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Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Kingston Reif

Most U.S.-Russian Nuclear Work Ends

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

Former Senator Sam Nunn (D.-Ga.), left, and Senator Richard Lugar (R.-Ind) attend a symposium in Washington on December 3, 2012, on cooperative threat reduction. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)After months of signals that U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 was in jeopardy, most work in that area now has ended, according to news reports and Energy Department budget documents. But some limited work will continue in 2015, according to Energy Department officials.

In a meeting last December in Moscow, Russian officials informed their U.S. counterparts that Moscow was ending U.S. cooperation with Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, and U.S. access to Rosatom facilities, the Boston Globe reported Jan. 19.

Joint work to upgrade the security of eight Rosatom sites containing weapons-usable nuclear material “will not be completed with U.S. funding, due to Russia’s discontinuation of this joint work,” according to the Energy Department’s detailed justification of its budget request for fiscal year 2016. Joint work to sustain previous upgrades also is ending, said the document, which was released Feb. 2.

The document states that U.S. support for efforts to convert reactors in Russia that still use highly enriched uranium (HEU) to use low-enriched uranium will continue but be limited to the six pilot reactors that are part of a 2010 agreement between the Energy Department and Rosatom. “The U.S. role in additional reactor conversion cooperation in Russia is anticipated to be limited to only technical exchanges,” the document said.

The Globe article reported that the United States will also no longer provide money to install radiation detectors at Russian ports, airports, and border crossings to deter and detect nuclear smuggling.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have cooperated on an array of nuclear weapons dismantlement, material security, and nonproliferation activities inside Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union. These efforts have been pursued primarily under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program and the Energy Department’s nuclear material security programs.

In June 2013, Russia and the United States agreed to a pared-down replacement for the old CTR agreement. The new arrangement allowed the Energy Department to continue nuclear security activities with Rosatom, but terminated activities involving the Russian Ministry of Defense. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) Many of the activities with Rosatom were scheduled to continue through 2018.

In a Jan. 22 statement, Rosatom said that it would “be ready to return to the cooperation when the American side is ready for that, and certainly, strictly on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, and respect.”

In a Feb. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Energy Department spokesman Derrick Robinson said Russia will fund the security work the Energy Department had been planning to carry out.

Despite the end of work with Rosatom, some cooperative activities would continue, including the repatriation of Russian-origin HEU from third countries, security work with a number of non-Rosatom nuclear sites, and bilateral exchanges on topics such as nuclear security culture and transportation security, Robinson said.

Congress voted last December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia. (See ACT, January/February 2015.) It is not clear from the budget documents how much money, if any, the Energy Department requested for work inside Russia in fiscal year 2016.

In a Jan. 23 Washington Post op-ed, former Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) described Russia’s decision to cut off most aspects of its nuclear security cooperation with the United States as “short-sighted” and “a major setback in the global effort to secure nuclear materials.”

Nunn and Lugar co-sponsored the legislation that established cooperative threat reduction efforts with Russia in the early 1990s.

After months of signals that U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 was in jeopardy, most work in that area now has stopped.

White House Reviewing Nuclear Budget

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

After months of signals that U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 was in jeopardy, most work in that area now has ended, according to news reports and Energy Department budget documents. But some limited work will continue in 2015, according to Energy Department officials.

In a meeting last December in Moscow, Russian officials informed their U.S. counterparts that Moscow was ending U.S. cooperation with Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, and U.S. access to Rosatom facilities, the Boston Globe reported Jan. 19.

Joint work to upgrade the security of eight Rosatom sites containing weapons-usable nuclear material “will not be completed with U.S. funding, due to Russia’s discontinuation of this joint work,” according to the Energy Department’s detailed justification of its budget request for fiscal year 2016. Joint work to sustain previous upgrades also is ending, said the document, which was released Feb. 2.

The document states that U.S. support for efforts to convert reactors in Russia that still use highly enriched uranium (HEU) to use low-enriched uranium will continue but be limited to the six pilot reactors that are part of a 2010 agreement between the Energy Department and Rosatom. “The U.S. role in additional reactor conversion cooperation in Russia is anticipated to be limited to only technical exchanges,” the document said.

The Globe article reported that the United States will also no longer provide money to install radiation detectors at Russian ports, airports, and border crossings to deter and detect nuclear smuggling.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have cooperated on an array of nuclear weapons dismantlement, material security, and nonproliferation activities inside Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union. These efforts have been pursued primarily under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program and the Energy Department’s nuclear material security programs.

