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Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
EU / NATO

NATO Moves Trigger Russian Response

By Jefferson Morley

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, NATO countries agreed last month to create a rapid reaction force, endorse new economic sanctions against Russia, and boost defense spending. Russian President Vladimir Putin countered by ordering a major military exercise and repeating previous declarations that his country would fortify its conventional and nuclear forces. 

“Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine have fundamentally challenged our vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace,” the NATO countries declared at the end of their Sept. 3-5 summit meeting in Wales. 

According to the Associated Press, Putin responded by saying, “We have warned many times that we would have to take corresponding countermeasures to ensure our security.” In Sept. 11 comments, Putin said Russia’s weapons modernization program over the next decade would focus on building a new array of offensive weapons to provide a “guaranteed nuclear deterrent,” rearming its air force, and developing high-precision conventional weapons. 

The actions marked a further worsening of relations between Russia and NATO over Ukraine and a setback for arms control efforts, according to regional experts. 

The 28 member countries of NATO agreed to create a 4,000-person “spearhead” force, capable of deploying anywhere within the territory of alliance members on 48 hours’ notice.

NATO already has a response force, but several days are required to place those troops on the ground at a target destination. The new force will include ground troops with air and maritime support, as well as special operations forces to confront the type of paramilitary forces now fighting in eastern Ukraine. 

The creation of the new force “sends a message to the Baltic states and the Poles and Romanians and others that as far as NATO as a whole [is] concerned, their territory is as important to [NATO] as any other piece of territory, and that they can count on not only America’s commitment, but NATO’s commitment to their collective defense,” Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said during a Sept. 3 press call. 

“[T]hat, in turn, is meant to send a signal to Vladimir Putin and to Moscow that basically says, ‘Don’t even think about doing what you’re doing in Ukraine on NATO territory because we will react swiftly, quickly, rapidly, and with maximum force to make sure that you do not succeed,’” Daalder said.

The Western allies expect to have “an initial capacity with this much more rapid response time in less than a year,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow said in a Sept 18 speech in Poland. “It won’t be all finished, but we recognize that the threats are here, [and] we can’t put this on the slow track.”

The new sanctions target Russian state-owned financial, defense, and energy companies. They strengthen measures that the United States and the European Union instituted in late July to target key engines of the Russian economy after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.

France Suspends Deal 

Under pressure from Western allies, France announced on the eve of the NATO summit that it was suspending the scheduled delivery to Russia of a French-made Mistral helicopter carrier ship for two months. 

“Russia’s recent actions in the east of Ukraine contravene the fundamental principles of European security,” said a statement from the office of President François Hollande. According to the statement, Hollande “has concluded that despite the prospect of [a] ceasefire [in Ukraine], which has yet to be confirmed and put in place[,] the conditions under which France could authorise the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place.” 

In a press conference at the NATO summit, Hollande said he would review the suspension in late October and that he had two conditions for delivery of the ship: a cease-fire in Ukraine and a political settlement that resolves the country’s crisis. 

The NATO countries pledged during the summit to reverse a trend of declining defense budgets by committing to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. In 2012, only the United States (4.5 percent), United Kingdom (2.5 percent), Greece (2.3 percent), and Estonia (2.0 percent) spent at the levels NATO now seeks, according to the NATO secretary-general’s 2013 annual report. 

Saber Rattling

NATO acted after Putin made a pointed speech Aug. 29 declaring, “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words.”

Nonetheless, the NATO actions stopped short of violating a nonbinding U.S. pledge made in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, Lee Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to Poland, said in a Sept. 17 interview. 

In the agreement, NATO promised to carry out its collective defense mission without “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces,” a provision that Russian President Boris Yeltsin interpreted as a binding commitment by NATO that the alliance would not permanently deploy combat forces near Russia. NATO took care to emphasize that the new force would not be permanently stationed close to Russia, said Feinstein, now dean of the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University.

