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former IAEA Director-General

Strategic Policy

Press Briefing: The Trump Administration's New Nuclear Posture Review

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Description: 

The Arms Control Association will host a briefing with a group of top experts to analyze the implications of the new Trump nuclear strategy.

Body: 

The Trump administration will soon formally release its revised the strategy document on the role and composition of U.S. nuclear forces, known as the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).
 
According to a leaked draft of the 64-page document, the administration calls for expanding the number of scenarios under which the United States might consider the use nuclear weapons—including in response to a major cyberattack—and it proposes the development of new nuclear weapons and capabilities for “tailored” war scenarios.
 
The document also reaffirms support for replacing and upgrading all three legs of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to cost in excess of $1.25 trillion over the next 30 years and walks back U.S. commitments to pursue measures to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons. 
 
The independent, nonpartisan Arms Control Association will host a briefing with top experts to analyze the implications of the Trump administration's nuclear strategy.

WHEN:January 23, 2018
WHERE:Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Root Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC
(MAP)
SPEAKERS: Jon Wolfsthal, former Senior Director, National Security Council;
Thomas Countryman, Chairman of the Board; and
Joan Rohlfing, President, Nuclear Threat Initiative

REGISTER HERE

Author:

Posted: January 23, 2018

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

January 2018

Contact:  Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: January 2018

See Table 1: U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START (as of September 1, 2017)

    The 2010 New START treaty limits both the United States and Russia to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 long-range delivery systems--intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and bombers. These treaty limits do not have to be met until 2018.

    Under New START, the United States will retain a deployed strategic force of 400 ICBMs, 60 nuclear-capable bombers, and 240 SLBMs.

    •  Under the treaty, the country will retain 400 deployed Minuteman III ICBMs, all with a single warhead, and an additional 54 non-deployed silo launchers of ICBMs that will remain in a warm, operational status.

    •  Some bombers will be converted to conventional-only missions (not accountable under New START), and 60 deployed nuclear-capable bombers will be retained. Bombers are not on alert or loaded with weapons in peacetime, and New START counting rules allow each bomber to be counted as “one” deployed warhead, even though bombers can carry up to 16-20 nuclear weapons.

    •  The United States currently has 14 strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs), all of which will be retained. These 14 Trident-armed submarines contain 24 missile launch tubes each, or 336 tubes total. Between two and four submarines are in dry dock at any given time, for a total of about 240-288 missiles currently deployed. The United States plans to reduce the number of SLBM launch tubes from 24 to 20 per SSBN and deploy no more than 240 SLBMs at any time.

    In addition to the treaty limit of 700 deployed systems, the treaty allows for 800 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers, and bombers. The United States plans to retain 454 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, 280 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, and 66 deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.

    As strategic forces are reduced under the treaty, those that remain would be upgraded. Over the next decade, the administration plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and nuclear delivery systems.

    Under New START, both sides release aggregate data on their stockpiles every six months. The table below reflects the most recent data released as of September 1, 2017.

     

    Table 1: Deployed U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

    This table shows how the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear stockpile will decline by 2018, when reductions under New START would be completed.

    All figures are from official sources except for shaded warhead numbers, which are best estimates. New START counts each bomber as one warhead, even though bombers can carry many more.

     20172018
     

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads

    ICBMs

    Minuteman III

    399 
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    N/A

    400

    400

    SLBMs

    Trident II D5

    212
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    N/A

    240

    1,090

    Strategic Bombers

    B-52H

    38
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    56

    41

    60

    B-2A

    11
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    19

    Total Deployed

    660
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    1,393
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    700

    1,550

     

    -Updated by Marissa Papatola

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

    Subject Resources:

    Posted: January 15, 2018

    The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at a Glance

    History of the INF Treaty between the United States and Russia and details on potential violations by Russia

    Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

    Updated: December 2017

    The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.

    The United States first alleged in July 2014 that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, and 2017 repeated these allegations. In March 2017, a top U.S. official confirmed press reports that Russia had deployed the noncompliant missile. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement. On December 8, 2017, the Trump administration released a strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty.

