"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."

– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
October 2019

Arms Control Today October 2019

Edition Date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Cover Image: 

Russia, China Criticize U.S. Missile Test

October 2019
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

An August test of a missile previously banned by the defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty drew continued denunciations from Russia and China
in September.

The United States tests a ground-launched cruise missile in California on Aug. 18. The test would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty before the United States withdrew from the pact on Aug. 2. (Photo: Defense Department)Days after the Aug. 18 U.S. flight test of a ground-launched Tomahawk missile, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his defense and foreign ministries, as well as other related government agencies, “to analyze the level of threat posed to our country” and to “take exhaustive measures for a reciprocal response.” His comments also followed comments from U.S. officials calling for the deployment of new intermediate-range missiles.

Putin specifically highlighted the launcher used in the test, the MK-41 vertical launching system. This launcher was a different configuration than that currently fielded in Romania and soon to be deployed in Poland as part of NATO’s Aegis Ashore missile defense system. In response to Russian claims that the European-based launcher violated the INF Treaty, U.S. officials repeatedly argued that the deployed system “does not have an offensive ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile capability” and therefore did not violate the treaty. After the news of the August test, Putin said, “[T]he fact of the violation is evident and impossible to dispute.”

On Sept. 5, Putin further detailed Russia’s response, saying that Moscow would take steps to produce ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, but not deploy them unless the United States deploys such missiles first. Since 2014, the United States has maintained that Moscow violated the treaty by testing, possessing, and fielding an illegal ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729 or SSC-8. (See ACT, September 2014.)

Later in September, Putin sent a letter to NATO member states reiterating Russia’s offer of a deployment moratorium. NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told the Financial Times on Sept. 26 that the alliance had “heard this proposal before” and saw it as “not a credible offer.”

“Unless and until Russia verifiably destroys the SSC-8 system, this moratorium on deployments is not a real offer,” she said.

The U.S. missile test occurred less than two weeks after the Trump administration formally withdrew the United States from the INF Treaty on Aug. 2. Before then, the treaty banned the possession or testing of all nuclear and conventional, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, as well as the launchers for such missiles. (See ACT, September 2019.)

China also expressed its concerns about the U.S. test. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Aug. 20 urged “the U.S. side to abandon outdated notions of Cold War thinking and zero-sum games and exercise restraint in developing arms.”

At a Russian and Chinese request, the 15-member UN Security Council convened on Aug. 22 to discuss the issue. As expected, the United States and Russia clashed at the meeting, repeating their respective accusations of noncompliance.

At the Security Council meeting, Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russian first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said that “because of the U.S. geopolitical ambitions, we are all one step from an arms race that cannot be controlled or regulated in any way.”

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen replied that the real reason behind the council’s meeting was that “the Russian Federation preferred a world in which the United States continued to fulfill its INF Treaty obligations, while the Russian Federation did not.”

Meanwhile, in Congress, the Trump administration’s push for new intermediate-range missiles has proven controversial. The House version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits the Pentagon from spending money to develop any new intermediate-range missiles until several conditions are met. The Senate version does not have a similar provision, and the two versions are set to be reconciled during conference committee negotiations, with the goal of sending a final bill to the president in October.

In addition to the August test of a ground-launched cruise missile, the Defense Department is planning to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of about 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers later this year. Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, confirmed at a conference in Virginia on Sept. 4 that the department is planning to test a ballistic missile, but would not comment on what missile would be tested.

Without the INF Treaty, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) now stands as the only treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. Although set to expire in February 2021, New START can be extended by up to five years if the U.S. and Russian presidents agree to do so.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton had said in June and July that an extension is “unlikely.” (See ACT, September 2019.) Bolton, however, departed the administration on Sept. 10 and has been replaced by Robert O’Brien, and it remains to be seen how the change will affect the administration’s deliberations on the future of New START.

The United States and Russia last met in mid-July to discuss strategic security, but no additional meetings have been scheduled. Putin said on Sept. 5 that “[s]o far, our American partners have remained silent with regard to our proposals to maintain contacts in the sphere of disarmament and containing the arms race.”