“NATO wants to leave open the possibility of a diplomatic solution,” he said. “This is not a return to the Cold War, but it is very destabilizing when Russia engages in nuclear saber rattling.” 

At the NATO summit two years ago in Chicago, the allies debated and turned down a German proposal to reduce nuclear weapons in Europe, said Jorge Benitez, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, in a Sept. 18 interview.

“With recent Russian aggression, the consensus to stick with the status quo has only been strengthened,” he said. “Now it would be much harder to reduce NATO’s nuclear deterrent.”

After Western allies announced new sanctions and military measures aimed at deterring Russia in Ukraine and eastern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to continue Russia’s conventional and nuclear buildup. 

Senators Push Nonproliferation Budget

Kelsey Davenport

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

The signatories of the Aug. 13 letter, led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), urged Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to “seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.”

The letter noted that the administration “proposed cuts to these programs over the last several years.”

The Obama administration’s budget for fiscal year 2015 would cut the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs by $399 million from the fiscal year 2014 appropriation. Fiscal year 2014 ends Sept. 30.

It is “not the time to pull back on nonproliferation,” the letter said, noting that recent terrorist actions serve as a reminder of the importance of “ensuing that terrorist groups and rogue states” do not obtain nuclear weapons and materials.

The Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, chaired by Feinstein, increased funding for nonproliferation activities to nearly $2.0 billion, $423 million above the president’s request for fiscal year 2015. The subcommittee released its bill and draft report July 24, but no further action has been taken on the bill.

The increases include an additional $136 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and $50 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program.

The letter said the GTRI played an important role in eliminating nuclear materials from 13 countries since 2009 and that “significant work remains” to secure nuclear material at “hundreds of sites spread across 30 countries.”

The senators urged the administration to work with the Senate to “ensure that critical nuclear material security” programs have the necessary resources. The letter urged the administration, in next year’s budget request, to build on the funding levels that the appropriations subcommittee approved for fiscal year 2015.

In addition to Feinstein and Merkley, the signers of the letter included 20 Democrats, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and independents Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine).

Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

U.S., EU Sanction Russia’s Arms Sector

Jefferson Morley

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Obama administration and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia’s weapons and defense sector. In an announcement on July 29, the EU banned new EU-Russian military equipment transactions for one year while the Obama administration blacklisted eight Russian defense firms, two separatist groups, and a Ukrainian oil facility.

The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, called the measures “a strong warning [that] illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” The U.S. Commerce Department cited “Russia’s continued policy of destabilization in eastern Ukraine and ongoing occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol” as reasons to block transactions with the 11 entities “engaged in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Any U.S. firm seeking a license to do business with these organizations will face a presumption of denial, according to the Commerce Department. The U.S. sanctions, first authorized by an executive order issued in March by President Barack Obama, also block these entities from transferring any assets, receiving payments, or processing withdrawals in the United States.

What Sanctioned Russian Firms Make

  • Joint Stock Company (JSC) Concern Almaz-Antey is Russia’s largest defense contractor and the 12th largest in the world, with revenues of $8 billion in 2013.
  • Kalashnikov Concern makes the durable Kalashnikov assault rifle, one of the world’s most popular weapons. Kalishnikov Concern has exported almost 10,000 rifles to the United States in the first six months of 2014.
  • KBPO (Konstruktorskoe Byuro Priborostroeniya Otkrytoe Aktsionernoe Obshchestvo) manufactures high-precision weapons, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft systems, including the vehicle-mounted Buk missile system that Western defense analysts say destroyed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July, killing 298 people.
  • The State Scientific Production Enterprise Bazalt builds aircraft, ground, and marine munitions.
  • JSC Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Concern Sozvezdie focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Military-Industrial Corporation NPO Mashinostroyenia builds advanced space and rocketry equipment.
  • Uralvagonzavod produces combat vehicles, tanks, and ordnance.