    History

    U.S. calls for the control of intermediate-range missiles emerged as a result of the Soviet Union's domestic deployment of SS-20 intermediate-range missiles in the mid-1970s. The SS-20 qualitatively improved Soviet nuclear forces in the European theater by providing a longer-range, multiple-warhead alternative to aging Soviet SS-4 and SS-5 single-warhead missiles. In 1979, NATO ministers responded to the new Soviet missile deployment with what became known as the "dual-track" strategy-a simultaneous push for arms control negotiations with the deployment of intermediate-range, nuclear-armed U.S. missiles (ground-launched cruise missiles and the Pershing II) in Europe to offset the SS-20. Negotiations, however, faltered repeatedly while U.S. missile deployments continued in the early 1980s.

    INF negotiations began to show progress once Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet general-secretary in March 1985. In the fall of the same year, the Soviet Union put forward a plan to establish a balance between the number of SS-20 warheads and the growing number of allied intermediate-range missile warheads in Europe. The United States expressed interest in the Soviet proposal, and the scope of the negotiations expanded in 1986 to include all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles around the world. Using the momentum from these talks, President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev began to move toward a comprehensive INF elimination agreement. Their efforts culminated in the signing of the INF Treaty on December 8, 1987, and the treaty entered into force on June 1, 1988.

    Elimination Protocol

    The INF Treaty's protocol on missile elimination named the specific types of ground-launched missiles to be destroyed and the acceptable means of doing so. Under the treaty, the United States committed to eliminate its Pershing II, Pershing IA, and Pershing IB ballistic missiles and BGM-109G cruise missiles. The Soviet Union had to destroy its SS-20, SS-4, SS-5, SS-12, and SS-23 ballistic missiles and SSC-X-4 cruise missiles. In addition, both parties were obliged to destroy all INF-related training missiles, rocket stages, launch canisters, and launchers. Most missiles were eliminated either by exploding them while they were unarmed and burning their stages or by cutting the missiles in half and severing their wings and tail sections.

    Inspection and Verification Protocols

    The INF Treaty's inspection protocol required states-parties to inspect and inventory each other's intermediate-range nuclear forces 30 to 90 days after the treaty's entry into force. Referred to as "baseline inspections," these exchanges laid the groundwork for future missile elimination by providing information on the size and location of U.S. and Soviet forces. Treaty provisions also allowed signatories to conduct up to 20 short-notice inspections per year at designated sites during the first three years of treaty implementation and to monitor specified missile-production facilities to guarantee that no new missiles were being produced.

    The INF Treaty's verification protocol certified reductions through a combination of national technical means (i.e., satellite observation) and on-site inspections-a process by which each party could send observers to monitor the other's elimination efforts as they occurred. The protocol explicitly banned interference with photo-reconnaissance satellites, and states-parties were forbidden from concealing their missiles to impede verification activities. Both states-parties could carry out on-site inspections at each other's facilities in the United States and Soviet Union and at specified bases in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, West Germany, and Czechoslovakia.

    The INF Treaty Today

    States-parties' rights to conduct on-site inspections under the treaty ended on May 31, 2001, but the use of surveillance satellites for data collection continues. The INF Treaty established the Special Verification Commission (SVC) to act as an implementing body for the treaty, resolving questions of compliance and agreeing on measures to "improve [the treaty's] viability and effectiveness." Because the INF Treaty is of unlimited duration, states-parties can convene the SVC at any time, and the commission continues to meet today. The most recent SVC session, called by the United States, took place December 12-14, 2017 and was also attended by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. 

    The INF ban originally applied only to U.S. and Soviet forces, but the treaty's membership expanded in 1991 to include successor states of the former Soviet Union. Today, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine join Russia and the United States in the treaty's implementation. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan possessed INF facilities (SS-23 operating bases) but forgo treaty meetings with the consent of the other states-parties.

    Although active states-parties to the treaty total just five countries, several European countries have destroyed INF-banned missiles since the end of the Cold War. Germany, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic destroyed their intermediate-range missiles in the 1990s, and Slovakia dismantled all of its remaining intermediate-range missiles in October 2000 after extensive U.S. prodding. On May 31, 2002, the last possessor of intermediate-range missiles in eastern Europe, Bulgaria, signed an agreement with the United States to destroy all of its INF Treaty-relevant missiles. Bulgaria completed the destruction five months later with U.S. funding.

