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“I also want to thank Daryl Kimball and the Arms Control Association for allowing me to address all of you today and for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war.”

– Joseph Biden, Jr.
Senator
January 28, 2004
Kingston Reif

Pope Condemns Having Nuclear Weapons

December 2017
By Kelsey Davenport in Rome

Pope Francis firmly condemned the possession of nuclear weapons for the first time at a Vatican conference on disarmament, a significant move that extends the Roman Catholic Church’s position on the immorality of nuclear weapons.

The Holy See’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development hosted the conference Nov. 10-11 to discuss the steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the dicastery, warned of the “increasing drumbeat of a possible nuclear conflagration” and said that a candid conversation is urgently needed on how to move toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

Pope Francis is greeted by participants at a conference on nuclear disarmament on November 10 at the Vatican.   (Photo credit: L'Osservatore Romano/Vatican)The pope’s comments reflect a notable shift on the issue of possession of nuclear weapons. Although the Roman Catholic Church has consistently advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons, it has accepted nuclear deterrence on a limited basis. The 1963 papal encyclical “Pacem in Terris” stated that minimum nuclear capability to deter a nuclear attack is acceptable as an interim ethic until disarmament is achieved. Pope John Paul II reiterated this in 1982, noting that nuclear deterrence is morally acceptable as a “step on the way toward a progressive disarmament.”

Under Pope Francis, however, the church began to revisit its position on the morality of deterrence and, in a 2014 study document, said that the “use of nuclear weapons is absolutely prohibited.” At the December 2014 conference in Vienna on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said that “reliance on a strategy of nuclear deterrence has created a less secure world,” and he called for all countries to review whether deterrence actually provides a “stable basis for peace.” (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

Pope Francis’s Nov. 10 statement at the Vatican conference directly addresses the question of possession of nuclear weapons. “If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,” he said.

Pope Francis also noted both the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the “false sense of security” created by nuclear weapons as reasons for condemning possession. This shift was motivated by several additional factors he cited, including the high cost of nuclear weapons and the failure to make progress on disarmament.

Gerard Powers, director of Catholic peacebuilding studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, said that the conference clearly indicated that the “moral imperative of nuclear disarmament” is at the center of the Roman Catholic Church’s agenda for international peace. The Kroc Institute was one of the sponsors of the conference.

Nuclear Ban Treaty

Pope Francis said that nuclear disarmament is an achievable goal. “Progress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia” of a world free of nuclear weapons, “contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals,” he said.

Pope Francis on Nuclear Weapons

“[T]he escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations. As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.

Nor can we fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race…. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.”

He and many other speakers at the conference called attention to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in July 2017 by 122 non-nuclear-armed states, and noted its importance in prohibiting nuclear weapons and building the norm against possession. (See ACT, July/August 2017.)

The pope described the express prohibition in the treaty as filling a “significant judicial lacuna,” similar to the manner in which chemical weapons, biological weapons, and landmines are prohibited by international treaty.

The Holy See participated in the treaty negotiations and was the first state to deposit its ratification of the ban. (See ACT, October 2017.) A group of Nobel Laureates participating in the conference, including representatives from the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, issued a statement at the conference that expressed gratitude to the pope for his position and applauded his efforts to promote nuclear disarmament.

Many speakers at the conference called attention to the significance of the ban treaty while noting that additional work is necessary to advance disarmament. Thomas Hajnoczi, who headed Austria’s delegation during the treaty negotiation, said his country will “actively seek dialogue” with nuclear-armed states and non-nuclear-weapon states in order to “broaden the common basis for taking joint further steps” toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

Rose Gottemoeller, deputy secretary-general of NATO, also called for all states to do more to advance toward that goal but in a way that does not “jeopardize international peace and security.” The member countries of the military alliance, which rely on nuclear deterrence provided by the French, UK, and U.S. nuclear arsenals, have rejected the prohibition treaty as dangerous. Other nuclear-armed states, including Russia and China, also do not support the treaty.

Gottemoeller pushed back against criticism that there has been no progress on disarmament. While emphasizing that the current number of U.S. nuclear weapons remains too high and more must be done to reduce the arsenal, she said that the United States and Russia have “reduced reliance on nuclear weapons in our nuclear strategies.”

