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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Daryl G. Kimball

A Win-Win Formula for Defining Iran's Uranium-Enrichment Capacity

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By Kelsey Davenport
August 2014

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As negotiators prepare to resume talks over Iran's nuclear program, they face a formidable task: to bridge the remaining gaps and reach a comprehensive nuclear deal by November 24. Perhaps the most difficult issue Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) must resolve is how to define the size and scope of Iran's uranium enrichment program.

To achieve a win-win outcome the two sides must develop a creative, technically sound formula that increases the time it would take for Iran to enrich uranium to weapons grade, while still providing Tehran with a modest program that allows domestic production of enriched uranium to contribute to fueling future civilian reactors and allows research and development to advance centrifuge technology.

In collaboration with the International Crisis Group, the Arms Control Association has developed a proposal to define Iran's uranium enrichment program in a manner that meets the fundamental concerns of both Tehran and the P5+1. The proposal is the product of feedback from a number of technical and political experts. While this may not be "the solution" to the enrichment puzzle, the proposal offers constructive options for the negotiators to consider.

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As negotiators prepare to resume talks over Iran's nuclear program, they face a formidable task: to bridge the remaining gaps and reach a comprehensive nuclear deal by November 24.

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Assessing a Nuclear Deal With Iran

Daryl G. Kimball

This month, top diplomats from Iran and six world powers have a historic opportunity to seal a long-sought, long-term comprehensive deal that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran and helps avoid a future military confrontation over its nuclear program.

The negotiation is one of the most important and complex nuclear negotiations in recent decades. Nevertheless, for the United States and the other members of the six-country group (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), which is known as the P5+1, the goals are straightforward:

  • Establish verifiable limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment and plutonium-production capacity that substantially increase the time it would take for Iran to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and try to build nuclear weapons.
  • Increase the international community’s ability to promptly detect and disrupt any future effort by Iran to build nuclear weapons, including at potential undeclared sites.
  • Decrease Iran’s incentives to enhance its nuclear capacity through nuclear fuel-supply guarantees and phased sanctions relief.

Such an agreement, on balance, would significantly improve U.S. and international security.

Negotiators have made progress in some areas, but gaps remain on key issues. Most importantly, they must still find a formula that would reduce Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium sufficiently to guard against an effort to develop nuclear weapons quickly while providing options for fueling Iran’s peaceful nuclear research and power reactors in the future.

Although the two sides are still talking tough, they can and must find win-win solutions. As explained in the pages of Arms Control Today and in the new Arms Control Association report, “Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle,” there is a range of creative, practical options.

Neither side can achieve everything it wants, but with creativity and compromise, each side can advance its core security and political interests.

Even if a nuclear agreement is concluded by the July 20 target date, the drama will not be over. There must be sufficient domestic support in Iran and in the United States to sustain implementation in the years ahead.

Inevitably, some will complain that the nuclear deal does not address human rights concerns, eliminate Iran’s ballistic missile program, or put an end to Iranian support for terrorism. No, it will not, but that is not the goal of these negotiations.

Some may say the deal falls short of their expectations for limiting Iran’s nuclear potential in one area or another. Any agreement that is struck between the P5+1 and Iran should not be evaluated on the basis of any single feature. Instead, it should be judged on its overall impact on reducing Iran’s nuclear capacity and improving capabilities to detect any ongoing or future Iranian weapons program.

Some will argue that, with additional, tougher sanctions, Iran could be coerced to limit its nuclear program even further. Such thinking is naïve and dangerous. Although the nuclear talks may be extended beyond the July 20 target date to resolve remaining issues, efforts to coerce Iranian leaders to make further concessions will likely backfire.

In the final analysis, serious policymakers in Washington and other capitals must consider whether their country is better off with a comprehensive nuclear agreement than without one. They must consider the results of failing to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement:

  • There would be no constraints on Iran’s enrichment capacity. Iran could resume enriching uranium to higher levels and increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium. The time required for Iran to produce enough material for nuclear weapons would decrease.
  • Inspections of Iranian facilities would likely continue, but would not be expanded to cover undeclared sites and activities, which would be the most likely pathway to build nuclear weapons if Iran chose to do so.
  • Sanctions would remain in effect, and some might be strengthened. Sanctions alone, however, cannot halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Eventually, the willingness of international allies to help implement those sanctions could erode.

Although Iran would still have to overcome significant hurdles to try to build nuclear weapons, such an effort would likely increase the possibility over time of a military confrontation. Yet, even Israeli leaders know that military strikes are not a solution. Such an attack would only delay, not destroy, Iran’s nuclear program and, at worst, would lead to a wider conflict that could push Iran to openly pursue nuclear weapons. Israel would be far less secure.

Some say that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” But it is clear that a good deal is better than no deal, and such a deal is within reach. Those who seek to block an effective agreement have a responsibility to present a viable alternative or take responsibility for its rejection.

This month, top diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 have a historic opportunity to seal a long-sought, long-term comprehensive deal that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran and helps avoid a future military confrontation over its nuclear program.

Syria CW Removal A Breakthrough, Yet There Is More To Be Done

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Statement of Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

June 23, 2014

Ten months ago, the government of Bashar al-Assad launched a horrific Sarin gas attack that killed over 1,000 civilians on the outskirts of Damascus. The August 21 attack prompted the United States and Russia to strike an agreement that put into motion an expeditious plan for accounting, inspection, control, and elimination of Syria’s deadly arsenal under the auspices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Today, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü announced that the last of the remaining chemical weapons and precursors identified for removal from Syria were loaded aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura at the port of Latakia in Syria.

This is a major milestone that will help protect Syria’s beleaguered and battered population from further, large scale chemical weapons attacks from the Assad regime.

To its great credit, the OPCW, the United Nations, the United States, Russia, and a diverse coalition of more than two-dozen states stepped up to the unprecedented task of verifiably removing a country’s entire chemical weapons stockpile under tight deadlines and war-time conditions.

The risk of further large-scale chemical weapons use against Syria’s people has been severely reduced, as the means for the rapid weaponization of Syria’s chemical precursors and agents have been verifiably destroyed. The OPCW-UN Syrian chemical weapons removal mission is unprecedented and has been far more successful in destroying the stockpile and protecting the Syrian people than the alternative contemplated in September: U.S. cruise missile strikes against chemical weapons targets.

