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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
United States

Firearms Export Changes Partially Blocked


April 2020

Despite opposition from some members of Congress and a wide range of civil society groups, Trump administration changes to its oversight of certain firearms exports took effect in March. A federal district judge, however, issued a temporary injunction on portions of the rules that deal with 3D gun-printing plans.

The rules came into effect on Mar. 9, despite congressional efforts such as those of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who had twice sought holds on the new rules in 2019. The new system transfers overall authority for the export of certain types of semiautomatic and other firearms and their ammunition to the Commerce Department from the State Department. (See ACT, March 2020.) Renewing a letter delivered in May 2019 from more than 100 civil society organizations, 23 groups sent a message to Congress on March 4 encouraging them to stop or reverse the changes, arguing that the new rules “will thwart congressional oversight and exacerbate gun violence, human rights abuses, and armed conflict around the world.”

On March 6, Judge Richard Jones in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ordered a preliminary injunction in a case filed by more than 20 state attorneys general that sought to block all the changes. Jones limited the injunction to prohibit changes to how online 3D printing plans for firearms, sometimes called “ghost guns,” are regulated.

Some of the attorneys general criticized the president’s efforts. “If the Trump administration has its way, these ghost guns will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history…. We will keep fighting back against this unlawful, dangerous policy,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on March 9.—JEFF ABRAMSON

Firearms Export Changes Partially Blocked

Court Ends Final Bid to Save MOX Program


April 2020

A U.S. federal court dealt the final blow Feb. 20 to a troubled project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina that would have converted surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for nuclear power plants.

The H Canyon at the Savannah River Site had been intended to participate in the process to produce mixed-oxide fuel from surplus U.S. plutonium. (Photo: Energy Department)Judge J. Michelle Childs of the U.S. District Court in South Carolina formally terminated a lawsuit brought by the state in 2018 after the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced it would end construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Plant at the site.

Construction on the plant began in 2007 to implement a U.S.-Russian agreement for each nation to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium deemed unneeded by their nuclear weapons programs. Following years of cost overruns and scheduling delays, the Obama administration decided to end the project’s funding in 2016, sparking a backlash from lawmakers in South Carolina. Russia withdrew from the agreement later that year, citing U.S. noncompliance.

After U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry signaled in May 2018 that the department would scrap the project in favor of a less expensive alternative, South Carolina sued to prevent the site’s shutdown, winning a brief injunction. (See ACT, June 2018.) A federal appeals court later ruled in the department’s favor, and the Supreme Court declined to hear South Carolina’s appeal of that decision, leading Childs to put a end to the suit.

The Energy Department is now planning to adapt the MOX fuel facility to join Los Alamos National Laboratory in the annual production of at least 80 plutonium pits, the cores of nuclear weapons, by 2030. The department aims for the planned Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility to produce at least 50 plutonium cores per year by 2030.—PERI MEYERS

Court Ends Final Bid to Save MOX Program

Wassenaar Nations Set New Export Controls


April 2020

Transfers of military-grade software and chip manufacturing technology will face increased scrutiny following an amendment to the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international export control regime.

Established in 1996 and now numbering 42 nations that apply the voluntary trade restrictions, the Wassenaar Arrangement restricts the export of certain conventional weapons, dual-use goods and other technology. Its members include France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Notable nations not participating include China, Iran, Israel, and North Korea.

At their 25th annual plenary meeting in December in Vienna, members agreed unanimously to adopt new export controls in such areas as cyberwarfare software, communications monitoring, digital investigative tools and forensic systems, suborbital aerospace vehicles, technology for the production of substrates for high-end integrated circuits, hybrid machine tools, and lithography equipment and technology.

In addition, the nations clarified existing export control measures regarding ballistic protection, optical sensors, ball bearings, and inorganic fibrous and filamentary materials. They also relaxed some controls, including those with respect to certain laminates and commercial components with embedded cryptography.

The enhanced export restrictions might affect sales by forensic cybersecurity and chip manufacturing companies, according to articles from Kyodo News and Haaretz.—PERI MEYERS

Wassenaar Nations Set New Export Controls

Surging U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget a Growing Danger

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Volume 12, Issue 3, March 19, 2020

The projected cost to sustain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal continues to grow. And grow. And grow some more. The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget request released in February reinforces what has long been forewarned: The administration’s excessive strategy to replace nearly the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal at roughly the same time is a ticking budget time bomb, even at historically high levels of national defense spending.

“I am concerned that … we have underestimated the risks associated with such a complex and time-constrained modernization and recapitalization effort,” Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 13.

Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, the director of the Navy strategic systems programs, put it even more bluntly to the House Armed Services Committee on March 3. There is a “pervasive and overwhelming risk carried within the nuclear enterprise as refurbishment programs face capacity, funding, and schedule challenges,” he said.

Adm. Richard and Vice Adm. Wolfe support the administration’s modernization approach and believe that delays to the effort could undermine the U.S. nuclear deterrent. But their warnings should prompt renewed questions about whether the spending plans are necessary and sustainable. The need for a fundamental reassessment is magnified by the rising human and financial toll that the novel coronavirus is inflicting on the national economy. The threat to worker safety and health posed by the disease could exacerbate the execution challenges identified by Adm. Richard and Adm. Wolfe.

Last year, Congress supported the administration’s nuclear budget priorities despite strong opposition from the Democratic-led House. But the costs and opportunity costs of the plans are real and growing – and the biggest modernization bills are just beginning to hit. Scaling back the proposals for new delivery systems, warheads, and their infrastructure would make the nuclear weapons modernization effort easier to execute and save scores of billions of taxpayer dollars that should be spent on addressing higher priority national and health security challenges. Such adjustments would still leave ample funding to sustain a devasting U.S. nuclear deterrent.

The Fiscal Year 2021 Nuclear Budget Request

The administration is requesting $44.5 billion in fiscal year 2021 for the Defense and Energy Departments to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear delivery systems and warheads and their supporting infrastructure, a larger-than-anticipated increase of about $7.3 billion, or 19 percent, from the fiscal year 2020 level. This includes $28.9 billion for the Pentagon and $15.6 billion for the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The proposed spending on nuclear weapons constitutes about 6 percent of the total national defense request, up from about 5 percent last year. By 2024, projected spending on the nuclear arsenal is slated to consume 6.8% of total national defense spending. The percentage will continue to rise through the late-2020s and early-2030s when modernization spending is slated to peak.

The largest increase sought is for the NNSA nuclear weapons activities account. The budget request calls for $15.6 billion, an astonishing increase of $3.1 billion, or 25 percent, above the fiscal year 2020 appropriation and $2.8 billion above the projection for 2021 in the fiscal year 2020 budget request. Over the next five years, the NNSA is planning to request over $81 billion for weapons activities, a nearly 24 percent increase over what it planned to seek over the same period as of last year.

To put the NNSA weapons activities request in perspective, $15.6 billion is almost twice as much as the $8.3 billion emergency spending bill signed into law March 6 to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus through prevention efforts and research to quickly produce a vaccine for the deadly disease.

The budget request would support continued implementation of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which called for expanding U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. In addition to continuing full speed ahead with the previous administration’s plans to upgrade the arsenal on a largely like-for-like basis, the Trump administration proposed to develop two new sea-based low-yield nuclear options (one of which it has already begun deploying) and lay the groundwork to grow the size of the warhead stockpile.

The projected long-term cost of the proposed nuclear spending spree is even more staggering. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected last year that the United States is poised to spend nearly $500 billion, after including the effects of inflation, to maintain and replace its nuclear arsenal between fiscal years 2019 and 2028. This is an increase of nearly $100 billion, or about 23 percent, above the already enormous projected cost as of the end of the Obama administration. Over the next 30 years, the price tag is likely to top $1.5 trillion and could even approach $2 trillion.

These big nuclear bills are coming due as the Defense Department is seeking to replace large portions of its conventional forces and must contend with internal fiscal pressures, such as rising maintenance and operations costs. In addition, external fiscal pressures, such as the growing national debt and the significant economic contraction caused by the coronavirus pandemic, are all likely to limit the growth of – and perhaps reduce – military spending. Indeed, the Trump administration is recommending a lower national defense budget top line in fiscal year 2021 than Congress provided last year.

“The Pentagon must come to terms with the reality that future defense budgets are likely to be flat, which will force leaders to make some tough choices,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Feb. 6.