Source: Defense News, U.S. Commerce Department, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

The sanctioned Russian firms include Concern Almaz-Antey, Russia’s leading defense contractor; KBPO, which manufacturers the anti-aircraft system believed to have destroyed a Malaysia Airlines plane in July; and Kalashnikov Concern, which manufactures the assault rifle of the same name. Kalashnikov exported at least 10,000 rifles to the United States in 2013, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, which monitors the global arms trade.

Russia Responds

It is not clear what the impact of the sanctions will be. European arms exports to Russia are relatively small, totaling around $400 million in 2013, according to the EU. But exports of dual-use goods to Russia last year were worth an estimated $26 billion. European firms supplied lasers and advanced electronics and materials, which Russia may find difficult to replace, according to sources quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

On Aug. 6, Izvestia cited sources in Russia’s Federal Space Agency as saying its aerospace and military-industrial enterprises will purchase electronic components totaling several billion dollars from China. The sources said China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. had offered “a direct alternative to, or slight modifications of the elements [Russia] will no longer be able to acquire because of the sanctions introduced by the United States,” according to Izvestia.

In addition to the EU sanctions, the German government canceled an ongoing deal involving Rheinmetall, a German defense firm supplying parts for a Russian military training facility. The deal has been suspended, and no more deliveries will occur, according to the German embassy in Washington. “We wanted to go beyond the EU sanctions,” a spokesman said in Aug. 11 phone interview.

Despite criticism from other European countries, France is going ahead with a $1.6 billion deal to sell two Mistral amphibious warships to the Russian defense firm Rosoboronexport. DCNS, a French naval defense company, signed the deal in June 2011. The company says it will deliver the first carrier to Russia in October. According to news reports, 400 Russian sailors trained this summer at the port of Saint-Nazaire, in northwestern France, learning how to operate the vessel.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a defense appropriations bill in May with an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) barring the Defense Department from contracting or subcontracting for helicopters or other weapons with Rosoboronexport. The Senate is expected to take up similar legislation in September. Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Dan Coats (Ind.) have called for the cancellation of all Pentagon contracts with Rosoboronexport. The Pentagon has paid the company more than $1 billion for a fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, which the United States is providing to Afghan security forces.

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Obama administration and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia’s weapons and defense sector.

U.S., EU Sanction Russia’s Arms Sector

Jefferson Morley

In response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Obama administration and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia’s weapons and defense sector. In an announcement on July 29, the EU banned new EU-Russian military equipment transactions for one year while the Obama administration blacklisted eight Russian defense firms, two separatist groups, and a Ukrainian oil facility.

The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, called the measures “a strong warning [that] illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” The U.S. Commerce Department cited “Russia’s continued policy of destabilization in eastern Ukraine and ongoing occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol” as reasons to block transactions with the 11 entities “engaged in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Any U.S. firm seeking a license to do business with these organizations will face a presumption of denial, according to the Commerce Department. The U.S. sanctions, first authorized by an executive order issued in March by President Barack Obama, also block these entities from transferring any assets, receiving payments, or processing withdrawals in the United States.

What Sanctioned Russian Firms Make

  • Joint Stock Company (JSC) Concern Almaz-Antey is Russia’s largest defense contractor and the 12th largest in the world, with revenues of $8 billion in 2013.
  • Kalashnikov Concern makes the durable Kalashnikov assault rifle, one of the world’s most popular weapons. Kalishnikov Concern has exported almost 10,000 rifles to the United States in the first six months of 2014.
  • KBPO (Konstruktorskoe Byuro Priborostroeniya Otkrytoe Aktsionernoe Obshchestvo) manufactures high-precision weapons, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft systems, including the vehicle-mounted Buk missile system that Western defense analysts say destroyed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July, killing 298 people.
  • The State Scientific Production Enterprise Bazalt builds aircraft, ground, and marine munitions.
  • JSC Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Concern Sozvezdie focuses on electronic warfare.
  • JSC Military-Industrial Corporation NPO Mashinostroyenia builds advanced space and rocketry equipment.
  • Uralvagonzavod produces combat vehicles, tanks, and ordnance.

