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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
PressRoom

New Report Examines Effects of Emerging Military Technologies on Strategic Stability

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For Immediate Release: Feb. 7, 2023

Media Contacts: Michael Klare, senior visiting fellow, [email protected]Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, [email protected] 

(WASHINGTON, DC) — A new report from the Arms Control Association assesses the extent to which the military utilization of emerging technologies will result in or exacerbate the accidental, unintended, or premature use of nuclear weapons in a great-power crisis. The report also provides a framework strategy for curtailing the indiscriminate weaponization of emerging technologies. 

Increasingly in recent years, the major powers have sought to exploit advanced technologies— artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber, and hypersonics, among others—to gain battlefield advantages. Some officials and analysts posit that such emerging technologies will revolutionize warfare, making obsolete the weapons and strategies of the past. 

Yet, before the major powers move quickly ahead with the weaponization of these technologies, there is a great need for policymakers, defense officials, diplomats, journalists, educators, and members of the public to better understand the unintended and hazardous outcomes of these technologies.

“As was the case during World Wars I and II, the major powers are rushing ahead with the weaponization of advanced technologies before they have fully considered—let alone attempted to mitigate—the consequences of doing so, including the risk of significant civilian casualties and the accidental or inadvertent escalation of conflict,” writes Michael Klare, a senior visiting fellow and board member at the Arms Control Association.

“While the media and the U.S. Congress have devoted much attention to the purported benefits of exploiting cutting-edge technologies for military use, far less has been said about the risks involved,” he emphasizes.

This primer, Assessing the Dangers: Emerging Military Technologies and Nuclear (In)Stability, unpacks the concept of “emerging technologies” and summarizes the debate over their utilization for military purposes and their impact on strategic stability. 

The report provides a deep analysis of four particular technologies—autonomous weapons systems, hypersonic weapons, cyber weapons, and automated battlefield decision-making systems—and details an overarching strategy for mitigating their dangerous weaponization and their associated risks. The primer provides an invaluable resource for policymakers, journalists, educators, and others seeking a concise yet comprehensive overview of recent developments in the field.

The full report is available for download at ArmsControl.org/Reports.

 

Russia Should Agree to Resume Inspections, Discuss Follow-On To New START

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For Immediate Release: Feb. 3, 2023

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, 202-463-8270 ext. 114

(Washington DC) —Experts from the Arms Control Association called upon Russia to comply with its obligations to allow for on-site inspections to verify compliance with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and to engage in further nuclear disarmament diplomacy with the United States.

“It is in Russia’s self-interest to resume on-site inspections and to engage in talks with the United States to hammer out new nuclear arms control framework agreement to supersede New START before it expires in three years, on Feb. 5, 2026,” says Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“Russia’s failure to allow for the resumption of New START inspections is irresponsible and unnecessary, especially at this time of heightened tensions and uncertainties,” says Kimball. “Maintaining common sense limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals remains in the common security interests of Washington and Moscow, as well as the world.”

The U.S. State Department released its annual compliance assessment report on New START Jan. 31.

“Russia’s decisions to prohibit on-site inspections and to unilaterally cancel a meeting of the treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission meeting stand in clear violation of New START,” said Cara Abercrombie, deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for defense policy and arms control for the U.S. National Security Council, during a Feb. 1 briefing hosted by the Arms Control Association.

In August 2022, Moscow announced a prohibition of on-site inspections of its nuclear weapons-related facilities subject to the treaty citing obstacles to its ability to conduct those inspections. Russia and the United States planned to convene the Commission in Cairo, Egypt, in November 2022 to resolve the dispute issue, but Moscow called off the meeting and has since refused to reschedule as required by the treaty. The United States has made it clear that there are no obstacles that would impede Russia from conducting reciprocal inspections of U.S. strategic nuclear facilities.

New START will expire in exactly 1,098 days. Two years ago today, U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to extend the treaty by the full five years, in order to allow for more time to put into place a replacement arrangement.

“The United States and Russia have continued to emphasize their support of New START and have cited its great value in providing predictability, transparency, and stability,” says Shannon Bugos, a senior policy analyst at the Arms Control Association. “Washington and Moscow must maintain strong adherence to the agreement, so as to mitigate nuclear escalation and misunderstandings and to pave the way for further U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions.”

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Over 1,000 Scientists Condemn All Threats to Use Nuclear Weapons

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For Immediate Release: Jan. 17, 2023

Media ContactsDaryl G. Kimball, Member of the Steering Committee, Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction (202) 463-8270 ext 107; Chris Rostampour, Policy and Communications Coordinator, Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction  (202) 463-8270, ext 103

(Washington D.C./New York) — From the beginning of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly issued threats to use nuclear weapons. As the war continues into 2023, the risk of nuclear war remains high.