In June 2013, Russia and the United States agreed to a pared-down replacement for the old CTR agreement. The new arrangement allowed the Energy Department to continue nuclear security activities with Rosatom, but terminated activities involving the Russian Ministry of Defense. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) Many of the activities with Rosatom were scheduled to continue through 2018.

In a Jan. 22 statement, Rosatom said that it would “be ready to return to the cooperation when the American side is ready for that, and certainly, strictly on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, and respect.”

In a Feb. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Energy Department spokesman Derrick Robinson said Russia will fund the security work the Energy Department had been planning to carry out.

Despite the end of work with Rosatom, some cooperative activities would continue, including the repatriation of Russian-origin HEU from third countries, security work with a number of non-Rosatom nuclear sites, and bilateral exchanges on topics such as nuclear security culture and transportation security, Robinson said.

Congress voted last December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia. (See ACT, January/February 2015.) It is not clear from the budget documents how much money, if any, the Energy Department requested for work inside Russia in fiscal year 2016.

In a Jan. 23 Washington Post op-ed, former Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) described Russia’s decision to cut off most aspects of its nuclear security cooperation with the United States as “short-sighted” and “a major setback in the global effort to secure nuclear materials.”

Nunn and Lugar co-sponsored the legislation that established cooperative threat reduction efforts with Russia in the early 1990s.

Budget Speeds Cruise Missile Development

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

The Obama administration is proposing to increase spending to accelerate by two years the development of a new nuclear-armed cruise missile, according to budget documents released Feb. 2.

The increase in proposed spending is part of a major funding hike in the fiscal year 2016 budget request for programs to sustain and to rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure. An updated cost analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released on Jan. 22 estimated that the administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans would cost $348 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2024 (see box).

Some current and former U.S. defense officials have questioned whether the modernization plans can be implemented as currently conceived, given continued pressure to reduce military spending. (See ACT, September 2014.)

An air-launched cruise missile is flight-tested in February 2012. (U.S. Air Force)The Air Force is seeking $36.6 million in fiscal year 2016 for research and development for a long-range standoff weapon, more than 10 times as much as the $3.4 million that Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year. The new standoff missile, would replace the Air Force’s nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), which has been operational since 1986. ALCMs are carried by long-range bombers and can attack targets at great distances.

Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department, is requesting $195 million to begin refurbishing the existing ALCM warhead that would be delivered by the new missile. That is an increase of $186 million above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation of $9.4 million. The first refurbished warhead is now scheduled for completion in 2025, two years earlier than the NNSA proposed last year.

The fiscal year 2015 budget request delayed development of the new ALCM by three years. An Air Force spokeswoman told InsideDefense.com at the time that the delay was caused by “warhead uncertainty and…continuing fiscal challenges.”

Overall, the administration requested $561 billion for national defense in fiscal year 2016, which includes the Defense Department’s regular budget activities and the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs.
This spending proposal is nearly $39 billion above the spending caps set by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act. If Congress does not raise the spending caps or cut the president’s budget request down, automatic, across-the-board cuts will have to be made to the request before the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

Triad Spending Grows

The budget request also substantially increases investments in next-generation nuclear submarines, bombers, and land-based missiles.

CBO Updates Nuclear Cost Study

Current U.S. plans to sustain and modernize its nuclear arsenal will cost $348 billion over the next decade, or 5 to 6 percent of the total costs of the Obama administration’s plans for national defense, according to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The report is an update to the cost study that the CBO released in December 2013, which put the price tag for U.S. nuclear forces between fiscal years 2014 and 2023 at $355 billion. The update estimates the cost between fiscal years 2015 and 2024.
The $7 billion dip from the 2013 estimate is due to “budget-driven delays in several programs, including a three-year delay for the new cruise missile and its nuclear warhead,” the update said.

The CBO spending projection is approximately $51 billion more than the $297 billion 10-year estimate the Defense and Energy departments provided to Congress last year.
The report was released just before the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, which sought increased funding to accelerate the development schedule for the new cruise missile and improve the management of the nuclear force. These funding increases are not reflected in the CBO’s latest cost update.

In a Feb. 2 press briefing at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work expressed concern about the growing costs of the nuclear mission. “We need to keep the old equipment and systems going,” he said, “but it is becoming more expensive for us to do so and requiring us to divert resources in that regard.”—KINGSTON REIF

    The highest-priority and most costly program remains the Navy’s plan to replace its current fleet of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines with 12 new subs, called the SSBN(X). Under the Navy’s budget request, the program would receive $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $100 million above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation. A December 2014 report by the CBO estimated that the cost to build the 12-sub fleet would be more than $100 billion, with the first boat entering service in 2031.

