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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Daryl G. Kimball

Renewed U.S.-Led Nuclear Weapons Risk Reduction Steps Are Necessary and Overdue

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Volume 4, Issue 5, June 14, 2013

Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

The massive nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia-the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War-have been reduced through successive arms control agreements. Yet, deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear forces still exceed 1,500 strategic warheads each, far more than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

Last year in South Korea, President Barack Obama declared that "[t]he massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today's threats, including nuclear terrorism." He noted that his administration is reviewing U.S. nuclear strategy but that we can "already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need."

The administration's review of nuclear strategy, completed some 18 months ago, may soon be finalized. The President may also finally outline his 2nd term nuclear risk reduction objectives, including plans for further nuclear reductions with Russia, ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and steps to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.

U.S. leadership is critical on all of these initiatives. Action by President Obama is overdue.

On June 17, Obama will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland. They will discuss ways to resolve concerns about U.S. missile defense plans and continue cooperative programs to lock-down sensitive nuclear materials. The two leaders could also conclude months of talks designed to reach a new framework agreement for cooperative threat reduction efforts to dispose of many excess Cold War weapons and materials. If a breakthrough on missile defense cooperation and data-sharing can be achieved it could open the way for further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions beyond the 2010 New START treaty.

Further Nuclear Reductions Are In Order

Even after the 2010 New START agreement, the United States and Russia still possess more than 95% of the world's nuclear weapons. Further, verifiable, reciprocal cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles will make every American safer by reducing the nuclear firepower that can be delivered within minutes across the globe, while allowing resources to be devoted to more pressing security needs.

Further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions would also improve the international consensus to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and enhance cooperation to address the threats from North Korea and Iran, and put pressure on other states-including China-to join in the disarmament enterprise.

Nuclear Overkill
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report states that: "the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the U.S. and our allies and partners" and not to "fight and prevail" in a nuclear war. As Ronald Reagan said in 1985: "a nuclear cannot be won and must never be fought."

A "limited" nuclear attack involving just 300 nuclear weapons could kill 75 million Russians immediately and millions more in the weeks and months to follow. The United States can and should reduce its arsenal to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads or fewer-a level than is still more than enough to deter any current or potential adversary and is only 300 warheads fewer than the United States was prepared to agree to during the New START negotiations four years ago.

Next Steps With Russia
President Obama has an opportunity to work with Russia to reduce each side's arsenal to 1,000 or fewer nuclear weapons through a new treaty that takes into account all types of warheads and delivery systems-deployed, nondeployed, strategic, and tactical.

As a November 2012 report from the secretary of state's International Security Advisory Board suggests, with New START verification tools in place, further reciprocal U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty.

If necessary, the presidents could achieve similar results--and more rapidly--through parallel, reciprocal reductions of strategic warheads--to well below 1,000 within the next five years, which could be verified under New START.

Further talks between the United States and Russia should also lead to controls on tactical nuclear weapons. More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, there is no military rationale for Russia to maintain some 2,000 tactical nuclear bombs, many of which are on obsolete naval and air defense systems. Nor is there any military requirement for the U.S. to keep 180 air-delivered nuclear bombs in Europe, which could cost billions to refurbish.

The High Cost of Excess Nuclear Weapons
Further nuclear reductions would also allow the United States to scale back costly schemes for building a new generation of strategic nuclear delivery systems and rebuilding tactical nuclear bombs. The savings could be used for more pressing national needs.

According to a 2012 study by two Stimson Center researchers, U.S. spending on nuclear weapons is approximately $31 billion per year. The projected costs for maintaining and modernizing the current U.S. nuclear force will increase those costs in the coming decade.

The Navy is currently planning for 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to carry more than 1,000 nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total cost of almost $350 billion. The Air Force wants a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles that would cost billions more. Current plans call for upgrading about 300 units of the tactical version and about 100 of the strategic version of the B61 nuclear warhead at an estimated cost exceeding $10.4 billion.

In July 2011, then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright explained that "... we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do it."

Significant cost reductions can only be achieved if Obama eliminates the current "requirements" for Cold War-sized nuclear forces. A 2013 assessment by the Arms Control Association identifies $39 billion in taxpayer savings over the next decade if the United States right-sizes its nuclear force to 1,000 or fewer strategic deployed nuclear warheads.

Reducing the Risk of Accidental Nuclear War
The President should also follow through on promised action to eliminate the outdated requirements to maintain a large portion of U.S. strategic forces to be ready to launch within minutes, and thereby increase the time available for the President to make decisions involving nuclear forces in a time of crisis.

In 2008, 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."

A reliable and credible nuclear deterrent does not require the ability to retaliate immediately but only the assurance that U.S. nuclear forces and command-and control systems would survive an initial attack.

Strong, Bipartisan Support for Deeper Nuclear Reductions
A wide-range of experts support further reductions to bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.

In April 2012, Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, called for making deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and removing the threat of a pre-emptive "decapitating" strike against Russia. Cartwright suggests a nuclear force of 900 total strategic weapons by 2022. The 450 deployed warheads would be off alert, requiring 24 to 72 hours to become launch ready. In the report, "Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture," Cartwright and his co-authors (former Reagan administration arms control negotiator Richard Burt, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), former U.S ambassador Thomas Pickering, and retired Gen. Jack Sheehan) conclude that current U.S. and Russian arsenals "vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence."

In a March 7, 2011 Wall Street Journal oped, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn argued that: "Reducing the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles with verification to the levels set by the New Start Treaty is an important step in reducing nuclear risks. Deeper nuclear reductions and changes in nuclear force posture involving the two nations should remain a priority. ... the U.S. and Russia-having led the nuclear buildup for decades-must continue to lead the build-down. The U.S. and its NATO allies, together with Russia, must begin moving away from threatening force postures and deployments."

These nuclear force reductions are consistent with reductions in nuclear forces achieved under previous administrations. For example, during the George W. Bush administration's eight years, the total U.S. arsenal dropped from about 10,500 warheads to just over 5,000-about 50 percent fewer.

Cooperation on Missile Defense and Data-Sharing Is in U.S. and Russian Interests

Since 2011, U.S. and Russian leaders have failed to make progress in their ongoing talks on missile defense cooperation and data sharing, largely due to Russian concerns about U.S. plans for deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB long-range interceptors in Poland by 2022, which some Russian military officials believe might threaten a portion of Russia's land-based, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. These concerns have led Russia to resist further progress on offensive nuclear reductions.

But on March 15, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the effective cancellation of the program, citing congressional funding cuts and significant technical problems. Congress had cut the funding, and the program was plagued with significant technical problems. The Obama administration's latest budget request contains no funding for the SM-3 IIB missile program, and administration officials have told Congress there are no plans to revive it.

With the decision to terminate the program, there is no other U.S. missile interceptor capability in place or under development for Europe that could plausibly threaten Russian strategic missiles. U.S. ground-based strategic interceptors in Alaska and California are limited in number-currently 30, potentially 44 by 2017-and still are not capable of defeating ballistic missiles equipped with countermeasures such as those that Russia deploys.

Instead, U.S. missile defenses will have only a limited capability to counter short- and medium-range missiles from Iran and North Korea and a handful of unsophisticated, long-range missiles that those two states might field in the years ahead.