In response, a group of more than 1,000 scientists across various fields issued a joint statement, condemning all threats to use nuclear weapons.

In the statement, which was delivered to key governments and decision-makers today, the scientists “… state unequivocally that any threat to use nuclear weapons, at any time and under any circumstances, is extremely dangerous and totally unacceptable. We call on all people and governments everywhere to clearly condemn all nuclear threats, explicit or implicit, and any use of such weapons.”

The scientists' statement warns that: “Once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict, particularly between nuclear-armed adversaries, there is a risk that it could lead to an all-out nuclear conflagration.”

“If the United States or NATO were to launch a nuclear retaliatory strike against Russia in response to a Russian nuclear attack in Ukraine,” the scientists’ statement notes, “it would create significant risk of an escalatory cycle of nuclear destruction.”

U.S. President Joseph Biden said in early October, “I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”

“Today, it is widely understood that there can be no adequate humanitarian response following the use of nuclear weapons,” the statement notes. “Nuclear weapons kill and injure people immediately and indiscriminately, destroy cities, and contaminate the soil, water, and atmosphere with radioactivity. The smoke from burning cities in a nuclear war could darken and cool Earth’s surface for years, devastating global food production and ecosystems and causing worldwide starvation.”

“Despite this, all nine nuclear-armed states are investing in sustaining and modernizing their nuclear arsenals and have plans to use them to wage nuclear war if they choose. So long as countries possess these weapons of mass destruction, there is a risk they will be used. Threats to use nuclear weapons, especially in a time of war, make their use more likely,” the scientists write.

The scientists’ statement adds to the chorus of voices warning against the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any nuclear-armed states for any reason.

In June 2022 the 65 states-parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons issued a political statement noting that “…any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations” and condemning “unequivocally any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances.” In November 2022, the Group of 20 states agreed that threats and use of nuclear weapons are “inadmissible.”

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, scientists have warned governments and publics what these terrible weapons can do. In 1946, the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, chaired by Albert Einstein, warned the world about nuclear weapons, calling for their elimination and declaring that otherwise, “If war breaks out, atomic bombs will be used, and they will surely destroy our civilization.”

“With this statement, we add our voices to those already speaking out about the immense danger posed by nuclear weapons and call for immediate and concrete actions towards their elimination,” the January 2023 scientists’ statement concludes.

The scientists’ statement was delivered to the office of the UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, the office of the President-elect of the UN General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi, as well as the permanent missions of the United Nations member states in New York.

Among the 1,000 signatories are several Nobel Prize laureates and Shaw Prize winners, members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and hundreds of other distinguished scientists from across the United States and around the globe.

The full text of the statement and list of signatories is available online.

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In a statement, which was delivered to key governments this week, 1,000 scientists “… state unequivocally that any threat to use nuclear weapons, at any time and under any circumstances, is extremely dangerous and totally unacceptable. We call on all people and governments everywhere to clearly condemn all nuclear threats, explicit or implicit, and any use of such weapons.”

Staff at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Recognized as 2022 Arms Control Persons of the Year

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For Immediate Release: Jan. 13, 2023

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext. 110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—The Energoatom staff at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) were selected as the 2022 Arms Control Persons of the Year through an online poll that drew more than 3,500 participants from nearly 80 countries.

Zaporizhzhia staff gathered Feb. 16, 2022, for a day of unity celebrated by Energoatom’s employees. (Photo: Energoatom)The annual contest is organized by the independent, nongovernmental Arms Control Association to highlight positive initiatives—some at the grassroots level, some on the international scale—designed to advance disarmament, nuclear security, nonproliferation, civilian protection, and international peace, security, and justice.

The Energoatom staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex were nominated for their heroic efforts to maintain nuclear safety and security at the plant under conditions of immense hardship resulting from the illegal Russian military occupation of the facility, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and amid continued shelling of the ZNPP facility.

"Russia’s illegal and unprecedented occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant created an untenable nuclear safety and security situation. In the face of harassment and threats by Russian forces, Ukrainian personnel have continued to operate the plant and avert a nuclear crisis,” noted Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy with the Arms Control Association.

"The international community owes a debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery of the Zaporizhzhia personnel, but this dire situation cannot continue,” Davenport said. "The ongoing safety and security risks underscore the critical importance of establishing a zone of protection at the site, returning control of Zaporizhzhia to Ukraine, and strengthening the norm against targeting civilian nuclear infrastructure,” she added.

The runner-up in this year’s contest was Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, nominated for preaching the nuclear disarmament gospel in a religious context. His January 2022 pastoral letter reflects the Catholic Church's long history of speaking out against the threats posed by nuclear weapons and calls on U.S. citizens to take “concrete steps toward abolishing nuclear weapons and ending the nuclear threat.”