The costs and risks of the Trump administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans are compounded by its hostility to arms control. The administration withdrew the United States from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in August 2019 and has shown little interest in extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). If New START expires in February 2021 with nothing to replace it, the incentives for the United States and Russia to grow the size of their arsenals beyond the treaty limits would grow. A new quantitative arms race would cause the already high costs of the modernization effort to soar even higher.

Triad Budget Rises as Planned

The budget request contains large but planned increases to maintain the schedule of Pentagon programs to sustain and rebuild the U.S. triad of nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers.

The request includes $4.4 billion for the Navy program to build 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The Air Force is seeking $2.8 billion to continue development of the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, $500 million for the long-range standoff weapon program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile, and $1.5 billion for the program to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile with a missile system called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The Pentagon is also asking for $4.2 billion to sustain and upgrade nuclear command, control, and communications systems.

Collectively, the request for these programs is an increase of $3.2 billion, or more than 30 percent, above the fiscal year 2020 level.

Over the next five years, the Pentagon is projecting to request $167 billion to sustain and modernize delivery systems and their supporting command and control infrastructure. The Columbia-class, GBSD, and B-21 programs could each cost between $100-$150 billion after including the effects of inflation and likely cost overruns, easily putting them among the top 10 most expensive Pentagon acquisition programs.

 
 

 

NNSA Budget Explodes

The NNSA budget submission includes large unplanned cost increases for several ongoing warhead life extension programs, the acceleration of the W93 program to develop a newly-designed submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, the expansion of the production of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads to at least 80 per year, and other large infrastructure recapitalization projects.

The factors driving the NNSA to request such large unplanned increases are unclear. The agency said last year that its fiscal year 2020 budget plan was “fully consistent” with the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and “affordable and executable.” Under that proposal, the NNSA did not plan to request more than $15 billion for the weapons activities account until 2030.

Several major ongoing programs would reportedly be delayed in the absence of the increase, which would suggest that they have encountered cost overruns. 

It is unlikely that the NNSA will be able to spend such a large increase in one year. Allison Bawden, a director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), told the House Armed Services Committee on March 3 that spending the requested amount “will be very challenging.” This view is supported by the fact that the weapons activities account is sitting on approximately $5.5 billion in unspent carryover balances from previous years.

Despite massive budget increases since the Trump administration took office, the executability of NNSA’s plans is highly questionable. The ambition of the agency’s modernization program is unlike anything seen since the Cold War. Bawden noted that the GAO is “concerned about the long-term affordability of the plans.” Former NNSA administrator Frank Klotz said in a January 2018 interview before the release of the Nuclear Posture Review that the agency was already “working pretty much at full capacity.”

According to Bawden, the tightly coupled nature of the NNSA’s modernization program is such that “any delay could have a significant cascading effect on the overall effort.” The agency has consistently underestimated the cost and schedule risks of major warhead life extension programs and infrastructure recapitalization projects. An independent assessment published last year found “no historical precedent” for the NNSA’s plan to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030. The assessment also stated that the agency had never completed a major project costing more than $700 million in fewer than 16 years.

This chart shows the NNSA’s future-years nuclear security program (FYNSP) for each fiscal year starting with FY 2017. The FYNSP reflects what the agency estimates its budget will be for that current fiscal year and the four succeeding fiscal years.Moreover, while the NNSA’s five-year spending projection sustains the enormous fiscal year 2021 funding proposal, outyear funding is slated to grow at a set rate of 2.1 percent. In other words, the outyear projections aren't based on what NNSA believes it will actually need. Several major NNSA efforts, such as developing a warhead for a new sea-launched cruise missile and the full scope of the plutonium pit production and uranium enrichment recapitalization plans, are not yet part of the budget. In sum, if "past is precedent," the outyear projections will exceed growth with inflation.

Nuclear Force Modernization Cannibalizes Conventional Military Modernization

The damaging opportunity costs of the administration’s decision to prioritize nuclear weapons are on full display in the budget request. The Navy has long been warning that the planned recapitalization of the ballistic missile submarine force will pose a particularly significant affordability challenge. The request includes funding to purchase the first submarine in the class over the next three years.

“[W]e must begin a 40-year recapitalization of our [SSBN] force,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly wrote in a Feb. 18 memo directing the Navy to identify $40 billion in savings over the next five years. “This requirement will consume a significant portion of our shipbuilding budget in the coming years and squeeze out funds we need to build a larger fleet.”

The Navy is requesting $19.9 billion for shipbuilding in fiscal year 2021, a decrease of $4.1 billion below the fiscal year 2020 level.

The shipbuilding budget also paid the price for the enormous unplanned increase for the NNSA. The agency’s budget submission was reportedly a controversial issue within the Trump administration and was not resolved until days before the Feb. 10 public release of the budget. President Trump ultimately signed off on adding over $2 billion to the NNSA’s weapons activities account, forcing a late scramble to make room for the additional funding.

Though the Pentagon has not confirmed the exact amount that was taken to pay for the increase, members of Congress and media reports indicate that the increase for the NNSA prevented the Navy from adding a second Virginia-class attack submarine to the shipbuilding budget. The decision to cut an attack submarine to pay for a budget increase the NNSA said last year it didn’t need is hard to square with the Pentagon’s top overall defense priority of preparing for great power competition with China.

Nuclear Weapons Aren’t Cheap

The Pentagon argues that even at its peak in the late-2020s, spending on nuclear weapons is affordable because it will consume a peak of roughly 6.4 percent of total Pentagon spending in 2029. But this figure is misleading for several reasons. For starters, the figure doesn’t include spending at the NNSA. When NNSA spending is included, nuclear weapons already account for 6 percent of the total FY 2021 national defense budget request. Regardless, even 6 percent of a budget as large as the Pentagon’s is an enormous amount of money. By comparison, the March 2013 congressionally mandated sequester reduced national defense spending (minus exempt military personnel accounts) by 7 percent. Military leaders and lawmakers repeatedly described the sequester as devastating.

Meanwhile, a better measure of the opportunity costs of prioritizing nuclear modernization is to compare spending on that modernization to overall Defense Department acquisition spending. The Pentagon is requesting $17.7 billion for nuclear weapons research, development, and procurement in fiscal year 2021. This amount already accounts for 7.3 percent of the total requested Pentagon acquisition spending. While the Pentagon is projecting a decline in total acquisition spending over the next five years, nuclear acquisition spending is primed for a major increase. The CBO estimated in 2017 that by the early 2030s, spending on nuclear weapons would rise to 15 percent of the Pentagon’s total acquisition costs.

Pentagon officials also repeatedly claim that unless they get every penny that they are asking for to modernize the arsenal, the arsenal will begin to erode into obsolescence. But this is a false choice. The right question is whether the administration’s approach is necessary, sustainable, and safe, especially in the absence of any negotiated restraints on the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. And the right answer is that the administration’s current path is unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe – and must be rethought.

Recommendations for Congress

The bottom line is that Trump administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending – which are unlikely to be forthcoming – or cuts to other security priorities. The current approach is a costly and irrational recipe for nuclear modernization program delays and scope reductions.

But while the plans pose significant challenges, they need not prevent the United States from continuing to field a powerful and credible nuclear force sufficient to deter or respond to a nuclear attack against the United States and its allies. The administration inherited a larger and more diverse nuclear arsenal than is required for deterrence and its approach to modernization and arms control would increase the risks of miscalculation, unintended escalation, and accelerated global nuclear competition.

Instead, the United States could save at least $150 billion in fiscal year 2017 constant dollars through the mid-2040s by adjusting the current modernization approach while still retaining a triad and deploying the New START limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. Such an approach would reflect a nuclear strategy that reduces reliance on nuclear weapons, emphasizes stability and survivability, de-emphasizes nuclear warfighting, reduces the risk of miscalculation, and is more affordable and executable.

The options include:

  • Buying 10 instead of 12 new Columbia class ballistic missile submarines;
  • Extending the life of the existing Minuteman III ICBM instead of building a new missile and reducing the size of the ICBM force from 400 missiles to 300 missiles (for a detailed discussion of the case for this option, see here);
  • Foregoing development of new nuclear air- and sea-launched cruise missiles;
  • Scaling back plans to build newly-designed ICBM and SLBM warheads;
  • Aiming for a pit production capacity of 30-50 pits per year by 2035 instead of at least 80 pits per year by 2030;
  • Foregoing development of a new uranium enrichment facility; and
  • Retiring the megaton-class B-83 gravity bomb.

