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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
Arms Control Today

Start With Small Steps in the Middle East


May 2022
By Lia Swiniarski

Never has a regional security framework been needed more in the Middle East than it is today. Events of the last decade—the 2011 Arab Spring, Iran’s expanding nuclear program, brutal civil wars in Yemen and Syria, and persistent terrorist activities—have prolonged tensions among regional actors. Geopolitical shifts, such as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the absence of cooperation among global powers in resolving regional conflicts, have further exacerbated an unstable security environment. The result has been louder, more prevalent cries for peace by regional activists and political leaders, so far without a constructive result.

Haidar Abdel Shafi (L), head of the Palestinian delegation, addresses delegates to the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid in October 1991. The conference launched multilateral negotiations on arms control, security, water, refugees, the environment and economic development. (Photo by Patrick Baz/AFP via Getty Images)One of the biggest concerns is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Although Israel is the only state in the region that has refused to sign the 1970 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, several countries that signed the pact have begun to bypass its restrictions, most notably Iran with its accelerating nuclear program.1 The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government and nonstate actors in the Syrian civil war further amplifies the risk of WMD use and the growing willingness to violate long-established international agreements and norms. For all its bruises, the NPT remains the cornerstone of the international nonproliferation regime and has created a precedent for further international arms control treaties, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention. Despite these efforts, recent negative trends highlight the acute need for a region-wide comprehensive solution to the WMD threat in the Middle East, specifically the creation of a WMD-free zone.

Today, there are six nuclear-weapon-free zones in the world in which participating states are bound by treaties that ban development, possession, testing, and transportation of nuclear weapons.2 Although a lack of sustained communication has made cooperation among member states in these zones a challenge, the overall benefits of such zones are undeniable and could improve security in the Middle East. States that commit to these agreements consent to eliminate nuclear weapons from their national security plans, making the pact mutually beneficial to all states in a particular zone. Pledging to remove nuclear weapons from their individual national defense strategies also commits states to the humanitarian goal of ridding the entire world of nuclear weapons. The aim of the international nonproliferation regime is to normalize these goals and encourage more countries to devote themselves to the effort.3

For decades, proponents of WMD-free zones have attempted to establish a similar treaty to ban nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The most recent endeavor is the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, which had its second annual session in November 2021. Despite these efforts, several obstacles have impeded the implementation of concrete measures to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction. These include Israel’s decision not to participate in the conference, stalled negotiations on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and continued distrust and instability among countries in the region.

These difficulties should not obscure the fact that many politicians, activists, and civilians in the region agree that something needs to change to promote stability there. So, why has dialogue and significant progress stagnated? What must be done moving forward to create the conditions necessary to achieve the zone and advance overall regional security?

What the Middle East needs most is trust-building. Previous initiatives have attempted to establish security regimes with verification and confidence-building measures. This approach would be more effective for building bridges between states after ratification of an agreement. Although these measures are important to any regional security framework, they will never be implemented successfully unless regional actors first establish a shared understanding of what security looks like and overcome the mistrust that has hindered the creation of regional security institutions.

The Nuclear Deterrence Paradox

Although most countries in the region presumably share a view of a stable Middle East that is free of weapons of mass destruction and arms races, they differ in their approach to achieving these goals. These opposing positions, which include such basics as the objectives and sequencing of negotiations, can be traced back to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict that erupted after the United Nations recognized Israel as a state in 1948 and has persisted for decades.

Over the years, Israel adopted a policy of nuclear opacity, meaning it has chosen not to acknowledge publicly its nuclear weapons capabilities. Although Israel maintains that it will not “be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East,” it is believed to have produced 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.4 Combined with the growing threat of Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons increases the likelihood that other states in the region also will work to develop the bomb as a deterrent.5

These developments underscore the paradox of the differing Israeli and Arab views on nuclear deterrence policy, which have repeatedly disrupted any chance of creating a WMD-free zone. Although Israel and other regional states would benefit from such a zone, Arab states see Israel’s nuclear disarmament and its agreement to a zone as a necessary condition for regional security. Israel, however, requires regional security as a prerequisite before it signs on to any treaty that promotes disarmament and nonproliferation policies.6

These contradictory approaches have led to the collapse of many initiatives that aimed to develop a nonproliferation regime in the Middle East. Among the most notable was the arms control and regional security working group in the 1990s, which was a set of plenary dialogues with the aim of establishing a new regional security framework. Although it ultimately failed, the initiative still offers lessons that could be applied to future regional dialogues.

Lessons From the Working Group

This initiative, the most comprehensive and serious disarmament and nonproliferation initiative undertaken by the region, came about after the Cold War when the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Persian Gulf War created favorable geopolitical conditions for conflicting parties to negotiate a new security framework. Co-sponsored by the United States and Russia, the diplomatic effort was part of the Middle East peace process and established five working groups to address various security issues. One group, on arms control and regional security, represented the first attempt to bring Arabs and Israelis together to discuss confidence-building measures and progress toward disarmament and regional security.7

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani pose at the White House before signing the Abraham Accords on September 15, 2020. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)Although the initiative collapsed in 1995 due to disagreements between Israel and Egypt over nuclear disarmament issues, it had value in facilitating personal relationships among regional participants who had long viewed each other as enemies. It also produced some narrowly constructive agreements that established a regional security center in Jordan and two affiliated institutions in Qatar and Tunisia, built a regional communications network, instituted procedures for the prenotification of certain military activities and the exchange of military information, and facilitated cooperation on search and rescue missions and the prevention of incidents at sea.

During this process, diplomats were exposed to each other through a mix of Track 1 diplomacy, a traditional format that brings two or more governments into discussions on an official level, and Track 2 diplomacy, which involves informal and unofficial discussions among government officials and sometimes academics that are inherently nonbinding.8 In the Track 2 format, representatives of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia and the Palestinians were able to interact outside of the formal negotiation room and get to know each other as people. As a regional official who participated in the negotiating process stated to the oral history project conducted by the Wilson Center and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, “So, we came up with a question asking, ‘Can we just sit down one day, just relax, and have a cup of coffee and have a little talk about what’s going on, rather than the official meetings?’ So, we had our first conference meeting in the United States down in La Jolla, California... and that’s when they put us all in… and my God, it just took off.”

