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

Iran, IAEA Agree on New Safeguards Plan

April 2022
By Samuel M. Hickey

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have agreed to adopt a “practical and pragmatic approach” to resolving outstanding safeguards issues and thus bring Iran back into compliance with its nuclear verification commitments, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said following a trip to Tehran on March 5.

Rafael Mariano Grossi (C), head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohammad Eslami (R), head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, hold a press conference during Grossi’s visit to Tehran on March 5.  (Photo by Amid Farahi/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)The two sides issued a statement outlining a series of steps that will guide Iranian-IAEA cooperation on safeguards disputes at three undeclared locations in Iran.

Although this arrangement is separate from diplomatic efforts by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the fate of the JCPOA is closely tied to Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA.

As a consequence of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May 2018, Iran began to reduce its compliance with the JCPOA one year later. It eventually ceased implementing the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which provides extra tools so the IAEA can verify the peaceful use of nuclear materials, and a special monitoring arrangement that was intended to ensure that the IAEA maintained continuity of knowledge about Iran’s nuclear activities.

The IAEA is currently “flying blind” about the details of Iran’s activities at the three sites because it is unable to retrieve surveillance data being stored on the agency’s cameras. The IAEA’s ability to retrieve this data and reconstitute a full picture of Iran’s nuclear program is likely also contingent on the revival of the JCPOA. (See ACT, January/February 2022.)

The safeguards dispute pertains to pre-2003 nuclear activities, when Tehran had a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA concluded its investigation into these activities in 2015, but is obligated to follow up on evidence that points to undeclared nuclear materials and activities that Iran should have disclosed under its safeguards agreement. The IAEA is seeking information and clarification about the presence of undeclared uranium.

Initially, there were four undisclosed locations of concern in Iran. The IAEA recently concluded its investigation into the second of the four locations where natural uranium in the form of a metal disc may have been present, conducting verification activities at the site called Jabr Ibn Hayan Laboratories. Although the agency could not identify the disc, it also could “not exclude that the disc had been melted, re-cast and may now be part of the declared nuclear material inventory” at the laboratory. While explaining the decision at a press conference, Grossi said, “[W]e do not have enough questions that could sustain a process.” The agency is expected to reopen the case if it receives new information.

To clarify the remaining issues, the joint statement of the IAEA and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) details a timeline of cooperation. Under that, by March 20, 2022, Iran was to provide written explanations to questions raised by the IAEA related to the three locations. Within two weeks of that happening, the IAEA will submit to the AEOI any questions on the received information; one week later, the IAEA and AEOI will meet in Tehran to discuss any remaining questions.

At that time, separate meetings will be held to consider each disputed Iranian location. Finally, Grossi will aim to report his conclusion to the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in June.

Although experts saw this agreement as a positive step, they said it is still possible that any lingering queries about the safeguards disputes could affect implementation of a revived JCPOA. Also, if the IAEA is not satisfied, then the other participants in the nuclear negotiations may have similar hesitations about implementing that deal.

Grossi said political pressure is not driving a solution. "We have to be left alone in our professional work and we will determine with the experts at the safeguards department," he said on March 5.


Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have adopted a “practical and pragmatic approach” to resolving safeguards issues.

India Accidentally Fires Missile Into Pakistan

April 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

India officially acknowledged it had accidentally fired a sophisticated, unarmed missile into Pakistan on March 9 due to a “technical malfunction,” raising concerns about safeguards against miscalculation between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

A version of the Brahmos cruise missile that India accidentally fired into Pakistan on March 9 due to a “technical malfunction.” Developed jointly by India and Russia, the missile has a range of 300 to 500 kilometers. Significantly, the missile did not hit a military target or civilians, and Pakistan did not fire back. (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images)“On 9 March 2022, in the course of a routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile,” the Indian Defense Ministry said in a terse statement on March 11. The ministry said it had ordered “a high-level court of enquiry” into the incident.

The Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed concern about the incident, calling it an unprovoked violation of its airspace that could have endangered passenger flights and civilian lives. According to Pakistani officials, the missile was unarmed and crashed near the country's eastern city of Mian Channu, about 500 kilometers from Islamabad.

A Pakistani military spokesman told a news conference on March 10 that the missile originated from the northern Indian city of Sirsa. “The flight path of this object endangered many national and international passenger flights both in Indian and Pakistani airspace as well as human life and property on ground,” he said.