Simply reverting to the fiscal year 2020 budget plan for NNSA weapons activities would save over $15.5 billion over the next five years.

Now is the time to re-evaluate nuclear weapons spending plans before the largest investments are made. Of course, pressure on the defense budget cannot be relieved solely by reducing nuclear weapons spending. A significant portion of the overall cost of nuclear weapons is fixed. That said, changes to the nuclear replacement program could make it easier to execute and ease some of the hard choices facing the overall defense enterprise.

In addition to pursuing adjustments to the scope and scale of the modernization program, Congress should also take steps to improve its understanding of the long-term budget challenges. These include:

  • Holding in-depth hearings on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and spending;
  • Requiring the Defense and Energy Departments to prepare a report on options for reducing the scale and scope of their nuclear modernization plans and the associated cost savings;
  • Mandating unclassified annual government updates on the projected long-term costs of nuclear weapons;
  • Requiring an independent report on alternatives to building a new ICBM;
  • Tasking the GAO to annually assess the affordability of the Defense and Energy Department’s modernization plans; and
  • Requiring the NNSA to perform detailed work examining the estimated life of plutonium pits.

Also, lawmakers should more aggressively highlight the relationship between arms control and upgrading the arsenal. The administration’s current one-sided approach both compounds the dangers of the spending plans and flies in the face of longstanding Congressional support for the pursuit of modernization and arms control in tandem.

If the administration continues to insist on nuclear weapons modernization without arms control, then Congress should make it clear that it will not allow the president to increase the size of the arsenal above the New START limits and will be further emboldened to seek to restrain the administration’s excessive and unsustainable spending plans.—Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, and Shannon Bugos, research assistant

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The Trump administration’s excessive strategy to replace nearly the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal at roughly the same time is a ticking budget time bomb, even at historically high levels of national defense spending.

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U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, March 13, 2020

Trump Officials Remain Bullish on Trilateral Arms Control and Bearish on New START President Donald Trump said recently that he is open to meeting with the other heads of state of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss arms control and will soon put forward a trilateral arms control proposal with Russia and China. But China continues to express its opposition to trilateral talks and has yet to respond to U.S. overtures to begin a bilateral strategic security dialogue. At the same time, the U.S. administration continues to deflect questions about its stance on the New...

Risks and Realities of Extending the UN Arms Embargo on Iran

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Volume 12, Issue 2, March 5, 2020

More than a decade ago, the United States and its partners secured UN Security Council support for a series of resolutions imposing increasingly tough sanctions on Iran as part of an effort to pressure Tehran into multilateral talks to curb its nuclear program and block its pathways to nuclear weapons.

The United States along with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union (P5+1), combined international pressure with multilateral negotiations, a strategy that produced the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA successfully rolled back Iran’s nuclear program, imposed a stringent new set of monitoring and verification requirements, some of which are permanent, and established an array of restrictions that limited Iran’s uranium enrichment for more than a decade, and effectively closed off its capability to produce plutonium. The deal also includes a permanent prohibition on certain nuclear weapons-related activities that also have non-nuclear applications. In exchange, Iran received relief from the United States, the United Nations, and European Union sanctions that were imposed as part of the pressure campaign.

Despite Iran’s adherence to the JCPOA, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement in May 2018 and violated U.S. JCPOA commitments by reimposing sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration also urged other countries to refrain from conducting legitimate business with Iran.

A year after Trump’s announcement, Iran stated that it would begin reducing compliance with the JCPOA, and it has taken a series of five steps designed to press the remaining parties to the deal to deliver on sanctions relief envisioned by the accord. Iranian officials continue to reiterate that its violations are reversible and that Tehran will return to compliance if its demands on sanctions relief are met.

The Arms Embargo, Nuclear Sanctions, and the JCPOA

As part of the initial, broader effort to pressure Iran into negotiating over its nuclear program, the UN Security Council passed several resolutions that imposed an arms embargo on Iran. (A full list of UN Security Council resolutions on Iran is available online.) The arms embargo provisions are, therefore, a nuclear-related sanction. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice originally emphasized in 2010, when the arms embargo was expanded as part of Resolution 1929, that the sanctions would be suspended if a nuclear deal was reached.

In a statement issued on behalf of the P5+1, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, made a similar point about the intent of the sanctions in Resolution 1929. He said the aim of the sanctions was “to achieve a comprehensive and long-term settlement which would restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

During negotiations on the JCPOA, Iran argued that the arms embargo should be lifted immediately upon implementation of the nuclear deal and Russia and China supported that effort, according to former Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry said that the United States pressed for retaining it and negotiated the five-year extension, which is reflected in Annex B, Paragraph 5 of Security Council Resolution 2231.

Resolution 2231, which was adopted unanimously by the Security Council in 2015, endorsed the JCPOA, lifted the majority of the UN sanctions and modified other nuclear-related measures, such as the arms embargo and prohibition on ballistic missile transfers. Under the terms of Resolution 2231, this five-year period ends in October 2020, unless UN sanctions on Iran are snapped back into place. Kerry described the five-year extension as a victory for the United States because, as he noted in 2015, Resolution 1929 “says specifically that if Iran comes to negotiate – not even get a deal, but comes to negotiate – sanctions would be lifted.”

Now, press reports indicate that some opponents of the JCPOA are pressing Congressional members to support a renewal or extension of the arms embargo at the UN Security Council. Although these Congressional efforts do not explicitly reference support for the snapback mechanism set up in Resolution 2231, urging the Trump administration to ensure the continuation of the UN arms embargo could be interpreted by Trump as a green light from Congress to pursue that strategy. (And because a wholly new resolution seeking to extend the arms embargo on Iran would assuredly be vetoed by Russia or China.)

On a superficial level, calls for extending the arms embargo on Iran may seem like a useful and politically expedient response to Iran’s aggressive activities in the Middle East region. But in reality, such exhortations could undermine regional security by facilitating the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the JCPOA completely.

Reimposing UN Sanctions Would Collapse the Iran Nuclear Deal

Although the Trump administration announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 and is no longer party to the agreement, some members of the  Trump administration believe the United States can still use the mechanism set out in Resolution 2231 to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo. "We're aiming to get that [arms embargo] extended," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said March 5.

The Trump administration appears to believe that it can still trigger sanctions snapback at the Security Council because the United States was never formally removed from the original list of JCPOA participating states in Resolution 2231.

Other UN Security Council members, who strongly support the JCPOA, will argue that this legal argument is baseless since Trump declared that the United States is no longer a party to the JCPOA. They will surely seek to block any effort to put the issue of snapping back sanctions on Iran on the Security Council’s agenda. Once and if the issue is put on the Security Council agenda, however, the process for reimposing sanctions under Resolution 2231 cannot be vetoed.

If the Trump administration is successful in snapping back UN sanctions, the JCPOA will very likely collapse, which could trigger a new nuclear crisis.

Iran has made clear that it will withdraw from the nuclear if any state attempts to pursue a snapback at the Security Council. In that event, Iran’s nuclear program would be unconstrained and could be subject to far less intrusive monitoring.

Additionally, pushing to renew the arms embargo now based on Iran’s destabilizing regional activity further damages U.S. credibility. Arguing that the arms embargo should be extended on that basis changes the original intent and motivation behind the sanctions, which was to pressure Iran to negotiate on its nuclear program. Altering the requirements for lifting those sanctions reinforces the message to Iran that the United States cannot be trusted to waive sanctions if Tehran meets the originally described pathway to lifting the restrictions. This would make any future negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program even more difficult, as Iran will have little reason to trust the United States would follow through on its commitments.

The expiration of the arms embargo could have troublesome consequences, but the United States has other tools to address Iran’s conventional arms trade that do not risk a collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal and inflict damage to the reputation and influence of the United States.

Calls to extend the arms embargo risk conveying Congressional support for triggering the UNSC Resolution 2231 snapback mechanism, which would only escalate the Trump administration’s self-created crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and further undermine U.S. and international security.

The smarter approach for U.S. policymakers is to support more realistic and effective diplomatic efforts, beginning with a return to U.S. and Iranian compliance to the JCPOA, and a broader negotiation on a follow-on nuclear agreement that builds on the 2015 deal and that takes on other issues of mutual concern, including destabilizing arms transfers to states in the Middle East region.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy, and DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director.

