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"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
EU / NATO

Listen to our European Partners: Sustain the Nuclear Deal with Iran

Before taking action to undermine or violate the nuclear deal with Iran, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress would be wise to heed the words of Washington’s European partners in the deal, namely that the agreement is working and renegotiation is futile. Ambassador David O’Sullivan of the European Union, Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, and Ambassador Kim Darroch of the United Kingdom, joined forces to deliver these messages at the Atlantic Council Sept. 25 , just three weeks ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline for Trump to issue or withhold a...

REMARKS: Europe’s Push to Preserve the Iran Nuclear Deal


By Ellie Geranmayeh
September 2017 

Over the summer, there has been a re-energized push from the EU high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, and the E3, that is, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, urging the Trump administration to stay on board with the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This is a clear, immediate priority.

The effort comes against the backdrop of not only the two years since the deal’s signing but also the four years of gradual rapprochement between Europe and Iran since 2013 when the nuclear talks intensified under Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani. There has been a gradual normalization between the two sides from political and economic perspectives. Almost all if not all foreign ministers from the 28 members of the European Union have visited Tehran. Mogherini has been to Tehran on several occasions, taking along all of her commissioners to discuss issues from energy to economics to regional conflicts. Europeans are trying to use the JCPOA to open up space to discuss areas not only where there is common interest but also where there are real competition and differences with Iran, most notably in the Middle East where European interests are directly impacted by Iranian actions.

There is a broad convergence between the United States and key European countries regarding threat perceptions on Iran. But the real difference with the Trump administration is, first of all, on what the end goal is with respect to Iran’s behavior. Is it a change in regime behavior, or is it effecting regime change completely? What is the process by which we go about dealing with Iran? With Rouhani winning a second term, there is a government in place that has a constructive attitude toward engaging in diplomacy on areas of difference.

The region right now is very different from 2012, when the Europeans placed their harshest sanctions on Iran’s energy sector. There have been the failures of the Arab Spring, the surge of Islamic State and other extremist groups, and the increasing tension with some traditional regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia. The understanding in Europe is that although there is deep disagreement and deep distrust with Iran, it is no longer possible to ignore the country or to exclude it from discussions. This is a very stark difference from what we see coming out of the Trump administration, most notably at the Riyadh summit where President Donald Trump called on all nations of conscience to isolate Iran.

In the coming months, there is likely to be an uptick in activity by the Europeans on transatlantic coordination on Iran policy. This will include outreach on Capitol Hill and to the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon to outline the European position, to reiterate the consequences of unraveling the deal, and, probably in private, to advise that the Europeans may look to contingency plans and fallback options if the United States unreasonably undermines the deal. There might also be much more coordination than we have seen between the Europeans, the Chinese, and the Russians.

In Washington, there is a lot of talk about co-opting or forcing Europeans to take the same position as the United States. I caution against underestimating the capacity of the Europeans to push back. This is not just about Iran policy. It is also about the idea of protecting international norms, international institutions, and the capacity of multilateral diplomacy to deliver. Given the downturn in U.S.-European relations on issues such as NATO policy and the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal is becoming an important parameter for Europeans on the issue of safeguarding international norms.

We should not underestimate how much of a challenge it will be for the Europeans to put up a tough position against the Trump administration on the Iran deal, but we should not underestimate their capacity to do so at a time when European leaders are being pushed to demonstrate greater responsibility on foreign policy issues.


 

Ellie Geranmayeh is a senior policy fellow for the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations. This piece is adapted from remarks she made during a July 28 press briefing held by the group J Street.

 

REMARKS: Europe’s Push to Preserve the Iran Nuclear Deal

Ukraine, Nuclear Weapons, and Security Assurances at a Glance

Contact: Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

At the time of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine held the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, including an estimated 1,900 strategic warheads, 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and 44 strategic bombers. By 1996, Ukraine had returned all of its nuclear warheads to Russia in exchange for economic aid and security assurances, and in December 1994, Ukraine became a non-nuclear weapon state party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The last strategic nuclear delivery vehicle in Ukraine was eliminated in 2001 under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). It took years of political maneuvering and diplomatic work, starting with the Lisbon Protocol in 1992, to remove the weapons and nuclear infrastructure from Ukraine.

1990 Declaration of Sovereignty

Partly in an effort to gain international recognition, Ukraine’s pre-independence movement supported efforts to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. With its Declaration of Sovereignty on July 16, 1990, Ukraine pledged “not to accept, produce, or acquire nuclear weapons." However, despite this public commitment, Ukrainian politicians were not entirely united by the idea. Some felt that Russia was a still a threat and that they should keep the weapons as a deterrent.

1991 Minsk Agreement on Strategic Forces

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States signed the Minsk Agreement on December 30, 1991, agreeing that the Russian government would be given charge of all nuclear armaments. However, as long as the weapons remained in Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, the governments of those countries would have the right to veto their use. The target date for dismantling the weapons was set for the end of 1994.

1992 Lisbon Protocol

Ukraine signed the Lisbon Protocol on May 23, 1992. The protocol sought to return the nuclear weapons in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to Russia. All states were to join START and the NPT. However, within Ukraine, there was little motion towards the ratification of START, joining the NPT, or overall denuclearization. The protocol required that Ukraine adhere to the NPT as quickly as possible, but it gave the country up to seven years to follow through.

By late 1992, the Ukrainian parliament was vocalizing more pro-nuclear views. Some believed that Ukraine was entitled to at least temporary nuclear weapon status. Perhaps optimistically, the U.S. government promised Ukraine $175 million in dismantlement assistance. Instead, the Ukrainian government began implementing administrative management of the nuclear forces and claimed ownership of the warheads.

In late April 1993, 162 Ukrainian politicians signed a statement to add 13 preconditions for ratification of START, frustrating the ratification process. The preconditions required security assurances from Russia and the United States, foreign aid for dismantlement, and compensation for the nuclear material. Additionally, they stated that Ukraine would dismantle only 36 percent of its delivery vehicles and 42 percent of its warheads, leaving the rest under Ukrainian control. Russia and the United States criticized these demands, but Ukraine did not budge. In May 1993, the United States said that if Ukraine were to ratify START, Washington would provide more financial assistance. This began subsequent discussions between Ukraine, Russia, and the United States over the future of Ukrainian denuclearization.