An unnamed Pakistani official told Reuters on March 12 that the missile was a nuclear-capable, land-attack Brahmos cruise missile jointly developed by Russia and India. The Brahmos has a range of 300 to 500 kilometers.

The incident raises questions not only about India’s operational safety procedures and controls, but also the extent to which its offensive strike missiles are deployed in a launch-ready condition.

Significantly, the missile did not hit a military target or kill civilians in Pakistan, the misfire occurred during a time of relative calm between the two countries, which have fought three wars, and the missile was not armed with a nuclear warhead.

The Indian government took 48 hours to officially confirm the misfire despite a 2005 agreement that requires each country’s defense ministry to give its counterpart at least 72 hours’ notice before conducting a ballistic missile flight test.

The agreement stipulates that neither India nor Pakistan will allow missile tests to land close to, or the flight trajectories of missile tests to approach, their accepted borders or the Line of Control, the cease-fire line running through the disputed region of Kashmir. (See ACT, October 2005.)

India blamed the misfire on a “technical malfunction.” 

Arms Trade Rising in Europe, Other Regions

April 2022
By Jeff Abramson

The United States continues to account for an increasingly larger share of major conventional weapons exports at a time when European countries are acquiring more weaponry, according to the latest annual arms transfer survey by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Tensions with Russia and China are driving growing weapons imports by countries in Europe and elsewhere, trends expected to continue and likely be exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

An F-35A Lightning II jet fighter, conducting joint operations from Kadena Air Base, Japan, approaches a tanker aircraft for refueling. The F-35 is a main driver of current and future U.S. arms sales in Europe, according to an annual report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yosselin Perla)The United States accounted for 39 percent of all major arms exports from 2017 to 2021, more than twice Russia’s 19 percent and greater than the 32 percent U.S. share from 2012 to 2016.

Europe posted the fastest increase in arms imports of all regions, acquiring 19 percent more major arms in 2017–2021 as compared to the earlier five-year period. The United States provided more than half of the transfers into the region, with orders for the U.S. F-35 combat aircraft at the heart of current and future expected increases, the report said. SIPRI wrote that the regional increase “was at least partly driven by deterioration in relations between most European states and Russia.”

That relationship has declined further since the end of 2021, with widespread European condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine, decisions by more than a dozen European countries to send arms to Kyiv in February and March, and Russia’s removal from the Council of Europe in March. Germany’s decisions to stop opposing its own provision of lethal aid to Ukraine and to begin investing far more heavily in its own military, as announced in February by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, are other indicators of a now-expected military buildup within Europe.

Shifts in India’s arms imports also are under scrutiny. The world’s largest arms importer received less than half its weapons from Russia in the most recent five years, down from nearly 70 percent in 2012–2016. France now provides 27 percent and the United States 12 percent of India’s major weapons imports, according to SIPRI.

But India does not appear ready to distance itself more fully from Russia. In March, India abstained on a critical UN General Assembly vote condemning Russia for the war in Ukraine, despite pushes from its so-called Quad partners, Australia, Japan, and the United States. A still-pending decision by the Biden administration on whether to apply sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act against India for procuring Russian S-400 air defense systems may indicate how much the administration wishes to try to force a wedge between New Delhi and Moscow. (See ACT, April 2021.)

Although the report found that the global value of arms transfers was down nearly 5 percent over the past five years, it noted that, within Asia and Oceania “a growing perception of China as a threat is the main driver of arms imports,” with weapons from the United States contributing to certain national and subregional increases. Australia’s imports rose by 62 percent, driven by U.S. combat- and anti-submarine aircraft. F-35 fighter jets and air defense systems underpinned South Korean and Japanese import increases of 71 percent and 152 percent, respectively. Taiwan is expected to significantly increase its imports following recent orders of U.S. arms offered by the Trump and Biden administrations.

In the Middle East, the United States accounted for more than half the exports to the region and for 82 percent of major weapons imports by Saudi Arabia, the world second-largest arms importer and one whose imports rose by 27 percent over the past five years. The administration has said that it would stop transferring “offensive” weapons that the Saudis could use in the war in Yemen, but it has notified Congress of more than $1 billion in weapons and services it wishes to sell to Riyadh, with $650 million in air-to-air missiles surviving a Senate vote that sought to block them. (See ACT, January/February 2022.)

