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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
EU / NATO

EU Options May Fall Short for Iran Deal


May 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

As U.S. President Donald Trump threatens to break from the Iran nuclear deal, European officials are considering options to try to sustain the international agreement, an effort that some concede is unlikely to succeed.

Trump threatened in January to withhold waivers necessary to continue the sanctions relief granted under the deal unless France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, known collectively as the E3, reach an agreement with the U.S. administration to address what the president calls “flaws” in the nuclear accord by the May 12 waiver deadline. (See ACT, March 2018.)

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump watch a military review at the White House on April 24. During his three-day state visit, Macron pressed Trump to maintain the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)Since the January ultimatum, the E3 has been negotiating with the United States to reach an agreement that would satisfy Trump but not violate the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during separate visits to Washington in late April, each urged Trump to remain in the deal. Macron said there is no “plan B” alternative and Washington should remain in the agreement.

Despite Macron’s comments, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said the European Union is considering what steps can be taken to maintain the nuclear accord if the United States reimposes sanctions or pulls out of the deal. Mogherini headed the P5+1 group (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the United States) that negotiated with Iran.

It is not clear whether the EU will be able to agree on measures to protect its banks and businesses from any reimposed U.S. sanctions. Even if the EU pursues these options, it is not clear they will provide enough economic incentives for Iran to stay in the deal.

The waivers that expire May 12 are tied to provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 that require countries purchasing oil from Iran to significantly reduce purchases every 180 days or face U.S. sanctions, which include cutting off from the U.S. financial system banks processing such transactions. Even if Trump takes the position that the United States will not immediately enforce the sanctions, countries such as China, India, Japan, and South Korea will have to begin planning to purchase less Iranian oil in anticipation of when the United States does begin to enforce the measures.

The EU is also a major purchaser of Iranian oil, and despite its commitment to stand by the deal, the measures available are unlikely to give European businesses and banks confidence that they can conduct legitimate transactions with Iran without the risk of being cut off from the U.S. financial system.

The EU can issue a blocking regulation, which would shield EU companies from U.S. extraterritorial measures, or try and set up dedicated channels to do business with Iran that are insulated from the U.S. financial system. The EU has used the blocking regulation in the past to protect against U.S. sanctions but in conjunction with a commitment from the United States not to pursue penalties against European businesses. Given Trump’s track record of trying to persuade entities to refrain from business with Iran, it is unlikely that such a guarantee would be issued.

Implementing the blocking regulation would also require consensus approval by the 28 EU states, some of which currently oppose the move because it is unlikely to be successful and risks aggravating the economic rift between the United States and the EU.

An official from one of the E3 states told Arms Control Today on April 18 that no company or bank will want to be the “first test case” and risk being cut off from the U.S. financial system. He said the best chance to sustain the deal is to reach an arrangement that addresses Trump’s concerns without violating the agreement, but he said he is increasingly pessimistic that the E3 and Iran can reach an arrangement by May 12 that Trump will accept.

U.S. and E3 officials met in Washington on April 11 to continue negotiations. Although progress was made on some areas of U.S. concern, such as ballistic missiles, “unreasonable demands” from the United States are complicating any compromise language on the timing for phasing out certain nuclear-related restrictions, the European official said. He added that European countries “cannot and will not commit to automatically reimposing sanctions” if Iran resumes permissible nuclear activities after limits expire.

Additionally, the official said European countries are still seeking commitments from the Trump administration that Washington will meet its obligations down the road and will refrain from making further demands. Even if an agreement is reached between E3 and U.S. officials, Trump’s unpredictability and his record of animosity toward the nuclear accord cast doubt on whether he will support it.

Further, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, and his new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have called for U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. Unlike their predecessors, who argued against breaking the deal, Bolton’s and Pompeo’s past comments suggest they are unlikely to urge Trump to accept what the E3 may offer.

If Trump refuses to waive sanctions, Iran may respond to the U.S. violation by breaching the deal’s constraints. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CBS News’ Face the Nation broadcast April 22 that if the “benefits of the deal for Iran start to diminish, then there is no reason for Iran to remain in the deal.”

The “world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one-sidedly implement a deal that has already been broken,” Zarif said. Without going into the details of any specific steps, he said Iran’s options include “resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities.”