1993 Massandra Accords

Ukrainian and Russian officials reached a set of agreements, including protocols on nuclear weapons dismantlement, procedure, and terms of compensation. However, the two sides could not agree on the final document, and the summit ultimately failed. 

1994 Trilateral Statement

The Massandra Accords set the stage for the ultimately successful trilateral talks. As the United States mediated between Russia and Ukraine, the three countries signed the Trilateral Statement on January 14, 1994. Ukraine committed to full disarmament, including strategic weapons, in exchange for economic support and security assurances from the United States and Russia. Ukraine agreed to transfer its nuclear warheads to Russia and accepted U.S. assistance in dismantling missiles, bombers, and nuclear infrastructure. Ukraine’s warheads would be dismantled in Russia, and Ukraine would receive compensation for the commercial value of the highly enriched uranium. Ukraine ratified START on February 3, 1994, repealing its earlier preconditions, but it would not accede to the NPT without further security assurances.

1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances

To solidify security commitments to Ukraine, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances on December 5, 1994. A political agreement in accordance with the principles of the Helsinki Accords, the memorandum included security assurances against the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territory or political independence. The countries promised to respect the sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine. Parallel memorandums were signed for Belarus and Kazakhstan as well. In response, Ukraine officially acceded to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state on December 5, 1994. That move met the final condition for ratification of START, and on the same day, the five START states-parties exchange instruments of ratification, bringing the treaty into force.

2009 Joint Declaration by Russia and the United States

Russia and the United States released a joint statement in 2009 confirming that the security assurances made in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum would still be valid after START expired in 2009.

2014 Russian Annexation of Crimea

Following months of political unrest and the abrupt departure of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian troops entered the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine in March 2014. On March 18, over the protests of the acting government in Kiev, the UN Security Council, and Western governments, Russia declared the annexation of Crimea. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine called the action a blatant violation of the security assurances in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. However, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, “the security assurances were given to the legitimate government of Ukraine but not to the forces that came to power following the coup d'etat.”

Timeline

  • July 16, 1990: Ukraine’s Declaration of Sovereignty
  • July 31, 1991: The United States and the Soviet Union sign START
  • Dec. 26, 1991: The Soviet Union officially dissolves, delaying entry into force of START
  • Dec. 30, 1991: Minsk Agreement on Strategic Forces
    • The Commonwealth of Independent States agrees that strategic forces would be under the joint command of the former Soviet Union states
  • May 23, 1992: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the United States sign the Lisbon Protocol
    • The protocol calls for the return of nuclear weapons in three formerly Soviet states to Russia and for all states to be added to the START treaty and join the NPT
  • Jan. 14, 1994: Ukraine, Russia, and the United States sign the Trilateral Statement
    • Ukraine commits to full disarmament, including strategic offensive weapons, in exchange for economic support and security assurances from the United States and Russia
  • Sept. 4, 1993: Massandra Accords
    • Failed summit between Russian and Ukrainian governments
  • Dec. 5, 1994: Russia, Ukraine, United States, and the United Kingdom sign the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances
    • Includes security assurances against the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territory or political independence
  • Dec. 5, 1994: Ukraine submits its instrument of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state
    • The five START parties exchange instruments of ratification for START, which enters into force
  • June 1, 1996: Ukraine transfers its last nuclear warhead to Russia
  • October 30, 2001: Ukraine eliminates its last strategic nuclear weapon delivery vehicle
  • Dec. 4, 2009: Joint Statement by Russia and the United States
    • The two countries confirm the security guarantees made in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum
  • March 18, 2014: Russia annexes the Crimean peninsula

Research by Ashley Luer

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

Country Resources:

Senator Reiterates Support for Iran Nuclear Deal

Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), in keynote remarks yesterday at a Middle East Institute conference on U.S. policy toward Iran, argued the United States should continue upholding the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while also pushing back on Iran for other actions as needed. The Trump administration is currently reviewing its own policy toward Iran, including U.S. participation in the nuclear deal, despite the success of the agreement to date. Coons said the Iran review is being conducted in a “thorough and professional manner” by the National Security...

Senators Fight Cruise Missile Funding

April 2017

Nine Democratic senators, led by Edward Markey (Mass.), are seeking to limit development funding for a nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile known as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon that the Air Force is planning to field by 2030. The missile and its refurbished warhead reportedly will cost $20-30 billion over 20 years to produce, Markey said in a March 8 news release. “Congress shouldn’t fund dangerous new nuclear weapons designed to fight unwinnable nuclear wars,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the legislation that would cap funding for the missile and its warhead at 2017 levels until the Trump administration submits a Nuclear Posture Review report to Congress. Air Force plans call for the procurement of about 1,000 of these missiles to replace the AGM-86B cruise missiles, which have been in use since 1986. Critics say the new weapon is not needed and its ability to carry nuclear or conventional warheads could lead to a cataclysmic error if an adversary mistakes the launch of conventional missiles for nuclear ones. “The new nuclear cruise missile is expensive, redundant, and above all, dangerous,’” warned Tom Collina, director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund on March 8.

Nine Democratic senators are seeking to limit development funding for a nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile known as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon.

Russia: U.S.-Russian Relations and the Future Security of Europe

January/February 2017

By Ulrich Kühn

The incoming Trump administration inherits a U.S.-Russian relationship marked by disagreement and confrontation in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the wars in Syria and Ukraine, the West’s use of economic sanctions, and reciprocal complaints about interferences in domestic affairs. 

The arms control dialogue is stagnating, and the risk of conflict, whether by intent or miscalculation, is growing.