As with Saudi Arabia, the administration has been critical and supportive of arms transfers to Egypt. After withholding $130 million in support in 2021, it notified Congress in January of potential transfers to Egypt under the Foreign Military Sales program of 12 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft totaling $2.2 billion and three air defense radars totaling $355 million. In March, a Senate resolution of disapproval to block the sale led by Rand Paul (R-Ky.) received fewer than 20 votes. (See ACT, November 2021.) At a Senate hearing later in the month, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said Washington would provide F-15 fighter jets to Cairo. Congress has yet to be officially notified of the sale.

According to SIPRI, the United States accounted for less than 7 percent of Egypt’s weapons imports over the past five years, with Russia providing 41 percent, followed by France, Italy, and Germany, each providing between 11 and 21 percent.

The United States accounted for 92 percent of Israel’s major arms imports over the past five years even as the relationship has faced greater scrutiny in Congress. In the omnibus appropriations legislation that became law on March 15, Congress provided $1 billion for Iron Dome supplies to Israel that had been held up by Paul over a disagreement concerning the source of such funding. (See ACT, November 2021.)

The United States accounts for an increasing share of major conventional weapons exports, according to a new report.

Biden Approves $29 Billion Increase in Defense Budget

April 2022
By Shannon Bugos

President Joe Biden has signed off on a $29 billion spending increase to his requested fiscal year 2022 national defense budget, a massive expansion that was approved alongside another $13.6 billion in emergency military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine as Russia’s deadly war on that country continues.

A Ukrainian serviceman aims a FGM-148 Javelin, a U.S.-made portable anti-tank missile, at a checkpoint near Kharkiv in March 2022. President Joe Biden is proposing billions more dollars in U.S. defense spending to meet the military and humanitarian needs of Ukraine as it tries to defend against a Russian onslaught. (Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)“We will make sure Ukraine has weapons to defend against an invading Russian force,” Biden said on March 11 before signing the legislation four days later. “We will send money and food and aid to save the Ukrainian people.”

The national defense total in the 2022 omnibus spending bill is $782 billion, a 3.9 percent increase over the administration’s request for 2022 and a 5.6 percent increase over the 2021 appropriations. (See ACT, January/February 2022; July/August 2021.) This total does not include the assistance for Ukraine, of which $6.5 billion is headed to the Pentagon for funding U.S. troop deployments to eastern Europe and restocking weapons that have been or will be sent to Ukraine.

“The escalating crisis President [Vladimir] Putin has inflicted on Europe poses the greatest threat to democracy and national sovereignty in a generation,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on March 10. “The American people overwhelmingly support the people of Ukraine.”

“We are becoming witness to one of the worst humanitarian crises we have seen in generations, which is why this bill provides $13.6 billion in humanitarian assistance, defense support, and economic aid to help the Ukrainian people in their most desperate hour of need,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said on March 9 in a floor speech.

Nearly six months after the start of fiscal year 2022, the House on March 9 passed the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the government, including for defense, and energy and water, and the supplementary aid package for Ukraine, followed by the Senate on March 10. Congress approved and Biden signed the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in December. (See ACT, January/ February 2022.) The NDAA authorized funding in the amount of $768 billion, while the appropriations bills stipulate actual spending levels.

Since the start of the fiscal year in October, Congress has passed multiple short-term continuing resolutions, which funded most programs and activities at the previous year’s spending level to keep the government open and prevent a shutdown.

The defense appropriations bill allocates $5.1 billion for the construction and continued research and development of what will ultimately be a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. This is an increase of about $7 million above the authorized amount and $145 million above Biden’s budget request.

The appropriations bill, like the NDAA, fully funds the requests of $5.2 million and $10 million by the Defense and Energy departments, respectively, for the development of a new submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and its associated low-yield nuclear warhead. The House Appropriations Committee zeroed out this funding in its version of the spending bills in an attempt to halt the controversial program kick-started by the Trump administration, but the final bills reinstated it.

In addition, the defense appropriations bill fully approved the Air Force’s request of $3 billion for the B-21 Raider strategic bomber program, including $108 million for initial procurement, as well as $2.6 billion for continued R&D plus initial missile procurement for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program. The service plans to buy more than 650 new GBSD missiles to replace the current fleet of 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) beginning in 2029.

The Air Force saw a slight decrease in its budget for the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapons program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile. The final LRSO appropriation came to $599 million, which is a 2 percent decrease from both the administration’s request and the NDAA but a 56 percent increase from the 2021 authorization.

