Login/Logout

*
*  
"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
Russia

U.S., Russia Discuss INF Disputes

The United States and Russia met in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty’s implementation forum last month to discuss outstanding issues.

December 2016

By Kingston Reif

The United States and Russia met in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty’s implementation forum last month “to discuss questions relating to compliance with the obligations assumed under” the 1987 agreement, according to a State Department press release. 

The Special Verification Commission meeting, which was called by the United States over alleged Russian treaty violations, took place in Geneva on Nov. 15-16, the State Department said. (See ACT, November 2016.) Last convened 13 years ago, the commission was established by the treaty as the forum to discuss compliance disputes and to “agree upon such measures as may be necessary to improve the viability and effectiveness” of the treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi on October 27, during which he said that almost all of Russia's neighbors possessed missiles prohibited by the INF Treaty. (Photo credit: Russian Presidential Executive Office)The United States continues to stand by the assessment, first made publicly in July 2014, that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

Russia denies that it is breaching the agreement and has countered with its own charges of noncompliance by Washington. It asserts that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using missiles with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles in missile defense tests, and making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles.

The United States disputes the Russian charges and maintains it is in compliance with the agreement. 

It is not clear whether the November meeting made progress toward resolving the compliance disputes or whether the parties agreed to meet again. A State Department official told Arms Control Today in a Nov. 17 email that the department had nothing to announce beyond that the meeting took place. The session marked the 30th meeting of the commission since the treaty took effect.

In an Oct. 27 press conference at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that almost all of Russia’s neighbors possess missiles of the range prohibited by the INF Treaty “whereas none of the countries sharing borders with the United States…manufacture such weapons.”

“So, for us” the agreement “is a special test,” Putin said. “But nevertheless, we believe it is necessary to honor this treaty.”

Russia Suspends Plutonium Agreement

An increasingly troubled relationship takes a toll on U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation.

November 2016

By Kingston Reif

Russia announced last month that it is suspending cooperation under a 16-year-old agreement with the United States to dispose of 68 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium as relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate. 

In an Oct. 3 presidential decree, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, citing “unfriendly actions” by the United States and the “inability” of Washington to fulfill its obligations under the agreement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at the opening session of the newly elected State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, in Moscow on October 5. The Duma on October 19 acted on his call to set conditions that would have to be met for Russia to resume cooperation under a plutonium disposal accord. (Photo credit: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)Putin also submitted a draft law to the Russian parliament outlining conditions that would have to be met for Russia to resume cooperation. These include lifting all U.S. sanctions against Russia enacted in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, compensating Russia for the damage caused by the sanctions, and reducing the U.S. military presence on the territory of NATO member states that joined the alliance after 2000, which covers eight neighboring countries that were part of the Soviet Union or its Warsaw Pact military alliance. The parliament approved the law on Oct. 19.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Oct. 3 that Russia’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement was “disappointing.” The United States “has been steadfast since 2011 in implementing our side of the bargain, and we would like to see the Russians continue to do the same,” he said.

A Troubled Disposition History

Signed in 2000 and amended in 2010, the plutonium agreement commits the United States and Russia each to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium, or enough material in total for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons. 

Under the earlier version of the deal, Russia would have turned the plutonium into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel—so called because it is a mix of plutonium and uranium oxides—for use in Russian light-water reactors to produce electricity. That effort stalled over programmatic, financial, and legal differences. 

Russia’s suspension of the plutonium disposal accord with the United States is a new blow to the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility under construction near Aiken, South Carolina. Completion of the project, shown in a June 20 photo, was already in doubt due to cost increases and schedule delays. (Photo credit: High Flyer/SRS Watch)In 2010 the United States and Russia signed a protocol to the agreement that allowed Russia to dispose of the plutonium using fast-neutron reactors as part of its plan to expand the use of the material in its civilian nuclear power industry. Meanwhile, the United States pledged to continue with the MOX fuel approach at a facility under construction at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.

Under the amended agreement, both countries would begin disposition in 2018. The protocol also called for international monitoring and verification of the disposition process by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

There are no indications that, in suspending the deal, Russia intends to abandon its plan to dispose of its share of the plutonium. Putin’s decree stated that the plutonium covered by the deal “is not being used for the purpose of making nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices…or for any other military purposes.”

It remains to be seen whether Moscow will allow international monitoring of the disposition process as called for under the agreement. 

The U.S. effort to dispose of its plutonium via the MOX fuel path has suffered from large cost increases and schedule delays that put the project in jeopardy, and the Obama administration announced earlier this year that it intends to terminate the project and pursue an alternative approach. (See ACT, March 2016.

The alternative “dilute and dispose” process would down-blend the plutonium with an inert material for direct disposal in a repository. That approach can be implemented decades sooner at a much lower cost and with fewer risks, according to the Energy Department. (See ACT, June 2015.)

Despite the Energy Department’s efforts to terminate the MOX fuel project, Congress, led by the delegation from South Carolina, has refused to abandon it. 

Russia argues that the new U.S. plan does not meet the terms of the deal because it does not change the composition of the plutonium from weapons grade to reactor grade and the diluted plutonium could still be retrieved and used again for weapons. The Energy Department disputes this claim, arguing that the technical effort and financial cost required to retrieve the diluted and buried plutonium would be prohibitive. 

The original agreement allows for changes in the method of disposition, subject to agreement by both parties. The United States and Russia had not begun formal talks on the alternative U.S. approach because Moscow was waiting to see whether Congress would require that the MOX fuel project be continued. 

In an Oct. 21 email to Arms Control Today, a spokesperson for the semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said Russia’s decision to suspend cooperation on plutonium disposition “only reinforces the administration’s intent to pursue the already proven dilute and dispose approach, which will save tens of billions of dollars while upholding our commitment to dispose of surplus plutonium.” 

Russia Terminates Other Pacts

Russia last month also suspended a 2013 research agreement on nuclear energy and a 2010 deal on the conversion of six Russian research reactors.

The 2013 agreement provided the legal framework necessary to expand cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear research laboratories, institutes, and facilities in a broad range of areas, including nuclear technology, nonproliferation, fundamental and applied science, energy, and the environment. 