He said that there unsurprisingly were some “hot times,” especially on nuclear issues, but beyond that, “a lot of issues were discussed outside, having a cup of coffee, having tea, sitting here, sitting there, over dinner. And then later on, when we used to go back to the official meetings, then we kind of understood each other a bit more.”9

This experience offers a lesson to anyone seeking to address the daunting security issues that still haunt a deeply polarized Middle East. Although there were delegates who believed the arms control working group had more failures than successes, they were mostly in agreement on one fact, as another participant acknowledged to the oral history project: “I honestly don’t believe that there were any substantive successes. But I do believe…that the different parties understood that we’re all human, that we can actually discuss these things with each other.”10

Fast-forward more than two decades to the signing of the Abraham Accords by Bahrain, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates in 2020. Many of the geopolitical issues in the region and the world have changed, but clearly the possibility for dialogue and trust-building in the Middle East still exists. Although the accords ignored several key issues, most notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they created a precedent as the third normalization agreement between Israel and its regional neighbors and opened the door for future dialogues on issues of peace and regional security.11

Future Applications

Future goals must be even bolder and aim to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and the potential for such weapons from the region. That must be one item on the agenda when the 10th NPT review conference takes place in November. Conference participants should develop a blueprint to push forward talks on a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone by encouraging the kind of personal dialogue that proved valuable in the arms control working group and by building on the goodwill of the more recent Abraham Accords.

This will not occur without the commitment of all states in the region to disarmament, particularly Iran and Israel. In addition, Iran and the United States must restore mutual compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, which imposes limits on Iran’s nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

Israel may never give up its nuclear weapons, but like its neighbors, it yearns for a constructive regional security framework within which it can live in peace. One realistic preliminary step would be to have all Middle Eastern states ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and make the region a zone free of nuclear testing. That could start a dialogue on nuclear issues and begin to build confidence among important regional actors.12

ENDNOTES

1. International Crisis Group, “Reviving the JCPOA After Maximum Pressure,” January 29, 2021, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/north-africa/libya/reviving-jcpoa-after-maximum- pressure.

2. UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, “Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones,” n.d., https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/nwfz/ (accessed April 20, 2022).

3. “Cooperation Among Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones: History, Challenges and Recommendations,” Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, March 2018, p. 9, https://vcdnp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/NWFZ-TF-Report-final-1.pdf.

4. Bennett Ramberg, “Wrestling With Nuclear Opacity,” Arms Control Today, November 2010, https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010-11/wrestling-nuclear-opacity.

5. Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Israel,” July 2017, https://www.nti.org/learn/countries/israel/.

6. Pierre Goldschmidt, “A Realistic Approach Toward a Middle East Free of WMD,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 7, 2016, https://carnegieendowment.org/2016/07/07/realistic- approach-toward-middle-east-free-of-wmd-pub-64039.

7. “Parties of the Madrid Peace Conference Create the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) Working Group,” UN Institute for Disarmament Research, n.d., https://unidir.org/timeline/1990s/1992-1995-arms-control-and-regional-security-working-group-acrs (accessed April 20, 2022).

8. Jennifer Staats, Johnny Walsh, and Rosarie Tucci, “A Primer on Multi-track Diplomacy: How Does It Work?” U.S. Institute of Peace, July 31, 2019, https://www.usip.org/publications/2019/07/primer-multi-track-diplomacy-how-does-it-work.

9. ACRS Working Group delegation regional official, interview by Hanna Notte, October 30, 2020, transcript, ACRS Oral History Project, Wilson Center and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

10. ACRS Working Group delegation senior regional official, interview by Hanna Notte, November 4, 2020, transcript, ACRS Oral History Project, Wilson Center and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

11. Tova Norlen and Tamir Sinai, “The Abraham Accords - Paradigm Shift or Realpolitik?” Marshall Center Security Insights, No. 64 (October 2020), https://www.marshallcenter.org/en/publications/security-insights/abraham-accords-paradigm-shift-or-realpolitik.

12. Goldschmidt, “Realistic Approach Toward a Middle East Free of WMD.”

 


Lia Swiniarski is a recent graduate of Middlebury College and was a research fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies on efforts to promote a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

A working group created as part of the 1991 Middle East peace process may offer a lesson in how to build trust and advance security in that region.

Blown to Hell: America’s Deadly Betrayal of the Marshall Islanders

 

May 2022

An Enduring Injustice

Blown to Hell: America’s Deadly Betrayal of the Marshall Islanders
Walter Pincus
Diversion Books
November 2021

Reviewed by Desmond Narain Doulatram

Many researchers have written extensively on the nuclear history of the Marshall Islands, but these publications have not benefited the indigenous Marshallese population justly. Ultimately, it is the Marshallese, not outsiders, who live with the consequences of these circulated narratives, which focus on the environmental and human impact of more than 60 nuclear tests conducted by the United States in their region from 1946 to 1958.1

“The Marshallese people and land [are] often violently exploited by outsiders who use the Marshall Islands to advance their own interests, careers, learning, or power” at the expense of the indigenous community, according to the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission. The situation is made worse when such a small community is dependent on an indigenous, extended family network where camaraderie and cooperation is essential to ensuring its overall sustainable development. As the commission has observed, unidimensional depictions of Marshallese people as victims detract from their admirable story of resilience and self-reliance.

Even the title of Walter Pincus’ book, Blown to Hell: America’s Deadly Betrayal of the Marshall Islanders, ironically showcases that this betrayal is not always attributed only to U.S. military operations and U.S. governmental negligence, but also to careless researchers and writers involved in the mass media who are misled into believing that they are conveying moral intelligence. This is because even well-intentioned publications can be invasive and create more hardship for the communities in question where researchers are literally privileged memory-makers, given the power of the written text to inscribe identity and ascribe memories. So one question to ponder is, Did Pincus fall victim to this unfortunate trap?

Implicit Biases Expand Divisions
The author widely references written documents and circulated narratives that drown out indigenous voices in favor of a Western framework bordering on a victimhood mentality. He reveals the atrocities of nuclear weapons by attempting to shine a light from the receiving end, where the common man perspective takes root in the conversation and where indigenous tribal cultural traditions displayed by the Kabua kin, from which Marshall Islands President David Kabua descends, are demonized and individuals are accused of self-interest. Americans have not always been kind to indigenous tribal monarchs as their illegal overthrow of Hawaii’s Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893 demonstrated, so one should not be surprised that Pincus makes it known how he feels about the Kabua family. He goes so far as to accuse the Marshall Islands’ founding father, Amata Kabua, who spearheaded the nation’s independence, of being a self-interested politician.