With no more limits on intermediate-range missiles, the Pentagon is embarking on a test of once-banned systems. 

Boeing Seeks Intervention on New ICBM

October 2019
By Kingston Reif

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. has rejected a proposal from its competitor the Boeing Co. to team up on the development of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, prompting Boeing to call on the Pentagon to intervene.

The United States tests a Minuteman III ICBM on May 1, 2019. Plans to replace the missile have been slowed by contracting difficulties. (Photo: Defense Department)“We think clearly it’s time for the Air Force or other governmental entities to engage and direct the right solution,” Frank McCall, Boeing’s director of strategic deterrence systems, told reporters on Sept. 17 at the Air Force Association’s annual conference at National Harbor, Maryland.

“Northrop has elected not to do that,” McCall added, “so we’re looking for government intervention to drive us to the best solution.”

Boeing’s proposal to split the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) contract follows the company’s announcement in July that it would not bid on the development contract unless the Pentagon adjusted the bid parameters. (See ACT, September, 2019.)

“There has never been a time in the history of the Minuteman when the Air Force wasn’t supported by both companies,” McCall told the Washington Post on Sept. 18.

In August 2017, the Air Force selected Boeing and Northrop to proceed with development of the Minuteman III ICBM replacement. (See ACT, October 2017.) On July 16, the Air Force issued a request for proposals for the engineering and manufacturing development contract to produce and deploy the system. The service planned to award the contract in the summer of 2020.

The Defense Department is planning to replace the Minuteman III missile, its supporting launch control facilities, and command-and-control infrastructure. The plan is to purchase 666 new missiles, 400 of which would be operationally deployed through 2070.

Northrop Grumman on Sept. 16 revealed a team of 10 contractors that it plans to work with to develop the GBSD system, including fellow industry giant Lockheed Martin.



The contract to replace the U.S. ICBM fleet could see just a single bidder. 

Saudi Arabia Seeks to Enrich Uranium

October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

Saudi Arabia intends to enrich uranium to fuel its planned nuclear power program, the country’s new energy minister said on Sept. 9. The Saudi position could run afoul of a recently disclosed Trump administration policy to seek a Saudi commitment to refrain from such activities in exchange for U.S. nuclear technology.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks with reporters in May. He has delivered a letter to Saudi officials demanding they agree to refrain from enriching uranium or separating plutonium in exchange for peaceful U.S. nuclear technology. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)“We are proceeding with it cautiously.… We are experimenting with two nuclear reactors,” said Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman at the 24th World Energy Conference in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 9. Saudi officials have announced plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. (See ACT, April 2018.) Currently, companies from the United States, Russia, South Korea, China, and France are competing for a contract to build the first two nuclear power reactors, with a Saudi decision reportedly expected by the end of this year.

To receive U.S. nuclear materials or technology, Saudi Arabia would need first to sign a 123 agreement with the United States. Named after the section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act requiring it, a 123 agreement sets the terms and authorizes cooperation for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries. A 123 agreement can involve what is known as a “gold standard” commitment in which a country forgoes the enrichment of uranium or the reprocessing of plutonium, which are two pathways to making nuclear weapons. The State Department is leading negotiations for this agreement, and once complete, it will require congressional approval.

Those negotiations apparently include a U.S. demand for the gold standard. In September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry sent a letter to Saudi officials outlining the U.S. requirements that Saudi Arabia must adopt an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and commit to the gold standard.

“The terms of the 123 Agreement must also contain a commitment by the kingdom to forgo any enrichment and reprocessing for the term of the agreement,” said Perry’s letter, as reported by Bloomberg.

Energy Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette recently spoke in favor of a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia. “If there’s going to be any transfer of technology, you can’t do it without it,” he said. He did not, however, specifically mention whether the gold standard would be a part of such an agreement.

Negotiations on a 123 agreement have slowed over the past year as Riyadh has refused to relinquish the possibility of enriching uranium. (See ACT, December 2018.) Further complicating the talks were March 2018 remarks by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

Also muddying the situation is an ongoing investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee into allegations that top Trump administration officials, such as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, pushed for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia without a 123 agreement and in potential violation of ethics laws. (See ACT, March 2019.) The committee first revealed its investigation in February 2019 and released a second interim report on its investigation this past July.