    Proposed funding for the Air Force’s plan to build up to 100 new long-range strategic bombers continues to rise steeply. The Air Force is seeking $1.25 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $332 million over the fiscal year 2015 appropriation. The new bombers are scheduled to enter service in the mid-2020s, and the entire fleet could cost as much as $80 billion to produce, according to some estimates.

    The program to develop a replacement for the current force of 450 land-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles also would get a big boost under the administration’s request. The Air Force is requesting $75.2 million for the program, an increase of $68.3 million over the appropriation for the current fiscal year. The potential replacement missile is slated to begin deployment in fiscal year 2027.

    The budget request also includes $1.1 billion in new funding to address the professional and ethical lapses and poor morale plaguing the nuclear force, according to the Associated Press. (See ACT, December 2014.) This proposal would support 1,120 additional military and civilian personnel working on Air Force nuclear issues and accelerate investments in Navy shipyard infrastructure. The Pentagon plans to spend $8 billion for these and other force improvement efforts over the next five years, the AP said.

    Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the Air Force, warned last month that if Congress fails to raise the budget caps, across-the-board cuts would slash “roughly 66 percent of currently planned [Air Force] funding intended to modernize nuclear systems and infrastructure.”

    Warhead Request Pleases GOP

    NNSA nuclear warhead maintenance and infrastructure programs would receive $8.9 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $667 million, or 8 percent, above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation.

    The NNSA weapons budget would increase spending to rebuild the B61 gravity bomb and ALCM warhead, refresh a key part of the W88 submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, and build a new uranium-processing facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

    Some Republican lawmakers have criticized previous administration requests for NNSA weapons programs for allegedly not comporting with the spending levels proposed by the administration in 2010 during the ratification debate over the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. This time, however, two Senate Republican staffers praised the fiscal year 2016 NNSA weapons request.

    The budget request “is a good sign and represents the President’s commitment to modernize the [Energy Department] nuclear weapons complex,” one staffer told Arms Control Today in a Feb. 18 e-mail.

    A second Republican staffer said in a Feb. 19 interview that the request is “90 to 95 percent consistent” with what President Barack Obama promised five years ago.

    Although it is unclear what Congress will do to address the mismatch between the budget request and the budget caps, some lawmakers have said they doubt that the budget request for nuclear weapons programs is realistic. In a Feb. 13 interview with Weapons Complex Monitor, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the NNSA, said that the agency has “more in [its] total overall budget than we’re going to have, frankly, when we get done with the budget resolution.”

    The Obama administration is proposing to increase spending to accelerate by two years the development of a new nuclear-armed cruise missile.

    President’s ‘16 Budget Calls for Unsustainable, Unnecessary Nuclear Weapons Spending

    On February 2 the Obama administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 federal budget request. The request is the administration’s biggest down payment to date on a planned unaffordable and unsustainable nuclear spending binge to rebuild all three legs of the nuclear triad and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure. The administration’s budget proposal includes significant increases for several strategic nuclear weapons systems, including increase for some programs above what was projected in the FY 2015 budget request (see the chart). Most notably, the budget accelerates...

    CBO: Nuclear Weapons Still Expensive

    By Kingston Reif A new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released today estimates that the United States will spend $348 billion on nuclear weapons over the next decade, or 5 percent to 6 percent of the total costs of the administration’s plans for national defense. But this is just the tip of the coming budget bow wave. Over the next 30 years, the bill could add up to $1 trillion, according to recent report of the National Defense Panel Review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. This planned spending encompasses a massive rebuild of all three legs of the existing nuclear...

    Senate Confirms Frank Rose

    January/February 2015

    By Kingston Reif

    The Senate on Dec. 16 confirmed Frank Rose as assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance. Rose, who took office two days later, previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy.

    Rose was nominated for the new post on July 18, 2013. He succeeds Rose Gottemoeller, who was sworn in on March 7, 2014, as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. (See ACT, April 2014.)

    After being approved twice by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, once in October 2013 and again last February, Rose’s nomination was held up by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and others over concerns about the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and about the administration’s policy toward potential future nuclear weapons reductions.

    In a March 3, 2014, statement opposing a vote on Gottemoeller’s nomination, Rubio and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and James Risch (R-Idaho) said they would continue to voice their concerns “on every relevant nominee and in every setting possible because such policies are dangerous and will make Americans less safe.”

    Rose was confirmed by a voice vote after clearing two procedural hurdles. A motion to proceed to a vote on Rose’s confirmation was approved on Dec. 13 by a vote of 52-41, with all Democratic senators present voting to proceed and all Republican senators present voting against proceeding. The Senate voted 54-39 to end debate on Rose’s nomination on Dec. 15.

