In each month's issue of Arms Control Today, executive director Daryl Kimball provides an editorial perspective on a critical arms control issue.
North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il may be gone, but the dangers posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs persist. Although the long-term future of the regime under the new young ruler, Kim Jong Un, remains uncertain, it is clearly in the United States’ interest to get the much-delayed denuclearization process back on track.
The Obama administration entered office in 2009 seeking both to maintain pressure on Iran to comply with its nonproliferation obligations and to engage Tehran in a renewed dialogue on confidence-building measures to allay concerns about the purpose of its nuclear program.
In one of the smartest and boldest moves of the nuclear age, President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed in 1991 to withdraw most U.S. and Soviet forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons and dismantle a large portion of those weapons. These actions reduced tensions and the risk of nuclear catastrophe as the Soviet Union broke apart.
Within weeks, a congressional “supercommittee” is due to deliver recommendations for reducing the U.S. federal budget deficit over the next decade. The Pentagon and the White House support trimming military spending by at least $350 billion as part of the plan, but some Republicans are balking. If Congress fails to agree on a deficit reduction formula, even deeper budget cuts will be triggered.
Each year, thousands of civilians around the world are slaughtered by weapons sold to unscrupulous regimes and transferred to criminals and illegal militias. The enormous human toll of this cycle of violence undermines economic development and political stability in fragile regions.
After years of discussion, the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has agreed on a clearer, tougher set of guidelines designed to prevent the spread of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing equipment and technology. The action should help guard against the further proliferation of sensitive equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons.
After months of review and debate, a bipartisan Senate majority approved the resolution of ratification for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) on Dec. 22, 2010. But now, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) and the leading critic of New START in the Senate, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are trying to rewrite New START policies and understandings approved only six months ago.
In the 20 years since the end of the Cold War, successive U.S. and Russian presidents have gradually reduced the size and salience of their enormous nuclear stockpiles. Nevertheless, the size of each country’s arsenal far exceeds what might be considered necessary to deter nuclear attack. Both sides can and should go lower.
Ten years ago, President Bill Clinton asked Gen. John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to review issues surrounding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the aftermath of the Senate’s 1999 rejection of the treaty. His 2001 report concluded that “the advantages of the Test Ban Treaty outweigh any disadvantages, and thus that ratification would increase national security. For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would.”
The people of Pakistan face multiple hardships: catastrophic flooding, a Taliban-affiliated insurgency, political assassinations, and chronic poverty. Yet, the country’s powerful military establishment has directed much of the nation’s wealth and perhaps even international nuclear technical assistance to building a nuclear arsenal that does nothing to address these urgent threats.
After just two years in office, the administration of President Barack Obama has put the United States back in the role of global nuclear risk-reduction leader. In April 2009, Obama recommitted the United States to the goal of a “world without nuclear weapons,” beginning with overdue reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles, steps to strengthen the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), reconsideration of the long-delayed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and action toward a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).
President Barack Obama, backed by the U.S. military, bipartisan national security leaders, and America’s NATO allies, has made a strong case for approval of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) before the end of this year. New START would reduce Russia’s still enormous nuclear arsenal, re-establish effective bilateral inspection and monitoring, and further enhance U.S.-Russian cooperation on key issues, including containing Iran's nuclear program and further reducing all types of Russian and U.S. nuclear arms.
The Senate will return this month for a postelection session that can and should be used to approve the modest but essential New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Failure to do so would further delay the re-establishment of an effective U.S.-Russian inspection and monitoring system, undermine U.S. nonproliferation leadership, and jeopardize U.S.-Russian cooperation, including joint efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
Ending the production of fissile material—plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU)—for nuclear weapons is a long-sought and still vital nonproliferation objective. Last year, President Barack Obama pledged to “lead a global effort” to negotiate a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), but talks at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) remain blocked, as they have been for nearly a dozen years.
Some habits, even dangerous ones, are hard to break. The Cold War is long over, but there are nearly 200