Nuclear Weapons Costs

The cost of maintaining nuclear weapons and investing in new delivery systems was a key criticism voiced by many conference participants. Pope Francis stated that the high cost of nuclear weapons “represents a considerable expense for nations” at the expense of “real priorities facing the human family.”

The United States, for instance, is embarking on costly upgrades to its nuclear arsenal. When combined with sustainment costs, U.S. nuclear forces will cost more than $1.5 trillion over the next 30 years.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that the church cannot “approve a debilitating arms race” and renewed a 1967 proposal by Pope Paul VI that called for all states to set aside a portion of military budgets for a fund that would serve impoverished people worldwide.

Further, several speakers noted that nuclear modernization programs are sparking a new arms race. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, warned that the “modernization campaigns in every single nuclear-armed state are provoking a qualitative, if not quantitative, arms race.”

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said that nuclear powers are on the “cusp of modernization programs that will dramatically intensify the trajectory toward proliferation and ultimately confrontation” and emphasized that the Roman Catholic Church should speak with “prophetic power and certitude” to the nuclear powers.

 

Pope Francis challenges the concept of nuclear deterrence.

Senate Examines Launch Authority

December 2017
By Kingston Reif

Against the backdrop of bipartisan concern about President Donald Trump’s temperament and bellicose rhetoric toward North Korea, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month examined the president’s sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

Despite the worries expressed by some committee members, the three witnesses selected to testify at the hearing argued that the current command and control system already includes layers of safeguards and reviews and urged Congress to procced with caution in weighing changes to the procedures. The hearing was the first time a congressional committee has met to discuss the subject of nuclear weapons launch authority since 1976.

Brian McKeon, former acting undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee November 14 on presidential authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.  (Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 ensured that nuclear weapons would be under civilian rather than military control. As the Cold War progressed, decisions about the use of nuclear weapons became the unique responsibility of the president. This was due in part to the fact that a “bolt from the blue” Soviet nuclear attack could rain thousands of warheads on the United States in as little as 30 minutes. Deterring such a threat and responding to an attack was thought to require the capability to rapidly launch U.S. weapons before Soviet warheads detonated, leaving little time for the president to consult with his advisers or Congress.

The current U.S. nuclear launch system is set up so that “the president has the sole authority to give that order, whether we are responding to a nuclear attack or not,” committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said at the Nov. 14 hearing. “Once that order has been given and verified, there is no way to revoke it.”

Trump and several of his top advisers have made comments alluding to the use of military force or a preventative strike against North Korea’s missile capabilities, including the president’s warning that continued North Korean threats would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said questions about a president’s exceptional authority are more urgent in light of Trump’s words and personality. “We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, and has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. security interests,” he said. “So let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment, of this discussion we’re having.”

These concerns have prompted some members of Congress to back legislation that would constrain Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons and attack North Korea. For example, four days after Trump’s inauguration, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would prohibit the president from launching nuclear weapons without first having Congress expressly authorize such a strike. (See ACT, March 2017.)

“Absent a nuclear attack upon the United States or our allies, no one human being should have the power to unilaterally unleash the most destructive forces ever devised by humankind,” Markey said at the hearing.

But the witnesses sought to calm fears that the president could start a nuclear war on a whim and counseled against legislating drastic changes to the current system. Retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, a former head of U.S. Strategic Command, told the committee “that the United States military doesn’t blindly follow orders. A presidential order to employ U.S. nuclear weapons must be legal.”

“The basic legal principles of military necessity, distinction, and proportionality apply to nuclear weapons just as they do to every other weapon,” he added.

The current commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. John Hyten, echoed similar sentiments at an international security forum in Canada on Nov. 18. But he added that if the president gave an illegal order, the military would “come up with” legal alternatives for the president to consider “to respond to whatever the situation is.”

Brian McKeon, who was acting undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration, told the committee that the president would not make a decision to use nuclear weapons “by himself.” The system is designed “to ensure that the president consults with the National Security Council [NSC] and his other senior civilian and military advisers,” he said.

McKeon added that if the president is considering initiating a war against another nuclear-armed state that did not pose an imminent threat, such an action would require authorization by Congress. Asked by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) how he would define an imminent threat, McKeon said that it would depend on the circumstances. The president does have authority to act on his own.