One of those options is resuming levels of uranium enrichment now barred by the accord. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on April 21 that if a decision were made to resume enrichment to 20 percent uranium-235, it would only take Iran four days to begin doing so.

Under the accord, Iran is limited to enrichment levels below 3.67 percent U-235, suitable for fueling electric power reactors. Uranium enriched to 20 percent is not suitable for nuclear weapons, but would put Tehran significantly closer to the 90 percent-enriched U-235 necessary for a bomb.

Iran’s uranium enrichment to 20 percent and stockpiling of the material accelerated negotiations that led to the 2015 agreement curtailing Iran’s nuclear activities.

Iran threatens to resume activities barred under the nuclear accord if Trump moves to reimpose sanctions.

EU Prepares for U.S. Exit From Iran Deal


April 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

While the United States continues discussions with European partners on a supplemental agreement to the Iran nuclear deal, the European Union is starting to prepare for the impact of President Donald Trump pulling out of the accord.

Brian Hook, director for policy planning at the State Department, said on March 21 he had “constructive” meetings in Berlin with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the so-called E3 group, on a supplemental agreement that addresses what Trump regards as “flaws” in the nuclear deal.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini addresses a press conference during a foreign ministers meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on March 19, 2018. She said the EU is starting to prepare to “protect European interests” in case “decisions are taken elsewhere” not to abide by the Iran nuclear deal.  (Photo: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)Trump threatened on Jan. 12 to withhold sanctions waivers in May, which would effectively put the United States in violation of the nuclear deal, unless the E3 and Congress act to address his concerns. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Further, Trump in March shook up his national security team, putting into key positions two officials who have been outspoken in their rejection of the Iran deal. Trump selected CIA Director Mike Pompeo, subject to Senate confirmation, to replace fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and named former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who has advocated military action against Iran and North Korea, as White House national security adviser, succeeding fired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. The two ousted officials had clashed with the president over their views that the benefits of maintaining the nuclear agreement exceed any shortcomings.

Trump’s threat has rattled key European allies, who have lobbied to keep the nuclear deal, and perhaps complicated anticipated negotiations with North Korea, which would have reason to doubt the reliability of any U.S. promises tied to denuclearization. Further, Iranian officials have said such action by Trump would mean their country is no longer bound by the nuclear deal, which could lead to a military confrontation if Iran resumes certain nuclear activities.

Hook would not predict whether the United States and the E3 would conclude an agreement before the May 12 deadline, but he said conversations were focused on the sunset provisions, or elements of the deal that expire; Iran’s missile program; and stronger inspections. He said that the United States and the E3 are working to “narrow” the differences to see if an agreement can be reached.

If an agreement is reached, Hook said it will be presented to Trump, who would make a decision on “whether he wants to remain in the deal or stop waiving sanctions.”

Hook’s meetings with the E3 took place as Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, citing disagreements over the nuclear deal as one of the causes for his dismissal. Tillerson had urged Trump to remain in compliance with the nuclear deal.

Although the EU did not participate in the talks between the E3 and the United States, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking after the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting March 19, said that the EU is starting to prepare to “protect European interests” in case “decisions are taken elsewhere” not to abide by the deal.

Mogherini did not provide details on what the EU’s preparations included, but if the United States reimposes sanctions on Iran, it would impact European entities doing legitimate business with Iran.

Hook said the United States is also “engaged in contingency planning” for “any eventuality.”

Mogherini, who headed the P5+1 group in negotiations with Iran on the nuclear deal, said the EU is prepared to address Iran’s ballistic missiles and activities in the region through dialogue and separately from the nuclear agreement. The E3 states are looking at sanctions to respond to Iran’s actions in these two areas, but Mogherini said the EU did not discuss any additional sanctions.

The P5+1 and Iran met in March for the regular quarterly meeting of the Joint Commission, the body set up by the nuclear deal to oversee its implementation. The March 16 chair’s statement called for continued “effective implementation” of the accord by all parties and welcomed the most recent quarterly report of the International Atomic Energy Agency confirming Iran’s “continued adherence” to its nuclear commitments.

During the Joint Commission meeting, Iran raised what it termed “breaches of obligations or delays” by the United States on sanctions relief. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi called attention to delays in licenses for passenger aircraft sales.