These realities should open the way to a legally binding Russian-U.S. agreement for the regular exchange of information on missile defense programs. Such an agreement would help Russia verify U.S. claims about its missile defense capabilities and should be accompanied by a joint presidential statement clarifying that the two countries' missile interceptor programs do not threaten each other's security.

In recent weeks, U.S. and Russian officials have exchanged updated proposals.

Sharing of missile defense data is a commonsense, bipartisan idea. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan suggested that both countries abandon the concept of mutual assured destruction by agreeing to eliminate all offensive ballistic missiles within 10 years while researching and jointly developing strategic missile defenses.

In May 2001, President George W. Bush called for "a new cooperative relationship," including in the area of missile defense. In 2004 the Bush administration began seeking a defense technical cooperation agreement with Russia that would have addressed a broad range of cooperative research and development activities, including missile defense.

The 2008 report of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States found that the United States should "strengthen international cooperation for missile defense...with Russia."

The data-sharing agreement now under discussion would enhance strategic stability and opportunities for U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense and joint early-warning procedures.

Moving Forward on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Since the days of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, a ban on nuclear testing has been a U.S. national security objective. Today, a legally binding, verifiable ban on all nuclear testing remains a key part of a comprehensive, effective U.S. nuclear risk reduction strategy.  

It has been twenty years after its last nuclear test and the United States no longer needs or wants a resumption of testing. Yet by failing to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Washington has denied itself and others the treaty's full security benefits.

President Obama has consistently expressed support for U.S. reconsideration and ratification of the CTBT, which prohibits all nuclear test explosions anywhere. In 2009, he said his administration would pursue "immediate and aggressive" steps to secure ratification. Unfortunately, the administration has not yet launched the kind of effort necessary to secure U.S. ratification and global entry into force.

That Was Then, This Is Now
Since the Senate's brief debate on and rejection of the CTBT 13 years ago, the arguments raised by treaty opponents have been addressed; and a wide range of national security leaders, including former skeptics, now support the treaty.

On March 8, George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, said, "Yes, I clearly think we should ratify that treaty. A senator might have been right to vote against it when it was first put forward and right to vote for it now."

The technical and strategic case for the CTBT is stronger than ever. Today, the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program is more successful and better funded than ever before. Even with mandatory cutbacks in U.S. federal spending, the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories will continue to have approximately 10 percent more funding for maintaining and extending the service lives of existing U.S. nuclear warhead types than they did prior to 2009.

The combination of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's International Monitoring System and U.S. national monitoring capabilities, along with tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, ensures that no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection. With the treaty in force, there would also be the option of short-notice, on-site inspections.

With the CTBT in force, established nuclear-weapon states, including China, would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs; newer nuclear-armed nations, including North Korea, would find it far more difficult to build more-advanced warhead types; and emerging nuclear states, such as Iran, would encounter greater obstacles in fielding a reliable arsenal.

Siegfried Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has underscored that "it is critical to erect as many barriers as possible to the resumption of testing. Ratification of the CTBT and its entry into force is the most important such barrier."

U.S. ratification is essential to close the door on nuclear testing. Action by Washington would likely trigger reconsideration and ratification of the treaty by China, India, and Pakistan, which also must ratify the CTBT before the treaty can formally enter into force.

White House Effort Overdue
To begin, it is important that President Obama announce the appointment of a senior, high-level White House CTBT coordinator, or task force, within the next several weeks. This would help to engage Senators in private conversations on the issues surrounding the CTBT; field their questions, and provide updated assessments regarding the value of the treaty; and communicate that the President is serious about his previous statements on the CTBT.

Bottom Line

Doing nothing is not a prudent option. As Kennedy once suggested, we must work faster and harder to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. In the months ahead, President Obama must re-energize the nuclear risk reduction enterprise and U.S. policymakers must overcome petty partisan politics to help address today's grave nuclear challenges. --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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Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

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JFK’s American University Speech Echoes Through Time

For a free sample of a feature article as our print and electronic subscribers receive it, check out this month's Looking Back: JFK's American University Speech Echoes Through Time by Daryl G. Kimball.


Daryl G. Kimball

In the modern age, U.S. presidents have delivered dozens of addresses on international peace and security, but few have been as profound or consequential as John F. Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” address delivered 50 years ago on June 10 on the campus of American University in Washington.

Coming just months after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis drove home the risks of an unbridled nuclear arms race and the dangers of a direct superpower conflict, the speech was intended to send an unambiguous signal to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the United States sought to “avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating defeat or nuclear war,” as Kennedy phrased it in the speech.

During and after the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev exchanged letters expressing the need to “step back from the danger,” as Kennedy put it, by making progress on arms control. In a letter to Kennedy on October 28, 1962, as the crisis came to a close, Khrushchev wrote, “We should like to continue the exchange of views on the prohibition of atomic and thermonuclear weapons, on general disarmament and other problems relating to the relaxation of international tension.”[1]

Kennedy, writing back the same day, said that “perhaps now…we can make some real progress in this vital field. I think we should give priority to questions relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons…and to the great effort for a nuclear test ban.”[2]

Kennedy’s June 10 address was courageous because it was conciliatory at a time of high tension and grave risks. It was prepared with his assistant Ted Sorenson, without the usual interagency review process. Using simple, eloquent phrases, Kennedy praised the Soviet people for their achievements and explained the urgent necessity of pursuing a strategy for peace to avoid the horrific dangers of nuclear war, including renewed steps on nuclear arms control and a hotline for urgent communications between Moscow and Washington. The speech offered a vision of hope and cautioned against defeatism.

At its core, the speech offered a revised formula for achieving progress on restricting nuclear weapons testing, a goal that had eluded President Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Khrushchev for more than six years. Kennedy viewed the nuclear test ban treaty—ideally a comprehensive ban—as an essential first step toward U.S.-Soviet disarmament and a barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons. In a March 21, 1963, interview, Kennedy said, “[P]ersonally I am haunted by the feeling that by 1970, unless we are successful, there may be 10 nuclear powers instead of 4, and by 1975, 15 or 20.”[3]

Despite renewed efforts to negotiate a test ban in early 1963 and conciliatory offers from each side, U.S. and Soviet negotiators remained divided over the issue of on-site inspections and verification. On June 10, Kennedy sought to break the impasse with a strategy for unilateral but reciprocated initiatives. He announced that the United States “does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so,” and he suggested that this declaration could be codified through a binding treaty.

The historical and documentary record suggests that Kennedy’s June 10 address had a profound effect on Khrushchev’s thinking on the test ban issue and about Kennedy. Kennedy’s address was published in full by the Soviet newspapers Izvestia and Pravda and welcomed by Khrushchev himself. In a statement in July 1963, the Soviet leader, who had previously insisted on a comprehensive ban, accepted for the first time a ban on atmospheric testing, which did not require on-site inspections or monitoring stations.

Two weeks later, the U.S. negotiating team, led by veteran diplomat Averell Harriman, went to Moscow for talks on the limited test ban and, if possible, the long-sought comprehensive test ban. With growing resistance to the test ban concept from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and from key senators, as well as the insistence of the Soviets on a less frequent inspection system for a comprehensive ban, the negotiators focused on achieving the limited test ban treaty.