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On a superficial level, calls for extending the arms embargo on Iran may seem like a useful and politically expedient response to Iran’s aggressive activities in the Middle East region. But in reality, such exhortations could undermine regional security.

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No One Wins an Arms Race or a Nuclear War


March 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

Fulfilling a goal outlined in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report, the Trump administration acknowledged last month that the United States has deployed for the first time a low-yield nuclear warhead on some U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The move comes as the administration is proposing to increase spending to more than $44 billion next year to continue and, in some cases, accelerate programs to replace and upgrade all the major elements of the bloated U.S. arsenal. Unless curtailed, the plan, which departs in important ways from long-standing U.S. policies, will accelerate global nuclear competition and increase the risk of nuclear war.

As if to underscore the dangers of the administration’s strategy, the Defense Department led an exercise last month simulating a limited nuclear war. “The scenario included a European contingency…. Russia decides to use a low-yield, limited nuclear weapon against a site on NATO territory,” and the United States fires back with a “limited” nuclear response, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. response presumably involved the low-yield sub-launched warhead, known as the W76-2.

The exercise perpetuates the dangerous illusion that a nuclear war can be fought and won. The new warhead, which packs a five-kiloton explosive yield, is large enough destroy a large city. It would be delivered on the same type of long-range ballistic missile launched from the same strategic submarine that carries missiles loaded with 100-kiloton strategic warheads. Russian military leaders would be hard pressed to know, in the heat of a crisis, whether the missile was part of a “limited” strike or the first wave of an all-out nuclear attack.

Nevertheless, Trump officials insist that the president needs “more credible” nuclear use options to deter the possible first use of nuclear weapons by Russia. In reality, once nuclear weapons of any kind are detonated in a conflict between nuclear-armed adversaries, there is no guarantee against a cycle of escalation leading to all-out global nuclear war. Lowering the threshold for nuclear use by making nuclear weapons “more usable” takes the United States and Russia and the world in the wrong direction.

The administration plans do not stop there. Its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal calls for other new kinds of destabilizing nuclear weapons systems, including a new nuclear warhead for SLBMs, dubbed the W93, and a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile for deployment on surface ships and submarines. If developed, the W93 would be the first new warhead design added to the U.S. arsenal in more than three decades.

The Defense Department is also seeking $28.9 billion next year, a 30 percent increase, for programs to sustain and recapitalize the existing nuclear arsenal.

The Pentagon’s nuclear modernization spending binge includes $4.4 billion to begin construction of a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines; $2.8 billion for the new B-21 stealth bomber program; $1.5 billion to start work on a new ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile system; and $500 million to continue development work on a new nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile.

The administration is also demanding a 25 percent boost for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons budget, to $15.6 billion, to cover the growing cost of nuclear warhead refurbishment, design, and production work. This includes expanding the capacity to build plutonium warhead cores to at least 80 per year—an unrealistic and unnecessary goal.

The administration’s grandiose proposals not only would contribute to a dangerous global qualitative nuclear arms race, but they are excessive and unaffordable. Over the next 30 years, these and other nuclear weapons programs are estimated to cost taxpayers at least $1.5 trillion.

Worse yet, the Trump administration’s program of record would sustain deployed strategic warhead numbers at levels 30 percent higher than the Pentagon itself determined in 2013 is necessary to deter nuclear attack. Taken together, Trump’s policies to “greatly strengthen and expand” the U.S. nuclear capability and his failure to engage in good faith negotiations to end the arms race and pursue disarmament are a violation of U.S. obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

It does not have to be this way. First, the Trump administration needs to heed calls from military officials, U.S. allies, and bipartisan national security leaders to take up Russia’s offer to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by five years before it is due to expire early next year. Without the treaty, the doors to an open-ended global nuclear arms competition will swing open. History shows that there are no winners in a nuclear arms race.

Second, the Congress, and perhaps a new president in 2021, must rein in the exploding cost and scope of the U.S. nuclear modernization program, particularly the efforts to develop “more usable” nuclear weapons. Hundreds of billions of dollars can be saved by delaying, trimming, or eliminating major elements of the current plan while maintaining a devastating nuclear deterrent. This would allow for those monies to be redirected to other, more urgent national security projects and domestic programs that address real human needs.

Fulfilling a goal outlined in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report, the Trump administration acknowledged last month that the United States has deployed for the first time a low-yield nuclear warhead on some U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

Defining U.S. Goals for the NPT: An Interview with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Eberhardt


March 2020

As the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) marks the 50th anniversary of its entry into force, its parties will gather for the treaty’s 10th review conference in New York, from April 27 to May 22. Ambassador Jeffrey Eberhardt, special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation, will lead the U.S. delegation to the review conference. He spoke with Arms Control Today on February 5 to describe U.S. goals and positions on issues that will likely be contentious at the conference.

Jeffrey Eberhardt is sworn in as special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation In June 2019 by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford. (Photo: U.S. State Department)Arms Control Today: At last year’s NPT preparatory committee meeting, the United States said that “we must recall our predecessors’ accomplishments,…reaffirm our shared commitment to the NPT and the broader nonproliferation regime, and…rededicate ourselves to preserving and strengthening them for future generations.” How does the United States plan to move in that direction?

Jeffrey Eberhardt: On the occasion of the treaty’s 50th anniversary, we really want to focus on our common, shared interests in the treaty. The benefits of the treaty, the effectiveness of the treaty, have been enormous over the years. If you look back to where we were when the treaty entered into force 50 years ago, how many nuclear-weapon states there were, how many potential nuclear-weapon states there were, it was not a good outlook. If you look at the state of the safeguards regime, it was not as strong as it is now. If you look at the ability to share the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, it was not as strong as it is now. Because of the NPT, that strong foundation of nonproliferation norms, that knowledge that your neighbors are not pursuing nuclear weapons programs has first and foremost helped set the conditions for the dramatic reductions that we’ve seen to date, even though initially our arsenals continued to grow.

The aspect that is most overlooked is the tremendous benefits that the world has seen from the spread of nuclear technology, not just in power generation, although this is a tremendous carbon-free power source, but in the areas of medicine and agriculture. The enormous benefit this has had in raising populations out of poverty, improving health, quality of life, would have been unimaginable without the NPT, that sharing of nuclear technology. So this is a great opportunity for us to focus on those benefits, and those benefits are as important today as they were 50 years ago.

ACT: But what are your goals? What would you like to see come out of the review conference?

Eberhardt: I’d like to see a good exchange of views on how people see the treaty being implemented. After all, we are required to review the treaty, that’s what we ought to do. We will have different views on how that has gone—that’s to be expected with a membership as wide and diverse as we have—and we will have a conversation about how we move forward. Again, views will vary, given the membership of the treaty. A robust exchange of views on the treaty, both past and future, would be important.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in Prague on April 8, 2010. It will not be possible to complete a new nuclear weapons treaty with China before New START's scheduled expiration in one year, according to Amb. Jeffrey Eberhardt, special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation. (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)Now, to the extent that can be captured in some kind of a final document remains to be seen. That has always been a daunting task, borne out by the fact that it has only happened twice in the classic sense where you’ve had a consensus review and a consensus forward-looking document, in 1985 and 2000. In other years, there have been various outcomes. In 2010, we had the forward-looking plan, but not the review. In 1995 we had a series of decisions. In 1985, we had a reflection of the various views that everyone agreed by consensus that this accurately reflected the views that were exchanged, even if not all these views command consensus. So there are a range of outcomes that are possible. There could be a simple statement reaffirming our commitment to the NPT as a separate decision. We are also looking at the area of peaceful uses, again one of the more underappreciated aspects of the treaty, and we’re looking at whether we can put together a package on peaceful uses that could be put in the form of a decision at the review conference. So, there are a number of ways to get to success that, as most often has happened in the past, fall short of a classic consensus review and forward-looking document.

ACT: One of the challenges still facing the treaty is the possibility that Iran could enrich uranium well beyond the limits set by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. What does the United States hope the review conference can do about the Iran issue? What message do you think the conference could deliver that could help keep Iran’s capabilities in check?