The nuclear deal specifically references providing licenses for aircraft as part of the sanctions relief granted to Iran.

Hook said on March 21 that he told Iran during the Joint Commission meeting that the United States would not issue licenses “at the expense of our national security” because Iran uses its commercial airlines to “move terrorists and weapons” around the Middle East. He said he urged Iran to make reforms to its civil aviation.

Trump also called on Jan. 12 for Congress to pass legislation addressing the flaws he identified in the deal. Members of Congress, however, appear to be waiting to see what comes out of the negotiations with the E3 before acting. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on March 13 that Trump will have to make a decision to waive sanctions by May 12 “based on where the Europeans evolve to.”

It is “solely the responsibility of the administration to work out something with our European allies,” Corker said. “It’s not Congress’ responsibility.”

Members of Congress will likely have an opportunity to seek additional clarity from the Trump administration on its approach to the May 12 deadline during Pompeo’s confirmation hearing for secretary of state.

Pompeo, who served in the House of Representatives during the 2015 congressional debate over the nuclear deal, opposes the agreement. In a July 2016 opinion essay for Fox News, he called for the United States to walk away from the agreement and argued that it has virtually guaranteed that Iran will have the freedom to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons when limitations expire.
 

Trump’s threat to walk away rattles key allies.

Europeans Cut Saudi Arms Sales


March 2018
By Jeff Abramson

As Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman planned visits to Washington and other Western capitals, a number of European countries cut or confirmed prior cessation of arms sales to his country and others fighting in the controversial Yemen war.

The actions by Germany, Norway, and the Walloon district of Belgium did not appear to alter the arms sales plans of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but did build on efforts by the European Parliament and others calling for an embargo on arms shipments to Saudi Arabia.

Yemenis inspect the damage at the site of air strikes in the Houthi-held city of Saada on January 6. (Photo: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)Since fighting began in 2015 between the Houthis, who now control Yemen’s capital, and a Saudi-led coalition backing ousted Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the UN high commissioner for human rights has documented more than 15,000 civilian casualties and noted in February that hostilities were increasing, with all sides responsible for the high civilian toll. In January, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that more than three-quarters of the population, some 22 million people, were in need of humanitarian assistance.

Recognizing the dire humanitarian situation, the European Parliament adopted resolutions in 2016 and 2017 calling for an arms embargo on the Saudis, citing in a Nov. 30 resolution that “dozens of Saudi-led airstrikes have been blamed for indiscriminately killing and wounding civilians in violation of the laws of war.” Although those resolutions were not binding, a number of European countries have announced policies that reflect concern about further arming Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners. A 2015 UN Security Council resolution already bans weapons supplies to the Houthis.

Germany announced in January that it would no longer sell arms to parties fighting in Yemen, a policy change struck as part of efforts to form a new coalition government. Germany in 2016 authorized licenses for the export of “war weapons” to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates valued at 21 million and 13 million euros, respectively, according to a German government report. “Military equipment” licenses, which are broader than just weapons, were valued at 530 million and 169 million euros.

On Jan. 3, Norway announced that it would no longer export arms and ammunition to the UAE, based on “a comprehensive assessment of the situation in Yemen and the increasing risks” associated with UAE military engagement there. The announcement also confirmed Norway’s pre-existing ban on export of arms and ammunition to Saudi Arabia.

Also in January, Belgian media reported the Walloon region had stopped granting licenses to export weapons to the Saudi Ministry of Defense. Quoting Willy Borsus, minister-president of the Walloon government, the reports cited risks of Walloon weapons being turned against civilians in Yemen. Licenses to the Saudi Royal Guard and Saudi National Guard would continue because those groups do not conduct military operations outside the country, according to the accounts of Borsus’ statements. The Walloon region of Belgium, which is able to make independent decisions on arms licenses, is home to firearms manufacturer FN Herstal S.A. In the past, Saudi Arabia has accounted for a large share of Walloon arms sales.

Belgium, Germany, and Norway are states-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which includes provisions against selling weapons where they can be expected to be used to commit abuses. Advocates have been pushing treaty members to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but states have generally resisted such direct conversation at their annual meetings. (See ACT, October 2017.)

Preparatory committee meetings begin this month for the fourth ATT Conference of States-Parties, which will be held Aug. 20-24 in Tokyo. Whether greater attention will be paid to the topic remains to be seen.