Source: Defense News, U.S. Commerce Department, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

    The sanctioned Russian firms include Concern Almaz-Antey, Russia’s leading defense contractor; KBPO, which manufacturers the anti-aircraft system believed to have destroyed a Malaysia Airlines plane in July; and Kalashnikov Concern, which manufactures the assault rifle of the same name. Kalashnikov exported at least 10,000 rifles to the United States in 2013, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, which monitors the global arms trade.

    Russia Responds

    It is not clear what the impact of the sanctions will be. European arms exports to Russia are relatively small, totaling around $400 million in 2013, according to the EU. But exports of dual-use goods to Russia last year were worth an estimated $26 billion. European firms supplied lasers and advanced electronics and materials, which Russia may find difficult to replace, according to sources quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

    On Aug. 6, Izvestia cited sources in Russia’s Federal Space Agency as saying its aerospace and military-industrial enterprises will purchase electronic components totaling several billion dollars from China. The sources said China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. had offered “a direct alternative to, or slight modifications of the elements [Russia] will no longer be able to acquire because of the sanctions introduced by the United States,” according to Izvestia.

    In addition to the EU sanctions, the German government canceled an ongoing deal involving Rheinmetall, a German defense firm supplying parts for a Russian military training facility. The deal has been suspended, and no more deliveries will occur, according to the German embassy in Washington. “We wanted to go beyond the EU sanctions,” a spokesman said in Aug. 11 phone interview.

    Despite criticism from other European countries, France is going ahead with a $1.6 billion deal to sell two Mistral amphibious warships to the Russian defense firm Rosoboronexport. DCNS, a French naval defense company, signed the deal in June 2011. The company says it will deliver the first carrier to Russia in October. According to news reports, 400 Russian sailors trained this summer at the port of Saint-Nazaire, in northwestern France, learning how to operate the vessel.

    The U.S. House of Representatives approved a defense appropriations bill in May with an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) barring the Defense Department from contracting or subcontracting for helicopters or other weapons with Rosoboronexport. The Senate is expected to take up similar legislation in September. Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Dan Coats (Ind.) have called for the cancellation of all Pentagon contracts with Rosoboronexport. The Pentagon has paid the company more than $1 billion for a fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, which the United States is providing to Afghan security forces.

    Senators Push Nonproliferation Budget

    Kelsey Davenport

    Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

    The signatories of the Aug. 13 letter, led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), urged Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to “seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.”

    The letter noted that the administration “proposed cuts to these programs over the last several years.”

    The Obama administration’s budget for fiscal year 2015 would cut the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs by $399 million from the fiscal year 2014 appropriation. Fiscal year 2014 ends Sept. 30.

    It is “not the time to pull back on nonproliferation,” the letter said, noting that recent terrorist actions serve as a reminder of the importance of “ensuing that terrorist groups and rogue states” do not obtain nuclear weapons and materials.

    The Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, chaired by Feinstein, increased funding for nonproliferation activities to nearly $2.0 billion, $423 million above the president’s request for fiscal year 2015. The subcommittee released its bill and draft report July 24, but no further action has been taken on the bill.

    The increases include an additional $136 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and $50 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program.

    The letter said the GTRI played an important role in eliminating nuclear materials from 13 countries since 2009 and that “significant work remains” to secure nuclear material at “hundreds of sites spread across 30 countries.”

    The senators urged the administration to work with the Senate to “ensure that critical nuclear material security” programs have the necessary resources. The letter urged the administration, in next year’s budget request, to build on the funding levels that the appropriations subcommittee approved for fiscal year 2015.

    In addition to Feinstein and Merkley, the signers of the letter included 20 Democrats, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and independents Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine).

    Twenty-six senators sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs in the fiscal year 2016 budget for the Energy Department.

    Iran Provides Detonator Details to IAEA

    Kelsey Davenport

    Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information about the country’s past development of a detonator that could be used as a trigger in nuclear weapons, the agency said last month in a quarterly report.