Eberhardt: Part of this is being played out in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) right now. There are serious questions as to what Iran has done. Iran has never come clean on the weapons program that it was pursuing. So what we want, and I think the president has made this clear, is a deal that ensures that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. Now, we and our European allies may disagree on how best to achieve that. The president has put forward a plan for a pressure campaign to try to bring Iran back to the table. Those things take time. I don’t think it will be resolved by the review conference, to put it mildly, but that’s an issue that we will have to discuss at the conference. It won’t be the first time that we’ve had to discuss Iran at a review conference. That was an issue certainly in 2005, when we talked about potential Iranian noncompliance at the time. Of course, when we’re talking about noncompliance—and I’m not saying Iran is in noncompliance today—as a general matter, when you’re talking about the questionable behavior of a party to a treaty, then it makes getting consensus on a document that much more challenging.

What the conference can say by consensus about this, I have my doubts that we can have a strong statement, but it will certainly be an issue that needs to be raised and debated in the course of the conference. That’s what the review is all about.

ACT: How would you assess U.S. progress so far toward meeting its Article VI obligations to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament?

Eberhardt: The United States has made tremendous progress by making dramatic reductions. We’ve had a whole series of negotiations dealing with nuclear arsenals going back to the days of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Granted, those limited the rise of arsenals, not cuts. But once we were past the peak, there were a whole series of negotiations to reduce those arsenals, and really that’s what Article VI calls for: good faith negotiations on steps toward nuclear and general disarmament. So, we have done that, and we continue to pursue that. There’s nothing in Article VI that says this must be accomplished in one fell swoop, so I think over the decades, we have shown a tremendous commitment to Article VI, probably more so than any other NPT party.

Going forward, we have launched the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) initiative to talk about how we get there. When I was in Geneva last week at a panel sponsored by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), someone made the claim that he thought the initiative was a distraction. I said, “No, it’s not a distraction, it’s a serious discussion.” It’s all well and good to say we want a nuclear-free world and let’s all get rid of nuclear weapons, but the real question is how we do it. That’s what the CEND initiative is all about: How do we actually get there?

It was far easier to reduce when our stockpiles were fairly enormous and the verification demands weren’t as great. The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) capped U.S. and Soviet, then Russian, arsenals at 6,000 warheads. So if somebody is not quite at 6,000, does cheating on the margins of that treaty matter that much? From the standpoint of credibility of compliance, yes, of course it always matters, but as a militarily significant advantage, not much. But as we go down, the military significance of cheating on the margins becomes more important, and therefore verification becomes more important. So, we have different things to deal with.

As we go lower, we have to move beyond bilateral discussions between ourselves and Russia and bring in other countries. That brings in a whole other set of issues. Why do those other countries have nuclear weapons? The answer is not the same for every country. They have different dynamics they have to deal with, motivations, so if we are going to be serious about moving toward this—the United States is and always has been serious—we have to get at the root causes for why nuclear deterrence remains relevant today, then identify effective measures toward mitigating them to move progress forward. To my mind, the CEND initiative is the personification of Article VI in searching for ways to continue to move the process forward and make progress.

This is something we’ll be talking about at the review conference, both in our national statements and hopefully statements of others. We hope there will be a side event with some of the CEND working group co-chairs to talk about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, where we’re trying to go, and getting the message out as to why we believe this is a serious effort that will go well beyond the review conference. I’ve always said that the review conference, while important, is a milepost, not the finish line, for the CEND initiative. It’s a significant event, obviously, for those CEND members that are members of the NPT, but it’s not driving what we’re doing. This is a long-term process.

ACT: What are some specific outcomes that you see emerging from the CEND initiative as it contributes directly to some of the goals and objectives that have been agreed at previous review conferences regarding Article VI?

Eberhardt: We are hoping to set up another CEND working group meeting between now and the review conference, probably in early April. [Editor's note: After this interview, the meeting was scheduled for April 8–9.] Since the last working group meeting, where we developed concept notes for each of the groups, we have been working with the co-chairs to develop programs of work to address exactly how to get at this problem. We’ve made some good headway in working with the co-chairs. We hope to be at a point soon where the co-chairs can send out some draft programs of work to the broader group for discussion and hopefully its approval and blessing at the next meeting. We have progressively disaggregated this problem. We started with creating the CEND initiative, we have broken that down into some working groups, and those groups then broke those down into specific lines of effort. The programs of work will now take those lines of effort and disaggregate them further, looking at which issues to take first, how do we approach these issues, what outside experience do we want to bring in to provide working papers and briefings, and sort of nail that down.

Hopefully by the end of the April program, we can definitively say the substantive work is now underway on these specific issues.

ACT: Today is February 5, and in 12 months, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is due to expire. Many NPT states-parties, including many U.S. allies, are encouraging the United States and Russia to extend the treaty and engage in follow-on talks. What message do you anticipate bringing to the review conference on the U.S. approach on that and the state of U.S.-Russian discussions on nuclear disarmament?

Eberhardt: As for New START specifically, we have not yet made a final determination on the extension of the treaty, but we still have time left. It doesn’t take much to extend it once you decide to do that. More broadly, we recently had a strategic security dialogue with Russia in Vienna, where we talked about a range of issues.

The president has also talked about going beyond bilateral arms control to trilateral arms control to bring China to the table in some way.

ACT: Is there going to be a proposal on that way before the review conference, because that idea was floated about a year ago?

Eberhardt: I can’t predict when we’ll have something more specific to say about that, but that is clearly where we need to go. If we are going to end the arms race—well, a couple of years ago I would have said the arms race is over, but Russia has been developing some dramatic new systems—and I’m not saying we’re in one now, the United States is certainly not racing, our program of record is what it is, but it is important to ensure that our potential negotiating partners don’t start racing or continue racing.

ACT: Even if China were interested in such a negotiation, is it realistically possible that there’s a new agreement involving China before New START expires?

Eberhardt: A new signed, sealed, delivered agreement? Realistically that’s not possible, but it is possible to have a negotiation underway or agreed to by then. New START took an entire year, these things do take time, but the commitment to negotiate can certainly be achieved by then.

ACT: Some U.S. officials have said the United States should not feel compelled to adhere to the body of commitments made at past review conferences. What is your assessment of that, and is the United States committed to the agreements achieved at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference?

Eberhardt: Previous commitments cast a pretty wide net. I would say that it’s not just some current administration officials have said that. Some previous administration officials have made the same argument: decisions of review conferences, as embodied in final documents, are political commitments. They are taken in the context of the time in which they are achieved.

As for 1995, the extension of the treaty has a treaty-based nexus, so that is in fact a legal commitment because the original treaty called for a review and extension conference in 25 years to determine whether or not to extend the treaty. That is a treaty-based commitment that is distinct from other final document commitments.

The other aspect of 1995 is the resolution on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. The U.S. position remains clear on that: we support the establishment of such a zone if it is freely arrived at among the parties in the region. Our position hasn’t changed on that since 1995. The question is, how do you get there?

It’s a challenge. If you imagine a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and you have a country that is violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), that’s a problem. If you have other countries that haven’t signed up to the CWC, that’s a problem. If you have uncertainty about where Iran is going with its nuclear program, that’s a problem.

You have to address the reasons why such a zone is not achievable today before you can achieve the zone.

There was a UN conference that was established in New York in November, but it doesn’t include the participation of all the key states in the region. Also, if you look at all the nuclear-weapon-free zones that have been negotiated in the world, none of them was negotiated at the United Nations. They were all agreements freely arrived at by the parties to the region. So, we need to find a way for the parties in the region to address all the concerns. We continue to support the goal, but it is not a goal that can be imposed from outside.

ACT: Now that the UN meeting has taken place, do you believe it set back efforts?

Eberhardt: That remains to be seen. It was said at the time the resolution passed the First Committee that this would relieve pressure on the NPT review process. I’m happy to take them at their word, and if they are satisfied with their conference, then this need not be an issue that is addressed at length at the review conference. That would be a very good outcome. We have many more pressing issues to address in New York than the Middle Eastern zone, but we’ll see what happens.

ACT: U.S. officials have said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is inconsistent with the NPT, but many NPT parties have supported it and have argued that it complements the NPT. Will this disagreement be a hurdle to a consensus decision at the review conference?

Eberhardt: It depends on what the advocates of the treaty want to say about it. They have set up a separate treaty with a separate process. I’m perfectly happy for them to discuss that treaty in that process. The TPNW is inconsistent with the NPT in the sense that there is a specific article that says when in conflict with other treaties, the TPNW takes precedence, so that’s a problem. It establishes a standard of verification that is lower than what is commonly accepted in the NPT: a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the additional protocol to that agreement.