Late on July 25, after just 12 days of talks, the negotiators concluded work on the Limited Test Ban Treaty. With a strong, public push from Kennedy, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent for ratification on September 24 by a vote of 80-19.

Kennedy’s June 10 speech not only catalyzed action on this treaty, but also led to the formalization of an agreement on establishing a hotline. It ushered in a limited easing of tensions between the superpowers involving reciprocal troop reductions in Europe, U.S. grain sales to the Soviets, mutual British-Soviet-U.S. pledges to reduce production of fissile material for weapons, energetic U.S.- and Soviet-led diplomacy in Geneva from 1964 to 1968 toward conclusion of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and an agreement in 1968 to hold discussions “on the limitation and the reduction of both offensive strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and systems of defense against ballistic missiles.”[4]

Since June 1963, every U.S. president—Democrat or Republican—has echoed some of the key themes of Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” address in his own policies and statements. Kennedy’s successors have continued to pursue many of the disarmament goals outlined during his administration. As the excerpts below indicate, these presidents have recognized to varying degrees the futility of nuclear war, the need to curb proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states and subnational groups, and the importance of pursuing arms control measures to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons and increase global security. President Barack Obama’s 2009 address in Prague outlining the steps toward the “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” addresses all of these key themes.

The real test for Obama and U.S. leaders yet to come is whether they can match the conviction and the urgency with which Kennedy sought to resolve the nuclear standoff in his 1963 address and in his bold leadership in the final months of his presidency as he sought global nuclear restraint.

Excerpts from Kennedy’s “Strategy of Peace” Address and Subsequent Presidential Remarks on Dealing With the Threat of Nuclear Weapons

The dangers of nuclear war and the arms race

“Today, should total war ever break out again—no matter how—our two countries would become the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours…. [W]e are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counterweapons.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“The world is still engaged in a massive armaments race designed to ensure continuing equivalent strength among potential adversaries. We pledge perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world’s armaments to those necessary for each nation’s own domestic safety. And we will move this year a step toward [the] ultimate goal—the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this Earth. We urge all other people to join us, for success can mean life instead of death.”
—Jimmy Carter, inaugural address, January 20, 1977

“Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black markets trade in nuclear secrets and materials. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point when the center cannot hold.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009

Common interests in peace and security and avoiding nuclear war

“[B]oth the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours—and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

So, let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“We are committed to a pursuit of a more peaceful, stable, and cooperative world. While we are determined never to be bested in a test of strength, we will devote our strength to what is best. And in the nuclear era, there is no rational alternative to accords of mutual restraint between the United States and the Soviet Union, two nations, which have the power to destroy mankind.

A very stark reality has tempered America’s actions for decades and must now temper the actions of all nations. Prevention of full-scale warfare in the nuclear age has become everybody’s responsibility. Today’s regional conflict must not become tomorrow’s world disaster.”
—Gerald Ford, address to the UN General Assembly, September 18, 1974

“People of the Soviet Union, there is only one sane policy, for your country and mine, to preserve our civilization in this modern age: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
—Ronald Reagan, State of the Union address, January 25, 1984

Averting conflict and engaging in talks with adversaries

“Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy—or of a collective death-wish for the world.

[I]ncreased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of the other’s actions which might occur at a time of crisis.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given the inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it is worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.

But make no mistake: we know where that road leads. When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy and cowardly thing. That is how wars begin. That is where human progress ends.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009

The need for nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament

“We have also been talking in Geneva about the other first-step measures of arms control designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and to reduce the risks of accidental war. Our primary long-range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament—designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace, which would take the place of arms.…

The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security—it would decrease the prospects of war.”
—John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

“After nearly a quarter century of danger and fear—reason and sanity have prevailed to reduce the danger and to greatly lessen the fear. Thus, all mankind is reassured.

As the moment is reassuring, so it is, even more, hopeful and heartening. For this treaty is evidence that amid the tensions, the strife, the struggle, and the sorrow of these years, men of many nations have not lost the way—or have not lost the will—toward peace. The conclusion of this treaty encourages the hope that other steps may be taken toward a peaceful world.

It is for these reasons—and in this perspective—that I have described this treaty as the most important international agreement since the beginning of the nuclear age.
It enhances the security of all nations by significantly reducing the danger of nuclear war among nations.”
—Lyndon Johnson, remarks on the signing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, July 1, 1968

“The Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union…have agreed to concentrate this year on working out an agreement for the limitation of the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems…[and] on certain measures with respect to the limitation of offensive strategic weapons.

If we succeed, this…may well be remembered as the beginning of a new era in which all nations will devote more of their energies and their resources not to the weapons of war, but to the works of peace.”
—Richard Nixon, announcement of an agreement in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, May 20, 1971

“There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we’re trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We’re not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons; we seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.

Now, for decades, we and the Soviets have lived under the threat of mutual assured destruction—if either resorted to the use of nuclear weapons, the other could retaliate and destroy the one who had started it. Is there either logic or morality in believing that if one side threatens to kill tens of millions of our people our only recourse is to threaten killing tens of millions of theirs?”
—Ronald Reagan, second inaugural address, January 21, 1985

“In the area of security and arms control, we’ve stepped up patrol against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The new [C]hemical [W]eapons [C]onvention will ban chemical weapons from the arsenals of all participating states. And once implemented, the agreements we’ve negotiated will ban new nuclear states on the territory of the former Soviet Union. And above all, we’ve sought to erase nuclear nightmares from the sleep of future generations.”
—George H.W. Bush, Texas A&M University, December 15, 1992

“I ask Congress to join me in pursuing an ambitious agenda to reduce the serious threat of weapons of mass destruction. This year, four decades after it was first proposed by President Eisenhower, a comprehensive nuclear test ban is within reach. By ending nuclear testing, we can help to prevent the development of new and more dangerous weapons and make it more difficult for non-nuclear states to build them.”
—Bill Clinton, State of the Union address, January 27, 1998

“There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated. Yet this consensus means little unless it is translated into action. Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. These materials and technologies, and the people who traffic in them, cross many borders. To stop this trade, the nations of the world must be strong and determined. We must work together, we must act effectively.”
—George W. Bush, announcement of new measures to counter proliferation, February 11, 2004

“[A]s a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it….

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.

…[T]he United States will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.…

To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty….
And to cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons….

[T]ogether, we will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation.…

[W]e must ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon.”
—Barack Obama, Prague, April 5, 2009

 


Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the Arms Control Association.


ENDNOTES

1. Glenn Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Test Ban (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1981), p. 176.

2. Ibid.

3. Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, “107 - The President’s News Conference,” The American Presidency Project, n.d., http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9124 (transcript of President John Kennedy’s press conference on March 21, 1963).

4. Miller Center, “Remarks on Signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” n.d., http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/4037 (remarks by President Lyndon Johnson on July 1, 1968).

The impact of President John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 “Strategy of Peace” speech at American University can be seen in the events of the years that followed and in the language that Kennedy’s successors used in speaking about nuclear weapons policy.

Missile Defense Détente?