Shortly after its first report in February, members in both houses of Congress introduced legislation requiring congressional oversight over any 123 agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Those bills also state that no 123 agreement with Riyadh should be approved until Saudi Arabia becomes transparent about the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a commentator for The Washington Post, in October 2018. The U.S. intelligence community determined last November that the crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi, but U.S. President Donald Trump has defended Riyadh.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who introduced the House bill alongside Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), told Arms Control Today that “Saudi Arabia’s government isn’t known for its transparency, but on the nuclear issue, the kingdom has been crystal clear: it wants to enrich uranium to have the capability to build nuclear weapons. In light of this, a failure to secure a 123 agreement with gold standard safeguards would be reckless and irresponsible. If you can’t trust a regime with a bone saw, you shouldn’t trust it with nuclear weapons.”

Saudi Arabia announces plans to enrich its own nuclear fuel just as the Trump administration demands restraint. 

U.S. Raises Treaty Compliance Concerns

October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The United States has concerns about Russian and Chinese compliance with nuclear weapons-related treaties, according to a newly released State Department report. The annual compliance report provides additional background details on Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and repeats Trump administration concerns about possible nuclear testing by Russia and China.

The U.S. State Department's annual compliance report reiterated that Russia's 9M729 cruise missile violated the INF Treaty, leading to the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. (Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)The report, made public on Aug. 22 and titled “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” primarily covers activities during 2018. The State Department released a shorter version of the report in April, which sparked controversy in Congress about the potential politicization of intelligence with regard to Iran, as well as other countries.

The full report said that Russia continued to violate the INF Treaty in 2018, a charge the Trump administration cited before formally withdrawing the United States from the treaty on Aug. 2. The 1987 pact banned the possession or testing of all nuclear and conventional, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Since 2014, the United States has accused Russia of violating the treaty by testing, possessing, and fielding an illegal ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729. The report asserts that Russia began development of the missile “probably by the mid-2000s” and concluded in 2015 a “comprehensive” flight-test program. By the end of 2018, Russia fielded multiple battalions of the 9M729, the report says.

“The history of Russia’s anti-INF [Treaty] overtures leading up to missile tests, its attempt to covertly exploit a treaty exception permitting ground-based flight tests of intermediate-range missiles not subject to the treaty, its lack of an explanation for these tests, and its overall secrecy” about the 9M729, the report declares, “provide important context for Russia’s violation.”

The compliance report also raises concerns about alleged Russian nuclear weapons testing and compliance with the 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), which prohibits nuclear tests with explosive yields exceeding 150 kilotons. The report states that “based on available information, Russian activities during the 1995–2018 timeframe raise questions about Russia’s compliance with its TTBT notification obligation.”

In addition, the report echoes remarks made earlier this year by the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) regarding Russian nuclear testing. In May, DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said that “Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard outlined” in the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). (See ACT, July/August 2019.) The CTBT, although not yet in force, goes a step farther than the TTBT by prohibiting nuclear tests, no matter what the yield.

The August report said, “The United States…has assessed that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons tests that have created nuclear yield.” In an apparent attempt to back up this statement, the report adds that, “[d]uring the 1995–2018 timeframe, Russia probably conducted nuclear weapons-related tests at the Novaya Zemlya Nuclear Test Site.”

The report also mentions Ashley’s remarks regarding China. In May the DIA director said that China may be preparing to operate its nuclear test site year-round and is continuing to use explosive containment chambers at that site. According to the compliance report, these activities, as well as a lack of transparency from China, “raise questions” about Beijing’s adherence to the zero-yield nuclear weapons testing moratorium.

On Iran, the compliance report states that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons development activities judged necessary to produce a nuclear device” and that the United States will continue with its “maximum pressure campaign” on Tehran until Iran agrees to “a comprehensive deal that resolves all U.S. concerns.”

