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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."

– Joseph Biden, Jr.
Senator
January 28, 2004
EU / NATO

Disputes Continue at UN First Committee


December 2020
By Anna Kim

The 75th session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on disarmament and international security, held remotely this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, revealed growing global concern over the decline of arms control and rising tensions between nations, particularly those armed with nuclear weapons.

South Korean Amb. Cho Hyun speaks to the UN Security Council in 2019. At this year's meeting of the UN General Assembly First Committee, he expressed hopes that a peace process with North Korea could progress. (Photo: Evan Schneider/United Nations)The European Union, Russia, and South Korea noted the challenges COVID-19 posed to nuclear disarmament, including the postponement of treaty-related meetings such as the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s pending review conference, now deferred again from an already rescheduled early 2021 date. They also encouraged commitment to collective action and multilateralism. Others noted that the pandemic should raise awareness of biological threats and drive action at next year’s Biological Weapons Convention review conference.

Tension between nuclear-armed powers was highlighted by separate, unsuccessful U.S.-Russian talks on an extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). In the First Committee, Russia reiterated that Moscow stands ready to extend the pact without preconditions, a move that would “buy us time to consider future approaches to arms control.” The United States responded by reaffirming its pursuit of an agreement that “addresses all nuclear warheads” and expressing concern with Russia’s investment in “novel nuclear delivery systems and nuclear weapons that are not constrained by New START.” The impasse suggests that the two sides will not resolve the matter before the end of the Trump administration in January 2021.

Multiple states continued to express concern over the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 arms control agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran’s subsequent buildup of low-enriched uranium exceeding treaty limits.

EU nations said they “deeply regret” the U.S. decision to withdraw and reimpose sanctions on Iran and “strongly urge Iran to refrain from any further actions that are inconsistent with its JCPOA commitments and return to full JCPOA implementation without delay.”

Unlike in 2019, Iran did not mention its enrichment activities or their reversibility. The United States refrained from commenting on the JCPOA at all during its general debate remarks.

Opinions were divided on how to address North Korea’s nuclear program and security on the Korean peninsula. China blamed the United States for “the deadlock of the [U.S.-North Korean] dialogue regarding the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula” and asserted its opposition to “unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction beyond the mandates” of UN Security Council resolutions.

The EU and some European countries, in contrast, expressed concern over North Korea’s missile launches and repeated their support for denuclearization. Poland called North Korean denuclearization “an absolute imperative and priority for the entire international community.” South Korea took a more optimistic tone in its statement. Cho Hyun, South Korean ambassador to the United Nations, said that “[his] government’s resolve to advance the peace process remains unwavering and [South Korean leaders] sincerely hope that [North Korea] will return to the negotiating table.”

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also received significant attention during general debate in the wake of the August 2020 poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, with a Novichok nerve agent. Russia has denied responsibility for the attack.

Absent verifiable attribution of the attack to Russia by the OPCW, the United States called on Moscow to “fulfill its obligations under the [CWC] by completely declaring and destroying its chemical weapons program under international verification.” The EU said that Russia should “fully cooperate” with the OPCW to ensure an “impartial international investigation.”

The use of chemical weapons in Syria also drew attention, with Germany urging that “all those who continue to support the Assad regime and to provide cover for its crimes—in particular the Russian Federation—[should] finally live up to their responsibility.”

Russia did not respond directly to criticism for the Navalny incident, instead introducing a resolution to update the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (SGM). This was met with significant resistance by other states, which accused Russia of attempting to undermine the SGM’s authority.

The 2020 First Committee session approved 72 draft resolutions and decisions, but rejected two: Russia’s resolution on the SGM and one on the 2021 Disarmament Commission session. The votes revealed continuing disunity between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, with all nine nuclear-armed states voting against a resolution on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) even as the treaty reached the 50 accessions needed to enter into force in January 2021.

The United States cast one of two votes, along with North Korea, against the resolution on the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), citing unproven claims that Russia and China continue to conduct nuclear weapons test explosions. This was the first time the United States did not abstain from the vote, which fueled concerns that the Trump administration could be planning to resume nuclear weapons testing, as The Washington Post first reported in May. The United States was also the sole vote against the resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty for the second year in a row. President Donald Trump announced in April 2019 that Washington would drop out of the treaty.

Resolutions in support of the implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions passed with no votes against, representing continued widespread support for those initiatives. The resolution on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East also passed 169–2–1, with only the United States and Israel voting against it.

As in previous years, First Committee member states were unable to reach consensus on a legal approach to regulating arms in outer space. Five resolutions were introduced on the topic, which reflected highly varied perspectives on disarmament. The United States, Russia, and China each accused others of having intentions to weaponize space while emphasizing their own commitment to developing a legal infrastructure. The First Committee also discussed cybersecurity and emerging technologies.

Russia Fails to Weaken UN Chemical Weapons Investigations

A Russian effort to undermine the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of the Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (SGM) was rejected by the UN General Assembly First Committee on Nov. 4. Moscow had offered the resolution and called for a review of SGM guidelines ahead of the First Committee vote, arguing that the guidelines had not been updated since the late 1990s.

The mechanism grants the secretary-general authority to launch an independent investigation into alleged incidents of chemical or biological weapons use on request by a UN member state. For example, the SGM investigated the use of chemical weapons in Syria in 2013, prior to Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s UN representative, said the SGM has “clearly become obsolete.”