Daryl G. Kimball

The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama later this month at the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries presents the two leaders with an important chance to achieve a win-win breakthrough on missile defense and accelerate nuclear arms reductions. Putin and Obama must seize the opportunity.

Since 2011, U.S. and Russian leaders have failed to make progress in their ongoing talks on missile defense cooperation and data sharing, largely due to Russian concerns about U.S. plans for deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB long-range interceptors in Poland by 2022, which some Russian military officials believe might threaten a portion of Russia’s land-based, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. These concerns have led Russia to resist further progress on offensive nuclear reductions.

But on March 15, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the effective cancellation of the program, citing congressional funding cuts and significant technical problems. Congress had cut the funding, and the program was plagued with significant technical problems. The Obama administration’s latest budget request contains no funding for the SM-3 IIB missile program, and administration officials have told Congress there are no plans to revive it.

With the decision to terminate the program, there is no other U.S. missile interceptor capability in place or under development for Europe that could plausibly threaten Russian strategic missiles. Moreover, U.S. ground-based strategic interceptors in Alaska and California are limited in number—currently 30, potentially 44 by 2017—and still are not capable of defeating ballistic missiles equipped with countermeasures such as those that Russia deploys.

Instead, U.S. missile defenses will have only a limited capability to counter short- and medium-range missiles from Iran and North Korea and a handful of unsophisticated, long-range missiles that those two states might field in the years ahead.

These realities should open the way to a legally binding Russian-U.S. agreement for the regular exchange of information on missile defense programs. Such an agreement would help Russia verify U.S. claims about its missile defense capabilities and should be accompanied by a joint presidential statement clarifying that the two countries’ missile interceptor programs do not threaten each other’s security.

Sharing of missile defense data is a commonsense, bipartisan idea. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan suggested that both countries abandon the concept of mutual assured destruction by agreeing to eliminate all offensive ballistic missiles within 10 years while researching and jointly developing strategic missile defenses.

In May 2001, President George W. Bush called for “a new cooperative relationship,” including in the area of missile defense. In 2004 the Bush administration began seeking a defense technical cooperation agreement with Russia that would have addressed a broad range of cooperative research and development activities, including missile defense.

The 2008 report of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States found that the United States should “strengthen international cooperation for missile defense…with Russia.”

The data-sharing agreement now under discussion would enhance strategic stability and opportunities for U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense and joint early-warning procedures.

By helping to clarify that U.S. missile interceptors are neither intended to offset Russian strategic nuclear forces nor capable of doing so, an Obama-Putin understanding on missile defenses would also open the door to further cuts in each country’s still massive and expensive nuclear arsenals. Even under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), both sides can deploy up to 1,550 strategic warheads on 700 missiles, submarines, and long-range bombers until 2021.

As Obama and the Pentagon have determined, a nuclear arsenal of this size far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack from any current or future adversary.

Doing nothing is not in either country’s best interests. Russia has already cut its arsenal below New START ceilings, and the United States no longer needs to maintain the capacity to redeploy large numbers of stored warheads on its oversized missile and bomber force.

A new, rapid round of reductions to 1,000 or fewer deployed strategic warheads for each side with the option of further cuts would help draw China and other nuclear-armed states into a multilateral nuclear arms control process, which Russian and U.S. leaders say is a key goal.

Obama and Putin should effect further cuts through a formal treaty if possible. Otherwise, the two leaders could announce that they will implement further strategic reductions through reciprocal, parallel actions, which could be verified through the existing New START framework.

From time to time, the United States and Russia will have their disagreements on geopolitical issues, but it is past time for Obama and Putin to make progress on missile defense cooperation and accelerate nuclear arms reductions.

The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama later this month at the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries presents the two leaders with an important chance to achieve a win-win breakthrough on missile defense and accelerate nuclear arms reductions. Putin and Obama must seize the opportunity.

Toward Deeper Nuclear Cuts

Daryl G. Kimball

Last year in South Korea, President Barack Obama declared that “[t]he massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today’s threats, including nuclear terrorism.” He noted that his administration is reviewing U.S. nuclear strategy but that we can “already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”

Nevertheless, the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Implementation Study has not been finalized. U.S. and Russian negotiators have not begun talks on pursuing further reductions of their arsenals, which comprise 90 percent of global nuclear stockpiles.

Now, with the 2012 election behind him, it is time for Obama to jump-start action toward significantly deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions.

To begin, he should finalize the NPR study and announce that the United States has adopted a saner, “nuclear deterrence only” strategy that eliminates outdated targeting assumptions from the Cold War that call for “prevailing” in a nuclear war.

The review should call on the Pentagon to remove a significant number of U.S. weapons from prompt-launch status, a condition that Obama said in 2008 is “a dangerous relic of the Cold War” and “increase[s] the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.”

When he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, Obama should announce that he is prepared to begin formal talks on a follow-on agreement to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Such a treaty should lead not only to deeper reductions in deployed strategic arsenals, but also to verifiable cuts of the two countries' nondeployed warheads and new accounting measures and confidence-building measures relating to tactical nuclear weapons, which should include the withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

With the recent cancellation of U.S. plans to station more-advanced missile interceptors in Europe, which Russia had cited as a potential threat to its strategic missile forces, Putin should be motivated to engage in nuclear arms reduction talks.

Because such negotiations will be complex and time consuming, however, Obama should declare that the United States is prepared to accelerate strategic reductions and cut U.S. deployments below New START levels, as Russia has already done. New START limits each country to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on 700 missiles and bombers by 2018, but there is no reason to wait that long.

Even at New START levels, the number of U.S. and Russian warheads and the costly triad of missiles, submarines, and long-range bombers that carry them will far exceed what is necessary to deter nuclear attack from any current or future adversary.

Given that no country other than the United States and Russia deploys more than 300 nuclear weapons, Washington and Moscow can and should implement significant reductions to a level of just a few hundred deployed strategic warheads each. This should be done by formal treaty if possible, or if not, it should be pursued through reciprocal, parallel actions.

As the 2007 Arms Control Association report “What Are Nuclear Weapons For?” by physicist Sidney Drell and former negotiator James Goodby suggests, the United States can deter any potential aggressor by moving to a smaller force of 500 deployed and 500 nondeployed strategic warheads on a much smaller, mainly submarine-based triad. A 2012 Global Zero study whose authors include former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright and former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), now secretary of defense, argues for a U.S. force of 450 deployed and 450 nondeployed strategic nuclear weapons.

Even at these numbers, the destructive potential of these weapons poses a grave and unnecessary threat to global security. An analysis conducted in 2002 by Physicians for Social Responsibility shows that a Russian attack involving only 300 thermonuclear warheads hitting U.S. urban areas would kill 77 million Americans from blast effects and firestorms in the first half hour. A U.S. attack of similar size would have the same devastating impact on Russia.

Even a “limited” nuclear exchange would destroy national communications and transportation networks, public health and sanitation systems, and food distribution systems. In the months following this initial assault, tens of millions more would die from starvation, exposure, radiation poisoning, and infectious disease.

Each of the strategic missile submarines in the U.S. or Russian fleet is capable of triggering such a global disaster. The United States has 14 strategic nuclear-armed subs.