The December 2022 issue of Arms Control Today includes an interview with Wester by editor Carol Giacomo titled: "Making the Case That Nuclear Weapons Are Immoral.

Online voting was open from Dec. 8, 2022, until Jan. 12, 2023. A list of the ten candidates, who were nominated by the Arms Control Association staff and board of directors, is available at https://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/2022-12/2022-arms-control-persons-year-nominees-announced.

Previous recent winners of the "Arms Control Person of the Year" include: Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and the Government of Mexico (2021); Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins and WCAPS (2020); the government of the Marshall Islands and its former Foreign Minister Tony de Brum (2016); and Setsuko Thurlow and the Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (2015). A full list of past winners can be found on the Arms Control Association website.

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The Energoatom staff at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) were selected as the 2022 Arms Control Persons of the Year through an online poll that drew more than 3,500 participants from over 75 countries.

Former U.S. Nonproliferation Official Cautions South Korea Against Talk of Pursuing Nuclear Weapons

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For Immediate Release: Jan. 12, 2023

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext 107; Kelsey Davenport, nonproliferation policy director, 202-463-8270 ext. 102

(Washington) —South Korea's president Yoon Suk Yeol said today that if the North Korean nuclear and missile threat continues to grow, his country might press the United States to deploy nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, or else build nuclear weapons itself.

“It’s possible that the problem gets worse and our country will introduce tactical nuclear weapons or build them on our own,” Mr. Yoon said. “If that’s the case, we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly, given our scientific and technological capabilities.”

In response, board chair of the independent Arms Control Association Thomas Countryman said the costs and risks of nuclear weapons in South Korea would outweigh, by far, any perceived benefit.

"The costs and risks of reintroducing U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea for the first time since 1991, or even worse, breaking out the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), would outstrip, by far, any perceived military or security value," Countryman warned.

"South Korea’s international reputation would suffer a serious blow, with real economic and political consequences. Its alliance with the U.S. would have to be transformed in ways that would be, in my opinion, extremely negative for the Republic of Korea's security and for international peace and security,” Countryman said.

South Korea certainly has the technical capability to develop nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them, but it is legally bound as a non-nuclear weapon state party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) not to do so. The reintroduction of nuclear weapons there would also very likely prompt a dangerous action-reaction cycle involving North Korea and China.

"The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is not just a legal technicality. It is the cornerstone of a global security system that has served the Republic of Korea and the world well for over 50 years," Countryman stressed.

Mr. Countryman was the acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security until January 2017 and served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation from 2011 to 2016.  He was a senior member of the U.S. delegation to the 2022 NPT Review Conference.

"Withdrawal from the NPT by the government in Seoul would not be cost-free. It would severely damage the Republic of Korea's (ROK) reputation and its economic interests, and it would fundamentally change the U.S.-ROK alliance. It would damage that relationship in economic, political, and security terms. It would severely damage the global effort to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons. No U.S. President will ever say he is indifferent to a ROK nuclear weapons program,” Countryman noted.

“The idea of reintroducing U.S. nuclear weapons to the Republic of Korea (ROK) might provide some short-term domestic political value, but it would not improve the South's security against North Korea's growing nuclear and missile capabilities, which are backed up with the iron-clad U.S.-ROK defense alliance," Countryman said.

"Even worse would be for the ROK to begin its own nuclear weapons program. A violation of, or withdrawal from, the Nonproliferation Treaty would trigger the kind of international condemnation that the DPRK has invited upon itself," Countryman cautioned.

"The far more effective approach for the ROK is to maintain a strong alliance and work closely with the United States and Japan to pursue pragmatic diplomacy to halt and later reverse North Korea's nuclear buildup, and to ease tensions on the peninsula," he said.

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In response to South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol's remarks today, board chair Thomas Countryman said the costs and risks of nuclear weapons in South Korea would outweigh, by far, any perceived benefit.

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2022 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year Nominees Announced

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For Immediate Release: Dec. 8, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Tony Fleming, director for communications, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110


(Washington, D.C.)—Since 2007, the independent, nongovernmental Arms Control Association has nominated individuals and institutions that have, in the previous 12 months, advanced effective arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament solutions and raised awareness of the threats and the human impacts posed by mass casualty weapons.

"In a field that is often focused on grave threats and negative developments, our Arms Control Person(s) of the Year contest aims to highlight several positive initiatives—some at the grassroots level, some on the international scale—designed to advance disarmament, nuclear security, and international peace, security, and justice," noted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director.

"These nominees and their outstanding efforts during the past year illustrate how many different people can, in a variety of creative and sometimes courageous ways, contribute to a safer world for the generations of today and tomorrow," he added.

