arms Control Association meeting, Ford noted the administration’s intent to “re-engage on matters that relate to strategic stability” with Russia. He referred to recent talks on that topic between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“On the positive side, in terms of the future of dialogue and engagement on these topics, I believe you probably have seen from the aftermath of the Tillerson-Lavrov meeting in Moscow that there is agreement in principle upon some kind of strategic stability dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation,” said Ford.—MAGGIE TENNIS

Posted: July 10, 2017

INF Dispute Adds to U.S.-Russia Tensions

INF Dispute Adds to U.S.-Russia Tensions 

June 2017

By Maggie Tennis

Reacting with strong language to a U.S. report alleging arms control treaty violations, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of “creating dangerous conditions” that could trigger a nuclear arms race. Further, Russia warned that U.S. missile defense development may give “hot heads” in Washington the “pernicious illusion of invincibility and impunity” that could lead to misguided unilateral action, as it claims occurred when the United States launched a missile strike against a Syrian airbase on April 7.

The annual U.S. report on arms control compliance, which for the fourth consecutive year alleges Moscow’s noncompliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the Russian Foreign Ministry’s response reflect contrasting views on arms control and nonproliferation issues and demonstrate the precarious condition of the U.S.-Russian bilateral arms control regime.

The State Department’s “Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” dated April 2017, also raised “serious” concerns with Russia’s compliance with the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies and cites Moscow for suspending the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), an accord intended to reduce stockpiles of weapons-usable plutonium that had stood as an example of U.S.-Russian cooperation against nuclear proliferation risks.

Russian Complaints

The report asserts that the United States last year remained in compliance with all of its treaty obligations. The Russian Foreign Ministry disputed the alleged violations and countered with what it said are U.S. violations of the INF Treaty stemming from its missile defense and drone programs, as well as citing other actions it said hinder arms control efforts.

The United States contends that Russia has tested and deployed a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 to 5,000 kilometers, a class of weapons prohibited by the treaty. The State Department report details steps Washington took in 2016 to resolve the dispute, including convening a session of the Special Verification Commission, the technical dispute-resolution venue created by the treaty. (See ACT, December 2016.)

Specific Details

The State Department, which previously provided no details of those consultations, disclosed in the new report elements of its evidence. The United States presented information to the Russians that included Russia’s internal designator for the mobile launcher chassis and the names of the companies involved in developing and producing the missile and launcher, the report says. The United States detailed “the violating GLCM’s test history, including coordinates of the tests and Russia’s attempts to obfuscate the nature of the program,” according to the report.

Further, the report says the missile in dispute is distinct from two other Russian missile systems, the R-500/SSC-7 Iskander GLCM and the RS-26 ballistic missile. The R-500 has a Russian-declared range below the 500-kilometer INF Treaty cutoff, and Russia identifies the RS-26 as an intercontinental ballistic missile treated in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The report also appears to suggest that the launcher for the allegedly noncompliant missile is different from the launcher for the Iskander.

Through the commission and other formats, the United States has provided “more than enough information for the Russian side to identify the missile in question and engage substantively on the issue of its obligations,” according to the report.

The Foreign Ministry, in its statement April 29, said Washington has failed to provide clear evidence to support its assertions. The United States has put forward only “odd bits and pieces of signals with no clarification of the unfounded concerns,” the ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry statement repeated Russian allegations that the United States is violating its INF Treaty obligations by positioning a missile defense system in Romania. “The system includes a vertical launching system, similar to the universal Mk-41 VLS, capable of launching Tomahawk medium-range missiles,” the ministry said. “This is undeniably a grave violation under the INF Treaty.” Yet, the U.S. Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles are permitted under the agreement as a sea-based weapon. In addition, the Mk-41 has not fired GLCMs, and Washington says the launchers to be deployed in Romania and Poland are different than the ship-based version that has been used to fire Tomahawks.

Russia also cited the United States for testing ground-based ballistic missiles characteristic of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles and developing percussion drones that “fall under the definition of land-based cruise missiles contained in the INF Treaty.” It said Washington has been “simply ignoring Russia’s serious concerns.” The State Department report does not mention those disputes.