As a group of more than 70 countries recently said in a joint statement in Geneva, “The catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, cannot be adequately addressed. All efforts must be exerted to eliminate this threat.”

In order to move closer to “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” that he called for in Prague in 2009, Obama will need to act with far greater urgency and conviction.

Last year in South Korea, President Barack Obama declared that “[t]he massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today’s threats, including nuclear terrorism.” He noted that his administration is reviewing U.S. nuclear strategy but that we can “already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”

Arms Trade Treaty Moves to UN Assembly

Daryl G. Kimball

UN member states hammered out a new, compromise arms trade treaty (ATT) text after two intense weeks of final negotiations in New York March 18-28, but Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked its adoption on the final day of the conference, leading a group of more than 90 countries, including the United States, to move the treaty to the General Assembly for approval.

Diplomats from states supporting the treaty said they expect the treaty to receive overwhelming support from the assembly. Approval at the conference would have required consensus.

In comments to reporters during a conference call late March 28, Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation and the head of the U.S. delegation to the conference, said his country “regrets that it was not possible today to reach consensus at this conference on an arms trade treaty.”

He said the treaty text is “meaningful” and “implementable” while “affirm[ing] the legitimacy of the international trade in conventional arms” and “not touch[ing] in any way upon the constitutional rights of American citizens” to possess firearms.

“We look forward” to the treaty being adopted by the UN General Assembly “in the very near future,” Countryman said.

Under discussion for more than six years, the treaty would, for the first time, establish common international standards that must be met before states authorize transfers of conventional weapons in eight major categories and exports of ammunition and weapons parts and components. The pact also requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers.

The treaty would require states to assess the potential for the transfer to be used to commit or facilitate “serious violations” of international humanitarian law and international human rights law or to commit or facilitate terrorism or organized crime. The states also must take into account the risk of serious acts of gender-based violence or acts of violence against women and children. If there is “an overriding risk of any of these negative consequences,” states would be required not to authorize the export.

The treaty also would prohibit transfers of arms or exports of ammunition or weapons parts and components if the state “has knowledge” that the transfer 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, or other war crimes.”

That prohibition, if in force today, would bar the ongoing supply of weapons and of parts and components to the Assad regime in Syria, according to several Western diplomats at the conference.

The treaty also requires that all states establish effective regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts and components. Advocates of this provision said such exports often allow conflicts to continue long after the original arms transfers have occurred. Several states including the United States had opposed the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty during the July 2012 negotiations on the pact. (See ACT, September 2012.)

Consensus Blocked

Building on the draft treaty text from last year’s unsuccessful July negotiating round, the president of the March conference, Peter Woolcott of Australia, choreographed the complex negotiations that produced three revised versions of the treaty text over the course of the two weeks.

On March 27, he presented his third and final version for approval. After 24 hours and further high-level lobbying among key capitals, Woolcott reconvened the conference with the hope of securing the adoption of the treaty. In a packed conference room, Woolcott asked if there were any clarifying statements before he proceeded to the adoption of the treaty text. The representatives from Iran, North Korea, and Syria asked to speak.

Mohammad Khazaee, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, said that “while the rights of arms-exporting states [are] well preserved in this text, the right of importing states to acquire and import arms for their security needs is subject to the discretionary judgment and subjective assessment of the exporting states.”

As a result, transfer of conventional weapons under this treaty would be “highly susceptible to politicization, manipulation, and discrimination,” Khazaee said.

The North Korean representative said the “draft is not well balanced. Some interests have been reflected more than others and some have been ignored.” He said North Korea would block consensus.

Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, said that “our national concerns were not taken into consideration” in part because the treaty does not expressly prohibit arms transfers to subnational groups. He said the treaty “can’t be accepted by my country.”

Russia’s envoy also expressed his country’s displeasure that the treaty text did not explicitly prohibit arms transfers to subnational groups and have provisions barring re-export. He said he would take the treaty back to Moscow for further study.

The objections from these states were not surprising to many diplomats and observers given that Iran and North Korea are currently under UN arms embargoes, while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad needs weapons, ammunition, and spare parts from Russia and Iran to resist the two-year-long civil uprising in his country.

India, which had sought but failed to include a provision that would have prevented an ATT from applying “to contractual obligations under defense cooperation agreements,” also expressed strong objections to the text. India is one of the world’s largest arms purchasers.

Sujata Mehta, the head of the Indian delegation, said her country “cannot accept that the treaty be used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral force majeure measures against importing states-parties without consequences.”

To the General Assembly

With consensus agreement on the treaty blocked by three states, the Kenyan representative took the floor to read a joint statement endorsing the text on behalf of a group of treaty supporters that also included Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The Kenyan delegate said that once the meeting closed, a letter would be sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting that he bring the treaty text to the General Assembly for adoption. As of midnight on March 28, 90 countries had joined the effort. The ATT resolution was to be introduced and voted on April 2.

Leaders of human rights and development organizations that have been campaigning for passage of an ATT for years hailed the outcome of the conference.

“We applaud the Obama administration for standing on the right side of history and joining with other countries to call for a vote on the treaty at the General Assembly,” said Raymond Offenheiser of Oxfam America in a March 28 statement. “The world must not rest until it is adopted,” he said.

If adopted by the General Assembly, the pact would be opened for signature in early June and would require the signature and ratification of at least 50 states to enter into force.

UN member states hammered out a new, compromise arms trade treaty (ATT) text after two intense weeks of final negotiations in New York March 18-28, but Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked its adoption on the final day of the conference, leading a group of more than 90 countries, including the United States, to move the treaty to the General Assembly for approval.

ACA Applauds UNGA Support for New Arms Trade Treaty

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Urges President Obama to Sign Promptly

For Immediate Release: April 2, 2013, 2pm EST            
Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270, ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)--Today, the independent, Arms Control Association welcomed the United Nations General Assembly's endorsement of the new Arms Trade Treaty, which will for the first time establish common international standards that must be met before states authorize transfers of conventional weapons or export ammunition and weapons parts and components. The treaty will be open for signature beginning in June.

The vote was 155 in support, 3 opposed, and 22 abstentions. The treaty will be open for signature beginning June 3.

"The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) represents an important, historic step forward in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

"We commend the strong leadership of the United States and other treaty supporters to move forward on the new Arms Trade Treaty, which will strengthen, global security, raise the standards for global arms transfers, and help to fulfill our responsibility to protect civilians from armed conflict," Kimball said.

"The United States played a key role in shaping this historic global Arms Trade Treaty. Now, President Obama can help build support for the treaty and move it closer toward entry into force by agreeing to be among the first world leaders to sign the pact," he said.

The Arms Trade Treaty:

  • requires states to establish regulations for arms imports and exports in eight major categories: battle tanks; armored combat vehicles; large-calibre artillery systems; combat aircraft; attack helicopters; warships; missiles and missile launchers; and small arms and light weapons;
  • requires states to assess the potential that the transfer "could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "international human rights law," terrorism, organized crime, and take into account the risk of serious acts of gender-based violence or acts of violence against women and children. If there is an overriding risk of any of these negative consequences, states are required not to authorize the export;
  • prohibits transfers of arms or exports of ammunition or weapons parts & components if the state "has knowledge" that the transfer 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, or other war crimes;"
  • requires that all states establish effective regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts & components, which often allow conflicts to continue long after original arms transfers have been executed;
  • requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers, which would help improve transparency and public accountability for states' actions; and
  • calls for regular conferences of states parties to review implementation of the treaty and developments in the field of conventional arms, which should allow states to consider new types of conventional weapons that may emerge.