    The Senate on Dec. 16 confirmed Frank Rose as assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance

    Hill Withholds Funds for Work in Russia

    January/February 2015

    By Kingston Reif

    Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) talks with reporters as he walks to the Senate floor for the start of a series of votes on December 12, 2014, the day that the Senate voted to approve the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)Congress voted in December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia amid uncertainty about the future of collaborative efforts between Washington and Moscow in that area.

    Lawmakers also voted to significantly curtail Defense Department Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs in Russia.

    Despite the decision not to fund the budget request for the Energy Department programs, unspent money within the department’s nonproliferation account will allow activities in Russia to continue if Moscow agrees to such cooperation, a Senate Appropriations Committee staffer said in a Dec. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

    These provisions were part of the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations and defense authorization bills, both of which Congress passed in December at the end of the 113th Congress. Fiscal year 2015 started on Oct. 1, 2014, and runs until Sept. 30.

    Of the money Congress withheld for Energy Department work in Russia, $25.4 million was taken from the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), and $66.9 million was subtracted from the International Material Protection and Cooperation (IMPC) program.

    In his e-mail, the Senate staffer said that there is enough unspent money left over from previous years’ appropriations and the spending bill that funded the government from Oct. 1 through mid-December to “complete activities” in fiscal year 2015 “and start new activities” if Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz approves them. According to budget figures shown to Arms Control Today, roughly $100 million remains available to continue work in Russia by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in fiscal year 2015.

    Congress also put constraints on the Defense Department’s nuclear security work in Russia. The defense bill prohibits funding for CTR programs in Russia beyond fiscal year 2015 without specific authorization from Congress. “[T]he traditional manner in which the program’s activities have been carried out in the Russian Federation is no longer necessary and no longer sustainable,” said the explanatory report accompanying the bill. “[S]ecuring and destroying nuclear weapons and nuclear material is now a Russian responsibility and one that the United States should no longer fund without Russian cooperation,” the report added.

    The decline in congressional support for nuclear security work in Russia comes as Moscow has taken steps to wind down cooperation with the United States, putting the future of such cooperation in doubt. (See ACT, December 2014.)

    The omnibus bill provided funding above the budget request for other nuclear security efforts, including an extra $32 million to complete installation of fixed detection equipment to prevent nuclear smuggling at vulnerable border crossings, airports, and small seaports in key countries around Russia and in high-threat areas in the Middle East. The bill also added funds to accelerate efforts to develop a new generation of warhead monitoring technologies and improve capabilities to detect low-yield nuclear tests.

    Despite these increases, the final spending level for Energy Department nonproliferation work fell far short of what the Senate appropriations energy and water subcommittee, which funds the department’s nuclear security programs, approved in July. The full appropriations committee and the full Senate never voted on that bill. Although the subcommittee provided about $825 million, well above the budget request of $638 million for the GTRI and IMPC programs, the omnibus bill reduced their funding to $597 million.

    Instead, the final funding levels for the GTRI and IMPC programs mirror those approved by the House, which withheld funding for work in Russia and funded other activities at roughly the same level as the budget request.

    In the Dec. 19 e-mail, the Senate staffer said that increasing the funding for nonproliferation activities in the omnibus bill “was an uphill battle” for a number of reasons, including the Obama administration’s “inadequate” fiscal year 2015 budget request for nonproliferation “and uncertainty about the future of some of these nonproliferation programs.” In August, 26 senators sent a letter to the White House criticizing the administration’s proposed cuts to nonproliferation programs over the last several years. (See ACT, September 2014.)

    Signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 16, the omnibus appropriations bill is a $1.1 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills that had to be passed to keep the government operating. The bill provides funding for agencies covered by 11 of the appropriations bills for the remainder of the fiscal year and continues spending at last year’s funding levels for the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 27.

    The $577 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed Dec. 19, establishes spending ceilings and sets policy for Defense Department and NNSA activities.

    Overall, the omnibus bill includes approximately $8.2 billion for nuclear weapons activities conducted by the NNSA, an increase of roughly $406 million from last year’s funding level.

    New Cruise Missile Funded

    The omnibus bill includes a compromise between the Senate and House to provide $9.4 million, the amount the NNSA had requested, to study a refurbishment of the warhead for the nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The funding figure essentially split the difference between the House, which initially approved $17 million for the study, and the Senate, which provided no funding for the concept study. (See ACT, November 2014.)

    According to the Senate staffer, the bill makes no commitment to ultimately fund a life extension program for the ALCM warhead. The bill mandates that before the NNSA moves beyond the concept study phase, the NNSA must provide Congress with a report on the military requirements and preliminary cost and schedule estimates for a refurbishment effort.