The Foreign Ministry statement identified the U.S. missile defense system as the No. 1 “unacceptable action” by the United States on a list of 11 areas of arms control concerns, which includes the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and the U.S. failure to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

“It should be understood that the [U.S.] anti-missile facilities placed around the world are part of a very dangerous global project aimed at ensuring universal overwhelming U.S. superiority at the expense of the security interests of other countries,” according to the statement.

Plutonium Disposition

The State Department report found “no indication” that Russia had violated its PMDA obligations, but said that Moscow’s decision to “suspend” the accord “raises concerns regarding its future adherence to obligations” under the agreement. The Foreign Ministry said the report’s finding “does not correspond to reality” because Moscow only suspended the PMDA in response to Washington’s “hostile actions toward Russia” and a “radical change of circumstances” since the agreement was signed in 2000.

The Foreign Ministry said the Obama administration initiated plans to transition to a new method of plutonium disposition without obtaining proper consent from Russia. The statement reiterated Moscow’s position from October that Russia would resume the agreement if the United States adheres “to the agreed method of disposal,” which called for mixing the plutonium with uranium to create mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for power plant use, and reverses the other measures that prompted Russian suspension. Specifically, the ministry called for the U.S. to lift its sanctions against Russia enacted in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, compensate Russia for the damage caused by the sanctions, and reduce the U.S. military presence on the territory of NATO member states that joined the alliance after 2000.”

Posted: May 31, 2017

Reducing the Risks of U.S.-Russia Nuclear Conflict

The violence in Ukraine and rising tension in the Baltics, combined with concern about Russian nuclear doctrine and posturing, has heightened the risk of nuclear conflict in Europe. As William Perry, former Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton, recently warned , “A new danger has been rising in the past three years and that is the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia.” A recent uptick in fighting in Ukraine, last week’s unrest in Belarus and Russia , and increasing concern in Washington and Brussels about the solidity of the NATO...

Can the INF Treaty Survive? Putin’s New Missile Presents A Major Test for Arms Control

It may be necessary to exploit Russia’s interest in preventing the enlargement of strategic missile defenses.

April 2017

By Greg Thielmann

One month into his term of office, President Donald Trump asserted in a news interview that Russia had violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, specifying that Russia’s “deployment” of treaty-prohibited ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) was “a big deal.”1

Two weeks later, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Paul Selva, also went public on the dispute, saying in congressional testimony that Russia’s deployment violated “the spirit and intent” of the treaty and that he sees no current indication that Moscow, which denies any INF Treaty violation, intends to return to compliance.2

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan shake hands after signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty at the White House December 8, 1987. (Photo credit: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Although Trump pledged to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin “if and when we meet,” it is not at all clear what his strategy is for dealing with the matter. How he handles the worsening dispute over INF Treaty compliance will affect his ability to follow through on his stated desire to make deals with Putin on other issues. Even with Republican Party control of the executive and legislative branches of government, Trump’s flexibility will be constrained by questions about whether his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 elections and by the large number of arms control skeptics and Russophobes among Republican members of Congress.

Making History

It is difficult to overstate the impact of the INF Treaty on the course of modern European history and the evolution of the international security order.  Along with the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Moscow’s failed attempt to expand its monopoly in long-range, nuclear-tipped theater missiles marked the twin military policy disasters of the regime’s last decade.. At the same time, Moscow’s partnering in the elimination of an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons in U.S. and Soviet constituted one of the world’s most dramatic achievements in curbing the nuclear arms race.

The unprecedented results ultimately achieved by the treaty seemed far from likely in the late 1970s, when the Soviets began replacing their single-warhead SS-4 and SS-5 theater ballistic missiles with the longer-range, more mobile triple-warhead SS-20 missiles. Meanwhile, it was clear then that the prospect of counterdeployments by NATO members would generate serious resistance among European publics long before they would yield effective leverage for negotiating Soviet reductions.

NATO’s “Dual-Track Decision” on theater nuclear modernization and arms control in December 1979 called for deploying 572 U.S. intermediate-range missiles in five countries of the alliance, while offering to negotiate lower limits that would reduce the Soviet missile forces already deployed and the number NATO planned to deploy. Alliance strategists hoped that these new missiles would reduce NATO’s reliance on increasingly vulnerable aircraft based in Europe for theater delivery of nuclear weapons. At the same time, they calculated that beefing up longer-range nuclear forces would facilitate the reduction of some 7,000 shorter-range nuclear weapons, deemed no longer necessary militarily and increasingly burdensome politically.