"The treaty's prohibition section, if it were in force today, would prohibit the ongoing supply of weapons and parts & components to the Assad regime in Syria," Kimball noted.

"At the outset of the negotiations, several states opposed the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty in any way. The end result on ammunition is a net plus," Kimball said.

"Going forward, the value of the treaty depends on prompt entry into force and effective implementation by member states, especially the major arms exporting states," Kimball said.  

"Over time, the treaty will help tip the scales in favor human rights and human security when states consider arms sales in the future. It will help close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering," Kimball said.

"The Arms Trade Treaty was negotiated by hardworking diplomats with support from key government leaders, but it would not have happened without years of work and campaigning by human rights organization including Amnesty International, development and aid groups such as Oxfam, religious leaders, and security experts from around the world that were brought together through the Control Arms campaign," Kimball said.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

Today, the independent, Arm Control Association welcomed the United Nations General Assembly's endorsement of the new Arms Trade Treaty, which will for the first time establish common international standards that must be met before states authorize transfers of conventional weapons or export ammunition and weapons parts and components. The treaty will be open for signature beginning in June.

Time to Move Forward on the Test Ban Treaty

Daryl G. Kimball

A ban on nuclear testing has long been and continues to be a key part of a comprehensive, effective U.S. nuclear risk reduction strategy. Four years ago on April 5, President Barack Obama said in Prague, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.”

Obama has consistently expressed support for U.S. reconsideration and ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits all nuclear test explosions anywhere.

Unfortunately, the administration has not yet launched the kind of effort necessary to achieve this long-sought and still vital nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation objective. Now is the time for the president to begin that effort.

U.S. ratification is essential to close the door on nuclear testing. Action by Washington would likely trigger reconsideration and ratification of the treaty by China, India, and Pakistan, which also must ratify the CTBT before the treaty can formally enter into force.

Gaining the necessary 67 Senate votes in support of ratification of the CTBT remains difficult, but is within reach. “As we look towards ratification of this treaty,” acting U.S. Undersecretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said in a March 20 speech, “we acknowledge that the process will not be easy.” Nothing in Washington ever is.

But since the Senate’s brief debate on and rejection of the CTBT 13 years ago, the arguments raised by treaty opponents have been addressed; and a wide range of national security leaders, including former skeptics, now support the treaty.

On March 8, George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, said, “Yes, I clearly think we should ratify that treaty. A senator might have been right to vote against it when it was first put forward and right to vote for it now.”

The technical and strategic case for the CTBT is stronger than ever. Today, the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program is more successful and better funded than ever before. Even with mandatory cutbacks in U.S. federal spending, the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories will continue to have approximately 10 percent more funding for maintaining and extending the service lives of existing U.S. nuclear warhead types than they did prior to 2009.

The combination of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System and U.S. national monitoring capabilities, along with tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, ensures that no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

With the CTBT in force, established nuclear-weapon states, including China, would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs; newer nuclear-armed nations, including North Korea, would find it far more difficult to build more-advanced warhead types; and emerging nuclear states, such as Iran, would encounter greater obstacles in fielding a reliable arsenal. With the option of short-notice, on-site inspections, states could better detect and deter testing.

Last year, Siegfried Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, underscored that “it is critical to erect as many barriers as possible to the resumption of testing. Ratification of the CTBT and its entry into force is the most important such barrier.”

The latest North Korean nuclear test explosion makes it all the more important that the major nuclear-armed states, particularly the United States and China, reinforce the global taboo against testing by completing the ratification process themselves.

U.S. and Chinese ratification of the treaty also is an essential part of strengthening the credibility of their commitments in the action plan adopted at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, which calls for early entry into force of the CTBT. Delay and dithering will diminish Washington’s ability to forestall future nuclear arms competition, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Korean peninsula.

A closer, serious look by senators should make it clear that a global, verifiable test ban treaty has been and continues to be in the United States’ interest. But it will take presidential leadership and a high-level, sustained effort, like the campaign that led to Senate approval of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 2010 and the effort to win approval for the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963, to win the necessary support for the CTBT.

Fifty years ago, on April 24, 1963, President John Kennedy pressed hard for a test ban accord on the grounds that it would “prevent diffusion of nuclear weapons.” Today, U.S. leadership on the CTBT is still a vital way to head off proliferation risks and bolster international security in the years ahead. It is past time to move on the CTBT.

A ban on nuclear testing has long been and continues to be a key part of a comprehensive, effective U.S. nuclear risk reduction strategy. Four years ago on April 5, President Barack Obama said in Prague, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.”

Arms Experts Urge States to Move Treaty Forward to UNGA for Approval and Signature

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Arms Experts Welcome New Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Text and Urge States to Move Treaty Forward to UNGA for Approval and Signature

For Immediate Release: March 28, 2013, 7:30pm EST         
Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270, ext. 107

(United Nations, NY)--Today, the independent, Arms Control Association welcomed the new, compromise Arms Trade Treaty text that has emerged from two intense weeks of final negotiations and years of multilateral talks among the 193 members states of the United Nations.

"The treaty represents an important, historic step forward in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent, U.S.-based Arms Control Association.

"The ATT will set a new global standard and new sense of responsibility for all types of arms transfers and ammunition exports. The new treaty says to every United Nations member that you cannot simply 'export and forget,'" he said.

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, a handful of states objected to the text -- Iran, North Korea, and Syria -- and blocked the adoption of the text by consensus. India also expressed strong objections to the text, largely on the basis its concern about how the treaty will affect its defense cooperation agreements and ability to buy conventional weapons. India is one of the world's largest arms purchasers.

However, the governments of Kenya, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Finland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in a joint statement that the will of the majority cannot be blocked by a small number of states and they formally requested that the UN Secretary General bring the treaty forward to the UN General Assembly for consideration "as soon as possible."

The Kenyan delegate said: "The people of the world need this treaty. This is a strong text. The time for a strong Arms Trade Treaty is now." The U.K. delegate declared that: "Today is success deferred and not for very long."

"We agree. The vast majority of states can and should take the Arms Trade Treaty forward to the United Nations General Assembly for endorsement as early as next week and, later, for its opening for signature," Kimball said.

"We commend the strong leadership of the United States and other treaty supporters to move forward on the new Arms Trade Treaty, which will strengthen, global security, raise the standards for global arms transfers, and fulfill our responsibility to protect civilians from armed conflict," Kimball said.

"The United States played a key role in shaping this historic, first-ever global Arms Trade Treaty. President Obama should help move the treaty forward to a conclusion and be among the first to sign the pact," he said.

"While text could have been more comprehensive, the ATT is strong and effective and will make an important difference in the lives of people across the globe," Kimball said.

The new Arms Trade Treaty will establish common international standards that must be met before states authorize transfers of conventional weapons in eight major categories: battle tanks; armored combat vehicles; large-calibre artillery systems; combat aircraft; attack helicopters; warships; missiles and missile launchers; and small arms and light weapons.