France and the UK, also treaty members, have continued to sell arms into the region and reportedly will be visited soon by the Saudi crown prince. He is expected to tout civil liberties and anti-corruption efforts, but arms sales discussions are likely. His UK visit reportedly was delayed to this month due to anticipated protests about his role in the Yemen war.

The 32-year-old crown prince, who is a son of the current Saudi king and is his designated successor, is expected to visit Washington as soon as this month. The Trump administration has shown a continued willingness to arm Riyadh, most recently with the Jan. 17 notification of a potential $500 million sale to support Saudi Arabia’s Patriot missile defense system. The United States is an ATT signatory.

The Saudis are criticized for the number of civilian casualties in Yemen war.

The Ottawa Convention: Signatories and States-Parties

January 2018

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

The Ottawa Convention, also referred to as the "Mine Ban Treaty," prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs). It requires states-parties to destroy their stockpiled APLs within four years and eliminate all APL holdings, including mines currently planted in the soil, within 10 years. Countries may request a renewable extension, which can be up to 10 years long, to fulfill their destruction obligations. States-parties are also required annually to report to the UN secretary-general their total APL stockpiles, the technical characteristics of their APLs, the location of all mined areas, and the status of APL destruction programs.

The convention, which is of unlimited duration and open to all nations, entered into force March 1, 1999. As of January 2018, 164 countries (including Palestine) had ratified or acceded to the treaty, and one country, the Marshall Islands, has signed the accord but not ratified it. States-parties overwhelmingly come from Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. About half of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Asia-Pacific regions have signed the treaty. For more information about the treaty, see “The Ottawa Convention at a Glance.”

Some key current and past producers and users of landmines, including the United States, China, India, Pakistan, and Russia, have not signed the treaty. The George W. Bush administration announced Feb. 27, 2004 that the United States would not join the Ottawa Convention. The Barack Obama administration changed that policy in 2014, expressing an intention to eventually join, and banning the production and acquisition of APLs and reserving their use for only on the Korean peninsula.  The United States is party to the 1996 amended mines protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which restricts but does not ban APL use.  

A precise accounting of the number of landmines planted globally is not possible. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of non-government organizations active in some 100 countries, has estimated that 61 states and areas have landmines on their territories as of November 2017.

The following is a complete list of all Ottawa Convention signatories and states-parties:

Country

Signature

Deposit

Afghanistan

 

9/11/02

Albania

9/8/98

2/29/00

Algeria

12/3/97

10/9/01

Andorra

12/3/97

6/29/98

Angola

12/4/97

7/5/02

Antigua & Barbuda

12/3/97

5/3/99

Argentina

12/4/97

9/14/99

Australia

12/3/97

1/14/99

Austria

12/3/97

6/29/98

Bahamas

12/3/97

7/31/98

Bangladesh

5/7/98

9/6/00

Barbados

12/3/97

1/26/99

Belarus

 

9/03/03

Belgium

12/3/97

9/4/98

Belize

2/27/98

4/23/98

Benin

12/3/97

9/25/98

Bhutan

 

8/18/05

Bolivia

12/3/97

6/9/98

Bosnia and Herzegovina

12/3/97

9/8/98

Botswana

12/3/97

3/1/00

Brazil

12/3/97

4/30/99

Brunei Darussalam

12/4/97

4/24/06

Bulgaria

12/3/97

9/4/98

Burkina Faso

12/3/97

9/16/98

Burundi

12/3/97

10/22/03

Cambodia

12/3/97

7/28/99

Cameroon

12/3/97

9/19/02

Canada

12/3/97

12/3/97

Cape Verde

12/4/97

5/14/01

Central African Republic

 

11/8/02

Chad

7/6/98

5/6/99

Chile

12/3/97

9/10/01

Colombia

12/3/97

9/6/00

Comoros

 

9/19/02

Congo

 

5/4/01

Cook Islands

12/3/97

3/15/06

Costa Rica

12/3/97

3/17/99

Cote d'Ivoire

12/3/97

6/30/00

Croatia

12/4/97

5/20/98

Cyprus

12/4/97

1/17/03

Czech Republic

12/3/97

10/26/99

Democratic Republic of Congo

 