This year's nominees are listed below and a link to the ballot is available at ArmsControl.org/ACPOY/2022

Voting will take place between Dec. 8, 2022, and Jan. 12, 2023. The results will be announced on Jan. 13, 2023. Follow the discussion on social media using the hashtag #ACPOY2022.

A full list of previous winners is available at ArmsControl.org/ACPOY/previous.

The 2022 nominees are:

  • The brave deminers involved in the 100 Women in Demining in Angola project, which is supported by the HALO Trust. The project trains and supports local women to help clear the 1,100 active minefields across the country left behind from the 1975-2002 civil war. By clearing these landmines, which continue to claim lives, limit agriculture and stifle development, the women are helping improve the safety and security of their country and are contributing to the implementation of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi and UN Secretary-General António Guterres for pressing the governments of Russia and Ukraine to agree to the creation of a “safety and security protection zone” around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). They have proposed that all Russian and Ukrainian military operations around the plant be suspended and the two sides agree on a demilitarized zone around the ZNPP from which Russian forces would withdraw military personnel and equipment and into which Ukrainian forces would agree not to move.
  • The Energoatom staff working at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) for their heroic efforts to maintain nuclear safety and security at the plant under conditions of immense hardship resulting from the illegal Russian military occupation of the facility, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and amid continued shelling of the ZNPP facility. See “Attacks on Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Intensify,” in Arms Control Today.
  • Amb. Michael Gaffey, head of Ireland’s development agency and Permanent Representative to the UN and International Organizations in Geneva, for successfully chairing negotiations that led to a new international political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas that was agreed in June and opened for endorsement at a conference in Dublin Nov. 18. The declaration has been endorsed by more than 82 states, recognizes the devastating harm to civilians from bombing and shelling in towns and cities and commits signatory states to impose limits on the use of these weapons and take action to address harm to civilians.
  • U.S. Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) for spearheading H.J. Res. 73, which would formally recognize that the United States' atmospheric nuclear testing program from 1946-58 and radioactive waste disposal in the Marshall Islands caused irreparable material and intangible harm to the Marshallese people, and calls for an apology on behalf of the United States. Representative Porter also held an oversight hearing on nuclear legacy issues in the Marshall Islands. The effort comes as officials from the United States and thRepublic of the Marshall Islands grapple with how to deal with that dangerous nuclear legacy in their negotiations on a new Compact of Free Association between the two governments.
     
  • Professors Lili Xia and Alan Robock, co-directors of the Impact Studies of Climate Intervention Lab at Rutgers University, and their co-authors for new research that advances scientific understanding of the climatic effects of nuclear war. Their new study, published in Nature Food magazine in August, calculates how much sun-blocking soot would enter the atmosphere from firestorms that would be ignited by the detonation of nuclear weapons. Robock, Xia, and their colleagues calculated soot dispersal from six war scenarios—five smaller India-Pakistan wars and a large U.S.-Russia war—based on the size of each country's nuclear arsenal.
     
  • The delegates of the 83 participating and observer states at the First Meeting of States Parties on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) held in Vienna in June 2022 for their political declaration, which stresses “that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations” and condemns “unequivocally any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances. The Vienna declaration was followed by a joint statement from the G-20 summit in Indonesia that declares “the use, or threat of the use, of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.” See: “States-Parties Meet on Nuclear Arms Ban Treaty,” in Arms Control Today.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris, chair of the U.S. National Space Council, who announced in April the new U.S. pledge to refrain from the use of ground-based direct ascent anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) that use kinetic energy to destroy objects orbiting the earth. The proposal was launched prior to the first meeting of the UN Open Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats (OEWG). Nine other countries have made a similar pledge so far. In September, the United States also introduced a resolution at the UN First Committee calling upon states to forgo testing of destructive, debris-creating anti-satellite missiles. In October, the resolution was overwhelmingly approved with 154 in favor, 8 against, and 10 abstentions.
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The Arms Control Association has nominated individuals and institutions that over the last 12 months have, in a variety of creative and sometimes courageous ways, contributed to a safer world for the generations of today and tomorrow.

Russian Delay of Scheduled Meeting on New START Irresponsible

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For Immediate Release: Nov. 29, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

(Washington, DC) – Russia elected not to show up for a meeting with the United States regarding ongoing implementation concerns with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a day before representatives of the two countries had planned to convene in Cairo, Egypt.

Moscow informed Washington Nov. 28 of its decision to “unilaterally postpone” the meeting of New START’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which handles treaty implementation and verification concerns.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attributed the decision to both technical and political reasons, including the war in Ukraine. Arms control is not “immune” to other events taking place in the world, he commented Nov. 29. Ryabkov emphasized to reporters that “this is not a cancellation, but a postponement.”