Chaja Merk of Extinction Rebellion (left) and Alicia Sanders-Zakre of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) speak at ICAN's Campaign Forum in Paris on Feb. 15. ICAN promotes the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that has been signed by 81 states so far, despite U.S. opposition. (Photo: Joe Jukes/ICAN)The TPNW is not an effective measure toward disarmament. This is not an issue that I want to belabor at the review conference, and if no one brings it up, I’ll be happy not to bring it up either. Let’s see how that goes.

ACT: Some NPT parties, such as Saudi Arabia, have not agreed to adopt an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement. What can the review conference do to advance that standard of verification?

Eberhardt: We would certainly like to see language in the final document, assuming there is one, reaffirming that comprehensive safeguards and the additional protocol are the recognized standard for verification of NPT safeguards obligations. That would be a strong affirmation of the fact that the additional protocol is so important, not just for Saudi Arabia but for everyone. It’s something I talked about when I was in Nigeria in December on a workshop on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Comprehensive safeguards and additional protocols are enablers for accessing the benefits of these technologies, and this was well understood and accepted by all participants in the workshop. It was a very gratifying experience.

ACT: What is the U.S. approach to the idea that the review conference might endorse specific nuclear risk reduction steps? For instance, some have urged NPT parties to say in their national statements that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought, the Ronald Reagan-Mikhail Gorbachev formulation from 1985.

Eberhardt: I’m not really sure. I will say that I’m pleased that the discussion around risk reduction has matured. It used to be that all anybody wanted to talk about was reducing operational readiness, de-mating warheads, and various other measures that I think are actually destabilizing. The conversation has become more nuanced now, and people are talking about what exactly do we mean by risk reduction. There are four or five ways, including the reduction of nuclear war, reducing the risk of accidental use, and so on. This is actually one of the areas that the CEND initiative is taking up, and I’m looking forward to how that group develops the concepts and then looks at specific measures that can be taken. It’s still early days, so I can’t point to any specific measures in that. But I am also hopeful that because we’re having these serious discussions in the CEND initiative about risk reduction, that might spur progress elsewhere—perhaps in the process of regular meetings among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the P-5 process—to have a more serious discussion about risk reduction and measures that can be taken. It could be an impetus for that group to have that serious discussion. Russia and China have participated in the CEND initiative up to now; we’ll see how that plays out.

What specific measures might be available at the review conference, I can’t say. The Reagan-Gorbachev statement was of a time when arsenals were fairly enormous. What we are looking at is how can we perhaps come up with new language that is reflective of today’s environment, that gets to that same idea but perhaps in a more practical and realistic way. I don’t have anything to share with you now, but we’ll see how that plays out.

ACT: Argentina has organized a series of regional workshops to prepare for the review conference, after Rafael Grossi was selected as the conference’s presumptive president last year. Grossi became the director-general of the IAEA in December, but his Argentine colleague, Gustavo Zlauvinen, has taken his place. Have those meetings succeeded in expanding the time to prepare for the review conference? Are you comfortable with the organizational preparations for the conference?

Eberhardt: This is not a perfect situation, having to change president-designates midstream. We had already had the problem of getting Grossi named as the president-designate at the last Preparatory Committee meeting. It’s been a challenge, but I was impressed with Zlauvinen when I met him last week. He has a very realistic and measured approach toward executing the office, recognizing the need to take a balanced approach, taking into account all views. I know he intends to carry on the series of regional workshops that Grossi had set up, and those have been useful.

As to the organizational aspects, UNODA has done a great job of assisting throughout this process, so I’m an optimist. I play golf, so by definition I’m an optimist. We’re in good hands with Zlauvinen.

The State Department’s head of delegation to the 2020 NPT Review Conference provides the U.S. perspective on the meeting.

Time to Renew the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle


March 2020
By Lewis Dunn and William Potter

The risk of use of nuclear weapons among the great powers is greater today than since the height of the Cold War. Growing political-military competition has increased the possibility of a U.S.-Russian or U.S.-Chinese military conflict. Any such conflict would carry with it the danger of escalation across the nuclear threshold, most probably driven by misinterpretation and miscalculation.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan arrive at a session of their 1985 summit in Geneva. Their agreement that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought" was the most notable achievement of the summit. (Photo: Bettman/Getty Images) Concerns about this risk have focused renewed attention among officials, experts, and civil society on the 1985 statement by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Whether or not nuclear-weapon states should endorse what came to be known as the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle, or make some other equally compelling commitment to avoiding use of nuclear weapons, almost certainly will be part of the debate at the upcoming 2020 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Since the United States dropped two atomic bombs to end World War II in 1945, the subsequent nonuse of nuclear weapons is one of the more perplexing, if positive, phenomena of the past 75 years. This tradition, or what some prefer to consider to be a taboo or norm, has persisted despite the existence of a number of unfavorable conditions, from the demonstrated technical effectiveness of the weapon to the centrality of nuclear weapons in the deterrence strategies, military doctrines, and operational war plans of a growing number of states.1 Although the strength and vitality of the tradition of nuclear nonuse has fluctuated over time, the very fact of decade after decade of nonuse has steadily strengthened the norm.

The language of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle has its roots in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. That crisis led to an increasingly shared recognition in Washington and Moscow of the risks of using nuclear weapons and the need to stabilize the “balance of terror.”2 Although the precise formulation of this recognition is most closely associated with the November 1985 summit in Geneva between Reagan and Gorbachev, the underlying philosophy was reflected in a number of U.S.-Soviet agreements and treaties negotiated between 1969 and 1979. The 1971 Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Outbreak of Nuclear War, for example, proceeds from the premise that nuclear war would have “devastating consequences…for all mankind” and expresses “the need to exert every effort to avert the risk of outbreak of such a war.”3 Similarly, the 1972 Basic Principles of Relations Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics proceeds from “the common determination that in the nuclear age there is no alternative to conducting…mutual relations on the basis of peaceful coexistence...[and the parties] will do their utmost to avoid military confrontations and to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war.”4 The same perspective is articulated in almost verbatim language in the 1973 Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and 1979 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II Treaty.

This recognition of the risks of nuclear use was sustained in the 1960s and 1970s across both Republican and Democratic administrations, but it appeared to be in jeopardy when Reagan arrived in the White House in 1981. Some of his early comments about the potential for limiting the escalation of a war involving tactical nuclear weapons prompted Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to declare in October 1981 that “it is dangerous madness to try to defeat each other in the arms race and to count on victory in nuclear war.” Brezhnev added that “only he who has decided to commit suicide can start a nuclear war in the hope of emerging a victor.”5

Almost immediately thereafter, Reagan responded to Brezhnev’s charge by declaring that he had been misquoted and that the United States also opposed the use of nuclear weapons as “all mankind would lose” in a nuclear exchange.6 Subsequently, in April 1982, Reagan refined his message in the famous line from a national radio address: “Those who’ve governed America throughout the nuclear age and we who govern it today have had to recognize that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”7 Frequently repeated by Reagan thereafter, the language later became the most notable achievement of the 1985 Geneva summit. After the summit, this phrase was repeated in bilateral settings such as the December 1987 Washington summit8 and the May-June 1988 Moscow summit.9 Variants of the statement also appeared in both Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty texts.10 Significantly, however, neither the more recent 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty nor the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty make direct or indirect reference to the principle.

Although references to the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle are much less prominent in multilateral disarmament and nonproliferation fora, there is language in the NPT and occasional formulations in the NPT review process that are consistent with the principle. Perhaps most importantly, the preamble to the NPT highlights “the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples.” Although the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference did not adopt a consensus document, the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle also is referenced in the report of Main Committee I, which states that “[t]he conference reaffirms that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, considering the devastation that a nuclear war would bring.”11 Aside from this 1995 report, no other NPT review conference made specific reference to the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle, although the related theme of the global humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use appears in the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document.12

Renewed Attention but Elusive Agreement

During the past two years, there has been renewed interest in the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle and its possible affirmation by the United States and Russia, as well as its endorsement more widely by all five NPT nuclear-weapon states. In 2018, UN High Representative for Disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu highlighted the current relevance of the principle.13 Writing in April 2019, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) called for U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin jointly to reaffirm that declaration.14 In the months preceding the May 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in New York, China had unsuccessfully proposed an affirmation by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council when it served as chair of the P-5 process, periodic consultations among China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States on NPT-related matters. China also brought the issue back into the review process at that preparatory committee but received no public support for its initiative to include reference to the principle in the Chair’s Factual Summary.15

Chinese President Xi Jinping greets Russian President Vladimir Putin at a ceremony during their 2016 summit in Beijing. China and Russia have supported an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle. (Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)The thinking among these five states recognized as nuclear-weapon countries under the NPT on an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle is complex, and the lack of formal policy statements make understanding their policies more difficult. China has most strongly and consistently supported affirmation, and the United States has been the most reluctant. The Russian Federation appears to have been open to the Chinese effort to gain a joint statement on the subject and also has stated that it had sought unsuccessfully to gain U.S. affirmation of the principle in the fall of 2018.16 The position of the United Kingdom appears to have fluctuated over time, publicly in step with the United States but privately being more amenable to an endorsement. France has staked out its own position, at times suggesting that the principle erodes the fundamental logic of its nuclear deterrence posture.