Islanders from Rongelap Atoll in The Marshall Islands, which was damaged by U.S. nuclear testing, march while holding banners marking the 60th anniversary of the Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in Majuro on March 1, 2014. The Marshallese have long called on the United States to resolve the "unfinished business" of its nuclear testing legacy in the western Pacific nation.  (Photo by Isaac Marty/AFP via Getty Images)In fact, Amata Kabua was fighting for his people in the same way that Lili‘uokalani did when she was branded a dictator, a defamation that was only corrected when the U.S. Congress passed the “Apology Resolution” in 1993 during the Clinton administration. It is offensive to indigenous Marshallese that outsiders would even think that way without hearing an indigenous perspective, but there is a long history of being ignored. For example, as early as 1953, Amata Kabua’s mother, Dorothy Kabua, known as the queen (Leroij) of Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, saw the danger of nuclear testing and urged the United States to stop. No one listened to her.2

Many negative perspectives advanced by outside researchers and writers have impacted public viewpoints and discourses about the Marshall Islands. This reality was a key point of discontent, for instance, when U.S. Representative Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) testified last year during a congressional oversight hearing chaired by Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) on the U.S. nuclear dump site in the Marshall Islands.3 Radewagen said,

The Marshall Islands are dear to my heart and like a second home to me. Former President Amata Kabua was close to my father and was like an uncle to me and his mother Dorothy named my sister Limanman. So, it’s a personal as well as official concern when U.S. officials insist known legal claims settled in 1986 mean we can wash our hands of the nuclear test legacy. I wish [the] State Department was here today to be reminded of U.S. obligations under the 1986 settlement for cooperation and justice based on human needs
and harm not fully understood back in 1986.4

Even within his narrative, Pincus perpetuates the notion that Judah, the leader of Bikinians and a commoner, was the actual king whereas archived evidence points otherwise, showcasing that Amata Kabua’s grandfather, Jeimata Kabua, was the real indigenous Marshallese king of Bikini Atoll.5

Book Triumphs in Other Ways

Despite the book’s flaws, Pincus succeeds in leaving readers with the impression that an incredible debt is still owed to the people of the Marshall Islands because the United States still has not complied with the financial assistance provision in the Compact of Free Association that it signed with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. The agreement allows the Marshallese and the Micronesians to live and work in the United States and gives the U.S. military exclusive access to their territories, but the compact is due to end in 2023, leaving Washington little time to fulfill this economic self-sufficiency commitment. Pincus utilizes a narrative framework that has divided and inflamed political tensions in the Marshall Islands in ways similar to 2013, when Julianne Walsh’s Marshallese History textbook, carrying the Marshallese seal, was suspended from being taught in the public school system until factual corrections were made. Nevertheless, Pincus, like Walsh, has expanded access to archived material in a single textbook, a notable and praiseworthy feature of his work.

Another strength of Pincus’ narrative is how he holds the United States accountable to the UN trusteeship agreement of 1947. He writes that the United States was obligated to “protect the health of the inhabitants as well as promote the economic advancement and self-sufficiency of the inhabitants, and to this end…protect the inhabitants against the loss of their lands and resources.” Further, he stressed that, as “the world’s richest nation at the time and the most scientifically advanced, and most powerful democracy,” the United States pledged to care for and educate its inhabitants toward self-government. Despite these obligations, U.S. officials treated the Marshallese as pawns and guinea pigs by “withholding key information about the possible radioactivity threat from their environment, while closely keeping track of any signs that their health was being affected,” Pincus adds.

The author also underscores the grave U.S. failure to acknowledge the “changed circumstances petition”6 in light of the pressures of climate change on these nuclear communities, specifically the people of Bikini Atoll. This topic receives considerable attention toward the end of the book, particularly the last two chapters and epilogue, where Pincus updates readers on the current situation of the Bikini people and the Rongelap people. He asserts that they continue to be victims of failed leadership from their local governments and from the U.S. government, particularly the Trump administration, which relaxed funding oversight of Bikini’s trust fund.

Nuclear Justice Remains Uncertain

President Kabua announced in March on Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day in the Marshall Islands that he will not sign or renew the Compact of Free Association, known as Compact III, if the nuclear justice issue is not settled once and for all. That would include the United States changed circumstances petition submitted to Congress in 2000, which showcases greater nuclear testing-related damage to the Marshall Islands than was previously understood or acknowledged. The petition requests additional compensation for personal injuries and property damages and restoration costs, medical care programs, health services infrastructure and training, and radiological monitoring. After a long hiatus of no substantive engagement on Compact negotiations since the end of the Trump administration in January 2021, President Joe Biden, seeking to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific, finally chose Joseph Yun as his special envoy to lead the negotiations, but it is uncertain whether the nuclear justice issue will be put on the table. The concept of nuclear justice asserts that the United States should acknowledge the full scope of the damages from its nuclear testing in the Pacific by enacting the changed circumstances petition along with financial assistance to cover intergenerational and incidental damages. This compensation should include the safe resettlement of displaced human populations and the restoration of economic productivity of affected areas given Marshall Islands unique indigenous land economy and its associated blue economy.7

As with the 2004 Compact of Free Association, when the Bush administration rejected the changed circumstances petition, the future remains uncertain as to whether the long-term health and environmental damages of U.S. nuclear testing, predicted by the first Marshallese president on May 1, 1979,8 and recapitulated by Pincus in his epilogue, will finally be resolved. On a positive note, in marking Nuclear Victims Day of Bravo, a congressional resolution was introduced in March 2021 that would apologize to the Marshallese people for the effects of the U.S. nuclear testing program. Sponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Porter, and co-sponsored by Representative Radewagen, the resolution calls attention to what transpired in the Marshall Islands during the nuclear testing period and raises awareness on the need to undo existing and expected long-term harm.9

Equally worth noting is that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on January 22, 2021, and is the first treaty of its kind drawing serious attention to the humanitarian horrors of these weapons. The Marshall Islands has not ratified the treaty because of concerns that the “provisions on responsibility for addressing nuclear testing impacts have an ineffective and inappropriate shift of the primary burden from the states which have undertaken such testing, to the host nation where such testing occurred.” The Marshallese support the treaty’s moral call and believe it has placed a well-deserved focus on the suffering of victims.10 Nevertheless, the government remains unconvinced of the TPNW’s ultimate value given how the UN system has failed the nation before, specifically in the 1950s when the Marshallese petitioned to end the nuclear testing program.11 That story is missing from Pincus’ narrative, and its inclusion would have been the simplest way to turn the book into a clear winner. Stories of Marshallese resilience remain underappreciated and rarely mentioned in the book where “epistemological silencing”12 is evident.

Given the years of insufficient visibility on the nuclear legacy, Pincus is worth applauding for using his platform as a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter to highlight a neglected part of U.S. history that was largely driven by nuclear colonialism and environmental racism.13 As he notes, “In telling of these people, I hoped to show how much is owed to Marshall Islanders.” His book is a well-intentioned effort to educate the American public on its moral responsibility to the Marshallese people, a promise yet to be fulfilled.

Still, it is crucial that white male authors with positions of privilege not remove “indigenous agency,” and thereby inadvertently promote “institutional racism” and “pedagogical silencing” under the classic “white savior syndrome” that “encourages individual dependency rather than long-term community building or long-term community self-sufficiency.”14 That is where the author should have dedicated his efforts. By reframing the Marshallese story as one of survivors15 rather than victims, Pincus would have granted the indigenous population a greater voice and would have granted his book more authenticity.

ENDNOTES

1. Jane Dibblin, Day of Two Suns: U.S. Nuclear Testing and the Pacific Islanders (New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1998), p. 34.

2. Peace Boat (NGOピースボート) (@peace_boat), “Desmond Doulatram of @REACH_MI16 in the #MarshallIslands speaks on the nuclear legacy, including efforts of Marshallese to petition the international community…” Twitter, December 2, 2021, 8:48 p.m., https://twitter.com/peace_boat/status/1466690870712090628.