    The report also found that Iran is complying with the measures outlined in an interim agreement it reached Nov. 24 with six world powers that restricts its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

    The “technical exchange” with the IAEA on the issues related to possible nuclear weapons development was the first since 2008, the May 23 report said.

    According to the report, Iran supplied information on its need for exploding bridge wire detonators and said that the tests were for civilian applications. Although the report did not specify the application, this type of detonator can be used in drilling for oil and gas.

    In the report, the IAEA said its assessment of the information that Iran provided is ongoing. The agency will need to evaluate all of the issues related to possible weapons development together as a “system,” the report said. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

    Exploding bridge wire detonators were among the issues included in a November 2011 report to the IAEA Board of Governors in which the agency detailed its allegations of Iranian activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, December 2011.)

    Providing information on the detonators was one of seven actions that Iran on Feb. 9 had agreed to take by May 15 to further the agency’s investigations into unresolved IAEA concerns about Iran’s current nuclear program and past actions.

    The Feb. 9 announcement followed an agreement reached Nov. 11, in which Iran and the IAEA pledged to cooperate to “resolve all present and past issues.” (See ACT, December 2013.)

    The other actions Iran agreed to take during the February talks include providing the IAEA with access to the Saghand uranium mine and to Iran’s uranium-concentration plant for refining uranium ore; information on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, which is under construction; and access to a center that was used in the past for laser uranium-enrichment experiments.

    The May 23 IAEA report said that Iran completed these actions.

    Man Charged for Violating Iran Sanctions

    The U.S. Justice Department indicted a Chinese national April 28 for violating sanctions on Iran. The indictment’s seven counts include several for the sale of materials that could be used in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

    The charges against Li Fangwei, also known as Karl Lee, include using the U.S. financial system to facilitate the illegal transactions.

    The United States has imposed a wide range of sanctions that prohibit Iran from buying goods that could be used for its nuclear and missile programs. The sanctions are part of a broad effort by the United States and other countries, prompted in large part by concerns that Iran could choose to develop nuclear weapons. Additional sanctions are aimed at preventing any entity from using U.S. financial institutions for illicit business transactions with Iranian banks.

    According to an April 29 Justice Department press release, Li’s companies have conducted business totaling $8.5 million with Iranian entities since 2006. The release said Li is a “principal contributor to Iran’s ballistic missile program” and is a supplier of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and Aerospace Industries Organization.

    Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in the press release that the allegations showed that Li used “subterfuge and deceit to continue to evade U.S. sanctions.”

    In 2009, Li was prohibited from doing business within the United States without a license from the Treasury Department after investigations concluded he was supplying Iran with banned items that could be used to develop weapons.

    According to the press release, Li never applied for a license, and the 2009 restriction forced him “to operate much of his business covertly.” Li developed a network of “China-based front companies to conceal his continuing participation” in activities that violate U.S. sanctions, the release said.

    The U.S. government has seized more than $6.8 billion from bank accounts attributed to Li’s front companies. In addition, the Treasury Department added eight of the companies to a list of entities that are blocked from doing business in the United States.

    Li is currently a fugitive, and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

      New Measures

      Iran and the IAEA have agreed on five new actions that Iran is to take by Aug. 25, according to a May 21 joint statement by Tehran and the agency. In one of the actions, Iran has pledged to give the IAEA information dealing with allegations that Iran conducted experiments with certain kinds of high explosives that could be relevant to nuclear weapons. Iran also said it would provide information on studies “in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials,” another area with direct relevance to nuclear weapons development.

      Under the other measures, Iran is to give the IAEA information on and access to a centrifuge research and development center and centrifuges assembly workshops and to reach agreement with the agency on the “safeguards approach” for the heavy-water reactor at Arak.

      The IAEA and Iran met May 5 to discuss safeguards for the Arak reactor after Iran provided the agency with updated information on the reactor’s design.

      Iran has said it intends to use the Arak reactor for making medical isotopes, but the international community is concerned about the weapons-grade plutonium the reactor will produce in its spent fuel.