The European Union criticized Russia’s efforts as misguided and politically driven. Speaking on behalf of the group, Germany recalled an attempt by Russia in December 2019 to criticize further strengthening of the mechanism, arguing that doing so would create a de facto legally binding verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention. “Against this background,” Germany’s representative told the First Committee on Nov. 4, “it seems unlikely that the motive behind this resolution is to strengthen [the SGM].”

“It is not immediately clear why there would be an urgency to review the guidelines and principles again,” he added, noting that Russia’s proposed resolution threatened the SGM’s independence by subordinating it to the UN Security Council. The resolution proposed that the Security Council play a greater role in the mechanism’s work, specifically with respect to investigating incidents of biological weapons use.

The resolution failed to pass the First Committee with 31 votes in favor, 63 against, and 67 abstentions.—JULIA MASTERSON

The annual UN session on disarmament and international security reflected the full range of arms control disputes.

NATO Completes Annual Nuclear Exercise


December 2020

The Netherlands hosted NATO’s annual nuclear exercise in October, which included the German Air Force practicing delivery of U.S. nuclear bombs believed to be stored at Büchel Air Base, according to reports.

A German Eurofighter taxis at Nörvenich Air Base in 2013. The base was used as a site for this year's NATO exercise Steadfast Noon. (Photo: Neuwieser/Flickr)“Today’s exercise shows that allies are determined to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg while visiting Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands for the exercise on Oct. 16. “The purpose of NATO’s nuclear deterrent is not to provoke a conflict but to preserve peace, deter aggression, and prevent coercion.”

This year, the training flights took place over parts of western Europe and the North Sea.

The annual exercise, known as Steadfast Noon, is designed to practice and assess NATO’s nuclear capabilities deployed in Europe. It is planned far in advance and involves more than 50 aircraft from several allied air forces. The aircraft do not carry live bombs during the exercise flights.

The United States deploys an estimated 20 B61 tactical bombs each at Büchel and Volkel air bases, according to the Federation of American Scientists. About 100 U.S. tactical bombs are believed to be deployed at bases in Belgium, Italy, and Turkey.

German reports said that this year’s nuclear exercise involved the Nörvenich Air Base, which is an alternative site for the nuclear bombs stored at Büchel.

The Russian Defense Ministry released a statement on Oct. 23 criticizing the exercise. “Such actions lead to a lowering of the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, provoke a further increase in tension along the Russia-NATO contact line, and negatively affect the level of trust in Europe,” said the ministry.—SHANNON BUGOS

NATO Completes Annual Nuclear Exercise

WEBINAR: "The Future of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the NPT"

Sections:

Body: 


Thursday, October 1, 2020
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time
via Zoom webinar 

The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has led Iran to retaliate by exceeding key nuclear limits set by the deal. The U.S. strategy has hobbled but not unraveled the agreement and increased tensions with Iran and the international community. Unless Washington and Teheran return to compliance, however, the deal could collapse entirely creating a serious new nuclear crisis in the region.

In this edition of the “Critical NPT Issues” webinar series sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Arms Control Association, our panelists reviewed the benefits of the JCPOA, the current status of noncompliance, pathways to repair the situation, and the potential effects on the global nonproliferation system and the upcoming 10th Review Conference of Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Panelists:

  • Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association;
  • Ellie Gerenmyah, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program and Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations; and
  • Emad Kiyaei, Director, Middle East Treaty Organization (METO)

Our next webinar in the Critical NPT Issues series will address steps to fulfill Article VI of the NPT. We encourage you to sign up to receive invitations to future webinars and other updates from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Arms Control Association.

RESOURCES

For more information on the JCPOA, subscribe to the P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert from the Arms Control Association, which provides periodic news and analysis on the negotiations and implementation of the nuclear deal. 

If you want to follow discussions on nuclear weapons during the 2020 session of the UNGA First Committee, subscribe to the First Committee Monitor, a publication of WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will, or visit their resource page for more information.

 

Description: 

In this edition of our “Critical NPT Issues” webinar series, we will review the benefits of the JCPOA, the current status of noncompliance, pathways to repair the situation, and the potential effects on the upcoming NPT Review Conference.

Country Resources:

Creating an Opportunity to Withdraw U.S. Nuclear Weapons From Europe


October 2020
By Pia Fuhrhop, Ulrich Kühn, and Oliver Meier

In May 2020, a debate erupted in Germany on the future of NATO nuclear sharing and Berlin’s participation in the arrangement that has seen U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in European nations for decades. This may well turn out to be an opportunity for the alliance, European security, and arms control. Even though it might not sound very realistic today, within the next five years the United States could withdraw the tactical weapons it deploys in Europe with no negative consequences for NATO unity and the security of Europe. In order to secure such an outcome, German leaders and NATO policymakers will have to combine reassurance and arms control in novel and smart ways.

Tornado fighters are the only nuclear-capable aircraft in Germany's arsenal. A plan to replace them has sparked a debate over whether the nation and other NATO allies should continue to host U.S. nuclear weapons. (Photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)The German nuclear debate was triggered by a mid-April decision by the German Defense Ministry to replace its current fleet of Tornado dual-capable aircraft with 90 Eurofighter Typhoon and 45 U.S. F-18 fighter aircraft. Thirty of the F-18s would be certified to carry U.S. nuclear weapons.1

The plan, announced by German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), quickly attracted criticism not only from opposition parties. Rolf Mützenich, leader of the Social Democrat (SPD) group in the Bundestag, made clear that a discussion about the Tornado replacement would have to include a debate about the new aircraft’s nuclear role. Mützenich argued that the risks associated with continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons would outweigh their potential security benefits. He concluded that “it is about time that Germany in the future excludes the deployment” of nuclear weapons on its territory.2 The SPD is a partner in the nation’s governing coalition with the CDU.

