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Daryl Kimball

Possible Chinese Nuclear Testing Stirs U.S. Concern

News Source / Outlet: 
Wall Street Journal, The
News Date: 
April 15, 2020 -04:00



The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is the only treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals—and its future hangs in the balance.

New START, which requires rigorous monitoring and verification, is set to expire in February 2021 unless the U.S. and Russian presidents agree to extend it. President Vladimir Putin has proposed an extension of five years without conditions, but President Trump remains undecided.

Time is running out on New START and it is now crucial that Congress takes action to protect and extend it.

A growing number of Republican and Democratic members of Congress are voicing their support for the treaty and its extension. For instance:

  • In the House, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) introduced the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” (H.R. 2529) bill, which expresses the Sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend the New START Treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance.
  • In the Senate, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced a companion bill, also named the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” (S. 2394). This bill expresses the same as the House bill.

Unfortunately, instead of working toward an extension of New START, the Trump administration is busy arguing for a new trilateral arms control agreement, one that includes Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons and China's smaller stockpile, which totals approximately 300.

Pursuing talks with other nuclear-armed states, like China, and limits on all types of nuclear weapons is an admirable objective, but such a negotiation would be complex and time-consuming. Not only is China opposed to a trilateral deal at this time, but there is not enough time to negotiate and ratify a new arms control deal before New START expires.

The first step should, therefore, be a five-year extension of New START which would provide a foundation for a more ambitious successor agreement.

Use the form below to urge your senators and representative to support the bipartisan legislation currently before them in the House and Senate.

The active support of your members of Congress for this legislation can help ensure common sense limits on Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal remain in force and can help prevent an unconstrained arms race.


The New START agreement is now the only treaty capping the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals—and it is in jeopardy. The U.S. and Russian presidents can extend it—and its irreplaceable verification and monitoring system—for up to five years if they choose. The actions of Congress can help protect and extend it.

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Pandemic Reveals Misplaced Priorities

April 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

For decades, national security and health experts have warned of the risks of global threats that are simply too big for one country to handle, such as disease pandemics, climate change, and nuclear war. For many years, the response of our national and global leaders has fallen short.

Twenty years ago, John Steinbruner, then the chair of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, warned in his book Principles of Global Security that globalization is generating “a new class of security problems in which dispersed processes pose dangers of large magnitude and incalculable probability.” He argued that policymakers “will have to shift from contingency reaction to anticipatory prevention” and “this will have to be done in global coalition.”

Unfortunately, U.S. spending priorities and modes of thinking about security have become increasingly defined in military terms. Congress provided a record $746 billion for national defense in fiscal year 2020. U.S. arms manufacturers dominate the global arms trade and help fuel regional conflicts that undermine human development. In recent years, the Trump administration’s nationalist “America First” foreign policy has made it even more difficult for the world’s leading nations to work together on the toughest global challenges.

Today, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions worldwide, has laid bare the terrible human cost of these misplaced policy choices.

As the scope and scale of the coronavirus threat began to reveal itself in January and February, the Trump administration focused on other matters. For example, the administration in February asked Congress for $44.5 billion in fiscal year 2021 for programs to maintain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a 19 percent increase above the previous year.

The U.S. government spends tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to maintain a massive nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the planet many times over. Meanwhile, it does not have a stockpile of masks large enough to protect front-line health care workers who are battling COVID-19 and is proposing to cut programs that help provide for early disease detection.

The U.S. stockpile of medical supplies includes 12 million medical-grade N95 masks and 30 million surgical masks, which is only about 1 percent of the 3.5 billion needed in a year to deal with a disease pandemic. At the price of $0.50 a mask, it would cost approximately $1.75 billion to build up the N95 stockpile and about $350 million a year to replace expired masks, according to a report published by The War Zone. That is less than the $3.2 billion increase above fiscal year 2020 levels that the Pentagon is seeking for its multiyear programs to sustain and rebuild the U.S. triad of nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers.

Meanwhile, the administration is proposing to slash by 37 percent the budget request for the Defense Department’s Biological Threat Reduction Program, which “seeks to facilitate detection and reporting of diseases caused by especially dangerous pathogens.” As a result of that program’s previously provided threat reduction training efforts, local officials in Thailand detected the first case of the novel coronavirus there, only days after its initial discovery in Wuhan, China.