The 2010 deal covered feasibility studies for the conversion of six Russian research reactors that use highly enriched uranium, which could be diverted to weapons use, to low-enriched uranium. 

In an Oct. 5 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia was suspending both agreements in retaliation for U.S. sanctions imposed regarding the situation in Ukraine. “We can no longer trust Washington in such sensitive areas as the modernization and security of Russian nuclear facilities,” the statement added.

Russia announced in late 2014 that it planned to suspend most cooperation with the United States on the security of nuclear materials inside Russia. (See ACT, March 2015.) In addition, Russia skipped the fourth and final nuclear security summit in Washington earlier this year. (See ACT, May 2016.)

U.S.-Russian Tensions Rise

The demise of the three nuclear cooperation agreements comes amid rising tensions between the two countries over Syria, U.S. allegations of Russian cyber espionage, and Western concerns about more aggressive Russian nuclear rhetoric and behavior.

Putin announced the suspension of the plutonium accord hours before the United States said it was suspending talks with Russia on ending the Syrian civil war. 

In addition, U.S. intelligence agencies assessed last month that Russian government authorities have authorized cyberhacking of U.S. entities such as the Democratic National Committee and linked the WikiLeaks release of documents to Russian efforts to undermine the credibility of the U.S. electoral process.

The future of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty also remains in doubt as the United States and Russia allege that the other is in violation of the agreement. (See ACT, November 2016.)

At their July summit meeting in Warsaw, NATO leaders characterized as “destabilizing” Russia’s “irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture.” Alliance officials have expressed concern over the past two years about Russian actions such as nuclear bomber flights close to the borders of alliance members, aggressive nuclear exercises, and nuclear threats directed at NATO members. (See ACT, September 2016.)

Next Steps on U.S.-Russian INF Treaty Dispute

Sections:

Description: 

Relations between Russia and the West have sunk to an historic low and tensions have worsened across a range of issues, some new and some old.

Body: 

Volume 8, Issue 6, October 25, 2016

Relations between Russia and the West have sunk to an historic low. Since President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex Crimea and foment a low-level conflict in eastern Ukraine nearly three years ago, tensions between the United States and Russia have worsened across a range of issues, some new and some old.

Several key nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements that helped bring an end to the Cold War nuclear arms race continue to serve to constrain nuclear competition and maintain strategic stability.

These include the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in Washington, DC, December 8, 1987 (Photo:Wikimedia)The INF Treaty was a major breakthrough that helped to halt and reverse the Cold War-era nuclear arms race and remove a significant threat to Europe. It marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to actually eliminate nuclear weapons and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. The treaty, which is of unlimited duration, required both sides to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The two sides eliminated 2,692 short, medium, and intermediate-range nuclear-armed missiles by 1991.

There are growing signs, however, that the INF Treaty is under serious and increasing stress. Failure to resolve the festering compliance dispute could threaten the treaty and impede further efforts to reduce bloated U.S. and Russia nuclear arsenals in the years ahead.

In July 2014, the U.S. State Department officially alleged that Russia is violating its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

Russia denies that it is breaching the INF Treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in December that the allegations are “groundless” and the United States has “not provided any proof” that Russia is “allegedly producing and deploying” banned missiles.

Moscow has instead raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance with the agreement, charging that America is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles.

To this point, bilateral political discussions at senior levels have not led to a resolution of the compliance dispute. Neither side had sought to use the dispute resolution mechanism allowed for by Article VIII of the treaty – the Special Verification Commission (SVC).

Until at least January of this year, senior Defense and State department officials said that Russia had not deployed the prohibited missile.

But according to an Oct. 19 The New York Times report, “American officials are now expressing concerns that Russia is producing more missiles than are needed to sustain a flight-test program, spurring fears that the Kremlin is moving to build a force that could ultimately be deployed.”

The report also revealed that the United States has called for a meeting of the SVC to discuss and seek to resolve the U.S. compliance concerns. The U.S. State Department has since confirmed that a meeting has been requested and Russia has indicated that it plans to attend.

Both sides could be facing a new and even more difficult situation if they do not effectively use the SVC to bolster the INF Treaty.

Support in-depth analysis and alerts on U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation. Become a member of the Arms Control Association today.

Immediate Next Steps

Convening the SVC to resolve mutual compliance concerns has been a longstanding recommendation of the Arms Control Association, as well as expert colleagues involved with the 21-member U.S.-Russian-German Deep Cuts Commission, and others.

Russia’s alleged noncompliance with the treaty is a serious matter that deserves a strong and measured response. To date, the United States has imposed diplomatic costs on Russia and has taken some military measures as part of a larger response to concerns about Russian behavior, including the INF Treaty violation.

Washington has properly treated the violation more as a political problem rather than a military one. But that would likely change if Russia moved from testing to actual deployment of INF Treaty noncompliant missiles. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama at the 2015 Group of Twenty summit (Photo: Wikipedia)If it hasn't done so already, the Obama administration should craft a plan for how the compliance concerns of both sides could be addressed in the event Russia engaged and signaled its willingness to return to compliance. This could include consideration of additional confidence-building measure and information exchanges that take into account technological and political developments that have occurred since the treaty’s entry into force.

From a U.S. and European security perspective, the key goal is to prevent Russia from deploying (or conducting further tests of) INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or withdrawing from the agreement entirely.

Meanwhile, the United States should seek new ways to provide further details about the nature of the Russian violation. The inability to share more information has made it easier for Russia to deny a violation exists and harder for U.S. allies and other countries to put additional pressure on Russia.

Both sides should understand and explain why the INF Treaty and the existing bilateral and multilateral arms control architecture continues to serve U.S., Russian, and European security interests and head-off even more dangerous military competition.

Without continued U.S. support for arms control agreements and other types of cooperative nonproliferation engagement, Russian forces would be unconstrained. Not only would the United States have little leverage or basis to constrain Russian forces other than military and economic measures, it would not have verification measures in place to assess what Russia is doing. Overall, the implementation record of these treaties has been highly successful, which is why presidents from both parties have pursued them.