Kramp-Karrenbauer clarified that it would be up to the next Bundestag to make a decision on the procurement of a new aircraft and conceded there would be plenty of “room for debate” on the aircraft decision during the campaign for the September 2021 parliamentary elections and while negotiations on a new coalition government would take place.3

Under nuclear sharing arrangements, NATO allies jointly discuss, plan, and train nuclear missions. According to estimates, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey are hosting up to 150 U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bombs on their territories. These countries, except for Turkey, provide their own dual-capable aircraft for the delivery of nuclear weapons in times of war.4 Details of the arrangement remain shrouded in secrecy, although an estimated 20 U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed at Büchel air base in western Germany.

Social Democratic Party of Germany politician Rolf Mützenich speaks to the media in June in Berlin. In May, Mützenich initiated a discussion over the possibility of no longer hosting U.S. nuclear weapons on its German territory. Mützenich’s call for a debate on NATO nuclear sharing triggered predictable criticism. Proponents of the status quo argued that the security situation in Europe provides neither political nor military room for changing NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements. They also maintained that a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany would undermine alliance solidarity. Some even argued that questioning nuclear sharing would hand Russian President Vladimir Putin a diplomatic victory. Others are concerned that Berlin would lose influence over NATO’s nuclear policies, should Germany give up its role as a host nation.5

Beyond such well-known positions, the debate revealed interesting nuances and unique insights. In contrast to previous discussions, many participants distinguished between the operative and technical aspects of sharing associated with the forward deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, on the one hand, and the political aspects involving consultations on NATO’s nuclear policy in the alliance’s respective consultative bodies. Thus, supporters of changes to nuclear sharing pointed out that a withdrawal of nuclear weapons does not mean the end of Berlin’s involvement in nuclear sharing. Even without hosting the B61s, Germany would still participate in NATO nuclear discussions, planning, and exercises, for example in the Nuclear Planning Group. Also, there is now broad agreement across the political divide in Berlin that nuclear weapons deployed in Europe do not have a military role that other conventional or nuclear weapons assigned to NATO could not fulfill. Last but not least, the security concerns of central and eastern European allies, and therefore Germany’s responsibility for European security, turned out to be a key issue in the debate.

Although the debate has subsided since May, the nuclear controversy will return when the Tornado replacement decision comes up in parliament. Hence, there is good reason and sufficient time to explore how steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons can be brought in line with the security and arms control priorities of Germany, its NATO partners, and ideally Russia.

A Five-Year Moratorium

To provide the ground for potential political compromises, Russia and NATO should refrain from introducing new, destabilizing weapons to Europe until 2025. Such a five-year moratorium would make sense given that the next German and U.S. administrations would be in office until 2025. During those five years, the next review cycle of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will be completed. From a German perspective, a five-year freeze would be feasible because the Tornado aircraft can be kept operational at least until 2025.

 

Germany has a crucial role to play as an interlocutor. Berlin should urge Moscow and Washington to make use of the current window of opportunity to discuss reductions to nuclear weapons in Europe. A moratorium could prepare the ground for a more comprehensive, sustainable debate on security and stability in Europe. To achieve that goal, NATO should propose to Russia specific, reciprocal, and politically binding arms control measures. One should expect that many NATO allies would support such a moratorium as long as its goals are well communicated and the process is coordinated at NATO headquarters. At the same time, Berlin’s ability to bring all necessary actors to the table would be a litmus test of Germany’s influence in the alliance.

Moscow, for its part, would have to commit not to deploy additional land-based, nuclear-capable, short- and medium-range missiles in the European part of Russia. Moscow has already declared that it keeps warheads for such weapons separate from missile launchers and other means of delivery.6 To increase the credibility of that pledge, Russia would need to be transparent with regard to its central storage sites and communicate the movement of nuclear warheads.7 Russia’s infamous 9M729 missile, which NATO believes violates the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, must be verifiably stored at these sites, at least until 2025.

NATO in return would commit to refrain from deploying additional land-based, intermediate-range missiles in Europe. This would build on the alliance’s commitment not to deploy additional nuclear weapons in Europe in response to the demise of the INF Treaty.8 The alliance would also pledge not to transfer new, modernized B61-12 weapons to Europe before 2025.9 NATO’s Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Poland, currently under construction, would only become operational by 2025 at the earliest.

On the basis of such a moratorium and on reciprocal commitments to halt the deployment of destabilizing weapons, Germany could wait for the results of U.S.-Russian talks before deciding on the procurement of new aircraft. As a consequence, the Tornado might have to fly a few years more. This should be a price worth paying in exchange for giving arms control a serious chance.

As such, an agreement on a moratorium would be a success in its own right and pave the way for confidence-building measures between NATO and Russia. In close coordination with its allies, Berlin could push three parallel debates: on the forward deployment of nuclear weapons, on NATO reassurance, and on arms control between the alliance and Russia.

Forever Forward Deployment?

