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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Nonproliferation

India Stays Silent on First Nuclear Sub

India has quietly put into active service its first ballistic missile submarine in August, according to news reports. 

December 2016

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

India has quietly put into active service its first ballistic missile submarine in August, according to news reports. If so, India will have taken the last necessary step to possess a nuclear triad, the ability to launch nuclear weapons from air, land, and sea. 

The Indian government neither confirmed nor denied reports of the commissioning of the INS Arihant, a nuclear-powered submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles. It can be equipped with 12 750-kilometer-range K-15 missiles or four 3,500-kilometer-range K-4 missiles. A K-4 missile launched from the northern Indian Ocean could reach China and Pakistan. The K-15 has been operational since July 2012, but the K-4 is estimated to require further testing before deployment. 

An Indian Kalvari-class attack submarine is escorted by tugboats in Mumbai on October 29, 2015. Recently, India is believed to have put its first Arihant-class ballistic missile submarine into active service. (Photo credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

India’s submarine program began in 1984. The Arihant is the first of three ballistic missile submarines to be developed under the Advanced Technology Vessel program; the second, the INS Aridhaman, is scheduled to be delivered in 2018. India began development of the Arihant in 2009 and started testing it in December 2014. Sea trials were completed in February. In a March 19 interview with Arms Control Today, an Indian official claimed that the submarine would be ready to be commissioned at any time in the following month. (See ACT, April 2016.)

But the Indian government has made no announcement about commissioning the Arihant. The defense ministry did not confirm or deny that the submarine had been commissioned in August, reported The Diplomat on Oct. 19. When asked about the Arihant, the ministry and the Indian navy refused to comment on the grounds that the submarine program is a strategic and classified project, according to an Oct. 18 Times of India article. “There will soon be an opportunity to talk about it,” Vice Admiral GS Pabby stated in response to questions about the submarine at an Oct. 18 event, reported Hindu Business Line.

Several members of India’s defense community welcomed the news reports that the Arihant had begun active duty, citing the gap between India’s submarine fleet and those of other nuclear powers. As of 2015, India possesses 15 submarines while rival China has more than 50 conventional submarines and four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. 

The implications of India’s acquisition of a ballistic missile submarine are a “mixed bag,” Shane Mason, a research associate in the Stimson Center’s South Asia program told Arms Control Today on Nov. 15. Although such submarines are the most survivable leg of the triad and could enhance deterrence, they may create command and control challenges for India and give Pakistan an incentive to pursue its own sea-based leg of the nuclear triad, Mason said. 

In India, nuclear command and control traditionally has been directed by the political sector, not the military. “The practice of sea-based deterrence will be a new one for India and will upend the country’s tradition of strict civilian control of nuclear forces,” Mason said.

Posted: November 30, 2016

UN Approves Start of Nuclear Ban Talks

The landmark resolution to begin negotiations in 2017 now goes to the General Assembly for final approval. 

November 2016

By Kingston Reif

Defying pressure from the major nuclear-armed powers, UN member states set the stage for negotiations next year on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.

The UN General Assembly First Committee, which deals with nuclear disarmament issues, on Oct. 27 adopted overwhelmingly a landmark resolution “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

Supporters of treaty to ban nuclear weapons, including survivors of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, displayed banners for their cause near the United Nations on October 21. (Photo credit: ICAN)The vote was 123-38, with 16 abstentions, on the resolution put forward by Mexico, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Nigeria, and South Africa. The full General Assembly is expected to approve the measure by year-end.

The resolution passed despite aggressive lobbying by nuclear-armed powers France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which have said they will not participate in such treaty negotiations. As a group, however, the world’s nine nuclear-armed nations were divided on the resolution.

The resolution calls for a one-day organizational meeting to be held in New York “as soon as possible” followed by two negotiating sessions in 2017 on March 27-31 and from June 15 to July 7.

The push to begin negotiations on a ban treaty reflects growing concern among non-nuclear-weapon states about the devastating humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, the rising risks of conflict between states with nuclear weapons, and frustration at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament by the nine nuclear-armed countries.

Advocates said the ban treaty would be an interim step, leaving the issue of eliminating nuclear weapons for subsequent negotiations. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil’s permanent representative to the UN, said in an Oct. 17 statement that the treaty would be “part of a gradual process, which begins by setting out core prohibitions to be followed by elimination and verification arrangements.”

A majority of the nuclear-armed states voted against the resolution and cited risks of commencing negotiations on a ban treaty. 

In an Oct. 27 statement on behalf of France, the UK, and the United States, Alice Guitton, the French permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, said that although the commitment of the three countries to a world without nuclear weapons remained “unshakeable,” a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would not move toward that goal and instead would “distract attention” from more practical and verifiable disarmament steps. 

Russian Foreign Ministry official Vladimir Yermakov went much further, arguing that the hasty adoption of a legally binding prohibition would be “destructive,” “catastrophic,” “treacherous,” and “thrust the world into chaos and instability.” 

In an unexpected move, China broke ranks with the rest of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and abstained. 

The other nuclear-armed states took varied positions. India and Pakistan abstained, North Korea voted yes, and Israel, which does not officially acknowledge having nuclear weapons, voted no. 

The resolution was opposed by nearly every U.S. treaty ally in Europe and Asia, often labeled “umbrella states” because they rely on the U.S. nuclear arsenal to help protect them.

The sole exception was the Nether-lands, which abstained. Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said that the Netherlands “sincerely supports a ban on nuclear weapons” but that there were problems with the resolution, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS. The lower house of the Dutch parliament had pressed the government to support the resolution. 

Sweden, which is not a member of NATO but has increased cooperation with the alliance in recent years due to concerns about Russian behavior, voted for the resolution. 

In an Oct. 17 nonpaper obtained by Arms Control Today, the U.S. mission to NATO urged alliance members and partners “to vote against negotiations on a nuclear weapons…ban, not to merely abstain.” The nonpaper warned that “efforts to negotiate an immediate ban on nuclear weapons or to delegitimize nuclear deterrence are fundamentally at odds with NATO’s basic policies on deterrence and our shared security interest.” 