By the end of 1981, negotiations had commenced in Geneva. The United States opened with a “zero-zero” proposal, offering to cancel plans for future U.S. INF missile deployments in exchange for elimination of all existing Soviet INF missiles. Seeking to prevent the deployment of any U.S. INF missiles, Moscow argued that British and French nuclear forces and U.S. nuclear-capable aircraft based in Europe should be taken into account in calculating the balance, but not Soviet forces based outside of Europe. Over time, Moscow offered some reductions of existing Soviet INF missiles in exchange for complete cancellation of NATO’s planned modernization. Yet, the real action during the first three years of the INF Treaty negotiations was in the streets and parliaments of Europe’s NATO members. After narrowly failing in late 1983 to prevent NATO’s initial INF deployments in the United Kingdom and Germany, the Soviets walked out of the Geneva talks in protest.

Subsequently, the Soviets returned to the table, agreeing to conduct INF Treaty talks as part of broader negotiations that would also include strategic arms and missile defenses. Under new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Moscow eventually accepted not only the U.S. zero-zero formula, it challenged the alliance also to eliminate short-range missiles with ranges between 500 and 1,000 kilometers. The anti-nuclear sentiments of President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart and those of European publics ultimately prevailed over the best laid plans and preferences of many security experts in Washington and Moscow. The INF Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987, and ratified the following year.

Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated under the treaty. Equally important was the establishment of new precedents for on-site inspections and other up-close verification measures, paving the way for the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), concluded in 1991. NATO’s dual-track approach was considered an impressive application of collective action by the diverse and deeply divided societies of the Western alliance against Soviet threats and intimidation.

Fast Forward

Ironically, Russia’s apparent willingness now to develop and deploy GLCMs in violation of the INF Treaty’s ban on such systems threatens to have equally momentous consequences. If such a serious compliance challenge to the treaty is not satisfactorily resolved or at least managed, it will be very difficult to make further progress on U.S.-Russian strategic arms reductions. Such a failure also could invalidate the assumptions behind the disarmament and nonproliferation commitments incorporated in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This pillar of the existing international order is already under threat from the assertion of a right to “go nuclear” by such countries as North Korea and the potential effects of the nuclear ban movement, challenging the bona fides of the five original nuclear-weapon states’ commitment to their NPT disarmament obligations.

Many in Russia have long viewed the INF Treaty as discriminatory to Moscow. They see the treaty as imposing a heavier burden on Russia, which, unlike the United States, is ringed by third countries with nuclear-tipped INF-range missiles. These Russian domestic critics also believe the treaty is inhibiting Russia’s effective use of its nuclear forces to compensate for deficiencies in conventional military capabilities. In the United States, some believe the INF Treaty, whatever the value of its past contributions, is no longer necessary and now represents an undesirable constraint on U.S. pushback against Russian aggression and intimidation.

Despite critics in both countries, the U.S. and Russian governments still pledge fidelity to the treaty. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters March 9 that Russia rejects U.S. violation claims and remains committed to its international obligation “including those arising from the INF Treaty.”3 Yet without movement toward resolution of INF Treaty compliance issues, the prognosis for this treaty is poor, and the prospects for any future nuclear arms reduction treaty will recede beyond the horizon.

Deepening Grievances

The New York Times, citing anonymous U.S. officials, first reported in February 2017 that the INF Treaty-class cruise missiles, which the United States in 2014 accused the Russians of testing, have been deployed.4 This news account said that two battalions of GLCMs, designated “SSC-8” in the West, have been formed, with one battalion “shifted in December from [the] Kapustin Yar [test site] to an operational base.”The deployment news is interpreted by many in NATO as the latest evidence, on top of reckless behavior by Russia’s air and naval forces in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and Putin’s rhetorical nuclear saber-rattling, that Moscow is seeking to intimidate alliance members.

Another cause for concern is Russia’s recent deployment of the SS-26 Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile system into Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, between Poland and Lithuania, putting a significant portion of Poland within striking distance from Russia’s tactical, ground-based, nuclear-capable missile forces. Such deployments, however, do not violate the letter of the INF Treaty and do not fundamentally alter the strategic equation in the region.