U.S. soldiers participate in a parade on November 23, 2016, in Vilnius, Lithuania, during Iron Sword military exercises. Approximately 4,000 soldiers from NATO countries engaged in the two-week exercises intended to show support for the the three small Baltic states considered at risk from Russia. (Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)From a European perspective, the current confrontation between NATO and Russia and the question of how to preserve the post-Cold War peace in Europe should be a prime concern for the new administration. For President-elect Donald Trump, U.S. commitments to allies might hinge more on transactional considerations than on shared values. That might open up requirements for deeper integration of defense planning and spending among European allies. It also offers the chance for a fresh start on Russia, not in the sense of a bilateral “reset” but in terms of formulating a more focused U.S. strategy toward Russia that recognizes the unpleasant political realities, reminds Moscow of U.S. NATO security guarantees, and avoids possible escalation with Russia.

Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, have each displayed proclivities that could worsen relations between the two nuclear powers. To avert the more dire outcomes, the new administration should start by reassessing the fundamental Russian and U.S. interests in Europe.

Russia Today

Throughout the last 20 years, Russian leaders have made it abundantly clear that they object to NATO enlargement. As far back as 1997, Boris Yeltsin, the first post-Soviet president, warned that “the eastward expansion of NATO is a mistake and a serious one at that.”1 Since 2008, Moscow in addition has made public its claim to “regions in which Russia has privileged interests.”2 Even though the Kremlin has never clearly specified what that means and to which countries it pertains, it would seem to include all non-NATO post-Soviet states.

Combining these two principles, it becomes clear that any enlargement of Western institutions, be it NATO or the European Union, runs counter to Russian interests.

In order to assert its interests, Russia relies on a strategy of creating a “belt of insecurity and instability” along its southwestern periphery.3 What first sounds illogical from a Western perspective, because stability and security are viewed as inherently worthwhile interests, can only be understood by considering the Kremlin’s perspective. The Russian leadership does not see its foreign policy as “revanchist” or seeking to reverse territorial losses, as it is often described in Western accounts. Instead, it sees Russia as a status quo power that always had special interests in the post-Soviet space and the West, above all the United States, as a status quo challenger.

From Moscow’s viewpoint, Russia is therefore in a defensive position, forced into a constant battle by the West, which relentlessly seeks to expand its influence through NATO and EU enlargement and the export of Western cultural, normative, and informational policies. This battle is all the more threatening because the Russian leadership is well aware that the West has the greater resources and because it is frantically trying to avoid complete international isolation.4

The Russian leadership fights this battle in two geographic theaters and with different means. The first is the post-Soviet space. Here, the Kremlin is only in a stronger position versus the West if it employs force as it did in Georgia in 2008, Crimea in 2014, and in eastern Ukraine currently. All three cases are forms of direct coercion that are also aimed at deterring other post-Soviet states from drifting toward the West.

In the second theater, comprised of NATO member states, Russia is very much disadvantaged. Because of its comparative weakness, Moscow uses the tactics of cross-domain coercion5 and asymmetric responses below the level of open kinetic hostilities. Cross-domain coercion means that the Kremlin extends its struggle to all possible domains with the aim of dragging the West into a constant low-level conflict in the hope of manipulating its calculus toward accepting Russia’s claims, a tactic also known as “coercive gradualism.”6 This includes frequent NATO airspace violations, close military encounters over the Baltic and Black seas, cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, and support and financing of populist movements in NATO states.

It is here that the nuclear dimension—basically the only dimension where Russia matches the United States—comes into play. Regular instances of Russian nuclear signaling toward Washington and individual NATO member states have accompanied and aggravated the ongoing conflict. Reminders that Russia could turn the United States “into radioactive ash,”7 Putin allegedly pondering putting nuclear weapons on alert during the Crimea takeover,8 the deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, large-scale conventional maneuvers that end with a simulated nuclear strike,9 and the alleged testing and production of a ground-launched cruise missile within ranges forbidden by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty are all aimed at unsettling NATO member states and creating the image of a reckless and unpredictable Russia that one should “best not mess with.”10

Military Balance

NATO member states and the U.S. strategic community are not unified in their assessment of the nature and purview of Russian interests. Is the Kremlin trying to militarily roll back U.S. influence, even in NATO member states? Much depends on what answer is formulated to this question, particularly regarding NATO’s most vulnerable members, the Baltic states.

The Obama administration answered that question by inference and opted to reassure the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—and Poland by low-key military commitments. As part of the European Reassurance Initiative, Washington is in the process of sending one armored brigade combat team of 4,000-5,000 personnel to rotate continuously through eastern Europe, prepositioning additional war-fighting equipment in western Europe, and improving air fields and bases. In addition, U.S. forces will lead a multinational battalion of approximately 1,000 personnel in northeast Poland.

Those measures can hardly be viewed as threatening Russia’s conventional regional superiority in its vast Western Military District, where some 300,000 military personnel are deployed, or as a serious attempt at deterrence by denial. Yet, if the Trump administration comes to a different assessment or if Russia were to increase its conventional forces along the Baltic borders, Washington would basically have to multiply its current military commitment or push allies to step in on behalf of the United States. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech on July 26, 2015, during celebrations for Navy Day in Baltiysk in the Kaliningrad region, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea between NATO members Poland and Lithuania. (Photo credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images)Russia has largely remained silent about its intentions. The Kremlin reaps benefits from confronting NATO with uncertainty. Even so, some of the facts on the ground are quite revealing. The provocative announcement by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that three new divisions would be formed “to counter the growing capacity of NATO forces”11 was actually a reorganization, which represented a certain reversal of Russian military reforms. Those three new divisions will merge already existing and deployed brigades and will be stationed around Ukraine.12 The reshufflings mean that the Russian General Staff deems the scenario of a midsized conventional war possible and that its theater could be Ukraine. For the time being, it does not mean that Russia is preparing for a war against the Baltic states, as some U.S. experts suggest.13

One of NATO’s concerns is securing supply routes in times of an imminent threat. Even though the three Baltic states and Poland have just started the process of connecting their countries with a uniform railway system, NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, as well as additional military equipment, would have to be transported by air or shipped by sea during the coming years.