    In recent years, Russia has raised the possibility of withdrawing from the INF Treaty. Moscow contends that the treaty unfairly prevents it from possessing weapons that its neighbors, such as China, are developing and fielding. Russia also has suggested that the proposed U.S. deployment of strategic anti-ballistic missile systems in Europe might trigger a Russian withdrawal from the accord, presumably so Moscow can deploy missiles targeting any future U.S. anti-missile sites. Still, the United States and Russia issued an October 25, 2007, statement at the United Nations General Assembly reaffirming their “support” for the treaty and calling on all other states to join them in renouncing the missiles banned by the treaty.

    Reports began to emerge in 2013 and 2014 that the United States had concerns about Russia's compliance with the INF Treaty. In July 2014, the U.S. State Department officially assessed Russia to be in violation of the agreement by producing and testing an illegal ground-launched cruise missile.

    Russia denies that it is breaching the agreement and has raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance. Moscow is charging that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles.

    The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act approves funds for the Defense Department to develop a ground-launched cruise missile that, if tested, would violate the Treaty.

    U.S. Defense and State Department officials had publicly stated that they believe that the Russian cruise missiles at issue have not been deployed. But an October 19, 2016 report in The New York Times cited anonymous U.S. officials expressing concern that Russia is producing more missiles than needed solely for flight testing, raising fears that Moscow may be on the verge of deploying the missile.

    A February 14, 2017, report in The New York Times cited U.S. officials declaring that Russia had deployed an operational unit of the treaty noncompliant cruise missiles. On March 8, 2017, General Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed press reports that Russia had deployed a ground-launched cruise missile that “violates the spirit and intent of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. According to Selva, the Pentagon believes that the Russians deployed the missile in question as a signal to NATO forces in Eastern Europe. The Trump administration is reportedly considering measures to pressure Moscow to return to treaty compliance.

    In April 2017, the U.S. State Department released its annual assessment of Russian compliance with key arms control agreements. For the fourth consecutive year, this report alleged Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty. The 2017 State Department report lists new details on the steps Washington took in 2016 to resolve the dispute, including convening a session of the SVC, and providing Moscow with further information on the violation.

    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. The United States has now published both its own designation for the missile (SSC-8) and what it believes is the Russian designation for the missile (9M729).

    The Trump administration's stated strategy to respond to alleged violations comprises of three elements: diplomacy, including through the Special Verification Commission, research and development on a new conventional ground-launched cruise missile and punitive economic measures against companies believed to be involved in the development of the missile.

    Russia continues to dispute the accusations and reiterate its own allegations of treaty noncompliance by the United States.

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

    Subject Resources:

    Country Resources:

    Posted: December 22, 2017

    Vital SFRC Hearing on Nuclear Weapons Decision-Making and Authority: Tuesday, November 14

    Body: 


    This Tuesday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will convene a critical hearing on the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons and the process for executing that authority. The discussion will be the begin of an overdue re-examination of the use nuclear weapons and how those decisions are carried out.

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

    Currently, President Trump, like all U.S. presidents before him, has sole authority over the use of US nuclear weapons. One person can order the launch of over 800 nuclear-armed missiles in under 10 minutes. Leaving such a momentous decision in the hands of a single person is a dangerous situation. SFRC chairman, Bob Corker, has expressed concerns that President Trump’s reckless and implusive rhetoric could push us into “World War III.”

    What Can You Do?

    If your Senator is on the Foreign Relations Committee—i.e., you live in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, or Wyoming—use the form below to contact your Senator’s office today. It provides all the information they need on the hearing and the hard questions they need to ask the witnesses, which will include a former commander of U.S. nuclear forces and a former high-ranking Pentagon official. Such questions, among others, could include:

    • “Do you believe the launching of a nuclear first strike is by its nature a declaration of war and, if so, shouldn’t that constitutionally require the approval and consent of Congress?
       
    • “If the United States were to launch a nuclear first strike against an adversary, what guarantee would we have that they would not retaliate likewise?"
       