If Russia continues to remain in noncompliance with the INF Treaty and especially if Russia decides to deploy noncompliant missiles or threatens to pull out of the treaty, the United States should pursue firm but measured steps to reaffirm its commitment to the defense of those allies that would be the potential targets of these new missiles.

But it would not be militarily useful for the United States to deploy new offense missiles in Europe or seek to accelerate or expand U.S. ballistic missile defense capabilities in Europe, which would not increase the security of our allies and would only give the Russians a cynical excuse to withdraw from the treaty.

Receive breaking updates and issues briefs on this issue. Subscribe to the Arms Control Association's U.S.-Russian Relations email list.

Intermediate Steps on INF Treaty and Cruise Missiles

The current INF Treaty crisis comes at a time when the United States and Russia are building new nuclear and conventional cruise missile systems and a number of states are developing cruise missiles. In addition, the two sides are not currently engaged in talks on further strategic nuclear reductions beyond New START. Russian officials say that U.S. and Russian reductions must take into account the arsenals of the world’s other nuclear-armed states.

Today, only three countries possess nuclear-armed cruise missiles. The Pentagon is pursuing the production of roughly 1,000 new nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles to replace an aging legacy system. Russia is deploying the 2,000-kilometer range Kalibr land-attack cruise missile (LACM) on ships and submarines and the Kh-101 air-launched conventional and Kh-102 air-launched nuclear-armed cruise missile for delivery by bombers. France recently upgraded its nuclear air launched cruise missiles, the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée-Amélioré, and according to President François Hollande currently has 54 ASMP-A cruise missiles. 

In years past, the United States and Russia have both expressed support for “multilateralizing” the INF Treaty, but have devoted scant attention to such a project. In October 2007, President Vladimir Putin said that the INF Treaty should be made “global in scope.” Russia has argued for years that the INF Treaty disadvantages Russia vis-à-vis its neighbors, such as China, that lack the same constraints.

That same year, at the United Nations General Assembly, Russia and the United States issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for the INF Treaty and calling upon other governments to renounce and eliminate their ground-launched missiles with ranges banned by the accord. The statement declared U.S. and Russian intentions to “work with all interested countries” and “discuss the possibility of imparting a global character to this important regime.”

The time has arrived for more serious consideration of limits on nuclear-armed cruise missiles worldwide. Given that they are nuclear-capable and increasingly accurate and stealthy, these weapons pose a significant problem for global stability and security.

In the coming year, the Kremlin and the new U.S. presidential administration might explore several possible options, including:

  • As the governments of Sweden and Switzerland proposed in a May 2016 working paper, the United States and Russia could jointly engage with other states on a process to reduce risks associated with nuclear armed cruise missiles. This might include options to limit, prevent deployment of, and ultimately ban all nuclear-armed cruise missiles, regardless if they are launched from the sea, air or ground.
  • The United States and Russia could also address the challenges of horizontal cruise missile proliferation by reinforcing the relevant Missile Technology Control Regime’s restrictions and by endorsing the inclusion of land-attack cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles / unmanned combat aerial vehicles in the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
  • Moscow and Washington should exercise restraint in Russian and U.S. nuclear force modernization programs, remaining within the New START limits and acting consistent with the intent of the treaty. The United States should forego development of a new, air-launched cruise missile, and Russia should reciprocate by phasing-out of its own new nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles.
  • The U.S. and Russian presidents should reaffirm that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. The two sides should also agree to launch early discussions on a possible follow-on strategic arms reduction treaty, given that New START expires in 2021.

Given that each country deploys far more nuclear weapons than is necessary to deter attack, they should be able to envision reductions to a level of 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles (including cruise missiles) and no more than 1,000 deployed strategic warheads. To take into account cruise missiles and sub-strategic nuclear bombs in the active arsenals of both sides, they should consider applying any new warhead ceiling to all types of nuclear weapons.

A new U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and risk reduction should also explore options for new transparency measures and reciprocal restraint measures in other related areas, including missile defenses, precision conventional strike, and sub-strategic nuclear weapons.

Reducing Risks In the “New Cold War”

As was the case during the Cold War, competition, confrontation, and selective cooperation is the new normal.

The U.S. and Russian governments continue to cooperate in some important areas of common concern, including implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and New START, and they continue to meet with the other permanent nuclear-armed members of the UN Security Council to share views on strategic stability and nuclear policy.

"Back from the Brink: Toward Restraint and Dialogue between Russia and the West," the June 2016 report of the Deep Cuts CommissionThe NATO-Russia Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which involves 57 participating states in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok, serves as another mechanism to address specific security concerns.

However, since the conflict in Ukraine the number of Russian and NATO military-to-military incidents in the Baltic region and elsewhere has increased; military-to-military contacts have been sharply curtailed; and there are no active bilateral talks on nuclear arms reductions, missile defense, or conventional arms control and transparency in Europe. Earlier this month, Putin suspended implementation of an already troubled U.S.-Russian agreement on the disposition of excess weapons-grade plutonium.

In addition, U.S. and Russian diplomats have in recent weeks clashed over Syria policy at the UN Security Council. The United States and Western European powers say that Russia’s brutal aerial bombardment of civilian areas in the besieged city of Aleppo in support of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad constitutes a war crime. Making matters even worse, U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Russian government authorities have authorized cyber hacking of U.S. entities to undermine the credibility of the U.S. electoral process.