Now is the time for Congress to radically scale back the existing plan to replace and upgrade the already excessive U.S. nuclear arsenal, particularly plans for new missiles and bombers, new nuclear warheads, and production infrastructure. This would save billions of taxpayer dollars that should be spent on addressing higher priority human and health security needs.

Making matters worse, the United States has become part of the problem rather than helping to find viable solutions to counter the most serious global threats.

While the Trump administration is seeking to expand U.S. nuclear capabilities at the expense of programs that address human security needs, it is turning its back on hard-won agreements that have effectively reduced the nuclear threat.

President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with no viable plan to replace it creates the potential for a new nuclear crisis. Iran’s leaders have retaliated to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions by breaching key limits on their nuclear activities.

In addition, the post-Cold War progress toward reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons has stalled. To date, Trump has failed to take up Russia’s offer to extend the only remaining treaty that limits the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The global nonproliferation and disarmament regime, the best prophylactic against a nuclear pandemic, is under serious threat.

The unfolding COVID-19 outbreak will not only take away the lives of people, but it will change our personal lives, and it will very likely force changes in the international system. If we are to survive well into this century, there must be a profound shift in the way we deal with global security challenges and how we align our scientific, economic, diplomatic, and political resources to address the health, climate, and nuclear dangers that threaten us all.


For decades, national security and health experts have warned of the risks of global threats that are simply too big for one country to handle, such as disease pandemics, climate change, and nuclear war. For many years, the response of our national and global leaders has fallen short.

NPT Review Conference Postponed

April 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has forced a postponement of the 10th review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), possibly until early 2021. Originally scheduled to be held at UN headquarters in New York from April 27 until May 22, the conference typically involves hundreds of representatives from most of the 191 states-parties to the treaty, as well as nongovernmental organizations and meeting support personnel. The conference caps off a five-year cycle of meetings through which states-parties review implementation and compliance with the treaty and seek agreement on action steps to overcome new challenges and to fulfill core goals and objectives.

Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, president-designate of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, addresses the UN Security Council in February. (Photo: Evan Schneider/UN)In a March 26 interview with Arms Control Today, conference president-designate Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina said that after extensive consultations, he circulated a proposal on March 25 to NPT regional groups to postpone the review conference “until such time as conditions permit, but not later than April 2021.”

Zlauvinen said his communication explained that because the pandemic makes it impractical to hold meetings at the present time, the only way for states-parties to express their agreement on a decision to postpone the review conference is to do so in writing, and he requested responses by March 27.

All other related preparatory meetings and consultations, including plans for NPT workshops in Jordan, Mexico, and Thailand, have been postponed. A U.S.-hosted third working group meeting for the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament initiative, planned for April 8–9 in Washington, has also been postponed.

In March, as the scale and scope of the pandemic grew, Zlauvinen said he began discussing conference options with senior UN officials and NPT states parties, including the UN secretary-general on March 4. On March 13, he circulated a proposal to delegations calling for the conference to be “suspended” until a later date after a short procedural meeting on April 27 to elect a conference officers and possibly to agree on a program of work, if conditions allowed.

Given the importance of the NPT, Zlauvinen said he initially wanted to hold the meeting on April 27 to provide a strong “symbolic” start to the review conference and to “maintain the integrity” of the review process. The conference had originally been scheduled to begin the same day.

As the COVID-19 outbreak worsened in New York, however, the prospects of an in-person procedural meeting on April 27 became untenable, Zlauvinen said.

Another option explored was to use video conferencing to hold the April 27 meeting, he said, but that arrangement could have led to technical difficulties for some states, including potential problems regarding procedures and voting. He also said that there were differing views among states-parties about selecting a date for resuming the conference, with some seeking rescheduling in early 2021, others in the late-fall of 2020, while others proposed an earlier date.

According to a Xinhua news report in March, the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 member states decided on March 12 to recommend postponing the review conference to April and May of next year, saying it is too important to hold on a smaller scale at an earlier date.

Taking these factors into account, Zlauvinen came to the conclusion that he should recommend to states-parties that the meeting should be postponed until such time as it is possible for “the review conference to undertake its important work.” The UN publicly confirmed the postponement on March 27.

When the review conference will be held remains unclear. In addition to the uncertainties about the duration of the pandemic, Zlauvinen said that another complicating factor is that the UN conference facilities in New York are almost completely booked with other official events, including rescheduled events, for the next several months.