The Army, meanwhile, received its complete request of $286 million for the development of a conventional, ground-launched, midrange mobile missile capability, just as in the NDAA.

Despite the drive shared by defense officials and members of Congress to speed ahead with the development and deployment of conventional hypersonic weapons, the appropriations law ultimately canceled one program for an entirely new hypersonic capability and cut initial procurement for another capability.

The Air Force requested $161 million to purchase the first 12 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) hypersonic missiles during 2022, but the law halved the amount and redistributed the remaining funds to the ARRW program’s R&D budget, for an appropriation of $319 million. The ARRW system, a hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, was slated to achieve an initial operating capability this fiscal year, but failed three flight booster tests in 2021. In its explanatory statement accompanying the legislation, Congress ascribed its decision “to recent failures and delays in testing that have extended the ARRW program schedule and put a first production lot contract at risk for award in fiscal year 2022.”

Breaking with the general consensus, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall recently has gone on the record with his skepticism of the ARRW program, which, he said on March 9, “still has to prove itself.”

Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, also admitted to Bloomberg on March 7 that although she is supportive of the ARRW program, the 2022 “operational capability date is a very aggressive schedule.” Shyu held another meeting with hypersonics industry executives in early March following a previous meeting, attended by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a month earlier. (See ACT, March 2022.)

The spending bill also cut $10 million from the requested and authorized amounts for the Air Force’s new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program, bringing its appropriated budget to $190 million.

As for the Navy, the spending bill slightly downsized the budget for the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, which features the hypersonic glide body that is shared with the Army’s hypersonic program, to $1.3 billion, a $48 million decrease from Biden’s request and a $174 million decrease from the NDAA.

The service aims to add the CPS system to Zumwalt-class destroyers starting in fiscal year 2025 and to Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2028. Congress subtracted some funding as it assessed that, for both the integration of the CPS system onto Virginia-class submarines and the expansion of the industrial base, the dollars requested were “early to need.”

The budget for the Navy’s new hypersonic program, the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment II, was slashed entirely due to a “lack of program justification.” The Pentagon had requested $57 million, and Congress had authorized $34 million.

The Army’s hypersonic capability, the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) system, received the full request for $111 million for procurement of additional LRHW batteries and a $14 million bump from the request and authorization for its R&D budget, to $315 million.

The spending bill also appropriated $194 million for the hypersonic programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an 11 percent increase from the request and a 24 percent decrease from the authorization. These programs include the Glide Breaker, Operation Fires, Tactical Boost Glide, and Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept programs. Congress increased the appropriated amount for the purposes of “hypersonics risk reduction.”

Meanwhile, the energy and water appropriations bill followed the NDAA’s lead by providing the requested funds for the B61-12 gravity bomb, the W87-1 ICBM warhead, and the W80-4 ALCM warhead upgrade at $772 million, $691 million, and $1.1 billion, respectively. The law also approved full funding for other controversial programs proposed by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration, including $134 million for the new high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, the W93, and its associated aeroshell and $98.5 million for the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department that maintains and modernizes the nuclear warhead stockpile, also received the requested $1.6 billion to increase the production rate of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads to at least 80 per year at two production sites.

Even so, Adm. Charles Richard, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, acknowledged on March 8 that “we now know we will not get 80 pits per year by 2030, as is statutorily required, and even unlimited money at this point will not buy that back.”

The appropriations law also funded the NDAA’s $105 million increase over the Biden request for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, bringing the total to $345 million. This program is aimed at reducing threats from weapons of mass destruction and related challenges, including the spread of dangerous pathogens such as the coronavirus.

The increase to the requested fiscal year 2022 national defense budget is massive.

Doubts Raised About North Korea Missile Test

April 2022
By Carol Giacomo

What North Korea claimed was a highly successful test of its newest, most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) may be exaggerated or made up, according to news reports.

In this photo taken in Pyongyang on March 25, students of the Pyongyang Jang Chol Gu University of Commerce watch footage of the previous day's launch of a North Korea missile. (Photo by Kim Won Jin/AFP via Getty Images)North Korean state media initially described the test on March 24 as an “unprecedented miracle” launch of the country’s Hwasong-17 ICBM, which experts believe is designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads. The missile’s altitude was clocked at 3,852 miles, with Japan and South Korea confirming that the launch flew higher and longer than any previous North Korean test.