The 2020 Review Conference

There are competing arguments on whether the review conference is an opportunity or perhaps a “forcing event” to create consensus among the nuclear-weapon states in support of the principle. Renewal could be pursued in several different ways: by a bilateral U.S.-Russian statement on the eve of the review conference, with which the other nuclear-weapon states could associate themselves; by its inclusion in a joint P-5 statement prior to or at the review conference; or by its inclusion in a review conference final declaration.

The primary argument for seeking agreement by all five nuclear-weapon states to affirm the principle is that it would be an important signal among themselves that they recognize today’s growing dangers of nuclear confrontation, crisis, and conflict escalation. Moreover, by signaling their shared interest in avoiding a nuclear war, an endorsement could be a stepping stone to more concrete actions to address today’s nuclear risks. Today’s P-5 discussions of nuclear doctrine could be broadened to include crisis avoidance and crisis management, perhaps by creating a dedicated working group to focus explicitly on the risks of misinterpretation, miscalculation, and subsequent escalation in a U.S./NATO-Russian or a U.S.-Chinese confrontation and how to reduce those risks. All of the five could also revisit the Cold War agreements aimed at reducing the dangers of nuclear war with the goal of first updating and then transforming those bilateral agreements into multilateral ones. By so contributing to reducing nuclear risks, renewal also would serve the interests of all the non-nuclear-weapon states.

Affirmation also could help create a more conducive political context for other bilateral risk reduction efforts such as resumption (in the U.S.-Russian case) or intensification (in the U.S.-Chinese case) of contacts between defense and military personnel to avoid possible accidents, miscalculations, and misinterpretations. Similarly, by signaling a shared interest in reducing nuclear dangers, affirmation could help halt the pending collapse of U.S.-Russian arms control as well as facilitate exploration of cooperative measures to avoid intensification of U.S.-Chinese strategic competition. Here, too, nuclear and non-nuclear nations would benefit.

Participants of the 2010 NPT Review Conference in New York, shown here in plenary session, agreed to adopt the NPT Action Plan, including a commitment by nuclear-weapon states to discuss policies to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. (Photo: United Nations)Renewal of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle by all NPT parties could contribute, moreover, to a successful NPT review conference.17 By partly responding to widespread fears among many non-nuclear-weapon states of a heightened risk of nuclear use and greater reliance on perceived nuclear war-fighting doctrines by some nuclear-weapon states, it would set a more positive tone for the review conference. It also would signal that the nuclear powers understand and take seriously their concerns about nuclear risks.

Despite the benefits of pursuing the principle, there also are arguments for avoiding the effort. The consequences of trying and failing to reaffirm the principle could heighten suspicions the nuclear-weapon states have about each other. In particular, some Russian experts have warned that U.S. reluctance to reaffirm the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle has already raised questions in Moscow about U.S. intentions. Closely related, trying and failing could reinforce the existing judgment of some if not many non-nuclear-weapon states that several P-5 nations increasingly believe that nuclear weapons are usable. This outcome could negatively affect the atmosphere at the review conference and dampen prospects for a successful outcome.

It is difficult to anticipate the costs of trying and failing. Given that U.S., French, and to a lesser degree UK reluctance to reaffirm the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle is already well known publicly, the costs of a failed effort may well be sunk costs by now, already paid. It also is difficult to gauge how much credibility to give Russian claims that U.S. reluctance to reaffirm the principle has created new uneasiness about U.S. intentions. Nonetheless, there likely would be some cost in trying and failing.

A very different argument against seeking an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle in the NPT context is that it could be construed as ignoring the non-NPT nuclear-armed states. Nonetheless, rather than providing a reason to set aside pursuit of an affirmation by the nuclear-weapon states, this argument suggests the importance of finding ways to engage non-NPT nuclear-armed states. Indeed, a parallel commitment to do so could be a complement to an endorsement of the principle at the review conference.

In addition, it is sometimes argued that it makes no sense to affirm the principle because it was relevant only in the bygone U.S.-Soviet Cold War era. In many ways, however, today’s environment of mutual mistrust and heightened military competition among the United States, Russia, and China is all too reminiscent of the early 1980s when the U.S. and Soviet leadership worried about the risk of nuclear escalation and use.

Finally, there are concerns in some quarters that affirmation of the principle could contribute to the erosion of deterrence. While conceivable, other declarations and actions are apt to be far more relevant to a robust U.S. deterrence posture in a future crisis. Moreover, the argument that affirmation is at odds with the logic of nuclear deterrence, with its combination of a threat to use nuclear weapons and preparations to do so, is not as compelling because nuclear deterrence has long been based on a threat that the country making it ultimately would not have wanted to carry out. This dilemma is at its core, and an affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle would not alter that predicament. Indeed, perhaps that partly explains why Reagan and his key advisers, clearly all very strong supporters of robust deterrence of the then-Soviet Union, were quite able to sign on to what became the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle.

It is difficult to predict how states will respond to the aforementioned points, and some may continue to object to a simple affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle. Modified formulations could generate greater support. For example, one possibility would adapt the language of the NPT’s preamble to “affirm the commitment of the NPT nuclear-weapon states to be guided in their mutual actions by their joint recognition of the vast devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war involving them.” Alternatively, the nuclear-weapon states could state their “recognition of their unique and special responsibility to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again as well as their commitment to sustain and strengthen their mutual engagement, bilaterally and within the P-5 process, in order to avoid mutual misperceptions and miscalculations that could lead to a process of escalation to use of nuclear weapons.” Both of these statements would comprise a strong commitment to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and to act accordingly, but they lack the simplicity of the original formulation.

A Way Forward

A review of these considerations reinforces the logic of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle and the desirability of seeking its affirmation in one form or another at the 2020 review conference. Admittedly, it is late in the game, but it is not too late, especially given past instances in which one or more of the P-5 has made a last-minute decision that led to a review conference outcome. Outside experts and civil society should make endorsement of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle at the review conference a priority. That endorsement could be part of a broader package of actions consistent with the principle to address today’s risk of use of nuclear weapons. P-5 countries should acknowledge their unique responsibility to act in ways to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and to preserve the 75-year old nuclear taboo. Endorsing the principle also could be accompanied by a joint commitment to use the P-5 process along with bilateral actions to reduce the risks of nuclear escalation and use posed by misinterpretation and miscalculation during a crisis.

Ideally, governments that attach importance to the principle should pursue efforts diplomatically to secure its affirmation, at high levels, with the United States and other P-5 countries. They should consider doing so in any upcoming bilateral consultations on the NPT review conference and in other political consultations. Retired former senior officials could make the case yet again for affirmation privately and publicly.

Similarly, like-minded governments, outside experts, civil society, and others should look for ways to keep the issue of reviving and affirming the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle on the review conference agenda. Hopefully, China will again raise this issue within the P-5 context, while the current chair of the P-5, the United Kingdom, should keep the issue on the P-5 agenda. Supportive non-nuclear-weapon states also could call for endorsing the principle in their national statements at the review conference, while encouraging a similar call in the statements of those regional and political groups with which they are affiliated, including the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, the New Agenda Coalition, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Nakamitsu already has raised this issue on a number of occasions, but could do so again. It also could be an element of any statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres prior to or at the review conference.

Going a step further to mobilize and generate support, a group of countries could circulate a draft resolution at the review conference on affirmation and line up support from as many NPT parties participating in the conference as possible. This step would follow the model of the Canadian decision to circulate a resolution in support of indefinite extension of the NPT at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. The Canadian resolution gained support from many more countries than a majority of the participants in that conference, demonstrating in an irrefutable manner that the votes were present for indefinite extension. This knowledge helped to generate momentum for the eventual indefinite extension of the NPT without a vote. As in that case, the purpose of a resolution on affirmation would not be to seek a vote but to shift the thinking of countries, which otherwise might be reluctant to include affirmation of the Reagan-Gorbachev Principle as part of the review conference outcome.