The United States and Russia need to re-engage and move back from the brink of even more serious conflict. The 2016 report of the Deep Cuts Commission “Toward Restraint and Dialogue Between Russia and the West,” outlines several additional practical steps to help address other issues:  

  • In order to reduce current security concerns in the Baltic area, NATO and Russia should initiate a dialogue on possible mutual restraint measures. A NATO-Russia dialogue should aim at increasing the security of all states in the Baltic area by encompassing reciprocal and verifiable commitments. A sub-regional arms control regime could consist of interlocking elements such as restraint commitments, limitations, confidence and security-building measures, and a sub-regional Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.
  • In light of the increasing dangers of military incidents between Russia, the United States and other NATO member states, the United States and Russia should revive a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction measures, capable of addressing risks posed by different sorts of emergencies in near real-time. The United States and Russia could consider creating a Joint Military Incident Prevention and Communications Cell with a direct telephone link between the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian General Staff, and NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Such a cell could be linked to or established in parallel with a new European Risk Reduction Center that would link the Russian General Staff and SHAPE.
  • The 34 signatories to the Open Skies Treaty should pay more attention to the continued operation and unimpeded implementation of Open Skies, which can help provide confidence that each side is taking actions in a manner consistent with their commitments and can help guard against surprise. The treaty allows for short-notice, unarmed, observation flights over the territories of other states-parties with the aim of promoting openness and transparency, building confidence, and facilitating verification of arms control and disarmament agreements. Each states-party has quotas covering the number of observation flights a state can actively conduct over the territory of another state and the number it must allow over its own territory. Members of the U.S. Congress should recognize the value of the Open Skies Treaty and upgrades to observation capabilities rather than put roadblocks in the way of its effective implementation.
  • OSCE participating states should consider measures to give effect to the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs. For this purpose, the OSCE could set up a commission that would carefully look into the issue from a legal point of view and explore possibilities for a new OSCE states-based mechanism. OSCE participating States could also pursue a long-term effort leading to a Helsinki-like conference with the aim of reinvigorating and strengthening Europe’s guiding security principles.

As former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry wrote in the introduction to the 2016 Deep Cuts Commission report:

“Today, dialogue and restraint are needed more than ever since the end of the Cold War. In order to prevent misperceptions, miscalculations, and the potential return of a costly arms race, both Washington and Moscow have to rediscover the instruments of diplomatic dialogue, military-to-military exchanges, and verifiable arms control.”

Such an effort can begin with a serious, problem-solving approach to the INF Treaty. –BY DARYL G. KIMBALL, with KINGSTON A. REIF and ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Country Resources:

The Hidden Side of the U.S.-Russian Strategic Confrontation

The Soviet and Russian nuclear mentality has been and remains very different from that of the United States and its allies. The rapid reintroduction of the possibility of nuclear confrontation in U.S.-Russian relations...

September 2016

By Alexey Arbatov

After more than two decades during which Cold War-era visions of nuclear Armageddon faded from public consciousness, alarms are sounding anew as a result of tense relations between Russia and the West. 

At the height of the Ukraine crisis in August 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message to any nations that might seek to challenge Russia: “Let me remind you that Russia is one of the world’s biggest nuclear powers,” he said in remarks during a visit to a state-sponsored youth camp. “These are not just words—this is the reality. What’s more, we are strengthening our nuclear deterrent capability and developing our armed forces.’’1 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reflected Western concern at such talk, declaring that “Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling is unjustified, destabilizing and dangerous.”2

A Russian RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile is transported through Red Square in Moscow during the Victory Day military parade on May 9. [Photo credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images]In light of this, it is worthwhile to explore the context and history of Russia’s thinking about nuclear strategy and its divergence from U.S. and NATO approaches. In the West, there is a tradition of explaining Russian nuclear policy by projecting Western thinking onto Russian defense planners. This often leads to conclusions about an aggressive character of Moscow’s nuclear posture. Yet, the problem is not as simple as that. Its core is that Soviet and Russian nuclear mentality has been and remains very different from that of the United States and its allies. 

After the Cold War, those strategic discrepancies lay dormant in the background of improved political and strategic relations, having never been openly discussed, to say nothing of being mutually adjusted. Now, when the attention of policymakers and the general public has been drawn back to central nuclear issues, the time has come to correct this deficiency. Otherwise, it may lead to dangerous collisions in crisis situations and disintegration of the nuclear arms control system and process.

Official Doctrines

The most recent statement of Russian military doctrine in December 2014 retained the prior version’s restrained wording on employing nuclear arms: “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, and also in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat.”3 

Incidentally, the official Russian strategic concept has only two differences from the 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review.4 One is that the United States is apparently willing to defend its allies with the use of nuclear weapons if they are attacked by overwhelming conventional forces, whereas Russia does not provide such assurance. The other is Russian readiness to use nuclear arms if facing the prospect of defeat by large-scale conventional aggression, while the United States does not envision such a contingency.

The differences in U.S. and Russian strategic thinking are much deeper than may be construed from official documents. They are related to each nation’s specific way of dealing with nuclear deterrence, which stems from their historical experiences, political systems, decision-making mechanisms, geostrategic positions, and technological developments.

Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence was not born together with nuclear weapons. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the United States considered atomic and hydrogen bombs dropped from aircraft as the ultimate means to destroy the enemy’s armed forces and urban-industrial assets if the Soviet Union or China were to attack U.S. allies in Europe or Asia. During those years, nuclear deterrence was primarily a fascinating theoretical subject rather than the tool of military strategy. 

Only by the end of the 1950s, following 15 years of nuclear weapons stockpiling and strategic thinking, did the concept of deterrence come to the forefront of U.S. military strategy. This change was the result of Soviet development of intercontinental nuclear weapons capable of reaching U.S. territory. After that, the U.S. political leadership recognized that nuclear weapons were too dangerous and should be used primarily to deter, rather than to defeat, the enemy.

The chief theoretician and practitioner of the “new nuclear thinking” was Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, appointed by newly elected President John Kennedy in 1961. During the 1960s, after exploring a series of concepts (“counterforce-city avoidance,” “damage limitation”), the U.S. nuclear strategy firmly settled on the concept of “assured destruction.” In his famous 1967 speech in San Francisco, McNamara stated that deterrence of a “deliberate nuclear attack” on the United States or its allies is ensured by maintaining a highly reliable ability “to inflict an unacceptable degree of damage upon any single aggressor or combination of aggressors, at any time during the course of a strategic nuclear exchange, even after absorbing a surprise first strike.” At the same time, McNamara acknowledged that “the blunt, inescapable fact remains that the Soviet Union could still—with its present forces—effectively destroy the United States, even after absorbing the full weight of an American first strike.”5 

This kind of mentality and its implications were indeed a monumental strategic reformation. Yet, such public statements were unthinkable on the part of any high Soviet official of that time and actually remain unimaginable in today’s Russia, although this reality had been recognized in Moscow. For three decades, from the late 1960s to the late 1990s, McNamara’s way of thinking remained the foundation of the ideology of mutual deterrence and strategic stability, war prevention, forces sufficiency, and strategic arms control. 