The news raised tensions between North Korea and the United States, which is immersed in helping Ukraine defend against a Russian invasion. “This launch is a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a March 24 statement.

“The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions,” she said.

But on March 28, U.S. and South Korean officials were reviewing these findings after independent analysts using satellite imagery, weather forecasts, and state media footage raised questions about North Korea’s claims, according to The Washington Post.

Colin Zwirko, a senior analyst at the North Korea monitoring website NK News, who first revealed the discrepancies, wrote that “North Korea’s version of events is misleading at best, and possibly a complete fabrication of a successful Hwasong-17 test at worst.”

He reported that new data raises the possibility that North Korea is trying to “pass off a Hwasong-17 test launch that ended in failure in skies over Pyongyang on March 16 as the missile launched on March 24. That would mean that North Korea is hiding video and details of the long-range missile it fired on March 24,” which landed 150 kilometers off the Japanese coast.

The suspected ballistic missile that was tested on March 16 appeared to have exploded in midair. North Korea released no details about that launch.

South Korean officials who have looked at the data now also believe that the missile launched on March 24 may be different from the Hwasong-17. The Washington Post quoted an anonymous U.S. official as saying the missile appeared to be a modified version of the older, smaller Hwasong-15, which was the last ICBM tested by North Korea, in 2017.

But Japanese officials stood by their initial assessment, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno saying on March 28 that “the government believes that the missile fired was a new ICBM-class ballistic missile, and there is no change in our analysis at this time.”

What is undeniable is that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un remains determined to keep advancing his country’s nuclear program and field a nuclear weapon on an ICBM that can hit the United States.

In 2018, Kim unilaterally declared a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. At the time, he was engaged in diplomatic initiatives with the United States and South Korea.

U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed a willingness to engage with North Korea, but pushed to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang and has not sought to woo Kim as his predecessor did.

Analysts say Kim is feeling ignored as the United States is consumed with the Russian war in Ukraine and deeply involved in competing with and deterring China.

North Korea has conducted 13 ballistic missile launches this year, including two launches that were also of ICBM systems, according to U.S. officials.

What North Korea claimed was a successful test of its newest, most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile may be exaggerated.

Congress Cuts Funds for Layered Defense System

April 2022
By John Bedard

Congress has shot down the Pentagon’s request for funding in the fiscal year 2022 defense appropriations bill to develop a layered homeland missile defense system.

MDA has hit a milestone for integrating the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, shown, with the Patriot air and missile defense system, firing an advanced Patriot missile from THAAD. (Photo by Lockheed Martin via Getty Images)The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) aims to adapt the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Aegis missile defense systems, both designed to defeat short- and intermediate-range missiles, in order to bolster the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. The GMD system, based in California and Alaska, is designed to respond to intercontinental ballistic missile threats.

But in the appropriations bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in March, funding for this new layered system was axed due to a “lack of requirement,” lawmakers wrote in an explanatory statement. The appropriations bill matched the authorization bill passed in December in subtracting both the $99 million MDA request for adapting Aegis missiles to the GMD system and the $65 million request to demonstrate the THAAD system’s ability to take out long-range threats. The GMD program’s research and development budget for this effort also was decreased by $10 million. (See ACT, January/February 2022.)

In addition, the appropriations bill deleted $42 million from the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program, reducing it to $884 million. The Pentagon plans to supplement the existing 44 GMD interceptors with 20 NGI missiles beginning no later than 2028, bringing the fleet total to 64.

Although the R&D budget for the THAAD program was decreased by 23 percent to $213 million, the law boosted THAAD procurement funds by $129 million, for a total price tag of $381 million, in order to purchase an additional 14 interceptors for the system. The R&D cut in the THAAD program was related specifically to the layered homeland defense system; the boost in procurement will underwrite the use of THAAD missiles in other circumstances.

Two weeks before the signing of the spending bill, the MDA test-fired its most sophisticated version of the Patriot missile from a THAAD system in New Mexico. The launch of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement on Feb. 24 marked the final step toward integrating two battle systems that can provide “critical multi-tier missile defense capability,” according to Lockheed Martin in a statement to Defense News.

Overall, Congress gave the MDA $1.4 billion more than requested for fiscal year 2022, bringing its budget to $10.3 billion.