Complicating the situation, Russia has increasingly invested in a sophisticated network of “anti-access/area denial” (A2/AD) deployments, causing concern that Moscow could block sea and air routes.14 Because NATO officials are taking the Russian A2/AD capability seriously, Poland ordered 40 highly capable, stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) for its F-16 fighter-jet fleet and is reportedly in the process of purchasing 70 JASSM cruise missiles with extended ranges of more than 900 kilometers.15 Those missiles can be considered a significant improvement in NATO’s overall capabilities to hold Russian A2/AD assets at risk. 

The Russian A2/AD deployments notably are not aimed exclusively at suppressing NATO supply routes. They also serve the legitimate Russian interest of defending Kaliningrad, Russia’s enclave on the Baltic Sea, in a scenario where NATO would be the attacker.

The United States faces the question of how to deal with Russia’s nuclear signaling. Some U.S. experts continue to urge NATO to answer the Russian actions.16 They refer to the alleged Russian doctrine of “escalate to de-escalate,” meaning that Russia could employ limited tactical nuclear weapons strikes in order to signal resolve in a conventional confrontation. Their concern is that Russia could present NATO with a fait accompli that the alliance, even if it desired, could not counter. 

In order to “close the credibility gap,”17 they call on NATO to increase the readiness levels of its forward-deployed nuclear assets in Europe, begin integrating conventional and nuclear forces in its exercises again, and further strengthen its declaratory nuclear policy. In fact, the United States is already spending large amounts to increase the perceived utility of its nonstrategic nuclear forces based in Europe through development of a modernized gravity bomb and modernized aircraft to deliver it. 

Calling on NATO to close the credibility gap appears to be an echo of the Cold War debate about Soviet attempts to decouple Western Europe from U.S. nuclear guarantees. For the time being, however, it seems that Moscow is much more convinced by U.S. guarantees than are some Western strategists. Further, there is not much in terms of official Russian documents, posture, or exercises that support the hypothesis of a Russian escalate to de-escalate doctrine confined to Europe.18 In fact, most of the more recent Russian maneuvers end with a simulated strategic nuclear strike.19 The Russian silence about the alleged doctrine appears to signal first and foremost unpredictability, which would fit into the general pattern of ambiguous behavior. 

The new U.S. administration must also consider how much control of the post-Soviet space matters to essential U.S. interests. The outgoing administration did not bow to calls20 for arming Ukraine. Instead, it ceded the diplomatic initiative to Germany and France and pushed the EU to join sanctions on Russia. This policy has harmed the Russian economy and resulted in a protracted, low-level conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Washington is basically confronted with a formidable dilemma. The United States has to try to dissuade Russia from further violating the post-Cold War European security order and to ensure that every country has the sovereign right to choose its economic, political, and military arrangements. Yet, U.S. leverage is limited, and the Kremlin has already de facto achieved its main goal, that is, a halt to further NATO/EU enlargement into the post-Soviet space.

Revisiting the issue of arming Ukraine might make matters worse. Moscow has proven its determination to go to great lengths to prevent Ukraine from regaining control over the Donbas region. Although it could provide more lethal weapons to Kiev, the United States would be likely to end up in a proxy war with Russia, a scenario where Moscow’s incentive to prevail would exceed Washington’s. Moreover, the people of Ukraine would pay most of the humanitarian costs of a full-fledged war with Russia, and the already struggling EU could be confronted with yet another wave of refugees.

Trump’s Conundrum

Trump’s remarks during the U.S. political campaign provide some clues about the new president’s thinking. For instance, he has conditioned U.S. defense of its major allies,21 saying other NATO members must pay more toward their own defense. More unnerving for most European leaders and U.S. foreign policy experts, he has praised Putin’s leadership qualities and even implied recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.22

A Polish Army soldier sits in a tank as a NATO flag flies behind during exercises of the alliance’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force on June 18, 2015 in Zagan, Poland. The task force is NATO’s response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Troops from Germany, Norway, Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Belgium took part. (Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)Although it is too soon to know how the Trump administration will approach Russia and Europe, it is possible to identify challenges he will encounter and offer recommendations on how to meet them.

As some of his remarks suggest, Trump could end up giving the Kremlin what it wants, that is a bilateral modus vivendi of noninterference in the mutual spheres of privileged interest, meaning NATO territory here and the post-Soviet space there, while pressuring NATO allies to pay more of the defense burden. This is highly problematic for NATO member states and for some members of the U.S. Republican establishment for a number of reasons.

•   Further accommodating Russia might be perceived in Russia and other states as rewarding international aggression. The Kremlin could misread any such decision as a sign of U.S. weakness and an opportunity to exert more military pressure.

•   The consensus among U.S. policy-makers and particularly Republican-leaning experts is that the United States is militarily superior to Russia, although some argue that gap is closing, and that concessions should not be granted to a weaker opponent, in particular when that opponent is actively challenging U.S. interests.

•   The U.S. conservative political establishment still has a strong, albeit inconsistent, sense of mission when it comes to the promotion of democracy and the rule of law, and Russia has emerged as one of the most vocal challengers of such “Western values.” 

•   Any such understanding would risk alienating European NATO members that feel most threatened by Moscow, potentially splitting the alliance. 

•   Further, a European settlement on Russian terms, in combination with conditioning U.S. defense commitments, may create negative ripple effects in other parts of the world, most obviously in Northeast Asia, where U.S. allies could start fundamentally questioning U.S. extended deterrence guarantees.

Alternatively, Trump, heeding advice from Republican foreign policy hawks, could decide to show he can drive a harder bargain than his predecessor, President Barack Obama.Trump’s latest remarks about his readiness to engage in nuclear arms races could point in that direction.23 In that case, U.S. pushback against Russia could entail regular U.S. exercises close to Russian airspace, more explicit threats of U.S. nuclear weapons use, cyberattacks against Russian infrastructure, and the unilateral abrogation of arms control agreements such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the INF Treaty, or the NATO-Russia Founding Act, the 1997 political accord that conditionally bars the permanent deployment of substantial NATO combat forces to central and eastern Europe.

Such actions would present problems not only to Russia but also to Washington and its NATO allies.

