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"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
Greg Thielmann

Save This One Piece of the INF Treaty

News Source: 
Defense One
News Date: 
June 10, 2019 -04:00

The Knowns and Unknowns of What’s Happening With Iran

News Source: 
The Atlantic
News Date: 
May 15, 2019 -04:00

Are We Approaching the End of the Arms Control Era?

Remarks by Greg Thielmann Grinnell College April 1, 2019 I’m glad to be back in Grinnell on the first day of classes after your spring break. I hope the “April Fool’s Day” moniker does not get attached to either the speaker or the audience. I wanted to start with a theme I encountered in a a book, titled The Internationalists , about the Kellogg-Briand “Peace Pact” – the 1928 treaty, signed in Paris, which outlawed war. I had learned long ago that this agreement was naïve and utterly feckless, spectacularly failing to prevent an even more cataclysmic world war than the one which spawned it...

What Can the EU Do to Reduce the Nuclear Threat?

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann
Polis 180 Fireside Chat
Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe
Berlin, Germany
November 28, 2018

Toward the end of October, President Donald Trump announced at a political rally that the United States would be withdrawing from the 31-year old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (“INF”) Treaty, which had banned an entire category of ground-based missiles from the U.S. and Russian arsenals. There has since been considerable discussion about what this decision portends for the entire nuclear arms control enterprise. I cannot presume to know how Germany and other European states can best protect their national security interests. But I can offer some thoughts on how Europe can help America cope with the Trump phenomenon, which I see as America’s greatest leadership crisis in my lifetime.

My first job as a diplomat in the Department of State was to help implement the 1979 “Dual-Track” decision of NATO (der Doppelbeschluss)–according to which NATO planned to deploy 572 nuclear-tipped missiles in Europe while seeking to negotiate equal but lower limits on the 600 Soviet theater missiles already deployed against NATO. The government of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt played a critical role in pushing for such action. He worried that the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks process had left Europe vulnerable to a growing force of Mittelstrecken Raketen for which it had no comparable counter. Indeed, the SS-20s being deployed were more mobile, longer-range, less vulnerable, and more accurate than the SS-4 and SS-5 missiles they were replacing. Moreover, they would carry three times as many warheads.

The only U.S. nuclear weapons based in Europe which could reach Soviet territory then were carried by medium-range bombers, themselves increasingly vulnerable to Soviet anti-aircraft weapons. And thus, the scene was set for a highly-charged contest of wills between the Soviet Union, the United States, and the five NATO countries that had agreed to station new INF missiles on their territories. Germany would have the largest and most critical contingent, including 108 very accurate and fast Pershing II ballistic missiles.

I was present in Geneva at the opening of the negotiations 37 years ago this Friday. I was also present for three years in Embassy Bonn’s Political Section, when the first U.S. deployments arrived in 1983–the “Year of the missile”–and when the Soviet negotiators walked out of the Geneva negotiations.

But with the coming to power of Mikhael Gorbachev in 1985, the mood changed and negotiations resumed the next year. By the end of 1987, the Soviet leader and Ronald Reagan had signed a “zero-zero” treaty with an even lower range floor on banned missiles than the parties had first discussed. Within three years of the treaty entering into force, nearly 2,700 missiles had been eliminated.

This saga is worth recalling–partly to appreciate how unlikely such an outcome seemed in 1979 and how much the treaty ultimately contributed to the reductions of Cold War tensions. It is also important to realize how important the treaty’s verification provisions were for establishing precedents applied to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which followed in 1991. And to remember the creative and hard-working personnel on both sides, who conscientiously fulfilled the treaty obligations.

During the last decade, there have been voices raised in both Moscow and Washington, arguing that the treaty had outlived its usefulness in a post-Cold War world where the European situation was fundamentally different and a world where third countries were increasing their arsenals of intermediate-range missiles.

In 2014, the United States officially accused Russia of testing a cruise missile with a range in excess of that allowed by the treaty. Russia, in turn, levied three charges against the United States, the most serious being that the U.S. missile defense launchers being deployed in Romania were prohibited because they were capable of launching cruise missiles banned under the treaty.

These compliance concerns have now been subject to confidential discussions between the United States and Russia for five years without resolution. Although Trump’s announcement that the United States intended to withdraw from the INF Treaty appeared to be the beginning of the end, it was not the first step taken in that direction. Moscow appears to have decided a decade ago to ignore the treaty’s range limits on cruise missiles. Last year’s U.S. defense budget included research and development funding for new ground-based missiles, which would eventually violate the treaty when they are first flight-tested.