The Soviet Union arrived at similar conclusions about nuclear war much later even at the declaratory level, to say nothing of military planning or arms programs. For the first quarter century of the nuclear age, the fundamental assumption of Soviet military doctrine had been that if a global war was unleashed by the West, the Soviet Union would defeat the enemy and achieve victory, despite enormous ensuing damage.6 Only during the 1970s did Moscow start to change its official declaratory position on the subject and gradually accept the idea of the impossibility of victory in a nuclear war due to its unprecedented destructive consequences. The most important factor shaping this change was the beginning of strategic negotiations with the United States.

Thus, the first major difference in the Russian and U.S. ways of thinking about nuclear weapons is the historical origins. In the United States, the new thinking on nuclear matters was the product of McNamara’s efforts at securing political control over nuclear strategy, arms, and war plans. In the Soviet Union, the “new look” at nuclear war was foremost the product of arms control. The strategic concepts of Moscow and Washington were fundamentally incompatible until the late 1960s. During the 1970s, they edged closer through recognition of parity and the destabilizing effect of anti-missile defenses, reflected in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the interim Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) in 1972 and SALT II in 1979. Those treaties could not be justified in the USSR without recognition of the impossibility of victory in a global war. On this basis, the U.S. and Soviet leaders concluded special agreements and joint statements, which postulated that “nuclear war would have devastating consequences for mankind”7 and that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”8

Currently, after a six-year hiatus following the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the two nations are as wide apart as in the early 1980s, which creates a growing threat of a fatal military misunderstanding between them. The stalemate in arms control talks has removed an important channel of strategic communication between Russian and U.S. national command authorities. A prolonged breakdown of regular military-to-military contacts and the arrival of a new generation of commanders, which are more disrespectful and combative toward each other than their predecessors, may result in dangerous collisions when armed forces maneuver in close proximity.

No one explained the danger of this widening gap better than William Perry, who served as defense secretary from February 1994 to January 1997 under President Bill Clinton. In his recent book My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, he recalls his experience as a Pentagon official in the late 1970s, at a tense time when the Soviet Union was racing to match then exceed the U.S. nuclear warhead count. He writes that a successful arms control agreement in 1977 could have put a brake on the arms race “but, even more important, it would have engaged us in a dialogue with our deadly foe, given both sides a degree of transparency and, most critically, given us context—a better understanding of our opponent—to inform the awesome decisions we were expected to make in a heartbeat.”9 His observation looking back nearly four decades is relevant today in the context of difficult U.S.-Russian relations.

Nuclear-Strike Authorization

One of the basic attributes of the U.S. political system and, in general, of democratic systems is civilian control over the military. In the USSR and Russia, political and military authorities traditionally have been merged. After the Cold War, there were cautious experiments with the introduction of some civilian elements at the top echelon of the Russian Ministry of Defense, but they had little impact. 

An illustration of this difference is each state’s arrangement related to nuclear strike authorization. At first glance, there are analogous systems providing the state leadership with an exclusive technical capacity to sanction a nuclear strike and prevent unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. In the USSR, a system was introduced in 1985 that emulated the U.S. “football”—the president’s briefcase containing nuclear codes and commands—which was adopted in the early 1960s.10 Still, there is one key difference between the two systems, which has political roots. 

A military aide carries the president’s emergency satchel, often referred to as the nuclear “football,” as President Barack Obama returns to the White House on May 15. [Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images]The U.S. president is the only holder of the nuclear briefcase within a legalized chain of successors in case of the president’s incapacitation. (In consideration of that possibility, a backup satchel travels with the vice president.11) In this succession, the defense secretary is low on the list. The Soviet/Russian analogue, called “Cheget,” consists of three “briefcases” held by the president (the general secretary of the Communist Party in the past), the defense minister, and the head of the military General Staff.12 It is a great secret whether these three persons are technically able to give authority to launch missiles only together or two or one of them can do it in case the others are incapacitated. In any case, two out of three decision-makers are the top military officials, while constitutional presidential successors (the prime minister, speakers of the chambers of parliament) are excluded from the chain of command. Despite the revolutionary change in the Russian political system in 1991, this nuclear command model has remained intact.13

Strategic thinking in the West has benefited from the deep involvement of independent legislatures, free discussion between political scientists and military experts, the broad availability of defense information, and the regular movement of civilians and military personnel between government posts and the academic world. This provided for less biased views on the intentions of the opposing side and brought political (rather than military) attitudes to the trade-off between the danger of inadvertent nuclear war and operational advantages of the first strike.

Due to a different political system and historical tradition, neither social or physical scientists nor state officials or military ones could freely discuss such topics in the USSR. Discussions became possible in public, legislative, and executive branches of government only during the second half of the 1980s. During the 1990s and early 2000s, following the demise of the Soviet Union, the situation in Russia changed further in favor of the access, although actual nuclear strategy and operational planning remained the exclusive domain of the military, except for a short period of the late 1990s. Now that the two nations’ political systems are no longer as antagonistic as during the Cold War, better mutual understanding of such matters would be beneficial to both parties. 

Strategic Stability

Another important difference between the two states relates to the notion of strategic stability. In the joint U.S.-Soviet statement of June 1990, stability was defined as a state of strategic relations that is “removing incentives for a nuclear first strike.” This was to be achieved through a mutually acceptable “relationship between strategic offensive and defensive arms,” by “reducing the concentration of warheads on strategic delivery vehicles, and giving priority to highly survivable systems.”14

Nonetheless, this logic was only super-ficially acknowledged by Moscow. In striving to avert nuclear war, the Soviet/Russian leadership has never recognized that some types of the nuclear posture may make war more probable in a crisis situation at least as its own posture was concerned. 