While several senators engaged the witnesses on questions of legality, Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) sought to remind his colleagues, as well as North Korea, that it would be the president and the president alone who would make a decision about the use of nuclear weapons.

“The discussion we’re having is not so much practical as academic,” he said. “This talk about lawyers…is not a discussion that is going to take place in the heat of battle in today’s world.”

Other senators said their biggest concern was that Trump might give a nuclear use order that was legal but nevertheless unnecessary or unwise. “I would like to be able to tell my constituents” and “the American people, [that] we have a system in place that prevents an impulsive and irrational decision to use nuclear weapons,” said ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “Unfortunately, I cannot make that assurance today.”

“I don't think that we should be trusting the generals to be a check on the president,” said Markey.

Peter Feaver, who served on the NSC staff under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, told the committee that “the time is ripe for a fresh look” at the nuclear command and control system. “Many possible improvements…are worth considering,” such as “requiring certifications by additional cabinet officials of launch orders under certain circumstances,” said Feaver, who is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University.

Asked by Udall if it would “make sense to require at least one other person sign off on a decision to launch a first strike,” all three witnesses said they opposed such a change.

Trump’s threats spark first such hearing on president’s nuclear launch power in 40 years.

CBO: Nuclear Arsenal to Cost $1.2 Trillion

December 2017
By Kingston Reif

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a new report highlights the rising cost of current plans to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces, warns about the many challenges facing these plans, and outlines several options to manage the arsenal that could save scores of billions of dollars.

The report, the most authoritative cost assessment to date, comes as the Trump administration’s ongoing Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), due to be completed by the end of the year, appears poised to call for new types of nuclear weapons and for increasing their role in U.S. defense policy. The report is also likely to fuel an ongoing debate in Congress about how much the United States can afford to spend on nuclear weapons.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks with Air Force Captain Kevin O'Neill, 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer, beside a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile near Lansford, N.D., on October 27.  (Photo credit: J.T. Armstrong/ U.S. Air Force)The CBO estimates that the nuclear weapons spending plans President Donald Trump inherited from his predecessor will cost taxpayers $1.2 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars between fiscal years 2017 and 2046. This amounts to about 6 percent of all spending on national defense anticipated for that period, as of President Barack Obama’s final budget request to Congress in February 2016. When the effects of inflation are included, the 30-year cost would approach $1.7 trillion, according to a projection by the Arms Control Association.

These figures are significantly higher than previously reported estimates of roughly $1 trillion.

The CBO estimate captures spending on the triad of nuclear delivery systems and command and control systems at the Defense Department and on nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure at the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Nearly every element of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is slated to be upgraded over the next 20 years. Most of these efforts are in the early stages, and a few others have yet to begin.

It remains to be seen whether the NPR will recommend changes to the current arsenal and upgrade plans. (See ACT, July/August 2017.) Trump has said that he favors unspecified actions to “strengthen and expand” U.S. nuclear capabilities, which could lead to a greater increase in spending than projected by the CBO.

The Guardian newspaper reported on Oct. 29 that the administration is considering several options to bolster the arsenal, including a plan for lower-yield warheads for U.S. ballistic missiles, a re-nuclearization of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile, and a reduction in the amount of time it would take to resume nuclear explosive testing.

If the NPR fails to alter the current spending trajectory or accelerates or expands on it, spending on nuclear weapons could threaten money needed for other national security programs, including non-nuclear military spending, which Trump has pledged to increase.

“At a time when modernization of other conventional systems is planned and defense spending is likely to be constrained by long-term fiscal pressures, nuclear modernization will compete for funding with other defense priorities,” the CBO report states.

In addition to budgetary challenges, the report notes that the modernization program will face policy, diplomatic, programmatic, and management challenges.

The October report, titled “Approaches for Managing the Cost of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046,” is the latest in a series of CBO reports on the cost of U.S. nuclear forces. (See ACT, March 2017.) The CBO prepared the 30-year study in response to a request from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Hill Debates Spending Plans

Congress has largely backed the effort to rebuild the arsenal. In an op-ed published on Nov. 8 in Defense News, Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, described the planned increase in nuclear weapons spending as “modest” and “temporary.” They added that it “is needed following decades of underinvestment in the nuclear mission.”