•   Given Trump’s past erratic comments and the fact that the United States already has the most powerful military in the world, Moscow might feel very much threatened. It could prompt Russia to backpedal in order to de-escalate. Alternatively, the Kremlin may misperceive those signals as signs of U.S. offensive intentions and take countermeasures. Russia could even double down, resulting in a risky security dilemma that would be almost impossible to manage.

•   NATO member states might disagree on the logic and expected payoff of such a strategy, creating a schism that threatens alliance coherence.

•   Loose nuclear talk would undermine long-standing principles and norms of international conduct and thus create negative ripple effects beyond the immediate U.S.-Russian relationship, damaging the international reputation of the United States.

There is the possibility that not much changes in U.S.-Russian relations, particularly given Trump’s predisposition to “make America great again” by focusing attention and resources on domestic problems. In that case, the administration would be well advised to prioritize its responses in Europe. Paramount priority must be given to the safety and security of NATO member states and making sure that NATO maintains a unified position. Protecting Ukraine is a related but subordinate interest and should be handled in close coordination with European allies.

Recommendations 

The best way to deal with Russia is to remain calm and patient. In this regard, a good personal relationship between Trump and Putin might be helpful. Washington has already underscored its commitment to NATO’s easternmost members. It should continue to do so through regular and visible high-level visits, consultations, and affirmations of U.S. commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense provision. 

If the Trump administration feels that some allies are not meeting their defense spending obligations, it should seek ways to encourage deeper military integration, cooperation, and defense planning among European NATO members. In addition, Washington could consider prepositioning additional military equipment in western Europe.

The Trump administration should be ready to publicly denounce Russian nuclear signaling and intimidation attempts whenever they occur. Washington should seek the broadest international support possible for doing so.

As a matter of high priority, Washington should focus on conflict management with the aim of preventing inadvertent or accidental escalation, in particular because Russia is employing high-risk tactics. If the ongoing NATO-Russian talks on military incidents are not yielding tangible results, Washington should seek direct talks with the aim of reinvigorating, modernizing, and perhaps multilateralizing earlier Cold War bilateral agreements.24

Given the high probability of misperceptions and misunderstandings and the Russian strategy of drawing NATO ever deeper into a nonkinetic conflict, Washington should exercise restraint. If Russia is not significantly increasing its military presence along the Baltic borders or the Black Sea periphery of NATO, Washington should not give it an excuse to do so. Instead, it should invest more time in diplomatic efforts to assure allies and lower tensions with Russia.

The United States should leave NATO’s nuclear component untouched, avoid too much declaratory drivel, and leave the Russians in the dark instead.

The United States should not arm Ukraine. Russia will be able to counter militarily almost every step taken. Instead, Washington and its allies should provide Kiev with much more economic support. The gravest political threat to the current leadership in the Kremlin is a prosperous and economically thriving Ukraine.

A cost-saving approach to defense lies in the realm of resilience. Washington should do everything possible to strengthen the resilience of the Baltic states. An eastern Ukraine-like scenario is only likely if their Russian minorities feel deeply disenfranchised or alienated. The United States therefore should keep a close watch on the state of educational, language, cultural, informational, anti-corruption, policing, and rule of law policies and should offer its help in a proactive manner.

On the sanctions policy, Washington should ensure the EU keeps firm because this is one of the only real forms of leverage the West possesses. 

Bilateral Arms Control

All this does not bode well for the bilateral arms control agenda. Arms control policies are built on certain recognition that preserving the status quo is beneficial. The United States and Russia, however, view each other at present as challenging the status quo.

The fact that Russia reaps benefits from its unpredictable behavior makes it necessary to change the Russian calculus so that Moscow views the gains from cooperation as outweighing those from confrontation. Yet, that would mean that Washington would have to be willing to offer something significant that goes beyond the immediate arms control goals of predictability, stability, and transparency.

U.S. sailors salute during the inauguration ceremony for the U.S. anti-missile station Aegis Ashore Romania (in the background) at the military base in Deveselu, Romania on May 12, 2016. Aegis Ashore, staffed by U.S. naval personnel, is the land-based version of the ship-based Aegis ballistic missile defense system. (Photo credit: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)An unofficial recognition of spheres of privileged interest, together with a more respectful relationship under Trump, could be something that interests Putin. Nevertheless, the widely shared disdain for arms control among many Republican policymakers would certainly work against a serious U.S. arms control push.

One of the true concerns of the Russian military is the conventional superiority of the combined forces of NATO. In turn, the regional Russian superiority in eastern Europe, particularly vis-à-vis the Baltic states, is a concern in Washington and at NATO headquarters in Brussels. At the sub-regional level, Russia is concerned about the security of Kaliningrad. This Matryoshka doll-like situation offers at least the theoretical possibility of a quid pro quo arrangement for the wider Baltic region with mutual geographical limitations on manpower, equipment, and reinforcement capabilities, coupled with intrusive and verifiable transparency measures.25 

Another issue Washington should explore is Russia’s alleged breach of the INF Treaty. Since 2014, the U.S. government has accused Russia of violating the treaty by flight-testing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.26 Meanwhile, a U.S. report claimed that “Russia is producing more missiles than are needed to sustain a flight-test program,”suggesting that deployment may be imminent.27

Russia tabled a number of countercharges, among which was the claim that the U.S.-led Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense launchers being deployed in eastern Europe had been tested with systems banned under the INF Treaty, suggesting that Aegis Ashore could be used for offensive purposes. The scenario of a decapitating strike seems to rank quite prominently among Russian concerns.28

Much depends on Russian intentions. The agreement to address compliance issues by convening the INF Treaty’s Special Verification Commission in November for the first time in 13 years was a positive development. Yet if Moscow continues down the current path of producing and perhaps deploying new INF Treaty-range weapons, Europe risks entering a new Cold War “Euromissiles” crisis, awakening some of the turmoil encountered during the 1970s and 1980s.

If the Russian rationale is really based on fear of a decapitating strike, U.S. officials could consider options to reassure Moscow about the Aegis Ashore launchers deployed in Romania, such as technical consultations and site visits, demonstrating to Russian experts that the United States is ready to undergo hardware changes that make it technically impossible for these launchers to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles.