Moscow, meanwhile, expresses similar concerns regarding the reinforcement of NATO combat forces on its periphery. The implementation of a NATO decision to rotate four multinational combat battalions through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland has prompted Russian complaints that such measures constitute a new security threat and will require countermeasures. Yet in this case too, the impact is more political than military because the regional balance of forces in the Baltics remains overwhelmingly tipped in Russia’s favor.

Of explicit relevance to the INF Treaty, Russia accuses the United States of malign intent in moving forward with the deployment of the more capable Aegis Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile defense interceptors to neighboring Poland. Moscow previously complained that the “Aegis Ashore” MK-41 launchers for the SM-3 Block IB interceptors deployed to Romania were INF Treaty violations because they had been used previously to launch Tomahawk BGM-109A sea-launched, land-attack cruise missiles.5

Beyond the legal and technical issues is the credibility gap opened by U.S. unwillingness to adapt its Aegis Ashore deployment schedule to the significant diminution in the missile threat from the Middle East against which NATO justifies these deployments. When the Polish missile defense site was planned in 2009, the United States was projecting the near-term possibility that Iranian long-range, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles could threaten all of Europe.

Yet, with conclusion and implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the absence of any long-range missile testing by Iran, that threat has receded far beyond the 2018 deadline for declaring operational more advanced missile defenses in Poland. For Moscow, the continued construction there constitutes confirmation of long-standing suspicions that these systems are directed against Russia rather than Iran.

In 2014, Russia raised two other allegations of U.S. noncompliance with the INF Treaty. Those are that the United States continued to test missile targets under its ballistic missile defense program that have characteristics similar to intermediate- and shorter-range missiles and that these tests are used to improve key elements of missile systems prohibited under the INF Treaty, and that the United States is increasing the production and use of “heavy strike” unmanned aerial vehicles that conform with the INF Treaty definition of GLCMs.

Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand among U.S. Pershing II missiles destroyed in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in a photo taken January 14, 1989. (Photo credit: MSGT Jose Lopez Jr./U.S. Defense Department)Moscow did not rank the three allegations in terms of seriousness—all were raised in response to U.S. charges—but it appears to regard Aegis Ashore as its best case for arguing U.S. noncompliance. The issue of using INF missiles in missile defense tests had been raised and extensively discussed during previous meetings of the Special Verification Commission (SVC), the body created by the treaty to address alleged violations. There was little mention of the issue subsequently for more than a decade. U.S. use of armed drones was initiated long before Russia expressed concerns that such use violated the INF Treaty.

Dispute Resolution Process

Despite worsening relations between Washington and Moscow and continuing belligerence between Moscow and Kiev, Russia and the other active states-parties to the treaty (Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine) agreed to the U.S. request for a meeting of the SVC in Geneva to take place on November 15-16, 2016. This 30th meeting of the SVC constituted the first session held since 2003 and took place more than two years after the United States levied public charges of noncompliance against Russia. Few details were released on the content of the discussions, and no follow-on meeting has been announced. It is reasonable to assume that little substantive progress was made in this short session. Nonetheless, the parties’ decision finally to engage the treaty’s designated mechanism for resolving compliance issues is a positive development.

Activating the SVC mechanism was consistent with the recommendation in last June’s report of the Russian-U.S.-German Deep Cuts Commission, titled “Back from the Brink.”6 The group of former government officials and arms control experts called for “supplementing ongoing diplomatic dialogue with technical expertise, either by convening the [SVC] or a separate bilateral experts group.”7 In order to achieve satisfactory resolution, political authorities need to provide impetus for continuing work at the technical level.

As this report advised, it will be necessary for future meetings of technical experts to resolve outstanding compliance issues. Although the principal obstacle to moving toward resolution is the current lack of political will, the groundwork now has been laid for engaging technical experts. Among the elements:

•   Technical experts could work out language making clear the difference between prohibited intermediate-range ballistic missiles and permitted target missiles for missile defense tests.

•   While armed unmanned aerial vehicles, which Russia and the United States are developing and deploying, do not clearly fit the treaty definition of cruise missiles, their differences could be more clearly spelled out in language drawn up by technical experts working under SVC auspices. The separate category of weapons, so identified, could be subject to future negotiations with the purpose of limiting their scope. 