The report says that the information in the cache of documents seized by Israel on Iran’s past nuclear weapons-related activities, known as the nuclear archive, has not revealed evidence of any ongoing weapons work. The report argues, however, that Tehran retained those documents, which are still under review by the U.S. intelligence community, to potentially “aid in any future decision to pursue nuclear weapons” and may have “taken active measures to deliberately deceive” officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As for North Korea, the compliance report states that the United States “believes there is a clear likelihood” of “unidentified nuclear facilities in North Korea” besides those at Yongbyon, the country’s nuclear center. The report does not provide additional information on those secret facilities.

In response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s declaration in 2018 that Pyongyang would end all nuclear testing and demolish the P’unggye Nuclear Test Site, the report states that the results of the demolition at the test site in May 2018 “are almost certainly reversible.”

The compliance report emphasizes that the administration “remains committed to continued diplomatic negotiations with North Korea toward the goal of achieving the final, fully-verified denuclearization of North Korea.”


An annual State Department report reinforces Trump administration charges of arms control treaty violations. 

U.S. Intel Sheds Light on Russian Explosion

October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

U.S. intelligence analysts have bolstered earlier assessments that an Aug. 8 explosion near a Russian missile test site involved a nuclear-powered cruise missile undergoing development and testing. (See ACT, September 2019.)

The incident began with a blast at the Nenoksa Missile Test Site, on the coast of the White Sea. According to a statement from Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) two days later, five employees died in the accident, which involved “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.” Two military personnel also reportedly died from the blast.

A subsequent U.S. intelligence assessment determined that the blast was caused by a recovery mission to salvage a nuclear-powered cruise missile from the ocean floor from a previous test, CNBC reported on Aug. 29.

“There was an explosion on one of the vessels involved in the recovery, and that caused a reaction in the missile’s nuclear core, which lead to the radiation leak,” a person with direct knowledge of the intelligence assessment told CNBC. A number of media outlets have reported releases of a variety of radioactive isotopes.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Norwegian Norsar Research Institute suggested that there may have been two explosions at the test site. Anne Lycke, the institute’s chief executive, said that seismographic readings suggested an explosion first on the ground or water, and then an infrasonic air-pressure sensor pointed to a second explosion two hours later, likely in the air. The second one “coincided in time with the reported increase in radiation,” she said. The governor of the region in which the blast took place denied the possibility of a second explosion.

Some U.S. nuclear experts and intelligence officials initially assessed that the accident likely involved a failed test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile known as the 9M730 Buresvestnik by Russia and the SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov appeared to confirm this assessment Aug. 21, stating that a “nuclear-propelled missile” was being tested at the time of the accident.

No official explanations have come from Russia. President Vladimir Putin said only that “this is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems.”

CNBC released another report on Sept. 11 citing an intelligence finding that, despite numerous test failures, the 9M730 would be ready for deployment in 2025, about five years earlier than previously assessed.


A mysterious August explosion at a Russian missile test site likely involved a prototype nuclear-powered weapon. 

Pentagon Seeks New Missile Interceptor

October 2019
By Kingston Reif

The U.S. Defense Department has formally canceled its program to design an upgraded kill vehicle for the U.S. long-range missile defense system and will instead seek to build a new interceptor for the system.

A U.S. plan to replace the exoatmospheric kill vehicle, shown here as an artists' conception, were formally cancelled in August. (Image: Raytheon)An Aug. 21 Pentagon statement said that effective the next day, the Pentagon would terminate the Boeing Company’s contract to build the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) “due to technical design problems.”

The announcement followed the department’s decision in May to order Boeing, the lead contractor for the $67 billion Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, to stop all work on the new kill vehicle. (See ACT, July/August 2019.) The GMD system is designed to defend the United States against a limited, long-range ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran.

“Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said in the statement. “Development programs sometimes encounter problems. After exercising due diligence, we decided the path we’re going down wouldn’t be fruitful, so we’re not going down that path anymore.”

Congress has appropriated more than $1 billion for the RKV program, from the program’s inception in fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2019.

The RKV was intended to be more reliable and cost effective than the current generation of GMD kill vehicles that have seen mixed test results and face an evolving threat, particularly from North Korea. The system has an intercept success rate of just more than 50 percent in controlled testing.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) planned to deploy the RKV beginning in 2021 atop 20 new interceptors in Alaska to augment the existing fleet of 44 interceptors there and in California. The RKV was also intended to replace the aging kill vehicles atop the current fleet.

