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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement
July 1, 2020
EU / NATO

Russia Completes CFE Treaty Suspension

April 2015

By Kingston Reif

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

The announcement marks a further pullback from the treaty that Moscow had largely abandoned in 2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

In a March 11 interview with Interfax, Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said Moscow’s suspension was not due to the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations resulting from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“The issue was long overdue, long before the Ukraine crisis, before the current state of affairs in our relations with the West,” Ulyanov said.

According to Ulyanov, the United States “had forbidden its allies to discuss any substantive issues at the JCG. In those conditions there was not much sense in continuing our participation in the JCG.”

The CFE Treaty, signed at the end of the Cold War on Nov. 19, 1990, eliminated the Soviet Union’s overwhelming quantitative advantage in conventional weapons in Europe by setting equal limits on the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

The treaty was designed to prevent either alliance from amassing forces for a blitzkrieg-type offensive, which could have triggered the use of nuclear weapons in response.

Russia suspended implementation of the CFE Treaty in 2007, claiming it was responding to NATO member states’ decision to condition their ratification of the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty on the resolution of a dispute over Russian military deployments in parts of Moldova and Georgia. But Moscow continued to participate in the consultative group, saying that it hoped that dialogue could lead to the creation of an effective, new conventional arms control regime in Europe.

Beginning in 2010, the Obama administration sought to resolve the CFE Treaty dispute through the development of a draft “framework” for new negotiations to strengthen the treaty regime. But the talks stalled, and in November 2011, the United States announced that it “would cease carrying out certain obligations” under the CFE Treaty with regard to Russia.

Ulyanov told Interfax that Russia would be unlikely to return to compliance with the CFE Treaty. The accord, created when the Warsaw Pact was still in existence, is “anachronistic” and “absolutely out of sync with the present realities,” he said.

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

Cotton and GOP Senators Offer No Viable Option to the P5+1 Nuclear Deal with Iran

The international community is close to making a deal with Iran that will block its pathways to nuclear weapons–provided the U.S. Congress does not derail the best chance in over a decade to limit Iran’s nuclear program. In a blatant attempt to undermine U.S. foreign policy and the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, 47 Republican Senators wrote to Iran’s leadership warning that the next president could revoke a nuclear deal or that Congress could change the terms. The March 9 letter , led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is denouncing a deal that has not been reached and threatening to...

EU Ready for Negotiations on Space Code

December 2014

By Timothy Farnsworth

The European Union says it is ready to begin negotiations on a final draft of its proposed international code of conduct for activities in outer space, but several countries are still asking for more time.

In an Oct. 27 statement to the UN General Assembly First Committee, Clara Ganslandt of the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic arm, said the EU and many participating countries are ready to move the process of developing a code of conduct for space to a “negotiating phase.” Since June 2012, the participants have been engaged in “open-ended” consultations.

Ganslandt, who heads the division of the diplomatic service that deals with weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and space issues, said several countries requested more time to study the proposal that would launch negotiations. The EU is “currently consulting” with these states, she said.

In her statement, Ganslandt said the latest draft of the code of conduct from the May 2014 consultation in Luxembourg would serve as the basis for the negotiating phase and “remains open to further changes.”

The proposal calling for the negotiations to begin has been circulated among some UN member states, but was never officially presented to the UN Secretariat as a formal document and has not been made public, according to a UN official familiar with the document.

The goal of the code is to establish guidelines for responsible behavior in space that would reduce the risk of debris-generating events and increase transparency in space operations in order to avoid collisions between space assets and debris.

Since 2008, when the EU began the process of developing a code, the deadline for producing a final text has been delayed at least twice. In 2012, when the open-ended consultations were announced in order to gain broader support from the international community, the EU had hoped to host a diplomatic conference by the end of 2013. (See ACT, September 2012.) At the end of the final consultation meeting in May 2014, meeting chairman Jacek Bylica said in his closing remarks that he hoped to conclude the process by the end of 2014.

In a Nov. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Bylica, who is principal adviser and special envoy for nonproliferation and disarmament in the EU diplomatic service, said moving to a negotiating phase of the process would be difficult next year because of “a very rich calendar” that includes events such as the month-long nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference and the first conference of states-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty. Even so, the EU is “looking for ways which would enable all willing to do so to engage in the negotiations” on the code, Bylica said.

Christopher Buck, the U.S. alternate representative to the UN First Committee, said in his Oct. 27 statement to the committee, “We now look forward to working next year with the European Union and the international community in an inclusive process to finalize” the code of conduct.

In January 2012, the United States announced that it backed EU efforts to establish a code of conduct for space, but would not sign the document at that time. (See ACT, March 2012.) Later that year, the EU established the open-ended consultations as a result of criticism by many countries, including Brazil and India, that the EU process for developing the text was not inclusive enough. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

Many countries have argued that the United Nations is the appropriate place to debate the code of conduct. In a joint statement at the end of their summit last July, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—a group of countries known as the BRICS—“call[ed] for an inclusive and consensus-based multilateral negotiation to be conducted within the framework of the UN without specific deadlines in order to reach a balanced outcome that addresses the needs and reflects the concerns of all participants.” Many other countries, including the United States and EU members, have been against negotiating a code within the UN fold to avoid being bogged down in procedural questions. (See ACT, November 2012.)

The BRICS statement also called for negotiations to conclude an “international agreement or agreements to prevent an arms race in outer space” and welcomed the introduction by China and Russia of the updated draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects. The United States has been critical of that draft treaty since China and Russia introduced the original text in 2008.

The European Union says it is ready to begin negotiations on a final draft of its proposed space code, but several countries are still asking for more time.

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...

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