The five allies hosting U.S. nuclear weapons could use the moratorium to begin consultations among each other on their perspectives on and possible reforms of nuclear sharing. In Belgium and the Netherlands, political support for the continued deployment of nuclear weapons is fragile. The German public has also consistently opposed hosting nuclear arms.10 U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey are in dangerous vicinity to the war in Syria, and Ankara has recently flirted with the idea of its own nuclear arms.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has just appointed a new experts group,11 a brainchild of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. If former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidential election in November, the group might well be charged with preparing the alliance’s next Strategic Concept in the context of the NATO 2030 reflection process. The group should therefore immediately discuss the future of nuclear sharing arrangements. Given the unpopularity of the presence of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in many European host nations, it would be important that the group, which is co-chaired by former U.S. diplomat Wes Mitchell and former German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, discuss nuclear issues as transparently as possible. Including all relevant stakeholders in that process would increase the legitimacy of any recommendations the group might produce.

Strengthening Reassurance

Proponents of the nuclear status quo often argue that reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe are at odds with the security interests of central and eastern European NATO allies. From this perspective, a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons, for example from Germany, would undercut the principles of burden sharing and of alliance solidarity. Therefore, all allies would have to thoroughly discuss and agree on changes to NATO’s nuclear posture in Europe.

Berlin has a particular responsibility for its partners to the east. At the same time, Germany has to do a better job at bringing together collective defense via NATO and cooperative security with Russia. Combining reassurance with arms control, Germany would be following in the best of NATO traditions, such as the 1967 Harmel Report, which recommended a combination of strength and dialogue to overcome conflict and division.12 Particularly in times of U.S. unilateralism, it should not be difficult to find many supporters of such a dual-track approach. With such a unifying strategy, a German “Sonderweg,” leading to a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons, would also be much less likely.

German solidarity would have to begin with a greater contribution toward substantive reassurance measures. Currently, 24 allies contribute to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Poland and the three Baltic states. It is no secret that the four countries would like to see additional reinforcements, given Russia’s conventional edge in the region.

Germany should step up to the plate. As an essential first step, Berlin should actually provide those conventional capabilities that it has already promised. Currently, gaps exist in Germany’s contribution to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which would be the first to respond should NATO’s eastern flank come under attack. The German government recently had to concede that the forces it contributes are not fully equipped or readily deployable. Over the next three years, German armed forces probably would have to improvise if they were to take on the role as VJTF lead nation. Germany could also contribute more toward air policing and surveillance of the NATO-Russian border region.

Critics might argue that additional efforts to enhance NATO conventional reassurance toward eastern Europe would violate the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. Among other things, the act prohibits the permanent stationing of additional “substantial combat forces” on the territories of new member states. Although the term was never officially clarified, possible additional conventional German units on the eastern flank might be in violation at least of the spirit of the act.

A new combination of collective and cooperative security would also be necessary, however, because the NATO-Russia Founding Act has de facto established two different zones of security within the alliance, a recurring cause for valid complaint in eastern Europe. In 2022 the act will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Until then, the conventional reassurance of eastern Europe must become part of an overall package between Russia and NATO, which ideally would make the act redundant.

Time for Action

Any such comprehensive agreement would be more sustainable with Moscow’s support. French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative for strengthened arms control might still be a starting point for engaging with the Kremlin. To test Russia, the alliance should offer talks about conventional and nuclear arms control. Internally, the allies could agree on their position on arms control in NATO’s Special Advisory and Consultation Committee on Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.13 Reaching agreement on an arms control initiative, the allies would place the ball in Russia’s court.

In any case, talks on transparency and perhaps even limits on conventional forces would be complicated and would have to focus on the most urgent threat perceptions.14 Concerns about a Russian land grab indicate that traditional conventional force imbalances still matter. There are also concerns that Moscow might prepare a surprise attack under cover of one of its notorious snap exercises. Russia must therefore be willing to discuss constraints on certain conventional forces and capabilities close to the NATO-Russian border. Of course, it would also be desirable to limit dual-capable, long-range strike weapons and novel weapons technologies, as well as hybrid forms of warfare, but it is rather easy to overburden the agenda. The security of central Europeans would already be improved if it were possible to significantly reduce the risk of surprise attacks.

In parallel, both sides should urgently discuss measures to reduce nuclear risks. The forward deployment of nuclear weapons would have to be part of such an agenda. For years, Moscow has repeated its mantra that it is willing to address its own stockpile of an estimated 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads were the United States to withdraw its nuclear arms from European soil. It is about time to turn the table and ask the Kremlin which reductions to its tactical stockpile it would accept, should the alliance be willing to change its nuclear posture in Europe. It is not a sign of NATO’s strength that allies avoid bold initiatives by simply pointing to Russian intransigence.

A Package Deal

NATO needs to bring together the interests of the nuclear host nations with the legitimate security requirements of the other allies. This can be done by pursuing three parallel tracks on reforming the forward deployment of nuclear weapons, strengthening reassurance, and getting serious about arms control. Should the alliance succeed in reaching an agreement with Russia on specific measures to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in Europe, withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from all host nations and in a coordinated and consistent manner would be possible.

Intermediate steps are feasible. Washington might relocate B61 warheads to the United States but keep the nuclear infrastructure intact until Moscow has irreversibly removed its tactical nuclear arms from the European part of Russia. In any case, NATO would continue nuclear consultations, for example on the UK and U.S. strategic nuclear weapons assigned to the alliance.