The First Committee vote followed on the heels of an open-ended working group that met in Geneva this year, in which a majority of participating states expressed support for starting negotiations on a “legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.” None of the nuclear-armed countries attended the sessions. (See ACT, September 2016.

The working group’s final report said a new instrument “would establish general prohibitions and obligations,” which could include a number of elements, such as “prohibitions on the acquisition, possession, stockpiling, development, testing and production of nuclear weapons.”

A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons?

The UN General Assembly’s First Committee last month passed a resolution to start negotiations to draft a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The following are excerpts from statements during the debate:

“The argument is often heard that nuclear deterrence is indispensable for national security. Austria does not believe this. If this were to be the case, then more states could feel the need to follow the same logic and want to acquire these weapons. We would embark on a dangerous path. The catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any nuclear weapons use—be it intentional or accidental—could not be contained and would inevitably fall back on the users themselves…. Some voices claim that negotiating a prohibition convention would be an unrealistic option. We do not believe that a negotiating process with the participation of the majority of states lacks credibility nor realism. No similar legally-binding instrument has started with universality, so we cannot expect this here, either. We are also realistic that the elimination of nuclear weapons is not something which can be achieved overnight and by way of a prohibition convention alone. Rather, it would lay the basis on which the necessary system to ensure its complete and verified implementation could subsequently be established.”

—Amb. Thomas Hajnoczi, Austria, October 14, 2016


“Though some are dissatisfied with the pace of disarmament, we remain convinced that the pragmatic and consensus-based approach that has successfully brought us to this point remains the right one going forward. Today, some states believe the time has come to abandon this pragmatic and consensus-based approach and instead pursue a radically different path that would simply declare a ban on nuclear weapons. We must evaluate this new approach using the same criteria that we apply to our current one. Will it improve global security and stability or undermine it? Will it build a coalition for disarmament or fracture the international community? Will it lead to real reductions in nuclear weapons or be a treaty for political, not practical effect? How can such an approach be verified? The United States has carefully applied these questions to the ban treaty concept and it fails to successfully meet the necessary criteria for success….

“The current challenge to nuclear disarmament is not a lack of legal instruments. The challenges to disarmament are a result of the political and security realities we presently face. The United States is ready to take additional steps including bilateral reductions with Russia and a treaty ending production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, some states are currently unwilling to engage in further nuclear reductions, and others are increasing their arsenals. At the same time, violations of international norms and existing agreements are creating a more uncertain security environment and making the conditions for further reductions more difficult to achieve. A ban treaty will do nothing to address these underlying challenges.” 

—Amb. Robert Wood, United States, October 14, 2016


“Australia’s position on the proposal before the committee to begin negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons has been consistent and clear: we do not support such an approach. “A ban treaty would not rid us of one nuclear weapon. It would not change the realities we all face in a nuclear-armed DPRK [North Korea], or tensions among major powers. And without the involvement of states possessing nuclear weapons, the practical value of negotiating a ban treaty is a questionable exercise.”

—Amb. John Quinn, Australia, October 17, 2016


“Such a treaty is not an end in itself nor a panacea to cure an otherwise ailing regime. It will be thoroughly compatible with the [nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty and the wider nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. By doubling up on their commitment never to acquire nuclear weapons, non-nuclear weapon states which decide to take part in it will only reinforce their own credentials and the international nonproliferation regime. Further efforts needed to attain the complete elimination of nuclear arsenals can be pursued either within a framework laid out by the prohibition treaty—an approach supported by Brazil—or in parallel to it.”

—Amb. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil, October 17, 2016

Posted: October 31, 2016

The Impact of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Fact-Checking the Fact Checkers

Squadrons of fact-checking journalists have been deployed by news organizations over the past several months trying to provide some perspective on claims about key campaign issues, including the 2015 nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran that the Barack Obama administration and former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton have claimed credit for and that the Trump-Pence campaign has criticized. Their effort to clarify the facts about these and other issues is vital to ensuring we have a more informed electorate. But sometimes the fact-checkers themselves – perhaps in their rush to provide...

Looking Back: Compliance Versus Bargaining - An Implication of the Iran Nuclear Deal

The negotiations that produced the Iran nuclear agreement showed a dynamic that may affect how states approach future proliferation conflicts and the potential for resolving them diplomatically. 

October 2016

By George Perkovich

The Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), passes a milestone this month, which invites thinking about some of the agreement’s implications. One year ago, October 18, 2015, was “adoption day,”1 the date on which the accord came into effect and participants began taking steps necessary to implement their commitments.

Among other things, the negotiations that produced the agreement showed a dynamic that may affect how states approach future proliferation conflicts and the potential for resolving them diplomatically. The issue is whether a proliferation dispute is framed as a matter of compliance with rules or as a matter of bargaining for a fair deal instead. Compliance and fair bargaining need not be mutually exclusive concepts and processes. If rules are fair, enforcing compliance with them can be fair too. In international politics, however, all states do not necessarily perceive all rules to be fair, nor do states always agree on the fairness of proposed ways of enforcing compliance with rules.

Iranians show support for Iran’s nuclear activities at a demonstration outside the Tehran Research Reactor on November 23, 2014. Under the nuclear accord, Iran agreed to slightly irradiate fuel plates, before reactor use, to prevent later processing to make highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. (Photo credit: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and, perhaps, Russia and China saw the Iran case primarily as a compliance problem. Iran broke the rules of the nonproliferation regime, specifically International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and disclosure requirements. The IAEA and subsequently the UN Security Council issued binding requirements of transparency and confidence building, including a demand that Iran “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.”2 Iran was not meeting these requirements. Thus, the international community continued to pressure Iran with sanctions until it complied.

Iran could not effectively dismiss the concept of compliance, but Iranian officials sought to portray the dispute as a matter of fairness or justice. They said Iran had no choice but to conduct illicit nuclear activities because the United States and Israel were illegally sabotaging Iran’s declared activities. They insisted that all countries have a “right” to enrich uranium3 and the United States and its allies were engaged in neocolonial nuclear repression. Iran also argued that the nuclear-weapon states had failed to live up to their obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to eliminate nuclear arsenals and that they frequently exhibited double standards in choosing when, where, and how to apply nonproliferation rules. 