The demise of the RKV could delay the fielding of the additional interceptors “to the 2030 timeframe at the earliest under the current acquisition requirements” to compete, test, and certify a new interceptor “in operational and realistic conditions,” the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance said in an Aug. 21 alert.

The termination will likewise delay the modernization of the existing fleet of ground-based interceptors, the oldest of which were fielded between 2004 and 2007.

According to the Government Accountability Office, ground-based interceptors “only have an initial service life of 20 years and [the] MDA previously decided not to make any upgrades to the [original interceptor] because of initial plans to begin replacing them with RKVs in 2020.”

In the wake of the failure of the RKV program, the Defense Department plans to develop an entirely new long-range interceptor that will also include a new kill vehicle.

John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a Sept. 17 event in Washington that the department plans to issue “what we will hope will be the final request for proposals” to industry for the new interceptor in October.

“We are positioned for near-term responses from industry, and the Missile Defense Agency advises me that they’re poised to try to rapidly move to award,” he added.

The Pentagon has released few details about the requirements for the new interceptor, the proposed timeline to develop and field it, or the estimated cost.

Rood said the MDA will continue existing plans to build 20 additional missile silos in Alaska “to be ready to house” the new interceptors.

The plan to develop the new interceptor is part of “a realignment of over $12 billion in current budget plans for development of a Next-Generation Interceptor” for the GMD system, according to the report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the fiscal year 2020 defense appropriations bill.

In addition to the Next-Generation Interceptor, the $12 billion figure includes funding for research, development, test, and evaluation; procurement; and operations and maintenance for the entire GMD program from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2030, a defense official told Inside Defense on Sept. 13.

Unlike the other involved Senate and House committees, the Senate Appropriations Committee published
its defense bill after the cancellation of the RKV.

The bill supported the MDA proposal to shift $728 billion in fiscal year 2019 and 2020 funding for the GMD system to support “a competitive acquisition” of the new interceptor “while addressing current GMD requirements.” The bill would provide $222 million specifically for the new interceptor.


The Defense Department has ended a program to design a new missile defense kill vehicle after the system failed to overcome technical hurdles. 

Turkey Shows Nuclear Weapons Interest

October 2019
By Shannon Bugos

Complaining that nuclear-armed nations retain an unacceptable monopoly on nuclear weapons, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a recent Turkish holiday to seemingly suggest that his nation acquire its own nuclear arsenal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2019. Earlier in the month, he suggested that Turkey may be interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)“Several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us that] we can’t have them. This I cannot accept,” Erdogan said on the centennial of the Turkish independence movement. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them.”

In fact, many developed countries do not have nuclear weapons. Only nine countries—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel—possess nuclear weapons, with Washington and Moscow owning 93 percent of them.

In a comment to The National Interest, a U.S. State Department official reminded Turkey that it is a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and emphasized the “great importance of Turkey’s continued adherence to its obligations under the treaty.”

Turkey signed the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state in 1980, meaning that Ankara agreed to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. Turkey has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions.

Additionally, since 1952, Turkey has been a part of NATO. Under NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements, five European countries—Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey—host U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. At Incirlik Air Base, Ankara stores the most of any NATO state, about 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs. Turkey, however, neither trains its pilots to fly nuclear missions nor possesses the required aircraft to deliver those weapons. Meanwhile, despite concerns over the past few years about maintaining these weapons at Incirlik, there remains no indication that the United States or NATO has moved to withdraw them.

As the State Department also pointed out, Turkey is “covered by NATO’s Article 5 collective defense clause, which bolsters Turkey’s defense and security.”

Nevertheless, Erdogan once again hinted at Turkey’s potential pursuit of nuclear weapons during his speech at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24, saying “the position of nuclear power should either be forbidden for all or permissible for everyone.”

Erdogan’s comments come as Ankara began in July to receive shipments of the S-400 Russian missile defense system. Turkey and Russia signed the S-400 deal, worth $2.5 billion, in December 2017. The United States has opposed it, citing concerns that Russia might use the system to gather intelligence about advanced fighter jets that Turkey purchased from the United States but has not received.