But a vocal group of mostly Democratic lawmakers continue to question the need and affordability. “Congress still doesn’t seem to have any answers as to how we will pay for this effort, or what the trade-offs with other national security efforts will be if we maintain an arsenal of over 4,000 nuclear weapons and expand our capacity to produce more,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said in an Oct. 31 statement on the CBO report.

Similarly, a group of 14 Democratic senators on Nov. 29 sent a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry arguing that the CBO report “makes clear, at a minimum, that the existing plan is unaffordable and needs revision.”

Breaking Down the Cost

Of the $1.2 trillion that the CBO projects will be spent on nuclear forces, $399 billion would be allocated for acquiring new missiles, bombers, and submarines and conducting nuclear warhead life-extension programs. The remaining $843 billion would fund sustainment of the current generation of forces and new forces once they entered service.

The projection includes the full cost of the long-range bomber leg of the triad, which has nuclear and non-nuclear missions, and an estimate of additional costs based on historical cost growth.

Annual costs are slated to peak at about $50 billion during the late 2020s and early 2030s. During this period, nuclear weapons would consume about 8 percent of total national defense spending and 15 percent of the Defense Department’s acquisition costs.

Options to Reduce Costs

The CBO report evaluates nine alternatives to the current sustainment and upgrade program that, if pursued, would reduce nuclear weapons spending. The report also measures the capability of the alternatives relative to that of the current program across four metrics: the number of warheads, crisis management, limited nuclear strikes, and large-scale nuclear exchanges.

As part of an option that would delay modernization, the CBO evaluated the cost savings from delaying the existing plan to build a new fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and instead refurbishing the existing Minuteman III ICBM. The CBO projects this approach would save $37 billion over the next 20 years, when modernization costs are slated to be at their highest, and $17.5 billion over the next 30 years.

The Air Force argues that a new ICBM is necessary because the Minuteman III is aging into obsolescence and losing its capability to penetrate adversary missile defenses. (See ACT, March 2017.)

Another option would forgo the current plan to buy a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). The CBO projects that this would produce a 30-year savings of roughly $30 billion. According to the report, eliminating ALCMs would not impact the number of deployed, on alert, or survivable warheads, but would “would diminish the capability of U.S. nuclear forces, particularly for limited nuclear strikes.”

The CBO also examined options that would reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal from a triad of delivery systems to a dyad. For example, eliminating the ICBM leg would save between $120 billion and $149 billion over 30 years. The CBO notes that such a step would reduce the capability of U.S. nuclear forces in the event of a large-scale nuclear exchange with Russia.

Nuclear spending may threaten funding needed for non-nuclear defense programs.

Hill Wants Development of Banned Missile

December 2017
By Kingston Reif

Lawmakers voted in November to require the Defense Department to establish a program to begin development of a new missile system that if tested would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis briefs the press at the NATO headquarters in Brussels November 9, after discussing with allies issues including Russia's alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  (Photo credit: Jette Carr/ U.S. Air Force)The bill authorizes $58 million for a conventional, road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range prohibited by the treaty, as well as other offensive and defensive capabilities to counter Russia’s alleged deployment of a GLCM in violation of the treaty. The measure also expresses the sense of Congress that the United States is entitled to suspend its implementation of the treaty so long as Russia remains in material breach. Furthermore, it requires a report outlining possible sanctions against individuals in Russia deemed complicit in the violation.

The policy provisions are part of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and come amid reports that the Pentagon has already begun preliminary research on the new missile.

The final compromise version of the bill, passed Nov. 14 by the House and Nov. 16 by the Senate, establishes spending ceilings and legal guidelines for Pentagon programs and activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Since 2014, Washington has accused Moscow of violating its commitment “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a GLCM having a range prohibited under the INF Treaty. In the past year, the Pentagon has alleged that Russia is fielding a noncompliant system. Moscow has denied both charges.

The INF Treaty required Russia and the United States to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty does not prohibit activities related to research and development of this category of weapons.

The original House and Senate versions of the authorization bill called for R&D programs on a new GLCM. (See ACT, October 2017.) The House bill required development of a conventionally armed missile, whereas the Senate bill would authorize a nuclear-capable version.