The U.S. State Department responded by reiterating the Biden administration’s commitment to rescheduling the meeting as soon as possible.

“Russia’s choice to postpone the BCC meeting with the United States is irresponsible, especially at this time of heightened tensions when dialogue between the world’s two largest nuclear powers is paramount,” says Laura Kennedy, a board member of the Arms Control Association and a former U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament.

“The Biden administration has taken the correct stance of communicating its willingness to reschedule the meeting at the earliest possible date, underscoring the U.S. commitment to effective arms control and maintaining strategic stability,” Kennedy added. “We hope and expect that Russia will reciprocate.”

One of the main topics on the table would have been the nearly three-year pause in the treaty’s on-site inspections of nuclear weapon-related facilities, a hallmark of the New START verification regime. The two countries agreed to pause the inspections in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. On August 8, 2022, Russia further delayed any resumption of inspections by blocking treaty visits to its facilities, until such time as there is a resolution for allowing Russia’s New START inspection teams to travel to the United States despite Western sanctions and restrictions on Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

“New START stands as the last treaty limiting the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and provides unparalleled insight into Russian nuclear forces that the U.S. military greatly values for posture and planning purposes,” says Shannon Bugos, a senior research analyst at the Arms Control Association. “Further delays of the BCC meeting are deeply regrettable, particularly as resuming inspections will likely help pave the way for dialogue on future arms control following New START’s expiration in 2026.”

The United States and Russia last held a BCC meeting in October 2021, the first since the coronavirus pandemic prompted a pause in the meetings. The meeting this month was slated to take place Nov. 29 through Dec. 6 in Cairo, Egypt, and would have marked the first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Under New START, the two countries are obligated to hold two BCC meetings each year.

“Even during the worst periods of the Cold War, the United States and Russia recognized the value of maintaining common sense limits on the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Bugos added. “Today, more than ever, they must meet their shared responsibility to reduce their massive nuclear arsenals and avoid miscalculations that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.”

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Dialogue on Implementation of Arms Control Agreement in Mutual Interest

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New Nuclear Posture Review Sends Mixed Signals at Time of Heightened Nuclear Danger

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A Preliminary Analysis by Daryl G. Kimball, executive director

For Immediate Release: Oct. 26, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

(Washington, D.C.)— After delaying for nearly seven months the release of the public version of the classified Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Pentagon-led study sends muddled messages about the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense strategy and foreign policy at a time when the United States should be more clearly de-emphasizing the salience of nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear weapons use.

At the same time, the NPR appropriately and smartly "places renewed emphasis on nuclear arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, and risk reduction," which is vitally important as the last U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty expires in less than three and a half years, and the risk of nuclear weapons use in the context of Russia's war on Ukraine is as high as any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago.

The NPR notes that verifiable nuclear arms control strategies offer "the most effective, durable and responsible path to reduce the role nuclear weapons in our strategy and prevent their use" and calls for a greater emphasis on nuclear risk reduction dialogue with the United States' primary nuclear adversaries, Russia, and China.

A Risky, Status Quo Nuclear Weapons Declaratory Policy

The study, which was coordinated by the Pentagon and approved by President Biden, reiterates longstanding policy reserving the right of the United States to use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear weapons threats "in extreme" circumstances to defend the "vital interests of its Allies and partners."

The 2022 NPR declares that "the fundamental role of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our Allies, and partners." The document acknowledges that there is "a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring attacks that have a strategic effect against the United States or its Allies and partners."

This broad and ambiguous nuclear weapons declaratory policy walks back President Biden's earlier position and pledge to narrow the role of U.S. nuclear weapons. In 2020, Biden wrote "that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As president, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with the U.S. military and U.S. allies.”

The 2022 NPR reports that the administration conducted a "thorough review of options for nuclear declaratory policy, including both No First Use and Sole Purpose policies, and concluded those approaches would result in an unacceptable level of risk ...."

In reality, policies that threaten the first use of nuclear weapons, whether they are long-range or shorter-range, tactical nuclear weapons carry unacceptable risks. Putin’s deadly war against Ukraine, his nuclear threats, and Russia’s policy that reserves the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict with NATO underscore the dangers of such policies. As President Biden declared Oct. 6, “I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”

Costly Modernization Plans and New Capabilities

The NPR study also rubber stamps much of the multibillion-dollar program of record for the modernization of all U.S. nuclear weapons delivery systems and the refurbishment of all existing major nuclear warhead types.

The document rightly seeks to cancel the Trump administration's proposal for a destabilizing and very expensive new capability, the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile, however, it also endorses the Trump-era, W76-2 lower-yield warhead on sub-launched ballistic missiles. The Pentagon argues that the ostensible purpose for the system, which was deployed in 2020, is to provide the president greater "flexibility" to retaliate to a limited nuclear strike by a hostile adversary. In layperson's terms, this means nuclear war-fighting at the regional level using a missile system designed for retaliation against an all-out strategic attack on the United States.