    • "Under what circumstances would the benefits of a U.S. nuclear first strike ever outweigh the tragic costs and devastation that would play out afterwards?" 

    It is urgent that all member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attend and engage on the critical questions surrounding U.S. nuclear decision-making and authority. Please write your Senator today and urge them to attend this hearing, a vital opportunity in re-examining U.S. nuclear decision making over time, and the prudence of putting the fate of millions in the hands of one person.

     

    Author:

    Posted: November 13, 2017

    The Lisbon Protocol At a Glance

    March 2014

    Contact: Kingston ReifDirector of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

    Updated: March 2014

    A pervasive fear surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union was the uncertain fate of its nuclear arsenal. In addition to Russia, the emerging states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited a significant number of nuclear weapons, raising concerns that the Soviet Union would leave four nuclear weapon successor states instead of just one. Aside from increasing the number of governments with their finger on the proverbial nuclear button, the circumstances simultaneously raised concerns that those weapons might be more vulnerable to possible sale or theft. The Lisbon Protocol, concluded on May 23, 1992, sought to alleviate those fears by committing the three non-Russian former Soviet states to return their nuclear weapons to Russia. In spite of a series of political disputes that raised some concerns about implementation of the protocol, all Soviet nuclear weapons were eventually transferred to Russia by the end of 1996.

    When the Soviet Union officially dissolved in December 1991, the newly-independent states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited more than 3,000 strategic nuclear weapons (those capable of striking the continental United States), as well as at least 3,000 tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. In 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union announced the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives to substantially reduce their respective tactical nuclear weapons arsenals. All dispersed Soviet tactical weapons were reportedly back on Russian soil by the end of 1992, but the strategic weapons posed a larger problem.

    The United States and Russia reached a solution to this complex problem by engaging Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in a series of talks that led to the Lisbon Protocol. That agreement made all five states party to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which required Washington and Moscow to each cut their deployed strategic nuclear forces from approximately 10,000 warheads apiece to down below 6,000 warheads on no more than 1,600 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and long-range bombers. The protocol signaled the intentions of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to forswear nuclear arms and accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear-weapon states, a commitment that all three fulfilled and continue to abide by today.

     

    Estimated Warheads in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in 1991

     

     

    Strategic Warheads

    Tactical Warheads

    Belarus

    100

    725

    Kazakhstan

    1,410

    Uncertain

    Ukraine

    1,900

    2,275

    Sources: Robert S. Norris, “The Soviet Nuclear Archipelago,” Arms Control Today, January/February 1992, p. 24 and Joseph Cirincione, et al., Deadly Arsenals, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005, p. 366.

     

    Basic Timeline and Provisions:

    • July 31, 1991: The United States and the Soviet Union sign START.
    • Dec. 31, 1991: The Soviet Union officially dissolves, delaying entry into force of START.
    • May 23, 1992: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the United States sign the Lisbon Protocol.
      • Under the protocol, all five states become parties to START.
      • Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine promise to accede to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states “in the shortest time possible.”
    • July 2, 1992: Kazakhstan ratifies START.
    • Oct. 1, 1992: The U.S. Senate ratifies START.
    • Nov. 4, 1992: The Russian State Duma refuses to exchange START instruments of ratification until Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan accede to the NPT.
    • Feb. 4, 1993: Belarus ratifies START.
    • July 22, 1993: Belarus submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
    • January 14, 1994: The Trilateral Statement is signed by Presidents Clinton, Yeltsin, and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, allowing Ukraine to observe the transfer of weapons from its territory to Russia and the dismantlement of certain systems. It also commits Russia to send some of the uranium extracted from the returned warheads back to Ukraine for fuel.
    • Feb. 14, 1994: Kazakhstan submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
    • Dec. 5, 1994: Ukraine submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.
      • The five START parties exchange instruments of ratification for START, which enters into force.
    • April 24, 1995: Kazakhstan transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia.
    • June 1996: Ukraine transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia.
    • November 1996: Belarus transfers its last strategic weapon to Russia, marking completion of Lisbon Protocol obligations.