In contrast to McNamara’s assured destruction doctrine, which implied second-strike capability, actual U.S. war plans emphasized attacking Soviet strategic forces and other military sites before hitting urban-industrial centers, which implied first strike. McNamara’s final Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) for nuclear war, adopted in February 1967, included the same basic versions of nuclear attacks as his SIOP-63, and the target list was expanded to 10,000 sites.15 

During the 1970s and 1980s, counterforce options and hard-target-kill capability was an important, even if variable, element of the U.S. nuclear posture. Still, the first-strike implications of counterforce strategy have been a touchy and controversial subject in U.S. defense policy, stirring heated debates in Congress and the strategic community and affecting weapon programs decisions in the Department of Defense during the two decades after McNamara’s “strategic reformation.”

Nothing of the kind took place in the USSR or Russia. The benefit of attacking strategic forces of the opponent was never put in doubt, and such capability was to be enhanced within the limits of technology and budget. Counterforce weapon systems and their employment plans have been and are now considered an indispensable attribute of deterrence posture. Hence, the principles of strategic stability, formalized in the 1990 statement, were considered as guidance for arms control but not of strategic doctrine, operational planning, or weapon programs. 

At the same time, when directed by politically motivated decisions of state authorities, the Russian military had to grudgingly sacrifice counterforce capabilities for the sake of reaching arms control agreements. The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) forced a 50 percent reduction in Russian heavy, or most powerful, intercontinental ballistic missiles. START II envisioned the elimination of all land-based missiles with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. This is yet another example of the unique role of arms control for Moscow’s strategic policy. 

It is a matter of great uncertainty whether U.S. logic of “nuclear first use and phased escalation”16 or the Russian idea of an “all-out war once deterrence fails” may make a catastrophe more probable. A sign of a Russian attempt to emulate U.S. concepts of selective nuclear use for the purposes of “demonstration of resolve” or “de-escalation” caused a great alarm in the West when political tensions with Russia escalated in 2014-2015.17 Such concepts were perceived as lowering the “nuclear threshold” rather than preventing massive nuclear exchange.

Bridging the Gap

The nuclear rhetoric and armed forces’ activities of Russia and NATO in 2013-2015 have revived the danger of nuclear war that looked totally unthinkable only five years ago. Moreover, after a quarter century pause, Russia and the United States are again on the verge of a massive and multichannel cycle of the arms race, as pointed out by Robert Legvold, a respected U.S. scholar of Soviet and post-Soviet foreign policy: “The United States and Russia, in modernizing all three legs of their nuclear triads, have reopened a potential competition between offensive and defensive systems and introduced new destabilizing technologies, such as conventionally armed strategic missiles theoretically capable of striking the other side’s nuclear weapons, thus blurring the firebreak between conventional and nuclear warfare.”18 

Besides the political split over Ukraine and disagreements on ballistic missile defenses and conventional global hypersonic systems, the two states are now deeply divided in their fundamental views on the role of nuclear weapons, assessments of strategic balance, and perceptions of possible causes of war. These contradictions and their origins should be understood by both powers. Russia and the United States should make an effort to forge a common, up-to-date understanding of strategic stability and enhance it by arms control provisions and through regular military and civilian contacts.

Such common principles should postulate that, despite the end of the Cold War a quarter century ago, the nuclear posture of each side may increase the probability of nuclear war despite their mutual desire to avoid it. U.S. and Russian military programs affect each other and may incite an arms race. Weapon systems that threaten the survivability of each other’s strategic forces and command, control, communications, and intelligence assets imply a first-strike strategy and provoke pre-emption. While undertaking phased reduction of nuclear forces, both sides should reach agreements to alleviate mutual concerns about prompt and slow counterforce systems, even if those are designed against other opponents. Expanding defensive systems to reduce each side’s vulnerability to “rogue states” should only be based on U.S.-Russian agreements. Systems and concepts blurring the line between nuclear and conventional operations are inherently destabilizing and should be subjected to limitations and confidence-building measures. 

There must be a mutual understanding that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is escalatory and should be excluded from bilateral strategic relations. Prevention of conventional aggression should be ensured not by a threat of nuclear escalation, even if called de-escalation, but by sufficient conventional forces or, still better, by mutual reductions of conventional troops and arms, limitations on military activities, and confidence-building measures.

The rapid reintroduction of the possibility of nuclear confrontation in U.S.-Russian relations may serve as a serious warning that peace between great powers should not be taken for granted. Supporting it requires relentless effort and a much deeper understanding of the security outlook and strategic peculiarity of each other. This is one of the main lessons to be drawn from the quarter century that has passed since the end of the Cold War.

ENDNOTES

1.   Vladimir Putin, excerpts from transcript of meeting with Seliger 2014 Forum participants, August 29, 2014, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/46507.

2.    Jens Stoltenberg, “Adapting to a Changed Security Environment” (remarks, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, May 27, 2015), http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_120166.htm?selectedLocale=en.

3.   “Voennaya Doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii” [Military doctrine of the Russian Federation], Rossiiskaya Gazeta, December 30, 2014, http://rg.ru/2014/12/30/doktrina-dok.html.

4.   U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, http://archive.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20Nuclear%20Posture%20Review%20Report.pdf

5.   Robert McNamara, The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), pp. 51-67.

6.   Vladimir Tolubko, Raketnyevoiska [Rocket forces] (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1977).

7.   Agreement Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Prevention of Nuclear War, U.S.-USSR, June 22, 1973, 24 U.S.T. 1478.

8.   “Joint Statement on the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting,” December 10, 1987, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=33803.

9.   William Perry, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), p. 53.

10.   David Hoffman, Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p. 149.

11.   John T. Bennett and Eric Garcia, “Biden: Trump ‘Not Qualified to Know’ Nuclear Codes,” Roll Call, August 15, 2016.

12.   “Chemodanchik nomer odin” [Briefcase number one], Trud, January 11, 2000.

13.   While in the Duma, the author submitted a draft law titled “On the succession of supreme command,” under which the president would be the only holder of the “Cheget” terminal and his successors would be the prime minister and the speakers of the two chambers of parliament. The rest of the Duma and executive authorities refused to promote this draft law. 

14.   “Soviet-United States Joint Statement on Future Negotiations on Nuclear and Space Arms and Further Enhancing Strategic Stability,” June 1, 1990, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=18541.

15.   Milton Leitenberg, “Presidential Directive (P.D.) 59: United States Nuclear Weapon Targeting Policy,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 18, No. 4 (December 1981): 314-315.