If Moscow rejects the alliance’s arms control initiative after a five-year period, Germany would likely decide to continue hosting U.S. nuclear weapons, but Berlin would do so on the basis of having invested serious political capital in significantly strengthening stability through reassurance and arms control. Ideally, Germany would have initiated a process that leads to reducing instabilities and which puts NATO cohesion on a more solid footing. Simply continuing the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe without addressing Europe’s underlying insecurities contributes neither to stability or cohesion.

ENDNOTES

1. Oliver Meier, “German Politicians Renew Nuclear Basing Debate,” Arms Control Today, June 2020.

2. Rolf Mützenich, “Es wird Zeit, dass Deutschland die Stationierung zukünftig ausschließt,” Tagesspiegel, May 3, 2020.

3. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, “Eine Bückentechnologie,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 22, 2020.

4. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons, 2019,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 75, No. 5 (2017): 252–261.

5. For an overview of such arguments, see Sophia Becker and Christian Mölling, eds., “(Nuclear) Sharing Is Caring: European Views on NATO Nuclear Deterrence and the German Nuclear Sharing Debate,” DGAP Report, No. 10 (June 2020).

6. The director of NATO’s nuclear policy directorate, Jessica Cox, confirmed that, by 2010, Russia had “consolidated its tactical nuclear weapons at ‘central storage facilities’” and “removed tactical nuclear weapons from its ground forces.” See Jessica Cox, “Nuclear Deterrence Today,” NATO Review, June 8, 2020, https://www.nato.int/docu/review/articles/2020/06/08/nuclear-deterrence-today/index.html.

7. For a proposal on how to monitor such an arrangement, see Pavel Podvig, “Nuclear Weapons in Europe After the INF Treaty,” Deep Cuts Issue Brief, No. 10 (June 2020), https://deepcuts.org/files/pdf/Deep_Cuts_Issue_Brief_10-NW_Post-INF_Europe.pdf.

8. “Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Following the Meetings of NATO Defence Ministers,” June 26, 2019, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_167072.htm?selectedLocale=en.

9. Deployment of the B61-12 is expected to begin during 2022-2024 at the earliest. See Kristensen and Korda, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons, 2019,” p. 258.

10. A July 2020 poll found that 83 percent of Germans support complete withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany. Other polls have consistently found that approximately two-thirds would support such a move. See, “Greenpeace-Umfrage zu Atomwaffen und Atomwaffenverbotsvertrag,” July 2020, https://www.greenpeace.de/sites/www.greenpeace.de/files/publications/umfrage_atomwaffenverbotsvertrag__0.pdf.

11. “Secretary General Appoints Group as Part of NATO Reflection Process,” March 31, 2020, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_174756.htm.

12. Ulrich Kühn, “Deter and Engage: Making the Case for Harmel 2.0 as NATO’s New Strategy,” New Perspectives, Vol. 23, No. 1 (2015): 127–157.

13. See Oliver Meier, “NATO Agrees on New Arms Control Body,” Arms Control Now, February 26, 2013, https://www.armscontrol.org/blog/2013-02-26/nato-agrees-new-arms-control-body.

14. Wolfgang Zellner, Olga Oliker, and Steven Pifer, “A Little of the Old, a Little of the New: A Fresh Approach to Conventional Arms Control in Europe,” Deep Cuts Issue Brief, No. 11 (forthcoming).


Pia Fuhrhop leads the Berlin office of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. Ulrich Kühn heads the institute’s Arms Control and Emerging Technologies research. Oliver Meier is a senior researcher at the institute.

A revitalized debate in Germany offers a path to reducing or removing U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.

U.S., Allies Spar Over Iran Sanctions


October 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States threatened to sanction any country that does not enforce UN restrictions on Iran that the Trump administration claims were reimposed last month, but the UN secretary-general said he will not take any steps to implement those measures, and other states dismissed U.S. claims as invalid.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks to the media in Brussels on Sept. 21. He indicated that month that the United States has no standing to demand the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)UN sanctions on Iran were lifted or modified in 2016 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the seven-party deal that limited Iran’s nuclear activities. Recently, the Trump administration asserted on Sept. 19 that the sanctions had been restored after the United States initiated a so-called snapback mechanism, created by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which contains language allowing participants in the nuclear deal to reimpose UN sanctions in a manner that cannot be vetoed. The U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018 has created a dispute over U.S. standing to demand the return of UN sanctions under the terms of Resolution 2231.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sept. 19 that the United States expects “all UN member states to fully comply with their obligations under these reimposed restrictions.” Pompeo said failure to do so would result in the United States using “domestic authorities to impose our consequences for those failures.” He later threatened that “no matter who you are, if you violate the UN arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions.”

But Reuters reported on Sept. 19 that UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council in a letter that due to “uncertainty” over the status of the UN sanctions, he will not take any action to implement the measures. Guterres said that “it is not for the secretary-general to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists.”

The same day, Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted the U.S. “illegal and false ‘deadline’ has come and gone” and that Security Council “member states continue to maintain [the] U.S. is NOT a JCPOA participant, so its claim of ‘snapback’ is null and void.”

The United States issued a snapback notification to the Security Council president and Guterres on Aug. 20, but Security Council members, including the presidents in August and September, rejected the Trump administration’s claim that it was entitled to use the mechanism in Resolution 2231 to reimpose UN sanctions. The Trump administration took that step after it failed to pass a Security Council resolution to extend the arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire in October according to the terms of the nuclear deal and Resolution 2231. (See ACT, September 2020.)