    Ratification and Implementation:

    Belarus:

    When the Soviet Union dissolved, the newly-established Republic of Belarus found itself in possession of roughly 800 total nuclear weapons deployed within its borders. Although Russia retained the warhead arming and launch codes, many worried that Belarus might attempt to take control of the weapons. Moreover, President Alexander Lukashenko twice threatened to retain some weapons if NATO deployed nuclear weapons of its own in Poland. However, when a constitutional crisis erupted in November 1996, Lukashenko was finally compelled to finalize the transfers.

    Minsk signed the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, ratified it on Feb. 4, 1993, and deposited its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state on July 22, 1993. By November 1996 all nuclear warheads in Belarus had been transferred to Russia.

    Kazakhstan:

    After gaining independence, Kazakhstan with extensive U.S. technical and financial assistance disposed of the strategic nuclear weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s 1,410 strategic warheads were deployed on several different systems, including SS-18 ICBMs and cruise missiles carried by Bear-H bombers.

    Kazakhstan’s parliament ratified START on July 2, 1992. All tactical nuclear weapons had been withdrawn to Russia by January 1992. The parliament approved accession to the NPT on Dec. 13, 1993, and deposited the state’s NPT instrument of ratification on Feb. 14, 1994. The last of the Kazakh-based strategic nuclear weapons were transferred to Russia by April 24, 1995.

    Ukraine:

    When the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine became the third-largest nuclear weapons power in the world behind the United States and Russia. Ukraine’s 1,900 strategic warheads were distributed among ICBMs, strategic bombers, and air-launched cruise and air-to-surface missiles. Although President Leonid Kravchuk signed the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992, Ukraine’s process of disarmament was filled with political obstacles. Many Ukrainian officials viewed Russia as a threat and argued that they should keep nuclear weapons in order to deter any possible encroachment from their eastern neighbor. Although the government never gained operational control over the weapons, it declared “administrative control” in June 1992, and, in 1993, claimed ownership of the warheads, citing the potential of the plutonium and highly enriched uranium they contained for creating peaceful energy.

    A resolution passed by the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, on Nov. 18, 1993, attached conditions to its ratification of START that Russia and the United States deemed unacceptable. Those stated that Ukraine would only dismantle 36% of its delivery vehicles and 42% of its warheads; all others would remain under Ukrainian custody. Moreover, the resolution made those reductions contingent upon assurances from Russia and the United States to never use nuclear weapons against Ukraine (referred to as “security assurances”), along with foreign aid to pay for dismantlement.

    In response, the Clinton and Yeltsin administrations intensified negotiations with Kyiv, eventually producing the Trilateral Statement, which was signed on Jan. 14, 1994. This agreement placated Ukrainian concerns by allowing Ukraine to cooperate in the transfer of the weapons to Russia, which would take place over a maximum period of seven years. The agreement further called for the transferred warheads to be dismantled and the highly enriched uranium they contained to be downblended into low-enriched uranium. Some of that material would then be transferred back to Ukraine for use as nuclear reactor fuel. Meanwhile, the United States would give Ukraine economic and technical aid to cover its dismantlement costs. Finally, the United States and Russia responded to Ukraine’s security concerns by agreeing to provide security assurances upon its NPT accession.

    In turn, the Rada ratified START, implicitly endorsing the Trilateral Statement. However, it did not submit its instrument of accession to the NPT until Dec. 5, 1994, when Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States provided security assurances to Ukraine. That decision by the Rada met the final condition for Russia’s ratification of START, and subsequently brought that treaty into force. For more information, see Ukraine, Nucelar Weapons and Security Assurances at a Glance.

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

    Country Resources:

    Posted: July 25, 2017

    U.S. Reconsiders Nuclear Abolition Goal

    The Nuclear Posture Review will include whether to maintain the long-standing goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

    April 2017

    Christopher Ford, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation, addresses the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference on March 21. (Photo credit: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review will include whether to maintain the long-standing U.S. goal of seeking a world without nuclear weapons. Christopher Ford, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation, said the review will consider whether that declared end state “is in fact a realistic objective” given current international security trends. The commitment is enshrined in the binding 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The United States joined the four other nuclear-weapon states at the time in committing to seek “complete” nuclear disarmament in exchange for other countries pledging not to acquire such weapons.