It is my contention, and the view of the U.S.-Russian-German “Deep Cuts Commission” (of which I’m a member) that neither side has made sufficient efforts to use the treaty’s verification mechanism to address this problem.

There is still time. The treaty requires six months notice before withdrawal can occur, and that notice has still not been officially provided.

Ironically, the U.S. revelation in public last year of the Russian manufacturer and designator of the offending missile has opened up a path to resolution, which has not yet been explored. After years of Moscow saying it did not know what the United States was talking about, it now acknowledges having developed and deployed the missile in question–the Novator 9M729—but says the United States is wrong about its capabilities. There is now a curious parallelism in the U.S. response to Russia’s complaints about the missile defense launchers in Romania and Poland. Washington contends that the Aegis Ashore Mk 41 launchers are not capable of doing what the Mk 41 launchers at sea can do.

The argument is now ripe for an invitation to experts for mutual on-site inspection and technical discussions to examine the capabilities of the systems in dispute. Yet neither side has made such a proposal! Here is where Germany and its fellow NATO members can play a constructive role. Russia’s 9M729 cruise missiles threaten the territory of NATO’s European members. The U.S. missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe have been endorsed by NATO. The alliance should press hard for Washington and Moscow to get serious about resolving this issue by conducting mutual inspections and taking necessary confidence-building steps. The onus for the dissolution of the treaty should fall heavily on the side, which refuses this obvious path on INF and fails to pursue the rejuvenation of talks on strategic arms control.

Germany can buttress its diplomatic initiatives on this and other nuclear issues by fulfilling its commitment to increase its defense budget. Russia takes seriously NATO’s policy of regarding an attack on any member as an attack on all members. The best way to increase the credibility of NATO’s mutual defense commitment is for Germany to strengthen its conventional defenses, continue hosting the deployment of U.S. troops, and participating in the modest but important defense measures in the Baltic states.

I hope Germany will remember that Trump became president through our peculiar electoral college system, which awarded him the job after losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Although our system may be flawed, it does self-correct, and that slow process has begun. America is, at long last, rising to the challenge that Trump poses to our institutions and our friends in the world. Our press is vibrant; our courts remain independent; and the mid-term elections have just returned control of the U.S. House of Representatives to the opposition party; even the executive branch agencies have just delivered a stinging rebuke to the administration’s shameful denial of climate change science.

I especially want to highlight the significance of the Democratic Party winning control over the House of Representatives. Defense funding must pass the Senate and the House to become law. Democratic Party leaders have been opposed to Trump’s plan to introduce new nuclear weapons and they advocate a “no-first-use” policy for the U.S. deterrent.

There will be tensions as Germany looks after its obligations and pursues its national interests. But Americans need to remember what close friends do to protect each other from folly. My model is the refusal of Germany to join the United States and Britain in their disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Our long-term interests were betrayed by London; not by Berlin. Likewise, when the United States violated its commitments under the 7-party Iran Nuclear Deal, Germany, Britain, and France are trying to honor theirs. A focus on our mutual long-term interests is important for the difficult days ahead.

 

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann for the Polis 180 Fireside Chat: Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe, Berlin, Germany

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Congress Can Save Arms Control

News Source: 
The Hill
News Date: 
November 27, 2018 -05:00

Fighting Against the Current: The Pursuit of Nuclear Arms Control in the Coming Year

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By Greg Thielmann
Hertie School of Governance
Berlin, Germany, Nov. 26

Let me begin by recognizing the “elephant in the room” – Donald Trump. Last May, America’s president announced that the U.S would pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six other states. Five weeks ago, Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In recent weeks, North Korea has made obvious that Trump’s depiction of Kim Jung-un’s agreement to de-nuclearize North Korea was greatly exaggerated. And the Trump administration continues to stall on President Putin’s invitation to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty when it expires in 2021.

It is obvious that President Trump is at least partly responsible for the perilous position of nuclear arms control as we approach the end of 2018. He is both ignorant of the subject and disinterested in learning; he instinctively rejects the concept of shared interests with other nations; he dismisses any agreement negotiated by his predecessor; and he has now placed the National Security Council under the malign influence of arms control skeptic John Bolton.

But Trump-bashing aside, I want to step back and mention some underlying, “pre-existing conditions” that are relevant to the question of enhancing mutual security through arms control.

Vladimir Putin made a serious error in rejecting President Obama’s offer to follow up New START with an additional 1/3 reduction in the level of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Instead of tightening future constraints, Putin apparently authorized the testing and deployment of a new missile banned by the INF Treaty, undermining a regional balance of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces that had held for a quarter-century. Even more consequential for Europe was his violation of Russia’s commitment in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum to “respect the independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine.”