    The omnibus bill also requires the defense secretary to submit a report to Congress “describing the requirements, anticipated missions, programmed funding by fiscal year, and current program schedule” for the new missile that will carry the refurbished warhead. The Air Force’s fiscal year 2015 budget request delayed the new missile program by three years. According to an aide for Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the outgoing chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, the “general intent” of the report “is to have [the Defense Department] better explain” the acquisition strategy for the new missile program.

    Meanwhile, the defense authorization bill dilutes provisions in the original House bill regarding the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russia’s alleged noncompliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and the maintenance of U.S. Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos. The House bill barred the spending of any money to carry out the reductions required by New START until Russia met a number of conditions, including “respecting the sovereignty of all Ukrainian territory.” The final bill merely requires a report from the Defense Department stating the reasons that continued implementation of New START is in the national security interests of the United States.

    Similarly, the House bill required the Defense Department to prepare a plan for developing new U.S. intermediate-range missiles in response to Russia’s alleged INF Treaty violation, but the final bill asks for a report on steps being taken or planned by the department to respond to the violation (see story below). Moreover, while the House bill demanded the maintenance of 450 operational Minuteman III ICBM silos without an end date for that requirement, the final bill requires the maintenance of the silos only until 2021.

    Missile Defense Scrutinized

    Personnel at the Missile Defense Integration and Operation Center on Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado work at the test control facility during the flight test of a ground-based interceptor on June 22, 2014. (Missile Defense Agency)The defense bill includes provisions to strengthen congressional oversight of U.S. missile defense programs. One section requires that prior to production or deployment of “a new or substantially upgraded interceptor or weapon system of the ballistic missile defense system,” the defense secretary must ensure “sufficient and operationally realistic testing” of the system and that the testing results demonstrate “a high probability” that the system “will work in an operationally effective manner.” The provision also requires the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation to provide an assessment of the “sufficiency, adequacy, and results of the testing.”

    Another section requires the defense secretary to commission an independent study on the testing program of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. The study must include “an assessment of whether the currently planned testing program” for the missile system “is sufficient to establish reasonable confidence that the…system has a high probability of performing reliably and effectively.”

    Plagued by rushed development, cost overruns, and test failures, the GMD system is designed to protect the United States from limited missile attacks by Iran and North Korea. A total of 30 interceptors are currently deployed in Alaska and California. The Pentagon is planning to deploy an additional 14 interceptors in Alaska by the end of 2017.

    Overall, the omnibus bill provided $1.1 billion for the GMD system, including $43 million more than the administration requested to upgrade the Capability Enhancement II kill vehicle. The bill also funded the administration’s $99.5 million request to begin work on a redesigned kill vehicle for the system. (See ACT, July/August 2014.)

    Congress voted in December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia...

    U.S. Explores INF Responses

    January/February 2015

    By Kingston Reif

    In this video image, Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, testifies at a December 10 hearing in the House of Representatives on Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (House Arms Services Committee)The United States is reviewing a broad range of military options to respond to a future Russian deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) that violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a senior Defense Department official told Congress in December.

    The State Department announced in July that Russia is violating its INF Treaty obligation “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a GLCM with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” (See ACT, September 2014.)

    In testimony at a Dec. 10 hearing in the House of Representatives, Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said a military assessment concluded “that development and deployment” of an INF-range GLCM by Russia “would pose a threat to the United States and its allies and partners.” At the hearing, held jointly by the House armed services and foreign affairs committees, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told lawmakers that the United States has seen Russia developing a prohibited GLCM, but did not say that the missile was deployed.

    If Russia does not come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, McKeon said, the United States will seek “to ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from its violation.” Russia denies that it is breaching the INF Treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a July 28 statement that the allegations are “baseless” and “no proof has been provided.”

    McKeon said the range of military response options under consideration includes “active defenses to counter” INF-range GLCMs, “counterforce capabilities” to prevent attacks from these missiles, “and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces.” The Defense Department is reviewing the effect these options “could have on convincing Russian leadership to return to compliance with the INF Treaty, as well as countering the capability of a Russian INF Treaty-prohibited system,” McKeon added.

    McKeon did not provide details on the options, but did say that some “would be compliant with the INF Treaty” and some “would not be.” He later added that deploying U.S. GLCMs “would obviously be one option to explore.”

    McKeon said that, in responding to Russia’s alleged treaty violation, the United States wants to avoid “an escalatory cycle of action and reaction.” But he warned that “Russia’s lack of meaningful engagement on this issue, if it persists, will ultimately require the United States to take actions to protect its interests and security, along with those of its allies and partners.”