5/2/02

Denmark

12/4/97

6/8/98

Djibouti

12/3/97

5/18/98

Dominica

12/3/97

3/26/99

Dominican Republic

12/3/97

6/30/00

Ecuador

12/4/97

4/29/99

El Salvador

12/4/97

1/27/99

Equatorial Guinea

 

9/16/98

Eriitrea

 

8/27/01

Estonia

 

5/12/04

Ethiopia

12/3/97

12/17/04

Fiji

12/3/97

6/10/98

Finland

 

1/09/12

France

12/3/97

7/23/98

Gabon

12/3/97

9/8/00

Gambia

12/4/97

9/23/02

Germany

12/3/97

7/23/98

Ghana

12/4/97

6/30/00

Greece

12/3/97

9/25/03

Grenada

12/3/97

8/19/98

Guatemala

12/3/97

3/26/99

Guinea

12/4/97

10/8/98

Guinea-Bissau

12/3/97

5/22/01

Guyana

12/4/97

8/5/03

Haiti

12/3/97

2/15/06

Holy See

12/4/97

2/17/98

Honduras

12/3/97

9/24/98

Hungary

12/3/97

4/6/98

Iceland

12/4/97

5/5/99

Indonesia

12/4/97

2/20/07

Iraq

 

8/15/07

Ireland

12/3/97

12/3/97

Italy

12/3/97

4/23/99

Jamaica

12/3/97

7/17/98

Japan

12/3/97

9/30/98

Jordan

8/11/98

11/13/98

Kenya

12/5/97

1/23/01

Kiribati

 

9/7/00

Kuwait

 

7/31/07

Latvia

 

7/1/05

Lesotho

12/4/97

12/2/98

Liberia

 

12/23/99

Liechtenstein

12/3/97

10/5/99

Lithuania

2/26/99

5/12/03

Luxembourg

12/4/97

6/14/99

Macedonia, FYR

 

9/9/98

Madagascar

12/4/97

9/16/99

Malawi

12/4/97

8/13/98

Malaysia

12/3/97

4/22/99

Maldives

10/1/98

9/7/00

Mali

12/3/97

6/2/98

Malta

12/4/97

5/7/01

Marshall Islands

12/4/97

 

Mauritania

12/3/97

7/21/00

Mauritius

12/3/97

12/3/97

Mexico

12/3/97

6/9/98

Moldova

12/3/97

9/8/00

Monaco

12/4/97

11/17/98

Montenegro

 

10/23/06

Mozambique

12/3/97

8/25/98

Namibia

12/3/97

9/21/98

Nauru

 

8/7/00

Netherlands

12/3/97

4/12/99

New Zealand

12/3/97

1/27/99

Nicaragua

12/4/97

11/30/98

Niger

12/4/97

3/23/99

Nigeria

 

9/27/01

Niue

12/3/97

4/15/98

Norway

12/3/97

7/9/98

Oman

 

8/20/14

Palau

 

11/19/07

Palestine

 

12/29/17

Panama

12/4/97

10/7/98

Papua New Guinea

 

6/28/04

Paraguay

12/3/97

11/13/98

Peru

12/3/97

6/17/98

Philippines

12/3/97

2/15/00

Poland

12/4/97

12/27/12

Portugal

12/3/97

2/19/99

Qatar

12/4/97

10/13/98

Romania

12/3/97

11/30/00

Rwanda

12/3/97

6/8/00

St. Kitts & Nevis

12/3/97

12/2/98

St. Lucia

12/3/97

4/13/99

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

12/3/97

8/1/01

Samoa

12/3/97

7/23/98

San Marino

12/3/97

3/18/98

Sao Tome & Principe

4/30/98

3/31/03

Senegal

12/3/97

9/24/98

Serbia & Montenegro

 

9/18/03

Seychelles

12/4/97

6/2/00

Sierra Leone

7/29/98

4/25/01

Slovakia

12/3/97

2/25/99

Slovenia

12/3/97

10/27/98

Solomon Islands

12/4/97

1/26/99

Somalia

 

4/16/12

South Africa

12/3/97

6/26/98

South Sudan

 

11/11/11

Spain

12/3/97

1/19/99

Sri Lanka

 

12/13/17

Sudan

12/4/97

10/13/03

Suriname

12/4/97

5/23/02

Swaziland

12/4/97

12/22/98

Sweden

12/4/97

11/30/98

Switzerland

12/3/97

3/24/98

Tajikistan

 