But, of course, Russia was not alone in complicating arms control progress:

  • U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 was a huge mistake.
  • It is also regrettable that the U.S. encouraged Ukraine and Georgia to consider NATO membership since it was understandably viewed in Moscow as a provokatsia.
  • And I believe that the U.S. badly mishandled evidence that Russia was violating the INF Treaty. Instead of employing the treaty’s proven mechanism to resolve compliance issues through expert discussions and on-site inspections, Washington simply sought to extract a confession from Moscow in high-level talks, while withholding (for intelligence reasons) the details of the incriminating evidence it had obtained and curtly dismissing compliance issues raised by Russia.

Given the U.S. reaction to Soviet ballistic missile defense investments in the 1960s, it’s ironic that the U.S. has been so insensitive to Moscow’s expressions of concern about the construction of a U.S. ballistic missile defense infrastructure in Eastern Europe.

The Aegis Ashore program to deploy SM3 interceptors in Romania and Poland was devised to protect the U.S. and Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East. The U.S. initially assessed that Iran could test ICBMs by 2015 and that such missiles could be armed by then with nuclear warheads. But when that year rolled around, Iran had demonstrated no interest in pursuing long-range missiles -- either ICBMs or even IRBMs. Moreover, Iran agreed to accept very stringent constraints on its ability to produce fissile material for warheads, along with unprecedented transparency measures.

And yet, the schedule for deploying the missiles in Poland to protect all of Europe against a threat that had never materialized was neither canceled nor postponed.

Meanwhile, Russia had raised concerns about the legality of the Mk-41 launchers used by these interceptors, in light of the launcher’s use on warships to launch several different kinds of missiles, including the nuclear-armed Tomahawks that were the look-alike “cousins” of the Gryphon land-attack cruise missiles banned by the INF Treaty. Yet Washington curtly dismissed Russia’s charges as propaganda.

For more than three years, Moscow denied U.S. assertions that Russia had an illicit system, claiming it didn’t know what Washington was talking about. Finally, once the U.S. specified the missile’s manufacturer and military designator, Russia acknowledged having the system but contended that the U.S. was mistaken about its range.

Both sides may have legitimate grievances, or at least plausible concerns, about actions taken by the other side. They should be energetically addressed by the treaty’s Special Verification Commission. Instead, the dialogue to date seems to consist of trading accusations about the other side’s treaty violations, while asserting that there is no basis for any suspicion of one’s own activities. Neither side has proposed mutual on-site inspections by experts to determine the capabilities of the systems in question.

The Deep Cuts Commission – a “Track 2” effort composed of US, Russian, and German security experts -- has been meeting for nearly five years to analyze challenges to nuclear arms control. The commission issued a statement November 15 with regard to INF Treaty compliance concerns, proposing that:

… both sides need to acknowledge the concerns of the other side and that Washington and Moscow should agree to reciprocal visits by experts to examine the missiles and the deployment sites in dispute. If the 9M729 missile is determined to have a range that exceeds 500 km, Russia could modify the missile to ensure it no longer violates the treaty or…halt production and eliminate any such missiles and [their] associated launchers.

For its part, the [U.S.] could modify its missile defense launchers to clearly distinguish them from the launchers used to fire offensive missiles from [U.S.] warships, or agree to transparency measures that give Russia confidence the launchers [ashore] cannot fire offensive missiles.

For decades, the INF Treaty has provided an important buttress for stability in Europe by constraining nuclear superpower arsenals. Moreover, the treaty framework could also provide a valuable foundation for addressing new challenges to stability in the sub-strategic category of nuclear systems. There is still a chance that further diplomatic efforts can save the treaty. We should all press hard toward this objective. If Moscow and Washington let it die, we will all soon regret it.

 

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann to the Hertie School of Governance panel discussion in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 26

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Trump’s latest blunder: Withdrawal from the US-Russian INF Treaty

News Source: 
The Hill
News Date: 
October 25, 2018 -04:00

Trump’s latest blunder: Withdrawal from the US-Russian INF Treaty

This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill , Oct. 25, 2018. It appears that President Donald Trump ’s hard-line security advisor, John Bolton, has persuaded him to renounce the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. At least in this case, unlike with Trump’s quixotic violation of the seven-party Iran nuclear deal, the administration can point to a treaty violation by the other party . But as a practical matter, unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the treaty is reckless and will have a similarly counterproductive and...
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