Following a transfer of the Syrian chemical weapons material at the Italian port of Gioa Tauro, the U.S. vessel–the MV Cape Ray–will neutralize the most dangerous precursor chemical using the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System under the supervision of independent OPCW inspectors. Other, less dangerous Syrian chemicals will be disposed of at industrial toxic waste disposal facilities in other countries. These operations should be completed within four months according to the OPCW.

But the work of the OPCW in Syria is not yet complete. The OPCW also must clarify the whether Syria chemical weapons declaration was complete and accurate and ensure that Syria follows though on its Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) obligation to destroy its former chemical production facilities. Unfortunately, the Assad regime appears to be using chlorine in barrel bombs dropped from military helicopters on civilian areas. While less destructive and deadly than Sarin, these attacks are violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and are war crimes that must end.

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Ten months ago, the government of Bashar al-Assad launched a horrific Sarin gas attack that killed over 1,000 civilians on the outskirts of Damascus. The August 21 attack prompted the United States and Russia to strike an agreement that put into motion an expeditious plan for accounting, inspection, control, and elimination of Syria’s deadly arsenal under the auspices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

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Russia Undecided on Arms Trade Treaty

Daryl G. Kimball

Russia has not decided whether to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a Russian official said last month, apparently contradicting an earlier report by the state-run Voice of Russia broadcasting service.

In a May 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the department for nonproliferation and arms control at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “as of now, there is no decision on joining the ATT or not.”

The inquiry to Ulyanov was prompted by a May 20 Voice of Russia report saying Moscow had decided not to join the ATT.

“We see both positive and negative aspects, all of which will be taken into account,” Ulyanov said in the e-mail. One positive feature is the requirement for states to create or improve their national export control systems, he said. “But the list of the treaty’s drawbacks is also pretty long,” said Ulyanov, who was Russia’s chief negotiator during the multilateral talks that produced the ATT last year.

Russia has been criticized by many Western governments for continuing to supply the Bashar al-Assad regime, which has attacked civilian population centers throughout the three-year-old civil conflict in Syria. The ATT prohibits arms transfers if the supplier state “has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes.”

A year after the ATT was opened for signature, 118 states have signed it, and 32 have ratified it. When 50 states ratify the pact, it will enter into force.

Russia is one of several major arms supplier states that have not signed the treaty. Moscow is the world’s second-largest arms supplier, accounting for 27 percent of all arms exports from 2009 to 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The United States, the largest arms supplier, signed the treaty in September, but U.S. officials have indicated they do not plan to send it to the Senate for approval in the near future.

Russia has not decided whether to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a Russian official said last month, apparently contradicting an earlier report by the state-run Voice of Russia broadcasting service.

The Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Challenge

Daryl G. Kimball

A long-sought deal between Iran and six world powers on a comprehensive, multiyear agreement to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful is within reach if the parties pursue realistic solutions on the major issues. The two sides appear to have found common ground in some areas, such as modifying Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor to significantly reduce its plutonium output and expanding International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring.

But time is running short. China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known collectively as the P5+1, and Iran have but a few weeks to close the gaps on other issues by their July 20 target date.

The most challenging issue may be setting limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity. Iran’s enrichment program has been the focus of international concern for more than a decade because gas centrifuge machines can be used to enrich uranium not only to normal reactor grade—with 3.5 percent fissionable uranium-235—but also to weapons grade, which is 90 percent U-235.

After talks between European powers and Iran broke down in 2005, Iran increased its centrifuge capacity from 300 first-generation IR-1 machines at one site to about 19,000 installed IR-1 machines at two sites. Today, about 10,200 are operating; 1,000 advanced IR-2M centrifuges are installed at the Natanz enrichment plant, but are not operational.

Iran and the P5+1 should be able to agree that Iran will limit uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5 percent, keep stocks of its enriched uranium near zero, and halt production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to a research-only facility.

Yet, the two sides must find a formula that limits Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity at the Natanz site in a way that precludes an Iranian dash to produce enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons without being detected and disrupted but allows for Iran’s “practical” civilian needs, as the Nov. 24 interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 puts it.

Iran’s operating IR-1 machines, with about 9,000 separative work units (SWU) per year of combined capacity, could allow Tehran to enrich natural uranium stock into a sufficient quantity of HEU (25 kilograms) for one nuclear bomb in about six months if such an effort were not detected first.

If Iran tried to build a militarily significant nuclear arsenal, it would take considerably more than a year to amass enough material for additional weapons, assemble and perhaps test a nuclear device, and mate the bombs with an effective means of delivery.

An agreement that significantly reduced Iran’s present-day enrichment capacity would increase the time even further and still would provide Iran with more than sufficient capacity for its nuclear fuel needs, which are very limited for the next decade or more. Iran’s Tehran Research Reactor produces medical isotopes, and Iran already has enough material to fuel that reactor for years to come. If the Arak reactor is modified to use 3.5 percent enriched uranium fuel, it might require no more than 1,000 SWU.

Iran also operates a 1,000-megawatt electric light-water power reactor at Bushehr, which uses fuel supplied by Russia under a 10-year arrangement that could be renewed in 2021. The arrangement obliges Russia to continue supplying fuel unless Iran chooses not to renew the fuel supply contract. Iran is in talks with Russia to build and supply up to four additional nuclear power reactors, with the first possibly completed eight years from now.

Yet, Iranian negotiators insist that Iran’s nuclear fuel needs may increase and say they cannot depend on foreign suppliers given the unreliability of these suppliers in the past. It is estimated that Iran would need about 100,000 SWU of enrichment capacity to provide fuel for Bushehr.

Negotiators can square the circle in several ways. The comprehensive agreement could allow for appropriate increases in Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity in the late stages of the deal. Such adjustments could be conditioned on Iran providing sufficient information to the IAEA to show that any past experiments with possible military dimensions have been discontinued and demonstrating that it cannot obtain foreign nuclear fuel supplies for the new nuclear power reactors that it builds.

As researchers from Princeton University propose in a forthcoming article, it would be in Iran’s interest to replace its less efficient IR-1 machines with a smaller number of more-efficient IR-2M centrifuges, holding total operating SWU capacity constant, and to continue research and development and even stockpile components for more advanced centrifuges but not assemble them until there is a demonstrable need for commercial-scale enrichment. This would increase the time it would take Iran to operate the machines, providing added insurance against rapid breakout scenarios. As part of the final agreement, the P5+1, particularly Russia, should also make clearer fuel supply guarantees to Iran to reduce its rationale for greater enrichment capacity by 2022.

Concluding an effective comprehensive agreement will require difficult compromises on the major issues for both sides. But solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a civil nuclear program are achievable.