The United States argues that it is still listed as a participant in the nuclear deal under Resolution 2231, despite having withdrawn from the accord. The Security Council presidents and other Security Council members, including the remaining parties to the nuclear deal, have argued that the United States lacks the standing to trigger a snapback, despite still being listed as a JCPOA participant.

In a Sept. 18 letter to the Security Council, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom said the U.S. snapback is “incapable of having any legal effect” due to Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA.

France, Germany, and the UK, along with Russia and China, are all parties to the JCPOA and sit on the Security Council.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who coordinates the group of JCPOA participants known as the P4+1, said on Sept. 19 that “sanctions-lifting commitments under the JCPOA continue to apply.” He also referred to a Sept. 1 statement after a meeting of the P4+1 and Iran, which noted that the United States has not participated in JCPOA-related activities since it withdrew in May 2018 and “therefore could not be considered as a participant state.”

Russia’s ambassador to the UN tweeted more bluntly “Is Washington deaf?” and noted that “we all clearly said in August that U.S. claims to trigger snapback are illegitimate.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his appreciation at the UN General Assembly for the Security Council’s “decisive and resounding” rejection of the U.S. attempt to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran. The United States is in “self-created isolation,” he said on Sept. 22.

Despite the widespread rejection of the U.S. claim that UN sanctions were reimposed, the Trump administration issued a Sept. 21 executive order aimed specifically at sanctioning entities that engage in conventional arms trade with Iran. The order stated that “transfers to and from Iran of arms or related materiel or military equipment represent a continuing threat to regional and international security.”

It is unclear why the Trump administration issued the order, as existing U.S. authorities already allow the president to sanction arms transfers to and from Iran.

Iran views UN sanctions relief, specifically the expiring arms embargo, as one of the few remaining benefits of continued participation in the nuclear deal after the United States withdrew and reimposed U.S. sanctions in May 2018.

But given the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s arms sales, which remained in place even when the United States was a participant in the JCPOA, the EU embargo on Iranian arms sales, and other UN measures that prohibit arms sales to Lebanon and Yemen, Iranian arms transfers will still face a number of restrictions once the UN embargo expires in October.

The United States also announced on Sept. 21 specific sanctions against individuals that are “directly involved” in Iran’s production of enriched uranium in excess of the nuclear deal’s commitments and individuals involved in Iranian-North Korean missile cooperation.

Iran initially threatened to retaliate if the UN snapped back sanctions on Iran, but did not immediately announce any new steps to violate the accord or ratchet up existing nuclear activities in response to the Trump administration’s actions. The near-universal rejection of the U.S. attempt to reimpose the UN measures appears to have mollified Tehran.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on Sept. 21, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underscored Iran’s continued commitment to the nuclear deal and its willingness to return to full implementation if all parties do the same.

Iran will “absolutely not” renegotiate the JCPOA, he said, but a “more for more” deal may be possible if the United States commits under the nuclear deal “that it will not violate it again, that it will not make demands outside the scope of the deal, [and] that it will compensate Iran for the damages.”

The Trump administration has failed to win support for its effort to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran.

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German Politicians Renew Nuclear Basing Debate


June 2020
By Oliver Meier

A senior member of the German Parliament has revitalized the debate over whether the nation should host U.S. nuclear weapons on German soil. “It is about time that Germany in the future excludes the deployment” of nuclear weapons on its territory, said Rolf Mützenich, the leader of the Social Democrat (SPD) group in the Bundestag, in a May 2 interview with Der Tagesspiegel. The German Social Democrats are coalition partners of the conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU). The SPD leadership backed Mützenich's comments.

A U.S. F-18 fighter aircraft refuels in 2017. Germany is exploring acquiring 45 F-18s from the United States, 30 of which would be nuclear capable. (Photo: Trevor McBride/U.S. Air Force)The discussion followed a mid-April decision by the Defense Ministry to replace Germany’s current fleet of Tornado aircraft, some of which are dual-capable with 90 Eurofighter Typhoon and 45 U.S. F-18 fighter aircraft. Thirty of the F-18s would be certified to carry U.S. nuclear weapons.

Under nuclear sharing arrangements, NATO allies jointly discuss, plan, and train nuclear missions. According to Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey host up to 150 U.S. B-61 nuclear gravity bombs on their territory. These countries, except Turkey, provide their own aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons in times of war. Details of the arrangements remain shrouded in secrecy, but 20 U.S. nuclear weapons are estimated to be deployed at Büchel air base in western Germany.

The Tornado replacement has been controversial for years. Washington has been lobbying Berlin to follow the example of other host nations and buy U.S. F-35 aircraft as the future nuclear weapons carrier.

France prefers a European approach, and it is jointly developing with Germany and Spain the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), a sixth-generation fighter aircraft that will have a nuclear capability in the French Air Force. Germany’s selection of the F-18 was thus a political compromise which Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer presented as a “bridge solution” until the FCAS becomes operational after 2040. Germany plans to retire the Tornado between 2025 and 2030.

Kramp-Karrenbauer may have mishandled the process by not sufficiently consulting with SPD members in the parliament. She has conceded that the Bundestag would not need to make a decision until 2022 at the earliest and said that there would thus be “space for a debate” on the dual-capable aircraft decision in the campaign for the September 2021 parliamentary elections and negotiations on a new coalition government thereafter.

In a May 7 article in Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft, Mützenich took up that invitation, saying that he would like “an open and honest debate about the rationale for nuclear sharing.” Social Democrats “are not calling for the immediate denuclearization of NATO,” but want to discuss the need “to spend billions on the procurement and maintenance of U.S. aircraft whose sole purpose is to drop American nuclear bombs,” he wrote.