16.   For a discussion of these concepts, see Brad Roberts, The Case for Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), ch. 6; Franklin C. Miller, “Adjusting NATO’s Nuclear Policies: A Five Step Program,” Atlantic Council, March 23, 2016, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/natosource/adjusting-nato-s-nuclear-policies-a-five-step-program.

17.   Ministerstvo Oborony, Aktualnie Zadachirazvitiya Vooruzhennykh Sil Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Critical tasks of the development of the armed forces of the Russian Federation] (Moscow: Ministerstvo Oborony, 2003); Markell Boytsov, “Terminologiya v voennoi doctrine” [Terminology of the military doctrine], Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, October 31, 2014, http://nvo.ng.ru/concepts/2014-10-31/10_doctrina.html; Konstantin Sivkov, “Pravo naudar” [Right to strike], Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er, March 5, 2014, http://vpk-news.ru/articles/19370.

18.   Robert Legvold, Return to Cold War (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2016), p. 132.


Alexey Arbatov is the head of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations and head of the Nonproliferation Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Moscow Center. He served in the Russian Parliament and was deputy chair of the Defense Committee. This paper is part of a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the author expresses gratitude for assistance from Robert Legvold.

Progress on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Inadequate to Meet Threats, New Study Finds

Sections:

Description: 

A new study suggests that President Obama, failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas during his second term.

Body: 

For Immediate Release: July 15, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—President Barack Obama failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas over the course of his second term, but did achieve important steps to improve nuclear materials security and strengthen nonproliferation norms, namely the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a new study released by the Arms Control Association, which evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016," is the third in a series that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security categories over the past three years. The study evaluated the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possess nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern.

“The United States is investing enormous resources to maintain and upgrade nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads and is keeping its deployed nuclear weapons on ‘launch-under-attack’ readiness posture. The lack of U.S. leadership in these areas contributes to the moribund pace of disarmament,” said Elizabeth Philipp, the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Arms Control Association, and a co-author of the report.

“Obama should use his remaining months in office to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategies and mitigate the risks of inadvertent use. Obama could consider declaring that Washington will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report.

“U.S. leadership could spur China and Russia to take positive actions and improve the prospects for further disarmament. Russia’s decision to develop a new missile in violation of its treaty commitments and Moscow’s rebuff of attempts by the United States to negotiate further nuclear reductions is very troublesome, as is the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s steps toward increasing the alert levels of its forces,” Philipp added.

“Several states did take significant steps over the past three years to strengthen nuclear security, including action by the United States and Pakistan to ratify key nuclear security treaties,” said Davenport.

“The July 2015 nuclear deal struck between six global powers and Iran was also a significant nonproliferation breakthrough that has significantly reduced Tehran’s nuclear capacity and subjected its activities to more intrusive international monitoring and verification. While the international community must remain vigilant in ensuring that the deal is fully implemented, blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons negates a serious nonproliferation concern and demonstrates the consequences of flouting the international norms and obligations,” Davenport said.

“For the third time, the United Kingdom received the highest grade of all the states assessed, while North Korea remained at the bottom of the list with the lowest overall grades. North Korea’s recent nuclear test and its ballistic missile development require the next U.S. administration to pursue more robust engagement with Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear activities,” Philipp said.

“Our review of the record indicates that further action must be taken by all 11 states if they are to live up to their international disarmament and nonproliferation responsibilities. By tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of these states over time, we hope this report will serve as a tool to encourage policymakers to increase efforts to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.

A country-by-country summary can be viewed here.
The full report card can be downloaded here

###

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.

2016 Report Card on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Efforts

Download the full report here.

Table of Contents

Take Nuclear First Use Off the Table

A U.S. no-nuclear-first-use policy would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe, improve the prospects for further Russian nuclear cuts, and draw China into the nuclear risk reduction process.

By Daryl G. Kimball

The Cold War standoff that gave rise to tens of thousands of nuclear weapons ended a quarter century ago, and U.S. and Russian deployed arsenals have been slashed through verifiable arms control agreements.

Unfortunately, the risks of nuclear weapons use are still far too high, in part because the policies developed to justify their possession and potential use remain largely the same.

President Obama in 2009 at Hradčany Square Prague, Czech Republic (Photo: White House)Early in his presidency, President Barack Obama made clear that he sought “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

On June 6, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes pledged that the president “will continue to review whether there are additional steps that can be taken to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our own strategies and to reduce the risk of inadvertent use.”

One very important step would be for Obama to declare that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Such a decision could unwind dangerous Cold War-era thinking and greatly strengthen U.S. and global security.

Limiting the circumstances under which the United States would use nuclear weapons was a goal laid out by the “Nuclear Posture Review Report” in 2010, which said the United States should pursue the objective of making deterrence against a nuclear attack the “sole purpose” of the nuclear arsenal.

Nevertheless, current policy still leaves several dangerous and destabilizing nuclear weapons-use options on the table, including the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict to pre-empt a real or suspected nuclear attack, to counter the possible use of chemical or biological weapons, or to halt a massive conventional military threat against U.S. forces or allies.

Today, the United States and Russia still deploy thousands of nuclear warheads on hundreds of bombers, missiles, and submarines. Current U.S. strategy requires that there are enough nuclear forces available to destroy nearly 1,000 enemy targets, many in urban areas, and that these weapons can be launched within minutes of a decision to do so.

Maintaining such a capability plays a large role in compelling Russia—and may soon help to lead China—to field a sizable portion of their nuclear forces in a launch-under-attack mode in order to avoid a disarming nuclear strike. This, in turn, increases the chance that nuclear weapons might be used or dispersed by U.S. adversaries in a crisis.

As Obama correctly said in 2008, the requirement for prompt launch is “a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.”

By adopting a no-first-use policy, the United States could positively influence the nuclear doctrines of other nuclear-armed states, particularly in Asia. Such a shift in U.S. declaratory policy could also alleviate concerns that U.S. ballistic missile defenses might be used to negate the retaliatory potential of China and Russia following a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear attack against their strategic forces.