      The May 23 report found that Iran is complying with the terms of the Nov. 24 Joint Plan of Action, an initial agreement reached between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). These countries are currently negotiating a comprehensive deal during the six-month implementation of the initial agreement, which ends July 20.

      One of the key provisions of the initial agreement deals with Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent. Uranium refined to that level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade than if it begins as reactor-grade uranium, which is enriched to less than 5 percent.

      As part of the Nov. 24 deal, Iran agreed to dilute half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to an enrichment level of less than 5 percent. The May report confirmed that Iran had completed this dilution as required by April 20.

      The remaining half of the 20 percent-enriched uranium is to be converted to a powder form that can be used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

      The IAEA reported that Iran had converted about 67 kilograms as of May 19 and that about 38 kilograms remained to be converted before July 20.

      Talks Continue

      Iran and the P5+1 met again May 13-16 in Vienna to continue negotiations and begin drafting the comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

      In a press conference after the talks, Iran’s deputy chief negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, said that there was a good “atmosphere” during the talks but that progress is slow and there is “much difficulty.”

      This meeting was preceded by three rounds of talks in February, March, and April, during which both sides laid out their positions.

      A senior U.S. official said during a May 16 press briefing that the talks have entered the “drafting and negotiating phase,” which both sides knew would be difficult. The official said that there are “significant gaps” between the positions of the two sides.

      A European diplomat familiar with the talks said in a May 20 interview that the size of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program will be “one of the more difficult areas [on which] to find compromise” because the sides remain “very far apart in their assessments of Iran’s fuel needs.”

      Under the interim agreement that Iran and the P5+1 reached in November, Iran’s uranium-enrichment program has been frozen at its current levels for six months. The interim agreement says the program should be defined in the comprehensive agreement by Iran’s “practical needs.” (See ACT, December 2013.)

      Iranian officials define “practical needs” as including the projected needs of Iran’s current and future nuclear power plants, so they are pushing to increase Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium over the next decade.

      Iran currently has one nuclear power plant, Bushehr, for which Russia is supplying the fuel under an initial contract that runs until 2021. Tehran has said it plans to build as many as 20 additional power reactors over the coming years.

      Reuters reported May 15 that a senior Iranian official said Iran would need 100,000 IR-1 centrifuges to produce enough fuel for each plant. Under the interim deal, Iran is currently operating about 10,200 IR-1 centrifuges. The IR-1 centrifuge is Iran’s first-generation model. Tehran is testing more-advanced models.

      The P5+1 “will not accept a 100,000-centrifuge uranium-enrichment program in the earlier phases of the deal,” the European diplomat said.

      The P5+1 has not made any public statements regarding the ideal size of Iran’s centrifuge program under the comprehensive agreement, but independent experts say that the P5+1 is likely to ask for reductions in the current number of operating centrifuges.

      In contrast to the three previous rounds of talks, the two sides did not issue a joint statement after the May talks.

      The diplomat said that the lack of a statement should not be seen as a “negative indication.” Deciding on a joint text for a statement was “not a priority” during the discussions because all sides are committed to reaching a deal, he said.

      During the May 16 briefing, the senior U.S. official said that the parties are “concerned about the amount of time left” but that all parties believe an agreement can be reached by the July 20 expiration of the interim agreement. That accord can be extended for six months if all the parties agree.

      Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with details on a detonator that could be used as a trigger in nuclear weapons, the agency said in a report.

      European Missile Defense No Answer to Russia

      USS Monterey armed with SM-3 Block IA interceptors and the Aegis missile defense system. The SM-3 cannot intercept Russian long-range missiles. The just-passed House Armed Services Committee plan to accelerate U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland to counter Russian action in Ukraine is all bark and no bite. By Tom Z. Collina The United States has a strategic interest in establishing economic and political stability in Ukraine, reassuring nervous NATO allies, and warning Russia that further interference in Ukraine or elsewhere would be a serious mistake. Congress, however, should be...