How states will address the many problems that await them at the 2020 review conference remains uncertain. What is indisputable is the urgent need to reduce the danger of nuclear use. Hopefully, they will recognize that now, more than ever, is the time to renew the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. It is a precept that serves the interests of all NPT parties and merits special attention on the 75th anniversary of what should remain the first and only use of nuclear weapons.

 

ENDNOTES

1. William C. Potter, “In Search of the Nuclear Taboo: Past, Present, and Future,” IFRI Proliferation Papers, No. 31 (Winter 2010). For two of the most important scholarly works on the norm against nuclear weapons use, see Nina Tannenwald, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); T.V. Paul, The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).

2. Animated partly by that same concern, the Cuban missile crisis also led to greater U.S.-Soviet cooperation on nonproliferation. For a discussion of this relationship, see William C. Potter and Sarah Bidgood, eds., Once and Future Partners: The United States, Russia and Nuclear Non-Proliferation (New York: Routledge, 2018).

3. Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, preamble, September 30, 1971, 807 U.N.T.S. 57.

4. Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, “116. Paper Agreed Upon by the United States and the Soviet Union,” n.d., https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v01/d116.

5. Serge Schmemann, “Brezhnev Bids Reagan Help Ban a Nuclear Attack,” The New York Times, October 21, 1981, p. A7.

6. Jim Anderson, “President Reagan, Answering a Challenge From Soviet Leader Leonid…,” UPI, October 21, 1981.

7. “Radio Address to the Nation on Nuclear Weapons,” Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, April 17, 1982, https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/research/speeches/41782a.

8. International Atomic Energy Agency, “Text of the Joint U.S.-Soviet Summit Statement,” INFCIRC/348, December 21, 1987.

9. “Joint Statement Following the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Moscow,” June 1, 1988, http://insidethecoldwar.org/sites/default/files/documents/Joint%20Statement%20Following%20the%20Soviet-United%20States%20Summit%20Meeting%20in%20Moscow.pdf.

10. See “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,” Conference on Disarmament, CD/1192, April 5, 1993; U.S. Department of State, “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START II),” n.d., https://2009-2017.state.gov/t/avc/trty/102887.htm (“Conscious that nuclear war would have devastating consequences for all humanity, that it cannot be won and must never be fought…”).

11. 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document: Part II,” NPT/CONF.1995/32) (Part II), 1995, p. 253.

12. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document: Volume I,” NPT/CONF.2010/50) (Vol. I), 2010.

13. Izumi Nakamitsu, “Remarks at the First Committee Side Event Entitled ‘Disarmament to Save Humanity: Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” October 9, 2018, https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Izumi-Remarks-at-First-Committee-Side-Event-on-Reducing-Nuclear-Risks.pdf.

14. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, and Sam Nunn, “The Threat of Nuclear War Is Still With Us,” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2019.

15. The only other country to endorse the principle during formal sessions of the Preparatory Committee meeting was Switzerland, which in the opening general debate called on all states that possess nuclear weapons to affirm the appeal by the UN secretary-general that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

16. See Elena Chernenko, “Yadernomu miru—da, da, da” [Toward Nuclear Peace—Yes, Yes, Yes], Kommersant, April 19, 2019, p. 1; “Briefing for Representative of Mass-Media by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on the Issues of Preparation to the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” April 26, 2019 (copy on file with authors. Oddly, Russia did not speak to the issue in any formal session of the Preparatory Committee and did not endorse the Chinese position.

17. The authors define a successful review conference outcome as one that advances the goals of the NPT, whether in a traditional final document; one or more separate resolutions or decisions; a series of stand-alone voluntary commitments made by groups of states, including the nuclear-weapon states; or a combination of these actions.


Lewis Dunn is a former U.S. ambassador to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference. William Potter is the Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. The authors wish to thank Vladislav Chernavskikh for his research assistance.

Reaffirming the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” could strengthen this year’s review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

U.S. to Allow Expanded Landmine Use


March 2020
By Jeff Abramson

In January, the Trump administration cancelled an Obama administration policy that had limited the potential U.S. use of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) to the Korean peninsula only. The previous policy sought to bring the United States closer to its allies and international norms for reducing the harm caused by indiscriminate weapons such as landmines. The White House said the new decision was needed because the Obama-era policy placed U.S. forces at a “severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries,” according to a Jan. 31 statement.

A de-miner works to clear mines in Muhamalai, Sri Lanka, in March 2019. (Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images)The announcement drew reproach from the international community and members of the U.S. Congress. In a rare rebuke, the European Union said on Feb. 4 that the new policy “undermines the global norm” against APLs. “Their use anywhere, anytime, and by any actor remains completely unacceptable” to the EU, it said. All EU members are party to the Mine Ban Treaty, which forbids the use of victim-activated APLs, mandates destruction of stockpiles, clearance of contaminated lands, and other measures. The treaty, which entered into force on March 1, 1999, now has 164 states-parties, including all NATO members aside from the United States. (See ACT, January/February 2020.)

The U.S. policy change was a “step in the wrong direction,” said treaty president Osman Abufatima Adam Mohammed, deputy permanent representative of Sudan to the United Nations in Geneva, on Feb. 3. The United States is by far the world’s largest funder of mine-clearance activities, contributing more than $3 billion since 1993 to conventional weapons destruction internationally. “This change in U.S. policy goes against its long-standing commitment to work towards the eradication of the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines,” added Mohammed.

U.S. officials defended the new policy, arguing that it aligned with the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy and “the return to great power competition,” according to Jan. 31 comments from Victorino Mercado, performing the duties of acting assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities. In his comments, as well as in a policy memorandum issued that day, concerns about near-peer competitors were cited as the primary rationale for lifting geographic restrictions on landmine use. Mercado said he did not foresee the United States using landmines in such places as Afghanistan, Kenya, Niger, or Syria. Other documents also indicated that the new policy was not in response to Iran. Decisions to use landmines would be made at the combatant-commander level, a four-star general or admiral, not by the president as had been previous policy.

The policy permits the use of what the administration calls “nonpersistent landmines,” which are “specifically designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces.” According to the administration plans, the munitions must have self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms, with the self-destruct system set for 30 days or less. The policy does not allow for using landmines that do not have these features. Mercado argued that there is “only a six in 1 million chance of a U.S. landmine being active after a predetermined period,” but studies backing this assessment were not made publicly available. Critics of the policy have long argued that such studies are unreliable, and the Mine Ban Treaty does not make such a distinction when banning APLs that explode due to the “presence, proximity or contact of a person.”

U.S. officials stated that the United States will continue to uphold commitments under Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). That protocol permits the use of remotely delivered mines that have an “effective self-destruction or self-neutralization mechanism and have a back-up self-deactivation feature,” and it calls for clearing or marking of mined areas after the cessation of hostilities. Citing 2010 and 2014 figures, the Landmine Monitor estimates that the United States possesses a stockpile of approximately 3 million such mines that could be delivered by aircraft or artillery, including ADAM, GATOR and Volcano systems.

The United States has not used these or other Mine Ban Treaty-banned mines since 1991, with the exception of a single use in Afghanistan in 2002. It has not exported them since 1992, nor produced new mines since 1997. Although President Bill Clinton ultimately did not join the Mine Ban Treaty, he set a goal for the United States to do so by 2006, a goal President George W. Bush rejected in 2004. Obama administration policy, announced in 2014, banned production and acquisition of APLs and halted their use outside the Korean peninsula. It also set the aspiration to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty, but did not set a date for that to occur.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a long-time anti-landmine leader, reacted quickly to the new policy. “The president’s decision to roll back the policy” on APLs “is as perplexing as it is disappointing, and reflexive, and unwise,” he said on Jan. 31. “This decision, like so many others of this White House, reverses the gains we have made and weakens our global leadership.”

In early February, six Democratic presidential candidates indicated that they would reverse the Trump policy, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), as well as former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and businessman Tom Steyer. “Innocent civilians are the main casualties of landmines. This is an abhorrent decision that won’t make America any safer, and could cause untold damage,” Warren tweeted on Feb. 1.

President Trump removes limits on landmine deployments.

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