A long-sought deal between Iran and six world powers on a comprehensive, multiyear agreement to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful is within reach if the parties pursue realistic solutions on the major issues. The two sides appear to have found common ground in some areas, such as modifying Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor to significantly reduce its plutonium output and expanding International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring.

Russia Should Uphold Its INF Treaty Commitments

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Volume 5, Issue 7, May 23, 2014

Throughout the Cold War years and beyond, the United States and Russia have overcome ideological differences to reach legally binding, verifiable agreements to control and reduce their massive nuclear weapon stockpiles, including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and the 2010 New START Treaty.

To preserve past gains and achieve further progress, Russia and the United States must continue to meet their treaty commitments.

The U.S. State Department said in January that Russia may have committed a technical violation of the INF Treaty by testing a new type of cruise missile. At the time, administration officials said no final determination had been made about the possible violation and the specific allegations were not revealed. The Obama administration is expected address the issue in its annual report to Congress on arms control compliance, due to be released soon.

However, statements from an April 29 congressional hearing suggest that Russia has tested an intermediate range cruise missile for use at sea, which is allowed under the treaty, but that the missile was apparently tested from an operational ground-based launcher, which is not allowed.

At the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that, "it appears as if [Moscow] were developing a ground-based capacity for this intermediate missile."

If true, Russia should immediately halt all activities that are inconsistent with the INF Treaty, verifiably dismantle any missiles that may have been tested in violation of the treaty, respond to formal requests for clarification, and announce that it will uphold all aspects of the INF Treaty in the future.

At the same time, there is no reason for the United States to alter its ongoing implementation of the INF Treaty, which has served U.S. national security interests for over 25 years. The United States has no military need to deploy ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of traveling 500 to 5,500 kilometers, which are banned by the treaty. U.S. withdrawal would only give Russia an excuse to do the same, allowing Moscow to produce and deploy INF missiles.

The best outcome would be for the United States and Russia to engage in further discussions to promptly resolve any Russian INF Treaty violations. Under the treaty, which is still in force, the parties can use the Special Verification Commission to resolve compliance issues.

Meanwhile, the United States should refrain from any response that would be inconsistent with the goal of achieving full compliance with the INF Treaty.

What the INF Treaty Says

The INF Treaty was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. It required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification.

As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short, medium, and intermediate-range nuclear-armed missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991. Today, neither Washington nor Moscow now deploys such systems. The treaty is of unlimited duration.

Under the treaty, the United States committed to eliminate its Pershing IA, Pershing IB, Pershing II, and BGM-109G missiles. The Soviet Union had to destroy its SS-20, SS-4, SS-5, SSC-X-4, SS-12, and SS-23 missiles. In addition, both parties were obliged to destroy all INF-related training missiles, rocket stages, launch canisters, and launchers. Most missiles were eliminated either by exploding them while they were unarmed and burning their stages or by cutting the missiles in half and severing their wings and tail sections.

The treaty ban applies to ground-based missiles only, not sea-based missiles. According to Article VII, a cruise missile can be developed for sea-based use if it is test-launched "from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from" operational ground-based cruise missile launchers.

If Russia has tested an intermediate-range cruise missile from a launcher that is not "distinguishable" from operational launchers, or from a mobile launcher, it would be a violation of the treaty.

A Disturbing Pattern

This apparent technical violation of the INF Treaty follows a disturbing pattern of recent Russian intransigence on further nuclear arms reductions and disregard for key nonproliferation commitments.

Since New START's entry into force in 2011, Russia has resisted follow-on arms reduction talks with the United States. President Vladimir Putin has so far rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama's June 2013 proposal to reduce U.S. and Russian strategic stockpiles by one-third below the ceilings set by New START.

Worse still, Russia's military intervention in Crimea violates its 1994 Budapest Memorandum commitment to respect the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine.

The Cold War is long over, but the United States and Russia continue to deploy nuclear stockpiles that--by any reasonable measure--far exceed their nuclear deterrence "requirements." It is clear that the United States and Russia need more arms control, not less.

As such, it would be highly counterproductive for Congress to interfere with U.S. treaty implementation, as the House is seeking to do in its FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which would prevent implementation of New START.

The United States and Russia have had their disagreements before, such as over the Krasnoyarsk radar and the United State's effort to reinterpret the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Yet over time, resolution of compliance issues has become easier and the ultimate implementation record of these treaties has been highly successful.   

Until such time as the political conditions are conducive to further nuclear arms reductions, the existing U.S.-Russian arms control instruments still serve as an anchor of stability and predictability--and Russia must do its part by complying with all existing commitments.--TOM Z. COLLINA AND DARYL G. KIMBALL

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

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Throughout the Cold War years and beyond, the United States and Russia have overcome ideological differences to reach legally binding, verifiable agreements to control and reduce their massive nuclear weapon stockpiles, including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and the 2010 New START Treaty.

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Israel Indicates Support for CTBT

Daryl G. Kimball

With entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) still awaiting ratification by eight key states, officials from one of those states, Israel, have recently signaled strong support for the treaty.

Following a visit to Israel by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed the treaty in 1996, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a March 19 report in The Times of Israel.

Zerbo, making his first visit to Israel since becoming executive secretary last year, held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

While attending an April 10-11 meeting of an experts group in Stockholm to discuss options for bringing the CTBT into force, Zerbo told Arms Control Today that his Israeli interlocutors were “very positive” about the treaty. He said he believes that “Israel could be the next” state among the eight key holdouts to ratify the treaty.

Zerbo reported on his visit to Israel during the meeting with the experts group. The CTBTO established the group last September to promote the objectives of the CTBT and help secure its entry into force. Its 18 members include current and former prime ministers, foreign ministers, defense ministers, and other senior diplomatic leaders.

“We have an action plan that helpfully is differentiated for the nature of the challenges of the eight countries which we will be principally focusing on. We all have a reinforced obligation to see that the de facto moratorium becomes a legally binding ban to outlaw these dreadful tests,” said group member and former UK defense secretary Des Browne in an April 11 interview following the Stockholm meeting. The group is scheduled to meet again this fall in Hungary.

Meanwhile, in an address on the CTBT delivered in Hiroshima, Japan, on April 15, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the CTBT is “a key part” of leading the nuclear-weapon states “toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

Regarding U.S. efforts on ratification, Gottemoeller noted that “it has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of U.S. newspapers” and the Obama administration therefore “need[s] time to educate the public and Congress to build support for U.S. ratification.”