If much of Russia’s concern stems from third-country nuclear and conventional missiles within the INF Treaty range (e.g., China’s capabilities), Washington and Moscow can consider reviving a 2007 UN General Assembly initiative put forward by Russia and supported by the United States that called for a multilateralization of the INF Treaty. Putin’s latest remarks seem to point in that direction.29 In this way, both sides could take account of emerging technologies and the changing geopolitical landscape, which no longer may be resolved in the traditional bilateral manner.

Either approach would require both sides to pursue a face-saving solution. A grimmer scenario has both sides finding powerful incentives to walk away from the INF Treaty. Trump adviser and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who was among the candidates for secretary of state, has advocated withdrawal from the INF Treaty, referring to states such as China, Iran, and North Korea, which “face no limits on developing intermediate-range weapons.”30

Even though both sides can extend New START for another five years, the U.S. Senate will most likely not give its advice and consent to any follow-on agreement absent a resolution of the INF Treaty issue. The Trump administration might even use Russian noncompliance and nuclear modernizations as reasons to opt out of New START implementation. Moscow might be ready to go down that road as well.

A follow-on agreement to New START is important, particularly in order to understand both sides’ nuclear modernization activities, to preserve transparency, to prevent backsliding into arms race instability, and to convince non-nuclear powers that Russia and the United States take seriously their nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations to pursue nuclear disarmament.

Washington and its European allies will need to remind Moscow that, without INF Treaty compliance, further strategic nuclear dialogue and a New START follow-on may be impossible, closing off Russia’s most productive path toward preserving its influence and enhancing its security.

Therefore, the new U.S. administration should engage with Moscow as early as possible on arms control issues. It needs to remind the Kremlin that respect for Russia will be influenced by Russia’s respect for mutual security. It also needs to remember that existing problems will not go away by acting as if arms control talks are a reward for Russia. The reality is just the opposite: arms control talks are in the genuine national interest of all parties—the United States, Russia, and the international community.

ENDNOTES

1.   Thomas W. Lippman, “Clinton, Yeltsin Agree on Arms Cuts and NATO,” The Washington Post, March 22, 1997.

2.   Charles Clover, “Russia Announces ‘Spheres of Interest,’” Financial Times, August 31, 2008.

3.   This belt stretches from the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, which Russia fuels and manages at the same time through arms sales and political pressure; along the protracted, open conflicts in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova; over the pro-Russian, authoritarian-ruled Belarus; and up to the Baltic states, Poland, and the Scandinavian countries, the latter of which Russia has also repeatedly intimidated throughout the last two years.

4.    President of Russia, “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,” October 27, 2016, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53151.

5.   Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky, “Cross-Domain Coercion: The Current Russian Art of Strategy,” Proliferation Papers, No. 54 (November 2015), https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/pp54adamsky.pdf.

6.   William G. Pierce, Douglas G. Douds, and Michael A. Marra, “Understanding Coercive Gradualism,” Parameters, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Autumn 2015): 51-61.

7.   Lidia Kelly, “Russia Can Turn U.S. to Radioactive Ash - Kremlin-Backed Journalist,” Reuters, March 16, 2014.

8.   Adam Withnall, “Vladimir Putin Says Russia Was Preparing to Use Nuclear Weapons ‘If Necessary’ and Blames U.S. for Ukraine Crisis,” The Independent, March 15, 2015.

9.   The end of the most recent Kavkaz (South) 2016 exercise coincided with the Russian military test-firing a modernized Topol intercontinental ballistic missile. Pavel Felgenhauer, “Russian Military Resists Proposed Budget Cuts, Prepares for Major Ground War,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, September 15, 2016, https://jamestown.org/program/russian-military-resists-proposed-budget-cuts-prepares-for-major-ground-war/#sthash.Jmzv79tt.dpuf.

10.   Alexei Anishchuk, “Don’t Mess With Nuclear Russia, Putin Says,” Reuters, August 29, 2014.

11.   Dmitry Solovyov and Lidia Kelly, “Russia Warns of Retaliation as NATO Plans More Deployments in Eastern Europe,” Reuters, May 4, 2016.

12.   Anna Maria Dyner, “Russia Beefs Up Military Potential in the Country’s Western Areas,” PISM Bulletin, No. 35 (885) (June 13, 2016), http://www.pism.pl/publications/bulletin/no-35-885.

13.   Elbridge Colby and Jonathan Solomon, “For Peace With Russia, Prepare for War in Europe: NATO and Conventional Deterrence,” War on the Rocks, April 20, 2016, http://warontherocks.com/2016/04/for-peace-with-russia-prepare-for-war-in-europe-nato-and-conventional-deterrence/.

14.   Giulia Paravicini, “New Chess Game Between West and Russia,” Politico, July 1, 2016, http://www.politico.eu/article/natos-struggle-to-close-defence-gaps-against-russia-a2ad/.

15.   Ben Judson, “Poland Wants Extended-Range JASSM Missiles,” Defense News, November 29, 2016. http://www.defensenews.com/articles/poland-wants-extended-range-jassm-missiles.

16.   Matthew Kroenig, “Facing Reality: Getting NATO Ready for a New Cold War,” Survival, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2015): 49-70.

17.    Jacek Durkalec and Matthew Kroenig, “NATO’s Nuclear Deterrence: Closing Credibility Gaps,” The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (2016): 37-50.

18.   Olga Oliker has illustrated that in a very detailed and convincing study. Olga Oliker, “Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine: What We Know, What We Don’t, and What That Means,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2016, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/160504_Oliker_RussiasNuclearDoctrine_Web.pdf.

19.   Felgenhauer, “Russian Military Resists Proposed Budget Cuts, Prepares for Major Ground War.”

20.   Ivo Daalder et al., “Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do,” Atlantic Council of the United States, February 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/UkraineReport_February2015_FINAL.pdf.

21.   Maggie Haberman and David E. Sanger, “Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views,” The New York Times, March 26, 2016.

22.   Nick Gass, “Trump Tries to Clean Up on Crimea,” Politico, August 1, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/trump-clarifies-crimea-ukraine-226497.