Russian Colonel Aleksey Gridnev, Russian Federation team chief, receives a welcome gift May 15 from U.S. Air Force Colonel John Klein, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The visit is part of the Open Skies Treaty missions.  (Photo credit: Louis Briscese/U.S. Air Force)In statements during the summer, the Trump administration objected to the GLCM language, stating that it “unhelpfully ties the administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options.” Nevertheless, The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 16, citing U.S. officials, that the Pentagon started research on the missile given the likelihood that it would soon be required by law.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed NATO defense ministers on the administration’s plans at a Nov. 9 meeting in Brussels. Mattis told reporters afterward that Washington is focused on trying to bring Russia back into compliance and does not intend to abandon the pact.

A U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal that the idea behind beginning the GLCM research is “to send a message to the Russians that they will pay a military price” for violation of this treaty. “We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF [Treaty] world…if that is the world the Russians want,” the official added.

If the United States ever decides to deploy the new missiles, development would likely take years and cost several billion dollars.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported on Nov. 16 that the Trump administration has called for another meeting of the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution forum. The commission last met a year ago without progress. (See ACT, December 2016.)

The authorization bill would provide $626 billion for national defense programs and $66 billion for the overseas contingency operations account, which is nominally used to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Syria but also funds other defense programs. This spending level exceeds the spending cap for fiscal year 2018, imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, by roughly $77 billion and the administration’s budget request by $23 billion. The bill does not include an additional $8 billion for defense activities requested by the administration.

The government is currently being funded by a continuing resolution that covers most programs at the fiscal year 2017 appropriated level through early December. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have yet to agree on top-line spending levels for the current fiscal year.

Neither the House nor Senate appropriations committee-approved versions of the fiscal year 2018 defense appropriations bill include funding for a new GLCM.

Missile Defense Buildup Urged

The final authorization bill supports the Trump administration’s early moves to significantly expand U.S. ballistic missile defenses to counter North Korea’s advancing missile capabilities.

The bill authorizes $10.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $2.6 billion above the administration’s initial request. In total, the bill adds $4.4 billion above the request for missile defense and related programs.

The legislation provides all of the extra $4 billion for missile defense programs requested by the administration in a Nov. 6 amendment to its fiscal year 2018 budget request (see page 40). The supplemental request follows congressional approval in October for the transfer of $440 million in unspent fiscal year 2017 Army operations and maintenance funds to missile defense programs. (See ACT, November 2017.)

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, designed to protect the United States against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran, would receive $1.3 billion in the bill, an increase of $498 million above the requested level of $828 million. This includes $88 million to begin increasing the number of ground-based, long-range missile defense interceptors by up to 20 beyond the currently deployed 44.

In addition, the bill requires the Pentagon to develop a plan to increase the number of interceptors to 104 and authorizes additional money for missile defense sensors, upgrades to the Navy’s Aegis missile defense program, and classified programs to augment U.S. cyber capabilities for missile defense. It also supports the rapid acquisition of a boost-phase missile defense capability and a space-based interceptor layer.

The administration is currently conducting a congressionally mandated review of the U.S. approach toward missile defense. (See ACT, May 2017.) The review is slated for completion by the end of the year.

CTBTO Funds Curtailed

The authorization bill limits funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and declares that UN Security Council Resolution 2310, passed in September 2016, does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The explanatory statement accompanying the bill states that “it is wholly inappropriate for U.S. funds to support activities of the [CTBTO] that include advocating for ratification of the treaty or otherwise preparing for the treaty’s possible entry into force.”

The CTBTO is the intergovernmental organization that promotes the CTBT, which has yet to enter into force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System to deter and detect nuclear test explosions. Resolution 2310 urges eight countries, whose ratification is needed for the treaty to enter into force, to ratify the CTBT “without further delay” and calls on all states to refrain from conducting nuclear tests, emphasizing that current testing moratoria contribute to “international peace and stability.” (See ACT, October 2016.)

The legislation also imposes conditions on funding to upgrade U.S. digital imaging systems pursuant to implementation of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. The treaty, which entered into force in 2002, permits each of the agreement’s 34 states-parties to conduct short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.

The United States has yet to transition to the use of the more advanced digital sensors in its treaty flights over Russia, but is requesting funding to do so in the near future.

The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions.

Congress completes the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization act.

The Alternative 'Russia Scandal'

News Date: 
November 6, 2017 -05:00

Fear Creates a Proposal

News Date: 
November 14, 2017 -05:00

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