She said there is “no reason” that the other key states that have not ratified the treaty need to wait for U.S. action.

Also in Hiroshima, 12 countries called on the United States and other CTBT holdouts “to sign and ratify [the treaty] without delay.” The call was part of an April 12 joint statement issued at a ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group consisting of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. At their meeting, NPDI foreign ministers were joined by Gottemoeller and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The NPDI statement urged North Korea “to refrain from further provocative actions including, among others, ballistic missile launch, nuclear test or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.”

The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced March 30 that North Korea “will not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence.”

In an interview at the Stockholm meeting, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said that, by banning nuclear tests, the CTBT was designed to limit nuclear competition. “We were lucky in the Cold War that that arms race did not result in nuclear catastrophe. We may not be so lucky the second time,” he warned.

Israel appears to be signaling that it is seriously considering ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Keep the Middle East Nuclear Test Free

Daryl G. Kimball

Proliferation prevention requires a comprehensive approach, involving multiple barriers against the acquisition and further development of nuclear weapons. Nowhere is this more apparent and necessary than the Middle East, which already has one undeclared nuclear-armed state—Israel—and another state with the capacity to build nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so—Iran.

As top diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 states (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) continue to negotiate a comprehensive solution to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful, their formula must address a wide range of potential proliferation pathways. Appropriately, most attention has been focused on significantly scaling back Tehran’s capacity to produce bomb material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) and improving the capacity of the international community to detect and respond to any effort by Iran to build nuclear weapons.

But if the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 is to be truly comprehensive, Iran’s leaders should also be called on and should agree to promptly ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear test explosions and has established a highly sensitive global monitoring system to detect and deter violations. Without the option to conduct nuclear explosive tests, Iran could not gain the necessary confidence in the advanced, smaller-warhead designs it would need for use on ballistic missiles.

In the mid-1990s, Iran was an active and constructive participant in multilateral CTBT negotiations. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati put forward a compromise draft text that helped bridge differences at a key juncture in the talks. On Sept. 24, 1996, Iran became one of the original signatories to the treaty.

Today, Iranian ratification of the treaty, as well as a decision to allow the transmittal of data from international monitoring stations on its territory to the International Data Center in Vienna, would help reduce concerns about Tehran’s nuclear intentions and make it far more difficult for Iran to build a sophisticated nuclear arsenal.

On the other hand, the continued failure by Iran to ratify the CTBT would raise further questions about the nature of its sensitive nuclear activities, which will likely remain under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran’s talks with the P5+1 are due to conclude. Iran’s leaders should want to ratify the CTBT to help distinguish their country from North Korea, which for now is the only state that openly threatens to conduct additional nuclear tests.

States not involved in the Iran nuclear talks need to reinforce the importance of the CTBT to Tehran, which is the current chair of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Leaders of NAM states need to do their part by calling on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to ratify the treaty. They can start at this month’s meeting at the United Nations of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Iran is one of eight key holdout states that must ratify the treaty to trigger its entry into force. Action by other countries on that list, which includes China, Egypt, Israel, and the United States, is overdue.

U.S. leadership on the CTBT is critical. The path to approval by the U.S. Senate is a tough climb, but is achievable with a major push. President Barack Obama has made several strong statements of support, but the White House has done little beyond that to begin the ascent.

Once the CTBT is in force, established nuclear-weapon states, including China and Russia, would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs, and on-site inspections would be available to enforce compliance.

With no shortage of conflict and hostility in the Middle East, ratification of the CTBT by key states in the region—Egypt, Iran, and Israel—could be a game changer. It would accelerate CTBT entry into force and help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, the long-sought goal of Egypt, other Arab states, and Iran.

Like Iran, Israel has signed but has not yet ratified the CTBT. Israeli ratification would bring that country closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and put pressure on other states in the region to follow suit.

Following a mid-March visit to Jerusalem by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, sources close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Times of Israel that Israel considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” in part because of its extremely robust, global nuclear test monitoring system. The report said Netanyahu is “proud” to have signed it and “has never had a problem with the CTBT.”

Leaders in Iran, Israel, and other key countries should all take positive action on the CTBT. Doing so is clearly in their respective national interests and would strengthen the beleaguered global nuclear nonproliferation regime at a critical time. ACT

Proliferation prevention requires a comprehensive approach, involving multiple barriers against the acquisition and further development of nuclear weapons. Nowhere is this more apparent and necessary than the Middle East, which already has one undeclared nuclear-armed state—Israel—and another state with the capacity to build nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so—Iran.

Statement to the 2014 NPT Preparatory Committee

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Time for All States to Accelerate Progress on Key 2010 Action Steps

Statement to the 2014 NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting,
United Nations, New York, April 29, 2014

Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Paul F. Walker, Ph.D., Director, Environmental Security and Sustainability Green Cross International and Global Green USA

We are one year away from the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and the global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at yet another important crossroads.  The situation requires that the states gathered here must seriously consider, explore, and pursue alternative options to reduce global nuclear dangers and jumpstart progress toward the fulfillment of the ambitious 2010 NPT Action Plan.

The Current Landscape

As efforts to resume Six-Party talks remain stalled, North Korea threatens to conduct its fourth nuclear test in violation of its NPT commitments and the global ban on nuclear tests.  New diplomatic approaches from China, the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan are required, starting with a new proposal for talks focused on interim measures to halt further nuclear testing and long-range missile tests, coupled with more vigorous implementation of existing international sanctions.

Negotiations between the P5+1 states and Iran to resolve longstanding concerns about its nuclear program are at a critical phase.  An effective, multiyear deal can only be achieved if each side is ready to compromise and pursue realistic solutions that meet the other side’s core requirements.

A successful agreement will verifiably and significantly curtail Iran’s overall enrichment capacity, block the plutonium path to the bomb, put in place tougher international inspections, bring Iran fully into the CTBT regime, resolve outstanding questions about the purpose of Iran’s program, and lead to the phased removal of nuclear-related sanctions.

The ability of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to reach agreement on the so-called Action Plan was an important breakthrough.  But the follow-through on the plan—particularly the 22 interrelated disarmament steps—has been disappointing as progress on most of the items have slowed to a crawl.

The United States and Russia did successfully negotiate, sign, and ratify the 2010 New START treaty, which requires them to have no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads each on no more than 700 deployed bombers and missiles by 2018.