The six countries negotiating with Iran, known as the P5+1, were correct that compliance was and is at the heart of the diplomatic struggle with Iran. Civilization and international security are advanced by the creation and enforcement of rules to regulate technologies and activities that can threaten peace and security. The NPT is the foundation of a rules-based global nuclear order. Therefore, it is vital to enforce compliance with rules derived from the NPT. 

Yet, the international system generally lacks judicial and enforcement mechanisms that are as legitimate and effective as those in well-governed states. The IAEA admirably performs some important functions in the rules-based system, but it does not have clear enforcement authority. The actions of the IAEA Board of Governors can be subject to the exertions of major powers and resistance by dissident states for reasons that are germane and meritorious or not. The UN Security Council is the entity that is expected to mobilize international power in response to violations of NPT-related rules when the IAEA reports violations to it. The Security Council has the authority to enforce mandates regarding international peace and security. Enforcement most commonly takes the form of political demands and sanctions. Military action can be the ultimate means of enforcing rules, and in the international system, the Security Council is supposed to be the authorizer of legitimate uses of force. Yet, the council is a highly politicized body, and the five permanent, veto-wielding members enjoy disproportionate influence within it. As a result, the council is often inefficient or less than just in catalyzing or withholding international action, particularly the use of force. 

In sum and hardly shocking, disputes over questions of nuclear rules and their enforcement are subject to the politics that flow from the distribution of power within the international system. In practice, this makes it difficult to separate compliance with rules from debates over fairness.

The tensions inherent here are exacerbated by the fact that the NPT is based on “bargains” that have been unevenly and inadequately fulfilled. Some states argue that the treaty’s Article IV promise of nuclear cooperation in return for nonproliferation is not fulfilled. These states feel that restrictions on access to nuclear technology continue to grow tighter, whereas the “sacrifices” that nuclear-weapon states are supposed to make are unfulfilled. 

Excerpt from the Statement by President Obama on the Adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, October 18, 2015

Today marks an important milestone toward preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensuring its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful going forward.... Today, Iran begins to take the steps necessary to implement its JCPOA commitments, including removing thousands of centrifuges and associated infrastructure, reducing its enriched uranium stockpile from approximately 12,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms, and removing the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor and filling it with concrete so that it cannot be used again, among other steps. These next steps will allow us to reach the objectives we set out to achieve over the course of nearly two years of tough, principled diplomacy and will result in cutting off all four pathways Iran could use to develop enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. I am confident in the extraordinary benefits to our national security and the peace and security of the world that come with the successful implementation of the JCPOA.

I have directed that the heads of all relevant executive departments and agencies of the United States begin preparations to implement the U.S. commitments in the JCPOA, in accordance with U.S. law, including providing relief from nuclear-related sanctions as detailed in the text of the JCPOA once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has completed all of its nuclear steps. We will also be closely monitoring Iran’s adherence to its commitments, working closely with the IAEA and the other JCPOA participants, to ensure Iran fully fulfills each and every one of its commitments.

Many states and civil society groups have reason to believe that Article VI represents a bargain of nonproliferation in return for the eventual elimination of all nuclear arsenals.4 This was affirmed in the 1995 decision to extend the NPT indefinitely. Many argue that, despite the dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, the world’s nuclear-armed states are not seriously committed to pursuing the abolition of these weapons. The ongoing modernization of the Chinese, Russian, and U.S. nuclear arsenals strengthens this argument. Few if any states argue that the world would be more secure without the NPT, but widespread dissatisfaction exists over how its terms have been interpreted and enforced. 

The Iran case brought these divergent perceptions of fairness and compliance to the center of international politics. The nuclear-weapon states argue either that they have fulfilled their NPT obligations or that the obligations are not what Iran and others say they are. Although the nuclear-weapon states’ arguments have merit, it is also the case that the nuclear-weapon states would resist allowing others the authority to judge their compliance, for example with Article VI’s call for disarmament. 

Other examples of double standards, selective enforcement, and perceived unfairness include differences in the ways that major powers treat India, Israel, and Pakistan. These three states did not sign the NPT, so they did not forgo the “right” to acquire nuclear weapons. Yet, different major powers have treated each of them differently, most notably when the United States, backed by France and Russia, pushed the Nuclear Suppliers Group to exempt India from nuclear trade restrictions.5 As a group, the three non-NPT states have been treated more indulgently than Iran, Iraq, and other states that did sign the NPT. There are sound legal and strategic reasons for treating states that have legally agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons differently from those that did not sign the NPT, but this does not alleviate the sense that the nuclear order is unfair. 

The competing frames of compliance versus fairness have important implications that are not often analyzed. If fairness is central, the notion of negotiating and bargaining among parties with equal standing informs how one sees the contest. Compromise emerges naturally as an acceptable outcome. In the compliance frame, however, the contest is not among actors with equal standing, but rather is an effort by authorities to compel a deviant actor to comply. Negotiation and compromise are not obviously required. We do not pay a violator of rules to correct its behavior and comply; we compel it. In one frame, fairness involves give and take. In the other, fairness is simply compliance.

The first meeting of the Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, on October 19, 2015. The group was established to monitor implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action curtailing Iran’s nuclear activities. (Photo credit: Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images)The tension between compliance and fairness will play out in general debates, as in NPT review conferences, and in future cases if and when a non-nuclear-weapon state seeks to develop indigenous capabilities to enrich uranium or separate plutonium. States and nongovernmental organizations will intensely debate whether the nuclear-weapon states are complying with their disarmament obligations and what are fair measures of progress toward that end. Discord also will be expressed over whether and how strengthened approaches to IAEA safeguards, including the toughened provisions of the additional protocol, are necessary to uphold the objectives of the NPT and whether inducements, or bargains, should be offered to make this more acceptable. 

The most potent criticism of the JCPOA is that by granting Iran the right to enrich uranium, it will now be practically impossible to persuade or collectively compel other states not to initiate fuel-cycle programs. This criticism has some validity at an abstract level, but is misguided and ultimately not convincing. 