    One European analyst said the deployment of U.S. GLCMs in Europe is unlikely. In a Dec. 16 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Jacek Durkalec, nonproliferation and arms control project manager at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said other options, including sea- and air-launched cruise missiles “have been seen as more realistic and less costly.” He added, however, that “if Russia would really deploy a militar[il]y significant number of GLCMs, perceptions in Europe could change.”

    The INF Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, marked the first time the two superpowers agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. The treaty eliminated almost 2,700 intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles, most of them Russian.

    At the Dec. 10 hearing, Gottemoeller said the administration has “a kind of three-pronged approach” for dealing with Russia’s INF Treaty violation: diplomatic efforts to bring Russia back into compliance, exploration of potential “economic countermeasures,” and “military measures” in the event Russia’s noncompliance persists.

    McKeon and Gottemoeller refused to say how much time the United States would give Russia to come back into compliance before pursuing economic and military measures. Gottemoeller noted that, in the case of Russia’s noncompliance with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in the 1980s, “the Reagan administration and the [George H.W.] Bush administration worked with the Soviets diplomatically for five years” before Russia returned to compliance with the treaty.

    Gottemoeller led a U.S. delegation to Moscow in September for talks with Russian officials to discuss the violation. A State Department press release summarizing the meeting said that “the U.S. concerns were not assuaged at the meeting.” At the hearing, Gottemoeller and McKeon said that Russia refuses to acknowledge the existence of an illegal missile.

    In a Dec. 12 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the McKeon and Gottemoeller testimonies “caught our attention.” The statement lamented the U.S. “intention to exercise economic and military pressure on Russia because of its alleged non-compliance with the INF Treaty.” Referring to the downturn in U.S.-Russian relations over Ukraine, the statement said U.S. military measures “would increase tensions in a situation that is already complicated.”

    The statement said that the U.S. government continues to be unable “to give an explicit wording to its claims and accusations” on Russia’s alleged INF Treaty violation and accused the United States of being in noncompliance with the treaty. The statement referred to the use of “target missiles that resemble short- and intermediate-range missiles” in U.S. missile defense tests, “armed US drones that necessarily fall under the INF Treaty definition of ground-launched cruise missiles,” and the U.S. “intention to deploy in Poland and Romania a land-based version of the MK 41 shipboard launcher for intermediate-range cruise missiles” as examples of U.S. INF Treaty violations.

    The issue of how to respond to the alleged Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty was a controversial issue on Capitol Hill last year. The House-passed fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill included a provision requiring the Defense Department to develop a plan for the research and development of intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles.

    The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the defense authorization bill contained no such provision. The final version of the bill, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 19, softened the House demands by requiring the Defense Department to submit a report on Russia’s alleged violation and a report describing any steps being taken or planned by the department in response.

    A senior Senate staffer said in a Dec. 19 interview that the incoming Republican-led Senate would likely follow the House in advocating for a more aggressive U.S. response to Russian noncompliance.

    The United States is reviewing a broad range of military options to respond to a future Russian deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile that violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a senior Defense Department official said.

    Nuclear Impact Meeting Is Largest Yet

    January/February 2015

    By Kingston Reif

    A December conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use attracted more participants and included a broader focus than the previous two meetings on the issue, with many delegates emphasizing “that humanitarian considerations should no longer be ignored but be at the core of all nuclear disarmament deliberations,” according to the chair’s summary of the meeting.

    Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz speaks on December 8, 2014, in Vienna at the third international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use. (Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)The Dec. 8-9 meeting at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna drew delegations representing 158 states, the United Nations, and academia.­­­

    For the first time in the series of conferences on nuclear weapons use, the list of participants included countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)—the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, an unofficial representative from China attended the meeting. Two other nuclear-armed states, India and Pakistan, took part in the previous two meetings and also were present in Vienna.

    Previous conferences had focused primarily on the consequences of nuclear weapons explosions, but the Vienna meeting expanded the agenda to include the risk of nuclear weapons use, the application of international law to the consequences of nuclear weapons explosions, and the shortfalls in international capacity to address a humanitarian emergency caused by the use of nuclear weapons.

    The meeting included presentations from experts on the factors that could lead to the deliberate or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons and the relevance of international environmental and health law to nuclear weapons use.

    “The scope, scale and interrelationship of the humanitarian consequences caused by nuclear weapon detonation are catastrophic and more complex than commonly understood,” concluded Alexander Kmentt, conference chair and director of disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, in his summary delivered at the end of the conference.