Katja Keul, spokeswoman on disarmament policy for the Green party, told Arms Control Today in a May 14 interview that the Greens “do not want to put Germany on a path of continued involvement in technical sharing arrangements by committing to the procurement of a new nuclear-capable aircraft now.” Based on current polls, many expect the Greens to be part of Germany’s next government.

Keul, like other proponents of change, separated Germany’s role as a host nation from the continued participation in NATO political bodies associated with nuclear sharing, such as the Nuclear Planning Group. By contrast, those who have argued in favor of preserving the nuclear status quo have often conflated technical and political dimensions of sharing arrangements, equating the end of forward deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons with a denuclearization of the alliance or even the end of deterrence.

The idea that NATO’s consultative mechanisms provide Berlin with influence on the policies of its nuclear allies has always been a key rationale for German involvement in them.

But Mützenich argued that this concept of Mitsprache is no more than a “long-held pious hope,” arguing that “non-nuclear powers do not have any influence on the nuclear strategy, let alone when it comes to the deployment options of nuclear powers.” He cited the U.S. withdrawals from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as well as the “reorientation of U.S. nuclear weapons as a means of conducting warfare,” as examples of recent Trump administration decisions that contravene European interests.

Roderich Kiesewetter, CDU spokesman for the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Arms Control Today on May 12 that NATO’s unique nuclear sharing arrangements are important because they “guarantee trust in the extended nuclear umbrella and thus avoid nuclear proliferation in the European theater.” But he added that “it would be naive to believe that a U.S. president would grant Europeans influence on U.S. nuclear strategy or a more general say on the use of U.S. nuclear weapons in conflict.”

By contrast, Richard A. Grenell, U.S. ambassador in Berlin, in a May 14 opinion piece in Die Welt claimed that “Germany’s participation in nuclear share ensures that its voice matters.”

In dozens of commentaries, conservative decision-makers, analysts, and pundits have accused withdrawal proponents of weakening NATO cohesion. In an obvious aside to his party colleague Mützenich, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned on May 4 that one-sided steps “weaken our alliances.” Georgette Mosbacher, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, in a May 15 tweet suggested that “if Germany wants to diminish nuclear capability and weaken NATO, perhaps Poland—which pays its fair share, understands the risks, and is on NATO’s eastern flank—could house the capabilities.”

In fact, there is broad agreement in Berlin that “it is important to bring this debate to the European level and to discuss it with NATO partners,” Gabriela Heinrich, deputy leader of the SPD Parliamentary Group, told Arms Control Today on May 13.

But different preferences exist on the direction and structure of a discussion with alliance partners. Keul said the Greens want “Germany to push for a new consensus in NATO that would pave the way for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. That would be our plan A.” She cautioned that “because such a consensus will be difficult to achieve, our plan B would be to ask for understanding that Germany will end the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory once the Tornado reaches the end of its lifetime.”

Kiesewetter pointed out that “it matters who is the sender of messages on nuclear issues across the Atlantic.” He suggested that, “to avoid the impression of unilateralism, the five nuclear host nations should first among themselves discuss what their position on the future of nuclear sharing is.” Then, Kiesewetter said, “we should also consult with central and eastern European countries what package of non-nuclear defense and deterrence measures might provide complimentary reassurances and can be an effective deterrent to Russia.”

Like others, Keul believes that “the future of nuclear sharing should certainly be on the agenda of the NATO experts group” established by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at end of March. Kiesewetter agrees that “we need an informed debate, including by experts, on the future of nuclear sharing arrangements.” The group, co-chaired by former U.S. diplomat A. Wess Mitchell and former German Defense Minister Lothar de Maizière, is to discuss NATO’s political role. Heinrich suggested that it would also be “useful if the experts include civil society in their deliberations.”

Heinrich said that “there is no pressure to bring the debate on nuclear sharing to a quick conclusion,” predicting that it would be an issue in the next federal election. Another waypoint in the debate might be the modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Mützenich stated that he is opposed to “replacing the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Büchel with new atomic warheads,” referring to U.S. plans to deploy new B61-12 weapons sometime after 2022.

Some leaders question the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on German territory.

Open Skies Treaty Pullout An Irresponsible National Security Misstep, Warn Experts and Former Officials

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For Immediate Release: May 21, 2020

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—The Trump administration reportedly will announce that it intends to pull the United States out of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, a valuable arms control and security agreement intended to reduce risks to the United States and its European allies.

“The Open Skies Treaty has helped preserve the post-Cold War peace. It allows the 34 participating nations, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation aircraft over one another’s territory. This helps preserve a measure of transparency and trust, thereby enhancing stability and reducing the risk of conflict,” says Thomas Countryman, the former U.S. acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and now chair of the board of the Arms Control Association.

“A unilateral U.S. exit from Open Skies would undermine our security and that of our European allies, all of whom strongly support the treaty,” Countryman added. “It has the effect—and perhaps this is the intention—of signaling a diminished U.S. commitment to its NATO allies.”

“U.S. and allied treaty flights over Russia provide valuable information about Russian military activities, thereby enhancing stability and reducing the risk of conflict in Europe,” says Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association director for disarmament and threat reduction policy. "The treaty has been an especially important tool in responding to Russia's aggression against Ukraine." 