23.   Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger, “Trump Says U.S. Would ‘Outmatch’ Rivals in a New Nuclear Arms Race,” The New York Times, December 23, 2016.

24.   Among those could be the 1972 agreement on the prevention of incidents on and over the high seas and the 1989 agreement on the prevention of dangerous military activities. For the recommendations of the Deep Cuts Commission on the creation of a Joint Military Incident Prevention and Communications Cell with a direct telephone link to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian General Staff, and SHAPE, see Deep Cuts Commission, “Back From the Brink: Toward Restraint and Dialogue Between Russia and the West,” Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, June 2016, p. 17, http://deepcuts.org/images/PDF/Third_Report_of_the_Deep_Cuts_Commission_English.pdf.

25.   I am grateful to Josh Pollack for the Matryoshka doll metaphor.

26.   Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, U.S. Department of State, “2016 Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” April 11, 2016, http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/rpt/2016/255651.htm.

27.   Michael R. Gordon, “Russia Is Moving Ahead With Missile Program That Violates Treaty, U.S. Officials Say,” The New York Times, October 19, 2016.

28.   Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Comment by the Information and Press Department on the U.S. Department of State’s Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” April 15, 2016, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2237950

29.   President of Russia, “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.”

30.   John R. Bolton and John Yoo, “An Obsolete Nuclear Treaty Even Before Russia Cheated,” The Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2014.


Ulrich Kühn is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, a fellow with the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, and founder and a permanent member of the Deep Cuts Commission.

The arms control dialogue between Russia and the United States is stagnating, and the risk of conflict, whether by intent or miscalculation, is growing.

Europeans Seek Conventional Arms Talks

January/February 2017

By Kingston Reif

Fifteen countries in Europe are calling for a “relaunch of conventional arms control” negotiations with Russia amid concerns about the deteriorating security situation in their region due to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

In a joint statement Nov. 25, the foreign ministers of the 15 nations said that the existing pillars of the European conventional arms control architecture, namely the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the 2011 Vienna Document, and the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, are “crumbling” and “need to be strengthened.” They cited “an urgent need to re-establish strategic stability, restraint, predictability and verifiable transparency and to reduce military risks” and urged “a structured dialogue on conventional arms control in Europe.”

Foreign ministers attending a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe December 8-9, 2016, in Hamburg, Germany, called for “creating an environment conducive to reinvigorating conventional arms control.” (Photo credit: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)The ministers said that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should be a “central forum for such a dialogue.” The 57-member OSCE works to facilitate a comprehensive approach to European security.

The countries that joined the statement are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. All are OSCE members. 

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier first floated the proposal in a Project Syndicate op-ed on Aug. 26, citing “new and deep rifts” between Russia and Western nations that would likely endure for the near future. Further, he warned of a “new arms race” in Europe due to developing technologies such as offensive cybercapabilities and “new combat scenarios” such as smaller, more mobile fighting units that “are not covered” by existing arms control regimes.

Steinmeier said that a new arms control dialogue should address regional military force ceilings and transparency measures; take into account new military capabilities and strategies, including smaller, mobile units; include new weapons systems, such as drones; permit effective verification in times of crisis; and be applicable where territorial status is disputed. 

Steinmeier conceded that such an undertaking might not succeed “at a time when world order is eroding and relations with Russia are strained” but that “it would be irresponsible not to try.” 

Germany served as chair of the OSCE in 2016. Austria is the chair in 2017, as the position rotates annually. 

The initial U.S. reaction was lukewarm. Bruce Turner, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, said that Russia’s ongoing challenge to the core tenets of European security “make contemplation of a new arms control agreement in Europe difficult” in remarks in October at an OSCE conference in Vienna.

Instead, the United States “believes that it makes more sense to work to preserve, strengthen, and modernize our existing agreements, and begin a dialogue on our security concerns” in the OSCE, said Turner, who handles European security, technology, and implementation in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. Turner cited as a key U.S. goal modernizing the Vienna Document, a set of politically binding confidence- and security-building measures designed to increase openness and transparency concerning military activities conducted by OSCE members.

Russia has taken a wait-and-see approach. In a speech at the United Nations in October, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the nonproliferation and arms control department in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Steinmeier’s proposal “merits thorough analysis.”

“We will see how Germany’s NATO allies will respond to this initiative,” he added. 

In a Dec. 24 email to Arms Control Today, Ulrich Kühn, a fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said the future of the 15-nation initiative is uncertain, citing the transition to a new administration in the United States, Austria’s assumption of the OSCE chairmanship, and the fact that Steinmeier soon will be leaving his foreign minister post.

At the OSCE ministerial meeting in Hamburg on Dec. 8-9, the 57 participating states issued a statement declaring that they “will work towards creating an environment conducive to reinvigorating conventional arms control” and confidence- and security-building measures in Europe.

Germany’s foreign minister cites the risk of a “new arms race” in Europe.

NATO Highlights Role of Nuclear Weapons

September 2016

By Kingston Reif

Leaders of the 28 member countries of NATO strongly criticized Russian nuclear behavior and reaffirmed the security role played by U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe at their July 8-9 summit meeting in Warsaw, Poland. The sections of the alliance statement, or communiqué, devoted to nuclear weapons are nearly three times as long as those issued at the 2014 summit in the United Kingdom. (See ACT, October 2014.

In Warsaw, NATO leaders characterized as “destabilizing” Russia’s “irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture.” Alliance officials have expressed concern over the past two years about Russian actions such as more nuclear bomber flights close to the borders of alliance members, more nuclear exercises, and nuclear threats directed at NATO members. (See ACT, November 2015.)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses press following the meeting on Afghanistan with Resolute Support Operational Partner Nations at the level of heads of state and government in Warsaw on July 6, 2016.[Photo credit: NATO]

The communiqué explicitly states that NATO’s deterrence posture “relies, in part, on the United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and on capabilities and infrastructure provided by allies concerned.” This language is a significant departure from the 2014 communiqué and the alliance’s 2012 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review report, neither of which explicitly referred to the need for U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. 