After the initial delivery of the S-400 system to Turkey, the Trump administration decided on July 17 to remove Ankara from the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, canceling the shipment of more than 100 F-35s and causing Turkey to lose its production work on the jet. On Sept. 4, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense said that it had moved ahead with the training of their air force personnel to operate the S-400 system in Gatchina, Russia. The ministry said on Sept. 15 that the delivery of a second battery of the system has been completed and that the S-400 missiles would become active in April 2020.

Erdogan’s remarks may have been more an expression of desire to build its status as a world power than an actual goal, according to some analysts.

“The Turkish president was not actually signaling an imminent decision to develop nuclear weapons,” wrote Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Instead, Stein says, Erdogan is arguing that the West has failed to treat Turkey equally and, in order “to right the wrong,” demanding a seat at the table.

Turkey’s president said, “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them.” 

Cluster Munitions Treaty Nears 10-Year Mark

October 2019
By Jeff Abramson

States-parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions for the first time in September addressed requests to extend treaty-mandated deadlines as they prepare for next year’s review conference.

Components of a cluster munition are displayed at a UN peacekeeper camp in 2007. The cluster munitions treaty will hold its second review conference in 2020, 10 years after its entry into force. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)At the ninth meeting of states-parties, held Sept. 2–4 at the United Nations in Geneva and chaired by Aliyar Lebbe Abdul Azeez of Sri Lanka, delegates welcomed Gambia and the Philippines as the newest states-parties. There are 107 states-parties and 14 signatories. Twenty nonsignatories also attended as observers, but not the United States, which has consistently chosen not to participate. (See ACT, October 2018.)

The treaty, which entered into force in 2010, bans the use, production, and stockpiling of cluster munitions, the weapons that deliver smaller submunitions that often fail to explode as intended, at times detonating years later. The majority of NATO members, as well as countries in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, have joined the treaty. But China, Russia, the United States, and many states in the Middle East and North Africa have yet to do so. The convention calls for states-parties to destroy any stockpiles they have within eight years and clear contaminated land under their jurisdiction or control within 10 years.

During the meeting, states congratulated Botswana and Switzerland for completing destruction of their stockpiles ahead of their deadline for doing so and granted Bulgaria its first extension to this requirement. Research published by the independent Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor program before the meeting found that 99 percent of stocks declared by states-parties had already been destroyed, a collective total of nearly 1.5 million cluster munitions and more than 178 million submunitions. The report noted, however, that Guinea-Bissau, which had never filed a report indicating the size of its stockpile, failed to complete destruction by May 2019 and was in violation of the convention.

The report also noted that there were no reports or allegations of use of cluster munitions by any state-party since the treaty was adopted, but continued to find that the weapons were being used in Syria, although not as frequently as in recent years. While noting challenges in access and data disaggregation, the report also found a decline in casualties in the country, identifying 80 people killed or injured during cluster munitions strikes or by explosive remnants in 2018, down from 187 in 2017. The conflict in Syria has resulted in 3,343 of the 4,128 cluster munitions casualties recorded by the group from 2009 to 2018.

As in prior years, states-parties adopted a final report that “condemned any use by any actor” of cluster munitions. A proposal by New Zealand to specifically mention the use of cluster munitions in Syria was withdrawn after a small number of states indicated that they could not accept naming individual countries. That topic may be revisited next year at the treaty’s second review conference, to be held in November in Switzerland. At the first review conference held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 2015, a declaration was adopted in which seven countries were specifically named.

None of the roughly two dozen countries still contaminated with cluster munitions completed clearance in 2018, but a separate report published by the Mine Action Review found that at least 128 square kilometers of cluster munitions-contaminated land was cleared in 2018, the highest annual total recorded. At the meeting, Laos, one of the world's most contaminated countries, was granted a five-year extension to its 10-year clearance obligation, with the recognition that it still faces significant challenges. Germany was also granted a five-year extension to clear a former military training area.

States-parties to the cluster munitions treaty marked milestones in destroying the lethal weapons that have taken thousands of lives.