However, since 2011, they have failed to start talks to further reduce their still enormous nuclear stockpiles.  Even after New START, U.S. and Russian strategic stockpiles will still far exceed any plausible deterrence requirements. Many of their weapons remain on prompt launch status, a condition that President-elect Barack Obama called “a dangerous relic of the Cold War.”

Worse still, with Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, which violates its 1994 Budapest Memorandum commitments to respect the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, Russian relations with the United States and Europe have reached perhaps their lowest point in more than a quarter century.  New negotiations on further nuclear disarmament beyond New START are unlikely any time soon.

Even before the recent political turmoil in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extralegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, President Putin rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama’s June 2013 proposal to reduce U.S. and Russian strategic stockpiles by one-third below the ceilings set by New START.

Progress toward CTBT entry into force  still awaits promised action from the United States and China on ratification, as well as the five other Annex 2 hold-out states.

Talks on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and other important disarmament agenda items have still not begun at the Conference on Disarmament.

Progress on tactical nuclear arms reductions and deployments also remains stalled. NATO has been unable to agree on a proposal for transparency and accounting regarding the 180 U.S. nuclear gravity bombs located in five European states, as well as the far larger stockpile of some 1,000-2,000 Russian tactical nuclear weapons.  Russia refuses to engage in talks on tactical nuclear weapons and its military strategy allows for the use of tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict.

In 2010, all of the NPT nuclear-weapon states committed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons” and “[d]iscuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.”

Unfortunately, none of them has undertaken demonstrable, concrete steps to do so.  In fact, as Hans Kristensen writes in the May 2014 issue of Arms Control Today:

“… all of the world’s nuclear weapons states are busy modernizing their arsenals, continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons, and none of them appears willing to eliminate their nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.”

As a consequence, the risk that nuclear weapons might be used again someday—in response to conventional attack, in response to a nuclear attack, or as the result of accidental exchange—remains all too high.

In light of these realities, leaders at this conference must consider, explore, and pursue new ideas and options to reduce global nuclear dangers and meet the 2010 NPT Action Plan goals.

Ways Forward

We believe that more than one path can and should be pursued. The following are practical ideas for consideration by all states at this meeting:

Use the Humanitarian Consequences Conferences As An Opportunity for Dialogue: The conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons are a useful and important venue for understanding the risks of nuclear weapons and the means by which those risks can be eliminated.

The five NPT nuclear weapon states should actively participate in the meeting and support joint statements warning of the consequences of nuclear weapons use.

For their part, the non-nuclear-weapon state majority must also better utilize the Humanitarian Consequences dialogue to develop and come together around proposals that more effectively challenge the dangerous nuclear doctrines of the nuclear weapons states.

Before the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the nuclear weapons states should also be called upon to explain the effects of their nuclear weapons use doctrines and war plans, if they were to be carried out, and explain how the use of such weapons would be consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law.

The June 2013 Report on the Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy of the United States claims that “[t]he new guidance makes clear that all plans must also be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Law of Armed Conflict.  Accordingly, plans will, for example, apply the principles of distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects.  The United States will not intentionally target civilian populations or civilian objects.”

Given the catastrophic consequences of the large-scale use of nuclear weapons against hundreds of targets, as envisioned in the U.S. and Russian war plans, it is hard to see how the use of significant numbers of nuclear weapons could be consistent with international humanitarian law or any common sense interpretation of the Law of Armed Conflict.

The NPT nuclear weapons states should, as part of their reporting responsibilities for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, report in detail on their nuclear weapons employment policies so that NPT states parties can evaluate whether such practices are consistent with international humanitarian law.

Accelerate New START Reductions: As a 2012 report by the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board suggests, with New START verification tools in place, further nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty.  The United States and Russia could accelerate the pace of reductions under New START to reach the agreed limits before the 2018 deadline.  As long as long as both sides continue to reduce force levels below the treaty limits, deeper reductions below New START are possible.

Such an initiative would also allow both sides to reduce the extraordinary costs of force maintenance and modernization and could help induce other nuclear-armed states to exercise greater restraint.

Seek to Cap the Growth of the Arsenals of the Other Nuclear-Armed States: U.S. and Russian nuclear forces still comprise more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear stockpiles.  But other countries must do more to fulfill their NPT Article VI obligations.

As a first step, other nuclear-armed states, beginning with China, France, and the U.K., should pledge not to increase the overall size of their growing nuclear weapons and missile stockpiles as long as U.S. and Russian reductions continue.  Such an effort must eventually involve states outside the NPT, specifically India and Pakistan, which continue to expand their stocks of nuclear weapons material and their holdings of nuclear weapons.

Adjust Nuclear Readiness Posture of Some ICBMs: As a confidence-building measure, U.S. and Russian experts could commence technical discussions on verifiably reducing the alert status of an agreed portion of their respective stockpiles, beginning with a portion of their land-based intercontinental ballistic missile forces. In December 2008, President-elect Obama said he would “work with Russia to end such outdated Cold War policies in a mutual and verifiable way.”[1]

Follow Through on Commitments to Ratify the CTBT: Despite statements of support for ratification from the United States and China, neither state has taken sufficient action to secure domestic support for ratification.  The path to approval by the U.S. Senate is a tough climb but is achievable with a major push.  So far, the White House has done too little to begin the ascent.  Now is the time for President Obama to begin that effort.

Ratification by Israel, Egypt, and Iran would reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the region.  It would also help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East Zone free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Iranian ratification of the CTBT—as well as a decision to allow the transmittal of data from international monitoring stations on its territory to the International Data Center in Vienna— should be a part of any comprehensive P5+1/Iran agreement.

Iran’s leaders should want to ratify the CTBT to help distinguish their country from North Korea, which for now, is the only state that openly threatens to conduct further nuclear tests.

States not involved in the Iran nuclear talks, particularly the Non-Aligned Movement, need to do their part by calling on President Hassan Rouhani to ratify the treaty.

Conclusion

As Obama said last year, “[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.”  States and this conference must do more than simply repeat previous calls for action. States must be prepared to act and they must do so before next year’s review conference.

In the coming months, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to reduce nuclear dangers and to fulfill the promises of the NPT.

 


Endnotes

1. “Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama,” Arms Control Today, December, 2008.

Description: 

We are one year away from the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and the global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at yet another important crossroads. The situation requires that the states gathered here must seriously consider, explore, and pursue alternative options to reduce global nuclear dangers and jumpstart progress toward the fulfillment of the ambitious 2010 NPT Action Plan.