3. Susanne Rust, “Rep. Katie Porter Presses Biden Team on Marshall Islands Nuclear Waste, Gets Few Answers,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2021.

4. House Natural Resources Committee Democrats, “Runit Dome and the U.S. Nuclear Legacy in the Marshall Islands,” YouTube, October 22, 2021, 2:28:40, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUrTu7Z0Q1E.

5. Desmond Narain Doulatram, “Marshallese Downwinders and a Shared Nuclear Legacy of Global Proportions,” https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58bd8808e3df28ba498d7569/t/5f980e8f2171b96b663ece70/1603800720503/Desmond+Dulatram+presentation.pdf (paper presented at the Physicians for Social Responsibility/International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War conference “Human Rights, Future Generations & Crimes in the Nuclear Age,” Basel, September 14–17, 2017) (hereafter Doulatram paper).

6. Thomas Lum et al., “Republic of the Marshall Islands Changed Circumstances Petition to Congress,” CRS Report for Congress, RL 32811, March 14, 2005.

7. Arms Control Association, “75 Years After the Trinity: The Taboo Against Nuclear Testing and the Legacy of Past Nuclear Tests,” YouTube, September 6, 2020, 1:29:03, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5oUN1iOoxw&t=48s.

8. Doulatram paper.

9. “Amata Cosponsors Resolution to Formally Apologize for U.S. Nuclear Legacy in the Marshall Islands,” press release, March 4, 2022, https://radewagen.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/amata-cosponsors-resolution-formally-apologize-us-nuclear-legacy; Anita Hofschneider, “Resolution Would Apologize to Marshall Islands for Nuclear Testing,” Honolulu Civil Beat, March 1, 2022, https://www.civilbeat.org/beat/resolution-would-apologize-to-marshall-islands-for-nuclear-testing/.

10. Eriko Noguchi, “Marshall Islands Grapple With Consequences of Superpowers’ Actions,” The Japan Times, February 28, 2022.

11. Peace Boat, “[Part 2-2] World Nuclear Survivors Forum 2021,” YouTube, December 3, 2021, 1:30:15, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTJE4WA178g&t=2467s (hereafter Peace Boat video).

12. Ibid.

13. ICAN (@nuclearban), “‘This is an issue of institutional racism that stems from nuclearcolonialism.’ Desmond Narain Doulatram of REACH-MI speaks about how #nuclearcolonialism is one…” Twitter, December 3, 2021, 8:59 p.m., https://twitter.com/nuclearban/status/1466693491082285060.

14. Colleen Murphy, “What Is White Savior Complex, and Why Is It Harmful? Here’s What Experts Say,” Health.com, September 20, 2021, https://www.health.com/mind-body/health-diversity-inclusion/white-savior-complex.

15. Peace Boat video.


Desmond Narain Doulatram is a social science instructor at the College of the Marshall Islands Liberal Arts Department, a member of the National Board of Education of the Marshall Islands, and a co-founder of two nongovernmental organizations, one dealing with environmental issues, JO-JiKuM, and the other, nuclear issues, REACH-MI.

Despite its flaws, this book by journalist Walter Pincus underscores the incredible debt owed to the people of The Marshall Islands for enduring years of U.S. nuclear testing.

May 2022 Books of Note


May 2022

Networked Nonproliferation: Making the NPT Permanent
By Michal Onderco
October 2021

Twenty-five years after entering into force in 1970, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) faced an uneasy future as its members met in New York City to decide whether to extend one of the most significant arms control agreements of its time. Some states favored a limited extension—many, none at all—but as recounted in Michal Onderco’s “Networked Nonproliferation,” the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. Drawing on declassified documents, contemporary literature and interviews with the diplomats and experts present at the 1995 NPT Review Conference, Onderco explores how the United States leveraged its unique diplomatic, economic and military heft to convince other countries to keep the treaty alive. But it wasn’t just Washington’s nuclear wonks who were responsible for saving the treaty: European partners, Egypt and South Africa were also part of the broad network of states that favored nuclear nonproliferation and a formal regime to keep nuclear weapons in check. In addition to offering the most detailed account of the NPT extension, the book makes clear that, although U.S. leadership on such major issues is important, harnessing a robust network of other countries can also make history. —JOHN BEDARD

 



Brazil in the Global Nuclear Order, 1945–2018
By Carlo Patti
2021

Carlo Patti’s Brazil in the Global Nuclear Order offers a comprehensive historical review of Brazil’s nuclear program and its decision to forgo pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, despite having an advanced nuclear capability. His book seeks to answer the question of, “Why do countries capable of ‘going nuclear’ choose not to?”

Brazil acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1998, almost thirty years after the treaty opened for signature, marking a reversal in Brasilia’s long-standing objection to the regime. Patti draws on declassified primary sources, archival research, and interviews with former presidents, diplomats, and scientists to explain the complex decisions and power dynamics that influenced Brazil’s decision to join the global nuclear nonproliferation regime after years of vocal opposition. He finds that “U.S. nonproliferation policies deeply affected Brazil’s decisions” when it came to the trajectory of its nuclear program. Patti’s book, which examines Brazil’s nuclear program spanning from its origins in 1945 until 2018, also delves into domestic and international factors that shaped the evolution of Brazil’s nuclear diplomacy and offers a forward-looking discussion on Brazil’s future political goals.—THE EDITORS

Networked Nonproliferation: Making the NPT Permanent, By Michal Onderco

Brazil in the Global Nuclear Order, 1945–2018, By Carlo Patti

Allies Step Up Military Support for Ukraine


May 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

The United States and its allies have shifted from providing small arms and defensive equipment to hastily ratcheting up deliveries of heavy weaponry to Ukraine as the brutal Russian war there intensifies.

President Joe Biden, at the White House, announced $800 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on April 21.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)On April 21, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged $800 million in additional weaponry and $500 million in direct economic aid. More than $400 million in additional military aid was announced on April 24 when Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, bringing the total U.S. military assistance since the beginning of the war to $3.7 billion.

Biden significantly upped the ante on April 28 by announcing plans to seek an additional $33 billion from the U.S. Congress for Ukrainian and European security through September.

“Our support for Ukraine going forward will continue…until we see final success,” Blinken told a news conference with Austin on the Polish-Ukrainian border after their stealth visit to the Ukrainian capital.

“The bottom line is this: We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign, independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than [Russian President] Vladimir Putin is on the scene.”

Austin said, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” Russia “has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of its troops, quite frankly, and we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability,” he said.

The influx of weaponry so boosted Ukrainian resolve that Zelenskyy on April 22 expressed increasing confidence that his country would defeat Russian forces. He had told CNN on April 17 that Ukraine would not give up its territory and spent weeks pleading for faster Western arms deliveries and for heavier weapons to stave off a new Russian offensive.