ATT Confronts Gender-Based Violence

October 2019
By Owen LeGrone

States-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) raised the profile of gender equity and gender-based violence issues as they met in Geneva to discuss the treaty’s implementation during their annual conference in August.

Latvian diplomat Janis Karklins, shown here in 2014, selected gender-based issues to be featured at the Arms Trade Treaty's annual conference in August. (Photo: Jerry Lampen/AFP/Getty Images)The final conference document addressed numerous facets of gender in the context of the treaty. States-parties agreed to “strive for gender balance” in their delegations, be open to guidance from third parties toward achieving gender equity, and take gender into account when determining the disbursement of funds for implementation projects from the Voluntary Trust Fund. They endorsed further investigation of the meaning of Article 7(4), which requires states before granting licenses to take into account the risk that exported arms might be used to commit gender-based violence. The language of the document also encouraged states to collect and share relevant data and to create a “learning guide.” None of these measures was mandatory or binding, raising concerns that intransigence on the part of some states might prevent meaningful progress.

The theme of gender-based violence was selected by the conference president, Janis Karklins of Latvia. It had been discussed in two preparatory conferences in February and April before the conference of states-parties was held.

Participants welcomed the accession or ratification of four more states-parties (Palau, Lebanon, Botswana, and Canada) since the fourth conference, in 2018, marking 104 total states-parties and 32 signatories to the treaty.

As in previous conferences, there was little formal discussion between states-parties of possible violations of Articles 6 and 7 of the treaty, which require export license denials in certain circumstances and risk assessments on the possibility that arms recipients will utilize them to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, acts of terrorism, or transnational organized crime.

States-parties also discussed financial concerns. Only 71 states had provided their assessed contributions as of March 2019, continuing a downward trend. According to the ATT’s current financial rules, any state that has not paid its annual dues for two years loses certain rights, such as equal standing when applying for support for implementation projects funded by the ATT Voluntary Trust Fund.

Some states and civil society representatives urged participants to stay focused on more substantive treaty issues. Pressuring small, developing countries to pay their dues is like “obsessing over the quality of the fiddle-playing while ignoring the burning of Rome,” said Cesar Jaramillo of Project Ploughshares.

In the end, the ATT Management Committee delayed the imposition of penalties for nonpayment to next year’s conference while establishing a reserve fund from voluntary contributions.

The United States, which for the first time did not attend the conference, was not assessed for future meetings after President Donald Trump promised to withdraw from the treaty in April. The United States submitted a statement to the United Nations in July declaring that it had “no legal obligations” under the treaty.

The U.S. absence drew criticism from the former U.S. lead negotiator for the treaty, Thomas Countryman, now the Arms Control Association’s board chairman.

“Trump’s decision to ‘un-sign’ the treaty was not a harmless decision, and its negative effects were immediately visible at the conference of states-parties. The U.S. government chose to be absent from a discussion that potentially affects the dominant U.S. role in the international weapons trade,” he said on Sept. 16.

The sixth conference of states-parties is scheduled for Geneva during Aug. 17–21, 2020.

The Arms Trade Treaty’s annual conference reviewed the pact’s implementation and effectiveness.

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile

The BrahMos cruise missile, produced by an Indian-Russian venture, is displayed in St. Petersburg in 2017.  (Photo: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)India has increased the range of its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to 500 kilometers after successful summer testing, an industry official told The Economic Times. The technological development followed earlier reports that New Delhi may soon begin exporting the missile to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The conventionally armed BrahMos missile is reported to be world’s fastest cruise missile, capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound. It is manufactured in India by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint Indian-Russian enterprise.

The new capability was made possible by India’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), said Sudhir Kumar Mishra, the firm’s chief executive officer. Before joining in 2016, India was prevented from receiving technology from MTCR members, such as Russia, for missiles capable of flying more than 300 kilometers or carrying payloads heavier than 500 kilograms.

MTCR limitations will need to be considered as India decides which versions of the BrahMos to export.

Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have expressed interest in the BrahMos, according to Sputnik News, and other customers friendly to India and Russia may also be interested.—JULIA MASTERSON

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile


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