    Addressing the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference on March 21, Ford said there is reason to question whether “traditional U.S. fidelity to that visionary end state...is still a viable strategy” due to various factors, including the prospect of further U.S.-Russian reductions seeming “less likely than it might have been a few years ago.” Past U.S. declarations, including President Barack Obama’s April 2009 Prague speech on disarmament, encouraged “largely unrealistic expectations and demands for ever faster process,” Ford said. The disappointments from unmet nuclear disarmament expectations contribute to the demands by non-nuclear-weapon states for the “fundamentally misguided” negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban treaty, which the new administration opposes as “fundamentally misguided,” he said.

     

    Posted: March 31, 2017

    A President in Need of a Russia Policy

    Trump has failed to articulate a coherent strategy.


    March 2017
    By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

    In his rambling first news conference as president on Feb. 17, Donald Trump stressed that “[t]hey’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2016. (Photo credit: Kirill Kudryatsev/AFP/Getty Images)Clearly, it is vital that the world’s two largest nuclear-armed states maintain a stable relationship and avoid direct military conflict. With hundreds of long-range thermonuclear weapons on each side poised for “launch under attack,” the fate of the world still depends on the good judgment and restraint of the U.S. and Russian presidents in a crisis. 

    For decades, these realities have driven U.S. presidents from both parties to engage with Moscow to reduce the risk of a nuclear confrontation, cut bloated nuclear stockpiles, and prevent proliferation. Maintaining progress on U.S. and Russian nuclear disarmament helps to lower tensions and maintain strategic stability; it is also vital to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, U.S. leaders have steadfastly provided assurance to allies in Europe that Washington will back them up if Russia threatens to violate their territorial integrity. 

    To date, however, the Trump administration has failed to articulate a coherent strategy toward Russia. It has sent contradictory messages about the U.S. commitment to defend NATO countries and maintain sanctions against Russia, which are designed to encourage Moscow to abide by the Minsk agreements on the resolution of the Ukraine conflict. 

    Trump said in January that “nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially.” Yet, in his first call with Russia’s leader, he reportedly denounced the successful 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which sets the stage for further reductions, and he did not respond positively to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that the deal should be extended. 

    Trump should certainly engage with Russia, but in a manner consistent with long-standing U.S. policies that advance core national and allied security interests in four key areas.

    Reduce nuclear tensions. To start, the two leaders could reaffirm the statement by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from 1985 that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” They should also reaffirm their commitment to the quarter-century-long U.S. and Russian moratoria on nuclear weapons test explosions and the prompt entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which both have signed but only Russia has ratified.

    As President Barack Obama noted in his final press conference, “[T]here remains a lot of room for both countries to reduce our nuclear stockpiles.” With up to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons allowed under New START, Russia and the United States can safely cut their bloated nuclear stockpiles further without negotiating a new treaty. By agreeing to extend New START and its verification provisions by five years, to 2026, Trump and Putin could confidently pursue further, significant parallel reductions of warhead and delivery system inventories by one-third or more and still meet their respective nuclear deterrence requirements.

    Address INF Treaty violations. Russia has reportedy begun deploying ground-based cruise missiles prohibited by the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Trump said on Feb. 23 he would take up the issue with Putin when they meet. Russia’s actions do not significantly alter the military balance, but they require the United States to confront Russian officials with evidence of the violation at another meeting of the treaty’s Special Verification Commission and to work to resolve all outstanding compliance issues. 

    If Moscow continues to deploy the banned ground-launched cruise missiles, U.S. leaders should insist that the weapons would need to be counted under the limits set in the next round of nuclear arms reductions. Washington should also continue to support ongoing NATO efforts to bolster the conventional defenses of those allies that would be potential targets of Russian aggression or intimidation.

    Adjust U.S. missile defense plans. The United States has followed through on its phased adaptive approach for limited missile defenses in Europe to counter Iran’s medium-range missile arsenal. With the successful implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Washington can suspend the deployment of more advanced Aegis missile interceptors in Poland, as well as a possible ground-based, strategic interceptor site on the U.S. East Coast—both of which are oriented to counter a long-range, nuclear-tipped Iranian missile threat that has not materialized. Failing to adapt missile defenses will only deepen Russian suspicion the system is also directed at them and increase the likelihood of dangerous Russian countermoves.