10/12/99

Tanzania

12/3/97

11/13/00

Thailand

12/3/97

11/27/98

Timor Leste

 

5/7/03

Togo

12/4/97

3/9/00

Trinidad & Tobago

12/4/97

4/27/98

Tunisia

12/4/97

7/9/99

Turkey

 

9/25/03

Turkmenistan

12/3/97

1/19/98

Tuvalu

 

9/13/11

Uganda

12/3/97

2/25/99

Ukraine

2/24/99

12/27/05

United Kingdom

12/3/97

7/31/98

Uruguay

12/3/97

6/7/01

Vanuatu

12/4/97

9/16/05

Venezuela

12/3/97

4/14/99

Yemen

12/4/97

9/1/98

Zambia

12/12/97

2/23/01

Zimbabwe

12/3/97

6/18/98

Updated by Sara Schmitt

Conventional Arms Issues

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Russia Showcases Military Capabilities


November 2017
By Maggie Tennis

A large-scale Russian military exercise last month triggered new questions about NATO security and European conventional arms control. The week-long Zapad 2017 exercise, which simulated a Russian military response to a confrontation at the border with a NATO-allied country, displayed a range of technologies and maneuvers seemingly targeted at U.S. and NATO capabilities.

Military jets fly during the joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises Zapad 2017 at a training ground near the town of Borisov on September 20. (Photo credit: SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)The September exercises occurred against the political backdrop of worsening relations between Russia and NATO countries since the 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea. Russia showcased integrated maneuvers, such as those seen in Crimea and Syria, as well as improved technologies involving drones and electronic warfare, demonstrating the transformation of its military over the past decade into a modern, sophisticated force capable of challenging NATO and the United States.

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Western analysts have commented on NATO’s neglect of European defense amid growing Russian aggressiveness. The governments of the Baltic states and Poland have pressed NATO to strengthen its presence and capabilities on their territories. Over the past few years, NATO has implemented a number of deterrence-by-punishment measures aimed at bolstering defense at the border, including increased troop rotations in the front-line nations that have, in turn, raised Russian anxiety. U.S. and NATO military officials worry alliance forces are underprepared to respond to Russian capabilities for rapid troop mobilization.

The Zapad 2017 scenario envisioned Russian and Belarusian military forces defending against military incursions by a hostile neighboring state labeled “Veyshnoria,” at the Belarusian border with Poland and Lithuania, two NATO members. Throughout the week, drills illustrated how, in Moscow’s perception, a conflict with NATO would unfold. An emphasis on concealing large force movements and utilizing air defense capabilities, such as the S-300 and S-400 missile systems, Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft systems, and Iskander-M ballistic missile complexes, indicated a Russian preoccupation with the strength of NATO air capabilities. Drills also featured enhanced command and control, coordination of air support and naval forces, and anti-submarine warfare.

Although Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu described Zapad as a “purely defensive” exercise against a hypothetical invading alliance, the exercise transitioned after a few days into a counteroffensive campaign against an advanced conventional military, presumably representing NATO and U.S. forces. In fact, many of the drills featured defense operations against technologies that only the United States would possess, such as high-speed drones. An exercise element featuring a large number of units from Russia’s Northern Fleet, a force intended for strategic deterrence and the maritime defense of northwest Russia, indicates that Moscow envisioned the war games reflecting a conflict with NATO over the Baltic states.

Zapad also featured a test launch of the nuclear-capable Iskander-M missile at a maximum range just short of the 500 to 5,500 kilometer range prohibited by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The missile was launched from the Kapustin Yar range in the southern Astrakhan region and hit its target in the Makat range in Kazakhstan after traveling 480 kilometers. In addition, the Russian military twice test-fired its new RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles, the first a few days before and another during the Zapad exercises. Gen. Lori J. Robinson, head of the Pentagon’s Northern Command, told The New York Times that Russia’s stock of medium- and long-range missiles allows Moscow “to hold targets at risk at ranges that we’re not used to.”