    The Vienna conference was the third meeting in the past two years focused on the medical and societal impact of nuclear weapons use. The first meeting took place in March 2013 in Oslo and brought together representatives from 127 governments. Delegations from 146 governments attended the second conference, held in Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014. (See ACT, November 2014.)

    The Catholic Church used the occasion of the December conference to revise its long-standing position on nuclear deterrence, stating that “reliance on a strategy of nuclear deterrence has created a less secure world” (see box).

    The Vienna conference and the two that preceded it reflect the growing impatience of many non-nuclear-weapon states with what they characterize as the slow pace of progress toward nuclear disarmament.

    But unlike the conference summary statement delivered by host Mexico at Nayarit, the Austrian chair’s statement did not call for the initiation of a diplomatic process to ban nuclear weapons. Instead, Kmentt noted that state delegations “expressed various views regarding the ways and means of advancing the nuclear disarmament agenda.”

    In a separate statement, Austria called on all NPT members “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and promised “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.” Unlike the treaties prohibiting even the possession of chemical and biological weapons, there is no such legal ban on nuclear weapons.

    The U.S. statement, delivered by Adam Scheinman, President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, alluded to “the growing political will to pursue a practical disarmament agenda,” but advised that there must be “a practical way to do it.”

    In remarks delivered at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 18, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said that “[w]hile we acknowledge the views of those who call for the negotiation of a nuclear weapons ban treaty, the United States cannot and will not support efforts of this sort.”

    Many non-nuclear-weapon states that are close allies of the United States expressed similar sentiments at the Vienna conference. “Prospects for disarmament are enhanced by engaging, not alienating, those states that will need to take the action to disarm,” Australia said in its statement.

    In a Dec. 22 e-mail, Kmentt told Arms Control Today that the Vienna meeting “established the humanitarian focus” as the “mainstream” view and the context in which “the vast majority of states wish to discuss the nuclear weapons issue.” If nuclear weapons are used, “no capacity exists to deal adequately with the consequences,” he said. “These arguments and findings make the insistence on nuclear weapons as a necessary security tool for possessor States untenable.”

    Kmentt added that this majority of states will expect the upcoming NPT review conference, to be held in New York later this year, “to give clear answers to address” the findings and conclusions of the Vienna conference “and point a credible way towards the implementation” of Article VI of the NPT. That article commits the nuclear-weapon states to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race” and “to nuclear disarmament.”

    In a Dec. 23 interview, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, director of the International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said that the conversation on the humanitarian aspect promises to be “a central theme” of the review conference. She said she expected that many countries would make a strong push to ensure that the findings and conclusions of the Vienna meeting are reflected in the review conference’s final document, if there is one.

    It is unclear whether there will be a fourth conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and, if so, what the final result of the process will be. In his Dec. 22 e-mail, Kmentt said that no country had offered to host another meeting.

    The focus for NPT states is “to achieve progress within the NPT framework” and “see what happens at the Review Conference,” he said. That is certainly Austria’s objective for the conference, he said.

    Vatican Revises Stance on Deterrence

    The Catholic Church revised its long-standing position on nuclear deterrence in December, declaring that the possession and use of nuclear weapons are not acceptable.

    At a Dec. 8-9 conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican’s UN ambassador in Geneva, delivered the Vatican’s statement. He said the “reliance on a strategy of nuclear deterrence has created a less secure world,” and called for all countries to review deterrence as a “stable basis for peace.”

    The Catholic Church has consistently advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but its original position on deterrence, laid out in the 1963 papal encyclical Pacem in Terris, stated that a minimal nuclear capability to deter a nuclear attack is acceptable as an interim ethic until disarmament is achieved.

    Although that position might have been acceptable during the Cold War, the current pace of disarmament is too slow and the status quo is “unsustainable and undesirable,” Tomasi said. The argument that nuclear weapons prevent war is “misleading,” he said.

    Nuclear deterrence “works less as a stabilizing force” in a multipolar world and serves as an incentive for countries to break out of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and develop nuclear weapons, he said. In addition, the threat of accidental use or theft of the weapons has become too high, Tomasi said.

    In a Dec. 8 document, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition,” prepared for the Vienna conference, the Vatican laid out in greater detail its reasoning for moving away from limited deterrence. In addition to calling on all states possessing nuclear weapons to increase the pace of disarmament, the document called for an examination of the rationale for nuclear deterrence.

    In a Dec. 7 letter to the conference president, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Pope Francis said that “nuclear detterence and the threat of mutually assured destruction” cannot be the basis of “fraternity” and “peaceful coexistence amongst peoples and states.”