First, critics seem to assume that the United States and its negotiating partners have the power to grant such rights and that they did so in the JCPOA. U.S. officials say that the deal does not establish any right to enrich uranium.6 In any case, Article IV of the NPT neither specifies a right to acquire specific types of nuclear equipment or material nor precludes such acquisition for peaceful purposes. Yet, largely as a result of the contest with Iran, much of the world now believes that enrichment is a sovereign right that is not for the United States or any cabal of states to grant. 

Second, the damage done by allowing highly conditioned enrichment activities in Iran is exaggerated. The number of other states that have displayed the interest and capability to begin enrichment programs, as Iran did, is quite small. South Korea is the only one.7 Indeed, in negotiations with the United States, South Korea has used arguments of fairness to seek consent to conduct fuel-cycle activities. Seoul has juxtaposed its standing as a non-nuclear-weapon state-party to the NPT to that of India, which deploys nuclear weapons outside the NPT and has nonetheless won U.S. support for exempting it from nuclear trade restrictions. Seoul also cites the nuclear deal’s acceptance of enrichment in Iran. More speculatively, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are cited. The former has significant motivation to copy Iran, but lacks technical wherewithal.8 The latter has more capability but less motivation.9 Saudi Arabia and Turkey each would have more motivation to balance Iran if there were no nuclear deal and Iran’s nuclear program was unconstrained. 

Third, there was not a viable alternative to accepting circumscribed enrichment in Iran. Once it was understood that Iran would not be physically forced to comply with demands to totally relinquish enrichment activities and capabilities, the only way to establish verifiable limits on these activities was through bargaining. Iran won the right to continue enrichment; the international community won limits on the scale and scope of these activities and unprecedented verification and enforcement modalities.

To be sure, Iran paid an enormous price for winning these points. It lost hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and trade as a result of sanctions and was politically isolated. It had to accept more comprehensive monitoring and verification of its future nuclear activities than other states. Nevertheless, given the long pattern of illicit Iranian nuclear activities and the evidence to doubt that its nuclear program was exclusively peaceful, Iran was able to bargain for more than it was arguably entitled under the NPT. This occurred in part because of the fundamental reality mentioned earlier: the rules-based international system, unlike domestic governance, does not have predictable recourse to physical power to enforce compliance. 

War is the final arbiter in the international system. If war is not a welcome option among the countries that would have to wage it in order to enforce compliance, which was the case regarding Iran, then negotiation and bargaining must be tried. In a bargaining process, the value of fairness naturally comes into play.

ENDNOTES

1.   Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Statement by the President on the Adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” October 18, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/10/18/statement-president-adoption-joint-comprehensive-plan-action.

2.   UN Security Council, S/RES/1696, July 31, 2006.

3.   Hassan Rouhani, Statement to the UN General Assembly, New York, September 24, 2013, https://gadebate.un.org/68/iran-islamic-republic.

4.   Leonard Weiss, “Nuclear-Weapon States and the Grand Bargain,” Arms Control Today, December 2003, https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2003_12/Weiss.

5.   Mark Hibbs, “The Nuclear Suppliers Group’s Critical India Decision,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), June 18, 2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/06/18/nuclear-suppliers-group-s-critical-india-decision-pub-63848.

6.   For example, see Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, “Kerry’s Interview With Reuters on Iran’s Nuclear Program,” August 11, 2015, http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2015/08/20150812316777.html#ixzz4JgTSh3XQ.

7.   Toby Dalton, Byun Sunggee, and Lee Sang Tae, “South Korea Debates Nuclear Options,” CEIP, April 27, 2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/04/27/south-korea-debates-nuclear-options-pub-63455.

8.   Tristan Volpe, “Calling Out the Saudi Nuclear Bluff,” CEIP, August 25, 2015, http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/?fa=61095.

9.   George Perkovich and Sinan Ülgen, “Why Turkey Won’t Go Nuclear,” CEIP, April 10, 2015, http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/04/10/why-turkey-won-t-go-nuclear-pub-59756.


George Perkovich is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He works primarily on nuclear strategy and nonproliferation issues and South Asian security.

Posted: September 30, 2016

UN Weighs Nuclear Weapons Ban Talks

The push to begin negotiations reflects the frustration of many countries at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament.

October 2016

By Kingston Reif

A resolution mandating the beginning of negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, slated to be debated in the UN General Assembly First Committee in October, is likely to be approved by a majority of UN member states, according to diplomats, despite pre-emptive efforts by the United States and other nuclear-armed countries to thwart action on such a measure.

The push to begin negotiations on a ban treaty has grown out of the frustration of many UN member states at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament by the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries. The non-nuclear-weapon states argue that the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use highlight the need to act with greater urgency to eliminate such weapons and to create new and alternative approaches and venues to spur progress toward that goal.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, in his September 21 UN General Assembly address, announced plans for a resolution to convene negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. (Photo credit: Cia Pak/UN)In a Sept. 21 speech at the United Nations, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz announced that his country, together with a group of other states, would press for such talks since “experience shows that the first step to eliminate weapons of mass destruction is to prohibit them through legally binding norms.”

The draft resolution—sponsored by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa—says the goal is “to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards [sic] their total elimination.” The draft circulated among UN diplomats calls for a one-day organizational meeting “as soon as possible” followed by two negotiating sessions totaling 20 working days in 2017.

The resolution does not set a deadline for the completion of talks or offer specifics on what the new instrument should contain. “We do not want to prejudice other countries’ views with regard to which aspects precisely should be dealt with in the negotiations,” Thomas Hajnoczi, Austria’s permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, said in a Sept. 22 email to Arms Control Today. “The exact scope will be part of the negotiation process.”