Some Western officials and experts have worried that a surge in new, more lethal military investments could increase the risk of a direct NATO-Russian confrontation in part because they could be viewed as offensive instead of defensive. On April 14, Russia sent a formal diplomatic note to the United States warning that U.S. and NATO military shipments to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the conflict and could bring “unpredictable consequences,” The Washington Post reported. Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, reiterated the warning on April 25. “What the Americans are doing is pouring oil on the flames,” Antonov said, according to Al Jazeera. “I see only an attempt to raise the stakes, to aggravate the situation, to see more losses.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov escalated the rhetoric on April 26 when he told Russian state TV, “The danger [of nuclear war] is serious, real … NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy.” But Ukraine and its allies played down the remarks.

Meanwhile, as the Ukrainians pressed the fight against their better-armed foe even as the extent of Russian brutality in Bucha, Mariupol, and elsewhere was laid bare, the United States and its allies increased the size and quality of their weapons deliveries.

“We’re in a critical window now of time where…they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Biden said on April 21, referring to the Russian tactical shift to eastern Ukraine. The United States and its allies are “moving as fast as possible” to provide Ukraine with the equipment and weapons it needs, he added.

On April 5, the Czech Republic became the first country to send tanks to Ukraine, including more than a dozen T-72 tanks and armored personnel carriers, according to Reuters. Three days later, the Biden administration expressed gratitude to Slovakia for donating a Russian-made S-300 air defense system to Ukraine and said it would reposition a more modern U.S. Patriot missile system to Slovakia to ensure that the ally was not left undefended.

The Czech Republic announced that Czech defense companies would repair Ukrainian tanks and other military vehicles that have suffered damage during the fighting or needed servicing, Reuters reported on April 19. That same day, Slovakia also offered to repair Ukrainian military equipment, according to Euractiv.

After a heavy lobbying effort by Zelenskyy and members of the U.S. Congress, the Biden administration on April 13 approved a new defense package worth $800 million to help Ukrainian forces match the Russian technological advantage. The package included artillery systems, artillery rounds, additional helicopters, and armored personnel carriers. Washington also promised to enhance intelligence sharing. This comes on top of a $100 million aid package announced by Blinken in early April.

The weapons sent or headed to Ukraine include C-4, howitzers, Javelin anti-tank missiles, Mi-17 helicopters, armored Humvees, M113 personnel carriers, Switchblade drones, and M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel mines configured to be compliant with the Ottawa Convention, meaning they will be set to be “command detonated” (see page 34).

The Pentagon confirmed on April 19 that Ukraine received fighter airplanes and aircraft although officials refused to clarify what kind of aircraft were sent to Ukraine or their origin. The United States helped in transferring spare aircraft parts, according to France24. On April 20, the Ukrainian Air Force claimed it did not receive new aircraft from its partners but did receive enough spare parts and components for the restoration and repair of some of its aircraft. Such aid will allow Ukraine to put more equipment into service.

The April 21 military assistance package by the United States, following an equivalent $800 million package announced a week earlier, included 155 mm howitzers, 144,000 ammunition rounds, 72 tactical vehicles to tow 155 mm howitzers, more than 121 experimental Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems, plus spare parts and field equipment, according to a Pentagon fact sheet.

The Canadian government has delivered heavy artillery, including M777 howitzers and anti-armor ammunition, to Ukrainian forces, it said on April 21.

French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed on April 22 that France provided MILAN anti-tank guided missile systems and CAESAR artillery howitzers to Ukraine, Ouest-France reported. Macron also noted that the risk of escalation was very high and said that although Europe should help the Ukrainians, it cannot become a co-belligerent in the war.

In late March, the Russian Defense Ministry indicated that the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine had been completed and that it would focus on the liberation of the Donbas after it failed to seize Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

As a result, Zelenskyy requested that the West and other countries provide his country with more lethal weaponry, including air defense systems, unmanned aviation vehicles, artillery systems, multiple-launch rocket systems, tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, combat aircraft, long-range weapons, and anti-ship missiles.

But there were signs of disagreements about what kind of weaponry the allies should donate. For instance, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delayed his decision to provide tanks to Kyiv, Politico reported on April 7. On April 11, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock broke with the chancellor and called for heavy weapons deliveries to Ukraine. “What’s clear: Ukraine needs more military material, especially heavy weapons. The terrible horror that we see every day in Russia’s war against Ukraine made the need for such supplies more than clear,” she said.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom on April 8 approved another security assistance package for Ukraine, totaling more than $130 million and including Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, 800 anti-tank missiles, and precision munitions. In late April, various media reported that Poland sent T-72 tanks to Ukraine after the UK proposed to compensate Poland with a different kind of tank. Soon after, Germany decided to send Ukraine roughly 50 Gepard air-defense tanks.

Despite these remarks, European countries were under increased pressure to do more. On April 20, Bloomberg reported that Germany would provide artillery and ammunition training to Ukraine. Two days later, Euractive reported that Germany agreed to a swap deal with Slovenia, in which it donated Marder tanks and Fox wheel tanks to Slovenia in return for Slovenia delivering 30 to 40 T-42 tanks to Ukraine. Around the same time, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the Netherlands will send armored vehicles to Ukraine, while the UK was reported to be sending more vehicles, drones, and anti-tank weapons.

On April 10, Lithuania announced that it would host a mission in Kyiv to train Ukrainian soldiers to use new weaponry sent by the allies. Previously, the United States confirmed that it was training a small number of Ukrainians in the United States to use Switchblade drones.

The United States and its allies have shifted from providing small arms and defensive equipment to hastily ratcheting up deliveries of heavy weaponry to Ukraine.

Finland, Sweden in Talks to Join NATO


May 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

Propelled by the Russian war on Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are in serious discussions about applying for NATO membership and are widely expected to join.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) speaks while Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto listens on April 20 as the Finnish parliament began debating whether to seek NATO membership. The Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked a surge in political support for joining the bloc. (Photo by Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)Even before the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin had threatened “retaliation” if the two countries join the Western alliance. But his brutal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has escalated the security concerns of neighboring states. Finland and Sweden officially are nonaligned, but have been NATO partners since the mid-1990s.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Finland to review our security strategy. I won’t offer any kind of timetable as to when we will make our decision, but I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months. The security landscape has completely changed,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on April 14, according to Defense News.

The Finnish parliament began debating the possibility of NATO membership on April 21 as its major parliamentary groups expressed support for some form of a military alliance in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Finland is expected to make its decision before NATO’S two-day summit in Madrid beginning on June 29, Defense News reported.

Although Sweden has been more reluctant, momentum is also building there for NATO membership, according to a Financial Times article on April 20. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on April 21 that the government wants to speed up consideration of the NATO issue and will now make its security policy analysis public on May 13 instead of May 31, Reuters reported.