“There is strong bipartisan support in Congress for maintaining U.S. participation in Open Skies,” Reif notes. “The administration’s announcement of withdrawal is a slap in the face to Congress as it violates notification requirements written into law last year.”

The administration told reporters the formal notification of withdrawal would be effective immediately and the withdrawal itself will take effect in six months. However, such action violates Sec. 1234 of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the administration to notify Congress 120 days ahead of a U.S. notification of an intent to withdraw.

The Trump administration cites Russian noncompliance as a motivating factor for its decision. Disputes have arisen because Russia has imposed a sublimit of 500 kilometers over the Kaliningrad Oblast for treaty flights, refused access to observation flights along its border with the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and denied planned U.S.-Canadian flights over a Russian military exercise in September 2019.

However, Russia recently approved and allowed a joint U.S.-Estonian-Latvian treaty flight over Kaliningrad this year that was not subjected to the earlier Russian restrictions. In addition, Jim Gilmore, U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said March 2 that Russia will no longer raise an “objection” for the United States and its allies to “fly over one of their major exercises.”

As President Reagan’s former Secretary of State, George Shultz, former Senator Sam Nunn, and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry wrote in October 2019 in the Wall Street Journal: “As with any treaty, implementation disputes arise. Current disagreements are related to underlying territorial and political issues between Russia and some of its neighbors. But these problems can be solved through professional, pragmatic diplomacy, not by abandoning treaty commitments.”

“Today’s announcement is part of a troubling pattern. The Open Skies Treaty is not the first, and may not be the last, nuclear or conflict risk reduction agreement this administration has withdrawn from without a viable strategy for replacement,” observes Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“Failure to take up Russia’s offer to extend by five years the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which the administration has threatened to do, would compound the damage and further heighten the risk of unconstrained military and nuclear competition between the United States and Russia at a time when the world can ill afford it,” he warns.

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The treaty allows the 34 participating nations, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation aircraft over one another's territory, helping preserve a measure of transparency and trust and enhancing stability and reducing the risk of conflict.

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European Powers Should Renew Effort to Bring the United States and Iran Back Into Compliance with 2015 Nuclear Deal

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For Immediate Release: Jan. 14, 2020

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

(Washington, D.C.)—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom announced Tuesday that they are triggering the dispute resolution mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal to respond to Iran’s breaches of key nuclear limits.

We urge the three European governments to redouble their efforts to restore full implementation of the nuclear deal by all parties and to prevent the collapse of this effective nonproliferation agreement.

Triggering the dispute resolution mechanism is the latest consequence of the Trump administration’s reckless Iran policy. Iran’s decision to breach limits on its nuclear program put in place by the deal is an unfortunate but unsurprising response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s irresponsible choice in 2018 to reimpose sanctions on Iran in violation of the agreement and his administration’s aggressive campaign to deny Tehran any benefit of remaining in compliance with the accord.

While Iran’s violations of the accord are serious, they are reversible and they do not suggest, as some have alleged, that Iran is dashing to acquire a nuclear bomb.

It is critical that the remaining parties to the JCPOA use the dispute resolution mechanism to restore rather than undermine confidence in the nuclear deal. The effort spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron to return the United States and Iran to compliance with the accord and commit both sides to negotiations on a range of issues, including a long-term framework to guide Iran’s nuclear program, is a pragmatic and viable option that addresses concerns in both Tehran and Washington.

The dispute resolution mechanism is outlined in the main text of the JCPOA (paragraphs 36-37). Any party to the deal can trigger the dispute resolution mechanism to address an allegation of noncompliance with the accord’s obligations.

By triggering the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism, the three European parties to the nuclear deal increase the risk that UN Security Council sanctions on Iran will be reimposed. Snapping back UN sanctions lifted by the JCPOA would collapse the deal and could lead to an unrestrained Iranian nuclear program subject to far less intrusive monitoring than is required under the nuclear agreement. This would create a new nuclear crisis that undermines international security and further increases the risk of war.

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While Iran’s violations of the accord are serious, they are reversible and they do not suggest, as some have alleged, that Iran is dashing to acquire a nuclear bomb.

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France Seeks Dialogue on Post-INF Treaty Arms Control


January/February 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a global U.S.-Russian moratorium on deploying intermediate-range missiles, but emphasized that Paris remains open to dialogue with Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after their meeting in Paris in November 2019. Macron has expressed a desire for European nations to become more involved in nuclear arms control.  (Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images)“We did not accept the moratorium offered by Russia, but we considered that we should not just ignore it because it was open for discussion,” Macron said at a Nov. 28 press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. It is in France’s interest, he said, to discuss such matters of security in a dialogue with Russia. NATO previously rejected Putin’s proposal in September, calling it not “credible.” (See ACT, October 2019.)

Macron also argued that Europe must be involved in any potential agreement that might replace the INF Treaty. “We cannot leave our security into the hands of a bilateral treaty to which no European country would be part of,” Macron stated.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Dec. 4 that Moscow supported Macron’s argument that Europe must be involved in the talks for any replacement arms control agreement. A day later, Putin commented in a meeting with defense officials that, apart from Macron, “[t]here is no response from our other partners. This forces us to take measures to counter these threats.”

At the end of the NATO leaders meeting Dec. 4 in London, the heads of state issued a declaration stating, “We are addressing and will continue to address in a measured and responsible way Russia’s deployment of new intermediate-range missiles, which brought about the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and which pose significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

France Seeks Dialogue on Post-INF Treaty Arms Control

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