      17 European Countries Ratify ATT

      Jefferson Morley

      Eighteen countries announced their ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in early April, bringing the global pact to regulate the transfer of small and conventional arms closer to entry into force. To date, 118 countries have signed the accord, and 31 have ratified it. Fifty states need to ratify the treaty for it to become international law.

      All but one of the countries that presented proof of ratification on April 2 are in Europe: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The only non-European country to ratify the treaty was El Salvador, which has experienced an influx of unregulated weapons and high levels of gun violence.

      Although Africa suffers from some of the deadliest conflicts fueled by small arms, only two African countries—Mali and Nigeria—have ratified the treaty so far.

      April 2 marked the one-year anniversary of the date the treaty was opened for signature.

      “By globally regulating the international trade in arms, nations demonstrate their common responsibility to save lives, reduce human suffering and make the world a safer place for all,” the 17 European states said in a joint statement.

      “With our joint deposit, we send a strong signal that we—countries that fought for the Treaty—will spare no efforts to achieve the Treaty’s early entry into force. We are confident that entry into force towards the end of this year 2014 is well within reach,” the statement said.

      The United States, which signed the treaty last September, endorsed that goal in a joint statement with the European Union after the EU-U.S. summit on March 26. The Obama administration has yet to set a date for submitting the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

      The next country to ratify the treaty could be Japan, where the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill on April 10 to ratify the pact. The Japanese constitution guarantees its passage during the current session of the Diet, which runs through late June.

      Eighteen countries announced their ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in early April, bringing the global pact to regulate the transfer of small and conventional arms closer to entry into force. To date, 118 countries have signed the accord, and 31 have ratified it. Fifty states need to ratify the treaty for it to become international law.

      Iran to Give IAEA Details on Detonators

      Kelsey Davenport

      Iran will provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information about its past development of a detonator that could be used to as a trigger in nuclear weapons, according to an agreement reached by the two sides last month.

      In a Feb. 9 joint statement, Iran and the IAEA described the two days of talks in Tehran as “constructive” and announced seven actions for Iran to take by May 15 to further the agency’s investigations into its unresolved concerns about Iran’s current nuclear program and past actions.

      One of the actions requires Tehran to provide the IAEA with information on exploding bridge wire detonators, which can be used to trigger nuclear weapons. They can also be used in civilian applications, including drilling for oil and gas, and for conventional military explosives.

      The Feb. 9 announcement follows an agreement reached last Nov. 11, in which Iran and the IAEA pledged to cooperate to “resolve all present and past issues.” (See ACT, December 2013.) The IAEA laid out these concerns, including allegations of activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons, in detail in its November 2011 report to the agency’s Board of Governors. (See ACT, December 2011.) In early 2012, the IAEA began negotiating an approach to its investigation with Iran, but did not make any progress until President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.

      The other actions Iran agreed to take during the February talks include providing the IAEA with access to the Saghand uranium mine and to Iran’s uranium-concentration plant for refining uranium ore, information on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and access to a center that was used in the past for laser uranium-enrichment experiments.

      In the Feb. 9 announcement, Iran and the IAEA also reported that the six initial actions that Iran agreed to take as part of the Nov. 11 agreement had been completed on schedule.

      IAEA Deputy Director-General Tero Varjoranta told reporters Feb. 10 that Iran took “all the initial pragmatic measures” and that “everything has gone as planned” since November. Varjoranta led the IAEA delegation to Tehran for the February talks.

      The initial six measures from the Nov. 11 agreement included a Dec. 8 IAEA visit to the Heavy Water Production Plant at the Arak site, which produces heavy water for a reactor under construction, and a Jan. 29 visit to the Gchine uranium mine. The agency has not been able to visit either site for years despite requests for access.

      Iran also provided the IAEA with information on its planned construction of nuclear power reactors, research reactors, and uranium-enrichment facilities.