The resolution notes the groundwork laid by an open-ended working group that took place in Geneva this year, a forum that discussed ways to structure a nuclear-weapons ban and other steps to take for multilateral disarmament negotiations. On Aug. 19, by a vote of 68-22 with 13 abstentions, countries approved the final report of the open-ended working group, a forum in which all UN members can participate. (See ACT, September 2016.) The report noted that “a majority of states expressed support for the commencement of negotiations in the General Assembly…on a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

The report said a new instrument “would establish general prohibitions and obligations,” which could include a number of elements, such as “prohibitions on the acquisition, possession, stockpiling, development, testing and production of nuclear weapons.” The report added that a ban treaty “would be an interim or partial step toward nuclear disarmament” because it would leave measures for actually eliminating nuclear weapons “for future negotiations.” 

States supporting a ban treaty argued it would be “the most viable option for immediate action as it would not need universal support for the commencement of negotiations or for its entry into force,” according to the report. Hajnoczi noted that given the strong support at the open-ended working group for convening negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons, “it is generally assumed” that there will be similarly robust support for the UN resolution. 

Another European diplomat agreed, telling Arms Control Today that it would be “surprising if there is not a clear majority voting in favor of the resolution.”

The nuclear-armed countries have expressed strong opposition to commencing negotiations on a ban treaty, and none attended the open-ended working group in Geneva. Many U.S. allies such as Australia, South Korea, and many of the members of the NATO alliance, often labeled “umbrella states” because they rely on the U.S. nuclear arsenal to help protect them, have also expressed opposition to holding such negotiations.

In remarks at a conference in Kazakhstan on Aug. 29, Anita Friedt, U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, called “on all states to reject unrealistic efforts to ban nuclear weapons.” Such a treaty would be “polarizing and unverifiable” and “could actually end up harming the proven, practical, and inclusive efforts that have achieved tangible results on disarmament and will continue to do so,” she said.

The United States and its allies instead back a “building blocks” approach to advancing nuclear disarmament. This approach calls for such measures as achieving entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and commencing negotiations on further U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons reductions below the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty levels.

Ban supporters also favor these steps, but argue they have been on the international agenda for years and are no closer to being realized.

What's New Text: 

Posted: September 30, 2016

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 30

Ministers Meet to Review Iran Deal Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met at the ministerial level to review implementation of the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The September 22 meeting in New York was the first ministerial-level meeting on the nuclear agreement since the ministers gathered to announce implementation of the deal in January. Iran requested that the meeting take place to review progress on the deal and to raise concerns over the slow pace of sanctions relief. European Union foreign...

The Debate Over Banning the Bomb

For seven decades, UN members have pushed and prodded the world’s nuclear-armed states to address the threats posed by nuclear weapons... 

By Daryl G. Kimball

For seven decades, UN members have pushed and prodded the world’s nuclear-armed states to address the threats posed by nuclear weapons. The first resolution of the UN General Assembly First Committee on international security, which was adopted in 1946, established a commission to make proposals for “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.”

This month, for the first time, the UN will consider a resolution to launch formal, multilateral negotiations in 2017 on a “legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” Sponsored by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa, it will likely be approved with more than 120 states in support. The proposal may allow for consideration of several options and proposals, including a ban treaty.

The UN General Assembly begins the seventy-first annual general debate on September 20. (Photo Credit: Manuel Elias/UN)The resolution follows three international conferences in 2013 and 2014 to consider the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use and an open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in 2016. 

At its core, the initiative is an expression of frustration with the inability of the nuclear-armed states to follow through on their nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Article VI disarmament commitments. Non-nuclear-weapon states argue, justifiably, that the grave risks posed by nuclear weapons underscores the need to act with greater urgency. 

In response, major nuclear-weapon states insist that the pursuit of disarmament must be “step by step,” which requires time and the right security conditions. They reject the new initiative to negotiate a ban treaty or framework for the elimination of nuclear weapons as “unrealistic.” Some U.S. officials argue it would be “polarizing and unverifiable” and distract from more effective disarmament initiatives.

The reality is that, since 2010, the pace of progress on disarmament has been underwhelming at best. For nearly two decades, the multilateral Conference on Disarmament has failed to agree to begin talks on the long-sought ban on fissile material production, as well as on other disarmament proposals, due to the blocking strategies of a few states. 

In 2013, President Barack Obama invited the Kremlin to negotiate a further one-third cut in U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals. But President Vladimir Putin has said “Nyet,” and the nuclear-armed states have failed to advance new nuclear disarmament initiatives.

Meanwhile, a new, global technological arms race is underway. Nuclear risks and tensions are growing. The United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom are poised to spend vast sums to improve and maintain their Cold War nuclear delivery systems for decades to come. Russia is believed to be developing new types of nuclear weapons. China, India, and Pakistan are also introducing new nuclear capabilities. 

Clearly, as most non-nuclear-weapon states contend, in order to attain and maintain a world free of nuclear weapons, it will be necessary, at some point, to establish a legally binding norm to prohibit such weapons. A ban treaty or framework agreement on their elimination is fundamentally consistent with the spirit of Obama’s 2009 call for action to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, and it would advance the goals of the NPT. To suggest otherwise defies common sense.

Although the world’s nuclear-armed states will likely boycott the negotiations, the process and the final product could help to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use—a worthy goal. 

Negotiations on a ban on nuclear weapons development, possession, and use are not a substitute for necessary, progressive steps on nuclear disarmament. Nuclear disarmament is a joint global enterprise. Nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states can and should do more to promote concrete action on disarmament and nonproliferation. These include verifiable cuts in nuclear arsenals, adoption of new policies that reduce the risk of nuclear use, securing a fissile cutoff and control treaty, entry into force of the global ban on nuclear testing, and measures to establish the conditions for new nuclear-weapon-free zones.

How should the United States respond? Rather than foster resentment by actively lobbying states not to vote for the resolution and participate in the negotiation, Obama administration officials and their successors should take the high road. They could simply say that, “at this time, given the global security environment, we cannot join the ban treaty but look forward to observing the negotiations and will continue to work with all states to pursue more effective, verifiable measures to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Washington also can provide stronger leadership to jump-start progress on effective measures to ease nuclear tensions and reduce the role, number, and skyrocketing cost of nuclear weapons. For example, the current or next president could direct the Pentagon to trim the U.S. deployed strategic nuclear arsenal by one-third, which would still meet official U.S. deterrence requirements, regardless of whether Russia reciprocates.

Achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons requires bold and sustained action. The coming ban treaty negotiations are not an all-in-one solution, but do represent an important new contribution.

Posted: September 29, 2016

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Statement on North Korea's Fifth Nuclear Test by Daryl Kimball and Kelsey Davenport

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The Hidden Side of the U.S.-Russian Strategic Confrontation

The Soviet and Russian nuclear mentality has been and remains very different from that of the United States and its allies. The rapid reintroduction of the possibility of nuclear confrontation in U.S.-Russian relations...

September 2016

By Alexey Arbatov

After more than two decades during which Cold War-era visions of nuclear Armageddon faded from public consciousness, alarms are sounding anew as a result of tense relations between Russia and the West. 

At the height of the Ukraine crisis in August 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message to any nations that might seek to challenge Russia: “Let me remind you that Russia is one of the world’s biggest nuclear powers,” he said in remarks during a visit to a state-sponsored youth camp. “These are not just words—this is the reality. What’s more, we are strengthening our nuclear deterrent capability and developing our armed forces.’’1 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reflected Western concern at such talk, declaring that “Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling is unjustified, destabilizing and dangerous.”2

A Russian RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile is transported through Red Square in Moscow during the Victory Day military parade on May 9. [Photo credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images]In light of this, it is worthwhile to explore the context and history of Russia’s thinking about nuclear strategy and its divergence from U.S. and NATO approaches. In the West, there is a tradition of explaining Russian nuclear policy by projecting Western thinking onto Russian defense planners. This often leads to conclusions about an aggressive character of Moscow’s nuclear posture. Yet, the problem is not as simple as that. Its core is that Soviet and Russian nuclear mentality has been and remains very different from that of the United States and its allies. 

After the Cold War, those strategic discrepancies lay dormant in the background of improved political and strategic relations, having never been openly discussed, to say nothing of being mutually adjusted. Now, when the attention of policymakers and the general public has been drawn back to central nuclear issues, the time has come to correct this deficiency. Otherwise, it may lead to dangerous collisions in crisis situations and disintegration of the nuclear arms control system and process.

Official Doctrines

The most recent statement of Russian military doctrine in December 2014 retained the prior version’s restrained wording on employing nuclear arms: “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, and also in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat.”3 

Incidentally, the official Russian strategic concept has only two differences from the 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review.4 One is that the United States is apparently willing to defend its allies with the use of nuclear weapons if they are attacked by overwhelming conventional forces, whereas Russia does not provide such assurance. The other is Russian readiness to use nuclear arms if facing the prospect of defeat by large-scale conventional aggression, while the United States does not envision such a contingency.

The differences in U.S. and Russian strategic thinking are much deeper than may be construed from official documents. They are related to each nation’s specific way of dealing with nuclear deterrence, which stems from their historical experiences, political systems, decision-making mechanisms, geostrategic positions, and technological developments.

Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence was not born together with nuclear weapons. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the United States considered atomic and hydrogen bombs dropped from aircraft as the ultimate means to destroy the enemy’s armed forces and urban-industrial assets if the Soviet Union or China were to attack U.S. allies in Europe or Asia. During those years, nuclear deterrence was primarily a fascinating theoretical subject rather than the tool of military strategy. 

Only by the end of the 1950s, following 15 years of nuclear weapons stockpiling and strategic thinking, did the concept of deterrence come to the forefront of U.S. military strategy. This change was the result of Soviet development of intercontinental nuclear weapons capable of reaching U.S. territory. After that, the U.S. political leadership recognized that nuclear weapons were too dangerous and should be used primarily to deter, rather than to defeat, the enemy.

The chief theoretician and practitioner of the “new nuclear thinking” was Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, appointed by newly elected President John Kennedy in 1961. During the 1960s, after exploring a series of concepts (“counterforce-city avoidance,” “damage limitation”), the U.S. nuclear strategy firmly settled on the concept of “assured destruction.” In his famous 1967 speech in San Francisco, McNamara stated that deterrence of a “deliberate nuclear attack” on the United States or its allies is ensured by maintaining a highly reliable ability “to inflict an unacceptable degree of damage upon any single aggressor or combination of aggressors, at any time during the course of a strategic nuclear exchange, even after absorbing a surprise first strike.” At the same time, McNamara acknowledged that “the blunt, inescapable fact remains that the Soviet Union could still—with its present forces—effectively destroy the United States, even after absorbing the full weight of an American first strike.”5 

This kind of mentality and its implications were indeed a monumental strategic reformation. Yet, such public statements were unthinkable on the part of any high Soviet official of that time and actually remain unimaginable in today’s Russia, although this reality had been recognized in Moscow. For three decades, from the late 1960s to the late 1990s, McNamara’s way of thinking remained the foundation of the ideology of mutual deterrence and strategic stability, war prevention, forces sufficiency, and strategic arms control. 

The Soviet Union arrived at similar conclusions about nuclear war much later even at the declaratory level, to say nothing of military planning or arms programs. For the first quarter century of the nuclear age, the fundamental assumption of Soviet military doctrine had been that if a global war was unleashed by the West, the Soviet Union would defeat the enemy and achieve victory, despite enormous ensuing damage.6 Only during the 1970s did Moscow start to change its official declaratory position on the subject and gradually accept the idea of the impossibility of victory in a nuclear war due to its unprecedented destructive consequences. The most important factor shaping this change was the beginning of strategic negotiations with the United States.