ACA Executive Director Participates in Faith Leaders Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear War

Sections:

Body: 

The Humanitarian Imperative to Accelerate Progress
On Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation

Prepared Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball for the April 24 Conference

“Faith Leaders and the Dialogue on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear War”

U.S. Institute for Peace, Washington, D.C.

Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons have driven global leaders to pursue concrete steps to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use.

Over time, our understanding of the scope of these effects has become more sophisticated.  Early studies found that the direct effects of a large-scale nuclear exchange would produce catastrophic regional and national damage that would kill tens of millions and likely several hundred million people within one month of the initial exchange.[1]

More comprehensive studies in mid-1980s found that the direct effects of such a large-scale nuclear war involving thousands of nuclear detonations could result in several hundred million human fatalities, the indirect effects could be far greater, leading to the loss of one to four billion lives.[2]

More recent studies have found that even a smaller nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan involving just 100 nuclear detonations against urban targets would kill 20 million people in the first week and loft soot into the global atmosphere that would reduce surface temperatures by 1.3 degrees Celsius and disrupt agricultural production and put 1-2 billion people at risk for famine.[3]

These and other findings make it clear that the use of even a relatively small number of nuclear weapons would result in humanitarian emergencies far beyond the immediate target zones of the warring parties.

The catastrophic impact effects of nuclear weapons use make these weapons an enormous global health and security liability.

Nevertheless, the nine states and several of their allies, still employ nuclear weapons as part of their military and security doctrines. As a consequence, the risk that nuclear weapons might be  used again someday—in response to conventional attack, in response to a nuclear attack, or as the result of accidental exchange—remains.

The Humanitarian Effects Process and the NPT

Appropriately enough, the 2010 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference Final Document expresses “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and [reaffirmed] the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”

The NPT nuclear-weapon states committed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons” and “[d]iscuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.”

The Final Document commits the states parties to certain actions to reduce the risk of such an outcome, including some 22 overlapping nuclear disarmament commitments.

Among other steps, the 2010 NPT Action Plan calls for:

  • changes in nuclear doctrines to diminish the role of nuclear weapons;
  • reductions of the number of all types of nuclear weapons;
  • changes in the operational readiness of nuclear weapons to reduce the risk of accidental war;
  • increased transparency and reporting by the nuclear-weapon states;
  • tangible progress toward entry into force of the CTBT; and
  • overcoming the paralysis of the UN’s disarmament machinery, especially in the CD.

The ability of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to reach agreement on the Action Plan was an important breakthrough, but the follow-through on the plan has been disappointing.

Slow Progress

The United States and Russia did successfully negotiate, sign, and ratify the New START treaty in 2010. The treaty, which entered into force in February 2011, requires them to cut their deployed strategic stockpiles to no more that 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 strategic delivery systems by 2018.

Since then, progress on most of the key steps outlined in the 2010 NPT disarmament action plan have slowed to a crawl. The U.S. and Russia have begun to implement New START reductions and continue on-site inspections and information exchanges under the treaty, but to date, there has been no progress toward reductions below the ceilings set by New START.

Despite adjustments to U.S. missile defense plans in Europe announced by the Pentagon in March 2013 that eliminate any near-term threat to Russia’s strategic missiles, President Vladimir Putin has rebuffed President Barack Obama’s June 2013 proposal to slash U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear stockpiles by another one-third below New START ceilings—to nearly 1,000 deployed strategic warheads.

On Dec. 25, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's security and disarmament department said: “Now is the most inauspicious moment in the past 10-15 years to talk about further reductions.” Russian officials list a range of grievances that must be addressed before they will be willing to engage in a new round of formals arms reduction talks.

U.S.-Russian tensions have only worsened since Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine and it is unlikely that Presidents Obama and Putin can find the will or the way to engage in new, formal talks on further nuclear arms reductions and transparency measures regarding missile defense, which the Kremlin cites as one of the reasons why it does not want to engage in further disarmament negotiations with Washington.

As a result, new, informal but still verifiable approaches to reduce bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles are in order.

Progress on reducing tactical nuclear weapons in Europe also remains stalled. NATO declared as part of its 2012 Deterrence and Defense Posture Review its intention to engage Russia in a process of confidence building on tactical nuclear weapons in order to pave the way for future reductions.

Even though the remaining 180 U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bombs that are still stored at bases in five NATO states are not necessary for the common defense of NATO, the alliance has said it will contemplate changes to the nuclear posture only on the basis of Russian reciprocity.

Unfortunately, the NATO bureaucracy has been unable to produce a common proposal for accounting and transparency for U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. This situation allows Russia to maintain its far larger tactical nuclear weapons stockpile in the region.

Meanwhile, because nuclear weapons remain part of the military and security strategy of nuclear weapons states, nuclear weapons competition continues among the world’s nuclear-armed states.

As Hans Kristensen writes in the May issue of Arms Control Today:

“… all of the world’s nuclear weapons states are busy modernizing their arsenals, continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons, and none of them appear willing to eliminate their nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.”

The United States alone is scheduled to spend in excess of $355 billion over the next decade on maintaining, replacing, and upgrading its nuclear warheads and delivery systems.[4]

Of course, since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have significantly reduced the overall size of their nuclear arsenals, but huge warhead and missile inventories remain. China, India, Pakistan—and possibly also Israel—are increasing their stockpiles.

North Korea continues to slowly improve its ballistic missile and fissile material production capabilities and may soon conduct its fourth nuclear test explosion, which could give it the know-how to deliver such weapons on missiles.

Most states recognize that nuclear testing is a vestige of the past and most have halted testing and signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Nevertheless, eight key states must still ratify before its entry into force—most importantly the United States. Despite strong statements of support from President Obama, the path to approval by the U.S. Senate is steep, and the White House has done little to begin the ascent.

Without action by the United States and China to ratify the CTBT, other states necessary for the treaty’s formal entry into force will be less inclined to accede to the treaty—and it is more likely that North Korea will conduct further nuclear tests.

Consequently, the door to the renewal of nuclear testing and new and more deadly types of nuclear weapons remains open. Positive action on the CTBT could help curb proliferation risks in South Asia, the Middle East, and on the Korean peninsula.

The current state of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation affairs is unsustainable.

As President Obama noted in 2009: “Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but … we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.”

Frustration amongst the non-nuclear weapon state majority is running high.

The conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons held in Oslo, Norway in 2013 and Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014 are a symptom of the growing impatience regarding the agonizingly slow pace of action by the nuclear-armed states to fulfill their disarmament obligations and commitments.