President Biden strongly criticized the W76-2 in 2020, saying it was a "bad idea" that makes the U.S. government "more inclined" to use nuclear weapons than in the past.

The NPR also endorses the development and the introduction of a new design warhead first proposed by the Trump administration, the W-93. This warhead is redundant and is not necessary to maintain the existing U.S. arsenal, rather it is primarily intended to provide support for the nuclear weapons modernization plan of a foreign government, the United Kingdom.

Blurring the Lines Between Nuclear and non-nuclear Deterrence

The NPR, which was released in tandem with the Biden administration's Missile Defense Review and overall National Defense Strategy, doubles down on the concept of "integrated deterrence" involving "synchronizing nuclear planning, exercises, and operations." The goal is, according to the 2022 NPR, to "raise the nuclear threshold of our adversaries in regional conflict by undermining adversary confidence in strategies for limited war that rely on the threat of nuclear escalation."

But because the NPR's integrated deterrence strategy relies on the employment of dual-capable (i.e., nuclear and conventional) fighter bombers and U.S. long-range ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles, missile interceptors, and cyber offensive capabilities, it creates the potential to contribute to a miscalculation by certain adversaries about whether the U.S. is launching a nuclear attack, or not. Such an approach is potentially more destabilizing in the absence of a U.S declaratory policy that rules out first use of nuclear weapons.

Renewing Focus on Arms Control

On the positive side, in contrast to the Trump administration's 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the 2022 NPR helpfully and appropriately says that the United States "will seek opportunities to pursue practical steps to advance the goals of greater transparency and predictability, enhanced stability, reduced reliance on nuclear weapons and, ultimately, a world without nuclear weapons."

“Even at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were able to work together to uphold our shared responsibility to ensure strategic stability,” President Biden said on the first day of the 10th review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in August. “Today, my administration is ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026," he said.

The 2022 NPR re-affirms the president's statement by expressing the view that "Mutual, verifiable nuclear arms control offers the most effective, durable and responsible path to reduce the role nuclear weapons in our strategy and prevent their use."

The Biden administration should therefore move expeditiously to formally launch negotiations on a New START follow-on arms control framework, which is essential to reduce the Russian nuclear threat, constrain a potential Chinese nuclear buildup, and lower the risk of nuclear conflict.

Appropriately, the NPR also says the United States' "priorities include fostering transparency and mutual risk reduction, pursuing initiatives that limit destabilizing systems or postures, and reducing the chance of miscalculation." At the moment, however, direct dialogue with Russian leaders on reducing nuclear risk is compromised, and unfortunately, Chinese officials have rebuffed U.S. overtures for bilateral strategic risk reduction talks.

One option mentioned in the NPR and that must be pursued more vigorously and creatively is the multilateral P5 process, which is currently chaired by the United States and involves all five nations recognized as nuclear-weapon states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

NPR Assertions About Nuclear Weapons and International Law

Similar to the NPRs of the Obama and Trump administrations, the 2022 NPR claims that U.S. nuclear targeting plans will "not intentionally threaten civilian populations or objects in violation of the Law of Armed Conflict," which applies principles of distinction and proportionality.

Unfortunately, these assurances are undermined by the fact that the United States has not to date foresworn the possibility that it might direct nuclear attacks against the civilian population, or otherwise launch attacks that cause disproportionate civilian harm, by relying on the customary international law doctrine of belligerent reprisal.

If we are to operate according to a “rules-based international order,” certain states, including the United States, cannot bend the rules to suit their narrow national security aims. In a democracy, we must also be transparent about what we think the rules are and why. Other states, and other serious lawyers, consider the potential use of nuclear weapons on the scale envisioned in the U.S. nuclear war plan to be incompatible with international law, particularly International Humanitarian Law.

We challenge the Pentagon and the White House to provide a detailed written explanation to support the assertion that U.S. nuclear weapons use plans are consistent with the Law of Armed Conflict and provide an explanation as to why the U.S. government continues believes it is permissible under customary international law, to target civilians intentionally or consequentially by way of reprisal using nuclear or other weapons.

Daryl G. Kimball has served as the executive director of the Arms Control Association since 2001 and has been a leading nongovernmental advocate for nuclear threat reduction and disarmament since 1989. In November 2021, he was invited to brief the Pentagon's NPR Working Group.