Thus, the first major difference in the Russian and U.S. ways of thinking about nuclear weapons is the historical origins. In the United States, the new thinking on nuclear matters was the product of McNamara’s efforts at securing political control over nuclear strategy, arms, and war plans. In the Soviet Union, the “new look” at nuclear war was foremost the product of arms control. The strategic concepts of Moscow and Washington were fundamentally incompatible until the late 1960s. During the 1970s, they edged closer through recognition of parity and the destabilizing effect of anti-missile defenses, reflected in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the interim Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) in 1972 and SALT II in 1979. Those treaties could not be justified in the USSR without recognition of the impossibility of victory in a global war. On this basis, the U.S. and Soviet leaders concluded special agreements and joint statements, which postulated that “nuclear war would have devastating consequences for mankind”7 and that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”8

Currently, after a six-year hiatus following the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the two nations are as wide apart as in the early 1980s, which creates a growing threat of a fatal military misunderstanding between them. The stalemate in arms control talks has removed an important channel of strategic communication between Russian and U.S. national command authorities. A prolonged breakdown of regular military-to-military contacts and the arrival of a new generation of commanders, which are more disrespectful and combative toward each other than their predecessors, may result in dangerous collisions when armed forces maneuver in close proximity.

No one explained the danger of this widening gap better than William Perry, who served as defense secretary from February 1994 to January 1997 under President Bill Clinton. In his recent book My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, he recalls his experience as a Pentagon official in the late 1970s, at a tense time when the Soviet Union was racing to match then exceed the U.S. nuclear warhead count. He writes that a successful arms control agreement in 1977 could have put a brake on the arms race “but, even more important, it would have engaged us in a dialogue with our deadly foe, given both sides a degree of transparency and, most critically, given us context—a better understanding of our opponent—to inform the awesome decisions we were expected to make in a heartbeat.”9 His observation looking back nearly four decades is relevant today in the context of difficult U.S.-Russian relations.

Nuclear-Strike Authorization

One of the basic attributes of the U.S. political system and, in general, of democratic systems is civilian control over the military. In the USSR and Russia, political and military authorities traditionally have been merged. After the Cold War, there were cautious experiments with the introduction of some civilian elements at the top echelon of the Russian Ministry of Defense, but they had little impact. 

An illustration of this difference is each state’s arrangement related to nuclear strike authorization. At first glance, there are analogous systems providing the state leadership with an exclusive technical capacity to sanction a nuclear strike and prevent unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. In the USSR, a system was introduced in 1985 that emulated the U.S. “football”—the president’s briefcase containing nuclear codes and commands—which was adopted in the early 1960s.10 Still, there is one key difference between the two systems, which has political roots. 

A military aide carries the president’s emergency satchel, often referred to as the nuclear “football,” as President Barack Obama returns to the White House on May 15. [Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images]The U.S. president is the only holder of the nuclear briefcase within a legalized chain of successors in case of the president’s incapacitation. (In consideration of that possibility, a backup satchel travels with the vice president.11) In this succession, the defense secretary is low on the list. The Soviet/Russian analogue, called “Cheget,” consists of three “briefcases” held by the president (the general secretary of the Communist Party in the past), the defense minister, and the head of the military General Staff.12 It is a great secret whether these three persons are technically able to give authority to launch missiles only together or two or one of them can do it in case the others are incapacitated. In any case, two out of three decision-makers are the top military officials, while constitutional presidential successors (the prime minister, speakers of the chambers of parliament) are excluded from the chain of command. Despite the revolutionary change in the Russian political system in 1991, this nuclear command model has remained intact.13

Strategic thinking in the West has benefited from the deep involvement of independent legislatures, free discussion between political scientists and military experts, the broad availability of defense information, and the regular movement of civilians and military personnel between government posts and the academic world. This provided for less biased views on the intentions of the opposing side and brought political (rather than military) attitudes to the trade-off between the danger of inadvertent nuclear war and operational advantages of the first strike.

Due to a different political system and historical tradition, neither social or physical scientists nor state officials or military ones could freely discuss such topics in the USSR. Discussions became possible in public, legislative, and executive branches of government only during the second half of the 1980s. During the 1990s and early 2000s, following the demise of the Soviet Union, the situation in Russia changed further in favor of the access, although actual nuclear strategy and operational planning remained the exclusive domain of the military, except for a short period of the late 1990s. Now that the two nations’ political systems are no longer as antagonistic as during the Cold War, better mutual understanding of such matters would be beneficial to both parties. 

Strategic Stability

Another important difference between the two states relates to the notion of strategic stability. In the joint U.S.-Soviet statement of June 1990, stability was defined as a state of strategic relations that is “removing incentives for a nuclear first strike.” This was to be achieved through a mutually acceptable “relationship between strategic offensive and defensive arms,” by “reducing the concentration of warheads on strategic delivery vehicles, and giving priority to highly survivable systems.”14

Nonetheless, this logic was only super-ficially acknowledged by Moscow. In striving to avert nuclear war, the Soviet/Russian leadership has never recognized that some types of the nuclear posture may make war more probable in a crisis situation at least as its own posture was concerned. 

In contrast to McNamara’s assured destruction doctrine, which implied second-strike capability, actual U.S. war plans emphasized attacking Soviet strategic forces and other military sites before hitting urban-industrial centers, which implied first strike. McNamara’s final Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) for nuclear war, adopted in February 1967, included the same basic versions of nuclear attacks as his SIOP-63, and the target list was expanded to 10,000 sites.15 

During the 1970s and 1980s, counterforce options and hard-target-kill capability was an important, even if variable, element of the U.S. nuclear posture. Still, the first-strike implications of counterforce strategy have been a touchy and controversial subject in U.S. defense policy, stirring heated debates in Congress and the strategic community and affecting weapon programs decisions in the Department of Defense during the two decades after McNamara’s “strategic reformation.”

Nothing of the kind took place in the USSR or Russia. The benefit of attacking strategic forces of the opponent was never put in doubt, and such capability was to be enhanced within the limits of technology and budget. Counterforce weapon systems and their employment plans have been and are now considered an indispensable attribute of deterrence posture. Hence, the principles of strategic stability, formalized in the 1990 statement, were considered as guidance for arms control but not of strategic doctrine, operational planning, or weapon programs. 

At the same time, when directed by politically motivated decisions of state authorities, the Russian military had to grudgingly sacrifice counterforce capabilities for the sake of reaching arms control agreements. The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) forced a 50 percent reduction in Russian heavy, or most powerful, intercontinental ballistic missiles. START II envisioned the elimination of all land-based missiles with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. This is yet another example of the unique role of arms control for Moscow’s strategic policy. 