The treaty requires states to assess the potential that the transfer "could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "international human rights law," terrorism, organized crime, and take into account the risk of serious acts of gender-based violence or acts of violence against women and children. If there is an overriding risk of any of these negative consequences, states are required not to authorize the export.

The ATT will also prohibit transfers of arms or exports or export of ammunition or weapons parts & components if the state "has knowledge" that the transfer 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," or other war crimes.

"The treaty's prohibition section, if it were in force today, would prohibit the ongoing supply of weapons and parts & components to the Assad regime in Syria," Kimball noted.

The treaty also requires that all states establish effective regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts & components, which often allow conflicts to continue long after original arms transfers have been executed.

"At the outset of the negotiations, several states opposed the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty in any way. The end result on ammunition is a net plus," Kimball said.

The treaty also requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers, which would help improve transparency and public accountability for states' actions.

"Going forward, the value of the treaty depends on prompt entry into force and effective implementation by member states," Kimball said.  The treaty allows for regular conference of states parties to review implementation of the treaty and developments in the field of conventional arms, which should allow states to consider new types of conventional weapons that may emerge.

"Over time, the treaty will help tip the scales in favor human rights and human security when states consider arms sales in the future. It will help close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering," Kimball said.

"The Arms Trade Treaty that emerged today is the product of negotiations by government leaders, but it would not have happened without years of work and campaigning by human rights, development and aid groups, religious leaders, and security experts from the world over that were brought together through the Control Arms Campaign," Kimball said.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

Today, the independent, Arm Control Association welcomed the new, compromise Arms Trade Treaty text that has emerged from two intense weeks of final negotiations and years of multilateral talks among the 193 members states of the United Nations.

'Final' Arms Trade Treaty A Good Step Forward

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For Immediate Release: March 27, 2013, 3pm EST
Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association, 202-277-3478

(United Nations, NY)--Today, arms control analysts welcomed the new, compromise Arms Trade Treaty text that has emerged from intense negotiations and that states may endorse on the final day of the March 18-28 UN diplomatic conference.

"The emerging treaty represents an important first step in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent, U.S.-based Arms Control Association.

"The ATT should help set a new global standard and new sense of responsibility for all arms transfers and ammunition exports. The new treaty says to every United Nations member that you cannot simply 'export and forget,'" he said.

"While text could have been stronger and more comprehensive, it can make an effective and important difference. This text represents what major exporters, importers, and the states most affected by the illicit arms trade can agree to at this point. It represents a floor, not a ceiling for common sense behavior. In the remaining hours, states should clarify their understanding of the text in ways that strengthen the treaty, and in the coming years, through its effective implementation and tougher national regulations and practice," Kimball said.

At its core, the treaty would establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized. It would require states to assess the potential that the transfer "could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "international human rights law," terrorism, organized crime, and take into account the risk of serious acts of gender-based violence or acts of violence against women and children. If there is an overriding risk of any of these negative consequences, states are required not to authorize the export.

The ATT also prohibits transfers of arms or exports or export of ammunition or weapons parts & components if the state "has knowledge" that the transfer 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" or other war crimes.

The treaty also requires that all states establish effective, regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts & components.

"At the outset of the negotiations, several states opposed the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty in any way. The end result on ammunition is a net plus," Kimball said.

"The treaty also requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers, which would help improve transparency and public accountability for states' actions," Kimball noted.

"Over time, the treaty will help tip the scales in favor human rights and human security when states consider arms sales in the future. It will help close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering," Kimball said.

"We urge the United States and other arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, the U.K., and India, to support the emerging treaty. President Obama should be among the first to sign the treaty as its advances U.S. and global security, raises the standards for global arms transfers, and will help fulfill our responsibility to protect from armed conflict," Kimball urged.

When states gather on Thursday to consider final approval by the conference, some states may choose to block consensus, in which case the vast majority of states would likely take the draft treaty forward for approval by the UN General Assembly.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(United Nations, NY)--Today, arms control analysts welcomed the new, compromise Arms Trade Treaty text that has emerged from intense negotiations and that states may endorse on the final day of the March 18-28 UN diplomatic conference.

Closing the Deal on a Robust Global Arms Trade Treaty

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Volume 4, Issue 3, March 13, 2013

Diplomats from the United States and over 100 other countries will meet in at the United Nations in New York this month for the "final" meeting to negotiate a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

When completed, ATT has the potential to reduce the unregulated and illicit flow of weapons and ammunition into conflict zones that are fueling wars and enabling human rights abuses against civilians.

The March 18-28 diplomatic conference will start from the draft Arms Trade Treaty that emerged from the July 2012 negotiating forum. The treaty would:

  • establish legal prohibitions on arms and ammunition transfers that contribute to war crimes;
  • require that all states put in place national regulations on international arms transfers;
  • set forth common international standards for approval of the transfers; and
  • mandate regular reporting on arms transfers.

Human rights, development, security, religious organizations, and relief organizations on every continent--including the International Committee of the Red Cross--are working together to press key governments--including the United States--to help close the deal on a robust and effective treaty "with the highest possible standards."

In response to a Feb. 19 letter from 36 nongovernmental organizations to President Barack Obama, a White House spokesperson told Reuters Feb. 25:

"The U.S. objective is to bring other countries in line with existing U.S. best practices, which will have a positive humanitarian impact and reduce the chances that illicit arms flow to terrorists and those that would commit human rights violations."

The United States was among a handful of states that failed to join consensus on the treaty after a month-long conference in July 2012 saying "more time was needed" to complete the process.

Now, months later, President Obama has a chance to help close the deal on a robust, effective Arms Trade Treaty.

Years in the Making

Efforts to secure the ATT have been underway for more than a decade. In November 1999, with the support of then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), the U.S. Congress approved the International Arms Sales Code of Conduct Act. It required the President to begin negotiations on a multilateral regime on arms export criteria and restricts U.S. arms transfers to countries that do not observe certain fundamental values of human liberty, peace, and international stability.

International efforts to negotiate a global Arms Trade Treaty began in 2006. Pressure for action has come from a core group of states including Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom. Since 2009, the United States has supported efforts to negotiate an ATT.

To finalize the treaty at this month's conference, states must approve the final text by consensus. However, the rules also allow the treaty to remain on the UN General Assembly's agenda, meaning a vote to endorse the treaty could be called if some states block consensus at the March conference.

The Need to Act

Thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered each year by weapons that are sold, transferred by governments or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups.

The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Mali--like recent wars in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Congo--vividly underscore the urgent necessity of common-sense rules to prevent the international transfer of weapons.

The unregulated arms trade increases the availability of small arms and ammunition in conflict zones. According to a 2012 report published by Oxfam, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition has been imported since 2000 by countries operating under 26 UN, regional, or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period.

While the United States and a few other countries have relatively tough regulations governing the trade of weapons, many countries have weak or ineffective regulations, if they have any at all. Only 52 of the world's 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers, and less than half of these have criminal or monetary penalties associated with illegal brokering.

The patchwork of laws allows irresponsible arms brokers--such as the notorious Victor Bout--to operate on the margins of the international regulatory system and circumvent the jurisdiction of countries like the United States.