As the 2015 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference approaches, pressure to accelerate action on disarmament will only grow.

As government officials, parliamentarians, and civil society leaders, we must consider how to jumpstart action on meaningful, practical proposals that can challenge dangerous nuclear doctrines and reduce the risk of catastrophic nuclear war.

Slow Steps vs. Bans? A Reality Check

In response to the slow pace of progress, some states and some civil society organizations participating in the Oslo and Nayarit conferences say the “step-by-step approach,” as expressed in the 2010 NPT Review Conference has reached a dead end. They argue the time is right to pursue the negotiation of a convention to banning the possession and use of nuclear weapons. The core of the argument for a treaty banning nuclear weapons is that it would “stigmatize the weapons” and “also build the pressure for disarmament.”[5]

Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) states have proposed the negotiation of a convention banning the possession of nuclear weapons in the moribund Conference on Disarmament (CD).

Such efforts are well-intentioned, principled, and appealing in its simplicity. Unfortunately at this point in time, this approach would not likely do much to reduce the risk of nuclear war, slow nuclear buildups in certain regions, reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the military and security policies of possessor state and their allies, nor would it likely accelerate action on concrete steps toward the verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, such an initiative clearly has the potential to increase pressure on some nuclear-armed states to accelerate action on nuclear disarmament, which is essential to achieving global zero.

Unfortunately, even if non-nuclear-weapon states were to adopt convention banning nuclear weapons outside the CD, it would not have the support and participation of the NPT nuclear weapons possessor states, which oppose such an effort.

It is more likely that the nuclear-armed states and their allies would likely dismiss and ignore a “ban treaty” as an instrument supported only by nonnuclear weapon states that accomplishes little more than the NPT already does.

Although a majority of the states attending the Nayrarit conference expressed support for an eventual ban on nuclear weapons, many states do not believe that the time is right for the pursuit of a convention banning the possession and use of nuclear weapons.

For their part, the leaders of the nuclear weapons states have thus far boycotted the Humanitarian Consequences Conferences. Some of them call the conferences a “distraction,” in part because they worry they are simply a prelude to an effort to begin negotiations on a convention leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Thus far, the conferences have focused on the consequences of nuclear weapons use.

The failure of the five original nuclear weapons states (a.k.a. the “P5”) to engage in the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons dialogue is counterproductive and a missed opportunity to advance progress toward common disarmament objectives.

In response the humanitarian impacts dialogue, the P5 have repeated their commitment to the so-called “step-by-step approach,” but unfortunately they have failed to explain how they propose to jumpstart progress.

In a statement issued April 15 from Beijing, the P5 states say they “are now more engaged than ever in regular interactions on disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation issues.”

The statement also says: “the P5 intend to continue to seek progress on the step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, which is the only practical path to achieving a world without nuclear weapons and in keeping with our NPT obligations.”

The P5’s commitments to meet their disarmament obligations are welcome, as is their ongoing and hard work to create the conditions for further progress.

But absent concrete actions and creative, new initiatives to overcome longstanding problems between the United States and Russia, as well as more active leadership from the other nuclear-armed states, the P5 rhetoric simply does not represent a fulfillment of their NPT obligations.

Ways Forward

All people, including the leaders of the nations of the world, have a moral, legal, and international security imperative to come together around new and practical approaches to accelerate progress toward the elimination of the risk of global nuclear catastrophe. More than one path can and should be pursued simultaneously.

The conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons are a useful and important venue for dialogue that should be welcomed by the nuclear-armed states. The conferences can play a powerful role in increasing awareness as well as political will on nuclear disarmament.

Rather than dismiss the next Humanitarian Consequences Conference scheduled for Vienna, Austria in December, the United States and the other nuclear-weapon states should actively participate in the meeting and support joint statements warning of the consequences of nuclear weapons use. The nuclear-armed states must also recognize that unless they propose and pursue practical, new ways to accelerate action on their disarmament commitments, frustration from the non-nuclear weapon state majority will increase.

Leading non-nuclear-weapon states must also better utilize the Humanitarian Consequences dialogue to develop and come together around proposals that more effectively challenge the dangerous nuclear doctrines of the nuclear weapons states.

As Ambassador Desra Percaya, Indonesia’s Representative to the United Nations, said in a speech in Washington D.C. in March: “…the world cannot wait endlessly for nuclear weapons’ elimination. The risks are obvious.  For a nuclear detonation, deliberate or accidental, its effects will be horrendous on people and all living things – we will all suffer.  We must act now.”

While there are few quick solutions to stubborn nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation challenges, present circumstances demand that serious international leaders consider new approaches to accelerate the agonizingly slow pace of the so-called step-by-step approach.

The following are some ideas that could be pursued beginning this year.

1. Engage the P5 In a Discussion on the Impacts of Their Nuclear Weapons Use Plans

Before the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the nuclear weapon states should be called upon to explain the effects of their nuclear weapons use doctrines and war plans, if they were to be carried out, and explain how the use of such weapons would be consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law.

The June 2013 Report on the Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy of the United States claims that “[t]he new guidance makes clear that all plans must also be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Law of Armed Conflict. Accordingly, plans will, for example, apply the principles of distinction and proportionality and see to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects. The United States will not intentionally target civilian populations or civilian objects.”

The NPT nuclear weapon states should, as part of their reporting responsibilities for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, report in detail on their nuclear weapons employment policies so that states parties can evaluate whether such practices are consistent with international humanitarian law.

Particularly if the P5 states do not participate in the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, the United States and other nuclear-armed states should be called upon to explain the legal rationale and practical effects their nuclear weapons employment plans at the 2015 NPT Conference.

The discussion would, in the very least, highlight the importance of reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons, reinforce the norm against their use, and stimulate new thinking within the nuclear weapons states on the need to revise their nuclear weapons employment plans.

2. Explore a ban on the use of nuclear weapons

One implication of the catastrophic, global effects of even a relatively small number of nuclear weapons detonations is that nuclear weapons should not ever be used. As President Reagan once said: “a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.”

One very logical way for responsible states to address the NPT Action plan goals of diminishing the role and significance of nuclear weapons in military and security doctrines and assuring nonnuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be to explore options for a legally-binding instrument banning the use of nuclear weapons for any purpose.

This is the approach taken with respect to chemical weapons in 1925 when states agreed in the Geneva Protocols that their use "has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world" and that "this prohibition shall be universally accepted ... binding alike the conscience and the practice of nations.”