    Prevent dangerous military incidents. Growing tensions in the Baltic region combined with dangerous military encounters involving NATO and Russian forces risk unintended escalation, possibly up to the nuclear level. To reduce mutual suspicion, the two sides should pursue a new dialogue on mutual restraint measures, including subregional arms control limits and an incident-prevention communications channel. 

    Without a more serious and consistent U.S. strategy on these key security issues, our already troubled relationship with Russia will become more unpredictable and dangerous.


    The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today is available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
    with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.

     

    Posted: February 27, 2017

    Markey-Lieu Legislation Underscores Undemocratic, Irresponsible Nature of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Use Protocol

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    Statement by Kingston Reif and Daryl Kimball

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    TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to Restrict Trump's Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons

    For Immediate Release: January 24, 2017

    Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 105; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

     

    The Arms Control Association applauds Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) for reintroducing legislation to highlight the unconstrained and undemocratic ability of the president to initiate the first-use of U.S. nuclear weapons. The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.

    Operation Ivy, the eighth series of American nuclear tests, carried out to  upgrade the U.S. arsenal in response to the Soviet nuclear weapons program. (Photo: Wikipedia)Put simply, the fate of tens of millions depends in large part on the good judgment and stability of a single person. At any moment, there are roughly 800 U.S. nuclear warheads–all of which are far more powerful than the weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945–that can be launched within minutes of an order by the president. The president, and the president alone, has the supreme authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. Congress currently has no say in the matter. Continuing to vest such destructive power in the hands of one person is undemocratic, irresponsible, and increasingly untenable.
     
    In an August 2016 HuffPost/YouGov survey, two-thirds of respondents said the United States should use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack or not at all, while just 18 percent think that first-use is sometimes justified. Indeed, it is all but impossible to imagine a scenario where the benefits of the first-use of U.S. nuclear weapons would outweigh the severe costs.
     
    The inauguration of President Donald Trump has heightened fears about the sole authority of the commander in chief to use nuclear weapons. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed deep concern about his erratic behavior and loose talk on nuclear weapons. Now is the time to put responsible checks on the use of nuclear weapons in place. Such a decision is far too important to be left in the hands of one person.
     
    Numerous options can be pursued to bring greater democracy and transparency to U.S. nuclear decision-making and reduce the risk of nuclear use. In addition to the proposal in the Markey and Lieu legislation, additional options include:

    • Requiring that a decision to use nuclear weapons be made by more than one person. This could include the president, vice president, secretaries of state and defense, and perhaps one or more designated members of Congress, such as the speaker of the House.
       
    • Eliminating the requirement to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) under attack, which in some scenarios would give the president only minutes to decide whether to launch the missiles before some or all of them are destroyed on the ground. Given that a president would almost certainly not make the most consequential decision a president has ever made in a matter of minutes, retaining a launch under attack posture is unnecessarily risky and eliminating it would increase the time available to consider the possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation to a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies.
       
    • Provide Congress with more information on U.S. nuclear war plans, including targeting data, attack options, damage expectancy requirements, estimated civilian casualties, and more, which is currently not shared with Members of Congress.
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    The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

    Posted: January 24, 2017

    The Complex and Increasingly Dangerous Nuclear Weapons Geometry of Asia

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    Asian states Pakistan, India, China, and North Korea comprise four of the world's nine nuclear-armed states. The interconnections of these countries must be considered to fully understand how nuclear nonproliferation can be influenced.

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    July 27, 2016

    While much of the world’s attention is focused on efforts to halt the nuclear and missile tests of North Korea, the nuclear arsenals and ambitions of India, Pakistan, and China also pose significant dangers and deserve more attention.

    The complicated nuclear weapons geometry of Asia extends from the subcontinent to the other side of the world. While Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is designed to counter India’s conventional and nuclear forces, New Delhi measures its own nuclear weapons program against that of China. Beijing, in turn, judges the adequacy of its nuclear arsenal against the threat it perceives from the United States’ strategic offensive and defensive capabilities. And in its efforts to mitigate the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, the United States and it allies in the region are expanding their strategic and theater missile defense capabilities.