Meanwhile, the MDA’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor program received an appropriation of $269 million, including $110 million for launching two satellites in 2023. At the same time, the law boosted the development budget of the Space Development Agency (SDA) by $550 million in order to speed plans for the National Defense Space Architecture Tracking Layer, which means the launch of satellites in low-earth orbit capable of identifying and tracking threats such as hypersonic weapons will take place in 2025 instead of 2027.

In the explanatory statement accompanying the legislation, lawmakers acknowledged that the space sensor system launch strategy is “inconsistent” with previous MDA plans of launching such payloads into orbit aboard SDA satellites.

Congress criticized the MDA and SDA for “a lack of coordination and cooperation” and wasting taxpayer dollars by each launching their own satellites.

Congress rejected the Pentagon’s request for funding in the 2022 defense appropriations bill.

Colombia, Qatar Named Non-NATO Allies

April 2022

The United States is adding Colombia and Qatar to a list of 19 countries designated as major non-NATO allies, enabling privileges that can facilitate military training and weapons transfers. President Joe Biden announced his intention to designate Qatar during a Jan. 31 meeting at the White House with its emir, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, saying, “I think it’s long overdue.”

U.S. President Joe Biden meets Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, at the White House on January 31. Biden announced that he was adding the Gulf state to the list of major non-NATO allies. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)Qatar is home to the al-Udeid air base, where the U.S. Central Command is headquartered. Qatar has contributed more than $8 billion to develop the base since 2003 and is the second-largest buyer of U.S. weapons, including the F-15 fighter jet, under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, with $26 billion in active cases, according to the U.S. State Department. The designation became official on March 10, making Qatar the third such ally in the Persian Gulf region, along with Bahrain and Kuwait.

That same day, Biden announced his intention to designate Colombia during a meeting with that country’s president, Iván Duque. Biden said Colombia “is the keystone to our shared efforts to build a hemisphere that is prosperous, secure, and democratic.” When the designation is finalized, Colombia would join Argentina and Brazil as the only Latin American countries with major non-NATO ally status. Such designations can become official 30 days after the president notifies Congress of his decision.

Colombia, Qatar Named Non-NATO Allies

Declaration Expected on Explosive Weapons

April 2022

As Russia’s targeting of civilians and civilian areas in Ukraine draws widespread international condemnation, a years-long multilateral effort to address the harm caused by using explosive weapons in populated areas is nearing conclusion.

Countries involved in the effort, led by Ireland, will convene in Geneva on April 6–8 to debate a declaration stating that “armed forces adopt and implement a range of policies and practices to avoid civilian harm, including by restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.”

Using the word “avoid” to describe the military practices that adherents to the nonbinding declaration would pledge is expected to be a key point. In response to a 2021 draft, the United States recommended replacing “avoid” with “mitigate” and argued that proposed restrictions would exceed what is required under international humanitarian law.

Washington also expressed concern about stigmatizing explosive weapons because they “may be needed to protect civilians during armed conflict.” The UN Secretary-General, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and others have instead argued that an avoidance policy is warranted.

ICRC President Peter Maurer said on Jan. 27, “There is an urgent need for a change of mindset and that belligerents put the protection of civilians back at the center of their policy and practices.”

Declaration Expected on Explosive Weapons

Russia Delays UN Space Threats Group

April 2022

Russia has delayed new international efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space after raising numerous procedural objections at the opening session of a UN-led group focused on orbital arms control.

The UN open-ended working group on reducing space threats first met on Feb. 7 in Geneva for a planning session. Its members were due to gather a week later for the formal inaugural session. But diplomats and observers in attendance said Russia raised many procedural concerns, and the opening meeting was postponed, perhaps until May.

The Russian representative said that too little time had passed since the creation of the group on Dec. 24 for diplomats to prepare to engage on the space agenda. He also complained that details about future meetings and the participation of civil society contained in Russia’s version of the working group’s charter differed from what was originally agreed.

Although the delay does not permanently derail efforts to rewrite the laws of war in space, it sets an ominous tone and may signal Moscow’s reluctance to cooperate on hard-hitting questions about its space activities. Earlier in February, Russia told the United Nations its testing of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons is well within the bounds of international law. Moscow has faced criticism from other UN members and space experts about the country’s Nov. 15 ASAT test that scattered 1,500 pieces of debris into low-earth orbit. (See ACT, December 2021.)