•   Transparency measures could be established with respect to the MK-41 Aegis missile defense launchers deployed in Romania and to be deployed in Poland. Russian inspectors could be invited for initial on-site examination of the system and subsequent periodic visits to ensure that no banned INF Treaty categories of missiles were being deployed. The United States and host government might tie invitations for such visits to reciprocal inspection visits to Russia to resolve suspicions about GLCM deployments. 

•   It may not be possible to conclusively establish whether GLCM tests alleged by the United States had occurred and the parameters of the violation, but it should be less difficult to employ national technical means to establish whether new Russian GLCMs have been deployed. Moreover, on-site inspection measures could be devised that would increase confidence that such deployments had not taken place or were being reversed.

It is still possible to find ways to restore the health of the INF Treaty using properly structured discussion of compliance issues in the SVC, fusing political will with the application of technical expertise. U.S. willingness to allow Russian access to deployed MK-41 Aegis launchers and Russian willingness to accept on-site monitoring of SSC-8 GLCM launchers at test sites and challenge inspections at suspect deployment sites could lead to a breakthrough in the current compliance stalemate.

If measures can be found to differentiate launchers that appear to be capable of launching cruise missiles or missile defense interceptors or to differentiate cruise missiles from armed drones that may have similar missions and characteristics in the future, it will help clear away obstacles to restoring the health of the INF Treaty and open up possibilities in other areas.

Political Environment

“Fixing” the INF Treaty will require political initiative in Washington and Moscow. Unfortunately, in neither capital is the current political environment favorable for resolving the compliance issues and removing the obstacles to progress in nuclear arms control. Disputes over Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria, along with questions about Moscow’s alleged efforts to tilt the U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor, weigh on relations between the two superpowers.

During his successful campaign for president, Trump frequently expressed admiration for Putin’s strength and leadership. As president-elect, he continued to praise Putin and chose a secretary of state who had extensive successful business dealings with Russia’s leadership. For his part, Putin made favorable gestures toward the incoming U.S. president, including a decision not to impose reciprocal measures following President Barack Obama’s late-stage expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in response to alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

Yet, in the early days of the new administration, a significant fissure is emerging within and between the executive and legislative branches on the conduct of U.S.-Russian relations. Although the Republican Party controls the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, no consensus has formed on policies toward Russia.

Many key members of Congress have expressed alarm over alleged Russian hacking activities, deep skepticism of Putin’s motives, and hostility to the idea of bilateral cooperation. Only two days after publication of news reports that Russia had deployed illicit GLCMs, Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation that would allow U.S. countermeasures, including the development of similar systems.8 Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, asked at a Mar. 8 hearing that the U.S. military provide Congress with response options by the end of the month.

Responding to Violation

As with INF Treaty issues during the Cold War, the views of U.S. allies in Europe are critical to successful resolution of the current compliance issue. Any U.S. move to violate the INF Treaty in response to a Russian violation would be likely to elicit deep divisions in NATO and to provide Moscow with an excuse to withdraw from the treaty.

An undated photograph shows a former Russian RSD-10 “Pioneer” ballistic missile system, a nuclear weapon known in the West as an SS-20, that was eliminated by the INF Treaty on display at the Kapustin Yar museum in Znamensk, Russia. (Photo credit: Leonidl/Wikimedia Commons)Meanwhile, Russia and the United States are under increasing diplomatic pressure from the majority of non-nuclear-weapon states for failing to make sufficient progress on eliminating their nuclear weapons, as called for in the NPT. At the UN General Assembly on December 23, 113 states voted to convene a UN conference in 2017 “to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”9 Growth in the perception that the INF Treaty, one of the signal achievements in nuclear disarmament, is unraveling could strengthen international support for the nuclear weapons ban talks that Washington and Moscow vigorously oppose.

The appropriate advice to the White House and Congress at this stage therefore would be “first, do no harm.” Continued Russian deployment of SSC-8 GLCMs will be increasingly difficult to hide and deny, and Russia should not be given cover by the United States committing reciprocal violations of the treaty.

A wiser course to pursue would be in the realm of arms control initiatives that could be mutually advantageous to Washington and Moscow and supported by the international community.