    In order to fully understand how the pace and direction of nuclear proliferation can be influenced, the interconnections of these countries must be considered, along with the kinds of nuclear weapons they have at their disposal.

    The full PDF of the Threat Assessment Brief is available here.

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

    Posted: July 27, 2016

    Take Nuclear First Use Off the Table

    A U.S. no-nuclear-first-use policy would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe, improve the prospects for further Russian nuclear cuts, and draw China into the nuclear risk reduction process.

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    The Cold War standoff that gave rise to tens of thousands of nuclear weapons ended a quarter century ago, and U.S. and Russian deployed arsenals have been slashed through verifiable arms control agreements.

    Unfortunately, the risks of nuclear weapons use are still far too high, in part because the policies developed to justify their possession and potential use remain largely the same.

    President Obama in 2009 at Hradčany Square Prague, Czech Republic (Photo: White House)Early in his presidency, President Barack Obama made clear that he sought “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

    On June 6, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes pledged that the president “will continue to review whether there are additional steps that can be taken to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our own strategies and to reduce the risk of inadvertent use.”

    One very important step would be for Obama to declare that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Such a decision could unwind dangerous Cold War-era thinking and greatly strengthen U.S. and global security.

    Limiting the circumstances under which the United States would use nuclear weapons was a goal laid out by the “Nuclear Posture Review Report” in 2010, which said the United States should pursue the objective of making deterrence against a nuclear attack the “sole purpose” of the nuclear arsenal.

    Nevertheless, current policy still leaves several dangerous and destabilizing nuclear weapons-use options on the table, including the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict to pre-empt a real or suspected nuclear attack, to counter the possible use of chemical or biological weapons, or to halt a massive conventional military threat against U.S. forces or allies.

    Today, the United States and Russia still deploy thousands of nuclear warheads on hundreds of bombers, missiles, and submarines. Current U.S. strategy requires that there are enough nuclear forces available to destroy nearly 1,000 enemy targets, many in urban areas, and that these weapons can be launched within minutes of a decision to do so.

    Maintaining such a capability plays a large role in compelling Russia—and may soon help to lead China—to field a sizable portion of their nuclear forces in a launch-under-attack mode in order to avoid a disarming nuclear strike. This, in turn, increases the chance that nuclear weapons might be used or dispersed by U.S. adversaries in a crisis.

    As Obama correctly said in 2008, the requirement for prompt launch is “a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.”

    By adopting a no-first-use policy, the United States could positively influence the nuclear doctrines of other nuclear-armed states, particularly in Asia. Such a shift in U.S. declaratory policy could also alleviate concerns that U.S. ballistic missile defenses might be used to negate the retaliatory potential of China and Russia following a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear attack against their strategic forces.

    Shifting to a no-first-use policy would not, in any way, undermine the U.S. ability to deter nuclear attack by another state. It is well established that U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack, and given the size, accuracy, and diversity of U.S. forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

    Given the overwhelming U.S. conventional military edge, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify—legally, morally, or militarily—the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. U.S. nuclear weapons are useless in deterring or responding to nuclear terrorism or to a potential chemical, biological, or cyberattack by state or nonstate actors.

    A no-first-use policy would not undermine confidence in U.S. defense commitments to key allies. Even if there were to be a conventional military conflict with a nuclear-armed state, such as Russia in the Baltic Sea region or elsewhere, the employment of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it would trigger an uncontrollable and potentially suicidal escalation of nuclear weapons use. As a result, the threat of nuclear weapons first-use to counter non-nuclear attacks lacks credibility.

    In remarks delivered in Hiroshima May 27, Obama declared that “among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.” Yes, we must.

    A U.S. no-first-use policy would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe, improve the prospects for further Russian nuclear cuts, and draw China into the nuclear risk reduction process. It would put a spotlight on the dangerous nuclear doctrines of Pakistan and North Korea, where the risk of nuclear weapons use is perhaps most severe, and challenge them to reconsider the first-use option.

    By encouraging a new norm against first-use of nuclear weapons, Obama could help ensure, for this generation and those to come, that nuclear weapons are never used again.

    Posted: June 30, 2016

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