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A Preliminary Analysis by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

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NPT Review Outcome Highlights Deficit in Disarmament Diplomacy, Divisions Between Nuclear Rivals

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NPT Review Outcome Highlights Deficit in Disarmament Diplomacy, Divisions Between Nuclear Rivals

Draft Document Did Include U.S.-Russian Commitment to Resume Talks on New START Follow-On

For Immediate Release: August 26, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270, ext. 107

(United Nations, New York City)—After four weeks of speeches, debate, and closed-door negotiations over the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), diplomats from 151 nations failed to reach consensus on a conference document designed review and strengthen implementation of the treaty due to Russian objections to language addressing the nuclear safety crisis at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which was seized by Russia in March.

Good Defeats Evil is a bronze sculpture by Soviet/Russian painter and sculptor Zurab Tsereteli (1934 – ).  The sculpture is located at the U.N. Visitors’ Entrance in New York City.(Photo by UN Gifts)

“The NPT is often called the cornerstone of global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, but the debate and results of this meeting reveal there are cracks in the foundation of the treaty and deep divisions between nuclear-armed states,” warned Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which has tracked the progress of treaty implementation since the first NPT review conference in 1975.

"Even if Russia had been more flexible on how the NPT Review Conference should address the Zaporizhzhia nuclear crisis, the draft text that emerged from the conference negotiations illustrates there is general support for the treaty, but a deficit of leadership -- and concrete action -- on disarmament goals and objectives, particularly from the NPT's five nuclear-armed states," Kimball said.

“This NPT conference represents a missed opportunity to strengthen the treaty and global security by agreeing to specific action plan with benchmarks and timeframes that is essential to effectively address the growing dangers of nuclear arms racing and nuclear weapons use,” he said.

 "There was one important item on the list of disarmament measures that was agreed to in the draft conference document that does set forth a specific, unconditional action step within a set timeframe," Kimball noted. In paragraph 187.17, the document says:

“The Russian Federation and the United States commit to the full implementation of the New START Treaty and to pursue negotiations in good faith on a successor framework to New START before its expiration in 2026, in order to achieve deeper, irreversible, and verifiable reductions in their nuclear arsenals.”

“Given the deep tensions between Moscow and Washington in the wake of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, their commitment to engage in nuclear arms control negotiations is a vital step toward preserving commonsense, effective limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals,” noted Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst with the Arms Control Association.

Bugos emphasized, however, that, “To date, Washington and Moscow have not yet agreed, let alone discussed, when or where they will begin to engage in serious formal negotiations on deeper nuclear reductions in an arms control arrangement to follow New START. Regardless of the conference outcome, they should do so immediately.”

On other disarmament issues, however, the conference was unable to secure agreement on specific action steps.

“Behind closed doors, diplomats from the five nuclear-weapon states – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – rejected pragmatic proposals for specific, time-bound commitments to fulfill their NPT disarmament obligations,” Kimball noted. “The nuclear-weapon states clearly failed to bring new, creative yet realistic ideas and the necessary political will to meet those obligations, instead arriving with every intention to prevaricate when pressed upon their lack of progress towards nuclear disarmament.”

As time ran out on the conference, many states-parties expressed unhappiness with numerous elements of the Aug. 25 draft final outcome document but chose not to oppose consensus. Many non-nuclear-weapon states were justifiably displeased with the lack of ambition and specificity on nuclear disarmament matters.

At the 2010 review conference, the NPT nuclear-weapon states pledged "to accelerate concrete progress on the steps leading to nuclear disarmament," including "all types of nuclear weapons," as well as to work assiduously toward the entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Article VI of the NPT commits states-parties to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

“The reality is that since the conclusion of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), U.S.-Russian strategic stability and nuclear arms control talks have not produced results. Instead, important nuclear arms control agreements such as the 1987 Intermediate-Range Forces Treaty are either gone or in jeopardy. The only remaining treaty that verifiably limits the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals is New START, which will expire in early 2026,” Kimball explained. "Negotiations on a successor agreement are essential to future efforts to strengthen the NPT and reduce the nuclear danger."

“Although China, France, and the United Kingdom have engaged in discussions on nuclear terms and doctrines through their N-5 Process, they have stubbornly refused to seriously engage in talks on ideas and proposals that would cap or reduce their own deadly arsenals,” Kimball added. “It was particularly troubling that the Chinese delegation at the conference opposed to references calling for a voluntary halt of fissile material production for nuclear weapons purposes.”

In the draft conference document, NPT states-parties did “express deep concern at the absence of tangible progress in further reductions in global stockpiles and in the implementation of disarmament commitments by the nuclear-weapon states since the 2015 Review Conference,” Kimball said. “But noting such a lack of progress is not substitute for committing to actions that actually lead to a halt and reversal the nuclear arms race.”

“Not suprisingly, the NPT nuclear-weapon states also resisted calls from non-nuclear-weapon states to unequivocally condemn recent threats of nuclear weapons use, such as those issued on Feb. 24 and April 27 by Russia against any state that might interfere with its invasion of Ukraine,” Kimball noted.