The UN General Assembly First Committee created the working group after the United Kingdom led efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space. (See ACT, December 2021.)—JOHN BEDARD

Russia Delays UN Space Threats Group

Putin’s Assault on Ukraine and the Nonproliferation Regime

March 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

President Vladimir Putin has chosen the path of destruction instead of diplomacy. His months-long buildup of a massive Russian invasion force encircling Ukraine and his decision on Feb. 21 to order Russian soldiers into the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk have set in motion a catastrophic war. Putin’s indefensible, premeditated assault on Ukraine will heighten tensions between NATO and Russia, increase the risk of conflict elsewhere in Europe, and undermine prospects for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament—for years to come.

A short-range Iskander missile system flight test. Russian intermediate-range missiles, like the controversial 9M729, are launched from similar platforms. (Photo credit: Russian Defense Ministry.)There are many grievances fueling Putin’s latest and most brazen attempt to reset the post-Cold War European security order through military force. Some are real, such as the effect of NATO’s expansion on the military balance in Europe, and some are imagined. No rationale, however, justifies a violent attack by Russia on one of its neighbors.

In an angry speech announcing his decision to move Russian forces into Ukraine, Putin espoused wild, ethno-racialist, and historically inaccurate claims that Ukraine is not a legitimate state and belongs within a greater Russia. He voiced hyperbolic claims that an independent, westward-leaning Ukraine, which he falsely charged might even build nuclear weapons, is a grave threat to Russia.

Putin’s military adventurism—including Russia’s conflict with Georgia in 2008, its takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, its cyberattacks and political influence games—and his push to modernize Russia’s military have already spurred NATO member states to bolster their military postures. Not surprisingly, Putin’s behavior has led Ukrainians to see Moscow as a threat and seek Western support.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine violates the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States extended security assurances against the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territory or political independence. In response, Ukraine acceded to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and gave up the 1,900 nuclear warheads it inherited from the Soviet Union. Ukraine, Russia, and the world were safer as a result. But Putin’s behavior undermines the NPT and reinforces the impression that nuclear-armed states can bully non-nuclear states, thus reducing the incentives for disarmament and making it more difficult to prevent nuclear proliferation.

The vicious cycle of mistrust between Russia and the West in recent years has been exacerbated by the loss—through negligence, noncompliance, or outright withdrawal—of important conventional and nuclear arms control agreements that helped end the Cold War. These guardrails included the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which was designed to prevent major force buildups on the continent; the Open Skies Treaty, which provided transparency about military capabilities and movements; the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was designed to prevent an unconstrained offense-defense arms race; and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which reduced the danger of nuclear war in Europe. As a result, cooperation between the parties has eroded, concerns about military capabilities have grown, and the risk of miscalculation is higher.

With Putin’s deadly war against Ukraine now underway, the United States, Europe, and the international community must maintain a strong and unified response, including more powerful sanctions against key Russian institutions and leaders. The besieged people of Ukraine require urgent assistance from the international community. As it should, the Kyiv government will get defensive military assistance to deter Putin from seizing more, if not all, of its territory.

In the days and weeks ahead, leaders in Moscow, Washington, and Europe must be careful to avoid new and destabilizing military deployments, close encounters between Russian and NATO forces, and the introduction of offensive weapons that undermine common security. For example, the offer from Russia’s client state, Belarus, to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons, if pursued by Putin, would further undermine Russian and European security, and increase the risk of nuclear war.

Although Putin’s regime must suffer international isolation now, U.S. and Russian leaders must eventually seek to resume talks through their stalled strategic security dialogue to defuse broader NATO-Russia tensions and maintain common sense arms control measures to prevent an all-out arms race.

Russia’s December 2021 proposals on security and the Biden administration responses show there is room for negotiations to resolve mutual concerns, including agreements to scale back large military exercises and prevent the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe or western Russia. Washington must test whether Russia is serious about such options.

In the long run, U.S., Russian, and European leaders, and their people, cannot lose sight of the fact that war and the threat of nuclear war are the common enemies. Russia and the West have an interest in striking agreements that further slash bloated strategic nuclear forces, regulate shorter-range “battlefield” nuclear arsenals, and set limits on long-range missile defenses before the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement, New START, expires in early 2026. Otherwise, the next showdown will be even riskier.

President Vladimir Putin has chosen the path of destruction instead of diplomacy.


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