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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Daryl G. Kimball

The NPT and the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament


April 2019
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Fifty years ago, shortly after the conclusion of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States and the Soviet Union launched the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Negotiated in the midst of severe tensions, the SALT agreement and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty were the first restrictions on the superpowers’ massive strategic offensive weapons, as well as on their emerging strategic defensive systems. The SALT agreement and the ABM Treaty slowed the arms race and opened a period of U.S.-Soviet detente that lessened the threat of nuclear war.

View of the Soviet delegation (left) and United States negotiating team (right) sitting together during Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in Vienna, Austria circa 1970. Negotiations would last from 1969 until May 1972 at a series of meetings in both Helsinki and Vienna and result in the signing of the SALT I agreement between the United States and Soviet Union in May 1972. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)The size of U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles has decreased significantly from their Cold War peaks, but the dangers posed by the still excessive arsenals and launch-under-attack postures are even now exceedingly high.

Further progress on nuclear disarmament by the United States and Russia has been and remains at the core of their NPT Article VI obligation 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.”

But as the 2020 NPT Review Conference approaches, the key agreements made by the world’s two largest nuclear powers are in severe jeopardy. Dialogue on nuclear arms control has been stalled since Russia rejected a 2013 U.S. offer to negotiate nuclear cuts beyond the modest reductions mandated by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

More recently, the two sides have failed to engage in serious talks to resolve the dispute over Russian compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which will likely be terminated in August. Making matters worse, talks on extending New START, which is due to expire in 2021, have not begun.

Last year, Russia said it was interested in extending New START, but Team Trump will only say it remains engaged in an interagency review of the treaty. That review is led by National Security Advisor John Bolton, who publicly called for New START’s termination shortly before he joined the administration.

New START clearly serves U.S. and Russian security interests. The treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers. Failure to extend New START, on the other hand, would compromise each side’s understanding of the others’ nuclear forces, open the door to unconstrained nuclear competition, and undermine international security. Agreement to extend New START requires the immediate start of consultations to address implementation concerns on both sides.

Instead of agreeing to begin talks on a New START extension, U.S. State Department officials claim that “the United States remains committed to arms control efforts and remains receptive to future arms control negotiations” but only “if conditions permit.”

Such arguments ignore the history of how progress on disarmament has been and can be achieved. For example, the 1969–1972 SALT negotiations went forward despite an extremely difficult geostrategic environment. As U.S. and Russian negotiators met in Helsinki, President Richard Nixon launched a secret nuclear alert to try to coerce Moscow’s allies in Hanoi to accept U.S. terms on ending the Vietnam War, and he expanded U.S. bombing into Cambodia and Laos. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union sent 20,000 troops to Egypt to back up Cairo’s military campaign to retake the Sinai Peninsula from Israel. In late 1971, Nixon risked war with the Soviet Union and India to help put an end to India's 1971 invasion of East Pakistan.

Back then, the White House and the Kremlin did not wait until better conditions for arms control talks emerged. Instead, they pursued direct talks to achieve modest arms control measures that, in turn, created a more stable and predictable geostrategic environment.

Today, U.S. officials, such as Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, argue that the NPT does not require continual progress on disarmament and that NPT parties should launch a working group to discuss how to create an environment conducive for progress on nuclear disarmament.

Dialogue between nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states on disarmament can be useful, but the U.S. initiative titled “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” must not be allowed to distract from the Trump administration’s lack of political will to engage in a common-sense nuclear arms control and risk reduction dialogue with key nuclear actors.

The current environment demands a productive, professional dialogue between Washington and Moscow to extend New START by five years, as allowed by Article XIV of the treaty; to reach a new agreement that prevents new deployment of destabilizing ground-based, intermediate-range missiles; and maintain strategic stability and reduce the risk of miscalculation.

Ahead of the pivotal 2020 NPT Review Conference, all states-parties need to press U.S. and Russian leaders to extend New START and pursue further effective measures to prevent an unconstrained nuclear arms race. Failure to do so would represent a violation of their NPT Article VI obligations and would threaten the very underpinnings of the NPT regime.

 

 

Fifty years ago, shortly after the conclusion of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States and the Soviet Union launched the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Negotiated in the midst of severe tensions, the SALT agreement and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty were the first restrictions on the superpowers’ massive strategic offensive weapons, as well as on their emerging strategic defensive systems. The SALT agreement and the ABM Treaty slowed the arms race and opened a period of U.S.-Soviet detente that lessened the threat of nuclear war.

Lawrence D. Weiler (1920–2019)


April 2019
By Daryl G. Kimball

Lawrence D. Weiler, an architect of the first major nuclear arms control, risk reduction, and nonproliferation agreements, died February 24. Throughout his 98 years, Weiler was often in the right place at the right time, including during his service to six presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Jimmy Carter.

Born in Salt Lake City, Weiler studied at the University of Utah, where he failed to top his class, just missing out by one spot to Mary Recore, who would later become his wife of 72 years.

After his decorated World War II Army service, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in political science at Stanford University.

His arms control career began at the State Department in 1952, and soon thereafter, he served on the staff of Harold Stassen, the special assistant for disarmament to Eisenhower.

In the 1960s, Weiler helped establish the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and he was a key member of the U.S. negotiating team that concluded the 1963 Hotline Agreement, the first legally binding nuclear risk reduction agreement of its kind.

Weiler participated in negotiating the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) from 1966 to 1968. Fifty years later, he shared his thoughts on the NPT’s legacy with Arms Control Today. (See ACT, October 2017.)

Following the NPT’s completion, Weiler helped negotiate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation agreement, the first U.S.-Soviet strategic arms control pacts.

Lawrence Weiler (left) is greeted by President Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson (right) at a 1968 reception. (Photo courtesy of Weiler family.)Next came a faculty stint at Stanford before returning to governmental service in 1977 as U.S. ambassador and special coordinator for the UN Special Session on Disarmament.

Weiler returned to academia at George Washington University, publishing frequently, including in Arms Control Today. Weiler was never afraid to advocate for the correct position even when it was unpopular. For example, he was an early proponent of a U.S. no-first-use policy. In February 1983, he wrote in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Contrary to the general impression, the idea of no-first-use is as old as nuclear weapons. And in a very real sense, the first advocate of outlawing and forgoing use, or first use, was the U.S. government. Thus, the idea is neither revolutionary nor ‘un-American.’”

In retirement, Weiler maintained an active interest in nuclear issues. When President George W. Bush visited Weiler’s retirement home in 2006 to discuss health care with the residents, Weiler challenged him to consider adopting a no-first-use policy. He also told Bush that the controversial U.S. deal for Indian nuclear cooperation threatened the NPT’s long-term viability. Broadcast live on C-SPAN, the exchange elicited national news coverage.

Long into his “retirement,” Weiler regularly attended Arms Control Association events; and in the summer of 2018, Larry shared some thoughts with association members:

Over the 65 years of my involvement in the field of arms control, I have seen how effective nonproliferation agreements have reduced the danger of nuclear war and curbed the spread of nuclear weapons. Though we have achieved progress, our work is not over. The global nonproliferation and disarmament regime that
many in and outside the government have helped to build is at risk, but I am still optimistic. Why? Because even during the dark days of the Cold War, when it didn't seem like things were possible, we persisted. American and Soviet negotiators engaged with one another in an effort to reduce nuclear risks. If we could do it then, we can also find practical ways to tackle today’s tough nuclear challenges.

 

Lawrence D. Weiler, an architect of the first major nuclear arms control, risk reduction, and nonproliferation agreements, died February 24.

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