In the draft NPT Review Conference outcome document, the nuclear-weapon states would only “commit to refrain from any inflammatory rhetoric concerning the use of nuclear weapons.”

At the outset of the NPT conference, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States issued a working paper that attempted to distinguish between “irresponsible” offensive nuclear threats of Russia and “responsible” nuclear threats for “defensive” purposes of their own nations. The Russian delegation defended what they called Russia’s nuclear “warnings” as simply part of Moscow’s nuclear deterrence strategy.

In contrast, the states-parties to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) issued a strong June 23 consensus political statement at the first meeting of TPNW states-parties. That statement asserts that "any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.” The TPNW statement further condemned "unequivocally any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances.”

“In the wake of the disappointing month-long 10th NPT review conference, the jury is still out on when, and if, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China have the will, the political courage, and the common sense to walk back from the nuclear brink and actually do what is necessary to meet the disarmament-related goals set out in 2010 and that were referenced again in the draft 2022 conference document,” Kimball said.

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

 

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After four weeks of speeches, debate, and closed-door negotiations over the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), diplomats from 151 nations failed to reach consensus on a conference document designed review and strengthen implementation of the treaty due to Russian objections to language addressing the nuclear safety crisis at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which was seized by Russia in March.

Resources on the 10th NPT Review Conference

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For Immediate Release: July 29, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

Hundreds of diplomats representing the states-parties to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), along with representatives from civil society, will convene in at UN headquarters in New York for talks that will shape the future of the international nuclear arms control regime at a time when the risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear competition are growing.

The conference caps a five-year cycle of meetings in which states-parties review compliance with the NPT and seek agreement on steps to advance the treaty’s main goals: preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology and halting and reversing the nuclear arms race and advancing nuclear disarmament. 

This review conference comes a quarter-century after state-parties agreed on the indefinite extension of the NPT at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference. As states-parties seek to reach agreement on ways to reaffirm their support for the treaty and its implementation, several issues could prove to be contentious including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the nonproliferation system and the failure of the nuclear-armed states-parties to meet their NPT Article VI disarmament obligations and goals outlined in the action plan adopted at the 2010 Review Conference.


Official Schedule and Documents

The first week of the conference will feature high-level speeches by world leaders before the meeting turns to a review of thematic issues. The conference agenda, working papers from delegations, and plenary session speeches are available on the official UN NPT conference website.

If you are not able to attend in person, you can still follow the conference via UN WebTV. Tune in Friday, Aug. 5 at approximately 3:00 pm Eastern U.S. time for NGO statements.


ACA Updates and Resources and Side Events

As we have done since the first NPT Review Conference in 1975, the Arms Control Association team will be there to monitor and engage in the proceedings. Our research team will provide twice-weekly updates on key developments at the Review Conference. You can follow these updates at ArmsControl.org/blog/2022/updates-10th-NPT-RevCon.

Additional ACA resources on the 10th NPT Review Conference are highlighted below.

Many official and nonofficial side events are scheduled through the course of the month and are listed on the official conference side-events calendar and from our colleagues at Reaching Critical Will. Some events will be in-person only while some will also be webcast.


Events Before and During the Review Conference

  • July 29: ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball will deliver the keynote address for an international symposium organized by the Asahi Shimbun, the Nagasaki city government, and the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace titled: “The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition.” The event will start at 9:00 pm Eastern U.S. time July 29 (July 30 at 10:00 am, Japan Standard time) and will be live streamed in English here: https://youtu.be/k80HSwG8YCg. Kimball’s remarks as prepared for delivery will be available at https://www.armscontrol.org/events
  • Aug. 5: Nongovernmental organizations will address the NPT Review Conference. Among the presentations will be one on “The Necessity of a Meaningful Action Plan on Article VI,” organized by ACA and endorsed by other major nuclear disarmament NGOs. The session can be viewed live via UN WebTV beginning at 3:00 pm ET.
  • Aug. 10: The Deep Cuts in Nuclear Arsenals project will host a side event from 1:15 to 2:30 pm in conference room 5 on “Reducing nuclear risks and nuclear arsenals in times of tension in Europe.” Panelists include ACA’s Daryl Kimball, ACA Board Member Angela Kane, and Andrei Baklitskiy with UNIDIR. More details are online here.
  • Aug. 18: ACA executive director Daryl Kimball will speak at a side event on “Strengthening all three pillars of the NPT,” organized by the Mission of Kazakhstan from 1:15 pm to 2:30 pm at the Kazakh Mission.

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Official documents, side-events, and other useful resources related to the 10th nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, Aug.1-26, 2022

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