In early April, the Finnish government released its own new report on changes in the security environment. It included an assessment of the effects of Finland’s possible NATO membership and noted that if Finland were to be part of NATO, that would raise the threshold for the use of military force in the Baltic Sea region. In turn, this would increase regional stability.

The report also noted that Finland would be prepared to support other NATO members in an Article 5 scenario, the bedrock commitment to defend other members if they come under attack. Yet, this does not mean Finland is obliged to accept nuclear weapons, host NATO troops permanently, or accept NATO military bases on its territory, the report noted.

Just two weeks ago, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson was more cautious in her approach to the subject than her Finnish counterpart. “What we need to do is to carefully think through what is in the best long-term interests of Sweden, and what we need to do to guarantee our national security, our sovereignty and secure peace in this new heightened tension and situation,” Andersson said on April 13. She also said, “We always consider Finnish security together with our own,” according to The New York Times.

Prior to the war in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg noted that “Sweden is an enhanced opportunity partner. Sweden and Finland are our most…closest partners. The fact that we work together, that we share information, that we exercise together is something which is important, and the importance is demonstrated in this situation we are faced with now.”

Stoltenberg also has said that all allies would welcome Finland and Sweden into the alliance. “We know that they can easily join this alliance if they decide to apply,” he said, according to ABC News on April 12. He even hinted that NATO members may be prepared to give Sweden and Finland security guarantees during the NATO membership application process.

Finland and Sweden inhabit important geostrategic locations and possess the economic stability to fulfill the NATO commitment that members spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

Finland and Sweden joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994. Throughout the years, they have consistently participated in NATO’s military exercises, such as the Saber Strike series and the BALTOPS exercises in the Baltic Sea region. Both nations are also part of the enhanced NATO Response Force, a highly competent multinational force made up of land, maritime, air, and special operations components that NATO can deploy quickly when needed, in a supplementary role and subject to national decisions.

In addition, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum of understanding on host nation support, which requires them to provide logistical support to NATO forces transiting or located on the territory of Finland or Sweden during an exercise or a crisis. The memorandum is subject to national decision.

The move to seriously consider joining NATO is a strong signal that Finland and Sweden may not be fully reassured by the EU mutual defense clause in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty. According to Defense Post, Andersson told reporters in early March that Finland and Sweden wrote a joint letter to remind the other EU member states how seriously the two states view the defense solidarity clause. The mutual defense clause is similar to NATO’s Article 5 and requires “other EU countries to come to the support and aid, with all possible means, of a member state under armed attack,” Andersson said.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, has warned that Russia would need to take serious measures to guarantee its security if Finland and Sweden became NATO members, RIA Novosti reported on April 14. “If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the alliance’s land borders with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these borders will have to be strengthened, seriously strengthened, the grouping of land forces and air defense, deploy significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland,” he said.

Medvedev added, “In this case, there will be no talk of any nuclear-free status of the Baltic. The balance must be restored. Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to. If we are forced, well, ‘notice—we didn’t offer it,’ as the hero of the famous old movie said.”

That same day, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov was asked about Medvedev’s remarks and the possibility of stationing nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea region. “After working out Putin’s instructions on strengthening the borders, everything will be discussed at a separate meeting, [after] Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu provides Putin with ideas on strengthening the western borders. It takes time,” Peskov said.

Hours later, RIA Novosti quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying that Russia supported diplomatic contact with Finland and Sweden. On April 20, Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry press secretary, announced that Russia had warned Finland and Sweden about possible consequences if they became NATO members, TASS reported.

Neither Finnish nor Swedish officials have clarified the timeline as to how long it would take for either country to become NATO members. But the first step is for the aspirant to declare its intentions to accede to the Washington Treaty, according to the recent Finnish government report. After that, NATO could invite the applicants to engage in accession negotiations and eventually extend a membership action plan. At the conclusion of these negotiations, the applicants must confirm their willingness and ability to accede to NATO membership. Then, alliance members must sign and ratify the ascension protocol in accordance with their national procedures.

Once this step is completed, the allies submit their instruments of ratification to the United States, the official depositary. Finally, the NATO secretary-general invites the aspirants to join the Washington Treaty, and the invitees must accept the accession agreement in accordance with their national procedures. With the deposit of the final instrument of accession, the invitee becomes a NATO member.

Propelled by the Russian war on Ukraine, the two Nordic countries are widely expected to formally apply for alliance membership.

Kremlin Censors Independent Voices on Foreign Affairs


May 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

As part of a broader effort to quell domestic criticism about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, the Kremlin has ordered a crackdown on international nongovernment organizations (NGOs) operating in Russia and has sought to admonish senior Russian foreign policy experts who have called for an end to hostilities.

Five years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a major Russian human rights award to Lyudmila Alexeyeva (C), a leading human rights activist and member of the Helsinki Watch group. Since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Putin has cracked down on civil society, including closing the office of Human Right Watch and other activist groups who have operated in Russia for years. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)On April 8, the Russian Ministry of Justice revoked the licenses of 15 international NGOs that have been operating in Russia for decades. Among the organizations shuttered by the Kremlin are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In March, Russia adopted laws that criminalize independent war reporting, public statements of opposition, and protests against the war.

“The ministry’s statement referred vaguely to Russian legislation, but there is little doubt the move was in response to our reporting on the war [in Ukraine],” according to a statement issued by Human Rights Watch. The organization has been among the critics of Russia’s use of banned cluster munitions against civilians in Ukraine, which the group said could amount to war crimes.

In a separate move, Putin signed a decree on March 28 to expel four prominent experts from the 152-member scientific council under the Russian Security Council who were among a group of experts who signed an international appeal issued on March 3.

The four individuals named in the decree were Alexey Gromyko, director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Alexander Nikitin, director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Security, MGIMO University, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Alexander Panov, chief researcher, and Sergey Rogov, scientific director, both of the Institute for the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The staff of the Security Council explained to the Russian newspaper Kommersant that Putin’s order was designed to “update” the structure of the advisory group, which provides “scientific, methodological and expert-analytical support for the activities of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, its working bodies and apparatus.”

Rogov, 73, was the most senior member of the scientific council. He is a veteran arms control and global affairs expert who has engaged in numerous Track 1.5 discussions with U.S., European, and Russian counterparts and officials, including with the Arms Control Association. With Gromyko and Adam Thompson, the European Leadership Network director, he has co-chaired an ongoing NATO-Russian military confrontation risk reduction dialogue involving senior Russian, U.S., and European experts and former officials.

In early March, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine was beginning, the four Russian experts excluded by Putin from the scientific council joined a group of more than 100 other experts, including 23 Russians, on a statement expressing “extreme concern over the biggest crisis on the European continent since the Second World War.” In the statement, which was organized through the NATO-Russian dialogue, they said that all parties to the conflict must immediately agree to an unconditional ceasefire, adopt coordinated measures to deescalate the situation, and negotiate a political settlement. They also said that it is urgent to establish cooperation on humanitarian aspects in the conflict zones.