The negotiation of such a ban on the use of nuclear weapons could take place in a dedicated diplomatic forum, possibly to be established by the UNGA in 2015, beginning with the convening of a Group of Governmental Experts.

Even if the nuclear weapons states do not initially join in the negotiation or sign the instrument, the process itself and the final product would in the very least help to delegitimize nuclear weapons, promote a robust, serious debate on the nuclear use doctrines of the nuclear weapons possessor states, strengthen the legal and political barriers against their use, and help create the conditions for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Such an approach would, in my view, have a greater chance of winning broad, international support than a treaty banning the possession of nuclear weapons.

For many years, India has, in fact, supported a convention on the prohibition of the use or threat to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances.[6]

3. Steps to Accelerate Progress on Nuclear Disarmament.

With the progress toward most of the key steps outlined in the 2010 disarmament action plan at a near standstill, it is also essential that the nuclear-armed states consider, and the nonnuclear-weapon states push for, actions that can jumpstart the process. Such steps might include:

Accelerate Pace of New START Reductions: Even after New START, U.S. and Russian stockpiles will still far exceed any plausible deterrence requirements and the use of just a few nuclear weapons by any country would have catastrophic global consequences.

As a 2012 report by the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board[7] suggests, with New START verification tools in place, further nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty. President Obama, the report suggests, could announce he will accelerate the pace of reductions under New START to meet the treaty ceilings ahead of the 2018 implementation deadline.

So long as Russia takes reciprocal steps, Obama could announce or simply act to reduce U.S. force levels below the treaty’s ceiling of 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles. A reasonable target would be for both side to reduce their stockpiles to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads and 500 strategic delivery vehicles each.

Such an initiative could induce Moscow to build down rather than build up to U.S. strategic force levels, which currently exceed Russia’s by more than 275 deployed strategic launchers, and could allow both sides to trim the high cost of planned strategic force modernization.

Adjust Nuclear Readiness Posture of Some ICBMs: As a confidence-building measure, U.S. and Russian experts could commence technical discussions on verifiably reducing the alert status of an agreed portion of their respective stockpiles, beginning with a portion of their land-based intercontinental ballistic missile forces.

In 2008, president-elect Obama said: “Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation. I believe that we must address this dangerous situation—something that President Bush promised to do when he campaigned for president back in 2000, but did not do once in office. I will work with Russia to end such outdated Cold War policies in a mutual and verifiable way.”[8]

Capping the Arsenals of the Other Nuclear-Armed States: Nuclear disarmament is a global enterprise that requires leadership from all states, including China, France, and the United Kingdom, as well as states outside the NPT, specifically India and Pakistan, which continue to expand their fissile stocks and weapons holdings.

A realistic and pragmatic contribution to global nuclear disarmament would be for all other nuclear-armed states to exercise restraint by not increasing the overall size of their nuclear weapons stockpiles or increasing the size of their fissile material stockpiles, so long as the United States and Russia continue to make further progress in reducing all types of their nuclear weapons.

At their eighth ministerial meeting in Hiroshima on April 12, the foreign ministers of the ten-nation Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative[9] called on “those not yet engaged in nuclear disarmament efforts to reduce arsenals with the objective of their total elimination.”

Missile Defense Restraint and Cooperation: Despite the cancellation of phase IV of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, U.S. missile defense plans continue to complicate the nuclear arms reduction enterprise. The United States and Russia should resume and intensify U.S.-Russian talks to achieve verifiable measures to make missile defense capabilities more transparent, consider exchanges of data on technical parameters, and conduct regular joint exercises.

They should also explore options for a joint center for the surveillance and monitoring of missile threats and space objects.

Redouble Efforts In Support of the CTBT: Despite statements of support for ratification by President Barack Obama and senior administration officials, the path to approval by the Senate remains challenging due to a lack of political will and partisan divisions in Washington.

Ratification is only possible if President Obama decides to direct his administration to organize a “New START-like” ratification campaign with efforts peaking in 2015. So far, he has not done so. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller has recently pledged to step up public outreach in support of the treaty. The Obama administration’s goal and our goal should be to:

  • Continue to underscore the value of the CTBT in heading off proliferation in the Middle East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia;
  • Bolster CTBT outreach efforts and demonstrate the broad public and opinion-leader support that exists for the CTBT; and
  • Encourage Senators to agree to “reconsider” the CTBT in light of new information about the treaty.

Other states can take leadership on the CTBT, advance its entry into force, and bolster the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Specifically, ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East Zone free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Following a mid-March visit to Israel by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that he considers the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be of no use in the Middle East, the sources said, but by contrast Israel considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed it, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a report in The Times of Israel.

Iran was at one time an active participant in the CTBT negotiations and on September 24, 1996, Iran signed the treaty. Today, Iranian ratification and transmittal of data from international monitoring stations on its territory to the International Data Center in Vienna would help reduce concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop and deploy deliverable nuclear warheads.

The Bottom Line

As President Obama said last year, “[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.”

In the coming months and years, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to reduce nuclear dangers.



[1] An April 1979 U.S. Arms Control Disarmament Agency report found that an exchange of U.S. and Soviet nuclear forces involving a total of approximately 18,000 strategic warheads would kill from 25-100 million people in both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Under the scenario examined the population centers would not be targeted but would be within the range of effects of the weapons targeted against military and industrial targets. As a result, the 200 largest cities in each country would be destroyed and 80% of all cities with 25,000 people or more would be attacked by at least one nuclear weapon.

[2] The Medical Implications of Nuclear War, Steering Committee for the Symposium on the Medical Implications of Nuclear War, Fred Solomon and Robert Q. Marston, Editors. U.S. Institutes of Medicine, 1986.

[3] “The Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear War,” Ira Helfand, M.D., Arms Control Today, November 2013.

[4] “Nuclear Arsenal Costs to Rise, CBO Says,” by Tom Collina, Arms Control Today, January/February 2014.

[5] “The Case for a Ban Treaty,” from the Web site of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

[6] Statement of Amb. D.B. Venkatesh Varma, Permanent Representative of India to the Conference on Disarmament to the First Committee of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, October 18, 2013.

[7]International Security Advisory Board Report on Options for Implementing Additional Nuclear Force Reductions,” Nov. 27, 2012.

[8] “Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama,” Arms Control Today, December, 2008.

[9] The group includes: Australia; Canada; Chile; Germany; Mexico; the Netherlands; Nigeria; the Philippines; Poland; Turkey; and the United Arab Emirates.

Description: 

Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons have driven global leaders to pursue concrete steps to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use.

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