Main Elements of the Proposed ATT

The current draft text of the ATT would require all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders, establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized, and require annual reporting of such transfers. The July 2012 draft treaty:

  • requires that states "shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list" and "shall designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective and transparent national control system regulating the international transfer of conventional arms." (Currently only 90 countries have international arms transfer regulations;)
  • prohibits arms transfers to states if the transfer would violate "obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes;" other "relevant international obligations;" or would be "for the purpose of facilitating the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, [or] war crimes constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions;"
  • prohibits an arms transfer if the state determines there is an "overriding risk" that the transfer could be used to "commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law," "a serious violation of international human rights law," or an act of terrorism;
  • requires that states "shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope" of an ATT and shall apply the authorization criteria and prohibitions established by the treaty prior to authorizing any export of ammunition;
  • requires that each state "shall take the appropriate measures, within its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms under the scope" of an ATT; and
  • allows for entry into force when 65 states ratify the treaty.

Key Issues and Challenges

Although the proposed ATT has drawn support from the vast majority of UN member states, several potential obstacles could complicate the March 18-28 negotiations:

  • The short amount of time (10 working days) will require states to limit their proposed adjustments and clarifications to the draft treaty; and
  • Hard-core treaty opponents could stymie efforts to finalize the text simply by creating delays. A small group calling themselves the "Friends of the ATT," including Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and others, has emerged. All these states have expressed strong reservations about the treaty.

A number of states are pressing for small but important adjustments that would strengthen the treaty.

In a Feb. 19, 2013 letter to President Obama, 36 U.S. human rights, development, security, and religious organizations wrote: "The United States, as the world's leading arms supplier, has a special responsibility to provide the leadership needed for an ATT with the highest possible standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition."

ATT supporters have identified three key issues upon which Obama's leadership is particularly important:

Banning Arms for Atrocities--the United States can help strengthen Article 3 of the draft treaty text to ensure it prohibits arms transfers that will aid and abet war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity and to perpetrators of a consistent pattern of serious violations of international human rights law.

Currently, the draft treaty would prohibit authorization of conventional arms transfers "for the purpose of facilitating" genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes as defined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949. A small number of states, particularly Russia, which continues to resupply the Assad regime in Syria with weapons during that country's civil war, have expressed concerns about the effect of this core provision of the treaty on their ability to provide arms to their allies.

ATT supporters are seeking to strengthen that section of the treaty and/or modify it to ensure it is not interpreted in a way that may undermine existing understandings of international humanitarian law.

Stronger Human Rights Risk Assessment--the United States can help to strengthen the requirement in the treaty to ensure that arms exporters rigorously assess the risk of a proposed export being used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights, humanitarian law or acts of terrorism.

Including Ammunition in the Treaty--the flow of ammunition helps to feed and prolong conflicts and armed violence. The draft ATT under consideration would require that each state "establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope of this Treaty." This provision is fully consistent with U.S. law and practice.

Several African states are expected to press for the inclusion of ammunition in the scope of the treaty in a way that mandates import and export regulation. The Obama administration has not yet expressed its support for including ammunition in the scope section of the treaty, even though the United States already licenses the import and export of conventional arms and ammunition under the Arms Export Control Act. But because of a law passed in 1986 that restricts reporting on the importation of ammunition, U.S. officials continue to tell other delegations that they oppose the inclusion of ammunition in the scope section of the treaty.

Failure by the United States to support the compromise language already in the draft treaty requiring the regulation of ammunition exports could unravel the talks in March.

Closing the "Gift" Loophole--Chinese diplomats have objected to possible changes to the current text that would explicitly apply the treaty guidelines and prohibitions to state-to-state "gifts" of conventional weapons. Other states are concerned that transfers labeled as gifts could create a loophole in the treaty.

The NRA's Myths and the Realities of the ATT

Unfortunately, here in the United States, the value of an ATT has been obscured by the misleading lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its proxies in Congress who allege that the treaty will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. That is not the case.

In July 2012, the NRA's CEO Wayne LaPierre told the UN "the NRA wants no part of any treaty that infringes on the precious right of lawful Americans to keep and bear arms."  He said "any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition."

Allegations that an ATT would infringe on the right of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. Claims by the NRA and its allies that they will block an ATT that affects domestic gun ownership are little more than cynical fundraising ploys given the fact that the treaty would not do so.

Such measures are undeniably outside the scope of the treaty and the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it opposes any infringement on national gun ownership rights.

The 2009 UN General Assembly resolution establishing the ATT negotiation process explicitly acknowledges the exclusive right of states "to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections."

Nevertheless, some of the NRA's arguments have been echoed in letters circulated by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and signed by 55 other senators beginning in 2010. Although both letters recognize the security and humanitarian benefits of the treaty, the Moran letter expresses concern that the ATT might monitor certain internal arms transfers.

This year, a group of 76 Congressional members have introduced a resolution opposing the Arms Trade Treaty as a threat to Second Amendment guarantees.

However, a February 26, 2013 analysis from the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights concludes such concerns are unfounded. Under the proposed ATT, "the United States retains the discretion to regulate the flow of weapons into and out of the United States in a manner consistent with the Second Amendment," according to the analysis.

Another objection cited by skeptics is the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty. This argument ignores the fact that the U.S. government already controls the export and import of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. It is in the interest of the United States to ensure that other states are required to follow similar practices. The Obama administration--and the vast majority of other governments--are on record in support of including small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty.

Some Congressional skeptics have incorrectly suggested that the ATT would prevent arms deals with U.S. allies Israel or Taiwan. With or without the ATT, the United States will continue to make its own determinations regarding whether a proposed arms sale meets the existing U.S. criteria for arms transfers.

The United States sometimes attaches conditions on certain arms transfers to reduce the risk that U.S. supplied weapons are used in a manner inconsistent with U.S. or international guidelines. The only arms transfers that are to be expressly prohibited under the ATT are those that facilitate the commission of genocide, war crimes, or to countries that are subjected to a UN arms embargo.

Advocates of legal civilian gun possession should recognize the value of an ATT in reducing the carnage created by illicit and irresponsible international arms transfers and the responsibility to protect civilians who are threatened by conflicts fueled by the irresponsible arms trade.

Bottom Line: The Responsibility to Protect

The Arms Trade Treaty will not, by itself, prevent all illicit and irresponsible arms trafficking, but it will help reduce the enormous toll of armed conflict around the globe.

As then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a July 2012 speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, there must be a new emphasis on prevention. She said we can "directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence."

In a speech before the UN Security Council on Feb. 13, 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on states to conclude the Arms Trade Treaty:

"We all have a responsibility to protect. Violence against civilians is unquestionably abetted by the free flow of weapons. We urgently need a robust and comprehensive agreement that addresses the humanitarian impact of the poorly regulated trade in arms."

Congress should support the Obama administration's effort to secure an effective Arms Trade Treaty that raises the arms transfer standards of other states closer to those of the United States.

No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade.--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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Diplomats from the United States and over 100 other countries will meet in at the United Nations in New York this month for the "final" meeting to negotiate a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

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