They urged all parties to exercise the highest measure of responsibility and restraint in matters relating to nuclear weapons and refrain from threatening nuclear rhetoric and actions and stated that it is necessary to resume Russian-U.S. negotiations on strategic stability. Furthermore, they said that it is necessary to agree on additional measures to prevent military incidents between the United States and NATO and Russia and to establish direct contacts between Russian and U.S. and NATO military forces.

One of the experts expelled from the scientific council, Alexey Gromyko, the grandson of the Cold War-era Soviet foreign minister of the same name, told the privately owned, Russian-language RTVi television network that those expelled were not informed of the reason for the decision.

“It’s hard for me to say why we were expelled, we weren’t notified. The statement contained great meaning in those days from the point of view of the national interests of our country,” Gromyko said on March 29.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Russian scientific experts are among those affected by the restrictions.

 

Sanctions Dispute Threatens Iran Deal


May 2022
By Kelsey Davenport

Sanctions targeting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) remain the primary obstacle to reaching a deal to return the United States and Iran to compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks to the media during a press conference in Tehran, on April 25. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said in an April 11 press briefing that Iran has finalized the necessary details to return its nuclear program to compliance with the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but is waiting for the United States to “show the will to return to its own obligations” and respond to the latest Iranian proposal on lifting certain IRGC sanctions.

Tehran is demanding the removal of Washington’s designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization as part of the agreement to restore compliance with the accord. The IRGC was not designated as a foreign terrorist organization until April 2019, so it is not included in sanctions that the United States would be required to remove to return to JCPOA compliance. But the Biden administration has said that, as part of an agreement to return to compliance alongside Iran, it would lift additional sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump that are inconsistent with the nuclear deal.

The U.S. negotiating team reportedly offered to remove the designation on the IRGC if Tehran provided assurances that it would deescalate tensions in the Middle East and not retaliate further for the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani, the general who headed the IRGC Quds Force, in 2020.

Iran rejected that proposal and offered its own, on which Enrique Mora, EU coordinator of the group of countries that are currently party to the deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), briefed the Biden administration in March. The United States has yet to respond.

When asked if the Biden administration is behind the holdup, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in an April 18 press briefing that if Iran wants to “negotiate issues that fall outside the purview of the JCPOA, then we’ll do that, but they will need to negotiate those issues in good faith with reciprocity.”

Earlier that day, Khatibzadeh suggested that the killing of Soleimani “will not go unpunished” even if the United States removes the IRGC from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. Avenging his death is a “fundamental principle” of Iran’s foreign policy, he said.

Even if the IRGC is removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, it will still be subject to other sanctions that would not be lifted if Washington returns to the nuclear deal. This includes recent sanctions imposed by the Biden administration on the IRGC for ballistic missile-related activities. Although removing the foreign terrorist organization designation would have little practical impact, it would be politically challenging for President Joe Biden as members of his own party are split on the issue.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told NBC on April 16 that it would be “political malpractice” for the IRGC designation to be a “sticking point” that prevents a return to compliance with the nuclear deal, but other Democrats have raised concerns about lifting the foreign terrorist organization label. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said on March 22 that the designation “should remain” because the IRGC is a terrorist organization.

Recent comments by U.S. officials suggest that the Biden administration might be hesitant to remove the designation because it shares the view that the Quds Force, a branch of the IRGC, is a terrorist group.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 7 that he did not support removing the Quds Force from the foreign terrorist organization list. The next day, Jalina Porter, State Department deputy spokesperson, said that “the president shares the chairman’s view that IRGC Quds Forces are terrorists.”

The delays caused by the dispute over the IRGC sanctions is creating space for opponents of restoring the JCPOA to build pressure against a deal in Washington and Tehran.

Conservative lawmakers in the Iranian Parliament have stated that the draft text of the deal violates Iran’s redlines because it does not provide the guarantees Iran is looking for on sanctions relief. In an April 10 letter to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, 250 members of Parliament said that a return to the JCPOA requires legal guarantees that the United States will not violate the deal in the future.

But parliamentary opposition will not pose a serious obstacle to a return to the JCPOA if Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei approves the agreement. Khamenei said on April 12 that the Iranian negotiating team “resisted” the “excessive demands” of the United States and its JCPOA negotiating partners and talks are “going ahead properly.”

The Biden administration is also facing domestic opposition. Members of Congress will likely have a 30-day window to vote to approve or disapprove any agreement reached to restore U.S. and Iranian compliance with the JCPOA under the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act. A vote of disapproval from the House and Senate would prevent Biden from lifting sanctions.

Biden is likely to retain enough support for restoring the JCPOA to stave off a vote of disapproval by both houses of Congress, but a close vote will likely undermine confidence in a restored nuclear deal.

The stalemate over the IRGC designation also risks the possibility of Iran’s nuclear program advancing past the point where the Biden administration assesses the JCPOA can be restored. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken again warned that “time is getting extremely short” to restore the JCPOA. Speaking to NBC on April 6, Blinken also said that he is “not overly optimistic” about reaching a deal but it would be in the best interest of the United States to do so.

Iran’s growing stockpile of highly enriched uranium remains one of the key factors driving the short time frame for negotiations. Iran is enriching some of its uranium to 20 percent and some to 60 percent uranium-235, each of which is below the 90 percent U-235 enrichment level commonly used in nuclear weapons but significantly above the 3.67 percent threshold set by the JCPOA. These stockpiles of uranium enriched to higher levels significantly decrease Iran’s breakout window, which is the amount of time it would take for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade material for a bomb. That time frame is now down to about two to three weeks.

Iran did announce in March that it would begin converting some of its stockpile of 60 percent-enriched uranium into a form not suitable for further enrichment, but such a move will not buy much time.

If a deal is reached, it is likely that Iran will ship much of its stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia, similar to the steps it took in 2015 to come into compliance with the stockpile limit set by the JCPOA. The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami, said on April 6 that Iran was in talks with Russia about sending out the materials in the event of an agreement. He said Tehran and Moscow are discussing the amount of material to be transferred, how to ship it, and what Iran would receive in return.

Eslami also confirmed that the United States has provided assurances that its sanctions targeting Russia will not interfere with nuclear cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.

 

A dispute over U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the main obstacle to restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. Commits to ASAT Ban


May 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

The United States has become the first space-faring nation to declare a ban on anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons testing. In a statement on April 18, the Biden administration said the United States would commit “not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent [ASAT] missile testing, and that [it] seeks to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space.”

An Indian DRDO anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) is displayed during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in January 2020.  (Photo by Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images)The announcement follows the Russian launch on Nov. 15 of an interceptor from a Nudol ground-based ASAT system that was used to destroy one of its own aging satellites in low earth orbit. The collision created at least 1,500 pieces of trackable debris that will pose a threat to orbiting objects for years to come.