Broaden the Negotiations

Given the apparently weak political support in Russia for preserving the INF Treaty, it may be necessary to exploit Russia’s greater interest in keeping a lid on U.S. strategic arms and preventing the enlargement of strategic missile defenses, which could jeopardize Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Putin has signaled Russia’s continuing interest in strategic constraints, reportedly urging a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) during his initial telephone conversation with Trump in January. Putin presumably understands the implications of U.S. “fuzing” improvements for counterforce strikes10 and the U.S. numerical advantage in strategic warhead upload capacity. Moreover, his interest in constraining U.S. missile defenses is manifest.

One way to compensate for the leverage Russia may have gained from deploying GLCMs is to strengthen the linkage between strategic, INF, and missile defense negotiations, as was done in the Geneva nuclear and space talks initiated in 1985. Such negotiations also could seek to extend existing INF Treaty limits on delivery systems to all nonstrategic nuclear weapons. Steven Pifer has suggested a limit on deployed strategic warheadsthat would be augmented with an overall limit on all nuclear warheads in U.S. and Russian arsenals, including those used with nonstrategic nuclear weapons.11

Addressing Problems

Another way to revive the INF Treaty would be to convert the GLCM ban to a limit on all nuclear-tipped INF-range missiles by deeming the warheads on such systems to be “strategic,” prohibiting all nuclear-armed missile deployments, or banning all INF nuclear warheads altogether. Any of these options could be accommodated within Pifer’s tiered nuclear arms control framework.

A U.S. soldier fires December 1, 2016, during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization training exercise hosted by Lithuania known as Iron Sword that involved almost 4,000 soldiers from 11 NATO countries. NATO’s decision to rotate four multinational combat battalions through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland has drawn Russian complaints that such activities constitute a new security threat that will require countermeasures. (Photo credit: NATO)Several knotty INF Treaty problems could be addressed through the denuclearization of cruise missiles while advancing progress on nuclear disarmament overall. Ongoing trends in weapons development exacerbate the treaty compliance issues now in dispute because of the newer weapons’ similarities to weapons banned by the treaty. One of the weaknesses built into the treaty was the differential treatment of nearly identical land-attack cruise missiles based on the nature of their launch platforms. All ground-based INF-range cruise missiles were banned; all air- and sea-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs and SLCMs) with similar capabilities were unconstrained.12 As technology advances and launchers become more interchangeable, these dissolving system boundaries between ALCMs, SLCMs, and GLCMs and the absence of cruise missile limits in New START undermine the effectiveness of nuclear arms control limits.

Washington and Moscow appeared committed to withdrawing all land-attack nuclear SLCMs under the nonbinding Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991-1992. Although the United States withdrew its tactical nuclear weapons from surface ships, attack submarines, and naval aircraft and phased out its nuclear-armed SLCMs entirely, Russia is believed to be continuing its deployment on submarines and surface warships.

Both countries continue to deploy nuclear-armed ALCMs in their strategic arsenals. Russia is equipping its heavy bombers with new nuclear-tipped Kh-102 ALCMs. The United States is planning to replace its current ALCMs, launched from strategic bombers, with the nuclear-capable long-range stand-off cruise missile.

Yet, the long-range stand-off missile program has generated vigorous opposition in the United States among many security experts, including former Defense Secretary William Perry,13who consider the program unnecessary and destabilizing. California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein (D), has consequently called for a global ban on all nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.14 Even Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, conspicuously failed to endorse the program during his confirmation hearings.

Moscow’s willingness to consider precluding nuclear-armed systems may be more plausible than it has previously appeared. The Russian military has been following the course of the U.S. military, placing increased emphasis on highly accurate, conventionally armed cruise missiles, reducing the requirements for its nonstrategic nuclear forces.

The Deep Cuts Commission pointed toward exploiting this trend in recommending that the United States and Russia “address the destabilizing effects of nuclear-armed cruise missiles.”15Expanding the INF Treaty regime by banning all nuclear-tipped INF-range cruise missiles would allow the parties to leapfrog current compliance disputes and Moscow to escape the diplomatic cul-de-sac into which it has backed itself. A nuclear cruise missile ban also would close the ALCM loophole in New START’s treatment of the air-launched leg of the strategic triad, which benefits the United States disproportionately.16

To extend limits on all nuclear-armed cruise missiles, data would be exchanged on the disposition of all ALCMs, SLCMs, and GLCMs capable of nuclear weapons delivery. As an interim measure, all nuclear-armed cruise missile warheads would be de-mated and consolidated in a few, heavily monitored storage facilities. Although the unprecedented transparency measures necessary to achieve high confidence in ultimately achieving warhead elimination would be difficult to negotiate, interim measures to securely isolate warheads from their delivery systems would be easier. As the INF Treaty demonstrated, confirming the complete absence of systems is often less challenging than trying to count the number deployed.