      In its Feb. 20 quarterly report on Iran, the IAEA summarized the contents of two letters that Tehran sent to the agency Feb. 8 regarding its future activities. Iran wrote that it had identified 16 sites for nuclear power reactors and was planning to build a light-water reactor fueled by 20 percent enriched uranium for medical isotope production and nuclear research. The site selection process for the reactor is in its “preliminary stages,” according to a passage from the letter that appeared in the IAEA report.

      In a Jan. 18 letter to the agency also quoted in the IAEA report, Iran said it had begun the site selection for five of 10 planned uranium-enrichment sites but that there would be no progress on constructing these facilities during the following six months. Iran committed not to build any new enrichment facilities as part of a Nov. 24 agreement reached with six world powers (see).

      Although these initial actions provided the agency with information on Iran’s future nuclear plans and access to several facilities, they did not address the activities with potential nuclear weapons applications—“possible military dimensions,” in IAEA parlance.

      Past Cooperation

      Iran previously has provided the agency with some information on nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.

      These prior discussions included exchanges between Tehran and the IAEA on information regarding bridge wire detonators in 2008, which the IAEA summarized in its November 2011 report.

      During the 2008 exchanges, Iran said that it was developing them for “civil and conventional military applications.” The IAEA, however, maintained in the report that given their “limited civilian and conventional military applications,” Iran’s work on developing the detonators is a “matter of concern.”

      The IAEA also said in the November 2011 report it had information that Iran conducted practical tests of the bridge wire detonators to see if they would “perform satisfactorily over long distances between a firing point and a test device located down a deep shaft.” This information would be useful if Iran were to carry out a nuclear test, the agency stated in the report.

      Even after the information on the detonator development is given to the IAEA, the agency has other unresolved concerns about alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons development. In a list of topics requiring further investigation that the agency presented to Iran in February 2012, the IAEA included neutron initiation, tests of warhead integration with missiles, hydrodynamic experiments, and the possibility of past explosive testing at the Parchin military facility.

      At his Feb. 10 press conference, Varjoranta said “a lot of work” remains to be done on the possible military dimensions. He said that there will be “new steps” after May 15.

      Iran has maintained that the IAEA allegations of activities with possible military dimensions are baseless. On Feb. 7, the day before the meeting began, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Iran is ready to “answer all the questions” about its “peaceful nuclear activities.”

      Laser Enrichment

      As part of the Nov. 11 agreement, Iran provided the IAEA with information on its experiments with laser-based uranium-enrichment technology and an explanation for Tehran’s February 2010 statement that it possessed this technology.

      According to a second Jan. 18 letter quoted in the Feb. 20 IAEA report, Iran said that these experiments ended in 2003 and the February 2010 statement referenced that earlier work. Since 2003, “there had not been any especially designed or prepared systems, equipment and components for use in laser-based enrichment plants in Iran,” the letter was quoted as saying.

      As a follow-up action, Iran agreed Feb. 9 to allow the IAEA to visit its Lashkar Ab’ad laser center where the enrichment experiments are known to have taken place prior to 2003.

      Varjoranta said the IAEA has a plan for proceeding with the issue of laser-based uranium enrichment and that he felt confident that the IAEA will “find out” what it needs to know about Iran’s work in this area.

      Iran agreed to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information on its past development of a detonator that can be used for nuclear weapons.

      Week Ahead Feb. 24-March 2: Castle Bravo Test Anniversary; Pentagon Budget; NATO Ministers & G8 Partnership Meetings

      In the coming days, the staff and editors at the Arms Control Association will be keeping an eye on the following arms control-related developments. For more news and analysis on these and other weapons-related security issues, consider subscribing to ACA's monthly journal Arms Control Today, which is available in print/digital and digital-only editions. More information and timely analysis is available from www.armscontrol.org. - the Editors at Arms Control Today March 1: 60th Anniversary of the"Castle Bravo" Nuclear Test in the Pacific Ceremonies held this week in Little Rock, Arkansas and...

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