Preparations for the review conference have experienced other unexpected turns. Last year, the preparatory meeting for the 2020 review conference tapped veteran Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi as president-designate for the meeting. In late 2019, however, he was selected to become the new director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In his place, Argentina put forward Zlauvinen, who is a deputy foreign minister and has a long track record on nonproliferation matters. He served as the IAEA representative to the United Nations in New York for nearly eight years and was an alternate head of the IAEA’s NPT delegation from 2002 to 2009.

The NPT, which marked its 50th anniversary of entry into force on March 5, obligates the five nuclear-weapon states recognized by the treaty not to help non-nuclear-weapon states develop or acquire nuclear weapons, it obligates the non-nuclear-weapon states to forswear the pursuit of such weapons, it acknowledges the “inalienable right” of states-parties to the peaceful use of nuclear energy under safeguards, and the treaty commits states-parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

The challenges facing the treaty have grown in recent years, especially since 2015 when NPT states-parties failed to reach agreement on a final document at that year’s review conference. Many non-nuclear-weapon states have also argued that key benchmarks agreed to at the historic 1995 review and extension conference and the successful 2010 review have not been met by the nuclear-weapon states.

At a UN Security Council session on nuclear nonproliferation issues convened by Germany in New York in February, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu warned that “relationships between states, especially nuclear-weapon states, are fractured.”

“The specter of unconstrained nuclear competition looms over us for the first time since the 1970s. We are witnessing what has been termed a qualitative nuclear arms race, one not based on numbers but on faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons. Regional conflicts with a nuclear dimension are worsening, and proliferation challenges are not receding,” she said.

“I hope the review conference can serve as a springboard for thinking on how to address the nuclear weapons challenges of our time,” Nakamitsu told the council.

“Obviously the NPT is not on the top of the priority list for our governments right now. The pandemic is, and rightly so. Once we resolve the issue of the postponement and once travel restrictions are lifted, I plan to continue the series of regional seminars on the three pillars of the NPT that my predecessor, Ambassador Grossi, started, as well as my personal consultations with states-parties in Geneva, Vienna, in New York, and in other capitals,” Zlauvinen said.

“Once we can move back into the important discussions on all of the issues relating to the NPT, I hope the states-parties can think like a community and find common solutions to common challenges,” Zlauvinen added. “The coronavirus is an invisible enemy.... Nuclear weapons are also a kind of invisible threat that most nonexperts don’t think about in their everyday lives. These are both global challenges that require global solutions.”


COVID-19 Delays Security Meetings, Treaty Inspections

A lone worker walks through the rotunda of the Vienna International Centre on March 19. The center normally houses more than 2,200 IAEA employees who have been directed to work at home during the public health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)


Efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), have led to a suspension of arms control and international security meetings at the UN and other institutions in Geneva, New York, Vienna, and beyond.

Most prominently, this year’s review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at UN headquarters in New York has been postponed.

In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has delayed or deferred most events through the end of May, including the eighth review conference of the Nuclear Safety Convention. The IAEA is maintaining its nuclear safeguards operations, including in Iran. The IAEA and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization are operating remotely, following instructions of Austrian authorities.

Mandatory restrictions in Switzerland have locked down the nation, including a ban on gatherings of more than five people until mid-April. As a result, the Palais des Nations has minimized its on-site staff and cancelled upcoming events. Among them are two plenary sessions of the Conference on Disarmament, as well as a working group and second informal meeting in preparation for the sixth conference of parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Also delayed is the third round of consultations on a political declaration to address the humanitarian harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Other meetings affected by COVID-19 include the Group of Seven summit, once scheduled to be hosted by the United States, which will now be held via video conference June 10–12.

New START Inspections Suspended

According to diplomatic and congressional sources, the United States and Russia agreed in late March to suspend on-site inspections under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty until May 1. They also agreed to postpone the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) meeting scheduled for March in Geneva, due to the pandemic. U.S. and Russian officials agreed to keep their full allotments of inspectors and intend to conduct two BCC meetings this year, as called for by the treaty. Information exchanges and notifications that would normally have been shared at the BCC meeting will be conducted through regular diplomatic channels instead.—LEA SCHAAD and DARYL G. KIMBALL

Reflecting public health concerns, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, scheduled to begin Apr. 27, has been postponed.

Russia, US halt checks at nuclear sites2020-

News Source / Outlet: 
China Daily
News Date: 
March 31, 2020 -04:00

Russia, US halt inspections under New START due to coronavirus outbreak

News Source / Outlet: 
News Date: 
March 29, 2020 -04:00


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