Destructive ASAT tests “jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space and imperil the exploration and use of space by all nations,” the White House said in an April 18 fact sheet on national security norms in space.

“This commitment is verifiable and attributable by many parties, and we encourage other countries to make similar commitments to build international support against…destructive direct-ascent [ASAT] missile tests,” according to a series of April 18 tweets from the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.

Since the first Soviet ASAT test in 1968, there have been 16 destructive ASAT tests, resulting in more than 6,300 pieces of debris, according to the Secure World Foundation, which tracks space security developments.

China, India, and the United States have also demonstrated the ability to destroy satellites with ground- or air-launched missiles.

In 1985, the United States successfully tested an air-launched missile to destroy a weather satellite. In 2007, China used a ground-based SC-19 ballistic missile to destroy a weather satellite. In 2008, the United States used a modified ship-based Standard Missile-3 missile defense interceptor to destroy a failed U.S. intelligence satellite. In 2019, India used a ground-based Prithvi ballistic missile to destroy one of its own target satellites.

The U.S. ASAT moratorium was announced by Vice President Kamala Harris at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. She said the United States “will engage the international community to uphold and strengthen a rules-based international order for space.”

In 2021, President Joe Biden issued the “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance,” which stated that the United States “will lead in promoting shared norms on space.”

Efforts to launch talks that might produce new understandings on maintaining the peaceful use of space have long been stymied.

For many years, the United States was wary of any legally binding restrictions on ASAT systems in part because they might restrict U.S. ground-based missile defense capabilities or a possible space-based kinetic anti-missile system that could involve orbiting interceptors that provide a thin defense against intercontinental missiles.

The U.S. ASAT testing moratorium could energize an open-ended working group mandated by a 2021 UN resolution to develop rules of the road for military activities in space, including legally binding measures designed to prohibit counterspace activities that threaten international security. (See ACT, December 2021.)

In an April 21 statement, the French Foreign Affairs Ministry welcomed the U.S. move and said, “France, which has never carried out such tests, will continue to advocate for a legally binding universal standard prohibiting such actions.”

The Biden administration’s decision could energize UN-mandated discussions on rules for military activities in space.

U.S., Russia Adhering to New Start Despite War


May 2022
By Shannon Bugos

A few days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and Russia exchanged data on their respective strategic nuclear forces as required by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The data shared on March 1 showed that the countries remain at or below the treaty limits on deployed strategic warheads and their delivery vehicles.

“At a time when direct contacts are being curtailed, antagonism runs high, and trust [is] completely lost, it is nothing short of amazing that Russia and the United States continue to abide by the…treaty and exchange classified information as if nothing had happened,” wrote Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists in an April 6 blog post. The data exchange was made public on April 5.

The treaty limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces to 1,550 warheads deployed on 700 delivery vehicles, which are defined as intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers assigned to a nuclear mission.

The United States deploys 1,515 warheads on 686 delivery vehicles, and Russia deploys 1,474 warheads on 526 delivery vehicles, as of the latest data exchange.

Under New START, the two sides are allowed a certain number of on-site inspections each year, but those inspections have been paused since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, the two sides have continued to exchange various notifications on the status and basing or facility assignment of their respective strategic forces, for a total of 23,609 notifications as of April 7.

The treaty’s implementing body, the Bilateral Consultative Commission, ordinarily meets twice per year, but those meetings have also been paused because of the pandemic.

Alexander Darchiyev, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North American Department, said on March 8
that “we’re preparing for the upcoming spring session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission.” Further information on when the commission may convene is unknown.

The exchange of New START data occurred after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 27 order to move his country’s nuclear forces to the heightened alert status of a “special regime of combat duty” in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (See ACT, March 2022.) Although additional such orders have not been given, Russian officials have defended Putin’s order in the ensuing weeks. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov eventually downplayed the threat of nuclear war in late March. (See ACT, April 2022.)

On April 20, Russia test-launched a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile called the Sarmat. Although Putin called the test a warning to those in the West who “try to threaten our country,” some U.S. experts played down the impact saying Moscow notified Washington in advance as required under New START. The experts also estimated that SARMAT was initially slated to be operationally deployed in 2021, meaning the system is now behind schedule.

Russia and the United States are fulfilling their treaty commitments despite tensions over Ukraine.

Ukraine Seeks Protection Against Possible Chemical Attack


May 2022
By Leanne Quinn

Ukraine, preparing to defend against Russian capabilities, has requested bilateral assistance and protection against chemical weapons from the members of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the international treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons.

Among those responding to Ukrainian requests for help to protect against possible Russian chemical weapons attacks is Direct Relief, a California-based humanitarian organization. The group has sent more than 220,000 vials of atropine, which can counter the effects of nerve agents. (Photo by Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Western officials have repeatedly voiced concerns about the potential for a chemical incident or attack in Ukraine. (See ACT, April 2022.)

Ukraine on March 18 submitted a letter to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international chemical weapons watchdog requesting bilateral assistance from CWC states-parties to protect Ukraine against chemical weapons.

Article X of the CWC provides that any member state can request assistance and protection against the use or threat of use of chemical weapons, including riot control agents.

The letter directed states-parties to contact the Embassy of Ukraine in The Hague to coordinate the provision of assistance and detection equipment, alarm systems, protective equipment, decontamination equipment, medical antidotes and treatments, and advice on protective measures.

In a March 24 joint statement, NATO heads of state promised that the allies would “continue to provide assistance [to Ukraine] in such areas as cybersecurity and protection against threats of a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear nature.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on April 4 that the United States is providing Ukraine with “lifesaving equipment and supplies that could be deployed in the event of Russian use of a chemical or biological weapon against Ukraine.”

That same day, the United States confirmed it had contributed $250,000 to the OPCW Trust Fund for Implementation of Article X and earmarked the money to provide protection and assistance to Ukraine should chemical weapons be used in the conflict. France contributed $949,000 to the trust fund.

Direct Relief, a California-based humanitarian organization, announced on April 8 that it had fulfilled a request from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health for vials of atropine, a drug that can counter the effects of nerve agents such as sarin. More than 220,000 vials of the drug were delivered to Ukraine from a Direct Relief distribution warehouse in Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said during an April 7 press briefing that the organization was making contingency plans for “all scenarios” that could impact Ukrainians, from “treatment of mass casualties to chemical assaults.”

During that same briefing, Heather Papowitz, a WHO incident manager in Ukraine, said that WHO has trained more than 1,500 health workers and partners in Ukraine on how to respond to chemical hazards and has provided guidelines and supplies.

That same day, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven countries and the EU high representative issued a joint statement starkly warning Russia to refrain from using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

“We warn against any threat of use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. We recall Russia’s obligations under international treaties of which it is a party, and which protect us all. Any use by Russia of such weapons should be unacceptable and result in severe consequences,” the statement said.

 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Western officials have voiced concern about the potential for a chemical incident or attack in the war-torn country.

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