    The Vatican document cited several factors that influenced the Vatican’s revised position on deterrence, including the “illusion of security” from nuclear weapons, the high costs of arsenal maintenance, and the lack of transparency and oversight of the disarmament process. The Vatican proposed that states examine these factors in further detail to question the “moral legitimacy of the architecture of the ‘peace of a sort’ supposedly provided by deterrence.”—KELSEY DAVENPORT

      At a December conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use, many delegates emphasized that “humanitarian considerations should…be at the core of all nuclear disarmament deliberations.”

      States Clash on Disarmament at UN

      December 2014

      By Kingston Reif

      As states without nuclear weapons are growing increasingly impatient with what they say is the slow pace of nuclear disarmament efforts in the lead-up to the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review

      Conference, the United States and most other nuclear-weapom states have continued to vote against resolutions aimed at accelerating progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons at the UN disarmament committee in New York.

      The UN General Assembly First Committee meets to adopt an agenda and work program on October 2. (UN Photo)Four of the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the NPT (France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) voted against a resolution calling for the “urgent commencement” of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva to pursue the “early conclusion” of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons to prohibit their “possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer and use or threat of use, and to provide for their destruction.” (See ACT, December 2013.) In the UN General Assembly First Committee, which deals with nuclear disarmament, 135 countries supported the resolution.

      The resolution was one of several offered this year that the committee has considered in previous years.
      China was the only recognized nuclear-weapon state to support the resolution. India and Pakistan also voted in favor of the resolution; Israel and North Korea opposed it.

      India, Israel, and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, but are not members of the NPT. North Korea joined the NPT, but announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, an action that NPT members have not officially recognized.
      In a joint statement, France, the UK, and the United States said that the call for a convention to abolish nuclear weapons “is not mentioned as such in the 2010 [NPT] Action Plan” and that “a practical step-by-step process is the only way to make real progress in our disarmament efforts.” At the May 2010 NPT Review Conference, the states-parties adopted a 64-point action plan across the three “pillars” of the NPT: nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

      The other states that voted against the resolution or abstained are members of NATO or are “nuclear umbrella” states that have nuclear security agreements with Washington, such as Japan.

      According to a September 2014 analysis published on the website of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Hans Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, there are approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons located at some 98 sites in 14 countries. Russia and the United States together possess 93 percent of the total global inventory.

      Except for China and Pakistan, which abstained, every state with nuclear weapons also voted against a resolution titled “Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Accelerating the Implementation of Nuclear Disarmament Commitments.” The supporters of the resolution, led by Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, said they were “[d]eeply disappointed” with “the continued absence of progress towards multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament” and “urge[d] the Conference on Disarmament to commence, without delay, substantive work that advances the agenda of nuclear disarmament.”

      The First Committee approved the resolution by a vote of 166-7 with five abstentions.

      In addition, the United States joined France, Russia, and the UK as the only opponents of a resolution on “taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.” The resolution laments “the absence of concrete outcomes of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations within the United Nations framework for more than a decade.”

      France, the UK, and the United States opposed the resolution on the grounds that it reflects “a substantial and unwarranted focus” on nuclear disarmament processes beyond those of the NPT and CD and places disproportionate focus on nuclear disarmament at the expense of the other two pillars of the NPT—nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

      In an Oct. 7 statement to the First Committee, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, emphasized the importance of “patience and persistence” on the path toward nuclear disarmament. Gottemoeller suggested thinking about disarmament “in terms of how creeks and streams connect to form rivers. Over time, those mighty rivers are irreversible; they cut through massive and seemingly impenetrable stone on the way to their final destination.”

      In an Oct. 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Gottemoeller disputed the concerns of the non-nuclear-weapon states about the slow pace of disarmament. She said that the nuclear-weapon states have done “a spectacular job in reducing and eliminating our nuclear arsenals” since the height of the Cold War and that there have “been inadequate communications between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states” on the difficulty of reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons.

      In an Oct. 8 statement to the First Committee, Mikhail Ulyanov, a Russian arms control official, said that the UN Disarmament Commission and the CD “have suffered stagnation for many years.” But he warned that shifting disarmament negotiations to “new fora” would “threaten to bring serious damage to the existing institutions.”

      The sponsors of the First Committee resolutions calling for accelerating the pace of disarmament continue to stress that their efforts are consistent with the NPT. They note that Article VI of the treaty requires “effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament” and that the 2010 NPT Review Conference agreed to “the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”

      At the UN disarmament committee, nuclear-weapon states generally voted against resolutions aimed at speeding up progress toward the elimination of nuclear arms.

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