Belarusian surface-to-air missile launchers and S-300 anti-aircraft systems move to firing positions during the joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises Zapad 2017 at a training ground near the village of Volka, about 200 kilometers southwest of Minsk, on September 19, 2017. (Photo credit: SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)Zapad indicated a preparedness on the Russian side to raise the stakes in a conventional clash with NATO, meaning that NATO will need to evaluate whether it has the ability to maintain a deterrent with Moscow. The wake of the exercises could also bring attention to the possibility of renewing conventional arms control efforts between NATO and Russia.

Experts such as Ulrich Kühn at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are revisiting conventional arms control as an additional instrument of European security. Although Moscow suspended its participation in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty in 2007, prior to the 2008 Russian occupation of Georgia, Kühn believes Moscow’s existential concerns about U.S. conventional strike capabilities and the security of Kaliningrad could make renewed talks on conventional arms control attractive to the Kremlin, despite Russian awareness that the “global balance of power” advantages the United States.

In a Sept. 27 article for the blog War on the Rocks, Kühn proposed extending CFE Treaty counting rules to include heavy weaponry and limiting further troop deployments to the Baltic region. Yet, even if current tensions and European ambivalence make conventional arms restrictions difficult to coordinate, Kühn suggests implementing a range of confidence- and security-building measures that could improve communication and transparency among NATO members and between NATO and Russia.

An official at the German Foreign Ministry told Arms Control Today, "We want to keep the channels of communication open. We seek a more constructive and predictable relationship with Russia and we encourage Russia to act within the norms and rules of the international community."

To achieve such results, according to Kühn, measures could include updating the Vienna Document, a security agreement among the participating states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which requires advance notice for military exercises exceeding 9,000 troops and observers for those involving 13,000 troops. Russia circumvents the rules and has opposed efforts to tighten them, he wrote. Ahead of the exercise, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said Zapad would involve fewer than 13,000 personnel, while Western analysts estimated the number of personnel involved to be as high as 100,000. In the end, Western governments conceded that the number of troops involved was likely closer to the official figure.

During the weeklong Zapad exercise, Dominik Jankowski, the head of the OSCE unit in the Polish Foreign Ministry, told the German broadcasting agency Deutsche Welle, "We need to continue efforts to modernize the Vienna Document, even if we are still waiting for a Russia willing to engage in that issue." He said there are “numerous vital proposals on the table ranging from greater transparency regarding snap exercises to risk reduction mechanisms and incident prevention efforts.”

Kühn noted that both sides have contributed to an increased risk of an accidental confrontation at the NATO-Russian border. “NATO’s current deterrence approach in the Baltic region also creates dangers of inadvertent escalation that could be addressed through improved communication,” he wrote. Both the OSCE and German government have called for expanding conventional arms control. But to be effective, conventional arms negotiations with Russia would necessitate agreement by all 29 NATO member-states.

Although NATO holds military drills in Europe regularly, it has never performed a multicorps event on the scale of Zapad 2017. In early October, NATO held its annual Steadfast Noon nuclear strike exercise, The Wall Street Journal reported. The exercise practices NATO’s nuclear strike mission with dual-capable aircraft and the B61 tactical nuclear bombs that the United States deploys in Europe. —MAGGIE TENNIS

The Zapad exercise scenario was a border conflict with NATO countries.

Turkey Snubs NATO with Russian Arms Deal


A Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile launcher is displayed Aug. 22 at a military conference near Moscow. (Photo credit: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)NATO member Turkey turned to Russia to buy an advanced anti-aircraft missile system, a deal estimated to be worth $2.5 billion that has caused unease among its alliance partners. Turkish newspapers on Sept. 12 quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying that Ankara has paid a deposit for the Russian S-400 air defense system. The purchase denies a major deal for Western contractors and will put in place a system that is not compatible with NATO air defenses. Russian media presented the deal, which would also provide Turkey with the technology to produce its own advanced air defenses, as a rebuke to Western governments.

The purchase comes at a time of growing strains between Washington and Ankara as Erdogan cracks down on political opponents and the United States sends arms to Kurdish militias in Syria that Turkey considers terrorists. Complicating matters, the deal may run afoul of U.S. sanctions against Russia. Politico reported on Sept. 14 that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote to President Donald Trump that the deal would trigger mandatory U.S. sanctions against Turkey under legislation signed into law in August.—TERRY ATLAS

Turkey Snubs NATO with Russian Arms Deal

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...

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