Just as many of the INF Treaty inspection protocol provisions were incorporated into START nearly verbatim, finding the means to resolve contemporary INF Treaty compliance issues and devise measures to ensure the absence of deployed nuclear warheads can contribute to negotiating additional reductions in aggregate strategic arsenals. Much applicable research has been performed in recent years on methods to verify arms control limits on nuclear warheads.17

As NATO and the Soviet Union discovered in the 1980s, effective constraints on INF missiles are an essential component of strategic arms control. The extensive transparency measures of the INF Treaty, including data exchanges, on-site monitoring, and challenge inspections, and the decision to create a ban rather than a limit on the most destabilizing systems were critical milestones on the path toward concluding the first treaty to reduce strategic arms. INF arms control led the way then, and it can do so again.


1.   Steve Holland, “Trump Wants to Expand U.S. Nuclear Arsenal, Make It ‘Top of the Pack,’” Reuters, February 23, 2017. 

2.   Michael Gordon, “Russia Had Deployed Missile Barred by Treaty, U.S. General Tells Congress,” The New York Times, March 8, 2017.

3.   Frederik Pleitgen, Alla Eshchenko, and Laura Smith-Spark, “Russia Denies Deploying Cruise Missile in Treaty Breach,” CNN, March 9, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/09/europe/russia-us-cruise-missile-treaty/.

4.   Michael R. Gordon, “Russian Cruise Missile, Deployed Secretly, Violates Treaty, Officials Say,” The New York Times, February 14, 2017.

5.   The BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missile banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was a variant of the Tomahawk.

6.   Deep Cuts Commission, “Back From the Brink: Toward Restraint and Dialogue Between Russia and the West,” June 2016, http://deepcuts.org/images/PDF/Third_Report_of_the_Deep_Cuts_Commission_English.pdf.

7.   Ibid., pp. 9, 25.

8.   Michael D. Regan, “Republican Bills Counter Russia’s Apparent Violation of Nuclear Arms Treaty,” NewsHour, February 18, 2017.

9.   UN General Assembly, A/RES/71/258, December 23, 2016.

10.   Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol, “How U.S. Nuclear Force Modernization Is Undermining Strategic Stability: The Burst-Height Compensating Super-Fuze,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1, 2017.

11.   Steven Pifer, “Nuclear Arms Control Choices for the Next Administration,” Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Series Paper, No. 13 (October 2016), https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/acnpi_20161025_arms_control_choices_final.pdf.

12.   When the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) entered into force, air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) became subject to the warhead limits attributed to deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and deployed heavy bombers; but under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), ALCMs were no longer counted under deployed warhead limits.

13.   William J. Perry and Andy Weber, “Mr. President, Kill the New Cruise Missile,” The Washington Post, October 15, 2015. 

14.   Dianne Feinstein, “There’s No Such Thing as ‘Limited’ Nuclear War,” The Washington Post, March 5, 2017.

15.   Deep Cuts Commission, “Back From the Brink,” p. 26.

16.   Unlike START, which had a separate sublimit combining deployed missile warheads with ALCMs attributed to heavy bombers, New START counts each heavy bomber as equivalent to one strategic ballistic missile warhead, no matter how many ALCMs it carries. U.S. bombers carry substantially more than their Russian counterparts.

17.   Such research is conducted by a variety of organizations, such as the United Kingdom’s Verification Research, Training and Information Centre and the Nuclear Futures Laboratory of Princeton University in the United States. The UK/Norwegian Initiative’s working paper submitted at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference is an example of the kind of research conducted on improving nuclear warhead verification measures. See 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “The United Kingdom-Norway Initiative: Further Research Into the Verification of Nuclear Warhead Dismantlement,” NPT/CONF.2015/WP.31, April 22, 2015.

Greg Thielmann is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer, who worked on intermediate-range missile arms control issues in the U.S. Department of State, participating in the initial round of negotiations on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. He was subsequently an office director in the State Department’s intelligence bureau, senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and senior fellow at the Arms Control Association.


Posted: March 31, 2017


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