It is a matter of great uncertainty whether U.S. logic of “nuclear first use and phased escalation”16 or the Russian idea of an “all-out war once deterrence fails” may make a catastrophe more probable. A sign of a Russian attempt to emulate U.S. concepts of selective nuclear use for the purposes of “demonstration of resolve” or “de-escalation” caused a great alarm in the West when political tensions with Russia escalated in 2014-2015.17 Such concepts were perceived as lowering the “nuclear threshold” rather than preventing massive nuclear exchange.

Bridging the Gap

The nuclear rhetoric and armed forces’ activities of Russia and NATO in 2013-2015 have revived the danger of nuclear war that looked totally unthinkable only five years ago. Moreover, after a quarter century pause, Russia and the United States are again on the verge of a massive and multichannel cycle of the arms race, as pointed out by Robert Legvold, a respected U.S. scholar of Soviet and post-Soviet foreign policy: “The United States and Russia, in modernizing all three legs of their nuclear triads, have reopened a potential competition between offensive and defensive systems and introduced new destabilizing technologies, such as conventionally armed strategic missiles theoretically capable of striking the other side’s nuclear weapons, thus blurring the firebreak between conventional and nuclear warfare.”18 

Besides the political split over Ukraine and disagreements on ballistic missile defenses and conventional global hypersonic systems, the two states are now deeply divided in their fundamental views on the role of nuclear weapons, assessments of strategic balance, and perceptions of possible causes of war. These contradictions and their origins should be understood by both powers. Russia and the United States should make an effort to forge a common, up-to-date understanding of strategic stability and enhance it by arms control provisions and through regular military and civilian contacts.

Such common principles should postulate that, despite the end of the Cold War a quarter century ago, the nuclear posture of each side may increase the probability of nuclear war despite their mutual desire to avoid it. U.S. and Russian military programs affect each other and may incite an arms race. Weapon systems that threaten the survivability of each other’s strategic forces and command, control, communications, and intelligence assets imply a first-strike strategy and provoke pre-emption. While undertaking phased reduction of nuclear forces, both sides should reach agreements to alleviate mutual concerns about prompt and slow counterforce systems, even if those are designed against other opponents. Expanding defensive systems to reduce each side’s vulnerability to “rogue states” should only be based on U.S.-Russian agreements. Systems and concepts blurring the line between nuclear and conventional operations are inherently destabilizing and should be subjected to limitations and confidence-building measures. 

There must be a mutual understanding that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is escalatory and should be excluded from bilateral strategic relations. Prevention of conventional aggression should be ensured not by a threat of nuclear escalation, even if called de-escalation, but by sufficient conventional forces or, still better, by mutual reductions of conventional troops and arms, limitations on military activities, and confidence-building measures.

The rapid reintroduction of the possibility of nuclear confrontation in U.S.-Russian relations may serve as a serious warning that peace between great powers should not be taken for granted. Supporting it requires relentless effort and a much deeper understanding of the security outlook and strategic peculiarity of each other. This is one of the main lessons to be drawn from the quarter century that has passed since the end of the Cold War.

ENDNOTES

1.   Vladimir Putin, excerpts from transcript of meeting with Seliger 2014 Forum participants, August 29, 2014, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/46507.

2.    Jens Stoltenberg, “Adapting to a Changed Security Environment” (remarks, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, May 27, 2015), http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_120166.htm?selectedLocale=en.

3.   “Voennaya Doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii” [Military doctrine of the Russian Federation], Rossiiskaya Gazeta, December 30, 2014, http://rg.ru/2014/12/30/doktrina-dok.html.

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

5.   Robert McNamara, The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), pp. 51-67.

6.   Vladimir Tolubko, Raketnyevoiska [Rocket forces] (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1977).

7.   Agreement Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Prevention of Nuclear War, U.S.-USSR, June 22, 1973, 24 U.S.T. 1478.

8.   “Joint Statement on the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting,” December 10, 1987, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=33803.

9.   William Perry, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), p. 53.

10.   David Hoffman, Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p. 149.

11.   John T. Bennett and Eric Garcia, “Biden: Trump ‘Not Qualified to Know’ Nuclear Codes,” Roll Call, August 15, 2016.

12.   “Chemodanchik nomer odin” [Briefcase number one], Trud, January 11, 2000.

13.   While in the Duma, the author submitted a draft law titled “On the succession of supreme command,” under which the president would be the only holder of the “Cheget” terminal and his successors would be the prime minister and the speakers of the two chambers of parliament. The rest of the Duma and executive authorities refused to promote this draft law. 

14.   “Soviet-United States Joint Statement on Future Negotiations on Nuclear and Space Arms and Further Enhancing Strategic Stability,” June 1, 1990, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=18541.

15.   Milton Leitenberg, “Presidential Directive (P.D.) 59: United States Nuclear Weapon Targeting Policy,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 18, No. 4 (December 1981): 314-315.

16.   For a discussion of these concepts, see Brad Roberts, The Case for Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), ch. 6; Franklin C. Miller, “Adjusting NATO’s Nuclear Policies: A Five Step Program,” Atlantic Council, March 23, 2016, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/natosource/adjusting-nato-s-nuclear-policies-a-five-step-program.

17.   Ministerstvo Oborony, Aktualnie Zadachirazvitiya Vooruzhennykh Sil Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Critical tasks of the development of the armed forces of the Russian Federation] (Moscow: Ministerstvo Oborony, 2003); Markell Boytsov, “Terminologiya v voennoi doctrine” [Terminology of the military doctrine], Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, October 31, 2014, http://nvo.ng.ru/concepts/2014-10-31/10_doctrina.html; Konstantin Sivkov, “Pravo naudar” [Right to strike], Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er, March 5, 2014, http://vpk-news.ru/articles/19370.

18.   Robert Legvold, Return to Cold War (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2016), p. 132.


Alexey Arbatov is the head of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations and head of the Nonproliferation Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Moscow Center. He served in the Russian Parliament and was deputy chair of the Defense Committee. This paper is part of a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the author expresses gratitude for assistance from Robert Legvold.

Posted: September 1, 2016

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