In addition, NATO countries stated in Warsaw that “[a]ny employment of nuclear weapons against NATO would fundamentally alter the nature of a conflict” and warned that “NATO has the capabilities and resolve to impose costs on an adversary that would be unacceptable.” The 2014 communiqué did not include these declarations.

Alliance members reiterated their desire to reduce the number of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe and the role of nuclear weapons in alliance strategy. But the communiqué expressed “regret that the conditions for achieving disarmament are not favorable today.” The United States is thought to deploy approximately 200 tactical B61 gravity bombs in Europe in support of NATO. 

Despite speculation ahead of the Warsaw meeting that the alliance might make changes to NATO’s nuclear posture, such as increasing the readiness level of alliance nuclear forces, there is nothing specific in the communiqué about readiness. (See ACT, January/February 2016.

The alliance also announced in Warsaw that its missile defense system had achieved an “initial operational capability.” The communiqué said the activation of the missile defense site in Romania in May and the transfer of the command and control of the site to NATO is “a new milestone” in the development of NATO’s missile defense plan that “offers a stronger capability to defend” NATO members in southern Europe. (See ACT, June 2016.) Russian President Vladimir Putin asserts that the missile defense system threatens his country, despite U.S. assurances to the contrary.

Leaders of the 28 member countries of NATO strongly criticized Russian nuclear behavior and reaffirmed the security role played by U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe...

NATO’s Missile Defense Plan Must Adapt to the Real World

This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill. One of the biggest challenges for NATO at its July 8-9 summit will be to adopt measures that reassure allies in the face of Russian intimidation without provoking an escalation in already high tensions between Russia and the West. Given that missile defense has been a driver of tensions between Moscow and Washington since Ronald Reagan launched his Star Wars plan to render ballistic missiles “impotent and obsolete,” one of the best ways to achieve reassurance and avoid provocation would be to alter the existing timetable for deploying more capable...

New Report Calls for Russia and the West to Move Back from the Brink

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For Immediate Release: June 21, 2016

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104; Ulrich Kuehn, Researcher, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg, +49 (1) 76 811219 75

(Mosow, Berlin, Washington)—A new report from a high-level group of international security experts from Russia, the United States, and Germany recommends that the West and Russia build on a number of existing arms control and confidence-building measures in order to avoid further exacerbation of the increasingly tense and dangerous relationship between Russia and the West, particularly along the border between Russia and NATO member states.

The third report of the Deep Cuts Commission describes 15 key recommendations to help address the most acute security concerns in Europe—particularly in the Baltic area—and increase U.S.-Russian nuclear transparency and predictability.

“The prime objective for the next few years should be limiting the potential for dangerous military incidents that can escalate out of control,” the authors argue. “Russia and the West must come back from the brink. They need to better manage their conflictual relationship. Restraint and dialogue are now needed more than ever,” they write.

The Commission’s recommendations include:

    • In order to reduce current security concerns in the Baltic area, NATO and Russia should initiate a dialogue on possible mutual restraint measures. All states should adhere to the NATO-Russia Founding Act. A NATO-Russia dialogue should aim at increasing the security of all states in the Baltic area by encompassing reciprocal and verifiable commitments. A sub-regional arms control regime could consist of interlocking elements such as restraint commitments, limitations, CSBMs, and a sub-regional Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.
    • In light of the increasing dangers of military incidents between Russia, the United States and other NATO member states, the United States and Russia should revive a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction measures, capable of addressing risks posed by different sorts of emergencies in near real-time. The United States and Russia could consider creating a Joint Military Incident Prevention and Communications Cell with a direct telephone link between the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian General Staff, and NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Such a cell could be linked to or established in parallel with a new European Risk Reduction Center.
    • States-parties to the Treaty on Open Skies should pay more attention to the continued operation of Open Skies. They should strengthen its operation by devoting equal resources to upgrading observation equipment.
    • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating States should consider measures to give effect to the principle of non-intervention into internal affairs. For this purpose, the OSCE could set up a commission which would carefully look into the issue from a legal point of view and explore possibilities for a new OSCE states-based mechanism. Beyond, OSCE participating States should prepare for a long-term endeavor leading to a Helsinki-like conference with the aim of reinvigorating and strengthening Europe’s guiding security principles.
    • The United States and Russia should commit to attempting to resolve each other’s compliance concerns with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by supplementing ongoing diplomatic dialogue with technical expertise, either by convening the Special Verification Commission or a separate bilateral experts group mandated to appropriately address all relevant treaty-related compliance concerns. Further on, the United States and Russia should address the issue of supplementing the treaty by taking account of technological and political developments that have occurred since the treaty’s entry into force.
    • The United States and Russia should address the destabilizing effects of nuclear-armed cruise missile proliferation by agreeing on specific confidence-building measures. Together with other nations, they should address the challenges of horizontal cruise missile proliferation by reinforcing the relevant Missile Technology Control Regime’s restrictions and by endorsing the inclusion of land-attack cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles/unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UAVs/UCAVs) in the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
    • Moscow and Washington should exercise restraint in Russian and U.S. nuclear force modernization programs, remaining within the New START limits and acting consistent with the intent of the treaty. The United States should forego development of the LRSO and Russia should reciprocate by phasing-out of new nuclear-armed ALCMs. The United States should show restraint in ballistic missile deployments consistent with its policy of defending against limited threats. NATO should follow through on its commitment to adapt its ballistic missile deployments in accordance with reductions in the ballistic missile proliferation threats.

    • Russia and the United States should work toward early discussions on a possible follow-on strategic arms reduction treaty. They should be able to envision reductions to a level of 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles and 1,000 deployed strategic warheads during the next decade. These discussions should explore options for exchanging measures of reciprocal restraint and seek to address other issues of mutual concern under a combined umbrella discussion of strategic stability.

Beyond these recommendations, the experts identify a number of additional measures which could foster confidence in and maintain focus on the goal of further nuclear disarmament.

The complete report is available online.

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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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The West and Russia need to build on existing arms control measures to avoid exacerbation of the increasingly tense relationship between them, according to a group of international security experts.

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