Shifting to a no-first-use policy would not, in any way, undermine the U.S. ability to deter nuclear attack by another state. It is well established that U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack, and given the size, accuracy, and diversity of U.S. forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

Given the overwhelming U.S. conventional military edge, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify—legally, morally, or militarily—the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. U.S. nuclear weapons are useless in deterring or responding to nuclear terrorism or to a potential chemical, biological, or cyberattack by state or nonstate actors.

A no-first-use policy would not undermine confidence in U.S. defense commitments to key allies. Even if there were to be a conventional military conflict with a nuclear-armed state, such as Russia in the Baltic Sea region or elsewhere, the employment of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it would trigger an uncontrollable and potentially suicidal escalation of nuclear weapons use. As a result, the threat of nuclear weapons first-use to counter non-nuclear attacks lacks credibility.

In remarks delivered in Hiroshima May 27, Obama declared that “among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.” Yes, we must.

A U.S. no-first-use policy would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe, improve the prospects for further Russian nuclear cuts, and draw China into the nuclear risk reduction process. It would put a spotlight on the dangerous nuclear doctrines of Pakistan and North Korea, where the risk of nuclear weapons use is perhaps most severe, and challenge them to reconsider the first-use option.

By encouraging a new norm against first-use of nuclear weapons, Obama could help ensure, for this generation and those to come, that nuclear weapons are never used again.

New Report Calls for Russia and the West to Move Back from the Brink

Sections:

Description: 

The West and Russia need to build on existing arms control measures to avoid exacerbation of the increasingly tense relationship between them, according to a group of international security experts.

Body: 

For Immediate Release: June 21, 2016

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104; Ulrich Kuehn, Researcher, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg, +49 (1) 76 811219 75

(Mosow, Berlin, Washington)—A new report from a high-level group of international security experts from Russia, the United States, and Germany recommends that the West and Russia build on a number of existing arms control and confidence-building measures in order to avoid further exacerbation of the increasingly tense and dangerous relationship between Russia and the West, particularly along the border between Russia and NATO member states.

The third report of the Deep Cuts Commission describes 15 key recommendations to help address the most acute security concerns in Europe—particularly in the Baltic area—and increase U.S.-Russian nuclear transparency and predictability.

“The prime objective for the next few years should be limiting the potential for dangerous military incidents that can escalate out of control,” the authors argue. “Russia and the West must come back from the brink. They need to better manage their conflictual relationship. Restraint and dialogue are now needed more than ever,” they write.

The Commission’s recommendations include:

    • In order to reduce current security concerns in the Baltic area, NATO and Russia should initiate a dialogue on possible mutual restraint measures. All states should adhere to the NATO-Russia Founding Act. A NATO-Russia dialogue should aim at increasing the security of all states in the Baltic area by encompassing reciprocal and verifiable commitments. A sub-regional arms control regime could consist of interlocking elements such as restraint commitments, limitations, CSBMs, and a sub-regional Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.
    • In light of the increasing dangers of military incidents between Russia, the United States and other NATO member states, the United States and Russia should revive a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction measures, capable of addressing risks posed by different sorts of emergencies in near real-time. The United States and Russia could consider creating a Joint Military Incident Prevention and Communications Cell with a direct telephone link between the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian General Staff, and NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Such a cell could be linked to or established in parallel with a new European Risk Reduction Center.
    • States-parties to the Treaty on Open Skies should pay more attention to the continued operation of Open Skies. They should strengthen its operation by devoting equal resources to upgrading observation equipment.
    • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating States should consider measures to give effect to the principle of non-intervention into internal affairs. For this purpose, the OSCE could set up a commission which would carefully look into the issue from a legal point of view and explore possibilities for a new OSCE states-based mechanism. Beyond, OSCE participating States should prepare for a long-term endeavor leading to a Helsinki-like conference with the aim of reinvigorating and strengthening Europe’s guiding security principles.
    • The United States and Russia should commit to attempting to resolve each other’s compliance concerns with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by supplementing ongoing diplomatic dialogue with technical expertise, either by convening the Special Verification Commission or a separate bilateral experts group mandated to appropriately address all relevant treaty-related compliance concerns. Further on, the United States and Russia should address the issue of supplementing the treaty by taking account of technological and political developments that have occurred since the treaty’s entry into force.
    • The United States and Russia should address the destabilizing effects of nuclear-armed cruise missile proliferation by agreeing on specific confidence-building measures. Together with other nations, they should address the challenges of horizontal cruise missile proliferation by reinforcing the relevant Missile Technology Control Regime’s restrictions and by endorsing the inclusion of land-attack cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles/unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UAVs/UCAVs) in the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
    • Moscow and Washington should exercise restraint in Russian and U.S. nuclear force modernization programs, remaining within the New START limits and acting consistent with the intent of the treaty. The United States should forego development of the LRSO and Russia should reciprocate by phasing-out of new nuclear-armed ALCMs. The United States should show restraint in ballistic missile deployments consistent with its policy of defending against limited threats. NATO should follow through on its commitment to adapt its ballistic missile deployments in accordance with reductions in the ballistic missile proliferation threats.

    • Russia and the United States should work toward early discussions on a possible follow-on strategic arms reduction treaty. They should be able to envision reductions to a level of 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles and 1,000 deployed strategic warheads during the next decade. These discussions should explore options for exchanging measures of reciprocal restraint and seek to address other issues of mutual concern under a combined umbrella discussion of strategic stability.

Beyond these recommendations, the experts identify a number of additional measures which could foster confidence in and maintain focus on the goal of further nuclear disarmament.

The complete report is available online.

###

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.

Country Resources:

Third Report of the Deep Cuts Commission

June 2016

Back from the Brink: Toward Restraint and Dialogue between Russia and the West

U.S. Missile Defenses in Europe: Move the Ball, Not the Goal Posts

Within the last decade, the United States has made several important adjustments to its plans for deploying missile defenses in Europe. In light of the ongoing implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and an objective assessment of Iran’s missile program, it is high time to make another one—suspending the deployment of more advanced Aegis missile defense interceptors to Poland. Defending Europe Against Iran In September 2009, President Barack Obama announced a four-part “European Phased Adaptive Approach” (EPAA) to deploying U.S. missile defenses in Europe against the emerging ballistic...

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Russia